“We want you to teach us the book of Our Great Father in the Sky.” the 15 young men had asked during our summer work session in the Canela village. Read it here: http://www.jackpopjes.com/the-unwelcome-request/
During our brief break on the mission centre in Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon, Jo and I printed 30 copies of the book of Luke. When we returned to the village to start the next three-month work session we announced we would hold night classes for those who wanted to study the life of Jesus. We had no idea of the size of the job we had just taken on, but were soon to find out. I was going to feel like the worst missionary in the world!
Canelas wanting to join the class overwhelmed us. We limited it to adults who could read Canela fluently, write clearly and who promised to come every night.
We started with about 20 students, mostly men. We sat on logs in the open air behind our little wooden house. The first class started at 7pm with singing some of the newly composed Canela hymns, then several students prayed. Each student then read through a passage of Luke, one verse at a time, after which I explained a bit of background, answered questions and made a practical application. After more singing and praying they left at 9pm.
The next night I asked, “Who would like to teach the lesson I taught last night?” A brave young man volunteered and did well. We then read the next passage of Luke and I taught the second lesson. More singing and prayer and they left.
The third night, I asked for two volunteers, one to teach the first lesson and the other to teach the second lesson, after which I taught the next lesson. From there on, every night two students reviewed the previous two lessons and I taught the new one. By the end of the first week, we were in a productive routine and the class was growing as Jo graduated more adult readers from her “learn to read” night class.
But there was a price to pay. Not only did I have to prepare a lesson during day, I also had to wait until night class was over to prepare for the next day’s translation. Yes, I lost sleep. And yes, I was soon ready for a break. But no break came. Jo had her reading classes on the front porch, and I had my Bible classes out the back every night, seven nights a week. Week after week after week!
I longed for rain! I prayed for rain! “Please God, give me a break! Let it rain so we can’t have a class!” Sometimes it did rain, but it stopped by 7pm and didn’t start again until 9pm. Really! By the end of our work session, we had taught 70 consecutive two-hour night classes!
Here’s how I expressed my feelings to God one day.
One hour after sunset, and here they come.
Young men, fresh from their bath after a hot day in the fields:
Young women, some with their babies on their hips.
Each one with God’s Word in their hands,
Many with it in their mouths,
practising their memory work.
Some with it in their minds,
thinking about the truths.
A few with it in their hearts,
applying it to their lives.
Here they come;
ready to thank God,
ready to pray,
to pray long, long prayers
for themselves, their children, their relatives, their friends,
even their enemies.
For our children far away,
for missionaries in other tribes,
for the sick,
for neighbors that still don’t know God,
for Brazil’s government,
for fields and gardens and rain and lost knives and axes.
Here they come,
To learn, to read, to study, to understand, to follow God’s Book.
Here they come, at last,
after eighteen years of
working and waiting,
studying and translating,
hoping and praying.
What a breakthrough!
What a success!
What joy and happiness!
Why then do I feel so resentful?
I must be the world’s worst missionary!
I shouldn’t feel that way!
Surely no other missionary ever does.
But I do!
Haven’t I worked hard all day?
Don’t I have a right to relax?
I resent having to give up all my evenings.
How much of your day did you dedicate to ME?
8 hours? 16? 22?
No, Lord, all of me is Yours.
All my life, every day, all 24 hours.
Even those two precious evening hours are Yours.
One hour after sunset, and here they come
To learn of God.
And here I come too,
to learn of Him, submission,
Thank You Lord, for Night Class.
It was the graduates of those 70 night classes who became the core leadership of God’s Church among the Canelas!