How God Shapes and Equips His Servants

The Encouraging Letter

I recently received a complimentary letter from a friend and Wycliffe leader. He wrote,

“Through God’s grace, you are a wonderful example to me and many others, of being yourself before God and not allowing others to force you into their way of doing things. This has enriched your work in the many and varied roles you have had in Wycliffe both in Canada and on the field.”

His note stimulated my memory and, Yes, I have done many things differently.

Things We Did Differently

  • Jo and I left the Canelas with more than just a New Testament. We were the first translation team in Brazil to publish a New Testament-sized partial Bible, one-third of which is Old Testament.
  • To keep within the book’s size limits, we were the first to translate all of John and Luke and included only the unique portions of Matthew and Mark as additions within the Luke narrative.
  • Beyond the normal dependence on native helpers for language learning and Bible translation, we pioneered the concept of training scores of young Canelas in a wide variety of skills: teach others to read, author their own stories, touch type, draw illustrations, teach Bible classes, lead prayer and praise meetings, promote Bible memory, and even to extract teeth.
  • Returning to Canada after our decades of service in Brazil, Jo and I did not live in a house. For two years we lived in a small motor home, traveling all over North America, speaking in churches and visiting ministry partners.
  • When I became director of Wycliffe Canada, I was the first to use a new invention—e-mail—to write weekly updates to the membership which helped them understand the numerous changes that we were making in the home office. This led to decades of weekly blog posts years before the term “blog” was invented.
  • I led Wycliffe Canada to change Wycliffe’s traditional fund-raising practice from George Mueller’s “Pray, but don’t Ask”, to William Booth’s method, “Pray and Ask.”

How God Shaped Me to be Different
When I remembered these things, I wondered, How did God shape and equip me to be so willing to differ from other people? My autobiography notes supplied many answers:

  • I grew up in Holland in a neighbourhood was known as “Little Rome” our house was near the massive St. Vitus cathedral. Everyone for blocks around was Roman Catholic, I was the only Protestant boy.
  • In school, I was the only person whose father didn’t work in an office or in a factory. My dad was a fish-butcher and sold fresh, salted, smoked and deep-fried fish of every kind from a large shop behind our house.
  • I was the only boy who gutted and deboned fish after school and on Saturdays, girls often turned up their noses at my fishy smell.
  • My last name was pronounced Poop-yes. It sounds just as bad in Dutch as it does in English.
  • As a sixth-grade student in Holland, I was the only person in school preparing to emigrate to Canada.
  • In Canada, I was the only immigrant boy in the entire school, and while trying to speak English, provoked much laughter and name calling from my classmates.
  • I was the first one of my family to be born again and have assurance of salvation.
  • In high school, I was the only one who had a steady, after-school job and could not play any sports.
  • I was the first one of my family to be baptized by immersion.
  • I was the only person I knew who kept a daily diary.
  • Although I was the first one in my family to attend Bible school, I was also the first one to be expelled for a semester. (I did nothing sinful or morally wrong, just broke more house rules than anyone had ever broken in their first year.)
  • I was to first person to be elected to the Bible school board of management who had been expelled from that same school.

So What?
Obviously, God arranged the events in my youth to shape my personality, so I could be the right tool in His Hand for the work He wanted to do in my mature years.

Isn’t it good to know that God is in full control of our whole lives, from womb to tomb? We can trust Him, even during the difficult and unpleasant experiences. He has a purpose for it all.


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