God Will Supply

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How I Became a Missionary – Part 2

In 1979, I learned a huge lesson in the area of trusting God.  It started in the Summer of 1978, it was challenged through the Winter and Spring of 1979, and then was rewarded in the Summer of 1979 with a success so fantastic that it blew my mind, but swelled my heart with love for God and increased my  faith considerably.

Here’s how it began.  I attended a High School-Young Adult camp week at our church’s Christian Camp.  The entire week was great, but the hour session that I looked forward to the most was the daily presentation from different missionaries.  For three years at this point, I was firm in my belief that God was calling me to become a missionary.  In an earlier post, “God Spoke Through People“, I shared about four individuals that influenced my life to eventually become a Bible Translator.  But there was one more woman named Lois who impacted me powerfully at this Youth Camp in the Summer of 1978.

I think it was a Wednesday that Lois spoke to our group about a mission which she had gone on, Teen Missions International.  She showed us her pictures, she told us what the project was and what country they worked in.  But what caught my attention most was the fact that Teen Missions accepts Teenagers to go on these mission trips.  Makes sense, since that is part of their mission title.  But I had been dreaming of doing mission work for three years now, and in all that time, I never came across a mission that could really use teenagers.

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So I took the literature and was amazed to see that each summer, TMI was sending over 1500 teenagers all around the globe to more than 50 countries in the world.  Hot Dog!!  That Fall I started my first year at the University of Calgary, but I did another first too.  I made my first application to a mission group.  I was determined to go the next year into the deep Amazon rainforest and do construction on a New Tribes Mission  base camp in the jungle.

The two requirements, besides being a Christian, were to get 100 prayer supporters to stand with me on this mission experience, and to raise the financial support to pay for the trip.  The first requirement was easy as I had accepted Christ and was baptized when I was 12 and been actively part of the church since then.  To raise up 100 Prayer Partners was a challenge, but this too fell into place after I shared my vision for doing mission work with many people.  It was the third requirement that became the real test.  It tested me to see who I really was, and it tested my faith in God.

I believe the original target was for me to raise $1,450 to be on a Brazil team.  The acceptance package that I got from TMI had lots of ideas of how to raise support, and it included about 100 bookmark prayer cards with my picture and details of the project.  The info in the package explained the need to have as many prayer and financial partners standing behind you to help make this goal of becoming a missionary possible.

But at this point in my Christian life, I was not at the point that I felt comfortable asking people for money so I could go on this “Grand Exciting Missionary Adventure”.  I felt that as a strong 18-year-old, who already held down two-part time jobs along with University studies, could find ways to earn his own money to pay for the trip.  By late Winter, just before classes ended, I added a third part-time job, and after school was out, I added a fourth part-time job.  See what I mean?  I was strong.  I was able.  I didn’t need other people.  (Oops, see where this is going?)

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And then an amazing thing happened.  One by one, I ended up losing not one or two, but all of my four jobs.  Some had been temporary, some the work declined and they let some of us go, and one job said they didn’t need me anymore.  I don’t think I was fired, but I certainly was released.  And there I was about one month away from my time of departure for the mission trip, and I was still quite a few hundred dollars short.

I was in shock!  I was angry with God!  Didn’t He want me to be a missionary?  I begged God, I pleaded with Him to help me find one more job to get the money together.  Then he reminded me about the fund-raising packet I had been sent.  I really couldn’t see how people, most of whom knew very little about me, would ever decide to support this mission trip.  But slowly my stubborn heart broke before God, and I said I would send out the materials, and trust in Him to see the remainder come in.

The instructions said to make a list of everyone you knew, family, friends, teachers, long-lost relatives, people you met even 5 years ago, etc.  I was somewhat skeptical, but I did what it told me to do.  And then I did the only other thing I could do.  I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed.  And I found I got to the place where I really did believe that God could do this.  And in the coming days, I saw letters come back to me,  some with encouraging words, some with a cheque.  And often, the gift was only $10 or $20.  But it did start to add up and I could see the goal getting closer each day.

