Regina Kowert had this thought-provoking paragraph in her letter: I always thought my friend Cristina was praying in French because of me. A while ago we visited her family, and everyone was speaking in Sérè, but she changed to French to pray. That is when it hit me. I asked her, ”Why do you not pray in Sérè?” She replied, “I do not know how to pray in my language.” Will she ever be able to say “God speaks my language”? She does not speak to God in her mother tongue because God has never spoken to her in her language.
It takes many years from the time a translation is started until the New Testament is completed. In order to understand the driving passion of translators, I asked some of the translators and translation consultants who are working on translation projects about the importance of heart language ministries.
Kirk Rogers has ministered among the Landuma people of Guinea and is translating the New Testament. He said, “Heart language ministry, communicating God’s Word in the heart language of each person, is critical to their receiving the truth with maximum clarity, understanding and impact.”
Bob Clark, translator with the Tugutil people of Asia-Pacific and translation consultant, said, “A message as important as the contents of Scripture needs to have the best chance of being understood, and we are convinced that means translating into the heart language of our audience.
Now I Understand
As both a translator and a translation consultant, Lisa Kappeler ministers among the Uriay people of Papua New Guinea. Her words are clear and pointed: “I work in a language group where the majority of the women don’t speak the national language. … There were men and women in the village that I couldn’t really communicate with until I spoke their heart language (emphasis by author). So our situation is that, unless we worked in the heart language of the people, they wouldn’t understand the Word of God or the gospel.”
Lisa continued, “What are you going to teach from if there’s no Bible in that heart language? If you believe in a heart language ministry, then you’d need a heart language Bible to teach from. And you want them feeding themselves from God’s Word, so they need to be able to read it in their language. It’s vital to the church planting effort and to the growth and maturity of the church.”
There is no way to exaggerate the importance of heart language ministries. Allowing Cristina to hear God speak in her own language is a gift beyond compare. To teach, to read the Scripture and to counsel new believers in their own language with all its subtleties and nuances diminishes syncretism and misunderstanding. Pray for clarity for translators.