Monday, April 25, 2011

THE MANDATE 3, Tears at Easter

This past Good Friday not only focused my mind on Jesus’ suffering and reconciling death, it also stirred an emotion laden memory. Easter Sunday not only reminded me of Christ’s victorious resurrection, it generated a deep longing—a longing paired with a decade old recollection. 

Waking from my doze in the economy section on a Singapore to London night flight, I struggled out of my seat, stumbled to the rear exit door stretching my cramped leg muscles, and leaned forward to peer down through the porthole. Ten kilometers below, the blackness of the Bay of Bengal contrasted with the specks of light along the shore of India.

Soon faint patches of light appeared below—dozens of hamlets, villages, and small towns. No car headlights streaming along freeways, no lit up cloverleaf intersections, no colored neon lights or blazing mall parking lots which typify the North American night scene, just hundreds of faint blobs of light clear to the horizon.

For half an hour I stood there, transfixed, as I watched hundreds of kilometers of Indian carpet unrolling underneath me, an endless dark pattern blotched with wisps of white and faint splotches of light.

Tears began to flow down my cheeks as I realized that these lights represented over a billion people—hundreds of millions illiterate—people loved by God, who knew nothing of Jesus’ reconciling sacrifice, who had no idea He conquered death. I prayed, “Oh Jesus, please use me to bring your Word to people like this. I don’t care how long it takes or how much it costs. Whatever it takes, do it. Use me, please.”

This weekend my eyes again stung with tears as I thought of the unimaginably large numbers of people all over the world, billions of them, who still have not had the chance to choose to follow Jesus, the Saviour who died for them.

Billions of people, loved by God, but trapped in traditional and secular world religions with little hope of ever hearing God’s message of love for them. How I long for the day when the good news of God’s love has been translated into the world’s last 2,000 languages—340 million people who still cannot read, or hear read to them, a single sentence of God’s Word in the language they know best.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday mean nothing to them. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mandate 2, Emotion, Power, and Language

I was relaxed and comfortable in the cool, breezy dining room, looking forward to some excellent food and more great conversation. I sat with my family around the laden table with our hosts, a German family who, like us, served as missionaries in Brazil. As we chatted, my friend leaned back in his chair and called down the hall to his teenage daughter still working in the kitchen.

Elsa! Wir sind bereit. Kommt schnell! “Elsa! We’re ready. Come quickly!”

As I heard the loud voice, the urgent tone, and the last word, Schnell, a shock of fear shot through my system and I felt the icy hand of panic clench my insides.

Terror traveled from my childhood through thirty-five years of time and from Holland through eight thousand kilometres of space to jab fear into my heart once again.

I was seven years old, walking home from school with a classmate. As we took a shortcut past a warehouse, we noticed the door was partly open, so naturally we peered in. Suddenly a German soldier carrying his machine gun ran out of a guard shack behind us shouting, Achtung! Verschwinden Sie! Schnell! “Hey! Get away! Quick!” I had heard those words before, sometimes followed by shots . . . and screams.

So long ago. So far away. So many changes. I was now an adult, a husband, a father, a missionary. And this German missionary was no occupying enemy soldier—he was my friend, my colleague and a brother in Jesus.

What then triggered this vivid, emotion laden memory? Language. A specific language. The same language which had first impacted me emotionally. Had he called down that hallway in English, “Quick!!” or in Portuguese, “Rapido!!” I would not have reacted so emotionally.

Much of the power of language is in the emotion it evokes in the hearer. No wonder God used language to communicate His emotion laden Love letter to people. No wonder He uses thousands of languages to penetrate billions of human minds . . .  and hearts. No wonder He calls hundreds of thousands of His people to work together to bring His Word to every language on earth.

Currently God’s message is being translated into fifteen hundred languages. But two-thousand languages still await workers, and prayer partners, and finances.

The Church needs to listen to the urgency in His voice and get at it! Quickly! Rapido! Rapidement! AwjarĂȘ! Szybko! Snabbt! Raskt! Gyorsan! Brzo! Schnell!

To Bring Him Glory,

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Mandate 1, God, Prayer, or Coincidence?

In 1983, a group of 40,000 Sudanese people called the Tira were listed on the Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project as not having even a single word of the Bible translated into their language. Today, twenty-eight years later, many Tira are Christians and read the Bible in their own language.

Here’s what happened: 
  • In November of 1983, David and Ray, two American students signed up to pray for the Tira with the Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project.  
  • In May of 1986, Jerry and Jan promised to pray for this group.  
  • In March 1990, Jane and Margeanne committed themselves to pray.

In August 1990, a report came to the Prayer Project organizers that a young Tira man, Avajani, was studying linguistics and Bible translation techniques. The organizers wrote to encourage him with the news that three teams were praying for his people group. They gave the names and the dates when they began to pray. Avajani’s response was astonishing!

  • Avajani told them he became a Christian in November 1983, the month David and Ray began to pray.  
  • He was accepted for theological studies in May 1986, when Jerry and Jan started to pray. He heard about courses in Bible translation and was accepted as a student in March 1990, when Jane and Margeanne started to pray.  
  • A number of portions of the Bible were published during 1999-2001.

An atheist reading this sort of astonishing coincidence might well mutter to himself, “Hmm, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think that God was involved.”

God is definitely at work on planet Earth, and He invites us to join Him. He moves some to pray, and some to do hands on service. He wants every person to hear about Him in the language they know best.

Here are some links to help us join God in His work:



Friday, April 1, 2011

Brief Introduction to Jack's New Column, The Mandate.

Welcome to The Mandate! (Mandate son of Look)

This is the column where I will focus strongly on cross-cultural missions, Bible translation around the world, cultural anthropology, basic literacy in societies that have been illiterate for generations, and the beauty and intricacy of human language. 

In short, these columns will be like those I wrote in The Look when I was telling stories from our 22 years of living and working among the Canela people of Brazil. I will be writing about the biblical basis of cross-cultural missions, about how important it is that believers are mobilized to go to every part of the world and share the Good News with those who are not yet believers. 

The definition of “mandate” is “an official command or instruction from an authority” and obviously refers to what we know as “The Great Commission” from Jesus to evangelize the world and disciple the nations.

This columns, or posts will be shorter than The Look was, no more than half the length. They will be easier to read, absorb and put into practice. Although they are shorter, I expect their impact will be the same. 

So, what about all those neat stories from my personal life, and those incisive insights into current events that were not focused on missions? I will continue to write, bringing a biblical perspective to these things too, but not in The Mandate. I am starting another blog, where I will post about family life, marriage, education, history, current events, etc. 

It too will be shorter than The Look, but will make an impact. It won't be focused on missions but I fully expect there to be a missions flavour. 

I thought of calling it INsights and OUTflows, you know, the idea of reading, remembering or experiencing something that leads to a biblical insight which then flows from my mind into yours. But knowing me, I thought I would instead call it, INsights and OUTbursts. I think you will know why! 

I will, of course, continue to write stories and anecdotes. As a “doddering old dotard,” I have more anecdotes and stories than ever. I must be in my anecdotage.

Please go to the top of the column and click on Follow in the upper left part of your screen. You can all click on Share to send it to others. Or go to the side bar on the right and click on Subscribe, or Follow by e-mail. Eventually I will stop sending out this column directly to your email Inbox and instead rely on you signing up and getting it automatically. 

Let me know what you think of this new effort at communication. What you like, what you don't like, what your recommend. This development is still a work in progress.

By the way, remember that you can hold down the Control button on your keyboard and then roll the Scroll wheel on you mouse to increase or decrease the size of the font. Make it the size you like.


Jack "TheWordMan"