Five Missionary Decisions that Turned Out Well

  1. God led us to choose a long-term ministry.

Jo and I knew when we left for Brazil in 1966 with our four-month-old baby and her two and three-year-old sisters, that they would be grown up before we finished the project. When we completed the multi-aspect Canela linguistic, education, medical and Bible translation program in 1990, all three had gone on to higher education, our middle daughter was married, and the other two daughters were married during the first year we were back in Canada.

A Story That Motivated Us:
A tribal group, living several hundred kilometres north of the Canelas, was evangelized in the 1930s by Portuguese-speaking missionaries who made short term visits to their villages. In the 1950s, when missions surveyors came to the area, the only evidence of Christianity they could find was one elderly tribal woman who could hum the tune of Jesus Loves Me. It wasn’t until Bible translators had spent twenty years working among these people that they could sing with full understanding, “Jesus Loves Me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” because they had a Bible in their own language. Even now, twenty years later, those churches continue to spread and grow.

  1. God taught us to do things with the Canelas, not for them.

Right from day one, we depended on the Canela people to work with us. They taught us the language, we trained them to be translation helpers. Scores of Canela people had input into the translation. For years the envelopes we used to mail our missionary newsletters had a slogan “Helping the Canelas Translate God’s Word.”

  1. God led us to train and equip Canelas so they could meet the needs in their village.

Ropkra dentistDuring our decades in ministry among the Canelas, we trained them in numerous ways, dig wells for clean water, run a micro-enterprise in buying and selling, improve the stock of chickens and goats, and caring for the sick and injured. I taught a young Canela man to pull rotten teeth after I had taught myself to do it.  When he became proficient, I gave him all my tools and for the rest of my years there, he did all the dental extractions. Twenty years after we had left he was still serving his village this way. We taught a few young men and women to read and to teach others to read. By the time we left there were scores of fluent readers, all taught by Canelas. After we left we heard that the old chief had died. The next several chiefs chosen were all men who had worked closely with us in literacy, translation and other projects.

  1. God showed us we needed to make ourselves redundant.

When the Canelas asked us to teach them Bible stories, we determined to work ourselves out of that job as quickly as possible. On the first day the group met I taught the first lesson, using basic teaching questions, led the discussion, and prayed over the application. On the second day, I asked one of the Canelas to teach the first lesson. When he was finished, I taught the second lesson. On the third day, one Canela volunteer taught the first lesson again, another the second lesson, and I taught the third. From then on, for seventy consecutive nights I taught the new lesson and students volunteered to teach the previous two lessons. Twenty-five Canelas Practiced teaching Bible lessons during those ten weeks.

  1. God focused our work on a few things, things that would last.

We focused our efforts on leaving results that would live on long after we were dead and gone:

  • An alphabet for the language
  • The ability to read and write in their own language—a major stepping stone to learning the national language
  • Numeracy and basic arithmetic so the Canelas would no longer be cheated in town
  • A new appreciation for hygiene, soap, clean drinking water
  • A sizeable portion of God’s Word in their language
  • An example of Christian living, in love to others, generosity, marital faithfulness, and care for our kids
  • Throughout our nearly twenty-five years in Brazil we not only prayed for the Canelas, we asked our partners at home to pray for them
  • Even after the translation was complete, four-hundred prayer partners volunteered to pray for individual Canela men, women and children by name and by picture. When God acts as a result of prayer, the work lasts.

A Question.
As Jo and I pray for our families, our colleagues and our friends, we ask God to help them make decisions that will bring forth fruit—long-lasting, God-honouring results.

God led Jo and me to make these five decisions. Which ones ring a bell with you as they apply to your life?