The weather app on my phone was showing a little sun icon with a 39°C beside it. Hmm. Even after living in Thailand over 20 years, I do not relate to Celsius the same as I do to Fahrenheit. I was reading the accurate scientific description of 39°C, but it was not really communicating to me. Even while feeling the heat of 39°C, I was still wanting to know, “How hot is it?” Handy Google said, “39°C = 102.2°F.”
What changed? I heard the description in my own “language” of Fahrenheit and instinctively knew how to respond. 102.2°F is hot.
Good friends wrote the above, comparing that with the need to have the Scriptures translated into the heart language of unreached or least reached people around the world. Those of us that speak two or more languages can understand words without capturing the meaning.
Ethnos' goal is to have a thriving church for every people — a good goal. But how can it be attained? What has to take place for those churches to become thriving and not just surviving? One way is to make sure that our ministries are indeed heart language ones — where we speak to the hearts of the hearers in a language that truly expresses their culture, their world view, their emotions, their uniqueness.
Culture and Language
I have talked with some of our consultants who are helping missionaries come to the point where they can minister in the heart language — the mother tongue — of people groups. One that I talked with is Andi McMartin, a culture and language acquisition consultant in West Africa. One of the questions that I asked her was if heart-language ministry was important.
She answered, “Heart language ministry is important because God is a communicator. God communicated to people in a language that they would understand. When a message is communicated to us in our heart language, then we know that the message is for us. We want the people we work with to know that as well: God's message is for them. He cares for them enough to bring His truth to them in a way that they can understand best.”
Literacy is a “next-step” process of heart language ministry. It involves helping people learn to read and write in their heart language. Literacy classes take place since many people groups of the world do not have their language in written form. In order to capture and maintain the integrity and purity of a language, it needs to be written down and preserved.
Jerry and Joyce McDaniels are Ethnos360’s international literacy coordinators. They said, “Since ‘ministry’ is opening the door for people to have a relationship with their Creator God, it must be done in the language of their heart. People need to know that God speaks their language and [that He] desires a close, personal relationship with them.”
Pray for the consultants as they work with missionaries in order for there to be a heart language ministry. Read more about these ministries.