Regrets of my life, Part One

“If, knowing what you now know, you were able to do your whole translation program over again, what would you do differently?” I asked the veteran Bible translator. As a relative newbie, still in the first years of our program I expected this expert to give me esoteric advice on language learning or translation techniques. I was blown away by his answer.
“I would take more vacations.”
“Huh?” I couldn’t believe my ears. More vacations? Until that time we had not taken any vacations. It was work, work, work, day in, day out, month after month, ever since we arrived in Brazil.
He further told me that although he and his wife took time to retreat and rest quite often, they also traveled abroad once a year to the Caribbean to take a two-week-long vacation. And he wished he had taken more!
After that conversation our family made some good decisions about vacations. No, not annual Caribbean vacations, but we did work with other missionaries to build a small house a hundred metres from a beach on the Amazon. We spent as much time there as often as we could. We also took Brazilian vacation trips by car, staying with friends or in cheap hotels. We built some good memories. No regrets about vacations!
But I do have other regrets.
Before we left for Brazil, I had never sat down with close friends, family members and pastors of churches to tell them up front exactly how much money we still needed to raise before we left to work in Brazil. Nor had we ever asked anyone for his or her help in raising it. How I wished I had done this! Back in the mid-sixties the policies of many missions agencies, ours included, were very shy about stating specific financial needs, and absolutely forbad asking anyone to consider making a gift. “Just pray, God will supply,” our mission director counselled. “He will move people to give when they see you are on the field.”
We prayed a lot, but God did not supply, and we soon regretted leaving for Brazil with only 40% of our financial support promised. Jo and I had never, ever borrowed money for our daily living but the moment we left Canada we had to start borrowing money for groceries, and we lived in debt our entire first term. Our poverty and indebtedness made a deep and negative impact on our service with the Canelas during those years. We could have bought more medicine and saved more lives, we could have hired more language helpers, we could have . . . .
God did not move people to give until four years later when we returned to Canada and implemented a much more open and still biblical approach to inviting people to become our partners in ministry. Yes, one of my life’s regrets is being so reticent about recruiting financial partners.

How do we deal with the regrets of our lives? Obviously following sound biblical advice to prevent mistakes is the best method! Hanging in there until it is possible to make a change is another. But what about mistakes, sins, errors, stupid things we regret doing? How do we handle those regrets? More on that in the next column.