When God Slams the Door

A greater than usual number of readers wondered what Jo and I did during the five years we were “exiled” from the Canela village due to political and ideological opposition by elements in the Brazilian government.

Leaving the people we loved.

Leaving the people we loved.

I remember when word came that we had to leave the village. We cried, the Canelas cried. It didn’t help. We got angry, the Canelas got angry, that didn’t help either. As we packed up our stuff, said goodbye to the people we loved, we drove out of the village into an utterly unexpected, major change of lifestyle and work.

We waited and prayed as our directors and public relations personnel did what they could to combat the lies that were being told about the missions teams working in scores of villages in the areas of medicine, education and Bible translation.

As the weeks turned into months, everyone worked to catch up on educational and other projects that could best be done on mission centres. Jo and I compiled, edited and published a half a dozen easy reading booklets. We also revised and published some Scriptures, including Luke and Acts. I wrote the story about God’s miraculous intervention as we delivered the books to the village in a column, “What’s so Holy about the Bible?” published in A Bonk on the Head

We were not idle as the months of exile stretched into years. God opened the way for me to get a taste of leadership and administration. For five years, I served as chairman of the Brazil SIL executive committee (board). SIL is the Wycliffe field partner under which we worked in Brazil. I also led Brazil’s SIL delegation to International Conferences several times. When the executive director was out of the country for medical reasons, Jo and I moved to Brasilia and led the organization for six months.

During that same time, I spoke in Bible schools and seminaries in Belem and Rio de Janeiro about the need for Bible translation in Brazil and around the world. I showed slides of the Canelas and the ministry we had been doing until recently. Then we challenged students not only to pray for Brazil’s indigenous peoples, but also to consider entering this ministry themselves. Since there was a strong anti-foreign component to the opposition, we hoped that Brazilian nationals might find more open doors.

Jo and I, along with all our missionary colleagues, suffered severe mental and emotional stress, some went into depression, others were trapped in addictions. We all loved the people we had been working with. We wanted them to know Jesus as their God and Saviour as soon as possible. We were building God’s Kingdom, and I had often heard missionary sermons on the urgency of the King’s business, using David’s quote in 1 Samuel 21:8  “…the king’s business required haste…” Very much out of context, it turns out, but the message of time pressure and desperate urgency stuck with me.

We just could not understand why more than forty indigenous people groups in Brazil remained without God’s Word, when the teams assigned to them were ready to continue their work of translation, as well as meet the people’s medical and educational needs. Where was God in all this? Was He not in a hurry to reach these people? Apparently not.

God is not in a hurry. . . but He is always on time. It was a lesson we all had a hard time learning.

For years I remained a stable leader and encourager, but then we went on furlough and . . . all that changed.

A tale best kept for next week.