Once upon a time there was a man
in the Serengeti District of western Tanzania called Marwa. In the sixth grade
he studied the Christian religion. At Baptism he chose the name Emmanuel which
means "God is with us."
After finishing high school Emmanuel read
magazines and books about God. He believed that God is truly present among us,
but he asked: "What language does God speak?" Emmanuel posed his special
question to different church leaders in his village.
The old catechist answered. "I think that God
speaks Latin." The chairperson of the parish council guessed, "God speaks our
local language Ngoreme." But the searching youth Emmanuel had doubts. "When I
get the right answer," he said to himself, "I’ll know immediately and feel great
joy." So the young African set off on a journey. In the neighboring parish he
asked again: "What language does God speak?" One Christian suggested Kuria,
another local language.
Again Emmanuel had doubts. He began to travel across the whole of Tanzania
visiting small towns and big cities. In one place the Christians were certain
that God spoke Swahili. People in western Tanzania said Sukuma while residents
in the northeast said Chagga. Emmanuel was not satisfied with these answers.
Remembering the African saying — "traveling is learning" — he journeyed
outside Tanzania. The Kenyans said Kikuyu and the people of Uganda answered,
"God speaks Ganda." In West Africa he got different replies: Lingala in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Hausa in Nigeria and Arabic in Morocco.
He decided to travel the whole world if necessary. Passing through Europe he
was told "French, German and Italian." The Christians of North America said
"English" while South Americans replied, "Spanish." In his heart the young
Tanzanian knew that these answers were inadequate. Determined to find the real
truth he went to China where the local people insisted that God speaks Mandarin
or Cantonese. Emmanuel was tired from his long travels but he resolutely pushed
on. In India he was told Hindi. He reached Israel late in December. The local
inhabitants said, "Surely God speaks Hebrew."
Exhausted by his long travels and the unsatisfactory answers, Emmanuel
entered the town of Bethlehem. The local hotels were filled. He looked
everywhere for a place to stay. Nothing was available. In the early morning
hours he came to a cave where cows and sheep were sheltered. He was surprised to
see a young woman with her newborn baby. This young mother said to the
traveling youth, "Welcome, Emmanuel, you are very welcome." Astonished to hear
his name, the young African listened in awe as the woman called Mary continued:
"For a very long time you have traveled around the world to find out what
language God speaks. Your long journey is over. God speaks the language of
love. God loved the world so much that he gave his only son so that everyone
who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." Overjoyed to hear
these words of Mary the young Tanzanian understood God’s language of love for
all people, for all races, for all nations. Emmanuel exclaimed, "Truly, today
God is with us."