All over the United States, in large cities and small towns, there are people of nearly every language who need Christ. In some cosmopolitan areas like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and others, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people of other tongues, who barely understand the simplest English words. How can they be reached with God's precious truth?
Every Sunday morning one can hear radio sermons being preached in• Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, and other languages. Many times when listening to those sermons, or to the commercials in these foreign languages, one wonders how we are to bring the third angel's message to these people. Work among foreign-language people in North America may be difficult, but it must be done, and it can be done! The question is, How?
Pastor Erlecke has quoted the reference the messenger of the Lord has made to our "great centers of population," and the "multitudes of various nationalities" dwelling in them who are "all practically unwarned." The appeal is for God's people to manifest a zeal to "work the cities close by." In this work God's "people need to move sensibly. They need to set about this work in the cities with serious earnestness." In our administration of the work in these cities, "many classes of laborers are to unite in conducting these efforts to warn the people."—ELLEN G. WHITE in The Review and Herald, July 25, 1918. (Italics supplied.)
In two conferences in North America—one in the East and one in the West—where the foreign work is well organized, and the conference committee and the people are taking a real interest in it, other-language churches led the conference in baptisms for the year 1956. This is an indication of what can be done among these peoples.
The closing work of the gospel includes people of all languages. Christ's commission is that every tongue and people should be warned. Ministers and church members must unite to carry the message to them.
We are admonished:
In our own country there are thousands of all nations, and tongues, and peoples who are ignorant and superstitious, having no knowledge of the Bible or its sacred teachings. God's hand was in their coming to America, that they might be brought under the enlightening influence of the truth revealed in His Word, and become partakers of His saving faith.—/bid.
Methods of Proved Value
Methods that meet with success in winning our English-speaking friends may not always prove equally successful when working for the people of other lands. Methods which prove uniquely successful for our German people may not be as effective in working for the Spanish peoples. Various ethnic groups must be dealt with in accordance with their education, customs, culture, and religious background. In a very special way we must deal tactfully with those who come from Roman Catholic or Eastern Catholic countries. Every pastor will have to study the group for which he is working and adjust his methods to that particular group.
In securing the names of foreign-speaking groups scattered all over a large city, the telephone directory is helpful. Every six months a new directory lists all the names and addresses of those who have telephones. By using the telephone book it is possible to find the names and street numbers of the majority of the Spanish-speaking people in our large cities.
We have found that one of the best methods to follow is to give our members the names of ten or fifteen who are to be visited personally. This is done for a period of four weeks. The people are given a magazine or a tract, and the church member endeavors to make friends with them. On the fifth week they are given the first lesson of one of the Voice of Prophecy correspondence courses. It is best not to register them for the course at the first visit because most people do not like to sign up for something with which they are not acquainted. We just tell them it is free and that we will be back next week to see them. The following week we return to receive the first lesson and leave lesson two. This is continued for three or four weeks until we have won the confidence of the people. After that it is not difficult to register them for the Voice of Prophecy course, and then that office handles the lessons directly.
Whenever possible, a Spanish-speaking person should visit the Spanish-speaking people, a German should visit the Germans, and so on. People like to hear somebody speak to them in their own language.
English-speaking Churches Working for Other Language Groups
How can our English-speaking churches work for foreign-language people in their communities? In many of our churches there are members who speak and understand other languages. They themselves may possibly belong to another language group. Such persons are usually willing to work for their own people. The organization of a foreign mission band in the church is of inestimable value.
The Pacific Press Publishing Association branch at Brookfield, Illinois, publishes literature in quite a variety of languages, such as: Armenian, Bohemian, Chinese, Croatian, Danish-Norwegian, Dutch, English-Yiddish, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Philippine (Tagalog), Polish, Portuguese, Rumanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Syriac, and Yiddish. We are thus equipped with some gospel literature in twenty-six languages.
The Voice of Prophecy also provides lessons for those who read Armenian, Chinese, Czechoslovakian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Jewish, Latvian, Polish, Portuguese, Rumanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Ukrainian, Yugoslav, Ilokano, and Holland-Dutch.
Another excellent way of obtaining the names of interested people is through our colporteurs. A true pastor will naturally be interested in the souls of all those who live within the confines of his parish who may manifest an interest in the message, regardless of their nationality. We have been told that "God would be pleased to see far more accomplished by His people in the presentation of the truth for this time to the foreigners of America, than has been done in the past."—Christian Service, p. 201.
One pastor said to me not very long ago, "I am working for five Spanish-speaking families; they are such lovely people." Another pastor said, "These people of other nationalities in our churches are wonderful missionaries." They are indeed, and when we win one or two, they will help us to win more of their own nationality to Christ. At the present, among the seventy-two churches of the Southern California Conference, there are twelve foreign-language churches.
A strong evangelistic effort for the Spanish-speaking people has recently been conducted in Los Angeles. We have appreciated the excellent leadership of Elder Walter Schubert of the General Conference during these meetings. More than 150 persons have already been baptized and many more are preparing for that important rite.
The work of reaching the foreign-language people depends upon more than a lone worker out in the field. The conference administrators, pastors of English-speaking churches, and the entire working force must manifest an interest in this work and must do what they can to help in any way possible. As we join hands in mutual understanding and united service, God will work with us in preparing these peoples from other lands for the coming of the Lord.