teacher and student working together

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Language can be a barrier for both “native speakers” as well as immigrants. Communication is difficult or even impossible when someone is illiterate or an immigrant in a new country. Both of these situations can be a barrier to sharing the Gospel message. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to participate in breaking down these communication barriers. Literacy programs and Bible translation are just a few ways that can make a difference. Following are some resources that you may find useful.

  • Concordia Publishing House provides dozens of Spanish language resources, including Bibles, devotions, and children’s books.
  • Lutheran Hour Ministries is known for broadcasting The Lutheran Hour® since 1930. A Spanish language broadcast was added in 1940. LHM also produces many Spanish language resources and has ministries around the globe.
  • Lutheran Heritage Foundation is a Recognized Service Organization (RSO) of the LCMS and gives books of the Lutheran faith to people around the world in their own languages. Their publication library consists of over 1,029 publications by 193 authors in 106 languages.
  • Faith Comes by Hearing furnishes Bible recordings in over 1,000 languages in a variety of formats. Providing an English-language audio Bible to an illiterate person in the USA is as important as providing the Bible in other languages around the globe.
  • Lutheran Immigration Refugee Services was founded in 1939 by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people during World War II. LIRS has since grown into an internationally recognized leader known for innovative services for refugees, asylum-seekers, unaccompanied migrant children and families, migrants in detention, and other vulnerable populations.

Mercy in Action:

There are multiple avenues for addressing language barriers in your own community. Consider the categories below and the actions you can take.

  • English as a Second Language (ESL)
    • Contact local government officials to find out whether there is a community of non-English speakers – perhaps migrant workers or new immigrants. You may also check with local schools to see if there are non-English speaking children enrolled.
    • Research some of the resources listed here to see if they are active in your community. If so, invite them to speak to your congregation or local LWML group.
    • Find out if local resources will accept Christian materials such as Bibles (either print or audio) or children’s books. If they do, organize a fundraiser and purchase materials for an organization.
    • Based on your research, you may choose to reach out in a variety of ways such as tutoring children after school or volunteering with an ESL program for adults.
    • Look for opportunities to support a struggling family through your LWML group or congregations. How would you help this struggling family: could you offer ESL classes in your congregation, read to the children, offer to babysit so parents could attend ESL classes or offer a ride to the family to attend ESL classes? 
       
  • Addressing Adult Illiteracy
    • The steps here would be very much the same as above. However, it may be more difficult to find illiterate adults since many hide their inability to read and are ashamed to seek help. Work with local literacy programs to see how you can help.
    • If you know someone who struggles with reading, be sure to reach out to them. Perhaps you could offer to go with them to a tutoring session or to help them practice between sessions.
    • For inspiration read this story from the “I Love to Tell the Story” series entitled Opportunities to Share God's Love With Others.
    • It is all about the relationship between an English tutor and an adult student!
       
  • Preventing Illiteracy
    • According to ProLiteracy, the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72 percent chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. Addressing adult literacy is the place to begin to improve literacy for the next generation.
    • For a practical way to reach out to children with reading problems, contact your local school system to see if there is an established “reading buddies” program. This type of program pairs an adult with a student. They meet weekly to read together. The goal is to have 90% of children reading at grade level by the third grade. Your LWML group could participate by volunteering as individuals and by furnishing books to an “adopted” school.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? (Acts 2:5-8).

Additional Resources:

  • Friends of New Americans is an RSO of the LCMS and is an outreach ministry to immigrants and refugees in the greater St. Louis area.
  • The National Literacy Directory has helped connect more than 50,000 potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers since 2010. In addition to several other services, it provides listings for family literacy and English language classes.
  • ProLiteracy the largest adult literacy and basic education membership organization in the nation, believes that a safer, stronger, and more sustainable society starts with an educated adult population. For more than 60 years, ProLiteracy has been working across the globe to change lives and communities through the power of literacy.
  • Literacy Evangelism International provides training in teaching literacy skills as a means to share the message of Jesus Christ.

As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience (Luke 8:15).

A Prayer as You Plan:

Dear Heavenly Father,

We praise and thank you for the gifts of speech, hearing and language. Oh how we want to use those gifts to share the wonderful Good News of your gift to us. We desperately want all people to know about your grace and mercy through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Father, please help us to be mindful of those who are behind the barriers of illiteracy or unfamiliar language. We pray that your Holy Spirit will spur us to action and lead us to opportunities to help our sisters and brothers who cannot yet read your precious Word. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’” (Matthew 21:42).

The Gospel Outreach Committee would love to hear about and share your mission service activities! Please contact us through the LWML email at depgo@lwml.org. Thank you!

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