Personal stories from Ian’s life that are included in Gems and available to read and search as stand-alone stories here.
Taking in the View From My New Bathroom
I remember the time when I first went to the bathroom in Bonelemo. I descended to the river and I was squatting there doing my business (busy) while looking around at the rice fields and the grandeur of the scene, being busy. [the same word Elijah used when ridiculing the prophets of Ba’al – with the earthy Hebrew expression “Is your God busy?”]. As I surveyed my bathroom wallpaper, I noticed a woman squatting not five metres from me across a little spit or ridge of ground which sloped down to the river. She had wisely chosen the spot because the little ridge shielded most of her body from the view of anyone else who came down to do busyness. I actually used her spot from then on, it was a strategic one. She gave me a little wave of welcome or recognition and I waved back.
Come On Ian, It's a Real Buzz
Let's look at theft. I personally know the buzz that came from shoplifting. When I had just started high school I was persuaded by my mate in the May holidays to steal something from a department store. We had ridden into the neighbouring shopping centre a few miles away to hang. Then my friend suggested we go to Woolworths and steal some stuff. I said, "No, I didn't want to do that." Why? Because of my sense of right and wrong? No. Because of my knowledge of God's Word? No, I wasn't a Christian. I didn't know what the Bible said. Because of God speaking to me via my conscious? No. . . . Because of my sense of shame in being caught and knowing what my mother would say and do if she knew. To my shame, the thought of what my mother would say was not enough to stop me going with my friend's suggestion. He was persuasive enough to overcome my inner warnings. "Come on Ian. it's easy and you'll get such a buzz afterwards knowing what you got without paying for it." So foolishly I entered into a life of crime.
We went to Woolworths with our backpacks and took a number of things each. My friend was able to persuade me to take more than one item. So I took three. I learned later when laying our stolen goods out on MY BED that he had two or three times the amount I had taken. Yes on MY BED. His suggestion after we had stolen things was to ride to my place because my mum wasn't home as she was working, whereas his mum was home. I have thought about that many times since, realising how easily I had fallen for the temptation. I have to admit as we rode to my place the feeling of stealing something and not getting caught put me on a high. My friend was encouraging my elation by telling me how the feeling of having got away with it just keeps getting better. It is such a buzz. He was right, it was growing by the moment as we headed to my place.
I opened the front door at home and we raced into my bedroom and spread our ill-gotten-gains on my bed. I remember I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I felt so alive and yet at the same time had the feeling of it being wrong. I was amazed at what my mate had got away with. His booty was so much more up-market than mine. I felt like an amateur beside him. Then I came crashing back to reality. A police car came down my little no exit road. When I first saw it from my bedroom window the heart I could feel so alive and beating in my chest had changed position and was now in my mouth. Imagine my horror when the police car turned around at the end of our little cul-de-sac and stopped right outside my house.
I started to grab the stuff on the bed, mine and my mate's and shove it under the bed, in the wardrobe, anywhere I could think was a good hiding place. My mate was just standing there watching the police car. He was the first to see two officers get out of the car and walked across the road to neighbours' house opposite mine. My mate started laughing at me. I looked up and saw the two policemen walking over the road. I felt such relief. My heart was back in my chest again where it should have been but now it was not just beating normally. It was pounding. I told my mate (who wasn't as much of a mate as I first thought) that was it! He could take my share of the stolen goods and have them as well. I didn't want any of it, it was all his. My life of crime was over as soon as it had begun.
There was a time during our association with Jakarta Praise Community Church in Indonesia that the theme or focus over a three month period was “Levelling Up”. The point was that we as the Lord’s people need to come up to the level of compliance with the Word of God and the teaching from the pulpit each week. The pattern was set for the cell groups of the church to discuss the sermon preached the week before in the cell groups during the week following. During the cell group time we were asked how we had levelled up to the message during the week. It was a good practical thing to do and the sermons preached during that time were carefully crafted to ensure there was direct application to be made from what was shared. The cell group we were part of at that time took to heart the theme and the method of follow up. So each week we would spend some time discussing the message from the week before and the ways in which we had levelled up according to the Word of God.
