An Insightful Grandson and an Angry Chief

The First Story
If you have done repairs to a loose kitchen sink you will know what suffering is. As you lie on your back, the edge of the under-sink-cabinet floor causes excruciating pain as it tries to pry apart your vertebrae. You are peering up into semi-darkness, holding a flashlight in one hand, the other feeling for the loose under-the-sink bolt, and needing a third hand to find the tools lying on the floor beside you. In the meantime, bits of grit and dust keep falling into your eyes.

I had been in that position for much longer than I wanted to be, and still, the job was not done. Just then, Ryan, our oldest grandson who had observed my torment for some time, made an insightful comment for a young teenager.
“You are not very good at fixing this kind of thing, are you, Grandpa?”
“No, I’m not, Ryan. My back hurts, and I hate working way up above my head, with dirt falling into my eyes.”

He then made another perceptive comment.
“But later on, Grandpa, you’ll be able to write a great story about this. It’ll be a really funny one.”

Yes! That I could do. Ryan and the other grandkids had heard me tell hundreds of true stories about all kinds of adventures and hard times—many with funny and always encouraging endings.
I remembered that sink fixing episode today as I researched my 1987 diary for stories to include in my memoir of our translation work among the Canela people of Brazil.

The Second Story
Here’s the story that stood out. In 1967, twenty years earlier, Pedro, the Canela village chief, had invited Josephine and me to come to his village to live and work. He wanted us to do medical work and teach his people to read and write. We had done this and much more, including saving the life of his son by driving him four hours to town to a doctor who confirmed my diagnosis of appendicitis and sent him to a hospital where he had surgery just in time.

We had always had a good relationship with Pedro, and when he asked if I could drive him, his wife and two or three men down the jeep trail a few hours to meet some people, I agreed. A continued good relationship with him was worth four hours of driving over rough terrain.

At noon, I drove our little quarter-ton pickup truck to his house. Pedro and his wife

Baskets & 3 daughters Okay, 10 Adult men, No Way.

climbed on, and so did ten other people.
“That’s too heavy, Pedro,” I said. “Look at the springs; they are all bending the wrong way and will break. I can take the five people you asked for but not all twelve of you. I broke all four of these springs this year and replaced them. But now they’ll all break too. I’m sorry, but I can’t take all of you.”

Pedro exploded in anger. He stalked off directly to the local government agency. He complained to the manager, telling him, “Get on your shortwave radio and tell your bosses in the city that we no longer want these teachers in our village.”
He stayed right there until the manager had sent that radiogram. Happily, several other Canela leaders overheard this order. They told others in the village who sent a large delegation to the government manager saying, “Everyone in the village wants the teachers to stay.”

These events were the beginning of an enormous confusion that eventually involved directors of the government indigenous agencies in three cities. These authorities repeatedly ordered us to leave the village, and each time the Canelas made the local manager send radiograms objecting to the order.

Even our own Wycliffe director got involved. He was called to the agency office in Belem, where the agency director told him, “The Canela chief, Pedro, and Blackpalm, a sub-chief, both want your people out of their village.” Just then, Blackpalm, who happened to be in Belem for medical reasons, walked into the office and heard this statement; he objected.

“The only one who wants the teachers out is Pedro. He’s a hothead and gets violently angry when he can’t get his way. I love working with the teachers. I taught them much of our language starting twenty years ago. They have been a huge benefit to health and education in our village.”

The Last Story
What a coincidence! No, it wasn’t. It was a God-incidence. God is in control and kept us productively working for three more years until the Canela Bible was published.

At the public Bible distribution ceremony, I gave Pedro the first Bible I took out of the box since he was the chief who had invited us to come. He made an impassioned speech. “Treat this book respectfully. It is more valuable than a cow or a new shotgun. It is God’s letter to us. Don’t tear pages out of it to make your cigarettes. Don’t leave it out in the rain. Our friends have worked for more than twenty years to make this book. Respect their work.”

What a change in Pedro from just a few years ago! I couldn’t help chuckling, and covered my grin with my hand.

The End, the Start, and the Middle

 Three Questions Re: Final Future, Present Day, and Intermediate Future

  1. How do you feel about becoming one of the growing COVID-19 statistics listed under Active Cases or even recorded under Deaths? Yeah, knowing that at age 82, I am part of the “vulnerable group” I do have some feelings about this.
  2. Are you getting tired of the information flood telling you things like, “Stay home, wash your hands, wear a facemask, and keep two metres away?” Yeah, me too.
  3. What are your thoughts about the endless predictions of the New Normal, and the ever-changing plans to move towards it? Yeah, they are talking about the rest of our lives, I have many thoughts.

Our Final Future
If we have become God’s children through faith in Jesus’ death for us, many of our negative feelings dissipate. Since God is in control of this world, then, as His children, we know we are in His care, today, tomorrow, and at the end of our life, no matter what happens or when. We also know that because of Jesus’ resurrection, we will receive new bodies that will never die. Our Final Future will be glorious. One of my favourite descriptions of our future end is in Revelation 21, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” We can be sure of our Final Future.

Our Present Day
We can also be fairly sure of the Present Day. God gave us today and gave us the choice of how we want to live, work, plan, communicate, and act in the Present. Although God gave us a free will to choose, He also gave us a purpose for living. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus also assured us of His help and His presence as we live our lives. “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” So how do we love God and love our neighbours in this present day? Build a relationship with others and help meet their needs as if we were meeting Jesus’ needs. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Our Intermediate Future
Now, what about our Intermediate Future, that unknown, “anything could happen” stretch between the Present Day and the Final Future? First of all, as believers, we are not to worry, fret, or be apprehensive about the weeks, months and years ahead. We are not to fear the future. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Your Father in heaven knows that you need them.” Luke 12:22, 25, 26.

This doesn’t mean we should not confidently plan and diligently work towards providing for ourselves and our families. But as we plan and work, God has a requirement: recognize that He is in ultimate control

Living in Brazil, we often heard the expression, Se Deus quiser. “If God wants/wills.” For several centuries English incorporated a Latin term Deo Volente, ‘God Willing’ usually abbreviated as DV. “I expect to arrive before dark, DV.” But our secularized society no longer recognizes God’s sovereignty over plans and actions. Even as Christians, when we plan, we tend to forget that God is in total control. We have gotten out of the habit of saying, “If it is the Lord’s will, I will live and do this or that.” James 4:15. Without keeping God’s ultimate authority in mind, we talk enthusiastically about our plans and work. Here’s His opinion: “You boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:16.

In the Present Day, during this pandemic as Christians, we need to more than ever, love God with all our heart and love our neighbour as we love ourselves. Only then will we have the confidence to live each day knowing Jesus is present, that He wants us to cast all our care on Him, and step out in faith into the unknown Intermediate Future. At the end of which is a glorious Final Future!