Who Am I?  Part 22

In the last two articles of this series, it is quite obvious that our family was going through a difficult time. Our older son Eric had to go through 2 1/2 years of chemotherapy to overcome his leukemia, our younger son Glen was restricted from having friends over to keep the house germ free for his brother, Jill was juggling being a mom and studying her nursing refresher course, and my mission work kept me traveling across country and also caused us to move twice for me to teach at different Bible colleges.

This certainly was not what we had expected for our lives as we thought we would live in Papua New Guinea for many years as we engaged in doing a Bible translation in a remote village of PNG.  As I shared in earlier articles, being a Bible translator was a dream of mine ever since I was a teenager.  And Jill too had desired to be active in mission work just as long as I had.

So one of the issues that Jill and I wrestled with, in addition to the worries we carried concerning Eric’s health, was what would be our future role in mission work.  I don’t recall where I first heard it, but the concept had been ingrained in me for a long time that as a Christian, either I was to be sent as a missionary, or I was to be a sender of others to be missionaries overseas.  Send or be sent was the message I believed.

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I asked God to help me be faithful then as I traveled across Canada as I worked for our mission as a missionary recruiter.  But my wife knew my heart and the way God had made me better than I did at this time.  Both of us went in 2004 to the annual recruitment and training week of Pioneer Bible Translators which is held in Dallas each June.  And while there, Jill asked the current Branch Director of East Africa if there was anything I might be able to do.

This simple question opened up the door for me to travel to East Africa later that year and join a few others as they made a Prayer Journey through a portion of that country where they were based.  I was also able to teach a Phonetics course to about 40 national men and women who were interested in becoming Bible translators to their own language groups.

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When I returned from this trip, the question was raised whether or not our family might become a part of the work over there in East Africa.  It would mean uprooting the family again.  We would need to sell our house as we looked at being gone for up to two years, or longer.  Jill and I would need to get some additional training in Dallas since they really needed some administrative help in that Branch.

Each one of these actions would carry their own challenge for us.  But as a family, we felt that God was not only opening this door of ministry opportunity, but was in fact calling us to do this.  And so agreeing as a family to be obedient to God to follow His leading, we put our house on the market and planned to hold a large garage sale.  Jill and I believed that if God was behind all this, then He could certainly orchestrate the sale of all our things.

And you know what?  Our house was barely even listed officially on the real estate web sites when a very good offer was made on it.  I think from the time we placed the house on the market to the late hour at which we signed the sale document was only 3 1/2 days.  So then we had our garage sale planned for just before leaving Calgary, and we sold almost everything (except the kitchen sink as they say), including all of our beds.

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The last six months of 2005 was spent in Dallas as Jill and I went through a course called Management Development Orientation Course (MDOC).  This turned out to be crucial training for us as we found out just before going to East Africa that all of the Directors of the Branch very much needed a furlough break and PBT was needing some veteran missionaries to help fill the gap over there.

As it turned out, I became the Acting Director of the Branch for over a year, and Jill was handed the responsibility of running the Finance Office for most of the 18 month period that we were over there.  This was quite incredible when you think about it since Jill was trained as a nurse, not as a business or finance manager.  But she had an amazing ability to manage the financial accounts, and after only getting about three weeks training, Jill showed that she could organize the system and run that office very efficiently.

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Meanwhile, I too found that a heavy responsibility was placed on me to oversee all the work of the Branch.  The national translation programs continued to make progress, oversight of fellow missionaries and interns was handled, and relationships to national employees and their work with us were maintained.  The work was exhausting, but I am glad that God saw fit to use us to help hold the Branch together during a critical period.

I must admit that the work did take a toll on the family though, as Eric felt that it was best to do his Grade 12 studies back in Canada.  And as this left Glen on his own a lot, then he too wanted to return to Canada, and did so a year later.  Neither decision was done without prayerful agreement in the family.  But the life we had as a family in PNG when they were younger could not be recaptured in our time in Africa.  But that is just the life cycle for us all.  And so my next article will look at Jill and me becoming parents to college-aged children.