A few months after Jo and I returned to Canada, having finished the Bible translation project among the Canela, we started worrying about the Canela believers. The rumors we heard and the sporadic notes from our Canela friends in the village were not reassuring.
We had planned for a missionary family to live in our village house and keep teaching reading and do Bible studies. But they encountered many delays. A well-funded community developer from Germany had arrived with medical personnel, teachers, and other workers. The leader kept ridiculing the Canela believers. “Why are you reading that book?” he would ask whenever he saw a Canela reading his Bible. “That’s not for you people.”
A Reassuring Visit
We calmed our worries by praying much for them but kept longing to see them again. The chance came when we returned to Brazil 18 months later to renew our permanent residency visas. During the few days we were in the village many Canelas came to tell us how they loved reading the newly translated Bible–great evidence of God’s work among them.
“I just love reading God’s Word.”
“I read it every day.”
“I read it through once right from the beginning to the end, then I read it through again, and now I am reading it for the third time.”
“People in my house are always asking me to read it to them.”
“When I read, I understand.”
“I pray the songs of King David every morning.”
The Note That Made Us Cry
The day we left a young woman handed me a note as I pushed through the crowd with a bag to put into the jeep. I glanced at it then gave it to Jo in the back of the house, saying, “This is from Jirot”, and walked out with another bag. When I came back into the house Jo was crying. “Read this” she sobbed, holding out the note. I read it and sat down with Jo and cried too.
Here is the note translated from Canela:
Hello Prejaka and Tehtikwyj, (our Canela names) Listen to my short thought. You are now going back to your children, Pjekar, Tehtyc and Kwyrxomkwyj. (our daughters) May the Maker of this earth, who also is our Maker, take care of all of us. We Canelas are always together with each other. And we, including you, will surely someday be together with each other again. To that end I surely pray for you like this:
“Good Father, look after all of us here. And my relatives, Prejaka and Tehtikwyj, who are the ones who revealed You to me, look after them, and also look after me.” Yes, that is the way I pray. Done.
We had received many hundreds of notes ever since the Canelas learned to read and write in their own language. But this one was special since it not only contained a prayer, it also had the words “who are the ones who revealed You to me” showing deep spiritual understanding. And it was the only note we ever got that didn’t end by asking us for something.
That note was tiny evidence of a growing Church—almost insignificant. A woman who is just a tiny bit pregnant is, however, pregnant. She will give birth to a baby in due time. So also the Canela church is alive, nothing tiny or insignificant about it.
Jo and I need not have worried during those 18 months. We should have remembered that Jesus said “I will build my Church.” Not “Jack and Jo,” or “a strong denomination.” He, Himself, will build His own Church, among the Canela, and every other people group that is reading and hearing His Word in their own language. What a comfort! What a relief!