When the Master gave His disciples the commission to evangelize the world, He said, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations." This great commission indicated that His disciples were to make Christians of all people regardless of who they were or where they lived. God has given to the Adventist people a definite responsibility in carrying His gospel message to the entire world. However, we have been told that "not all the means that can be gathered up, is to be sent from America to distant lands."—Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 34, 35. "The message must be given to the thousands of foreigners living in these cities in the home field."—Ibid., p. 34.
The responsibility regarding the foreign-language people of North America can well be summed up in the following words:
Unless more is done than has been done for the cities of America, ministers and people will have a heavy account to settle with the One who has appointed to every man his work. ... There are thousands in America perishing in ignorance and sin. And looking afar off to some distant field, those who know the truth are indifferently passing by the needy fields close to them.—Ibid., pp. 35, 36.
What a challenge! And what a great and solemn responsibility is laid upon the ministry of this movement in regard to the strangers within our gates!In Canada and the United States there are several million people of Slavic extraction comprised of Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Slovakian, and Yugoslavian nationalities. In Canada especially these millions from Slavic lands apparently constitute a large segment of the workers in our industries and on our farms. Most of these people are of Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Catholic background and, on the whole, are as difficult to work for as are the French Canadians in Catholic Quebec.
It has been our privilege to work among these people for the past decade in various parts of Canada. God has blessed our labors, and the results have been most gratifying. When the love of God and His truth takes hold of their hearts, these people make excellent Christians and are loyal and devoted and willing to sacrifice so that the work of God can go forward.
Up until now we as a denomination have not done as much as we ought to do for these people. Much careful study must be given to methods to be used in working among them. We have a solemn responsibility to take the third angel's message to them before probation closes.
Pastors and evangelists of districts where there are people of various nationalities should be alert and lay plans to reach these people. By showing an interest in them and by befriending them we can point them to Jesus. We should train our church members to put forth special efforts in manifesting kindness to those who speak in other languages.
Our truth-filled literature is an effective entering wedge. It is unfortunate that at present we have very little of such literature for some of these language groups. Consequently we are losing the opportunity of reaching thousands of precious souls. Other religious organizations, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals, are working assiduously for the conversion of these newcomers from other lands. Sensing the great need and potential among Slavic nationalities, the United Church of Canada has recently begun the printing of literature and tracts for distribution among these people. Our own denomination should hasten to do likewise.
Our Approach to Peoples From Other Lands
In our approach to these foreign-speaking people, we must recognize that we are dealing with peoples of altogether different backgrounds and cultures from those born and reared in North America. Some of these are extremely nationalistic and are steeped in their traditions and culture. They are proud of their mother tongue. They hold strongly to the traditional beliefs that were handed down to them from generation to generation. They consider these traditions as something intensely sacred.
Those who come from an eastern European background are frequently of a very cautious disposition. Great care and tact must be used in approaching them with anything new. The following few suggestions may be helpful to those who desire to do what they can in winning these people to God:
I. We must have in our own hearts a genuine burden for their souls. God's last message of salvation must reach all peoples everywhere. The hundreds and thousands of foreign-language people of every nationality in our many districts, towns, and cities that have not yet been reached with this message constitute a real challenge. God calls upon every worker to realize his responsibility toward these souls.
2. We must reach these people where they are, and whenever possible, in their native tongue. Many erroneously are of the opinion that these language groups will soon disintegrate and become obsolete. Nothing is further from the truth. I remember hearing, about twenty years ago, some of our brethren predicting that in just a short while the work among these people would cease in their various languages, and that we would not need any foreign-language workers. Today, after twenty years, the foreign-language groups are as strong as ever, and I believe they will continue to be with us until the coming of the Lord.
3. We must have ample literature to cover all vital doctrines of the gospel in the language of the people. It must be prepared in a simple and attractive form and should be scattered like the leaves of autumn.
4. We must endeavor, by the grace of God, to break down every barrier of prejudice. Throughout the centuries the spiritual leaders of these language groups have taught their people to treat with suspicion anything that was foreign to their way of life. Consequently, something new, especially in religion, is dealt with very cautiously by them. To break through this barrier we must win their confidence. As an example, these people have always been taught that the Sabbath is strictly Jewish, and anything Jewish must be looked upon with abhorrence, because the Jews rejected Christ. Our messages must always be Christ centered. In our radio work we endeavor to emphasize this fact, and many of these people have confessed to me that these radio messages were the first knowledge they had that Adventists preach Christ.
Through the pen of inspiration we read, "Wake up, wake up, my brethren and sisters, and enter the fields in America that have never been worked."—Ibid., p. 36.
May we never turn away from these people who speak in other tongues. They, too, must be fed with the bread from heaven. We must provide them the fellowship of oneness in Christ.