Post 104 / The Next Language
August 23, 2022
Give Me That Mountain
“Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said. And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel.” [Jos 14:12-14 KJV]
As the Lord would have it, our first church service after arriving back to Indonesia had this sermon, “Give me this Mountain.” Although not specifically about the languages of Indonesia, it was focused on the nation as a whole and the expansion of the church. I took it as an appropriate challenge to claim more than 1000 languages that still do not have the Gospel recorded in this vast tropical paradise.
At this point I think I need to be sure that I am not playing into preconceived notions about the “unreached.” This came into perspective recently when talking with an SIL translator. She took issue with a statement another GRN staff member had made to her about all the “unreached “ languages in the Indonesian side of the island of Papua. She is very supportive of our ministry and appreciative of the collaboration between us and all evangelical missions. She took exception to our use of two words — language and unreached.
I had mentioned that our data showed that there are over 700 languages that have been verified that are unrecorded. (That is over and above the 728 that are recorded and on 5fish.) Another 500 are unverified. She correctly rebutted that there are only 466 languages as they count them. She was referring to what are called International Standard Organization codes. ISO-coded languages represent what was originally considered a language with the criteria to justify a Bible Translation. That is fair enough, but it leaves out all the other languages that are relegated to the status of “dialect.” Years ago Global Recordings Network became the stewards of the “dialects” in the world of cross cultural missions. We assign the language numbers to those speech varieties (new term for “dialects”) for all missions.
I have defended giving language status to every language that is still spoken by a viable community. That has been expounded elsewhere in these blogs. It is at the core of the essence of our mission. If a language has no existing Christian audio resources that they would claim as their own, it is unreached in my books; but in public I will choose to say “unrecorded.”
That does not mean that the people group is unreached in the classical sense – and that is where there can be confusion. My missionary friend said that there were no unreached people in her area. Most of them had churches established. I can say from first hand experience in Mexico and now Nigeria that the same is true there. In fact in some of those people groups in Nigeria the church could be classified (as in North America) as post Christian in my opinion.
So, where does that leave the ministry of Global Recordings Network? Is the Gospel in audio still needed in “every language”? Without being presumptive I would say that is the question that “every language” should answer for themselves. Indeed, in one language in Mexico their first answer was no. After thinking about upcoming generations that had not experienced the history of Christianity’s entry to their communities and the situation of the shut-in monolingual elders and the large percentage of the community still uncommitted to Christ, along with others that chose to migrate seasonally to work camps elsewhere, they decided it would be good to raise the banner of the Gospel in their mother tongue as a witness to all.
Our more recent experience in Nigeria was that given a choice and given a chance to hear what is available in neighboring languages and then the option to have something similar in their own tongue, most often their enthusiasm could not be contained.
The attraction and power of an intelligible word in your mother tongue should not be underestimated. I was recently in a room full of immigrants at the immigration office. The usual noise of several people in several languages went over my head, but out of the static I heard American English and though they were speaking in a subdued fashion, I could hear and understand every word they said. My brain was selectively filtering that significant sound to my understanding. I think that was normal and indicative of the superiority of the mother tongue as a communicator.
The fact that God Himself in the Scriptures elected to be so specific about race and language in the Book of Revelation shows that He wanted no equivocation when it comes to culture and race and speech when we are finally around that throne. “Every nation (ethnos), kindred (family?), and tongue, and people” is close enough for me to “the story of Jesus in every language” to put us in the center of God’s intentions.
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” [Rev 14:6 KJV]
Larry DeVilbiss | Executive Director
Global Recordings Network USA
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