Thursday, June 17, 2021

Laughing at impossibilities


About a month into our new life in Lomalinda, I was only beginning to get acquainted with her people. I was clueless about the deep, enduring blessings God would give me through my new neighbors and colleagues.


In the coming months and years, God would use them to help me take baby steps toward walking by faith, not by sight. They would shape who I was to become and change me forever.


I would witness that these ordinary people trusted God—in very practical, specific, real-life ways. They demonstrated faith in action while, among many other things, they endured ongoing hostility from Marxist guerrillas.


Let me tell you how that hostility began.


In 1948, the assassination of a Colombian presidential candidate triggered an era known as La Violencia (The Violence), twelve years of mass murders, mobs, rioting, destruction, fires, and political conflicts between Liberals and Conservatives.


Participating in that unrest was a young Cuban student, Fidel Castro, at the National University of Bogotá. (Yes, Cuba’s leader, the Fidel Castro you’ve heard about for decades.)


After returning to Cuba, he and his brother, Raul, recognized La Violencia left Colombia ripe for a revolution like Cuba’s and began preaching Marxist/Leninist principles among Colombians.


Keen on violence and everything anti-American, Castro circulated propaganda, brought Colombian guerrillas to Cuba, trained them, offered aid and weapons, and sent them home to carry out their revolution.


La Violencia was also a time of hostility against evangélicos (Protestant Christians) and Roman Catholics, especially pastors and priests, some of whom were martyred for their faith. Churches were destroyed and burned. In addition, for years Roman Catholics had prevented most Protestant mission agencies from entering the country.


Given that, what Cameron Townsend dreamed up in 1956, eight years into La Violencia, seems absurd.


Founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators (which was to become the world’s foremost Bible translation organization) and SIL International (a scientific as well as faith-based organization) Cameron Townsend (Uncle Cam) came up with a wild idea—he wanted to start Bible translation work in Colombia.


Bible translation and more. Because the Bible tells us, many times, to care about people’s all-around well-being, Uncle Cam cared, too. In other Latin American countries, his mission agency had addressed spiritual, physical, and educational needs of minority groups and he wanted to do the same in Colombia.


To many people, that made no sense, given the hostility toward both Americans and Protestant Christians at the time, but plucky Uncle Cam stepped up, proving the words of what became known as Wycliffe’s theme song: “faith . . . laughs at impossibilities and shouts ‘It shall be done!’” (Apparently, that was his version of Charles Wesley’s “Faith, Mighty Faith.”)


He pressed on, just like in the past when he’d faced obstacles in other countries where he wanted to begin new work.


For years, he persisted, and he prayed, and as a result—surely this was God’s doing—in Guatemala, Uncle Cam met Colombia’s new Director of Indigenous Affairs and told him stories of the ways his colleagues helped native groups in other nations. God answered many prayers when the official asked, “How can I get you people to come to Colombia?


Uncle Cam answered, “If we can have a contract with the government that will allow us to help the people physically, educationally, and spiritually by translating the Bible, we will come.


With a signed contract in 1962, Bible translation began in Colombia (from Chapter 14, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir).


How is it possible that mere humans can

laugh at impossibilities and cry ‘It shall be done!’”

and then the impossible happens?


How is it that people pray

and God answers the way they want him to—

the way they tell him to?


When Jesus said,

You can ask me for anything in my name,

and I will do it,”

did he mean we are the boss of him?

(See John 14:13-14.)


Let’s read the whole passage. Jesus said, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.”


The people at Got Questions urge this caution: “Some misapply this verse, thinking that saying ‘In Jesus’ name’ at the end of a prayer results in God always granting what we asked for. This is . . . treating the words ‘in Jesus’ name’ as a magic formula. This is absolutely unbiblical.”


They continue, “Praying in Jesus’ name means . . . praying according to the will of God. ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him (1 John 5:14-15).


“. . . Praying for things that are in agreement with God’s will is the essence of praying in Jesus’ name” (from “What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name?).


The desires of our hearts and prayers need to be in accord with a very important phrase within Jesus’ words: “that God the Father would be glorified” (John 14:13-14).


To glorify God means

to recognize His holiness and greatness,

it means to give Him honor.

It means to acknowledge His authority in our lives.

It means to desire what He desires.


So, let’s get back to Uncle Cam. For six years, he prayed, he persisted, he laughed at impossibilities and shouted, “It shall be done!” and lo and behold, God opened wide the doors for Wycliffe Bible Translators to begin work in Colombia.


The takeaway for you and me is this:

Uncle Cam prayed according to God’s will.

He prayed for what would glorify God.

Uncle Cam’s heart wanted what God’s heart wanted.

And God was pleased to answer.

It was all so good.


Ah, but carrying out Bible translation in Colombia didn’t turn out to be a breeze.


Oh, no, it wasn’t.


Come back next week. I have so much more to tell you!


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