Post 35 / The Next Language

On the Ground in Culiacan

So, I am here in Mexico, at what we call the annual Culiacan project.

This is one of those rare places on earth where there’s abundant water, where there are the right temperatures, where there is flat arable farmland and, not so far away, lucrative retail markets and highways and a very viable labor force within this country of Mexico.

We are told that 700,000 villagers are trucked into this area seasonally each year and another 300,000 children. So traditionally what we have tried to do here at Culiacan is enter these work camps where the corporate farms house the workers, and spend an evening connecting people with their heart languages with our recordings. Then at the end of the evening we close with a big screen film set up in the camp.

Over the years we have seen several metamorphoses take place – from records to cassettes to CDs to cards, and now even the cd is nearing the end of its run. Now it is all digital, on cell phones that each of these workers have, as poor as they are. They may not have internet service but almost all of them have cells and are happy to load onto them content in their language or a close language that has already been recorded here in Mexico.

The change for us has been we no longer are running back and forth to a duplicator but rather spending our time dealing directly with people. Because of covid we have not been allowed to go door to door, so we must intercept people in courtyards or basketball courts or wherever we are allowed in. Thankfully, we have been able to get right inside a camp every night, despite covid.

So looking ahead we more and more see a trend away from hardware to reproducing straight audio or video material. Away from records with hand-wound record players, and cassettes with hand-wound cassette players, away from CDs even – now to phones. People can hear the gospel from a device in their own pocket. God has gotten ahead of us in the marketplace and made our job easier.

In fact, we have been planning to spend more time on preparations for recording – that is where our emphasis is – so we anticipated spending more time asking people about languages and locating unrecorded languages, as we know 70 languages in Mexico do not have the first sound of the gospel.

But it has not been as easy to integrate this new strategy as we thought it would be. The complexity of downloading digital materials using somebody else’s cell phone, of finding the right language or dialect for that person, of sorting through 350 languages to find the right one – is all harder than we thought.

We tried asking what language they speak, then asking what alternate languages, then “what village are you from?” But there are lots of “San Pedro’s” and “Santa Maria’s” in Mexico and also a lot of towns that could be spelled a dozen different ways. All of this makes it difficult to search a database for a certain language.

We are thinking and moving towards maybe instead of focusing on migrant camps, focusing on target villages where these speakers are. When the Christian workers here leave Culiacan, we are challenging them to think about becoming seed sowers and going back to villages that we have identified and targeted in their state.

Rather than sending a recording team first, we propose to send an advance team in with cell phones, word lists, and information forms, to verify language identities with a word list, and find out if believers there are willing to do translation.

If these 70 unrecorded languages could be researched like this on the ground, and then a recording team formed, we’d able to record that language very quickly. That is the vision that we are sharing with national Christian leaders here.

PRAY! We are just feeling our way forward, in order that these most remote and under-served people groups in Mexico might be opened up to have some access to the Gospel. I believe it is a different world here than it was when I first went out recording 50 years ago. Mexicans I talk with agree – today we may be able to just walk into a village where 50 years ago we might have been executed.

That is what been happening here at Culiacan, along with some insights into our progress in moving forward to the last unreached languages.

God Bless,

Larry DeVilbiss | Executive Director

Global Recordings Network USA

P. S. As a “thank you” for your continued support of the ministry of Global Recordings Network USA, and in celebration of over 80 years of God’s faithfulness, we have compiled a collection of 80 daily devotions written by GRN founder, Joy Ridderhof. You may read or download your copy of Rejoice Always – 80 Devotions with Joy Ridderhof  here.

Previous “The Next Language” posts
The Next Language – Post 34
The Next Language – Post 33
The Next Language – Post 32
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