God’s Rainbow Colored Children

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God’s Rainbow Colored Children

[Editor’s Note: The story below was written in 2010 by one of our missionaries who works with Pioneer Bible Translators while living and working in an unstable area in North Africa.]

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“A few months ago, before the rains had graced us with their presence, we took our 500 liter tank to a nearby borehole one morning to fill up with water. While my husband worked the hose and pump, I sat in the shade across the road and chatted with a handful of curious neighborhood kids who had gathered around. It didn’t take long for their initial shyness to wear off and I was soon engaged in an Arabic ver-sion of 20 Questions.

About half a dozen six-year olds jumped on the opportunity to ask me everything they had ever wondered about ‘khawajas’ (referring to us as western white people). Though some questions were hilarious (“Does your husband sleep in that little car?”) others were more endearing. “Where is your baby?” they asked. “I don’t have a baby.” I replied.

They pondered the plausibility of this response for a moment then one piped up. “Well, when you do have babies, do you want black ones like me or red ones like you?” That afternoon I stifled laughter and truthfully told them I would be happy with whatever kind of baby God chooses to give us – red, yellow, black or white.”

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“Today I am still smiling as I wonder about the colors God is knitting together inside of me now. We were so honored and thankful to find out we are pregnant a few weeks ago. We have been praying for God’s grace and wisdom in this matter for many months now and we feel like He has answered our prayers. We are so excited about the many ways we believe this new life will prove to be such a rich blessing. We are eager to learn more about unconditional love and to grow in the knowledge “that life is simple after all”, as one wise friend described parenthood.

We are looking forward to yet another reason to learn to trust more fully and freely in God. We are excited to see how a baby will draw us into more authentic relationships with parents and families here in North Africa. And we are joyfully anticipating meeting this new person and witnessing the incredible ways he or she will be shaped by the experiences, peoples and languages of this place over the years to come.

Our deep hope is that this pregnancy will be a testimony to the faithfulness of God and bring Him great glory in the months and years ahead. We are not without trepidation as we enter unknown territory yet again, but we are filled with peace and the memories of God’s faithfulness demonstrated over and over again in our lives. Please join us in prayer throughout the months ahead as we anticipate the arrival of the newest member of our team.”

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In the following year, on April 16, this couple was blessed by God to have a beautiful baby girl born to them while living in East Africa.  The unstable elements of North Africa exploded wide open which resulted in many people, including all of our PBT missionaries, needing to evacuate to another country in Africa.  No doubt there was sorrow in having to leave newly made friends, and also some fear as battles raged closer to where they lived.  But for this couple, there was joy at the end as they welcomed their newborn daughter into their lives.

Thankfully, it has not been very often that our missionary families have had to evacuate their homes and flee out of country due to civil unrest or outbreaks of violence.  One of the questions that many people have asked our family has been, “Was it safe for you to live by yourselves in that remote village in Papua New Guinea?”  We quickly responded that we always felt safe.  And whenever there was even the hint of trouble coming our way, we would have some of our men from the village patrol around our house throughout the night to make sure no harm ever came to us.

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What caught my attention in the story told above was the comment from the one child about how there are some babies who are “black” and some are “red”.  The children see there is a difference in the color of the skin, but in reality, they do not see any difference between the actual person of the child, they are all babies sent by the hand of God into our lives.

I have a couple of cute stories to tell which point out how wonderfully innocent children can be in their perspectives, and also how wonderfully creative our God is in how He has made us all.  One day in the village we asked our older son to go get our younger son who was playing at the end of the grass airstrip.  There were a bunch of kids playing down there, and so our son said, “How can I tell which one is Glen?”  We laughed as we pointed and told him, “Glen is the one with blond hair!”

The other cute story comes from another missionary family who were back home in the States to visit family, friends and churches.  They brought out photo albums of their time in Papua New Guinea.  When the young boy of this family showed pictures of his friends to others (some Papuan and some American) he would say, “Now these are my chocolate friends, and these are my vanilla friends.”  God bless our children who have such love and acceptance of others, no matter where they were originally born.

God Promises All Things Work For Good – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 17

If I were to ask you the question, “What is it that most concerns you?”, I’m positive that your answer would fall into at least one of these categories:

  • the economy, and specifically your job, or lack of a job, personal finances and debt
  • your health, involving fitness, sickness, dieting, medical coverage and more
  • your relationships,  spouse, children, dating partner, parents, or combination of them
  • your possessions, like how to get them, safeguard them, and upgrade them
  • state of the world, including war, poverty, crime, pollution, the ecology, etc.
  • deep questions, like is there a God, what’s life all about, what happens when we die

There are probably other categories that I could add to this list, but I think these six would cover the majority of concerns that most people think about and are anxious about.  Whatever it is that we might be worried about, there is one common element that weaves its way through all of these areas of life.  Namely this: uncertainty.  None of us can or ever will know what will happen in the future, and that can lead us to frustration and anxiety.

