Heart Language

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It’s been six weeks! Ahmed planted his field before the first rains, just like he does every year, but it has been six weeks since there has been any real rain. He has started to worry, and so have his neighbors. In fact the whole town is worried. If it does not rain soon, the plants will die and there will be no crop. Without a crop, almost everybody will go hungry, and some might starve.

Something has to be done! The community decides that they must ask Allah for help. The next morning, just before dawn, almost everybody gathers at the town’s edge to sacrifice a bull as they plead to Allah for rain. They give the meat to the town’s poor, hoping that as a reward for this good deed, Allah will let the rain fall on their fields.

They need to know that God’s favor does not have to be bought, but through Jesus, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

My best friend had a son, Nuraddin, which means “The Light of Religion” or “The Light of Faith.” Of all his twenty children, Mahamat told me that Nuraddin was his favorite. He was very sweet, but suffered from severe seizures. One day, after I returned from a trip, Mahamat told me that Nuraddin had died. Filled with sadness, I wanted to share with Mahamat that “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

One morning, my neighbor Z came over. He asked to borrow some money, about $20.  His reason surprised me: “I need the money to buy a chicken and some sugar so the local marabout will free my wife from an evil spirit.” That’s not what I expected! Knowing the love and power of Jesus, I could not let go. I said, “My friend, you do not need money to free your wife, but the power of God. I will come to your house in a few minutes, and we will ask God together to help your wife.” I wanted him to know that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8).

After praying with my wife Kirsten, I went over to Z’s home. I shared Scripture accounts of Jesus having power over demons. Most of all, I shared how important it is to receive Jesus and have him be the master of our lives.

The power of prayer in Jesus’ name freed that woman, but I could not be so sure about their souls. You see, I did not speak their heart language, and I didn’t have God’s Word in their language either. I could only share with them in Chadian Arabic, the trade language. Many people use it to do business every day, but talking about prices and schedules is much different than talking about sin, salvation, and the love of God. Imagine trying to understand the truth of Christ with just the Spanish, German, or French you learned in high school!

The scenes described here are all true. Each one shows that using the people’s first language—their heart language—is the best way to share the Good News we bring. That is why we take so much time and effort to translate the Bible into the heart language of the people we want to reach for Christ. It is the key to creating and nurturing faith.

Marcos Holzner serves Lutheran Brethren International Mission, and is currently working on translating the Gospel of Luke into the heart language of the Bilala people in Chad.

Five Years... and Counting
Journey to Chad