By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Embarking on their first overseas mission back in 1961 was just one of many firsts for Ziden and Helen Nutt, but it was nothing compared to what took place eight years later. The mission trip was the first time the Carthage couple saw the ocean and flew on a commercial airline.
It was their founding of Good News Productions in 1969 that would change the course of history for missionaries around the world.
The Nutts, both graduates of Ozark Christian College, where they met, have been described as missionaries to missionaries. That is readily evident in what they have accomplished through Good News Productions -- from setting up the first GNP office in South Africa to its present-day outreach.
Although the name changed to Good News Productions International in 1975, its mission has remained the same: accelerating global evangelism through media. This has been accomplished by partnering with missionaries and churches to create culturally relevant materials, like movies, TV programs, teaching series and music videos. All of these are used for sharing the gospel around the world.
Filling the earth with knowledge
The evangelizing idea of GNPI is based on Biblical scripture, as Habakkuk 2:14 states: "To fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the lord as the waters cover the sea."
To say GNPI has been successful is an understatement. Media tools have been produced in more than 100 languages, with nine regional centers employing 81 full-time staff members around the world.
Ziden Nutt, executive director emeritus of the organization, estimated that between 13 and 14 workers are employed at the Joplin office, 2111 N. Main St. One of those employees is Mike Schrage, the Nutts' son-in-law, who was named executive director of GNPI last year. Mike's wife, Karolyn, is executive director of LifeChoices Medical Center and Resource Center in Joplin.
The idea for Good News Productions originated in 1965 during the construction of a hospital in Zimbabwe. A native South African working with Ziden discovered that Nutt had discontinued showing Christian filmstrips there because language and cultural gaps were preventing the messages from getting across.
The man suggested that Nutt start making his own films, which he did under the umbrella of Good News Productions four years later.
Starting out of a small building and with just one film strip, GNP was born.
"We had two mobile units that were equipped with loudspeakers, and we traveled throughout the villages inviting people to come to our meetings and see our filmstrip with the Christian message," Nutt said. "Sometimes as many as 2,000 people would gather as we drove through those villages and we had over 1,000 people a year coming to Christ."
The Nutts returned to the Joplin area in 1975 and continued to run Good News Productions out of the basement of their home in Carl Junction, with just one employee. Then OCC became interested in the ministry, so the Nutts formed a board of directors and were offered a trailer to use as an office on the OCC campus in 1976.
After that, GNPI took off so fast that Nutt had to give up teaching his two OCC classes in order to devote himself to the venture full time.
What proved to be beneficial in getting GNPI off the ground at that time, Nutt said, was the large amount of international students and foreign missionaries who were able to help with the variety of languages translations.
Today, the No. 1 thing GNPI does, according to Nutt, is to put the word of God into the mother tongue, or the language of people around the world, through visual and audio media.
"The key to our growth has not been because of us, but God and going in on the ground floor of these countries," Nutt said. "Missionaries have been so excited about this. In fact, everything GNPI has done has been at the request of missionaries around the world."
A book Nutt has written on GNPI, "Beyond Ourselves: Adventures With God Around the World," began its second printing last year. It details the history of this unique mission.
In the epilogue, Samuel E. Stone writes: "Little wonder that this ministry remains on the cutting edge of world evangelism, even now in the 21st Century."
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email richbrown@ cableone.net.