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And then it came down to the last week before I was to leave.  I was still about $150 short.  I laid this before God, and I said, “God, if you really, really want me to do this and begin my journey to becoming a missionary, then I am asking you to not only supply the final $150, but do it in such a way that I will never doubt your faithfulness to sustain me nor doubt my calling to be a missionary.”

It was the night before I was to leave, and still I was short some money.  Then somehow, from somewhere, I can’t remember because I thought I might be wrong about this whole thing, I found that an envelope had been put in my hands.  When I asked my mom who it was from or where it came from, she said she didn’t know.  So I slowly opened the envelope, and inside it was a cheque.  I held my breath as I slowly pulled it out.  I turned it over and almost stopped breathing.

The whole trip was about $1,450, I was short still by about $100.  I blinked twice to make sure I wasn’t seeing it wrong.  There in my hands was a cheque for $1,472.  The entire mission trip was completely covered by one anonymous donor.  Not only did God provide for my need, He did so in such a dramatic way (the last night) with such a grand financial gift, that I had no doubt that going on this mission trip was definitely His will for me.  And it was the pivotal moment that gave me my assurance of my calling to be a missionary.

Psalm 34:8  Taste and see that the LORD is good;

blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

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Please, Let Me Read!

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A THOUSAND WORDS ARE WORTH A PICTURE

There is one story from my childhood that stands out head and shoulders above all my other stories as you will see in a minute.  This is probably my mother’s favorite story, and I smile too whenever I think about this one.  It has to do with my love for reading.

My mother had read books to all of us as we were growing up in the family and from her I learned that books could be exciting to read.  They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  And when you are a beginning reader that is probably true, for you look at the big picture, you see the few words underneath, but the picture helps to transport you to another world.  In time, you switch from looking at the pictures to reading more and more words.  But the idea remains the same, the story opens up all kinds of possibilities in your mind.

So when I was just turning 6 in Grade One, one of my favorite places was the school library.  There never seemed to be enough time to read books at the school, so I would sign out a pile of books each weekend and read them all by Monday.  Each story would take me to places that fueled my imagination and increased my thirst for knowledge.  It was a wonderful experience…..until the day I discovered there was a restriction.

One day, when I went to sign out some books, the librarian asked me, “Aren’t you in Grade One?  You are only allowed to check out books on that one shelf.  All the other books are for older children.”

Needless to say, I was totally broken-hearted at this news.  And when I got home and my mother saw how distressed I was, she had me tell her the whole story.  “Well!  You and I are going to have a talk with the principal on Monday about this,” she said.  At the same time, I was excited to think we could find a solution to my situation, and scared to think I would be going to the Principal’s Office on Monday.

Sure enough, on Monday we talked it over with the principal.  And guess what?  The three of us marched over to the library and the principal duly informed the librarian, “Mrs _____, I am here to inform you that this young man is now allowed to take out any book he wants from the library.”  Wahooo!!!  I was so excited, I immediately started into the Grade Two section and kept on taking out books and reading anything I could get my hands on.

I want you to know that I still have this passion for reading today.  I probably have anywhere from 3 to 5 books on the go at a time.  But the book I keep reading again and again is God’s Word.  It is still the Book of Books.  In many ways, it is my love for reading, and my love for God, that has combined to lead me into this profession of doing Bible translation.

And you know what?  The same thrill and joy I used to get when I read children’s books so long ago, is the same kind of thrill and joy I see in people of minority languages when they get their hands on Scripture in their own language.  Even if it is only a small portion of the Bible, or even a children’s level story book of Bible stories, the people will make great efforts to get a copy and try to read it themselves.

I will never forget the time I announced that the plane coming to our village to bring some brand new story books in their language was going to be delayed.  But I said, it should be here tomorrow by midday.  Well, the next morning came, and people started to gather around our house next to the airstrip.  I asked what they were waiting for, and they said they were waiting for the plane, waiting to get the new reading books.

