Why Heart Language Ministries?
These past months we have been focusing our attention on heart language ministries around the world. But what do we really mean? Don’t we use our brains to reach others? Don’t we use our logical side when we discuss the work of Christ for mankind?
Yes, we do use our brains and the logical side to speak truth to people who don’t know the story of Christ’s work on Calvary. But there is a certain level of our understanding that needs to be spoken to at our heart level, our “now I understand that idea” level, our emotional side. God speaks to our hearts, our centres of emotion, the smiling or crying side of us.
That All Might Know Him
And that is what we want to do for the unreached, those who have never heard the Word of God in their own heart language, a language that will touch the heart while it answers the brain’s logical questions. For that reason, we spend years in an effort to develop an alphabet for the language, translate the Word of God into that language and teach literacy to a heretofore illiterate people group.
Let me give you one example from Asia Pacific.
Bob Clark, translator with the Tugutil people of Asia Pacific and translation consultant, said, “Ministering and teaching in a person’s heart language is crucial to their understanding of the message [of the gospel]. A few decades ago, many missionaries assumed that if people could understand a ‘second language,’ it would be easier and quicker to teach them in that language rather than investing the time and energy into learning their heart language. Over time it became clear that in most cases our audience didn’t understand that second language as well as we had hoped, and therefore our communication of the gospel and all the other important truths of Scripture were not being understood clearly. 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.”
The Lid Is Off!
Family were visiting the Gary Smiths in Dinangat-land in Papua New Guinea. The visitors wrote, “We were ready to have supper with one of the [Dinangat] elders in his hut with his family. Before we ate, he was giving testimony of how their lives were before hearing the gospel. Many years ago, some people had attempted to share Christ with them without knowing their language and culture. He said it was as if they had been handed [a] bowl of food, but the lid was never opened to them, and they were never able to eat the food because they did not understand what the people were saying. But now he said the missionaries here … were finally able to open the lid to this bowl and share the gospel with them in their own language. (Hearing in their own language was the key that opened their understanding.) They have consumed the gospel and now are full of eternal life.”