Five hundred years ago, many Christians despaired of their eternal salvation. How would they ever know whether they’d done enough good works to get them into heaven? They couldn’t find reassurance in the Bible because it was written in Latin, a language few of them could read. The Church was in need of a Reformation!
Today, people all over the world are still in need of a Reformation, and a Michigan District mission organization is taking on the challenge.
On Nov. 10, the Lutheran Heritage Foundation in Macomb celebrates 25 years of translating and publishing Lutheran books that clearly explain how Jesus died that all may be saved.
LHF has published nearly 900 titles – including Martin Luther’s Small Catechism and the Book of Concord – in 96 different languages. The books are given free of charge to churches and missionaries in more than 80 countries.
“You might think that since Martin Luther led the Reformation five centuries ago, the whole world would already know the basics of the Christian faith,” said Rev. Matthew Heise, LHF executive director. “But this simply isn’t the case. All over the world, people are living in spiritual darkness and wrestling with the same questions Luther and his contemporaries did.”
How IS a person saved?
It’s a question that haunts peoples of many nations, in many different religions.
One such person was Rev. M.*, a Lutheran pastor who was born into a Muslim family. As a faithful Muslim, Rev. M. studied the Quran for assurance that he would one day be in heaven.
“I tried fasting, praying five times a day, being kind, but always there was something missing inside,” he recalled. “Then I began to question: Why does Islam ask me to only pray five times per day? Maybe I should do it seven times; maybe 10? Maybe I should get up at 6 a.m. to pray, and so I did! I worked and I worked because I wanted to be sure, but there is no certainty, no peace in Islam.”
Just like Luther so many centuries ago, Rev. M. began studying the Bible and found the peace he was searching for – the sure knowledge that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, His death covered all of mankind’s sins. By faith in Jesus Christ, he had been completely justified in the eyes of God, and heaven’s doors were opened to him and all believers.
“Jesus died for me, so that I would not have to die,” he affirmed.
Rev. M. was baptized and eventually became an LCMS pastor. Today, he serves at Disciples of the Way, a Muslim-outreach ministry centered near Dallas, Texas, where more than 50,000 Arabic-speaking immigrants and refugees have settled.
Overcoming the language barrier
In most of the world, few if any Lutheran materials are available in the languages of the people. Arabic-outreach ministries such as Disciples of the Way and People of the Book Lutheran Outreach (POBLO) in Michigan have come to rely on the books LHF has translated, including the Arabic Small Catechism, to overcome language barriers to sharing the Gospel.
Now, through the support of a mission grant provided by the LWML – Michigan District, LHF has partnered with Lutheran Hour Ministries to translate and publish a new Arabic book especially for God’s littlest ones: A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories.
One person putting the Bible storybook to good use is Joy Markus, a Muslim convert and POBLO teacher. “[This book arrived] right on time, when I had just started student ministry in Dearborn,” Joy said.
Joy has opened her home to young Muslim teenagers who are curious about the Christian faith. They gather to read their Arabic Bible storybooks and then enjoy some ice cream.
“I like this book, because it’s easy to understand,” said Ali, one of her students.
Ali’s words would have pleased Martin Luther.
“Five hundred years ago, Luther translated the Latin Bible into German, so that all his people could read and understand God’s Word,” explained Heise. “Today, LHF is continuing what Luther began: translating the good books of our Lutheran faith, so that people in all corners of the world can know that Jesus has opened the doors of heaven for them, too.”
*name omitted to protect the individual and ministry