We students at Emanate have finished up our Phonetics course. We spent months learning to hear and pronounce the basic sounds that are used in languages around the world. Listening for the slightest differences between the sounds, we built a foundation upon which our future language studies would be laid. Then, we dove into Phonemics—the science of taking those phonetic sounds that are heard and analyzing the ways that they occur in the language to understand which sounds the native speakers think they are saying. While phonetics gathers the sounds that are heard, phonemics narrows those sounds down into an alphabet.

Right now, we are in the midst of “Structures of Communication” (aka grammar) where we are learning to deal with the nitty gritty details of language and how the parts of speech fit together. These classes are important. They provide us with tools for linguistics in the tribal setting, so that we can better hear, understand, and create a written language for the people.

As in most areas of life, some people are better at acquiring language than others. One person can easily hear the sounds and note the smallest difference. Others quickly see patterns in the language and can organize the language information into a written form. Some struggle, but are persistent in building relationships. Yet everyone on the team contributes in valuable ways as the team learns to communicate. The various tools we are learning to use is not for personal benefit but to serve the rest of the team and the greater body of Christ. We are all in this together.

During these various linguistics classes, we have been reminded to keep focused on the things that truly matter. Naturally, we want to be right. We can be proud and stubborn. We can hold up our extra linguistics training or our higher aptitude and think we should have the final say. Yet in light of eternity, which letter we use for our alphabet is less of an issue than unity as a team, working together to bring the gospel to people who have never heard. The good news of Jesus Christ going forth is at stake when we forget about the true purpose and get hung up on being right. Not only in language class, but throughout the training, unity as a team has been a reoccurring message. It is important.

Jesus emphasized the need for unity. While He was still on earth with His disciples, Jesus prayed to the Father for His disciples and then for all who would believe, that for the sake of the gospel, they would be unified.

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one…My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” 

-John 17:11, 20-23 (NIV)

No matter where we are, whether on the field or here at home, whether working with the intricacies of language or serving in some other capacity, may we strive for unity in all things, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will continue to shine forth brightly to the ends of the earth.