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.


That Other Good Friday

The Original Good Friday
For nearly two-thousand years, Christians around the world have remembered the day Jesus died an agonizing death on the cross. And we should remember. God’s Son volunteered to leave His home in heaven, come to this planet to fight against Satan, destroy his evil works and bring healing and peace. He completed his task by suffering, dying and then rising from the dead.

No wonder we assigned a special day to remember His sacrifice for us. We call that day Good Friday.

That Other Good Friday
For exactly one-hundred years Europeans and North Americans have remembered another Friday—the day the First World War ended. And we should remember. Millions of fathers, sons and daughters volunteered to leave their homes, and go to war to fight against fierce enemies, destroy their evil works and bring healing and peace. They completed their task by suffering and dying—multi-millions of them.

No wonder we assigned a special day to remember their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of countless other soldiers in all the subsequent wars this past century. We call that day Remembrance Day, the day the First World War ended when an Armistice was signed on Friday, November 11, 1918. It was the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. This year, this other Good Friday falls on a Sunday, November 11.

How Do We Remember?
While we lived in freedom and comfort at home—enjoying our lives in college, career, church, and sports—these soldiers fought in far-away wars to bring this freedom to others. How do we best remember and honour those who suffered the fear of sudden attack, the horror of injury and death all around them, and, for so many, the loss of their own lives?

For some of us, this other “Good Friday” is simply another holiday, a time to spend with family or friends, to relax or catch up on some fall work around the house and yard. For others, it is much more meaningful.

Those whose loved ones returned on stretchers, in wheelchairs or were buried in a far away country, keep this day as a remembrance of a life well lived.

Those who benefited from the sacrifices these soldiers made keep this day with a profound and heartfelt gratitude. I am one of those. I will always remember the day, sixty-two years ago, when the Canadian troops liberated Hilversum, my home-city in the Netherlands from five years of Nazi occupation.

How Should We Honour Soldiers?
How can we, how should we, how must we honour these veterans, both living and dead? Abraham Lincoln, during the dedication of a soldiers’ burial ground near Gettysburg, reminded his listeners that those men had died for the ideals of freedom and democracy. He urged them to dedicate themselves to these concepts so that “. . . these dead shall not have died in vain . . .”

Canadian army surgeon, Dr. John McRae closed his famous poem with the same sentiments:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The Cause of War
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The thirty articles in this declaration read like a biblical description of the Kingdom of God on Earth.

God wants every human being to enjoy freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear and want. These are the biblical Kingdom principles for which millions of soldiers fought, suffered and died.

When leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot reject God, spitting their contempt on His ethics, they turn into monsters, start wars, kill multi-millions of people, and outrage the conscience of mankind.

What We Need To Do
These are also the Kingdom principles to which we, the living, need to commit ourselves to bring about. We need to apply them in our own lives and families, then in our communities and as far out as our ability and influence reaches.

After His death and resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to evangelize the world, to disciple the nations, and thus to advance the Kingdom of God on this earth.

This Sunday morning, November 11, as I stand still in silent remembrance, I will be profoundly thankful for the soldiers who died in battle against enemies who despised the basic teachings of God’s Kingdom and attacked my home country.

All we who believe the Bible is God’s Word need to honour these soldiers’ memory by rededicating ourselves to the vision of spreading His Word which is the source of these Kingdom principles. Let us recommit ourselves to do whatever it takes to provide God’s Word to every people group around the world . . .  in their own heart language.