The First Story
Jo and I got a big surprise a few weeks ago when we spoke at a missions’ conference in a church near Carstairs, AB. A couple took us to their home for Sunday lunch during which I asked them to tell us their story. “I went to Bible school fulltime to prepare for cross-cultural missionary work” the husband said, “and my wife took classes part time.”
He then listed a number of ministry activities they had been involved in, as well as some startling ups and downs in their lives during which they experienced one astounding answer to prayer after another.
The surprise came when they told us that this call into full-time Christian service came one Sunday when they heard us speak in a small mountain town church about the Canela and our work there. Since they were new Christians, I was the first speaker they heard in church other than their pastor.
God used our stories to lead them to get training, and begin a life of ministry. The clincher came when we figured out this happened in our first furlough forty-four years ago! We had no idea that God had used us to point the way to ministry for them.
The Second Story
It reminded me of the day I was waiting for my flight in an airport, five years after we had completed the Canela work and returned to Canada. A man sitting nearby leaned over and asked, “Are you Jack Popjes?”
I admitted I was, and he said, “I last saw you in 1966 when you spoke at a church in Calgary telling us you and your family were about to leave for Brazil to learn an indigenous language and translate the Bible into it. I was a teenager at the time and after I heard you, I gave my life to God for full time ministry.”
He went on to tell me that he had gone to seminary, had just completed twenty-five years as a pastor in one church and was now on his way to start ministering in another church. He had kept track of Jo and my translation work among the Canela through our newsletters.
How Many Others?
Again, I had no idea that God had used Jo and me, thirty years before, to call this young man into ministry. I wonder how many other times God used us to impact people to make major life decisions. It appears God had other, more hidden ministry for Jo and me to do besides the obvious one of translating the Bible for the Canela people of Brazil.
One of the joys of eternity for God’s sons and daughters will be when meet people who were blessed by God through what we said, what we did, and how we lived our lives.
And what will be just as exciting is to finally meet people whom God used to impact me for good. I have, of course, thanked those I know personally, but there are also authors of articles and books I want to thank. I’m sure there will be a long line-up of people to talk with C.S. Lewis. Of course, in eternity waiting will not be a problem.
I especially look forward to thanking the first Bible translators, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They not only recorded the life of Jesus and all the stories He told so that the whole world could learn about Him, they also translated everything from Aramaic to Greek. And the principles of translation that they practiced are still followed by Bible translators today.
The Final Take-Away
It’s kind of scary to think that you and I are constantly influencing people, by our passion, by our words, and by our actions, yet most of the time we don’t even realize it.
May we all be the kind of people whom God uses to challenge others, to inspire, and impact people in positive ways.