During that time over the three month period from December through to February we went back to New Zealand for a month to catch up with family during January. On our return to Jakarta we went to the cell group meeting on our first week back. There was a brief summary of the sermon from the Sunday just past and then the leader asked us all how we had levelled up to Pastor Jeffrey’s sermon this past week. There was no voluntary response forthcoming from those gathered and so he proceeded to go around the room asking each person one by one how we had levelled up to the Word of God during the week. Person after person said, “Oh I haven’t levelled up this week because I wasn’t there on Sunday. I have been away.” Very quickly the pattern was established to the extent that each following person repeated the same refrain. “Yes me too, I haven’t heard what the pastors have shared over this last week. So I haven't been levelling up.”
Finally the leader came to me and said, “Oh Pak Ian, you and Tania have been away for the month so I don't suppose you have been levelling up to the Word of God either.” I must admit I reacted rather strongly to the comment and said, “On the contrary, I have levelled up each morning during all of the time we have been in New Zealand. I haven’t levelled up to what Jeffrey or Jose have been preaching because we have not been able to listen to what our pastors have been sharing. But I assure you, I level up to the Word of God every morning as I read the Word of God. If I hear Jeffrey or Jose’s sermon I level up to that. I level up to whoever the preacher may be. But more importantly I level up to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God wherever I am. “Levelling up” is not something I do because it is the JPCC theme for the three months. It is something I do every day of my life. Here are some of the ways I have levelled up during the time in New Zealand. . . .”
I went on to say, “I am not dependent on Jeffrey Rachmat or Jose Carol to challenge or inspire me to level up. In fact if the Holy Spirit is the One prompting me to level up and Jeffrey and Jose are getting their sermons from the same Holy Spirit then chances are the LORD is giving me the same message anyway. If not day by day certainly over a period of time. It is the Word of God I level up through the conviction of the Spirit. I can’t escape from the Word or the Spirit. Wherever I go He is always with me and therefore I always need to level up. Not just for a three month period over the Christmas break. What will you do when the Level Up theme is over and we are on to another theme? Will that mark the end of you levelling up? Don’t let that happen! You ought always to be levelling up to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit , irrespective of who the preacher is.”
You Will Be Healed in Three Days
One Sunday in the late 1970’s I was in church in Matamata (NZ) and suffering great pain in right knee from a injury on the soccer field on Thursday night when training the school’s 1st XI. We had a visiting speaker who also practised the gift of healing. At one point in the service, while he was calling people out for specific ailments, he said “There is someone here with pain in their knee, will you stand please?” I stood up and so did my best friend. He asked, “Which knee has the pain?” My friend said “My left knee”. He said, “no I specifically saw the right knee”. He then asked me, “Which knee do you have pain in?” I told him the right knee and he invited me forward.
After praying over for sometime he asked me if the pain had gone. I said No, it hadn’t. I wasn’t going to lie and go along with a farce. Either I was healed or I wasn’t. I won’t play games. He announced to me and the church that the Lord had healed me but I had to wait three days. Oh I had a major problem at that point. I was so annoyed at what I thought this man was doing. I wasn’t healed and so we play this other game of cover up saying I would be healed in three days. I thought what nonsense. This is a sham and left church that day somewhat disillusioned. Three days later having forgotten all about it, or pushing into the back of my mind. I wasn’t dwelling on it, the moment had passed. God had had His chance to show me healing and had blown it. I didn’t believe the preacher’s statement and so I was not holding any hope of anything more happening. I was sitting on the couch in the lounge and reading my Bible. I sensed the thought form in my mind, “Put your hand on your knee (the right one).” I did it out of impulse and “obedience” to the thought. Instantly heat flowed from my own hand into my knee and I was healed. I sat there amazed. Remembering what the man had said on the Sunday I started to cry because I had been so anti and so unbelieving of the preacher’s statement. Despite all that, God was faithful and it seems he had put in the preacher’s mind to tell me “three days”. God brings His healing in the way He determines. Just accept that and embrace His purposes for you. And what about my friend? Why wasn’t his knee healed too? I am sure he was more deserving than me at that time, he was certainly more spiritual. God is God and He will bring His granted His healing as he please. Healing is not Christian magic or a matter of saying the right words. But it is real and it meted out through the gifts granted to members of the body. That much I know. See the “scars” – he healed me.
