The language of the heart

They say you need to read the Word of God in the language of your heart—the language in which your mother used to sing you lullabies, in which your father imparted his gentle instruction, and in which your grandparents showed you their loving care and affection. Only in this language can you ever truly relate to the story of God’s love for humankind and His unending grace.

Yet having access to the Word of God in the language of your heart can be a problem: Over time, the community in which you live may have become part of a geopolitical unit that no longer shares ties with the land of your ancestors. As a result, getting hands on materials in your mother tongue can be quite a challenge.

School bell, Stara Pazova
The original bell at the Slovak elementary school in Stara Pazova. It was cast in the late 1700s, during the school’s early years.

The Serbian province of Vojvodina is one out of many such cases in Eastern Europe. Historically part of the Habsburg Monarchy, this region was settled by many Slovaks seeking religious freedom. With the first Slovak settlers arriving more than two and a half centuries ago, the first Slovak school was established here as early as 1770. To date, it remains the world’s oldest school in operation with Slovak as the language of instruction.

Yet as time went by, this multicultural region became part of Serbia (formerly part of Yugoslavia) and access to Slovak books became more difficult. That also limited the opportunities for people to read the Word of God in the language of their heart.

EEM is changing that.

As of November, EEM has started the distribution of Slovak Children’s Bibles among the Slovak minority in Serbia. Of the 5,000 copies available for distribution, the first 360 were presented to the students at the Janko Cmelik Elementary in Stara Pazova—the school where classes have been held in Slovak for nearly 250 years.

Janko Havran, the school’s principal, responded with these words: “We are very grateful for this precious gift. It is wonderful that every student will have a chance to read [the Bible] in their own language.” The language of their heart.

UPDATE: In just a few weeks, almost all of the 5000 Slovak Children’s Bibles available for distribution in Serbia have been handed out to children across Vojvodina. EEM has already ordered a reprint of 4000 more, so that all Slovak children in Serbia, as well as some in the bordering Croatia, will receive a free Children’s Bible in their mother tongue!

The delivery of Slovak Children’s Bibles also opened doors to new opportunities. On hearing about the recent gift of Children’s Bibles to the Slovak school, a local Serbian school in Stara Pazova requested Serbian Children’s and Teen Bibles for their own students. It is very encouraging that God continues to make it possible to distribute Bibles to more and more schools in the post-Communist Bloc!

The Slovak Children’s Bibles were previously launched in Slovakia at a (secular) parenting conference in Kosice, the country’s second largest city. In the early weeks of December, with Christmas around the corner, 500 more copies will be delivered by a traveling ministry bus to low and no-income families in the poor regions of the Slovak countryside.