Breaking Barriers with Google Translate: José and Able’s Story

Google Translate App on a Phone
Open and honest communication is a critical element in a healthy relationship. Christ calls us to dwell in community with one another, and community is built on close relationships. Psalm 133:1 reminds us of this: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” But how can you build a trusting relationship or live in community with someone if you don’t speak the same language?

The Barriers of Homelessness and Communication

José came to Georgia from Puerto Rico hoping to find a better life. He had a troubled childhood and youth, beginning to do serious drugs when he was a teenager.  His passion was cooking, but the drugs began to interfere with his position as a line cook, and he lost it. He was hired as a painter here in Atlanta, and then wasn’t able to work for a few days because of his Type 2 diabetes, so he was fired. He soon got thrown out of his apartment and ended up sleeping on the streets.

José was scared, anxious, depressed, and suicidal. He was also lonely. He had no friends or family to reach out to for help. People experiencing homelessness face many barriers, including trauma, hunger, surviving the elements, and isolation. José was also experiencing the barrier of communication. He knew some English, but not enough to build relationships with others.

Google Translate Helps to End José’s Isolation

This all changed when José arrived at Atlanta Mission and met Able, an Ambassador. Able didn’t speak Spanish, so he came up with the idea to use Google Translate, an app that automatically translates text from one language to another. “We were trying to translate through an interpreter at first,” says Able, “But I wanted to hear his whole story. I had the app, so I suggested we use it.”


José and Able at Atlanta Mission, Using Google Translate to Communicate José and Able using Google Translate to Communicate

This amazing tool helped break down the language barrier for José. He was able to communicate freely and tell Able his entire story. “It bridges the gap between us,” says Able. José found a trusting friend in Able, and began to feel a sense of belonging here at Atlanta Mission. José and Able discovered they were alike in many ways, such as a love of cooking and creativity.

Soon after meeting him, Able procured a phone for José with the ability to access Google Translate, so José could communicate with others when Able wasn’t present. With Able’s support, José began investing more time in his relationship with Christ. “God puts people around you to put you back on the paths of God,” says José. “…God brought him and me together here. It wasn’t chance, because I didn’t know that he was Christian, and he was the one who helped me.”

Ending José’s Homelessness

José and Able, outside at Atlanta Mission
Able is also helping José get connected to critical services such as job training and housing.  “Our next steps are to help José become everything God wants him to be,” says Able. “We want to build a sustainable plan for his future.”

José feels thankful to be in safe place surrounded by a loving community. Through Google Translate, Able was able to break José’s language barrier, and help transform his life. “I wish there were more people like Able,” says José. “Because I think he’s unique. Every day we need miracles—people like him. I think that if the world were made up of people like him, the world would be different. And it’s not just me – he helps anyone who asks.”