I was relaxed and comfortable in the cool, breezy dining room, looking forward to some excellent food and more great conversation. I sat with my family around the laden table with our hosts, a German family who, like us, served as missionaries in Brazil. As we chatted, my friend leaned back in his chair and called down the hall to his teenage daughter still working in the kitchen.
Elsa! Wir sind bereit. Kommt schnell! “Elsa! We’re ready. Come quickly!”
As I heard the loud voice, the urgent tone, and the last word, Schnell, a shock of fear shot through my system and I felt the icy hand of panic clench my insides. Terror traveled through thirty-five years of time and eight thousand kilometres of space to jab fear into my heart once again.
I was seven years old, walking home from school with a classmate. As we took a shortcut past a warehouse, we noticed the door was partly open, so naturally we peered in. Suddenly a German soldier carrying his machine gun ran out of a guard shack behind us shouting, Achtung! Verschwinden Sie! Schnell! “Hey! Get away! Quick!” I had heard those words before, sometimes followed by shots . . . and screams.
So long ago. So far away. So many changes. I was now an adult, a husband, a father, a missionary. And this German missionary was no occupying enemy soldier—he was my friend, my colleague and a brother in Jesus.
What then triggered this vivid, emotion laden memory?
Language. A specific language. The same language which had first filled me with fear. Had he called down that hallway in English, “Quick!!” or in Portuguese, “Rapido!!” I would not have reacted emotionally.
Much of the power of language is in the emotion it evokes in the hearer. No wonder God used language to communicate His emotion laden Love Letter to people. No wonder He uses thousands of languages to penetrate billions of human minds . . . and hearts. No wonder He calls hundreds of thousands of His people to work together to bring His Word to every language on earth.
God’s message of Love has been translated into nearly five-thousand languages. But nearly four-thousand languages have less than one book of the Bible. Bible translation is on-going in nearly two-thousand languages, but there are another two-thousand languages that still await translators, prayer warriors, and financial partners.
God’s people all around the world need to listen to the urgency in His voice and get busy spreading the Message! Millions are read to hear and to respond. But we need to get at it!
Quickly! Rapido! Rapidement! Awjarê! Szybko! Snabbt! Raskt! Gyorsan! Brzo! Schnell!
Note: this story was first published five years ago in the Mandate blog series.