A Story From Thirty-two Years Ago
During the last years of our two decades of Bible translation work with the Canela people in Brazil, we had a Sunday habit of closing up our house for privacy for part of the day. The Canelas did not mind since most of them were off hunting, having been told by their Brazilian neighbours, “Sunday is a “bad day.” Don’t work on Sundays; you may cut yourself with an axe, or a snake may bite you.” We were working hard to finish the translation so they could learn that Sunday was a “Good Day.” It celebrated the day Jesus returned to life again so He could give them everlasting life also.
We listened to sermon tapes and prayed for our daughters, families, and ministry partners back in Canada. We also rode off on the Honda trail motorcycle we bought after selling our truck. It was great to get away, take walks, have a bath in a creek somewhere, and return to write letters to our daughters back in Canada and the US.
The Sunday Afternoon Ride
One Sunday afternoon, Jo and I rode our little Honda bike to the top of Rooster Hill, where we enjoyed an hour of privacy, silence, scenery, and the cooling breeze kept the irritating gnats away. Then, being curious, I rode off to check out a long line of palm trees far to the south. Jo stayed, hanging in her hammock. I knew palms usually grew near a creek, and I wanted to find a clean swimming hole. It turned out I would discover something more important than a swimming hole.
I zigged around fallen logs and zagged around dense bushes while trying to keep going south. I had to be alert for armadillo burrows and rock-hard termite nests hidden by tall grass. The sun was directly overhead. After riding for quite a while, I began to realize that either I was travelling in the wrong direction, or those palm trees were much farther away than I had estimated. Down on the bush-covered plain, it was impossible to tell. So, not wanting Jo to worry about my long absence, I turned around and headed back. I rode north, again dodging around obstacles.
Lost in a Trackless Wilderness
After a long time, there was Rooster Hill. Or so I thought. Nearing it, I saw that it wasn’t. Oops, I got myself lost. Remembering my survival training, I stopped and checked the time, 12:30 p.m. With the sky brightly overcast and the sun directly overhead, I would not know which way north was for another couple of hours. I knew Jo would be worried by then, so I decided to keep riding in the hope of getting somewhere that looked familiar. I rode slowly, constantly scanning for Rooster Hill. “Lord,” I prayed, please keep Jo from worrying and guide me to find my way.”
I also scolded myself as I rode looking for the hill:
“Dummy, why didn’t you take the bike bag with the compass?”
“Why didn’t you just stay with Jo and relax instead of dashing off on this useless trip?”
“Jo is going to be so worried and so angry when you get back … eventually.”
I drove about, looking for Rooster Hill for at least an hour—the longest hour of my life. Then, suddenly, there it was! Whew! I rejoined Jo and began to apologize and explain, but she didn’t seem to be at all upset at my being gone so long. I looked at my watch. 12:36 p.m. What! It was still ticking. Only six minutes had gone by since I realized I was lost. It had seemed like ten times that long!
The fingers of panic churn our insides when we think we are lost. We can’t think logically. Jo laughed at my alarm and concern for her. But then we talked about the concept of being lost. What is worse than realizing that you are lost, is to be lost and not know it until it is too late. We thought about the thousands of people groups worldwide, lost, not knowing the way to God, lost in fear-filled cultures and soul-destroying lifestyles. They don’t even know they are lost, just like the Canelas, before we translated a large part of God’s Word with them.
Our Prayer and God’s Answer.
Back home again, we prayed, “Lord of the harvest, please call your servants to translate your Word for these hundreds of millions of people, speaking several thousand languages. And raise up ministry partners for these translators to uphold them in prayer and sustain them with their gifts.”
God has been answering these prayers of his people. In the past three decades, many hundreds of language groups started reading newly translated partial Bibles in their own languages. Some translators were expatriates like Jo and me who worked in pioneer situations. And other translators were educated, bilingual Christian indigenous people, trained to translate the Scriptures into their own mother tongue for the thousands of monolingual speakers in the villages.
SORRY! NO PICTURE OF ME AND THE HONDA. OUR CAMERA WAS AWAY FOR REPAIRS FOR MONTHS DURING MUCH OF THE TIME I RODE THAT BIKE.