February 21st marked International Mother Language Day. Whenever I think about languages, I think of the vast amount of languages heard on the streets of New York City every single day. The New York Times has estimated that there are 800 languages spoken in NYC [source]. There are 176 languages spoken in the public schools. Of the five boroughs in our great city, Queens is definitely the most diverse. Recently I saw a friend posting that Queens is home to the most languages spoken in one place in the entire world [source]! Nearly half of New Yorkers (49%) speak a language other than English at home! [source]
These statistics astound me. But they also remind me of a passage in Scripture that tells us God will redeem some from every tongue and nation:
“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” (Revelation 5:9, emphasis mine)
Even Romans 1:16 teaches us that the Gospel is for the Jew first, and also for the Gentile (all non-Semitic peoples). Jesus Christ died on the cross to offer free salvation to every person – regardless of what people group they come from, what language they speak, or what nation they live in. He cares about the people behind those 800 mother languages spoken in New York City.
It is both exciting and humbling to be a part of God’s plan in sending the Gospel through the streets of New York City. How about you? What is your “mother language”? While mine is English, I definitely hope for my children to be bilingual one day. The more languages we speak, the more people we can reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ! But the blessing of living in New York City is that while many people have a different mother tongue, they speak or are learning English. How imperative to share the Gospel with them now!