Part Two, What the Recruiter Didn’t Tell Me–the Upside

In the previous post I shared some “Unexpected Whoops!” experiences. This time it’s about the “Unexpected Wows!”

While my wife and I were translating Paul’s letters to Timothy, we got stuck at 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” Since we had no single Canela word for the term mediator, we rewrote that whole sentence explaining what Jesus did, but as we read the sentence we weren’t satisfied with it. Our daily prayer was, “Lord, please keep our eyes and ears open to learn the terms we need to translate Your Word.” A few days later He did.

We were participating in a festival ceremony during which the Canelas dramatically reenacted an impending battle. At the height of the tension a specially decorated Canela man rushed between the two groups of warriors and with many gestures caused them to lower their weapons and make peace. Wow! A mediator in action! I could hardly wait for my study session with my Canela translation associate the next morning!

I asked him what that decorated peace-making person was called. “Ajp?nna-mepa-jaxôr-catê,” he said. Hmm, I knew what each of those words meant: “each other-us-hang-person” In other words, “the one who hangs us together.” But what did that mean?

“It’s easy,” our associate said, “You know when you have picked some cobs of corn and you need to let them dry. You tie a string to each of them, then tie the ends of the strings together and hang them from a cross pole in your hut. There they hang as a bundle to swing to and fro as one even though they came from different plants.”

Wow! That’s perfect! This term will even work for the passages that tell of Jesus bringing people together!

What a feeling! The delight of discovery replaced the deskwork drudgery! My sticky, sweaty body was strengthened and refreshed. Instead of feeling that Jo and I were alone, plugging away at an overwhelming task, I again experienced that deep down joy of knowing we were working together with God Himself! Why hadn’t the recruiter told us that these foretastes of heavenly joy— unexpected Wows! — would be part of our missionary work?

Why hadn’t he told us about the incredible excitement we would feel when the first Canela declared himself a Christian? Wow! And what it would be like the first time I heard young men and women pray to their recently found Saviour and thank Him for us, and for our families, and our financial partners? My eyes tear up just writing about it.

And then there was that fierce joy that energized us when Satan caused all sorts of hardships and problems. The energy that flowed through us as we stood against him in the name of Jesus, praying for God to rescue the Canelas from Satan’s grasp. And the joy of working with likeminded colleagues! And the excitement as God built a partnership team to stand with us financially. Wow!

And, and, and, Wow! after Wow! Why didn’t he tell us about the Wows!?

What the Recruiter Didn’t Tell Me.

Wow, this is cheap! I thought as I started to fill my gas tank. Gasoline at rural stations is usually way more expensive than at the discount stations in town, but at $0.70 a litre this was a bargain.

Then, just as I finished filling the tank, I saw the little note taped to the pump. “Sorry, our old pump will not count beyond 99 cents per litre, so the price will be doubled in the store when you come in to pay.” Whoops! At $1.40 per litre ($5.00 a gallon) that was a major unexpected expense.

Seventy-cent gas is not the only thing that looks attractive at first but in the end comes with a nasty surprise. A friend in high school had just enough money to buy a car he desperately wanted. It took all his income to cover the insurance, registration and fuel. Then the transmission went out. Whoops! Unexpected expense.

A young couple bought a house with a monthly mortgage payment that was less than the cost of the rent for their current apartment. They had enough income to cover the taxes, utilities, insurance, and yard and home maintenance. That fall the roof started to leak. Replacing the roof put them into debt for years. Whoops! Unexpected expense.

Missionaries are not exempt from this “Whoops!” scenario. I remember grinding along in low gear, four-wheel drive through sand, mud and thick bush on the last 70 kilometres of trail into the Canela village.

Suddenly a bearing broke and I saw the left rear wheel and axle sticking way out beyond the fender. The truck was loaded with food, supplies, equipment, and work papers. We couldn’t leave it sit unguarded to be plundered by local farmers or cowboys that used the trail to walk or ride to their fields. As I left Jo to guard the truck and walked the six hours back to town, I thought, Hmm, they didn’t tell me about this when they called for volunteers and I raised my hand at that missionary meeting. An unexpected whoops!

Then there were the times I had to treat two of my family for rabies with the dreaded daily injections into belly fat for thirty days. I’m sure no recruiter ever mentioned rabid dog bites. He mentioned tropical diseases, but I didn’t expect twenty years of regular on and off diarrhoea. The tears shed in mutual longing by parents in the village and their children in the boarding school, or their teenagers in college on another continent: Jo and I didn’t expect it to hurt so terribly.

