They Were Not Sure God Understood Their Prayers
“There are approximately 7,100 living languages spoken on earth today. As I write this introduction there are some 1,600+ living languages that still do not have a single verse of the Scriptures translated. These 1,600+ languages need to be translated to reach zero.” David Hamilton, Youth With A Mission.
Up in the mountains, on the outer edge of an Asian country is a small tribe called the Alze*. Leo and Tori* came to this country with a calling to work with a Bibleless, unreached people group. They planned to create a set of Oral Bible narratives in the language of the Alze. Their hope was that soon God’s Spirit would speak to the people’s hearts, through His Word, in their own language.
No Written Language
The tribal language is spoken by thousands of people but has never been written down. Leo and Tori wanted to live among the people as they began their work. Unfortunately, government restrictions prevented them from living in this mountainous region. Their best option was to live in the provincial capital. All the schooling for these people is in the national language. With no schooling in their own language, university students must go to the capital.
There, some Alze students heard the Gospel and came to Christ.
The Good News had been spreading. One percent of the country has come to Christ already. We praise God! New believers join local fellowships, read the Bible and pray. Yet it is all in the national language—not their own heart language.
What Could Happen With Translation?
What would happen if their spiritual life embraced the language spoken by their families, friends, and people? Leo and Tori committed themselves to find out. Was it worth the effort to spend so much time learning the language of a small tribal group and then recording these Bible stories?
Let’s see what happened.
The first thing Leo and Tori needed to do was to learn the national language of that country. You need to be able to talk to people in the nation, buy food in the market and live there. It can take at least six months of language training to have enough language to live easily. Of course, this would allow them to speak with the Alze people in a common language so they could begin to work together. Living in the city where many of the Alze people were students, they started to meet some from their focus people group. They looked for Alze young people who had time to help them learn their language. Next, they would need their new friends’ help translating Bible stories into Alze and finally, to record the stories.
Finding Local Help
One day Leo and Tori traveled out to a village where they found two 17-year-old Alze girls who were already believers. They talked to their parents. The parents agreed that the girls could go and work for Leo and Tori, cooking and cleaning in the mornings. In the afternoons, they would teach Leo and Tori Alze, and help with the translation process.
Leo and Tori started learning Alze. This was challenging. They had only recently learned the main language of the country.
First, they had to teach the girls how to teach them! Most likely no outsider had learned this tribal language before. After a while, Leo and Tori asked the girls to teach them how to pray in Alze.
They looked at the floor in embarrassment.
Couldn’t Pray in Their Own Language
They didn’t know how to pray in their own mother tongue. They’d never done it. They’d only prayed in the national language. They wondered how they could be sure God could understand Alze? No one else could understand Alze. Would God really be able to understand them?
So Leo and Tori helped them to translate some simple prayers into Alze:
“I love You God.”
“I need You to help me today God.”
“God, You’re so good to me.”
“God, I’m sorry for the wrong things I’ve done.”
They learnt eight simple prayers in Alze.
Soon after, Leo and Tori invited some university students for lunch. They always prayed before eating so this time they asked one of the girls to pray in Alze, thanking God for the food. She prayed. The next day Leo asked the other girl to pray and add any words that they didn’t know yet. The day after, the first girl prayed again. Once she started she didn’t want to stop. In fact, Leo had to ask her to stop because the food was getting cold!
Later, the second girl went to Leo very distressed. She asked Leo not to be angry with her and not to fire her. Leo asked her why he would want to do that. She told him that when she came to work for them she wasn’t really a Christian, but her friend was. She told him that she thought they wouldn’t hire her if they knew she wasn’t a Christian.
God Does Speak Her Heart Language!
But something happened. The previous week Tori told her that God speaks Alze. God longs to hear her talking to Him in her heart language. That very evening, she went home and asked Jesus into her heart. When she knew that God spoke her heart language, she wanted Him to live in her heart.
And so we get a hint of what is yet to come. This is part one, the story will continue. Watch our website and your email for the rest of this story. Meanwhile, there is something you can do to help Bible-less peoples. Over 1,600 languages have no Scriptures. Discover how we can work together to End Bible Poverty Now!