It was George F. Zook who said, "Certainly no discovery since the invention of printing is comparable with the radio in significance and implication for the transmission of knowledge." In North America there are thousands of foreign-born people living in our midst. They may be able to speak English to some extent, but, if they are to receive the light that God has given to this church, it must be transmitted to them in their own language. Radio is perhaps the most important modern discovery by which God's last threefold message may be effectively and quickly proclaimed in the many languages of these tens of thousands of people who have come to us from other lands.
Evangelistic work for these people in our large centers and cities holds special problems. It is difficult to reach them with handbills or with our literature. As a rule they hesitate to attend public meetings with which they are not well acquainted, especially religious meetings. But in the privacy of their homes they will readily listen to their radios. Anything in their own language has a very special appeal to them and they will go out of their way to listen. In the quiet and leisure of their homes they can carefully weigh what they hear, and thus it has greater impact on their thinking.
Foreign-language broadcasts may not draw as much fan mail as do the English broadcasts, but this should not be taken as an indication that these broadcasts are less successful. For various reasons foreign-born people are somewhat hesitant to write. Generally they are very cautious. But when they do write it is usually an indication of a good interest. Some have written to us after they had been listening to our program for many months, telling us that all that time they had never missed a single program.
Our work for the foreign people will be more successful when we become thoroughly acquainted with their background, their history, their customs, their culture, and their religious faith and traditions. Even in this country they adhere very strictly to their religious beliefs and their various customs. Our broadcasts must not have the slightest trace of antagonism or criticism. If Christ is lifted up in all His beauty and loveliness, these people will be drawn to Him. If the message is proclaimed with sympathetic understanding and with Christian love, our listeners will be lead to accept it.
Of utmost importance, too, is the selection of music. Some time ago on our broadcast we used a choir number that was really a gospel song written to a familiar Ukrainian national melody. We received more letters of appreciation in connection with that number than any other. Our music must have something in common with the people we are trying to reach. It is a mistake to suppose that any translated song or hymn will do. It must be something that will strike a chord in the hearts of the listeners. If it is necessary to translate songs and hymns, they should be carefully selected and the translation should be good. Too often a program and the message is marred by careless and loose translations, even though the musical rendering may be perfect.
Then there is the matter of the language itself. While it is true that the Spirit of God can use simple means, it is hardly excusable if we use a language incorrectly. Jesus was understood by all and the common people heard Him gladly, yet we would not suppose that He used incorrect grammatical construction, or that He mispronounced words. There is no surer way to lose the respect of listeners than by misuse of their language. A few errors, a few mispronunciations, may so depreciate you with intelligent people that they will pass your program by in disgust.
Topics for the broadcast must be given considerable and careful study. In our Ukrainian broadcasts we feel it is better not to deal with the more controversial points of our message on the air. It seems the results have been better when these have been presented by means of the Bible course and other literature, and by personal contact. Well-illustrated practical topics on the home and many aspects of the Christian life are always greatly appreciated. When listeners feel that you understand them and their problems, they will write, they will ask questions, and they will ask for prayer. Then we can reach them with the message, for their hearts are open to receive it.
I find radio work for the Ukrainian people the most interesting type of evangelistic work I have ever done. God's Spirit has been moving upon the hearts of these people in a most remarkable way. At one of our public radio rallies leaders of another church gave us a standing invitation to hold meetings in their church. Letters from listeners have been most encouraging and heartwarming. Some are asking how and where they might meet our people.
Our broadcast would be welcomed in many other cities and centers if we had the funds to take advantage of the open doors. Just how much longer we will have the opportunity to continue this work, we do not know, but we do know that time is running out. "Wake up, wake up, my brethren and sisters, and enter the fields in America that have never been worked."—Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 36.
The value of foreign-language radio work should not be underestimated. Some may think that it is not so important or necessary in America. But how can these many thousands of strangers within our gates learn the blessed story of salvation, unless it is given to them in their language? God has set us as watchmen on the walls of Zion and we must give the warning to all men. His plan includes every nation and kindred and tongue and people. How can the gospel work be finished anywhere unless it is finished everywhere?