For many months now, I have been writing articles on the topics that Max Lucado has included in his book “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  In chapter nine, Lucado does an excellent job of helping us to realize that even though we often fail to understand what is happening in our lives and why they are happening to us, that God is still in control of the situation and is at work all the time to bring good out of the situation.

On page 137, Lucado writes this:

We know…. There are so many things we do not know.  We do not know if the economy will dip or if our team will win.  We do not know what our spouse is thinking or how our kids will turn out.  We don’t even know “what we ought to pray for” (Romans 8:26).  But according to Paul (in Romans 8:28), we can be absolutely certain about four things.

Lucado goes on to state what those four things are, and I will summarize what he has to say to us.  Let me quote Romans 8:28 here so you have the context in front of you.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  The first thing we know is that “God is at work…”  This immediately counters two negative positions, the idea that there is no God (Atheism), and the idea that while He may have created the world, He is no longer involved with it (which is called Deism).

No, God is very much at work in our world.  And the good news is that “God is at work for our good…”  This will counter a number of negative ideas about the character of God.  Some people think God is a punishing god, sitting up in heaven with a big stick and just waiting for us to step out of line at which point He will whack us.  Neither is God an ambivalent god who doesn’t care about what happens in our lives.  But He also isn’t a bigger version of Santa Claus who panders to our every wish and whim.  Rather, God is actively seeking to do that which is going to be for our very best, helping us where we most need help.

     

The third thing that Romans 8:28 tells us is that “God is working for the good of those who love Him…”    I will repeat what I said above, that God is not a punishing god.  But on the other hand, God is definitely seeking to bless and reward those people who have committed their lives to Him, to live in obedient service and worship to Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.  That does put the responsibility upon us to be actively seeking to please our God.  And the neat thing about God and His blessings is that as we share the blessings that God gives to us with others, the more that He ends up blessings us.  When we become a conduit of His love, then we end up experiencing even more of His grace and love.  Isn’t that fantastic!!!

Finally, the last thing, and perhaps the most important thing, is that “God is at work in all things…”  If we truly believe this, then we can face any circumstance or situation in life.  When things are just clicking along and everything seems to be falling into place, we can thank our God who is actively bringing about these wonderful blessings in our lives.  But then when things are not going well, even in the most challenging moments of life, we can be confident that God will do all He can to bring good out of that situation, no matter how terrible it might be.

     

As many of my readers already know, our family has faced many difficult and trying experiences in life.  I think of all the categories I listed above, I believe that critical health challenges are the hardest to face as those are usually the most out of our control events.  In our immediate family then, from 2002 – 2005, our older son went through three years of chemotherapy to battle against the leukemia in his body.  Then, from 2008 until the present, I have battled with my genetically inherited muscle disease that has limited my mobility and has caused extreme levels of pain.

And yet, for both me and my son, we have seen God’s hand upon our lives in special and powerful ways that we would never have experienced had we remained in good health.  And for both of us, who have remained strong in our faith in God, we have seen our lives and testimonies touch countless numbers of other people.  And in many ways, this has come about because we believe the promise within Romans 8:28, “that is all things, God works for the good to those who love Him.

     

* [God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

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A Response to Max Lucado’s “Open Doors” – Pt. 1

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A few weeks ago, I wrote two articles that dealt with the topic “God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors.”  These articles were based off of chapter eight of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raised some interesting points and asked some good questions.  I would like to paste his comment and try to give a good response to him.

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“I have not read Max Lucado’s book so my thoughts are incomplete. However I want to address one aspect of what you are saying.  It is common for people, particularly Christians to say, “if its of God, then the door will be open, if it’s not then the door will be closed”.  This all sounds fine, but it lacks scriptural evidence and it also ignores the same activities of Satan. It may sometimes be true, but we first need to actually hear from God before assuming such a fact.

In the book of Proverbs, the door of the harlot was constantly open with direct invites to any young man on the street. Is it therefore of God?  On the other hand, the door into the promised land was closed off from the Israelites by the threat of the giants who were not about to relinquish power. Was it therefore NOT the will of God?

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Door open, door closed are not paths we can assume are God’s. They may confirm a path -alongside other indicators, but only a fool would blindly assume.  The problem with just letting your path be defined by open or shut doors is that it absolves a believer from listening and discerning the voice of God. It avoids relationship.

Many years ago I was asked to lead an informal discussion group in a church on the character of God. The group was very reluctant to contribute, but I encouraged them by asking appropriate questions around the circle about what they thought the character of God was like. When we had finished, to their horror, I congratulated them on accurately defining the character of Allah, not God!

“Inshallah, It is the will of God” might well be the cry of much of the church!”

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At first glance, what our friend has written may sound like he is very antagonistic towards the Church and Christianity.  He does certainly end with a couple of shocking and provocative thoughts.  But I would like to look more carefully at what this man has said.  I believe that he has hit upon some very important points that we need to pay attention to lest our faith be not grounded properly upon the truths found in Scripture.

