Many people in majority language groups, like English speakers, find it difficult to understand the challenges that people in minority language groups face. There are things that English speakers like us would not even think about – for example, traveling. Often, we assume that we will be able to travel without too many problems even in countries where English is not the main language. In contrast, minority language speakers experience challenges like, in some cases, needing to use a different language when they travel to a neighboring area to do their shopping. As mentioned in a previous blog, ‘Oral societies who have no access to the joy of reading and writing in their mother tongue are disadvantaged. They often feel inferior to the dominant people groups around them. They cannot communicate using their language outside the borders of their homeland. They cannot cross a river with their language.’ Now, let’s consider the Bible. English language speakers have almost endless options to choose from! Many English-speaking homes will have as many as 8 Bibles! Yet, sadly, there are thousands of languages without a single word of Scripture. Imagine not having any access to Scripture?! Or, only having access to a Bible in a language that you are not ‘at home’ in?
One of the primary reasons why Bible translation into heart languages is so important is because it changes lives. Language is key to culture. It is part of who we are at our core, and a strong link exists between language and identity. Have you felt the awe and wonder that when the Holy Spirit birthed the New Testament church at Pentecost, one of the first miraculous things to happen was people hearing the disciples declaring the wonders of God in their own languages?! God places emphasis on changing hearts through imparting faith in the hearing of the Word, teaching His children from His word all about His kingdom. He speaks every language and cares for every language group – there is no language more important than another. When minority language people hear the Word in their heart language, they become more receptive to the Gospel’s transformative message. God suddenly seems less far off, less foreign and impersonal. For them, it means an entire shift in perspective and experience where they can go from God being someone else’s God, to becoming their personal Lord and Father.
Recently Maro, a woman from Ethiopia, gratefully expressed, ‘I never thought that God’s Word would be spoken in my own language! Many times, especially after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, I have been hearing preaching and singing over and over in Amharic [national language]. However, for many years I went home, feeling that something was missing after the service. Nevertheless, this day is different. I have never been happier than I am today. The sounds I hear [Scriptures in audio format] …as if God is speaking directly from heaven! God bless you for making this happen in my language and helping me hear the Word of God in the language of my heart!’
Another wonderful reason why heart-language Bible translation has such an impact is because of the wider blessing that occurs to the community as a whole. If a community’s language is only spoken , and they don’t have any alphabet or any written form of their language, that means that they will not have any books, children’s stories, fables, poetry, or other kinds of literature in their mother tongue to pass on to future generations. Receiving training on how to create sound and writing systems for oral languages will benefit the whole community. TWFTW places an emphasis on bringing glory to God through transformed lives by the power of His Word in everyone’s heart language, and that is accomplished by empowering indigenous people and organizations to take responsibility and ownership of the entire Bible translation process. The very purpose of TWFTW’s training approach is to give those who feel called to Bible translation to have the opportunity to obtain practice-oriented training. This training gives people the opportunity to grow and develop to their maximum potential in what God has called them to do for His kingdom. Another blog post TWFTW published explains, ‘When the Word of God becomes available in the heart language of the communities we are engaged with, literacy programs help these people to become literate very quickly. Since they are learning in a language they already know, they only need to acquire skill in the mechanics of reading and writing. Access to more literature develops fluency and confidence.’ This approach has a wider impact in these communities by helping them feel a sense of dignity and purpose as they learn and grow as people whom God has seen, loved and reached for His purposes. Languages are preserved, and cultures are nurtured, empowered and strengthened to grow in God’s ways. This process is Bible translation for the people, by the people – which has the power to create a lasting legacy for the next generation. It has exponential potential, especially when a community accepts and dives into the heart-language Bible translation when it is complete.
Pastor Kaweme from Zambia understands firsthand how having the Bible in a person’s heart language makes preaching much easier and has a lasting legacy. He has known Christ since he was 17 and traveled all over Zambia preaching the Gospel. He felt God call him to serve the Bwile people and eventually moved permanently to obey that call. He went on to build a church and he continues to assist the Bible translators in that area. He wishes to transform the whole community and impact generations by having the Bible available to them in Bwile – their heart language.
The Word of God is living and active, and has the power to transform lives. God calls all His children to be part of the extension of His kingdom in the growth of His family. One of the ways we can all get involved is to be a part of the global community who feel called to getting God’s Word out to every tribe and every tongue. TWFTW welcomes all of you who feel God beckoning your hearts to participate in this heart-language Bible translation adventure and want to grow in your calling so that together we glorify God and obey His Word!