“No greater joy do I have than this: that I should hear that my children go on walking in the truth.”
1, 2. (a) What problem do many immigrant children experience? (b) What questions will this article discuss?
“FROM infancy, I spoke my immigrant parents’ language at home and in the congregation,” says Joshua. “But after I started school, I began to prefer the local language. Within a few years, the shift was complete. I couldn’t understand the meetings, and I didn’t identify with my parents’ culture.” Joshua’s experience is not uncommon.
2 Today, more than 240,000,000 people do not live in the country where they were born. If you are an immigrant parent, how can you give your children the best possible opportunity to learn to love Jehovah and to “go on walking in the truth”? (3 John 4) And how can others help?
PARENTS, SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
3, 4. (a) How can parents set a good example for their children? (b) What should parents not expect of their children?
3 Parents, your example is very important if you want your children to have a personal relationship with Jehovah and live forever. When your children see you “seeking first the Kingdom,” they learn to depend on Jehovah for their daily needs. (Matthew 6:33, 34) Make your service to Jehovah a priority rather than seeking more and more material things. Live modestly and try to avoid debt. Seek “treasure in heaven,” that is, Jehovah’s approval, rather than seeking money or “the glory of men.”
4 Never get so busy that you do not have time for your children. Let them know that you are proud of them when they decide to put Jehovah first instead of seeking fame or money, either for themselves or for you. Avoid the wrong view that children should provide their parents with a very comfortable life. Remember, “children are not expected to save up for their parents, but the parents for their children.”
PARENTS, TRY TO OVERCOME LANGUAGE PROBLEMS
5. Why must parents speak with their children often about Jehovah?
5 As foretold, people “out of all the languages of the nations” are coming to Jehovah’s organization. (Zechariah 8:23) But if your children do not understand your language well, it can be difficult for you to teach them the truth. They are the most important Bible students you will ever have, and their “coming to know” Jehovah means their everlasting life. (John 17:3) In order for your child to learn Jehovah’s teachings, you must “speak of them” often.
Your children are the most important Bible students you will ever have
6. How may your children benefit from learning your language? (See opening picture.)
6 Your children will likely learn the local language at school and from others. But they learn your language when you regularly talk with them. When your children speak your language, it will be easier for them to talk to you and tell you how they feel. But there are other benefits. When your children speak more than one language, it improves their thinking ability and helps them to understand the viewpoints of others. It may also give them opportunities to do more in the ministry. “Being in a foreign-language congregation has been fun,” says Carolina, whose parents are immigrants. “And it’s cool to be helping where there is a greater need.”
7. What can you do if language is a challenge in your family?
7 Yet, as children of immigrants learn the local culture and language, some of them may lose their desire and even their ability to communicate in their parents’ language. Parents, if that describes your children, can you learn at least some of the local language? It will be easier to raise your children as Christians if you understand their conversations, entertainment, and schoolwork and if you can talk directly with their teachers. It is true that learning a new language takes time, effort, and humility. But it is worthwhile. For example, if your child somehow became deaf, would you not try to learn sign language in order to communicate with him? A child who communicates best in another spoken language deserves the same concern, would you not agree?*
8. How can you help your children if you do not speak the local language well?
8 It may be very difficult for some immigrant parents to become fluent in their children’s new language. This may make it hard for parents to help their children to understand “the holy writings.” (2 Timothy 3:15) If that is your situation, you can still help your children to come to know and love Jehovah. “Our single mom’s grasp of the language we understood best was limited, and my sisters and I didn’t speak her language very well,” says an elder named Shan. “But when we saw her studying, praying, and doing her best to conduct family worship every week, we understood that getting to know Jehovah was very important.”
9. How can parents help children who may need to study in two languages?
9 Some children may need to learn about Jehovah in two languages. Why? Because they speak one language at school and another language at home. For that reason, some parents use literature, audio recordings, and videos in both languages. Clearly, immigrant parents must work harder in order to help their children become close to Jehovah.
TO WHICH LANGUAGE CONGREGATION SHOULD YOU BELONG?
10. (a) Who must decide which language congregation to attend? (b) What should family heads do before making a decision?
10 When “foreign residents” live far from other Witnesses who speak their language, they need to associate with a congregation that speaks the local language. (Psalm 146:9) But if there is a congregation nearby that uses their native language, the family head must decide which language congregation is best for the family. Before making the decision, he will carefully think and pray about it. He will also talk with his wife and children. (1 Corinthians 11:3) What will he consider? What Bible principles can help him make the decision?
The family head must decide which language congregation is best for the family
11, 12. (a) How does language affect how much a child benefits from the meetings? (b) Why do some children not want to learn their parents’ language?
11 Parents must consider what their children truly need. To understand Bible truths well, children need more than just a few hours of Bible instruction each week at the meetings. But consider this: At meetings conducted in the language they understand best, children may benefit simply by being there, perhaps learning more than their parents realize. That may not be the case when children do not fully understand the language. (Read 1 Corinthians 14:9, 11.) And a child’s native language will not necessarily remain the language that affects the way he thinks and feels. In fact, some children can learn to give comments, presentations, and talks in their parents’ language but without really expressing their own thoughts and feelings.