The first thing we need to do when seeking truth is to check out in the Bible if God’s Word has something to say on the topic.  And we do in fact find the words and the concept of this in a number of biblical passages.  Let me list a few here:

Matthew 7:7-8  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Acts 14:27  “On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. ”

1 Corinthians 16:8  “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

Colossians 4:3  “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

Probably the most well-known passage that deals with this idea of God opening and closing doors as a means of giving guidance to His people can be found in Acts chapter 16, where Paul desired to preach the Gospel throughout Asia, but God’s Spirit intervened in some way to close that pathway and opened one up for him to take the Gospel to Europe.  Read that account here:

6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.

9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.

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From these verses above, we can truthfully say that God does interact with His people and guide them in some supernatural way to show that one course of direction may not be what He wants us to do, and that another course of action may in fact be what He wants us to do.  But let us still be very cautious about throwing these phrases around so quickly, “God opend the door for me….” or “God closed the door for me….”

I agree very much with my friend who wrote above that we can so flippantly state that God is the Agent behind an event in our lives, when there can be a number of other causes behind the circumstances of our lives.  I have much more to say on this, but I will write a further article on this topic next week.

God’s Faithfulness In This Ministry

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God Is Truly Blessing Our Mission

For 17 years, I have had the privilege to be a part of a mission group called Pioneer Bible Translators, whose goal is to bring the translated Word of God to all the Bible-less people groups of the world .  In 2007, the leadership of PBT believed that the only way to get the task of Bible translation done within this next generation was to also believe that God would provide the workers to join PBT and many other mission agencies doing this work.  Listen to what a colleague of mine shared in 2010, halfway through our 6-year goal to double the number of our career missionary members.

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Dear friends,

I just want to give you a snapshot of God’s faithfulness since our last prayer e-mail.  Please keep praying!  God is doing AMAZING things!!!!

– For over a year now, we have been asking God to provide teachers for our missionary families.  I am excited to tell you that God answered this prayer by providing 3 teachers in West Africa and another one for a family in North Eurasia.  We still have an urgent need in the southern part of North Eurasia and would like to have 2 more in Africa.  Please keep praying with persistence!

– In our last update, we asked you to pray that our interns would be a blessing to the missionaries and people God put before them.  One of our interns got to go on a survey trip to a people group of 100,000 speakers in West Africa (where there isn’t a single missionary working amongst this language group).  He walked up to a group of elderly men in the village and began to talk with them.  He asked them if they would like to have the Bible in their language.  Two of the old men (from a neighboring religion) began to well up with tears.  One of the elderly men said, “It would be good for you to come, but it would be even better if you left something that will remain.”  This intern told us that he feels led to become a Bible Translator.

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– We recently announced 9 more missionary recruits for PBT (which makes 25 for the year so far).  In the next 6 weeks, we anticipate another 16 people will be announced.  These are people God has brought to us through your prayers and support.  Wow!

– From the time I began to hear about Pioneer Bible Translators in 2004, I heard prayers asking for individuals to go to Southeast Asia. It has long been said that this could easily be our largest branch if God began to mobilize missionaries in this direction.  However, in my time with PBT I have never seen anyone make a commitment to go to this region.  This week, two families told me that they feel God leading them to join this project!

– I received an e-mail this week from a couple in South Asia who are currently working in a language group of 13,000 speakers where 100% of the people are Buddhist.  This family believes God is leading them to join PBT to do translation work.  As they explained their work and I talked with our president, we all came to the consensus “this is why PBT exists”.  God has brought us in this time in history to go to the Bible-less and church-less people.

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– Our interns made it home safely.  Over the last two weeks, we have had the joy of listening to their stories of what God taught them and the prayers they have for the future.  God used this summer to help confirm for some of them that this is where they should be.  God used the summer for others to give them more data about what they could do in the Kingdom.  We are praying for God to keep speaking and revealing Himself to them.

– I received an application from a gentleman who was on PBT’s first internship team…in 1990.  Over the last 20 years, God has prepared him and given him the training he needed to NOW become a missionary with PBT.  God’s timing is impeccable.

– Last but certainly not least, I had the joy of holding the newly printed Susu New Testament in my hand today.  This translation is the culmination of 20 years of blood, sweat and tears from one of our translators in West Africa.  Through God’s grace, this people can no longer be called Bible-less

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Thank you for praying, giving sacrificially and for believing that every child of God is worthy of hearing about Jesus in the language they understand best.

Until They All Have Heard.

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Last week I had the privilege to help teach a one-week intensive introductory course to Bible translation and the work of PBT.  There were sixteen students who attended this course, and already almost half the class has started the application process to become members of PBT. It is very likely that we will not only reach our goal of doubling the size of PBT, but will surpass the goal this year.

There is no doubt that God has His hand in this, and we praise Him for this.  I share this all with you so you too can rejoice in what God is doing in the world.  But also so that you can see that God answers these kinds of bold prayers.  My request to you is that you do not stop praying, for there is surely still much to do for God in the world.