Hours later, the plane finally arrived.  By this time, close to 80 people had gathered and waited the whole time.  We got the boxes from the Cessna plane, plus other supplies.  As soon as the plane had taken off, the people gathered around the book boxes and eagerly laid their hands on them.  I think there were 50 copies each of 10 simple story books that had been translated into their language.  And then the next thing was amazing.

No sooner had a person gotten a story book, but he or she just sat down right where they were and started to read.  By our house, under our house, on the airstrip, they all sat down and tried, slowly and carefully, to read the stories written in their language.  The only time they moved was when they got up to trade a booklet with someone else.  And they did that for the rest of the afternoon until finally the sun had set and they could no longer read.

Now remember, these stories made up into ten or twelve page booklet form, were either small Bible related stories, or nice cultural stories.  But the people ate them up as if their lives depended upon it.  Just imagine what it is like when they get a full book of Scripture.  (The book of Mark was finally made available in 2003.)  Then picture the excitement and joy when they will get the entire New Testament in their language.  I have heard of villages putting on celebrations that run a whole week long, there is just so much joy at receiving God’s Word in a language they can understand, they can’t contain their joy to just one day.

“Dear God.  Thank you for the ability to read.  And thank you so much that we can read about You and Your great love in a book called the Bible.  Help us Lord, to continue to get more of Your Word translated and made available to those who have not had the Bible in their language up until now.”

Spiritually Dangerous Attitudes

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Read Hebrews 10:26-31

It is not certain who wrote the book of Hebrews.  But many believe the author was writing to Jewish Christians.  There are points throughout the book where it is clear that these Christians were enduring hardships, even persecution for their faith.  The author wants to strengthen their faith, pointing out just how superior Jesus is to key OT figures, and even more superior to angels.  He demonstrates time and again how much better the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood is than to the limited and temporary Old Covenant build on the sacrifices of animals year after year.

But there is one more concern that the writer touches upon a number of times throughout the book, namely the fact that there is the danger of Christians turning away from God and rejecting all that was once held to be true.  He speaks quite bluntly about this in the passage quoted above, Hebrews 10:26-31.  It is hard to believe that a Christian would ever turn his or her back on God, since they have, as the author puts it, “received the knowledge of the truth.”

The question some might ask is, “was this just ‘head’ knowledge, and so that person was never actually saved?”  No, the wording here speaks of not just knowing facts about God, but rather it speaks of someone who has had “a deep experiential relationship knowledge of God.”  There can be no doubt that person had been born again and was a child of God.  So what happened?

The key is in the wording of the actions of the person.  In verse 26, the verb speaks of a person who “deliberately and habitually chooses to sin against God.”  This attitude is expanded in verse 29 where the person has “trampled underfoot the Son of God, treated as unholy the blood of the covenant, and insulted the Spirit of grace.”  Put in simpler terms, the person has decided he wants nothing more to do with Jesus, he has considered the sacrifice of Christ as being meaningless, and speaks out against God and considers Him to be a God of wrath and punishment, not a God of love.

I’ve pondered this many times, and tried to figure out how a person who loves God, could become a person who hates God.  And I think part of the answer lies within the very nature of human culture, whether it be Western or non-Western culture.  Our attitudes towards God can be so negatively influenced by our culture that the results are that our beliefs are correspondingly incorrect.  And this can cause a person to start the walk of faith, and end up at least ignoring God, if not outright denying God in their lives.

In the more developed countries, where we also see the most blatant forms of materialism and consumerism, God is treated more as a Bargain Warehouse Operator, or an Emergency Medical Service Provider.  In the former case, whenever we have a need (whether it is a felt need or a real need) we turn to God and ask (perhaps demand) God for it.  And when God does not provide, we begin inch by inch to turn away from God, and we rely on self-dependence and see God as irrelevant.  Or in the latter case. when a crisis of any kind come upon us (physical, medical, financial, marital, etc.) we cry out to God demanding, begging, pleading with Him to do something.  But when the situation does not resolve itself the way we think it should, we get angry with God and shake our fist at Him in defiance, and our hearts get hardened to the idea that God could ever be a loving God.