12 Also, a child’s heart is influenced by more than just language. That was the case with Joshua, mentioned earlier. His sister, Esther, says: “To young children, their parents’ language, culture, and religion come bundled together.” If children do not feel that they are part of their parents’ culture, they may not want to learn their parents’ language and religion. What can immigrant parents do?
13, 14. (a) Why did one immigrant couple move their family to a congregation that spoke the local language? (b) How did the parents maintain a strong relationship with Jehovah?
13 Christian parents put their children’s needs ahead of their own personal preferences. (1 Corinthians 10:24) Joshua and Esther’s father, Samuel, says: “My wife and I observed our children to see in which language they thrived spiritually, and we prayed for wisdom. The answer was not what we personally found convenient. But when we saw that they were getting little benefit from the meetings in our language, we decided to move to the local-language congregation. Together, we regularly attended meetings and shared in the ministry. We also invited local friends to join us for meals and excursions. All of this helped our children to get to know the brothers and to get to know Jehovah, not only as their God but also as their Father and Friend. We considered this to be much more important than their mastering our language.”
14 Samuel adds: “To keep ourselves spiritually strong, my wife and I also attended meetings in our language. Life was very busy, and we were tired. But we thank Jehovah for blessing our efforts and sacrifices. Our three children are all serving Jehovah in the full-time ministry.”
WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE CAN DO
15. Why did a sister named Kristina feel that she could do better in a congregation that spoke the local language?
15 When children grow up, they may realize that they could better serve Jehovah in a congregation that uses the language they understand best. If so, their parents should not feel that their children are rejecting them. “I knew the basics of my parents’ language, but the language spoken at the meetings was over my head,” recalls Kristina. “When I was 12, I attended a convention in my school language. For the first time, I understood that what I was hearing was the truth! Another turning point came when I began to pray in my school language. I could speak to Jehovah from my heart!” (Acts 2:11, 41) When she turned 18, Kristina discussed the matter with her parents and decided to move to a congregation that spoke the local language. She says: “Learning about Jehovah in my school language moved me to action.” Kristina soon became a regular pioneer and is very happy.
16. Why is Nadia glad she stayed in the foreign-language congregation?
16 Young people, do you think that you would prefer being part of a local-language congregation? If so, ask yourself why. Is it because moving to such a congregation would help you draw closer to Jehovah? (James 4:8) Or is it because you do not want your parents to watch everything you do or because you do not want to make any effort? “When my siblings and I got into our teens, we wanted to switch to the local-language congregation,” says Nadia, who now serves at Bethel. But her parents knew that such a move would not be good for their children’s relationship with Jehovah. “Now we’re grateful that our parents worked hard to teach us their language and kept us in the foreign-language congregation. It has enriched our lives and broadened our opportunities to help others get to know Jehovah.”
HOW OTHERS CAN HELP
17. (a) To whom did Jehovah give the responsibility to raise children? (b) How can parents get help in teaching their children the truth?
17 Jehovah has given parents the responsibility to teach their children the truth. He did not give it to grandparents or anyone else. (Read Proverbs 1:8; 31:10, 27, 28.) Still, parents who do not know the local language may need help to reach their children’s heart. When the parents ask for help, it does not mean that they are trying to avoid the responsibility to raise their children. Rather, it can be part of raising their children “in the discipline and admonition of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) For example, parents may ask elders in the congregation for suggestions on conducting family worship and for help in finding good friends for their children.
18, 19. (a) How can other Christians help young ones? (b) What must parents continue to do?
18 To help their children, parents may invite other families to join them in family worship from time to time. Also, many young people learn from other Christians when they go out preaching with them and do other things together. (Proverbs 27:17) “I well remember the brothers who took me under their wing,” says Shan, quoted earlier. “When they helped me with student talk assignments for the meeting, I always learned more. And I enjoyed the leisure activities we shared in as a group.”
19 Of course, those chosen by the parents to help their children should always encourage them to respect their parents. This can be done by speaking positively about the parents and not taking over the parents’ responsibility to raise their children. Also, those who help should avoid any conduct that could be misunderstood by some inside or outside the congregation as morally wrong. (1 Peter 2:12) Although parents may request the help of others, it is still their responsibility to teach the truth to their children. They must monitor the help given by other Christians.
20. How can parents help their children to become faithful servants of Jehovah?
20 Parents, pray to Jehovah for help, and try your best. (Read 2 Chronicles 15:7.) Put your child’s friendship with Jehovah ahead of your own interests. Do whatever you can to make sure that God’s Word reaches your child’s heart. Never stop believing that your child can become a servant of Jehovah. When your children follow God’s Word and your good example, you will feel as the apostle John did about his figurative children: “No greater joy do I have than this: that I should hear that my children go on walking in the truth.”
See the article “You Can Learn Another Language!” in Awake! of March 2007, pages 10-12.