Overcoming Discouragement By Our Faith – Pt. 1


“I remember you talking about how you knew, at a relatively young age, that you wanted to be a missionary, and that’s what you ended up doing. You had a big dream, a chosen career path early and it came true. What I don’t always think about or remember is what it took for you to get there. You’ve certainly told some stories of life in those years, at the very least I haven’t always connected them.

Would you be willing to share with us some of your story of the difficulties you had on the journey to PNG, the doubts or discouragements that came up in those years? How did you keep “the big picture” in view while being a pastor, a youth leader, a “regular employee”, a student for years in different cities? How did you deal with having that dream interrupted when you came back to Canada?”

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I received an email today that included this portion that I have placed above.  I felt very honored by some compliments given in it.  It has also caused me to look back and reflect on my life and how things have all turned out.  The person who wrote this is very perceptive, in that he knows it has not been an easy road that has brought me this far.

Now I’m wondering how I can adequately answer the questions he has raised.  It’s true that I believed in my heart from a very early age that I would end up doing mission work.  And many people today who know me, probably also have this picture that I have always been on “the missionary track”.

But that would oversimplify the truth.  More precisely, I had the desire to become a Bible translator from the time that I visited a missionary couple in the mountains of Peru when I was just 16 years old.  But it was 20 years later in 1997, when I was 36, that I finally stepped off the plane in Papua New Guinea and I really began my career as a Bible translator.

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This brings us back to the questions that were asked in the email portion at the top.  What happened during those 20 years?  How did I handle ups and downs and discouragements during those years?  Perhaps I should begin by reflecting upon those early thoughts of “I want to become a Bible translator.”

To be really honest, this thought of becoming a Bible translator was just exactly that – a thought.  Now it was a good thought, and just like a little seed that gets planted in the ground and watered over time, it grew to become a life-dream for me.  But that did not really happen for many years.

The primary focus I had when I was a young person, was the thought “I believe that God wants to use me in full-time mission work.”  Now that’s a BIG idea, and also so very broad that it can include most anything I would do, as long as it was ministry work for Him.  I also felt strongly that this ministry work would be cross-cultural in nature and very likely to be outside of North America.

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In the early years of my adult life, I had many thoughts about what my mission life might look like.  I developed a passion for reading everything that I could find about missionary work.  I read the autobiographies of George Muller, the German missionary who founded orphanages in England, and of Hudson Taylor, the man who opened up China to missions, and of William Carey, the father of modern missions who lived in India and other S.E. Asia countries and brought Bible translation to dozens of language groups there.

I also read about modern mission efforts.  For a while there, I was fascinated by the stories of Christians who were persecuted behind the “Iron Curtain”, the Soviet dominated countries of Eastern Europe.  I kept reading the book “God’s Smuggler”, about a man who they called “Brother Andrew”, and how he would smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union in the trunk of his car.

These ideas captivated me as a young person, and I felt I was ready to give my life for Christ, to serve Him and even to suffer for Him if necessary behind that Iron Curtain.  As I look back now, I smile at my youthful passion that I had back then.  Now, was I wrong about this passion?  Was I supposed to go to Eastern Europe, and then other interests or “cares of life” came along and distracted me?  It’s hard to know now.

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What I can say is that the desire to serve God in full-time work, most likely in overseas cross-cultural settings, was the beacon that burned within my life.  How to flesh that all out was something else altogether.  I will write in my article next week more about what happened in those late teen and early twenties years for me.

So in part, I can answer the question up above, about the “big picture” path of life.  I do believe that there are some basic facts that are true about each one of us and we must discover to see “how God made us”.  From the time I was 12 years old, and pretty much ever since, I have been a traveller by heart and in life itself.  That has made me a good missionary.

What each person must do (that includes you!) is to find out some of the basics of what they enjoy and want to pursue in life.  Are you a “city boy” or a “country girl”?  Do you work well with people, or like to work on your own?  Are you more of a leader, or a good follower?  What motivates you in life?  Answer some of the basics, but make sure you include God in your thought processes.  Because He may have a plan for you that you need to discover yet.  We’ll talk more on this in one week.