I Heeded the Lord's Prompting and Called his Bluff
I have experienced it. When I have had a government official ranting and raving and threatening me with prison and I have heard the Lord’s word to my heart to just ignore his threats and call his bluff and walk out of there. Much to the astonishment of the Indonesian Christian colleague with me the official’s bravado crumbled and he acquiesced. You just have to know when to do it – when you have heard the voice of God to take a bold step and trust Him.
God Can Use You At Any Time Wherever You Go
I have learned over the years as I have sought the LORD to follow the principles laid down in His Word, the Bible (Logos) and to pay attention to the Word of God which is quickened to my heart as I read (Rhema). Those verses which leap off the page at me and seem to as though God is talking to me personally and asking me to respond in a specific way. I have learned over the years not to push aside those promptings but rather to grab them with both hands and seek to follow His instructions to me with all my heart. I have also learned to be more willing to let go of my agenda for the day in favour of His. I want always to be open and available to people in their hour of need even though it may cut across my plans for the day. I have learned that when I set aside my agenda for His at any moment in the day, then I am hugely blessed. Why would I not want to do that? It is like walking around hand in hand with God for the day. Don’t get me wrong, every day is not like that. Many days are just a normal day when I get to actually do what I planned. But there are so many other days where with God’s intervention the day turns into an opportunity to share His love and concern with other fellow travellers – Christian and non-Christian. It doesn’t matter. It’s a privilege. Tania and I often pray asking God to leading us this day and arrange the events of our day for His glory – AND HE DOES. Our life is all so similar to the report Paul and Barnabas gave to the church of Antioch on their return. Good and bad.
‘LORD, When Should I Go Home?’ 'Tomorrow.'
In September 1981 I was scheduled to go a Geography Conference in Wellington but began to question the wisdom of it if as I suspected I would not be teaching Geography much longer. But as Head of the Geography Dept I was expected to go. A week prior to the time I would leave I got the flu and became progressively worse with each passing day. Until a day before departure I wondered whether this sickness was from the LORD to prevent me from going to the Conference. I rang the associate pastor and asked Weston and the guys at the Friday night prayer meeting to pray for me especially for guidance to know whether I should be going or not and for healing. That night at 8.15pm I was healed in an instant of time as I lay on the sofa. Later Weston rang to ask me how I was and to let me know that the group had just finished praying for me at 8.15. Weston added that he felt the LORD had a 'word' for me to the effect that "I was to go to Wellington and there the LORD would show me the next step really clearly and help me to see all things in perspective." My response was to laugh 'the laugh of unbelief' and tell Weston not to be too spiritual, and to remind him that I was only going to a Geography Conference. Weston's response was to repeat the prophetic word!
In Wellington, it was like the LORD led me by the hand. I arrived at the university late Saturday afternoon and checked into my room. Sunday morning I prepared to head off to church. On the way I came across a young women who had a flat tyre; she was obviously heading to church too. So I stopped to fix her tyre. We were both late for church, so she invited me to have a cup of coffee and talk and she would go to church that evening. While talking she told me that David Metcalfe, our ex pastor, was speaking at her church that night. So I went to night service and met David and told him how God had been leading us into missions. He was excited and asked me if I was down in Wellington for Move Out, a Missions Conference he was involved in, due to start in Wellington on Tuesday. I ended up going to the Geography Conference on the Monday but felt that those things did not relate to me anymore. On Tuesday morning I set off for the Missions Conference. As I walked in the door the main speaker was saying, "Have you felt a call of God on your life? " I thought "That's me!" To which the speaker added, "Be sure that you are fully prepared before you go". After he finished speaking I went up to the stage to talk with David Metcalfe again. David told me how timely it was because in the building at that moment were the Pacific Area Director and the NZ Director for WBT as well as David Foris whom I met in Matamata. I then talked with them for an hour or more after which it was clear that to follow the possibility of joining WBT would mean Bible College Training. They also spelt out very carefully all that would be involved in joining WBT after going to Bible College until we arrived on the field.
