freedomlife: The Daily Portion Bible Reading App Uncovered

10 May 2024  •  --------

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Hey, Aga here. 👋🏻 I'm going to share the behind-the-scenes story of freedomlife, a Bible reading app that offers daily portions to complete the entire Bible in a year. It's a side project I work on in my spare time. This app is also open-source, meaning its code is publicly available, and everyone can contribute to its development (see here).

This post is a reflection, and I want to share how this app began, grew, and has been running for 5 years up to today (2019-2024). I will start by explaining what freedomlife is, provide a behind-the-scenes look at its journey from the beginning until now, share its financial situation, and also introduce the people who have helped make freedomlife possible.

What is freedomlife?

freedomlife is an Indonesian-based Bible reading guide app that covers a full year. The reading guide is available every day—which I usually call, a daily portion.

We no longer need to be confused about what we should read. There is a collection of reading guides for today and every day of the current year. Not only that, freedomlife is also a regular Bible app. So, we can read specific books and chapters that we want.

The Beginning

Before this app existed, freedomlife was already present. It was started by my local church in Yogyakarta, Indonesia: Gereja Kristen Kemah Daud Yogyakarta (GKKD) (which in English translates literally to "David's Tabernacle Church"). So, freedomlife is not a new concept for the members of GKKD, as we have been using the freedomlife reading guide for quite some time.

At that time, it was in the form of a folded paper (like a brochure) that was released every 1 or 3 months. It contained daily reading guides with groups of chapters, similar to what we have now. The paper could then be picked up by the members when they were at the church.

As technology advanced, many people began to switch to reading the Bible through their devices (mobile phones, tablets). However, freedomlife was still in paper form, which led to some problems for me and my peers:

  • Bible app not integrated with the reading guide: When we wanted to read the Bible with the guide, we had to open the freedomlife paper, find the day we wanted to read on the paper, and once we found it, we had to manually input it into the Bible app.
  • Leaving the guide at home or misplacing it: This one seems to be self-explanatory. The guide couldn't be easily accessed anywhere because it was a physical paper that had to be carried around. 😕
  • “Did I miss a day or am I on track?” — We often forgot whether we had completed the reading for that day or the previous day. Since the reading progress was tracked on a separate piece of paper, we had to manually mark it with a pen/pencil to keep a record.

Seeing these problems, I thought it was an opportunity to create a more convenient and comfortable experience for reading the Bible with a guide.

The Start

In early 2018, I took the initiative to create the freedomlife app. I started by discussing the idea with my peers and then expanded the conversation to include more people from various age groups to better understand their preferences: "If there was a freedomlife app, what features would you like to see?”

There were two important things that ultimately became my priorities for creating the proof-of-concept:

  • Integration: The chapter groups from the reading guide (for example: Genesis 1) were seamlessly integrated with the corresponding Bible content. (Genesis 1 and its contents could be read directly within the app, without the need to switch between the guide and the Bible)
  • Monthly Guide: Displaying the daily reading guide information for that particular month.

Due to my busy school schedule at the time, I only managed to start executing the idea from the proof-of-concept in early 2019, working on it towards the end of my vocational high school (SMK) education. The initial prototype I created in Adobe XD (Figma wasn't popular back then) looked something like this:

Instagram Story Archive 2019

In 2019, the material design trend was in full swing, and this initial look became the first version of the freedomlife app. I released the website version in February 2019, and at that time, I was still using a free domain and hosting.

This initial version was only used by a few people and had not been widely announced in the church. I only gave the link to close friends and family to try it out, as there was no fixed domain yet, so it was still a random-looking domain. (as I recall, it was something like: freedomlife-agallio-<random-id>)

**Fast forward to the end of 2019, I finally purchased the domain freedomlife.id, which I have been using to this day, and I bought it with my own money. (at the end of this post, I will also share the financial side of this project in more detail)

The Journey

2020

On January 1, 2020, I released the dark mode version of freedomlife. The dark mode interface was highly requested when freedomlife was first released, but because this was a side project, I could only work on it near the beginning of 2020.

2020
2020 Valentine
2020 Christmas

Then, in mid-2020, I released the Android version of the freedomlife app with an early access system. I only opened a limited number of registration slots for people who wanted to use the Android version. At that time, around 10 people were using the Android version for the first time.

2021

In early 2021, I noticed that the old freedomlife design looked outdated. So, I released a design update for freedomlife, which has remained in use until now. This design update was also assisted by Dedy Walesya, who created the freedomlife logo.

This year was also the year when freedomlife took off because several creators on TikTok & Instagram started sharing freedomlife on their accounts. One of the accounts that had a significant impact was a video from the youth TikTok account at my local church: Fire Community.

