Born in the Netherlands in 1938, Jack immigrated to Alberta, Canada in 1950 as the oldest of a family of five children. He was the first of his family to be converted. He graduated from Berean Bible College where he majored in English and biblical exegesis. Jack and Jo met at this college and were married in 1962.
They pastored a Baptist church in Alberta for three years before joining Wycliffe in 1966, and moving to Brazil with three pre-school daughters. They began linguistics, translation and literacy work with the Canela people of Brazil in 1968.
When the Popjes began work with the Canelas, the language did not have a written form, people were illiterate, and there were no believers. By the time the Scriptures were translated into Canela and distributed in 1990, twenty-two years later, there were scores of Canela believers, all able to read the Bible, and teaching others to read and obey the Word.
While Jack and Jo were managing the Canela translation program, Jack was elected to the position of chairman of the field board of SIL, Wycliffe’s sister organization. He served in this position for six years: a time of political upheaval and major change in Brazil. He also served as the director’s administrative assistant and later was appointed interim director. After completing the translation project and leaving Brazil in 1990, the Popjes’ served as Canadian regional representative at large, and later Jack was appointed as director of promotion and recruitment, directing a team of recruiters and representatives working across Canada. While serving in this capacity, Jack honed his skills as a public speaker at hundreds of promotional banquets, missions conferences, churches, and service organizations. He also served a two-year term on the board of directors of Wycliffe Canada.
Jack and Jo had planned to return to a field assignment but he was unexpectedly appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Wycliffe Canada in 1994. In his two three-year terms Jack, with Jo as his administrative assistant, led the organisation to adopt numerous changes including a change to a full constituency board operating on a policy governance model, a more assertive fund raising policy, and a Canada-wide expansion of promotional activities. He very much enjoyed building a team of competent, highly motivated leaders around him.
Convinced of the truth that God has made the whole Church, not just mission agencies, responsible to evangelize the world and disciple the nations, Jack positioned Wycliffe Canada as a servant to the Church. He negotiated numerous entry-level partnership agreements with Canadian denominations. During these six years, the Canadian Wycliffe membership grew by about 30% and the yearly income by about 50%.
Following his leadership service in Wycliffe Canada, Wycliffe International appointed Jack as CEO of Wycliffe Caribbean for a term of three years, focusing on a half a dozen English speaking nations. He and Jo travelled extensively throughout the Caribbean, speaking in numerous churches and other venues. Jack built a team of trained recruiters and promoters in every major population centre and developed partnership agreements with many denominations and independent churches in the Caribbean. Before leaving, Jack recruited, trained, and oriented a Jamaican executive as his successor.
Jack is a prolific reader, having read thousands of books since leaving college. He considers himself a convinced book pusher. During each furlough, he took a wide variety of university or community college courses ranging from cultural anthropology and personnel management to business and photography. He has written a weekly e-mail column or blog for the past seventeen years. He has published three books—A Poke in the Ribs, A Kick in the Pants, and A Bonk on the Head—which are collections of his best columns.
Currently Jack is the national representative of Wycliffe Canada, speaking each year at about sixty-five events in Canada, the USA and overseas. His current column, Jack’s InSights & OutBursts, goes out by email to about 1,900 subscribers worldwide. He also keeps in touch with the missionaries currently working among the Canela, assisting them through his knowledge of the language and the culture. He recently prepared the script for the JESUS film in Canela.
Jack and Jo Popjes have three daughters: Valorie, Leanne, and Cheryl. They are also the happy grandparents of eight grandchildren: twin 24 year-old boys; two 20 year-old girls, triplet 18 year-old girls; and one 16 year-old boy.