If you are like me and you've been working in the world of literacy and language education for any length of time, you've probably had moments where you've felt like a failure. Maybe that's why I have always been inspired by the story of Frank Laubach. He began his missionary career with a big failure, but completed his journey on this earth known as the "apostle to Illiterates."
Frank Laubach began his missionary career with a passion for a Muslim people group known as the Moro on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. But after 15 years of ministry, he had gotten nowhere. Discouraged, he cried out to God. And God gave him an answer. From that time on prayer became central to Frank’s life and work.
God chastised Frank for his attitudes of superiority. Subtly and unconsciously, Frank looked down on the Moro because he was white and they were brown. God told him that if he really wanted to reach these people, he had to love them and he had to humble himself and learn from them.
Frank asked the tribal holy men to teach him about their faith, leading to many fruitful conversations about Christ. Frank allowed them to teach him and as he learned and asked questions, they discovered Christ. Frank went on to develop a written form of the tribal language and taught the villagers how to read and write.
Literacy became central to Frank's ministry of the gospel. He not only taught people to read, but he also taught them how to teach others. "Each one, teach one" became his motto. And thanks to him, Literacy and the message of Christ’s love spread throughout the earth.
Although his theology was not flawless, we can celebrate and learn from the things he got right. He loved God and loved people. He wanted to help people know and love God, and literacy education served a key role in reaching that goal. Frank Laubach today is remembered as the "Apostle to Illiterates.” His story challenges us to depend completely on God as we Help Other People Excel in life by sharing the gospel of Christ through English language instruction.