Samuel Zwemer, missionary to Bahrein, Egypt, and Asia Minor
had this to say about literacy and world mission:
The printed page is a missionary that can go anywhere and
do so at minimum cost. It enters closed lands and reaches all strata of
society. It does not grow weary. It needs no furlough. It lives longer than any
missionary. It never gets ill. It penetrates through the mind to the heart and
conscience. It has and is producing results everywhere. It has often lain
dormant yet retained its life and bloomed years later.
As part of the overall mission effort in training Christian
leaders, here is a plea to encourage translation of Christian resources as part
of the overall mission effort.
The printed page is a missionary that can go anywhere and do so at minimum cost. - Tweet this
Many who read this blog may know that Christianity is
growing in many places in the global south and east. Much of Christian
literature, however, is in the languages of English, German, French, and
Spanish. Very few books are available in
some very important languages that are critical for world evangelization. It
would be good to encourage ways to get Christian resources into languages
around the world where there are fewer Christian resources.
Consider, for example, the language of Hindi. It is one of the
top five languages spoken worldwide. There are 310 million Hindi speakers in
the world which is over 4.5% of the world’s population. It is also a strategic
and influential language since it is used in many governmental affairs. It is
fair to say that Hindi is the most influential language in India, which is also
the second most populous nation in the world.
Hindi also is a language which many hidden people groups
speak. Some 350 hidden people groups speak this language. Thus, there are
thousands who have yet to hear Jesus Christ can grant salvation from sin, power
for living, and hope for eternity.
Christian materials in English will not have a positive
effect. Some missionaries who work in India have found that books in English do
not communicate because of the past history of British colonialism. For those
who speak Hindi, the Hindi language preserves their culture. English was the
language of the British colonists and with their abuses. They do not want to
lose their Indian identity. Thus, they need Christian materials in Hindi.
While literature can never replace the missionary, we can
significantly aid mission work by sending Christian materials in the language
of the people whom we are trying to reach. Let’s not forget this important
means of reaching the world and discipling new believers!
Drake Williams is Professor of NT Language and LIterature at Tyndale Theological Seminary. He earned a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Aberdeen.