By Jim Panter
We are able to support various missionaries, teachers and national workers as they seek to learn languages and then translate the Scriptures into the heart language of the people they live among. It is a hard, often long, process. The end result is well worth it, but there are learning bumps along the way. For instance, you might possibly smile as you read this story by Ely Johnson from Bangladesh from a recent AOB newsletter.
One of the nurses asked me, “You said the patient’s blood type is O positive, correct?”I nodded and replied, “Apnar kan khub sokto!” The entire room erupted in laughter.Oh no…what did I say? The nurse laughed and responded, “Sister, you just told me that I have very hard ears!”In my attempt to say he had good ears to be able to hear me in such a noisy environment, I had instead complimented the hardness of his ears. At least I’m good for some entertainment on occasion!
After sharing my mistake with one of my colleagues, she recalled a time when she was still learning the language and was teaching a children’s church class. The lesson was about Jesus being the light of the world. However, the words for light and potato are quite similar in this language. So, instead of teaching that He is the light, she told them that He is the potato of the world! She couldn’t understand why the children kept erupting into laughter, until later another worker told her what she had said. I felt much better after hearing her story!
These language blunders are quite funny and make for good stories, but truly, being able to speak to someone in their heart language is essential for effective communication.
Language learning may feel discouraging some days, but in the end, it will be worth every long night, silly blunder, and slow conversation. Because eventually you will be able to freely share the truth of God’s love and redemption among the people you have learned to love. I hope you’ll take a moment to send words of encouragement to the missionaries we support and to continue to support them through ongoing prayer. You can find an updated list of prayer requests on our website at www.fellowshipsj.org/missions-prayer.html