An Amazing Letter

This week as I was sorting and culling some papers I came across an amazing letter we had received many years ago from one of our financial partners.

For all of the past 50 years that Jo and I have been members of Wycliffe Bible Translators, God has supplied our financial needs through the gifts of family and friends. We thank God for these ministry partners, we pray for them, and we thank them frequently for their faithfulness in sharing their finances with us.

The letter was from Tracy, an old friend who had been a member of the congregation I pastored before we joined Wycliffe. It was a general letter written to all the missionaries he was supporting.

“Dear Partners in the Gospel Ministry, I apologize for not sending you any financial support checks for the past four months.”

He then explained that he had been in the hospital to treat a bleeding ulcer. Shortly afterwards he had a massive heart attack. While recovering from quadruple bypass surgery, his ailing wife died. A week after returning home he got pneumonia and was again admitted to the hospital. He concluded his letter with these words,

“I have not worked for four months, so have received no paycheck. I may not work again. But I will try to keep sending half of what I used to send before all this happened. God bless you in the continuance of your work. I’m sure the Lord will supply. I have been greatly blessed of the Lord.”

This financial partner was 82 years old! He had been exercising his faith by sending his check to Wycliffe for our support every month for 35 years without a miss until then!

Through his gifts, Tracy was part of our team when we translated the Scriptures for the Canela people of Brazil and planted Christ’s Church there. He was a part of our team when I was president of Wycliffe Canada, and later of Wycliffe Caribbean. After that he continued to partner with us in our speaking and writing ministry.

Finally, at nearly 90 years old, he went Home to enjoy fellowship with the Lord he loved throughout his life, and to hear Him say, “Well done, you good and faithful servant.”

Holding Red Canela BibleAs Bible translating missionaries Jo and I have the privilege of standing up in front of churches and, as we wave the red Canela Bible, to tell stories of how God used us to translate His Word for the Canelas over the course of more than 20 years. Often people will thank us for the pioneer work we did.

Yeah, but we didn’t do it alone! We couldn’t have done it without people like Tracy exercising their faith in God and sharing their finances with us and praying for us.

As another financial partner told me, “You know, Jack, when I see you holding up that red Canela Bible, I think, ‘That book is partly mine!’” And he is absolutely right.

If you give to missions, pray for missionaries, and in other ways support cross-cultural missions, you have a large share in the final result of world evangelization. God will not forget the sacrifices you made. His “Well done,” is waiting for you.

Special Post: 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers

My blog, INsights & OUTbursts, is not written specifically for writers. I usually write about topics such as cross-cultural missions, Bible translation, and personal spiritual growth.

I have, however, frequently suggested that we as Christians need to write down the things God has done for us in our lives. How else can we pass them on to our kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews? I have also recommended that we keep a diary to help us examine our lives, and to write our God-stories.

A surprisingly large number of you have responded positively to my suggestions and personal example. Many of you asked me questions like,

  • How do I write my personal stories?
  • How can I learn some of the basics?
  • What do you recommend?

EssentialsWell, here is a new book that answers your questions!
7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers.
No, I didn’t write this book, but I did contribute an article! It is an anthology of articles and stories written by about 30 Canadian writers who are Christians and members of the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship.
It covers seven essential areas:

  1. Time with God
  2. Healthy Living
  3. Time Management
  4. Honing Writing Skills
  5. Crafting a Masterpiece
  6. Submitting
  7. Marketing

My article Let Your Fingers do the Talking is in the first section, Time with God, in which I tell the story of how I got started writing out my daily prayers. I also tell stories of the benefits I have received and why I keep on writing my prayers.

To help launch this book I am participating in a Blog Hop. Just click on the links below, on or after the dates listed, to go to the blogs of my fellow authors who have articles in the book. If you are reading this in a text-only email, just select the link and paste it into your browser.

Ruth L. Snyder  http://ruthlsnyder.com/blog/ Monday, September 14th
Brenda Wood http://heartfeltdevotionals.com   Wednesday, September 16th
Janet Sketchley http://janetsketchley.ca/tenacity-blog/  Friday, September 18th
Jack Popjes http://www.jackpopjes.com/category/blog/ Monday, September 21st
Kimberley Payne http://kimpayne.wordpress.com Wednesday, September 23rd
Marcia Laycock http://www.writer-lee.blogspot.ca/ Friday, September 24th
Steph Nickel https://stephseclecticinterests.wordpress.com Monday, Sept. 28th
Sally Meadows http://sallymeadows.com/blog Wednesday, September 30th
Tracy Krauss http://www.tracykraussexpressionexpress.com Friday, October 2nd
Glynis Belec http://www.glynisbelec.com/blog.html Monday, October 5th

Here’s the Amazon link. where you can read reviews and buy the book either as a paper back for about $10, or a Kindle e-book for about $4.

