An Amazing Letter

This week as I was sorting and culling some papers I came across an amazing letter we had received many years ago from one of our financial partners.

For all of the past 50 years that Jo and I have been members of Wycliffe Bible Translators, God has supplied our financial needs through the gifts of family and friends. We thank God for these ministry partners, we pray for them, and we thank them frequently for their faithfulness in sharing their finances with us.

The letter was from Tracy, an old friend who had been a member of the congregation I pastored before we joined Wycliffe. It was a general letter written to all the missionaries he was supporting.

“Dear Partners in the Gospel Ministry, I apologize for not sending you any financial support checks for the past four months.”

He then explained that he had been in the hospital to treat a bleeding ulcer. Shortly afterwards he had a massive heart attack. While recovering from quadruple bypass surgery, his ailing wife died. A week after returning home he got pneumonia and was again admitted to the hospital. He concluded his letter with these words,

“I have not worked for four months, so have received no paycheck. I may not work again. But I will try to keep sending half of what I used to send before all this happened. God bless you in the continuance of your work. I’m sure the Lord will supply. I have been greatly blessed of the Lord.”

This financial partner was 82 years old! He had been exercising his faith by sending his check to Wycliffe for our support every month for 35 years without a miss until then!

Through his gifts, Tracy was part of our team when we translated the Scriptures for the Canela people of Brazil and planted Christ’s Church there. He was a part of our team when I was president of Wycliffe Canada, and later of Wycliffe Caribbean. After that he continued to partner with us in our speaking and writing ministry.

Finally, at nearly 90 years old, he went Home to enjoy fellowship with the Lord he loved throughout his life, and to hear Him say, “Well done, you good and faithful servant.”

Holding Red Canela BibleAs Bible translating missionaries Jo and I have the privilege of standing up in front of churches and, as we wave the red Canela Bible, to tell stories of how God used us to translate His Word for the Canelas over the course of more than 20 years. Often people will thank us for the pioneer work we did.

Yeah, but we didn’t do it alone! We couldn’t have done it without people like Tracy exercising their faith in God and sharing their finances with us and praying for us.

As another financial partner told me, “You know, Jack, when I see you holding up that red Canela Bible, I think, ‘That book is partly mine!’” And he is absolutely right.

If you give to missions, pray for missionaries, and in other ways support cross-cultural missions, you have a large share in the final result of world evangelization. God will not forget the sacrifices you made. His “Well done,” is waiting for you.

Whose Money is it Anyway?

“Hey, Max, before we start this five-hour drive,” I said, “let’s get some good coffees.”

“Okay,” my partner on the speaking tour said, “get me a Mocha Venti. You have the card, right?”

Ten minutes later, I climbed back into the van with his Mocha, my Cappuccino (with an extra shot of espresso) and an iced Mocha Frappe.

mocha-coco-frappuccino“Who is the Frappe for?” Max asked?

“Oh, I thought we’d drop it off at the breakfast place on the way out of town for that waitress who told us how to get to Starbucks. Remember she said she loved iced Mocha Frappes?”

“Right, good idea.”

After pleasantly surprising the waitress with her favorite iced coffee, we drove on down the road, and, as I sipped my Cappuccino, I thought how easy it was for me to spend those few dollars to make someone feel appreciated.

What made it even easier was that I had used the Starbucks card provided by Wycliffe Associates, not my own money.

It’s easy to be generous with someone else’s money, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t vote for better office chairs at work, or faster snow removal in our community, or a clearer sound system in church? It’s easy to promote good projects when we don’t have to pay for them from our own bank account.

Now for a theological reality check. Nothing we own is ours. There is not one shiny nickel in our bank accounts that Jesus can’t put his finger on and say, “This is mine!” In fact, every nickel in the world is His. As is every dollar, yen, peso, yuan, real, guilder, schilling, franc, pound, ruble, euro, mark, rand, rupee, etc. “All creation and its bounty are mine” Psalm 50:12 (MSG).

You and I are merely God’s money managers. Most of earth’s seven billion people don’t understand this concept. They labour under the delusion that the money is theirs, not realizing it was God who gave them the power to earn it. “If you start thinking to yourselves, ‘I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!’—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth . . .” Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (MSG).

Unfortunately many Christians, who ought to know better, also hold fuzzy ideas about God owning everything. Some believers give 10% of their income to God’s work and then act as if the rest is their own which they can spend without having to account to Him for it. Not so. We give the tithe simply as a token amount to remind us that everything we have belongs to God.

It goes against the grain of our greed to pray, “Thank you for helping me to earn this money. Now guide me to make wise decisions and give generously to those in need.”

Once we understand that the money in our wallets, purses and accounts is not our own, God merely needs to nudge us and we’ll quickly use some of it to meet needs around us.

We’ll respond to His inner voice as easily as it was for me to use Wycliffe money to buy a Frappe for a hardworking waitress.

PS: I have never been sick on any of the many speaking tours I have been on, until this week. Severe diarrhea and weakness, likely the result of food poisoning, , according to the doctor, probably from a Chinese buffet dinner last Sunday night. Thus far I have continued to speak, with no “accidents”. Starting tomorrow night I am speaking three more times before Sunday day off. You know what to pray for!