I hung up the phone and turned to Jo who had that, “What are you getting into?” look on her face.
It was our second furlough—a packed seven months. I had already told missionary stories describing our Bible translation work at over a hundred meetings. I was taking two university courses at Okanagan College in Kelowna, BC, and had exams coming up and a paper to write. I also needed to write an Easter newsletter with personal notes.
“You remember Archie.” I explained to Jo, “He invited me to their Iron Springs missions conference again, speaking every night for a week, like I did last furlough. He’ll send me plane tickets and pick me up from the airport. He and his wife will be at work all day, so I’ll be alone studying in his home. I should be able to prepare the presentations, plus write the newsletter, and do my school work.”
That evening we sat, as usual, in the living room to read the Bible and pray together as a family. We looked again at the poster on the wall the girls had made to record our “Return to Brazil Savings.” The thermometer was marked with dollar amounts going up the side, and at the top was the amount we needed to buy five plane tickets to return to Brazil.
“Daddy,” thirteen-year-old Valorie said, “That poster has been hanging there since we got here in September. It’s now April and we want to go back home right after school is out in June. But the red crayon part isn’t even half way to the top yet.”
“Yeah,” ten-year-old Cheryl chimed in, “And we really want to spend summer vacation with our friends in the village.”
“I’m going to tell our friends about our plans in our Easter newsletter,” I said, “and ask them to pray with us for God to provide the money we need.”
On Monday, a few weeks later, I got off the plane in Calgary and there was Archie to pick me up. A few hours later, he ushered me into his house and said, “We’ll see you at supper time,” as he drove off to his office. I put my suitcase on the guest bed, sat down at the kitchen table, to review the slides I would use that night and the stories I would tell.
That evening’s meeting went well. People remembered me from five years earlier and greeted me with smiles. I had lots of new stories. After the meeting I was inundated with question and comments and I saw an encouraging number of brochures taken away.
The next morning, I woke up to the smell of coffee. The note by my breakfast plate read, “Help yourself to cereal. Lunch is in the frig. We’ll see you at supper time.”
Did I ever get a lot of work done that day! No wonder. Not a single interruption. Not even a phone call. Another great meeting after supper. And so it went all week long. At the closing meeting on Sunday night the gymnasium was packed. Once again, judging from the enthusiastic response of the audience, God blessed the stories and the quoted Scriptures.
At the end of the meeting the chairman got up and said, “We will now take up the collection for this conference. As you know we take up only one collection during this conference. It will all go to the Popjes’ ministry in Brazil.” I breathed a prayer of thanks to God, our Provider.
As I packed my slide projector, the chairman walked up and handed me a paper grocery bag, saying, “This is the collection. We didn’t count it. May God bless you.”
I thanked him, took the bag, folded the top shut and stuffed it into my briefcase. I had a plan!
Next day, I walked into our house just as our daughters were arriving home from school.
“Daddy’s home!” twelve-year-old Leanne shouted, adding, “Did you bring us a surprise like you always do?”
“Oh, yes,” I said, grinning, “I sure have. Come into the living room and I’ll show you.”
“Back up a little,” I said, “and give me some room. Here’s the surprise!” Then holding the paper shopping bag high over my head, I turned it upside down and dumped the contents on the floor.
Coins clattered and rolled everywhere, bills and cheques fluttered after them! Squealing with delight, the girls dropped to their knees, gathering, sorting, stacking and counting. Jo got a paper and pencil, and added up the totals. Reading the final number, I picked up the big red crayon, and filled in the thermometer all the way, with some red spurting out the top!
Then we all kneeled down and thanked God for His love and for His provision through His people.
“I bought some ice cream for dessert to celebrate your return.” Jo said, “But I think we better have some right now to celebrate our going home in ten weeks.”
And we did, with double scoops, while the girls chanted, “We’re going home! We’re going home!
We had double scoops for dessert too.
I could have made this a cliff hanger story, but finished it so you could sleep in peace tonight. There is, however, a Part Two, and it is coming next week.