Just a Little Bit Pregnant?

Currently I’m writing the God-stories of my life to publish in several books. Researching my diaries some time ago, I read how concerned Jo and I were for the Canelas during the first year we were back in Canada. Here is the story from nearly thirty years ago.

The Story
We had planned for a missionary family to live in our village house and continue to teach reading and present Bible studies. But they encountered many delays. Instead of a missionary, a well-funded community developer from Germany arrived with medical personnel, teachers, and other workers. The leader kept ridiculing the Canela believers. “Why are you reading that book?” he would ask whenever he saw a Canela reading his Bible. “That’s not for you people.” The Canelas wrote us these bits of disconcerting news in sporadic notes we received from the village.

A Reassuring Visit
We prayed much for them and God gave us His peace, but we kept longing to see them again. We returned to Brazil eighteen months after we had left to renew our permanent residency visas. During the few days we were in the village many Canelas came to tell us how they loved reading the newly translated Bible—great evidence of God’s work among them.

“I just love reading God’s Word.”
“I read it every day.”
“I read it through once right from the beginning to the end, then I read it through again, and now I am reading it for the third time.”
“People in my house are always asking me to read it to them.”
“When I read, I understand.”
“I pray the songs of King David every morning.”

The Note That Made Us Cry
The day we left, a young woman handed me a note as I pushed through the crowd with a bag to load into the jeep. I glanced at it then gave it to Jo in the back of the house, saying, “This is from Jirot”, and walked out with another bag. When I came back into the house Jo was crying. “Read this” she sobbed, holding out the note. I read it, sat down with Jo and cried too.

Here is the note translated from Canela:
Hello Prejaka and Tehtikwyj, (our Canela names)
Listen to my short thought. You are now going back to your children, Pjekar, Tehtyc and Kwyrxomkwyj. (our daughters) May the Creator of this earth, who also is our Creator, take care of all of us. We Canelas are always together with each other. And we, including you, will surely someday be together with each other again. To that end I surely pray for you like this:
“Good Father, look after all of us here. And my relatives, Prejaka and Tehtikwyj, who are the ones who revealed You to me, look after them, and also look after me.”
Yes, that is the way I pray. Done.

We had received many hundreds of notes ever since the Canelas learned to read and write in their own language. But this one was special since it not only contained a prayer, it had the words “who are the ones who revealed You to me” showing deep spiritual understanding. And it was the only note we ever got that didn’t end by asking us for something.

That note was a tiny evidence of a growing Church—almost insignificant. But a woman who is just a tiny bit pregnant will surely give birth to a baby in due time. In the same way the Canela church is alive and growing, nothing tiny or insignificant about it.

Whose Church is it Anyway?

The New Canela Children’s Bible

Jo and I need not have been so concerned during those eighteen months. We should have remembered that Jesus said “I will build my Church.” Not “Jack and Jo,” or “a strong denomination.” He, Himself, will build His own Church, among the Canela, and every other people group that is reading and hearing His Word in their own language. Yes!

Now nearly thirty years later, Jesus’ Church among the Canela is thriving. Instead of an atheist German development team leader, a godly German missionary family has been there for well over a decade, What a contrast! A whole new generation of Canelas has grown up gladly reading God’s Word.

What is the Worst Sin?

Large stone Decalogue monument in front of a hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Cultural Research
“What do you tell young Canelas to never do?” I asked a group of Canela leaders.
In our translation work we had come to the Ten Commandments and needed to know what Canelas considered sin.

Their discussion was loud but not long, then the chief said,

  1. You must never hit or fight physically with another Canela. It’s okay to fight against other tribes but not with each other.
  2. You must never bring shame to yourself and your family by being careless when you steal or have sex with someone who is not your spouse. It’s better not to do these things at all but letting other find out you did them is worse.
  3. You must never be stingy with what you have, especially with your food. You might cause others to steal from you.

Since Canelas have always been a minority society trying to survive in a hostile environment, peaceful relationships within Canela society are essential. No wonder, then, this anti-fighting prohibition is at the top of the list.

Anger in Church
I thought of this Canela list some years ago when I learned of a church leader who on several occasions was extremely angry with another leader. He expressed his anger violently and publicly and each time held it over a period of weeks.

Jesus said. “If you are angry with your brother, you have already murdered him in your heart.”

Yet no one took the leader aside to talk with him. There was no discipline. These temper tantrums were ignored and left to “go away”. They upset many people who had witnessed the outbursts and the tantrums never did “go away.”

“Moral Lapse” in Church
In that same church, however, it was discovered that another leader frequently visited pornography websites. Jesus said something about this too. “If a man looks on a woman to lust after her, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

This time the denomination’s supervisor was called. The leader was disciplined, put on probation, required to take counseling, and assigned an accountability partner.

Obviously that church ranked the Lust-equals-Adultery sin as worse than the Anger-equals-Murder sin treating it as rather benign and not worth the bother.

Since this happened in a North American church, it may simply be reflecting our culture. We never equate anger with murder. But our society shines a bright spotlight on sins of a sexual nature, not only on pastors addicted to pornography, but on bosses using sexist language and sexist behaviour toward those under their authority.

The Opinion of Jesus
To Jesus the worst sin was not loving God with all our heart, soul and mind. And the next worst sin was not loving our neighbour as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39)

As followers of Jesus our motive for all we do must be love, first for God then for others. How can we love God and others when we rage at them in fury? How can we love others when we fill our minds with selfish lust?

So What?
The Canelas are concerned about fighting each other within the tribe.
Our society condemns sexist behaviour of men towards women.

But Jesus’ standards are far higher and broader,
“Love God and love people.”
That covers everything.