But come back to Hebrews 10 with me and see how the passage concludes.  Verse 30 speaks of a God who knows all things, and He will ultimately judge all things and all people.  If life, circumstances, or especially other people have mistreated you or harmed you in any way, God himself says, “I will avenge.”  We must trust in and wait patiently for His justice.  But better than justice, we can know His grace, for God says in verse 17 with regards to us who believe in Christ and ask forgiveness for our sins, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”  And the Hebrew writer gives us this encouragement in verse 23, “…for He who promises is faithful.”

In conclusion, let us not judge God by the circumstances of our lives, which change day by day.  Is God real?  Yes!  Does He answer our prayers?  Yes, though often in ways we did not expect, or necessarily understand at the time.  But let us be careful not to let our hearts become hardened in our attitudes against God.  So often it is not one thing that starts this slide into unbelief and disobedience.  It is a lot of tiny slips, when we tried to control the circumstances of our lives instead of patiently trusting and believing that God could and would work out the situation.  We must believe that He is for us, and not against us.  Or we will find ourselves to have become enemies of God.

 

Tunnels, Caves & Claustrophobia

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Claustrophobic – Who Me?  Never!

One of crazy things I remember doing as a kid was to climb down into sewer and water drainage tunnels and crawl through them to see where they would lead me.  Some of the drainage pipes were the large corrugated steel  man size under-the-street ones which led from one open gully part of the hill to the other open gully on the other side of the road.  So they were tall enough to stand up inside, stooped over a bit, and only about fifty feet long.  Fun to hide in, but no challenge to an adventurer.

No, it was the small concrete drain tunnels that I liked to crawl in.  These tunnels would be just a bit larger than shoulder width and could be hundreds of feet long.  I would find an opening to one of these drainage tunnels in one of the gullies and start crawling, head first, wriggling my body to squeeze my way down the tunnel until I got to one of the junction rooms that had rungs on the vertical tunnel that led up to the manhole on a street level high above.

Looking back, I know it was rather insane doing what I did.  I was more than 20 feet underground, crawling though drainage pipes that if they had been a couple of inches in diameter smaller I would have been stuck there like a cork in a bottle.  And just imagine if after crawling for hundreds of feet head first I had come to a dead-end.  No way to turn around.  I would have had to wriggle backwards the same distance to get out.  Needless to say, I never told my parents about this adventure, at least not until I was an adult and moved away from home.

And I have had the same fascination with caves.  I’ve only gone into a few though, the most famous ones being the Mark Twain caves on the western edge of Illinois, and the cave in the center of the town next to Mount Rushmore.  I loved crawling through tight spaces, and climbing up or down on areas where there were just toe and finger holds.

So being interested in caves, I looked up in the Bible references to caves and I found some interesting connections in most of the verses.  Due to the rocky nature of the ground in the land of Canaan, one of the primary uses for caves was to use them as tombs and to bury the dead there.  The second main use for caves in Scripture was to use them as hiding places.  Samson hid after killing Philistines, David his from King Saul who was trying to kill him.  And Elijah hid from the wicked Queen Jezebel.

Even today, we jokingly talk about men retreating from the stresses of life and going into “their caves”.  So caves seem to be places to go to get away from others and anything connected with life and real living that is perceived to be a threat.  If this is even half-true, then it forces me to ask myself this question, “Why did I like to spend hours on end crawling around down in tunnels and caves underground?”  A big part of me says, “It was wild, crazy and fun.  It was an adventure!”

But another part of me which is honest says, “I didn’t know how to handle my life (which involved being picked on by my peers, made fun of at the church youth group, and not being paid attention to at home by my family).  So I think I can say now that partly I was running towards an adventure, but I was also partly running away from the troubles I was having in life.

