“In my heart I treasure up your saying.”—PSALM 119:11.
1-3. (a) What should always be our priority? (b) What specific challenges do those learning a new language have, and what questions does this raise? (See opening picture.)
TODAY, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses are busy helping to fulfill the prophecy to preach “to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” (Revelation 14:6) Are you among those who are learning another language? Some serve as missionaries or preach where the need is greater in another land. Others have begun to attend meetings in a foreign-language congregation in their homeland.
2 All of God’s servants need to make their spiritual health and that of their family a priority. (Matthew 5:3) At times, though, we may be so busy that it is difficult to find time for meaningful personal study. But those who are in a foreign-language congregation have additional difficulties.
3 Those serving in a foreign-language congregation need to learn a new language, but they also need to make sure that they regularly study the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10) How can they do that if they do not fully understand what is being said in the congregation? And why should Christian parents serving in a foreign-language congregation make sure that the truth reaches their children’s hearts?
A DANGER TO OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JEHOVAH
4. What could put our relationship with Jehovah in danger? Give an example.
4 When we cannot understand Bible teachings in a foreign language, this can be a serious danger to our relationship with Jehovah. When Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem, he noticed that some of the children there could not speak the Hebrew language. (Read Nehemiah 13:23, 24.) Because these children were not able to understand God’s Word, their relationship with Jehovah had become weak.—Nehemiah 8:2, 8.
5, 6. What have some parents serving in a foreign-language congregation noticed, and what is the problem?
5 Some Christian parents serving in a foreign-language congregation have noticed that their children’s relationship with Jehovah has become weak. Because their children do not fully understand what is being said at the meetings, the information does not move them to act. “When talking about spiritual matters,” says Pedro, who moved his family to Australia from South America, “the heart and emotions should be involved.” (See endnote.)—Luke 24:32.
6 When we read in a foreign language, our emotions may not be as involved as when we read in our own language. Also, because it is difficult to communicate in another language, we can get so tired that our worship of Jehovah is negatively affected. So while we keep our desire to serve in a foreign-language congregation strong, we also need to protect our relationship with Jehovah.—Matthew 4:4.
THEY PROTECTED THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH JEHOVAH
7. How did the Babylonians try to force Daniel to accept their culture and religion?
7 When Daniel and his friends were exiled in Babylon, the Babylonians tried to force them to accept their culture and religion. How so? They taught them “the language of the Chaldeans” and gave them Babylonian names. (Daniel 1:3-7) Daniel’s new name referred to Bel, the main god in Babylon. So it is possible that King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to make Daniel believe that Babylon’s god was more powerful than Daniel’s God, Jehovah.—Daniel 4:8.
Because he studied “the sacred books” in Hebrew, Daniel kept his relationship with Jehovah strong
8. How did Daniel keep his relationship with Jehovah strong?
8 In Babylon, Daniel was offered the king’s delicious foods. But he had “resolved in his heart” that he would not disobey God’s law. (Daniel 1:8) Because he kept studying “the sacred books,” which were in Hebrew, he kept his relationship with Jehovah strong while living in a foreign land. (Daniel 9:2, footnote) In fact, about 70 years after he had come to Babylon, he was still known by his Hebrew name, Daniel.—Daniel 5:13.
9. What attitude toward God’s Word did the writer of Psalm 119 have?
9 The writer of Psalm 119 had to endure when members of the royal court spoke against him. But he found strength in God’s Word, and this helped him to be different from others. (Psalm 119:23, 61) He allowed God’s words to affect his emotions deeply.—Read Psalm 119:11, 46.
KEEP YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JEHOVAH STRONG
10, 11. (a) What should be our goal when we study God’s Word? (b) How can we reach our goal? Give an example.
10 Although we may be very busy with responsibilities in the congregation and at work, we all need to make time for personal study and family worship. (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Our goal should not simply be to read a lot of pages or to prepare a comment for the meeting. Our goal should be to allow God’s Word to affect us and strengthen our faith.
11 To reach our goal, we need to be balanced. When we study, we should think not only about the needs of others but also about our own needs. (Philippians 1:9, 10) We must recognize that when we prepare for the ministry, for the meetings, or for a talk, we may not necessarily apply what we read to ourselves. For example, even though a chef has to taste the meals he makes before serving them, he cannot live on those samples of food. If he wants to stay healthy, he must regularly prepare healthy meals for himself. In a similar way, if we want to strengthen our relationship with Jehovah, we need to study the Bible regularly. Such deep study fills our personal needs.
