Last week’s episode ended with the depressing news that the door to translating God’s Word for Brazil’s people groups was still closed.
Jo and I prayed, (again) and discussed our options.
“What’s the use of going back to Brazil?”
“In Canada I could keep on speaking in churches and raise up more prayer support for Brazil’s people groups.”
“Val and Leanne are already in college. Cheryl will graduate from high school next year and go to college.”
“It would be nice to have a home here for them to visit at Christmas time.”
As we talked about staying in Canada, however, we felt an inner uneasiness. It became clear to us that our calling was unique.
Jo and I were the only couple in the entire world who knew both the Bible and the Canela language well enough, that with the help of some good Canela story tellers, we could complete a pretty good translation within the next five to ten years,
Jo put our thoughts into words,
“Honey, we are the only Bible translators for the Canela on earth. No one else is ready to do this job. Let’s just go back to Brazil, sit on the Canela doorstep, and wait it out until God opens the door.”
So we bought our tickets. A month or so later we arrived in Brazil and got settled in our home on the Belem centre. Then, it happened. Within two weeks we got some long awaited news from the government.
“If an indigenous people group wants certain missionaries to live and work within their villages, the government will permit these missionaries to do so.”
Wow! The Canelas had been wanting us back since the day we were expelled five years earlier! Within weeks we were back among the Canelas.
Was it ever good to see them all again! And to see all those Canela children who grew up hearing about us, but now seeing us for the first time. Open-mouthed and asking, “How come these white people talk just like us?”
Day after day, we reconnected with old friends, and mourned with family the death of many elderly Canelas.
Our mud-walled, palm thatch roofed house had been torn down, the timbers used for other houses, when government officials had told the Canelas we would not be returning.
We lost no time in replacing it. With the help of many Canelas and some colleagues from Belem, we built a two-room, pole frame, wooden shack on a concrete floor, with a pole-rafter, corrugated asbestos roof. A day of sawing and hammering and we had shelves, a bed, a study desk, more work tables and a kitchen counter. A 4X6 metre (13X20 feet), ten-day wonder.
Let’s get to work again! Jaco, our best translation helper, was eager to get to started and so were we.
That was the beginning of a seven-year sprint to the finish line of a twenty-two-year marathon. We asked the Brazil Wycliffe leadership to excuse us from all administrative work, conferences, and non-translation workshops. We planned no regular furlough, no speaking engagements, or major vacations. We made just three quick trips back to Canada—Jo’s major surgery, Valorie’s graduation, and Leanne’s wedding.
Jo and I each focused on translating the Scriptures (1st draft, back-translation, exegetical check, 2nd draft, consultant check, pre-final draft, key-boarding, etc., etc.) for at least ten hours a day, six days a week.
During this seven-year sprint, a group of young literate Canelas pled with us to teach them the Bible. Read how God interfered in our rush to finish the translation in these two postings from the fall of 2012.
The Unwelcome Request for Bible Teaching
Bible Night Classes and the Rest of the Story
On Friday, August 10, 1990 we finally celebrated the distribution of the Canela Bible! It was the greatest day of our lives. Thirty-three years earlier, Jo and I had started our training in Bible, linguistics and anthropology. The last twenty-two years had been focused on the Canela translation project. Now our careers as Bible translators with the Canela people had come to a successful end.
My parents, and Jo’s mom came to help us celebrate. So did our daughters and their husbands/husbands-to-be. My younger brother and his wife and a number of Wycliffe colleagues also joined us in the Canela village. Over a thousand Canelas gathered in the central village plaza, and we handed out a Canela Bible to readers from every house. A never-to-be-forgotten day!
Since then, for a whole generation, the Canelas have had the Scriptures in their own language and as a result, Christ’s church among the Canela continues to grow.