Today, I don’t crawl through narrow tunnels.  And I don’t know if I can climb through any more caves.  But I still can retreat from life emotionally and crawl into a cave deep in my mind.  I must resist this, and work with people, not avoid them, and most of all trust in God to help me face whatever issues I need to deal with in my life.

So how about you?  Are there caves you run to which you hope will keep you safe from the troubles of this life?  I hope not.  And believe me, eventually you have to come out.  And whatever you may have run away from, in all likelihood, it is still there, and it may have grown bigger and worse than when you first went to hide in your cave.  May God give you the strength you need to face your world.

God Triumphs Through Difficult Times

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God Triumphs Through Difficult Times

On June 8, 2010, a letter of invitation was sent asking me to come over to Papua New Guinea to help do the consultant check of Matthew for one of the local language groups.  There had been some discussion about me also doing the consultant check of Hebrews for another group, but dates and circumstances did not allow me to do this on this trip.  Instead, we are anticipating that this may be put into a program plan for a Spring 2011 trip.

During the month of July, I did some initial study of key terms and difficult phrases in Matthew.  This would help me identify potentially difficult parts of Matthew which would need to be examined carefully.  Meanwhile, I was waiting for the VE file of the Matthew translation to be sent to me from PNG.  (A VE is a vernacular to English literal back translation from the village language into English from which I can compare with the Greek NT to spot errors or areas of discussion.)

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At the beginning of August, it was clear that a more pressing matter was arising within the Branch, namely the sudden illness of the Director.  Immediately we began emailing the leadership in PNG and praying as to whether we should actually try to come as planned, or cancel the trip until a later date.  As we dialogued with them, we all came to the decision that we should still come, and trust that we would be able to get some of Matthew checked.

And so I began in mid-August to do intense studies on the Greek text of Matthew, and using a computer program called Paratext, was able to write myself inline text notes.  I noted areas of the Greek text where translation would be difficult or ambiguous, and also made note of various interpretations and cultural issues unique to the biblical era.  These exegetical and cultural notes would help me to evaluate the translation when the back translation was given to me orally, so that even without the written VE, I would be able to spot potential problems and areas needing revision.

Sadly, the Director died on the day I left Canada, and even before we started, we all wondered how this would affect the team and when the memorial for her would take place.  So I went into the sessions expecting that there would be even more delays and interruption.  I think what helped all of us from the beginning was that we all agreed that any verses we could do the consultant check on was still good, and was still moving forward the goal of having the New Testament finished for this language group.

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The date for the memorial was finally set for October 9, the day Jill and I would fly out of PNG, so it did not turn out that we would stop our sessions in the middle of our checking of Matthew.  But then a new area of major concern arose.  Due to a drought and the stagnation of existing water in the region where the national team members lived, scores of them were becoming sick and three people did die during our three weeks of checking.  In addition, the wife and son of the key national translator, were also sent to Wewak for medical attention.  Thankfully, they recovered quickly after getting treatment.

Understandably, this caused the team much distress and concern which made the checking even more difficult.  The final decision by all of us was to end the sessions early and have the men return to the villages so that they might be able to help out and comfort the people during this difficult time.

In spite of all these obstacles that our team faced, it is amazing to look back and see what progress was made and how God’s hand was in all of this.  In 12 days of actual work, we were able to check, correct and revise 20 out of the 28 chapters of Matthew.  We were able to check an average of 56 verses a day, which is pretty good considering the many hard passages of Christ’s teaching.

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Another area for praise is how God sustained us all.  My health was good during the entire time, and I discovered two women in the Center who knew how to do massage therapy so that I could get my legs worked on twice while there.  The massages, along with adequate rest periods each day, allowed me to function with a much lower pain level than I expected.   For this I was very grateful to God, and I am sure the many prayers of God’s people helped to carry me through this trip.