God Allows My Disease To Strike

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Who Am I?  Part 25

In the last article about my life journey, I shared how I felt about becoming trained to be a Bible Translation Consultant.  (Read it here.)  By the time I had finished my training, I truly felt that I had found my real calling in life.  Everything else that had happened previously in my life all seems to make sense now.  All the education, the traveling, the mission experiences, being a deep thinker and having an analytical mind.  All of this would be useful experiences and skills to draw upon to help me be a good consultant.

And then my muscle disease hit.  And I mean this quite literally, for within days of returning from a consultant trip to Papua New Guinea, I was knocked off my feet and could barely walk across my living room floor.  When I first got back from PNG and started having aches and pains in my hips, I figured that I had just over worked myself.  It had been a hectic six weeks of work, with running through airports both going and coming, and I had been doing 12 – 14 hours of language work in the last week I was there in PNG.

But the aches and pain spread through most of my lower body, as well as weakened my arms and chest, to the point that I had to grab on to walls, chairs, ledges or anything there was to make my way slowly across the living room floor area.  Obviously all of us were very concerned and wondered what was wrong with me.  But I think the greater shock to us was just how rapidly my body deteriorated.  In just six weeks, I went from being a globe-trotter to distant countries, to being crippled up in my own home.

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Within three weeks of coming home from PNG, I was at my doctor’s office and asking him to help find out the cause of these increased aches and pains.  This led to the normal blood tests and screening for any unusual tropical disease.  But they showed nothing unusual.  And the symptoms got worse.  This led me to be seen by a rheumatologist and also my GP ordered for me to have a variety of deep x-rays and bone scans to be done.  Nothing was discovered, and my symptoms got worse.

Then I saw a neurologist.  He quickly made the assessment that I was not facing a neurological disorder, but rather a muscular disorder, and specifically a mitochondrial disease.  What’s most interesting about this doctor is that he just happened to be the same neurologist who had seen my sister 30 years prior to seeing me.  He had diagnosed my sister as having a mitochondrial myopathy back then, and now believed that the disease which had led to my sister’s death at age 32 was now manifesting itself in me.

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And it was at that moment that I first went into major denial.  I said to myself, “There’s no way I can have the same debilitating disease that my sister had!”  In fact, back in the 70’s, after having done muscle biopsies on Lorna, then my mom, and even my grandmother, they saw there was something wrong and which was getting progressively worse each generation.  But they assured us all back then that this was a female disease only.  So there was no concern or thought that I or my brothers would be affected by the disease.

Well, they know better now.  While it is still true that this mitochondrial myopathy is female linked, they now know that a mother can pass on the disease to all of her children, and her daughter will most likely pass it on to her children.  So that means that all of my mother’s sons (me and my two brothers) can receive what they found, a mutation on the DNA of our mitochondria, but we should not be able to pass it on to our sons.  I pray that is true, since Jill and I have two sons.

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So how did this all affect me and my translation ministry?  Well, to be honest, it just about devastated me emotionally.  And it pretty much put a screeching halt on many of our ministry plans.  I cancelled one trip I had planned to go on to Africa for a month to help teach nationals how to become Bible translators.  I did go ahead along with Jill in the fall of ’08 to PNG for a short 4 week trip to check some Scriptures.  We went over to PNG still under a cloud of uncertainty of what the disease was and did not get my full diagnosis until after the trip.

The more important question in this whole situation was “Where was God in all of this?”  Some people automatically thought it was terrible that I would be struck down with this in the prime of my life and what looked like the highest peak of my missionary career.  But you know, I don’t ever remember asking God the question of “Why me Lord?”  I’ve come to learn long ago that just because we are Christians does not mean we are immune to the catastrophes and the ailments that go along with being a part of this fallen world.

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Actually, I was able to see God’s hand was upon me in a positive way when I stepped back to look at things.  First, we were back in Canada when the disease struck.  It would have been terrible if it had hit me while we were in Africa the year before.  Secondly, we found out that this disease usually shows up in puberty.  So God allowed me to have 48 good years before it hit.  And finally, Calgary just happens to have one of the best geneticists in the world who diagnosed me and is trying all he can do to help me.

This is part one of my “disease story”.  Come back in two weeks to read part two and see what great things have occurred since God first allowed this disease to surface and affect me.  There is a lot of good news to come.

God And Me Through The Years

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The Plinky Question for this week is:
“Write one thought or sentence that summarizes each year of your life.”

This idea for an aricle caught my attention. I am now 50 years old, which seems to me to be a good place at which I could look back and survey the years that I’ve lived. I think this could be quite interesting, so let’s have a go at this and see what we come up with. What I will try to do is summarize my life in five-year blocks. I hope you also find this interesting.

