In our own tonguesPublished by Russ and Heidi Smith on Thu, 09/06/2012 - 11:13am
The last part of Acts 2:11 in the NIV says: we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! This makes me think of one of the important principles of the Reformation: the use of the language of the people to spread the Message and to worship.
I have been thinking about this a lot recently. We are serving in a congregation now where quite a few people speak Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuche people. Some of them did not know any Spanish until they went to school. But they are perfectly bilingual now.
But I remember some experiences in the past that I would like to share with you. One happened when I was in Chile the first time in 1979 with a summer missions team from my university. We had gone to visit a church located in a small town in a rural area. It was a Pentecostal Methodist Church. There were a few people in the congregation who had come in from the country. They were obviously Mapuche. You could tell because of the way they were dressed. I don't think they understood Spanish very well. Why do I think that? The pastor of the church was talking about women using make-up, and jewelry, and other things like that. There was a girl in our group, and she was brought to tears because of what the pastor was saying. She understood quite well what he was saying. These Mapuche ladies though, wearing earrings and other jewelry, were just going along with the rest of the congregation yelling, "Amen! Glory to God!" Something wasn't connecting. They were enjoying the experience, but I don't think they were understanding. If the pastor had been speaking in Mapudungun their reaction might have been very different.
The other experience happened, in the 1990s, when Abelino Apeleo was consecrated bishop in Chol-Chol. I had the privilege of attending that service. It was an exciting and important event. For the first time in the history of the Church, a Mapuche was becoming a bishop. So all of the country churches scattered throughout the Araucania (the area where there is a high percentage of Mapuches) came to Chol-Chol. Some people came by oxcart, some came walking, some chartered buses. But they all wanted to be there. For the most part the service was in Spanish. When it hit me though, that maybe not all of the brothers and sisters spoke Spanish necessarily was when I was helping serve the Holy Communion in an overflow room. I so wished I could have given the people their piece of bread "in their own tongue." As I said in Spanish, "Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and be thankful," I often got blank stares. I might have well said it in English. I would have communicated just as much. How I wished I could have said at least something like "God's bread." But I couldn't.
I hope that I can take advantage of having Mapuche-speaking people in order to learn at least some of this language so that if it ever happens again that I'm ministering to a person whose heart language is not Spanish, but Mapuche, that I can make my best effort to "declare the wonders of God in their own tongue."
If you are interested in this subject, there are several minority languages in use in Chile. The New Testament has been translated into Mapudungun. A team is working on a translation for the language of Easter Island. In the north of the country there are Quechua and Aymara speakers. And there are also many Gypsies speaking their own language also. Please pray that wherever they are, and whichever language they speak that all people will be able to hear the wonders of God declared "in their own tongue."