One evening as Jo and I sipped our soup under a star laden, dry season Brazilian sky, we heard the sound of approaching footsteps and excited voices.
Uh oh, I thought, now what? A medical emergency? A group of Canelas hurrying to our house at night usually was not good news.
The footsteps stopped behind our chairs and the voices fell silent. Then a young man said,
“Prejaka, we’re here.”
“Yes, you are here. Why did you come?”
“We want to ask you something.”
“Okay, come and stand in front of us, so we can see each other.”
I was surprised to see a group of about 15 young men, all carrying papers.
“We want you to teach us the book of Our Great Father in the Sky.”
Others chimed in, “Please teach us in the evening, after we come in from working in the fields.”
Oh no! This we did not need!
We were already over the top busy, in the middle of a seven-year—no furlough—sprint to the finish line. We hoped to complete the Bible translation program in the Canela language in another four years. We were working flat out during a three-month work session in the village.
Each day Jo checked my translation for exegetical errors until late afternoon when she taught women to read and in the evening taught two more literacy classes. I worked with Jaco and other helpers to expand the dictionary and do first and second draft translation. I dealt with medical emergencies, and after supper prepared for the next day’s translation project.
We were always up by sunrise at 6 AM, and started working almost immediately until 10 PM. At noon we had an hour or so to eat and rest, and at 7 PM we sat outside in the dark, in the cool of the evening to relax and eat some soup and crackers before starting the evening’s work.
And now this. We needed time to think. Sensing our hesitation the young leader said,
“We all know how to read, and we have some book-of-God papers.”
I got up and in the light of my flashlight identified the papers as discarded first drafts they had salvaged from the garbage. Some had bits of Luke, others a few Psalms, and some had a few chapters of Acts.
“Okay, come back tomorrow night, at this same time and I’ll tell you what we’ll do.”
Jo and I talked together about this extra load of work. Obviously in order to have a Bible class all the students would need to have the same book. That meant copying a couple of dozen copies of one book, probably Luke, when we returned to the mission centre in Belem. We could do the night class the following work session. But it would mean a lot of extra work, possibly fewer hours of sleep. We both sighed.
Then into our minds popped our “Life Verse”—the theme we had committed ourselves to in the first months of our marriage. 2 Corinthians 9:6. “Remember: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
Okay, God, with you helping us, we’ll do it, we’ll “sow generously.”
When the young men returned the next night, the group had grown to 20. When I told them we would start Bible classes in the evening when we returned for the next session, their faces broke into broad grins.
“To get ready to study you will need to read really well, both quietly to yourself and out loud. So practice reading to each other. Also practice writing so you can write quickly and readably. Before you are allowed into the class you will need to pass these tests.”
Grinning broadly they surrounded my wife and me, shaking our hands and thanking us. “I’ll practice, I’ll pass the test,” each one promised as they left.
Jo and I looked at each other, I took a deep breath, let it out and said,
“Well, we’re in for it now. Sowing generously into the lives of these people. May God grant generous reaping some day.”
To Be Continued