12, 13. Why do many feel that it is helpful to study the Bible in their own language?
12 Many who serve in a foreign-language congregation feel that it is helpful to study the Bible regularly in the ‘language of their birth.’ (Acts 2:8, footnote) Even missionaries know that to remain strong in their foreign assignment, they cannot rely only on what they hear at the meetings.
13 Alain, who has been learning Persian for about eight years, admits: “When I prepare for meetings in Persian, I tend to focus on the language itself. Since my mind is mainly involved in an intellectual exercise, my heart is not necessarily touched by the spiritual thoughts I am reading. That is why I regularly set aside time to study the Bible and other publications in my mother tongue.”
REACH YOUR CHILDREN’S HEARTS
14. What should parents make sure of, and why?
14 Christian parents need to make sure that the truth reaches their children’s minds and hearts. Consider Serge and his wife, Muriel, who served in a foreign-language congregation for more than three years. They started to notice that their son, who was 17 years old, did not enjoy the ministry or the meetings. “It annoyed him to go out in the ministry in another language, whereas before he loved preaching in his native language, French,” says Muriel. “When we realized that this situation had hindered our son from making spiritual advancement,” explains Serge, “we decided to move back to our former congregation.”
15. (a) What can help parents to decide whether they should change congregations? (b) What direction does Deuteronomy 6:5-7 give to parents?
15 What can help parents to decide whether to move back to a congregation that uses the language their children understand best? First, they should decide whether they really have enough time and energy to teach their children to love Jehovah and also teach them a foreign language at the same time. Second, they may notice that their children do not want to preach, go to the meetings, or even serve in the foreign-language field. For these reasons, parents may decide to move back to a congregation that uses the language their children best understand. Then, after the children have built a strong relationship with Jehovah, the parents may decide to return to the foreign-language congregation.—Read Deuteronomy 6:5-7.
16, 17. What has helped some parents teach their children about Jehovah?
16 Other parents have found ways to teach their children about Jehovah in their native language while attending meetings at a foreign-language congregation or group. Charles is the father of three girls who are between the ages of 9 and 13. They attend a group that speaks Lingala. He says: “We made the decision to conduct study sessions and family worship with the children in our native language. But we also include practice sessions and games in Lingala so that they can learn this language while having fun.”
17 Kevin is the father of two girls who are five and eight years old. He works hard to teach them the truth because the girls do not yet fully understand the meetings in the foreign-language congregation the family attends. He says: “My wife and I have a personal study with both girls in French, their mother tongue. We also set the goal of attending a meeting in French once a month, and we take advantage of our vacations to visit conventions held in our native language.”
18. (a) How can Romans 15:1, 2 help you to make a wise decision when it comes to helping your children? (b) What suggestions have other parents given? (See endnote.)
18 Each family has to decide what is best for the children and for their relationship with Jehovah. (See endnote.) (Galatians 6:5) Muriel says that even though she and her husband really wanted to keep serving in the foreign-language congregation, they decided to leave in order to help their son strengthen his love for Jehovah. (Read Romans 15:1, 2.) Today, Serge knows that they made the right decision. He says: “From the time we moved back to a French-speaking congregation, our son blossomed spiritually and got baptized. He is now serving as a regular pioneer. He is even considering returning to a foreign-language group!”
LET GOD’S WORD REACH YOUR HEART
19, 20. How can we show our love for God’s Word?
19 Jehovah loves all people. He has made the Bible available in hundreds of languages so that “all sorts of people” can have an accurate knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4) He knows that our relationship with him will be strengthened when we read the Bible in the language we understand best.
20 We all need to work hard to keep a strong relationship with Jehovah. We can do this when we regularly study the Bible in the language we understand best. We will also be able to help our family to maintain their spiritual health, and we will show that we truly love God’s Word.—Psalm 119:11.
^  (paragraph 5) Names have been changed.
^  (paragraph 18) To find Bible principles that can help your family, see the article “Raising Children in a Foreign Land—The Challenges and the Rewards” in the October 15, 2002, issue of The Watchtower.