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John & Ruth Merrell

Founders of the Oral Learners Initiative

The Story of the Vision and Birth of OLI

John and Ruth were appointed to the international headquarters of ICI University located in Brussels, Belgium in 1978. For the first seven years of missionary ministry in Brussels, John directed ICI's Audio Department. Recognizing the potential of audio and video tools, ICI, created the Media Division.  John was asked to direct this new division in 1986.

As the years passed, John & Ruth became more and more conscious of a huge, almost entirely unreached people group - the illiterate and oral learners.  These groups make up two thirds of our world, more than four and one-half BILLION people.  The vision of reaching and discipling those who are oral learners became the sole focus of John and Ruth in 1990 as they pioneered another area of ministry, the Center for Illiterate Outreach "CIO", which is now known as the Oral Learners Initiative, "OLI". 

In February of 1999, John and Ruth accepted the invitation to direct International Media Ministries (IMM), located in Brussels, Belgium.  In the summer of 2003, IMM relocated from its 18-year home in Brussels, Belgium to Madrid, Spain.  And in 2008, John and Ruth resigned from IMM and renewed their passion for reaching the oral learners. For the next 6 years the Merrells worked among tribal groups in Africa bringing the Gospel to oral learners. 

Current Assignment 

John & Ruth stepped down as the Directors of OLI in February 2015 but agreed to served as Co-Chairs of the Oral Learners Initiative Council. This select group of church leaders, businessmen, and missionaries serve as a visionary advisory council.


Helping the Merrells

The Merrells continue to travel and represent OLI. Please use the links below to help underwrite their continuing mission.

One-time offering 


Contact Us

Oral Learners Initiative
International Offices
2740 East Michigan Street
Orlando, FL  32806

407.587.9107 - Hawks






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