I am also thankful once again that Jill was able to come join me (two weeks later) and then return with me on the trip back to Canada.  She helped me in so many ways to be able to function and live each day over there in PNG.  And she has such a desire to help out, that when a special formatting task was sent up by CD disk from our Publishing Dept on short notice, Jill willingly worked on the computer during my breaks (sharing my computer) and on the weekend to get 166 Shellbooks (literacy picture books with empty text boxes) fully reformatted and ready for use by translators.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So what is next?  There is already discussion about me and Jill coming in Feb-April of next year.  The book of Hebrews in one language is ready to be checked.  The epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and Jude in another language are anticipated to be ready.  And there are still the final eight chapters of Matthew to do for this language group.  Translation consultant checking remains a constant area of need in our overseas branches.  I am just happy that I can be involved and do my part to see God’s Word made available to these language groups.

I must also say thank you to all of you who so faithfully pray for us and support our ministry work with Pioneer Bible Translators.  We  could not do this work without you standing behind us.  Above all, we give thanks to God who has equipped us and sustained us to be able to do this good work.

To Him be all the glory,

Norm & Jill Weatherhead

Chocolate or Vanilla?

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The answer is definitely CHOCOLATE. What’s funny is that it was many years after we were married before this fact became known to the family.

So here’s how it happened. After Jill came home from shopping and we were putting the frozen foods away, I decided to ask the question that had been on my mind for a while.

“Why do we always buy Neapolitan ice cream?” I said.

And Jill said, “Because it’s your favorite ice cream.”

Now i wondered how she could come to this conclusion. Hadn’t anyone ever noticed that when they had picked up the ice cream bucket that all the chocolate had been carefully carved out? So all that was left was a mixture of strawberry and vanilla ice cream with huge craters around them where I had dug to find the chocolate.

“So tell me how you came to this conclusion?” I asked.

“Well, whenever I visited you at your parent’s home before we got married, all I ever found in the freezer was Neapolitan ice cream. So I figured that was your favorite ice cream,” she replied.

So finally the whole story was out. It was because my father controlled the “sweets” department in our family that we always had Neapolitan ice cream in the freezer. And after being married for almost 10 years, I finally let my family know that I eat chocolate ice cream, and that is what Jill now buys for me.

Oh, and by the way, if you had checked the ice cream bucket at my house when I was young, you would have also seen huge craters carved out of it, and that the chocolate ice cream was always missing.

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Why Pray? Why Read? Why Go?

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Read Hebrews 10:1

The Law is a shadow of the good things to come.   The Law which required sacrifices to be made day after day, year after year, could not make the people spiritually perfect in God’s sight.  So why do it?  Same questions today?  Why pray…why read the Bible…why go to church?

Can praying more prayers, reading or even memorizing more Bible verses, or going to church every week get us into any better position with God?  Yes and no.  These activities can bring us into a deeper more intimate relationship with God.  But these practices, or rituals, cannot in and of themselves, gain us any more credit with God.

So why do them?  Because just like the sacrifices, they in turn speak about the relationship we will have one day when we are forever with Him in heaven.  We pray now to God, even though we do not see Him.  We read His Word, which gives us spiritual light and life here, but there we will see the Living Word and be energized by His presence forever.  We attend a church to be encouraged by fellow believers, and become part of a small community of faith.  But in heaven we will belong to a community of believers whose number cannot be counted, from every nation and tribe and language on earth.

So when we pray, we connect with God.  When we read Scripture, we are illuminated by God.  And when we go to church, we share a worship experience of God.  But these are fleeting moments of great experiences with God.  Like the sacrifices of old, they point to a bigger picture, a bigger reality, that goes beyond this world of space and time, and helps us to see we are even now part of an eternity which will include walking and talking and living together with an Almighty God.  Wow!

“What I practice here in part, I will experience forever in full when I see Him face to face.”                   (A paraphrase for 1 Corinthians 13:12.)


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