Sunset Cross

Dreams & Visions


God Is The God Of The Unknown

We certainly live in interesting times.  Technology, knowledge and scientific advancements are surging ahead in leaps and bounds.  They call this the “Information Age” with computer technology, data streams, wireless everything, etc.  They even have the forerunners of independent robots and they say we are on the verge of creating artificial intelligence.

Yet for all this advancement of technology, there is an upsurge in spirituality and exploration of the paranormal.  Questions are still being asked regarding the “consciousness of man”.  And the search for the meaning of life is bringing along with that the quest to know if there really is life after death.

I wish that I was able to explore all these fascinating topics more in depth, but I recognize my own limitations and that I am not really qualified to speak authoritatively on them.  Except that in a way, being a strong believer in the Bible as the Word of God, I can say some things about the unknown and the “Great Beyond”.  In this article, I want to touch briefly on the topic of “Dreams & Visions”.

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There are a couple things that prompt me to want to write about this topic.  The first is rather humorous, while the second carries more importance.  The humorous side of this has little to do with my Bible translation ministry, except for the lifestyle and the pace that I keep.  I have been so focused on my translation work for these past months, and along with the fatigue of my muscle condition, I find that I am often taking at least two naps each day to get through the day.

That being the case, I have the possibility of having a dream up to three times a day.  Add to that the fact that I seem to travel to some other part of the world every few months and it would be easy to see that I can both literally and metaphysically find myself “somewhere else”.  I can recall a handful of times now in these past few years where I have woken up from a dream and laid on the bed and stared at the walls and around the room for up to 20 minutes and wondered, “Where am I?”

What is really interesting is what has happened since I have seen the movie “Inception” with Leonardo DiCaprio.  In that movie, the characters go inside the dream of someone else, but inside that dream you can go another layer down by going into the dream of a dream character.  I now can say that I have a number of times “woken up” in a dream, and then realized that I am still in a dream and need to go up one or even two more layers of dreams to come back to reality.

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But that brings us to the question of “So what is Reality?”  Is it this world of flesh and blood that we live in?  Most people would say so, unless you are one of those strange philosophers who question everything.  But as I started at the beginning, we are seeing that millions of people that used to limit reality to just this physical world are now starting to ask about spiritual realities, and the question of life beyond death.

What makes it so difficult for us is that there is no one who has died, crossed the boundary from this life to next, and come back to tell us about it.  (Except that as Christians we hold to the belief that Jesus was in fact raised back from the dead and validated His claim to being the Son of God.)  But let us ask the question of whether anyone can “see” across that boundary line and obtain knowledge of the unknown and the spiritual.

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There are countless numbers of people who “claim” to be psychics and can reach the spiritual realm.  The Bible claims that there are people who can do this in the name of God.  They are called prophets.  What is the difference between a prophet of God and a psychic or “Medium” as we would call them? It’s very simple.  Deuteronomy 18:20-22 states that if someone makes a prophecy (or prediction) and it does not happen, then that person was not a true prophet.  In other words, a true prophet of God gets their predictions right 100% of the time.

So now on a more serious note, why am I bringing up this topic right now?  It is because I am doing my preparation work on the book of Daniel so that I can do the consultant check on the translation of it into a PNG language next week.  And Daniel is really loaded with prophetic visions.  In more than one occasion, when the Babylonian king had an alarming dream or vision, none of the “soothsayers, magicians or astrologers” was able to interpret the dream or vision.

Not so with Daniel.  He is able to interpret correctly every time whatever the message or meaning was of the vision that God had sent to the king.  What I find most interesting is the response that Daniel gives when the king asks him if he could interpret his dream for him.  In Daniel 2:27-28 he says:

“Your Majesty, there is no wizard, magician, fortuneteller, or astrologer who can tell you that.  But there is a God in heaven, who reveals mysteries.”

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So what is my point in this article?  Dreams can be fascinating; visions and prophetic utterances are real and have happened and can happen to people.  But we must not look to human resources or human reasoning to understand what they are all about.  If we really want to reach out to the spiritual realm and understand it, we must look to God for this kind of help.  Anything else is either false or demonic.  There are no other options.