Infancy

  • 1960: “It’s a boy!”  (Norman Craig Weatherhead enters the world.)
  • 1961:  Not much to say. (But wait until I become a linguist.)
  • 1962: “Guess what Mom? I can sink.”  (The day a lifeguard rescued me.)
  • 1963:  Little boys and puppy dog tails.  (The question was, who was chasing whom?)
  • 1964:  Droopy drawers and hanging out doors.  (Ask my mom about that one.)
  • 1965:  An early perfectionist.  (20 minutes to cut out the picture in kindergarten.)

Childhood

  • 1966: “I love reading!”  (Me, my Mom, and the Principal. Read the story here.)
  • 1967:  Canada becomes independent. (I rolled my centennial penny all the way home.)
  • 1968:  Sent home with a note.  (“You can’t tackle girls outside school and kiss them?”)
  • 1969:  Standing in the corner.  (“You mean I can’t speak out in class when I want to?”)
  • 1970:  Chased by bullies.  (Aha, that’s why I became a long-distance runner.)

Early Teen Years

  • 1971:  Grade Sixers Rule!  (It’s nice to start the school year at the top of the school.)
  • 1972:  God becomes real. (Read here how God first touched my life.)
  • 1973:  Born-again.  (I commit my life to Christ and am baptized.)
  • 1974:  Special leaders.  (Thank God for Youth Group leaders who cared about me.)
  • 1975:  Love for math.  (Doing 10th grade algebra in my 9th grade math class.)

Later Teen Years

  • 1976:  Love for running.  (All the way to Calgary city finals in the 800 m race.)
  • 1977:  Jesus and me in the Navy. (Read about my faith under fire in this story.)
  • 1978:  A high school grad.  (With honors and scholarships to boot.)
  • 1979:  Up the Amazon.  (My first short term mission with Teen Missions Intl.)
  • 1980:  Full-time missionary.  (18 wonderful/challenging months with Teen Missions.)

Young Adult

  • 1981:  Bible college begins.  (Alberta Bible College – what a great school!)
  • 1982:  Learning pastoral ministry. (Youth group leader and church intern. Crazy!!)
  • 1983:  The famous “Sandwich”.  (How I started dating Jill.  I even made the bread.)
  • 1984:  I graduate, Grandma dies, Jill and I get married.  (What a week!)
  • 1985:  Seminary in subzero.  (Canadian Theological Seminary in Saskatchewan.)

Early Married Years

  • 1986:  Summer missions with Jill.  (Last year Dominican Republic, now Mexico.)
  • 1987:  Celebrate with Jill. (Jill gets her nursing diploma and sings on stage.)
  • 1988:  Church  planter?  (A valiant effort, but a “dry well” in Texas.)
  • 1989:  Our bundle of joy.  (Eric is born. Bring on those diapers!)
  • 1990:  Pain in the offering.  (Not wanted at a church.)

Finding Direction

  • 1991: “Is he the father?”  (Glen is born – 9 lbs. 14 oz. and 23 3/4 inches long.)
  • 1992:  Ministry in the Prairies. (God uses a city boy in a country church.)
  • 1993:  God humbles me.  (Read the full story here.)
  • 1994:  Love for biblical languages.  (Hooray for Lincoln Christian Seminary.)
  • 1995:  Training to be a Bible translator.  (Studying linguistics in Dallas.)

Translation Years

  • 1996:  Churches support our ministry.  (Getting ready and set to go to the field.)
  • 1997: “But it’s not the swamps!”  (We moved to a small village in PNG.)
  • 1998:  An official alphabet.  (The first thing published in the Nend language.)
  • 1999:  Death in the family.  (My father dies; we visit family and supporting churches.)
  • 2000: Hard at work.  (Translation on the Gospel of Mark goes forward.)

Difficult Years

  • 2001:  Bible school in the Bush.  (Teaching Genesis to Revelation in the village.)
  • 2002:  The Diagnosis. (Eric has leukemia and we return to Canada.)
  • 2003:  Chemotherapy and photo ops.  (Eric chosen as cancer’s Spokes Kid.)
  • 2004:  A good year.  (Teaching at Western Christian College.)
  • 2005:  Management training.  (Preparing to serve in East Africa.)

Transition Years

  • 2006:  Family choices.  (Eric returns to Canada for Gr. 12; three of us stay in Africa.)
  • 2007:  Back to Canada. (We help the boys with college and getting ready for life.)
  • 2008:  Another diagnosis!  (A muscle disease hits Norm and walking gets tough.)
  • 2009:  Slowly and carefully.  (Jill and I take one short mission trip to PNG.)
  • 2010:  Finding solutions.  (Wheelchairs, walkers, and recliners allow me to do work.)
  • 2011:  A step of faith.  (Norm lives in Dallas for 4 months doing translation work.)

And so there you have it folks, my entire life in one page. I found it quite interesting to think back over all the years and consider what the highlights were for each of those years. As you can see, God or ministry work (either in North America or in overseas countries) was a big part of many of these years. Of course there have been some discouraging times and difficult times. But for the most part, I can just about say that I found something positive in each and every year.

Well, I hope that you enjoyed this overview of my life. Perhaps you may find doing something like this, writing out the summary of your life year-by-year, may turn out to be just as interesting and valuable to you as it was to me doing my own life history. In some ways, I think it comes down to our basic outlook and attitude in life. For me, I try to live by these words: “Giving honor and glory to God in all that I do.”

Remembering The Works of God

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What Are You Remembering?

Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people—where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them… Isaiah 63:11

“Recalled” is a powerful word. Especially in this situation, the recollection of what God had done in the past led to a revival among the Lord’s people. It is so easy to forget the amazing works of God. That’s never more true than when we get caught up in our own desires and ways. Forging ahead in our self-centeredness and sin, we forget all God has done in the past. So it was with the nation of Judah in Isaiah’s day.

Now, however, God stepped in to punish their sin. Disaster ruled the day. The presence of God seemed far away. Sin didn’t seem so fun. Bit by bit, they began to remember that things used to be different. There was a time when God had led them through the godly leadership of Moses. There was a time when the Holy Spirit was present and made a real difference in their lives as individuals and as a nation.

Remembering past moves of God can be powerful. It can stir us to repentance and longing for a renewed sense of the presence of God. What are you remembering today?

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Father, thank You for the gift of memory, and for stories that have been passed down through the generations about the ways You have moved in the midst of Your people. Thank You for stories of revival from the Great Awakening in the United States and beyond. Lord, would You use those stories to stir within our hearts a desire for similar awakenings? Help us, Lord, to remind each other of Your work in days past, and of our great need today. May we recall those things that You would have us meditate on and pray over.

–adapted from HeartCry for Revival devotional 2011 by David Butts, author of Asleep in the Land of Nod (Thirty Days of Prayer Toward Awakening the Church)

The devotional thought above comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

Posted: 16 July 2011

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I must agree with my friend, David Butts.  It is so easy to get all wrapped up in the events and the affairs of our daily lives that we forget about God.  It seems to me that the older I am getting, the more complicated my life has become, and the more distant God seems to be from me at times.  But of course, the real truth is that God has not moved away from me, as much as I have moved away from God.

The second thing that I agree with is that it is good to remember.  In fact, as we get older, our lives get replayed more and more in our minds and in our conversations.  We often say, “Do you remember….”  Our lives are like a super long highway.  It stretches from a dim past (our infancy) to a distant future (when our life will reach an end) and it contains innumerable check points or posts that mark interesting and significant events.  The closer we are to the end of our road, the more memory signposts that have been erected.

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Many of these signposts mark events that we have accomplished or experienced by ourselves.  Such as the day we hit a home run in our neighborhood ball game, or when we graduated from high school, or we experienced our first kiss, or had an employer say they were proud of our work.  But there are also many signposts that have been planted in our lives by the very hand of God Himself.

My life was spared when I didn’t drown as an infant, or when I landed on a flat spot after falling off a mountain cliff, and when I was held up at knife point by a mugger.  And God spoke to me through a song at a Youth Conference and began melting my heart.  He smiled on me and filled me with His Spirit when I was baptized.  And he empowered me to fight off the demon within a prostitute who stood in my way, and used me to cast out an evil spirit from someone who was demon-possessed.

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As I remember these kinds of incredible experiences, I do realize that many of these events took place while I was much younger, in my teens up through age 30ish.  Now I am over 50, and I feel more tired and worn out some days, and it is not just because of my muscle disease.  Life simply seems to wear us all down.

And yet, I think we should try to resist this.  Has God changed?  No, of course not.  It is said of Jesus, who is just as much God as the Father is, that He does not change; He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8).  Therefore, we should expect that the God who impressed us with His holiness, amazed us with His acts of power, and infused us with such joy and His overwhelming love when we were young ought to still be able to do that in us today when we are much older.

And for the most part, I think I am still in that same space.  I love to think back and remember what it was like stepping out in faith and going for the first times as a young missionary to different countries of the world.  I will soon be 51, and to be honest, I still get excited when I tell people that I am about to head out on another mission trip somewhere.  I’m getting older in body, but am still that small child who in faith has trusted God so many times to take care of me.  I now extend that to be me and my family.  And you know what?  I am sure that I won’t be disappointed.

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God Directs the Feet of a Missionary

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James and Lisa serve in West Africa as missionaries with Pioneer Bible Translators. In a newsletter written April 16, 2011, James shares an exciting story about how they have experienced God at work in West Africa. He writes:

I’d been feeling for some time that God wanted me to go visit a certain town a few hours north of us. I knew there are people there who don’t like what we do, and to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to meeting them. Also, I thought a certain thing needed to happen before I went, and as it hadn’t happened I felt OKAY waiting.

Meanwhile, I’d been wanting to get back up to the town where we prayed for all the mute people a couple of months ago. I wanted to get some Scripture up there and was pretty sure they’d let me sell some in their weekly market.

So yesterday, Thursday, Lisa, [our daughter] Laura, and I went to sell. Normally, selling 40 or 50 pieces of Scripture at a market is considered a pretty good day, but this was the first time we’d done it on our own and for some reason I packed several times that much.

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Things are a little different here. You have to ask official permission to do things like this. I decided to start at the top, by stopping at the regional capital and asking the governor. He’s not usually there, but he was this time. He was OKAY with us going, but informed us the weekly market in the town to which we were heading wasn’t on Thursdays. It was on Sundays. How embarrassing. I’d gotten the market days mixed up!

So there I was, way up there with a carload of Scripture and no market! I asked him if there was a town in his jurisdiction that held their market on Thursday. It turns out the only one was – you guessed it – in the town I’d been putting off visiting. So off we went, now in a new direction, on what you might call a “cold call.” We’d never been there and didn’t know anybody there. But we had that excited-but-slightly-creeped-out feeling that God was putting something together in which we were about to play a part, and we were trying hard to convince ourselves that we felt good about it.

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We found the road and picked up a hitchhiker on his way to the market. When we got there he took us to the local leaders, as we needed their permission too. But things didn’t go really well at first. They wanted to see what we would be selling before they gave permission, and even afterward they didn’t seem very enthusiastic and I wasn’t sure they were going to let us sell.

Then one of the leaders who’d been quiet spoke up. Six years ago while working in another town, he’d met a white guy who carried books from town to town. He asked if I knew him. Of course I did! It was my trekking partner! That changed everything. Because of his testimony regarding the character of my friend, they let us sell.

There were probably two thousand people at this market, and I think every one of them came by to watch us set up and find out why we were there. Often in markets like this people are so afraid of what others might think that only the very bravest will approach our table. But not this time. As soon as we explained that we’d brought books of God translated into their language, things got crazy. We were surrounded by a crowd of people four to five deep the whole time we were there!

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We sold so much Scripture so fast we literally couldn’t keep track of it. With our still feeble language skills, we couldn’t have given the explanations, answered the questions, and done the transactions quickly enough to keep up, but no problem. God took care of that. Three older men came by (one was even in uniform!) and did crowd control for us, strategically positioning themselves around the table.

Before long they too were selling for us, carefully making sure we witnessed each sale, and telling people what the different books were. It was all we could do to keep the money off the table and scripture on it…. As we drove out of town, I saw a man reading some Scripture he’d just bought to six or seven others.

On the way home we tried to figure out how much we’d sold. Our best estimation was that we’d sold between 350 and 400 books! (I’ll bring more next time.) We got home just as our friends here were gathering for our mid-week prayer meeting. What a treat it was to report what God had done: how He’d used my fumbling of dates to get us up there in the first place; how He’d arranged to have the governor turn us in a different direction en route; how He’d arranged to have someone at the leaders’ meeting who knew my friend; how He’d sent the three older guys to help us; and most of all, how He put hundreds of pieces of Scripture in the hands of people for the very first time, and all of it in their own language.

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After an amazing story like this, what can we say except “Praise God.”

  • Praise God for how He worked in ways far beyond what James and Lisa thought or imagined.
  • Praise God for how He got a reluctant missionary to the very place where He had prepared the people to eagerly receive portions of Scripture in their language. Pray that much spiritual fruit will result in the lives of all those who are now reading the truth of God’s Word for the first time.
  • Pray for God to abundantly bless this family in their continued ministry for Him. Pray for Him to protect them from burnout as the stresses of living in such a remote area are many.
  • Pray for all PBT missionaries to be open and obedient to God’s leading, even when it seems a little scary to do so.

We Need to P.U.S.H. With God

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“I Don’t Understand, God.”

To be really honest, there are times when I have felt that I am not getting anywhere in life, or in my vocational career as a Bible translator.  It has seemed like many times, we just get moved and settled down into a given location and are at a specific level of my vocation, and then we are uprooted and have to start all over again.

I can say this quite literally, seeing as Jill and I have been married for 27 years now, and in that time we have moved 55 times to live in another residence.  We have lived in 7 Provinces of Canada, 2 States in the USA (multiple times in each), and at least 7 countries from the Americas, to the Pacific Islands and Australia, to Africa.  We have lost count of how many times we have either sold all our belongings to go live somewhere else, or lost our belongings due to sudden moves across the world.

Even now, we can feel discouraged as we look at what is happening.  God did provide a lovely 3 level condo for us in 2008.  A month after we moved in, my symptoms hit and living in the 3 level home became very challenging for me.  So we were led back to buy a simple 1 level condo right across from the hospital where Jill works.  But we need to be released from the first mortgage, and it looks like it would be at quite a loss for us.

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And now God is asking me to move to Dallas in August up through mid-December and Jill will stay back here in Calgary.  We have plans of getting together once or twice in those four months, and we have a number of ways to phone or Skype each other for free so we can talk to each other every day if we want to.  But that does not mean it is going to be easy to do this.

And yet, we see God’s hand in all of these matters.  We fail to understand His will behind some of these things.  But we believe that He orchestrates the important matters of our lives, and our response is to simply obey.  And my optimism and my hope tells me that later on, one day we will look back and be able to see what it was all about.  But for right now, we do what we believe He tells us to do, and leave the whys and the wherefores into His hands.

A friend sent me this recently and I believe that not only does it contain some real wisdom, but even while I was reading it, I saw God use it to minister to me in my current life situation.  See if it might also be speaking directly to you at where you are at.

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P.U.S.H. – and God appeared.

The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. So, this the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all of his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

Since the man was showing discouragement, the Adversary (Satan) decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the weary mind: “You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t moved.” Thus, he gave the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man. Satan said, “Why kill yourself over this? Just put in your time, giving just the minimum effort; and that will be good enough.”

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That’s what the weary man planned to do, but decided to make it a matter of prayer and to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.  “Lord,” he said, “I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

The Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all of your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so?

Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewy and brown; your hands are callused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. True, you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. That you have done. Now I, my friend, will move the rock.”

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At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He wants, when actually what God wants is just a simple obedience and faith in Him. By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still God who moves mountains.

When everything seems to go wrong… just P.U.S.H.!

When the job gets you down… just P.U.S.H.!

When people don’t react the way you think they should… just P.U.S.H!

When your money is “gone” and the bills are due… just P.U.S.H!

When people just don’t understand you… just P.U.S.H.

P= Pray

U= Until

S= Something

H= Happens

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God’s Way In God’s Time

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God Will Provide For You

This article continues our study on the book, “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“.  We will look at part of chapter 6 entitled “Trust God to Meet Your Needs” right now, and then we will finish the chapter in two weeks from now.  For those who have been asking about how to get a copy of this book, please read my article “Good Christian Resources” and it will lead you to a site to help you.

To appreciate what Mark Atteberry says in his #6 Strategy, trusting God to meet our needs, we must remember two things.  First of all, Atteberry is talking in his book to people who are experiencing very difficult trials in life.  They have found themselves walking on a hard-road journey.  It is at this point that some people find it most difficult to trust God, believing that He has abandoned them and will not help.

Secondly, Atteberry has chosen the history of the children of Israel and their 40 year period of wilderness wanderings as the key biblical backdrop to unearth many spiritual principles for people to learn how to go though difficult periods in their lives.  I hope that we will never rebel like they did and so end up under the disciplining hand of God, but at the same time, learning from their experiences will be helpful to us when we do experience tough times.  That being said, let’s see what we learn from chapter six, and from the Bible.

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Exodus 16:14 – 18 says:

When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.  This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’”

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.  And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.

Atteberry suggests three main truths that we learn about how God takes care of His people. First of all with regards to the daily provision of this manna, the “bread from Heaven”, he says, “The manna was never too early and never too late.”  When we look ahead into verse 21, it says that the manna came with the dew every morning, but then melted away with the rising of the sun.  God knew that the people would be hungry every day, and He made sure that the provision of food was there exactly when the people needed it.

This may be one of the hardest lessons for believers to truly learn.  Namely, that we cannot rush God to provide something for us before we actually need it.  And also that we should not worry about the idea that we will not have what we need when the time arrives, like an unexpected bill for something.  No, God always seems to come through in the eleventh hour.  And that is because He waits until the right time, never early, but never late.

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The second principle that Atteberry points out to us in this passage is “the manna was never too much and never too little“.  Each person was able to gather sufficient manna to feed his or her family.  Their plates were full, and since the remaining manna melted away with the sun, there was never any need or worry about what to do with the leftovers or where to store it.

This has been so true for me and my wife.  We have been married for 27 years now, and if you were to look at our savings and the little we have for retirement, you might ask, “What happened?”  But the truth of the matter is that God always gave us what we needed, and often that was all.  I can remember many times that we would get a bill for something, and we would wonder how we would pay for it.  And then just as we had to pay it, a surprise donation or an extra salary bonus came and would be just enough to pay the bill.  (Thank you Lord.)

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And then the last principle that Atteberry brings out from this passage is this, “The manna was never too hard and never too easy.” As our loving Father, God is always aware of the difficulties we face, and He will provide what we need to overcome the challenges of our situation.  But also because He loves us, He will not just give us a quick handout.  He does want us to do our part in pleasing Him, and doing His will, and in turn, not because of our efforts, but because He loves us, He will then provide us His blessings and His provisions.

Atteberry puts it this way on page 76:

He knows that when we work together with Him, we grow into a deeper relationship with Him.  And that, ultimately is what He wants.  Yes, your physical welfare is a concern to Him, but your spiritual welfare is an even higher priority.  In other words, yes, He wants to keep you going.  But even more, He wants to keep you growing.  He desperately wants to bond with you and develop a relationship that will last far beyond the end of your hard road.

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