James and Dana Dirksen’s Songs for Saplings ministry delivers deep biblical truths through lively, engaging songs for children. The couple, members at Intown Presbyterian Church in Portland, Ore., recently returned from Malawi, where they recorded the second local-language volume of their six-part “Questions with Answers” series, based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. They hope that several hundred thousand children will learn the basic tenets of Christian faith through this project.
Several years ago while on a mission trip to Zambia, where Dana was teaching songs from “Questions with Answers,” the Dirksens also visited their friend PCA pastor Jay Stoms in Malawi. Seeing great potential for a teaching tool in the region, where little Christian children’s music is available, Stoms asked them to translate their music into the local language, Chichewa. “We learned that these cultures are singing cultures,” says James Dirksen. “It’s how they tell their stories, how they teach their children.”
The Dirksens recruited students from Malawi’s African Bible College to help translate the material. Then a Songs for Saplings team traveled to Malawi to record local singers performing the songs. They also enlisted the help of Bible College students to teach the songs to children in the region.
In the three years since the first Chichewa recording, the Songs for Saplings project has grown immensely. The ministry now has a local employee and a team of volunteers bringing the music to orphanages, churches, and feeding centers. And recently, a ministry that teaches the Bible to more than 300,000 children in Malawi’s public schools requested to use “Questions with Answers.”
By equipping their team in Malawi with production tools and training, Songs for Saplings hopes to lower costs and expedite the release of subsequent “Questions with Answers” volumes. “This is an indigenous-led and -run project,” says Dirksen. “We are thrilled.”
To learn more about Songs for Saplings, visit www.songsforsaplings.com.