God has brought the nations to our doorstep. You don’t have to leave your home country, or many times your city, to encounter someone whose native language is not English. For example, the Census Bureau found 168 languages are spoken in homes in the Washington metro area alone.
I wish I had a knack for languages. I really, really do. But I don’t. I will have to stick to my one. And while most people in the US speak English or want to speak better English to improve their lives and career prospects, there is nothing like being able to communicate with someone in their “heart language.” Particularly when talking about Jesus.
The good news is, even if you are a lifelong monolinguist, you can share the good news with anyone in pretty much any language thanks to the work Faith Comes by Hearing and the Jesus Film Project. What’s really exciting is both ministries have created apps that put libraries of resources in thousands of languages right on your smartphone.
1. Introduce them to Jesus with the Jesus Film
Jesus Film, the most-watched film in human history, was produced in 1979 and has now been translated into more than 1500 different languages. The Jesus Film is an introduction to the person of Jesus, telling his story of birth, death and resurrection based on the Gospel of Luke.
Josh Newell shared with us why the translated Jesus Film has become so critical to reaching people for Jesus:
“It is important we think that everyone have an opportunity to know Jesus. The easiest way to get the gospel out to people is using media. Throughout the world, we have a lot of folks who simply can’t read and write. Though we are working diligently to translate the Bible, with lots of different partners, that illiteracy continues to be a huge hurdle. So presenting Jesus in a way that people can access through media is really critical. And having it in a language that they learned on their mother’s knee instead of a language they learned in school is even more critical.”
The ministry also has other tools designed to reach different groups of people. For example, Magdalena, a film designed for Muslim women powerfully communicates how Jesus restores their humanity and dignity. You can download the Jesus Film Project App, or go online to access their resources.
Learn more by listening to our entire conversation with Josh from The Jesus Film Project:
2. Give them an audio Bible in their language
After introducing someone to Jesus through the powerful visual media of the Jesus Film, you can follow up by giving them an audio Bible in their heart language.
Lori Koch, an expert in global audio Bible engagement shared how the needs of one community motivated Faith Comes by Hearing to create Bible recordings in 1,006 languages:
“Some missionaries came to us from Haiti. They explained to us that 99% of the people they work with were illiterate. They can’t read, but they have heard from the missionaries, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ So what would they do? They would take a page from the printed Bible they can’t read and cut it up real small, put it in the soup and eat it. They had such a longing to have God’s Word into them. This started us on a path of understanding the needs of oral and non-literate people all over the world to have an audio Bible in their language.”
God’s Word is life, and thanks to this technology, people across the globe are tasting it in their own language. Education, literacy and language are no longer barriers to the spreading of the gospel. What we do need is people who are willing to take these resources and share them.
You may not be regularly visiting exotic nations with non-literate populations, but I can safely guess you will have an experience like this one day:
“One rainy day, I took my youngest girl to an indoor bounce-house playground. The place was mainly empty except for us and some kids for a birthday party. Quick to make friends, I saw my youngest having fun with a girl her age but from another culture. A few minutes later, the mother came out with a piece of cake and ice cream for my girl. I thanked her and we spoke for a few minutes. I asked the origin of her accent and she said ‘West Africa.’ My next question when I meet someone from abroad came naturally, ‘How many languages do you speak?” She listed at least four. Then I asked, “What language did your mother speak to you?’ ‘Yoruba,’ she replied. So I opened my Bible.is app and found the New Testament in her heart language. I clicked play on Mark 1. Her eyes lit up and a wide smile came across her face. ‘That’s my language,’ she said. ‘That’s my language.’ She raced to get her husband so I could play it for him too. ‘Where did you get that? I must have this’ the husband asked. I explained it was a free app with the Bible in audio in more than 1,000 languages and he downloaded it immediately. He then raced back to the party room to share it with the many other adults. The visible joy on their faces spread across the room.”
For many people coming to the US, English may be their third or fourth language. We now have the ability to connect with them through their first— or heart— language. As we see in this story, that speaks powerfully with people. Download the Bible.is app and share God’s Word with anyone.
Learn more about the work of Faith Comes by Hearing and listen to this interview with Lori: