By Kelly Carr
Biologist Erick Greene recently made an interesting discovery. He’s been researching birds, with special interest toward their communication. Following in other researchers’ footsteps, Greene uses provocation techniques to study how birds react to potential danger. For years he has watched them sound an alert to warn other birds that predators were nearby.
What Greene didn’t expect to discover was that other species get in on the action when spreading the warning call.
Greene began observing that not only birds send out the warning calls, but squirrels and chipmunks hear the warnings and begin sending out the same sounds to spread the alert faster. Though they are completely different species and make sounds in completely different ways, the squirrels and chipmunks mimic the bird calls perfectly. Because the same cry is spread by several kinds of animals, the danger call goes through the trees even faster.
“We’ve got these complex communication networks,” said Greene. “And they’re all sharing information.”
I came upon this news story at the same time I was contemplating our current topic in The Lookout—
communicating across cultures. You can easily see the comparisons.
This animal story is just one example of the ways God has created nature so that different species can communicate and cooperate. They help one another survive and thrive.
Our goal is to communicate God’s amazing grace to every kind of person. We desire for all people to survive and thrive on earth and on to eternity. Beyond our own “species”—those who are like us and communicate just as we do—we are called to take the good news to all the world. But there are language barriers and cultural barriers to navigate. We may be as different as birds and squirrels.
Just as the mammals began to learn the language of the birds, we must learn the language of other people groups, learn the nuances of other cultures, in order to communicate effectively.
There are many amazing people who spend their entire lives striving to communicate to people the message of Christ. These folks are inspiring, and their examples should challenge all of us to evaluate how we are living out the Great Commission. Each month Laura Wood is spotlighting these outreach efforts in her column The Mission Field. And this week we also asked several authors to share their efforts in communicating across cultures:
• Pete Isenberg is a part of Bible translation ministry to get Scripture to unreached people groups.
• Reuben Lang’at is communicating the needs of Africa to people here in America.
• Andrew and Samyr are demonstrating the way Christians and Muslims can form friendships and discuss their faiths.
It doesn’t take going to a new country to communicate the love of Jesus. There are people who are quite different from you right where you live. They come from different backgrounds and experiences, and trying to communicate with them is like learning a new language. But you can do it. And I can do it.
Let’s support missionaries who leave their comfort zones to go out and communicate with new languages and cultures. Also let’s not forget to do the same in our own habitat.