They Mean Well But They Just Don’t Get It

Do you sometimes wonder why lawmakers do not learn from past mistakes?

First Nations children in residential school 55 years ago.

First Nations children in residential school 55 years ago.

girls2The First Mistake
Over a century ago, well meaning law makers wanted to integrate First Nations people into Canadian society. So they passed laws mandating aboriginal children to receive education in residential schools. First Nations children, by the tens of thousands, were taken from their parents, forced to learn English, and even punished for speaking their own languages.

Bad Results
As a result, generations of First Nations peoples lost their unique languages, as well as much of their cultures and histories. We also hear stories of abuse children suffered at the hands of the adults operating these residential schools.

The Worst Results
What was far worse, however, is that many First Nations young people grew up never learning how to parent and bring children to maturity. This should not be surprising. How were today’s adults, and the three generations before them brought up? Not in a normal family but in institutional residential schools. Only during summer vacation did children have contact with their parents.

Why The Law Failed
That this well meant attempt at integration was a disastrous failure was finally acknowledged when the last residential school closed twenty years ago. It failed because the law makers ignored the fact that the idea of the family—father, mother and children—was not an arbitrary social construct, but was planned by God Himself.

Right from the beginning, God designed the family to be the core of society in every culture. Family members with strong ties to each other and families with durable relationships to other families make for a robust society, a resilient culture, and a healthy nation. Tear apart families and you will tear apart societies; destroy cultures and weaken the nation.

The Second Mistake
You would think, therefore, that lawmakers would have learned their lesson: “Do not mess with the concept of the family. Respect the fact that God made parents fully responsible for their children and that He holds them accountable.” This, however, is not the case. Lawmakers in Alberta recently made the same family destroying mistake again.

In a well meaning attempt to prevent bullying of children who struggle with LBGTQ issues (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and queer), lawmakers have passed a set of laws and mandated specific guidelines for schools to follow that effectively isolate the parents from their children. Schools are forbidden to inform the parents of children who say or do things that indicate they have LBGTQ tendencies, unless the child gives permission.

Other guidelines are equally dismissive of parents. For instance, a genetic boy who considers himself a girl is free to use the girls’ bathrooms, use the girls’ change rooms and shower with them. Parents of girls who dislike this situation have no choice but to tell their daughters to leave the regular girls’ bathroom and use a special private bathroom.

The Ultimatum
Even parents who pay extra fees in order to educate their child in an independent school are affected by these laws and rules. The minister of education has given until March 31 for every school board—public, Catholic, separate or independent—to present policies showing how they will implement the new laws and guidelines. The minister has already indicated his readiness to dissolve school boards that do not follow his mandate.

They Just Don’t Get It
What is clear about both these laws—a century apart—is that lawmakers simply do not understand that families are God’s design. It was He who made the parents, not the state, responsible for their children. God gives children to parents, not to the state, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.” Psalm 127:3 (NIV)

Action To Take
I urge that for the next few weeks, Alberta pastors, ministers, preachers, and writers like me, focus their preaching and writing on families, and the parents’ God-given responsibility to “take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” Ephesians 6:4 (MSG)

For further information and action to take visit the Parents for Choice in Education website.

Do Not Despise the Day of Small Beginnings

gbman2The Question
Hearing that my wife and I had translated much of the Bible into a Brazilian indigenous language, a man asked me, “What was the first thing you translated?”

He was astonished when I answered, “The story of the gingerbread man.” “I can’t believe it!” he exclaimed, “You’re missionary Bible translators! Why waste time translating a kids’ fairy tale?”

The Answer
I explained to him that we were just learning to translate and that this story, with its small vocabulary and large amount of repetition, was easier to translate than a Scripture passage. “Even so, I expect to make mistakes,” I added, “and I’d rather make errors in a children’s story than in a Scripture passage.”

Translating children’s fairy stories was the small beginning that two decades later led to an accurately translated 750-page Bible, with 250 pages of Old Testament and 500 pages of New Testament. When we returned to Canada, every Canela home had a Bible and at least one person in each home could read it, having learned to read using the orthography and educational materials we had developed. The Church continues to grow from the seed of the Word and many Canelas now live without fear of evil spirits.

