God’s Love in 31 Different Languages – Sweet!
Updated: Feb 19
I was recently blown away by a statement made while I was substitute teaching at an elementary school in Jenks, Oklahoma. At that one school alone, there are 31 different languages/dialects spoken by the children who attend.
Wow! Thirty-one different languages.
This is at one public elementary school in Oklahoma with 2000 students from grades Preschool-4 through fourth grades. These students represent numerous countries from around the world, mostly from the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, also known as Burma. They started arriving in the Tulsa area in the 1970s, escaping religious persecution. Most are Christians.
As of 2016, there were about 1,000 Zomi and Burmese students enrolled in Jenks schools. Nearly 5,000 Zomis are currently living in and around Tulsa, the largest concentration of Zomi people in the United States.
When I heard the phrase “31 different,” my thoughts immediately raced to the well-known ice cream chain that boasts that many different flavors in each of its stores. The original creators chose the number 31 to provide the customer a different flavor for each day of the month.
So many choices.
The Jenks school leaders and faculty must have initially felt overwhelmed when they began determining how to best serve these children. So many languages/dialects…where do we start? However, the Jenks Public School District figured it out and are doing an outstanding job teaching and transitioning these children from their native language to English. The district has what’s called ELD Specialists (English Language Development).
These trained specialists work alongside classroom teachers to instruct and continue to fine-tune the students in English reading, writing and speaking skills through high school. Students learn to speak, read and write English daily at school, yet still preserve their native languages by speaking them at home. In many cases, the children introduce and even teach family members basic English skills they learned at school.
Some parents came to the United States for their jobs and the families only remain a couple of years. Others have immigrated and live here permanently. Oil and gas, along with aviation and healthcare jobs, are some of the major employers. Oral Roberts University, a Christian university in south Tulsa, played a significant role in attracting many foreign families to this area. (Click here for ABC News article on “Zomi USA: How a City in Oklahoma Became Home for an Ethnic Group from Southeast Asia.” Dec. 6, 2016)
Many have settled into the Jenks school district because of its excellent reputation and because of the district’s willingness to embrace the language challenge.
During this, my first year as a substitute teacher, I admit I have been communicationally-challenged at times. I have focused my area of substitute teaching on the elementary school levels—Pre-Kindergarten thru fourth grades (four to nine-years-old).
Piece of cake, right? Humbling to say the least.
Trying to call roll each morning can bring you down a notch or two, especially when a four-year-old says you aren't pronouncing his/her classmate’s name correctly. I do the best I can. I understand. With a last name like Hejtmanek, I grew up hearing my name butchered a lot!
At the beginning of the school year, some of these children knew very little English. So I asked the Lord, “How do I communicate with them?” He spoke to my heart, “The same way you communicate with all of My children -- love them.”
Galatians 5:22-23 (AMP) came to mind: “But the fruit of the Spirit (the result of His presence within us) is love (unselfish concern for others), joy, (inner) peace, patience (not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
By applying this scriptural principle, I have learned a kind, soft-spoken word (whether it’s understood or not), a gentle hug, the holding of a hand, or the simple act of tying a child’s shoe, can go a long way to communicating Christ’s love. But this is a public school, so no teaching or preaching of any religion is permitted. Period. However, the rules do not prohibit Christians from “living out loud” the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Children, of all ages, understand the universal language of love. There’s no law against love.
In 1986, Christian recording artist Sandi Patty released a song that sums it up, Love in Any Language. I encourage you to listen to this song. Here are some of the lyrics:
The sounds are all as different
As the lands from which they came
And though our words are all unique
Our hearts are still the same
Love in any language, straight from the heart
Pulls us all together, never apart
And once we learn to speak it, all the world will hear
Love in any language, fluently spoken here.
Tho’ the rhetoric of government
May keep us worlds apart
There’s no misinterpreting
The language of the heart.
(Songwriters: John Mayo and Jon Mohr)
Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” Mark 16:15 (NLT) Because of constant advancements in technology, transportation and real-time communications, “all the world” is rapidly getting smaller. Citizens of this planet are much more mobile and connected than ever before. The Gospel, the Good News, is now more available to those who have never heard about Jesus Christ.
We just need to go and share what and Who we know.
Here’s how Jesus explained it: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.’” John 4:34-35 (NLT)
Personally, I never dreamed I would be substitute teaching preschool, kindergarten, and elementary children at this stage of my life. But here I am, and loving every minute of it, ministering to and loving on children from all over the world. Love in 31 different languages.
Life is sweet.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations (help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words), baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always (remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstances, and on every occasion), even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (AMP)
Now, let’s go into all the world…the fields are already ripe. You don’t have to go far.
Begin in your own backyard.
Bible Verse of the Day: “But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.’” John 4:35 (NLT)
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