The language of the heart

By Carmen F. Aguinaco

I n the biblical story a eunuch wondered how he would come to have knowledge of the scripture and the liv¬ing Christ if no one explained it to him. Philip knew how to explain it to him and did so in a language that moved the man’s heart to conversion and discipleship.

What language is spoken in the United States? It is likely that most people will say English. But did you know that in the United States 34.5 million people speak Spanish at home? And 4 million speak Chinese? That the Vietnamese population grew by 511% between 1980 and 2007? That 1.5 million speak Tagalog; 1.4 million speak French; 1.1 million, German; and 1.1 million, Korean?

The American Bible Society (ABS by its English acronym) is convinced that, “unless people enter into a dialogue with the Bible in the language of the heart, they will not be able to experience its transformational message.”

That’s why ABS has promoted a beautiful initiative to develop biblical materials in the six main languages of the United States. The ABS Multi- Language Ministries creates programs, materials, and media for new technologies for people residing in the United States, but whose first language is not English.

The initiative is a five-year plan that will produce materials in Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. On the Latino side ABS focuses on producing materials and resources for biblical studies based on key topics: economic literacy, family life and domestic violence, at-risk youth and gang culture.

But the plan is even more comprehensive and ambitious. In research conducted by Pew Research and ABS, data shows that Hispanics listen to the radio a lot (although this is true for most immigrants), since many listen to it while working in factories, restaurants, or while driving. Therefore, instead of emphasizing printed media, as it has traditionally done, the ABS strategy for this initiative is centered on using the radio, for example, with a series of two-minute spots titled Palabra Eficaz featuring biblical readings and their application to life. Another program is called 24 Hours with the Bible, which is a radio special that presents dramas from Bible readings.

Additional media and digital tools include:

  • Online workshops on topics from the Bible.
  • a website with resources in over 80 languages.
  • Facebook.

ABS also has an initiative called Dis¬cover the Bible, which conducts work¬shops and seminars that prepare church leaders so they can start a biblical inter¬action movement in their communities.

How many hearts will ABS reach? In fiscal year 2012, it projects that it will reach 10 million people, heart to heart, and in their own language.

Your Turn
What is the language of your heart? How do you better communicate with God?


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