The Lesson
Although that children’s story was a tiny beginning, we learned and practiced some enduring translation principles. I also learned the truth of the adage, “Something is Better than Nothing.” The Bible is replete with examples of this fact. Jesus solved the problem of feeding five-thousand men and their families by starting with one boy’s lunch of five small loaves and two small fish. It wasn’t much, but He started with something. (John 6.) The prophet Elisha started with a tiny flask of olive oil, but this oil expanded miraculously to fill every available container in the neighbourhood. There was so much olive oil, it not only paid off a huge debt, there was enough left to buy food for three people throughout an extended time of famine. (2 Kings 4: 1-7)

God’s Question
When Almighty God appeared to Moses and told him he would lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses was filled with doubt. So God asked him “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” Moses replied. (Exodus 4:1-3). That simple wooden walking stick was the small Something that impressed Pharaoh by turning into a snake, then brought plagues on Egypt, split the waters of the Red Sea, brought water out of a rock, and was the focal point of prayer that gave victory in battle.

My wife and I faced a gigantic Bible translation task. Where do we start? It was as if God said, “What is that in your hand?” A children’s story. It was something, and we learned to translate by starting with that story.

What About You?
Any of us, facing a massive project or a messy problem, needs to turn to God for help. Don’t be surprised if He asks, “What is that in your hand?” Then look, see what you have to make a start, a small beginning. Then do it. Make that start. Begin with what is in your hand, and trust God to step in to do His Miracle of Expansion. A half cup of olive oil into barrels full. A boy’s lunch into a feast for thousands. An ordinary hiking stick imbued with miracle working power.

What is that in your hand? Something small, relatively insignificant? Doesn’t matter. Use it to make a small beginning and trust God to expand it to meet needs, solve problems, and erase doubts.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)

Out with the Old: In with the New

Stores are holding their post-Christmas, early January sales—as if the Christmas shopping blast wasn’t enough—hoping to get rid of old stock to make room for new and better merchandise. As I noticed the signs of this recurring phase, the mantra “Out with the Old: In with the New” sprang to mind.

A Good Slogan?
It’s a good slogan to live by. Or is it? I have often ranted about the need for building effective life and work habits, and for developing positive traditions. We all need some solidity in our lives—something we can count on to be there and work right. Like computers and programs that work right. Every. Single. Time!

Forced Changes
On the other hand, change is part of life. Sometimes it comes unplanned—accident, sickness, change in job, a new baby—and our whole lifestyle changes. During the decades that my wife and I focused our lives and energy on translating God’s Word for the Canela people of Brazil, we alternated living, as it were, in two different universes.

A relaxing fondue dinner after dusting and polishing chores.

A relaxing fondue dinner after dusting and polishing chores.

After living and working for several months on the mission centre enjoying our wood paneled, tile roofed house, fully equipped with electricity, gas stove, running water, screened windows, privacy and comfort, surrounded by Christian friends, the time would come to make a drastic change.

Village house chores, sweep dirt floor, whack snake with broom.

Village house chores, sweep dirt floor, whack snake with broom.

We would pack up medicines, work supplies, equipment and goods to trade for food, and travel south 1,000 kilometres by road and jeep trails, and travel back 1,000 years in time, to our mud-walled, dirt-floor, palm-thatch roofed house in the Canela village, with kerosene lamps, outdoor toilet, wood cooking fire, water from the muddy stream behind the house, and surrounded by illiterate friends who didn’t know their Creator loved them and sent His Son as a baby to bring them eternal Life.

Yes, sometimes our lifestyle forces changes on us. And at other times we just have to follow the “Out with the Old: In with the New” advice because the tool is broken, or the old vehicle is irreparable, or our clothes are worn out, or no longer fit after the Christmas feasting (as in my case).

The Most Difficult Changes
The changes that are hardest to make are those we decide to make, even though carrying on as before would be more comfortable. A couple might discuss their marriage and come to the conclusion that although they are still living together fairly happily, their relationship could be better. So they decide to have a marital checkup or attend a marriage enrichment seminar. Slowly it dawns on them that their marriage could improve dramatically if they would get rid of some old attitudes and habits and change to practice some new ones. This takes effort, time, and hard work, but, speaking from personal experience, it is so worth it!

Jo and I changed churches this past year for a similar reason. We are now far more involved in the life and work of the church. New friends visit us and we visit them. We meet needs in the congregation, and they meet ours. We have a positive impact on the overall church ministry. Although slipping in and out of the back pew in the old church was dead easy, and salved our conscience, we had no ministry there. Now we do. The change was not easy, but it was good.

The Question
What area of your life could be changed for the better? Ask God to reveal things to you that need changing, and ask Him to give you wisdom in choosing to exchange them for something better.

After all He is the Originator of the “Out with the Old: In with the New” slogan. Check it out for yourself in 2 Corinthians 5:17. “. . . in Christ . . . new creation . . . old has gone, new has come . . . ” Remember?