“Even if I speak the tongues of men and angels, if I do not have love, I will be like a ringing bell or a clanging cymbal. Even if I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and have a faith that can move mountains, but don’t have love, I’ll be nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1, 2).
One of the challenges of missions is to learn a new language. The heart language in Guinea-Bissau is Creole, although the official language is Portuguese. But communication is more than learning a language. It requires creating new bonds of respect, affection and love.
One of our bond-building activities occurs every Saturday afternoon in the Antula neighborhood. We serve around 50 children, singing and playing games with them, telling them Bible stories and having a snack.
I was recently assigned to help tell the stories for a few weeks. One of those we told was the story of Joseph in Egypt. We strove to tell the story in Creole, but without knowing how to convey some of the words, the story was not turning out just the way we wanted, so we also started mixing in some Portuguese. It probably sounded a bit crazy. This language mixing happened with our storytelling a few times, and I wondered if the children really understood.
But after the program was over one Saturday in February, one of the children named Mirian came to me and said, “Pape di Matheus, misti gradiciu” [“Matheus’s father, I want to thank you“] Mirian and the other children connected with us. Her gratitude was proof that the language of love, through God, is the most efficient and clearest that can exist. Now my doubts about the effectiveness of our communication are gone.
Although I cannot always express myself so well in Portuguese (or Crioolese), what I feel for the children fills in and completes all of the verbal gaps.
Praise God for the gift of tongues and the gift of love. Thank you for joining us in serving the people of Guinea-Bissau.