The bumper sticker on our mini-motorhome reads My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter. To Him these costs of serving Him are not unexpected. Our Boss already knew what lay ahead for the Popjes family when Jo and I raised our hands at that missionary meeting. He knew about the coming mechanical problems, the rabid dogs, the loneliness, and the many trips to the outhouse.

To reach the rest of the world with His Good News, He still looks for raised hands, and for hearts that trust Him to take care of the unexpected costs – even $5.00 a gallon gasoline.

What Happened to Jack’s Blog Posts?

“So what happened to Jack’s weekly blog posts?” No doubt many of you are wondering why there were no postings in June. Here’s why:

Starting in the first week of June, I had to paddle my life’s canoe through three weeks of severe white water rapids. On the very day that my 97 year-old Mom celebrated her 74th wedding anniversary, she stumbled and fell, breaking bones and dislocating joints.
The subsequent surgery to relieve the incessant pain further weakened her and after fifteen days, God took her Home to be with Him. I spent much time sitting by her bedside, seeking to make her comfortable. But even when others took my place, my mind and heart were still there by her side.

The private family burial and memorial gathering brought some closure and calmer waters, but it will take several more weeks before I get everything dried out and properly stowed away so I can resume paddling my canoe down life’s river. (Check out my Facebook page for more information and pictures about my Mom.)

We are also planning a three-week family vacation in San Jose, CA, with our American family during July and August. Seven of us will be traveling down and back in our mini-motor home. As soon as we get back to Canada, I will fly to Ottawa to speak at the closing banquet of the Gideons 100th Anniversary convention.

All this to say that my blog postings will be sporadic during the next seven weeks. I did post one this week on INsights & OUTbursts as part of the Inscribe blog tour. Check it out and leave a comment to have a chance at some great prizes.

Have a great summer!

Lessons from a Coffee Drinker

Brazilians know how to drink coffee: North Americans don’t. Having drunk coffee regularly with Brazilians for nearly 25 years, I always suspected they did it the right way. Now there is scientific proof.

Dr. James Wyatt at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago determined that if you drink just a few ounces of coffee every hour throughout the day, instead of a large amount first thing in the morning, it will keep you alert all day long.

That is, of course, exactly how Brazilians drink their cafezinho: a small two-ounce cup, filled with strong espresso coffee and plenty of sugar. In cities you are never more than a minute’s walk from a stand or shop where you can get your hourly dose. Every visitor to a business or government office is handed a cafezinho the moment the visit starts. Steady little shots of caffeine all day long. In contrast, we 110 million North American coffee drinkers start our day with an extra large Tim Horton’s or Starbucks to get our morning jolt. Now Dr Wyatt tells us we’re doing it all wrong.

We do like to go for the Big Event, don’t we? And not just in coffee drinking either. We tend to go for the strong focus, the major push, and the all out effort, but avoid the slow, steady, daily, drip, drip, drip of continued action. We are event oriented, not process focused.

Many would-be authors get hugely inspired at a writers’ conference and start writing a book, but then after a while — seven chapters in my case — the sheer dailyness of it all dries up the inspiration and the book goes into the bottom drawer for good.

Think of how much time, effort, planning and expense people put into their wedding. But what about their marriage? I have met couples who desperately needing to learn about marriage who refuse to buy and read a good marriage book because, “It’s too expensive, and besides we don’t have time to read.”

Exercise clubs and spas flourish because they know people will buy a membership, start a program full of good intentions, but after a few weeks drop out.

I know Christians who spend hours in church on Sunday, getting their full 16 ounces of worship, teaching, prayer and fellowship, but never open their Bibles the rest of the week.

There is nothing wrong with a major kick-off event. I remember giving my life to God to be a missionary. It was a major emotional and spiritual event in my life. But that was followed by nearly fifty years of thousands of little, daily decisions — small acts of obedience in the same direction.

This required daily re-commitment, scheduling, planning and discipline. You know, the sort of things few of us can do without help from other people. We need encouragement, practical help, and someone to whom we are accountable.

Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship is where I got the help to restart my first book and keep writing every day. My third book has just been published. I could not have done it without the encouragement of other Inscribe writers.

And, of course, my hourly dose of coffee. Time for one right now.

This post is my contribution to the ‘Inscribe Summer Blog Tour’. For more about the tour, a blogging schedule, or to find out how to join Inscribe, go to the above blog tour link. If you leave a comment, you will also be eligible for some great prizes!

Readers who receive my posts by email: Please comment by emailing me.