On this day, February 11, 1976, exactly forty years ago, our family received some unwelcome news. We were living in Kelowna, British Columbia, on furlough after nine years of missionary service in Brazil.
Our doctor said, “The results of the Mantoux tuberculin skin test shows your whole family has been in contact with active tuberculosis.”
No surprise there. At least a dozen of our Canela friends in the village where we lived in Brazil had died of tuberculosis in the previous four years. But then he told us that Valorie and I had tested positive for the presence of mycobacterium tuberculosis. Mine was encapsulated and dormant, but Valorie had an active case of tuberculosis for which he prescribed a medication to take daily for one year.
Our doctor was the envy of his colleagues in the clinic, since none of them had ever diagnosed and treated an active case of tuberculosis. The disease was nearly eradicated in Canada with the introduction of the BCG vaccine for infants in the 1940s, occurring only in some aboriginal groups and among foreign born Canadians.
The doctor’s joy was complete when the following week all five of us were diagnosed with infestations of a parasitic bloodsucking hookworm, a tropical disease that explained our tendency towards anemia.
The Romance of Missions
I think of those diagnoses whenever someone tells me, “Oh, you have lived such an interesting life!” Others even talk about the “romance of foreign missions”.
I freely admit, our family has lived an extraordinary life. Yes, it was interesting. But “the romance of missions”? Tell that to the apostle Paul who was shipwrecked three times, traveled constantly, worked so hard he went without sleep, was often hungry and thirsty, without adequate clothes, and lived under the constant knowledge that he had a message people desperately needed to hear.
Except for the shipwrecks (unless you count car accidents), Jo and I have experienced all the others, plus a smorgasbord of tropical diseases, and, let me tell you, there is nothing romantic about it!
It’s Worth It
But it’s worth it! Oh yes! We would do it again. For sure. The need is great. The command is clear. The promise of Jesus’ presence with us can be trusted. And Jo and I have had the privilege of seeing first hand the spiritual results of our work among the Canela people.
We have seen family attitudes turn from envy and selfishness to love and cooperation. We have heard Canelas singing their Creator’s praises with Bible based hymns in their own musical system. And we have celebrated an exploding interest in education, avid Bible reading and memorization.
Lately, the missionaries who are currently working with the Canela report numerous baptisms. And, even though Jo and I never as much as mentioned ever doing such a thing, the whole Canela community, on their own, decided that they wanted a permanent, brick-walled, tile-roofed church building right in the village circle. It was built this past summer.
It’s symbolic, forty years after the Canelas first heard His name, and twenty-five years after they received His Word in printed form, Jesus is in the village to stay. Cross-cultural foreign missions may not be romantic, but yes, it is worth it!