Instagram Archive

Usually, freedomlife users only came from within my local church, either those still in Yogyakarta or those who had returned to their respective cities in Indonesia. However, with this phenomenon, freedomlife began to be visited and used more widely by people in Indonesia and the Indonesian diaspora abroad. Several donations also started coming in this year to help freedomlife stay afloat (more details in the finance section below).

2022

I posted an update on Instagram about the status of freedomlife this year. The post was primarily intended to provide an update to my close friends who had been following freedomlife from the beginning.

Also, in the same year, I finally decided to release the iOS version, despite my initial hesitation. Releasing an app on the Apple App Store requires a significant investment (details can be found in the finance section) and also takes a considerable amount of time to develop. However, I won't discuss the technical aspects here; I'll cover that in a separate post. 😉

Instagram Story Archive
App Store Release!

Now

For the years 2023-2024, I'll summarize them in this section — So, what's the current status? I managed to release only one additional feature that I had wanted from the very beginning: making freedomlife usable offline. The Bible version can now be downloaded and used offline, allowing users to read it anywhere, anytime.

I first released the offline feature to a group of beta testers, and they absolutely loved it. Their positive feedback gave me the confidence to make the feature available to everyone. And guess what? Within just one week of the release, half of the freedomlife users had already started using the offline mode!

The Users

Earlier in the 2022 section, I provided an update on the number of visitors and users of freedomlife for the past 3 years (2019-2022). However, the data was somewhat incomplete due to some months being deleted during a data migration process.

Now that it has been exactly 5 years, below is an updated overview of the number of visitors and statistics for the past 5 years:

Updated at May 10, 2024

Wow, the numbers have almost tripled in just two years! This growth is absolutely mind-blowing to me. It's amazing to think that now, every single day, around 180-200 people are using freedomlife to strengthen their personal relationship with God through His word.

The Cost

I know many of you are curious about this part. Running a service like freedomlife that's accessible 24/7 doesn't come for free. There are costs involved in keeping freedomlife up and running until today. Let me break down some of the expenses for you:

  • Hosting, server, and domain: $134 USD per year. (Rp. 2.146.000)
  • Apple Developer Account (Publishing): $99 USD per year. (Rp. 1.600.000)
  • Google Developer Account (Publishing): $25 USD one-time payment. (Rp. 400.000)

When it comes down to the numbers, running freedomlife costs around 20 USD (± Rp. 330,000) per month. From the start of freedomlife's development up until writing this post, the total expenses have reached about 893 USD (± Rp. 14,305,000) (based on the exchange rate as of May 10, 2024).

In 2021-2022, generous donors covered about half of these costs. Now, their support has grown to around 60% of the expenses, with the remaining portion coming from my own pocket. It's worth noting that since donors contribute in Indonesian rupiah, the exact percentage of their support fluctuates depending on the exchange rate between the rupiah and the US dollar.

What’s Next?

I'm committed to continuing the maintenance and development of the freedomlife app. Highly requested features like highlights, bookmarks, and audio Bible are some of the improvements I plan to work on, but it's important to remember that this is still a side project I do in my spare time. If you'd like to lend a hand with the software engineering side of things, feel free to reach out to me via the email at the bottom of this page or contribute directly to freedomlife’s GitHub repository.

Acknowledgments

As I mentioned in the previous section, I started receiving donation support from users and friends in Indonesia and Singapore. These donations have helped freedomlife survive until today. I am incredibly grateful and thankful to the donors: Imanuela Michelika, Sonny Lazuardi (Indonesian diaspora in Singapore), Agustinus Nathaniel, Jacky Efendi, Nipe Setiawan Harefa, Yefta Antika, Agnes Luvena, dan Lexy Pahlevy.

I also want to express my gratitude to friends and family who have supported me with their time, ideas, and energy: Anja Natalia, Budi Abdipatra, Elyada Adi, Exallom Shalase, Joko Purnomo, Matthew Ethan, Michell Vica, Pauline Abdipatra, Samuel Nicko, Srikin, Stevanus Paulus, and all the friends who have helped me share this app with their friends, relatives, and families. God bless you all. 🙏🏻

Closing

I hope this post has provided you with some insights and a brief "tour" of how freedomlife began and has persevered until now. Once again, I am grateful and thankful for all the support and assistance, whether it be financial, through prayers, or the time and energy invested in helping me make this a reality.

If you feel called to contribute to freedomlife's development financially, please see the information at the bottom of this page.

To those who haven't yet embarked on the journey of reading God's word and may feel overwhelmed about where to start, I wholeheartedly recommend giving the freedomlife app a try. If you find it to be a blessing and it makes your journey easier, please share it with your friends so they can also experience the comfort and ease of reading that you have discovered. 😉

Finally, I want to make it clear that the purpose of this post is not to glorify myself. Every milestone reached has not been by my human effort, but rather through God's presence, His enabling power, and His divine provision. May God's blessings be upon you all!