Missionaries in Dangerous Situations

For the past weeks the TV news has been showing refugee men and women and children fleeing their war torn countries. The heart rending scenes of desperate families, exhausted children, worried mothers and frustrated fathers risking their lives and sometimes losing them while trying to escape danger and death reminded me of a story I heard about one of our Wycliffe missionaries.

Dangerous Mission Fields
He and his family were living in Colombia during an especially dangerous time. One Wycliffe missionary had already been kidnapped and killed while others were threatened by the terrorist drug gangs because of Wycliffe’s work with indigenous people in the jungle.

When this family came home on furlough someone asked him,

“When did you first realize that you were living in a dangerous situation?”

He thought for a minute and then told this story:

The Story
bearsOur family lives in Loma Linda and we had gotten used to hearing nightly gunfire. One evening, as I took my young son to his bedroom and tucked him into bed, I noticed that none of his teddy bears were in bed with him. They were all lined up on the dresser along the wall between the window and the bed. So I asked him,

“Which teddy bears would you like to sleep with tonight?”

“None of them, Daddy. I want them all to sit there on the dresser.”

I said, “Okay,” and prayed with him, then kissed him goodnight and turned to leave. As I was opening the door I heard his little voice call,

“Daddy!”

“Yes?”

“Daddy, if a bullet comes through the window and goes through all my teddy bears, will it still kill me?”

That’s when it hit me. We were living in a dangerous location!

Restricted Access Countries
This missionary family is not the only one who live and work and raise their families in perilous places. Many mission agencies, including Wycliffe and its field partner organizations, have workers in what are called restricted access countries.

Although they are legal residents of the country with full authority from the government to do their work, there are terrorist groups that would kill them if they knew what they were doing. So they live under assumed names, can’t have a website, a blog, or a Facebook page. They can’t even tell their supporting partners the name of the country in which they live and work.

A Closing Story
In the last century a missionary named James Calvert led a group to work among the cannibals of the Fiji Islands. The ship captain tried to turn him back, saying,

“You will lose your life, and the lives of those with you, if you go among such savages.”

“We died before we came here,” James responded.

That’s the very attitude today’s missionaries have when they travel to live and work in these dangerous situations.

From Negative to Positive Thinking

In the July 3rd blog post I announced that I would be taking my usual summer reading break and not post any INsights & OUTbursts until September . It’s good to be back.

The Reading
For the past two months I focused on reading widely, checking out books by authors new to me, stretching my mind with new ideas, and following mental paths I have not trod before. As part of our daily devotional and prayer time, my wife, Jo, and I read a book together that God used to stir up some things that had long been dormant in my mind. The author focused on Philippians 4:8, in which the apostle Paul urges us to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy.

The Discussion
Jo and I talked about our attitudes concerning numerous types of activities that married couples do in life together: sharing chores, having discussions, hauling garbage, maintaining vehicles, praying together, mowing lawns, cooking meals, making love, vacuuming floors, raising children, following a diet, planning vacations, and shopping for groceries, etc.

The AdviceThe Advice
Jo pointed out an area of our life together where I had sometimes expressed dissatisfaction, bringing up memories of negative experiences. She suggested I think of some positive memories instead. I immediately saw the wisdom of this, and after praying together, I started a Positive Highlights to Remember file to combat negative memories from the past and undesirable thoughts in the present.

The Remembering
I described in anecdotal form every good, positive, true, praiseworthy, and pleasant experience I could remember enjoying in this particular area of my life. Since I intended to read some of the anecdotes when I was tempted to focus on the negative aspects, I wrote with vivid detail, including as many sensory areas as possible. I felt quite pleased when I finished writing and noted I had racked up nearly 2,000 words.

The Writing
Later that day, while on my regular solitary walk, several more noteworthy incidents popped into my mind. I jotted down these good memories that the Holy Spirit awakened and dredged up from the deep past to present to me. By the end of the week, the well seemed to have run dry. I had written well over 7,000 words—all clear memories of positive experiences in an activity that, until then, I often tended to think about negatively.

The Therapy
Since then, I have read and reread those anecdotes, thanking God repeatedly for the privilege of enjoying these experiences. Currently, I am sharing them with Jo, one or two at a time, and we are happy that this therapy is working. When Satan brings up something negative in this area of life, I counter with one or two highly positive incidents and he takes a hike.

The Results
Although I have no plans to publish this project, it has already made a difference in my life and my relationship with Jo, which says something since we have been married well over 50 years.

How I wish I had started collecting and writing positive remembrances many decades ago!

(Note: This post is adapted from an article Writing for Therapy not for Publication which I wrote this summer for a professional writers’ blog.)