November 14, 2012

Language Barrier?

Nora Jenkins was a Bible worker in St. Paul, Minnesota. One morning she received a phone call from John Sawickie, informing her that he and his wife, Margaret, were moving to Fort Worth, Texas. John told Nora about a Polish Catholic, Josie Kerwinski, living in St. Paul, who was interested in receiving Bible studies. He asked Nora lf she would be willing to study with her.

Nora said she would be happy to help. John concluded by saying, “I don’t know how you’ll get along with her, but we’ll be praying for you.”

2012 1532 page28Nora wondered what John meant ?by that statement. That same week she visited Josie and made an appointment to begin studying the Bible together. The studies continued on a regular basis for several weeks. After about 15 studies Nora’s friend, Millie, asked if she could go along with her for one day to see how Nora conducted her studies.

On that particular day they had an appointment with Josie. When they arrived, Nora introduced Millie to Josie, and after prayer began studying the Bible.

That day’s study dealt with the eight texts in the New Testament that mention the first day of the week. Nora showed clearly that Sunday was not a holy day, and that it did not take the place of the seventh-day Sabbath in the New Testament. The study closed with prayer, as usual.

As they walked to the car after leaving Josie’s home, Millie asked, “What language were you speaking while you were studying with Josie?”

“Why, English, of course.”

“No, you weren’t,” said Millie. “I couldn’t understand a word you said.”

“But I can’t speak anything other than English.”

In the car Millie said again, “You were not speaking English.”

Language Immersion
The next Bible study Nora had with Josie dealt with the subject “Who changed the Sabbath?” As she wrapped up, Nora asked Josie if it was clear that Saturday was the true Sabbath that the Lord wants His people to observe and keep holy, and that the day of rest and worship had been changed contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Josie agreed; in fact, she distinctly said she wanted to obey the Lord.

Nora then suggested that she would be glad to come and pick Josie up the next Sabbath morning and take her to church.

Josie asked if Nora attended an English-speaking church. Nora said it was. Then Josie said, “If they speak English, there’s no point in going, because I don’t understand English.”

Nora was dumbfounded. She had been giving Josie Bible studies in English for several weeks, and Josie seemed to understand everything perfectly. She said, “Let’s give the Lord three weeks to teach you to speak English.” She later thought, Why would I say such a ridiculous thing? I can’t speak or understand Polish.

The Bible studies continued for the next three weeks, same as before. During that period no one gave Josie any instruction in reading or speaking English.

What Do You Think?

1. When have you experienced something remarkable, even miraculous, in your attempts to serve God?

2. Does God work miracles today? Or are they few and far between?

3. How do you recognize something as miraculous when you see it?

4. Complete this sentence: God would do more miracles if . . .


Then Nora again asked Josie to go to church with her. Josie asked, “Do you think I speak English well enough?”

Nora said, “Yes, I believe you do,” believing that if the Lord could help her to be understood in Polish, the Lord could make Josie understand and speak English well enough for her to join God’s remnant church.

The next Sabbath Nora picked up Josie and took her to church. Millie was the first person they met. Nora asked, “Do you remember Josie?”

“How could I forget?” Millie responded. She and Josie visited for a few minutes in English. Then Nora called Millie aside to ask what she thought of Josie’s English. “She speaks well, but with a Polish accent,” Millie said.

Apparently Nora always heard Josie in English, even though Josie was speaking Polish; and Josie always heard Nora in Polish, even though Nora could speak only English. After her first visit to the Adventist church, Josie understood English and spoke it as well.

This experience is a vivid reminder of the day of Pentecost: “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. . . .  A crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?’ ” (Acts 2:5-8).

After further studies, Josie was baptized and became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in St. Paul.

A retired pastor, Adrian C. Woods passed away earlier this year in Placerville, California. This article was published November 15, 2012.