Walking back to the Geography Conference I remembered the words of Weston Finlay who had said I was to go to Wellington and there the LORD would show me the next step really clearly and help me to see all things in perspective. Well that had certainly happened. Now what? The next morning I was sitting on my bed in the student accommodation at the university and praying, somewhat in dilemma as to when I was to go home. It felt like the Geography Conference was not my focus anymore and yet I should stay to get the most out of it for the school I represented. I was asking God to show me what I should do and when I should go home. I picked up my Bible to read from the passage from where I was reading currently and the first word I read on the page was “Tomorrow”. I put my Bible down again and was struggling with the way that happened. That was not right. You are not supposed to do that with your Bible. It is not a lucky dip to open and find a verse. But I didn't do that. I didn't treat it that way. It just happened with me turning to place where my marker was. I spent a while hassling about it and then asked the Lord again, “When I was to go home.” I picked up my Bible again and knowing there was a “tomorrow” on the left page from 15 minutes before, I started on the right hand page where the first word I saw was again “tomorrow” but not the same “tomorrow” I had seen before.
I then spent some twenty minutes more grappling with the Lord over this matter. Apart from other issues I was also struggling with the fact that I had already planned to catch up with Bruce and Val on the way back home from Wellington after the Geography Conference on the Friday. The pieces were just not coming together as they ought to have. Thus I ended up asking God again when I was to go home. Going home tomorrow just didn't seem right for a number of reasons. I should really stay on at the Geography Conference despite feeling like this didn't apply to me anymore. I also should wait until Friday so I could catch up with Bruce and Val. It didn't make sense to go home to Matamata on Wednesday. When I picked up my Bible again I already knew the location of two “tomorrows” on the pages, so again I avoided those pages and turned the page again to Exodus 9:5 where the first words I saw were “The Lord set a definite time saying, “Tomorrow . . .” I was reading in my NASB Bible. I was shocked and said out loud, “OK Lord I give up, I will go home tomorrow as you have said.” Yet all the while at the back of my mind I felt it didn't make sense. Not only that but I had been taught that you don't do this with God’s Word. You don't just pick random verses. That is not a good way to get guidance.
I had resolved that I should leave for Matamata in the morning and now my mind was at peace. The next morning I got up early to read the Bible and I continued to read in Exodus Chapter 10. I had some more time and just kept reading. When I read the words of Exodus 13:17 - Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.”I was struck by the words “God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines although it was near . . . lest the people change their minds.” The thought that crossed my mind on reading those words was that I was not to stop in to stay with Bruce and Val that night lest I change my mind about all of this mission leading I had received. But then I thought, no that doesn't apply, Bruce and Val aren’t Philistines. I met them a week after I had become a Christian in August 1973. They were solid Christians but I still couldn't shake off the thought about not seeing them because I would change my mind. Despite all those spontaneous thoughts I dismissed the connection to Bruce and Val as irrelevant and continued with my plan to leave that morning to go back to Matamata but to stop in at Bruce and Val’s home in the hill country close to Palmerston North. I had tried calling them on the phone but got no answer so planned to get to their place around midday and stop at the house as Val should be home. I tried calling again when I was there to see if I could stay Wednesday night and not Friday night. What still bugged me was the thought that the Philistines would make me change my mind. Nonetheless I set it aside and continued with my plan to stop at their house and / or call Bruce at work. No one was at home at their house out in the country and try as I might I couldn’t get hold of Bruce on his work number. After trying for a while I decided that I should go straight to Matamata and call them when I got home.
I arrived at home to Tania’s surprise a few days early and told her that God had sent me home early. I told her also that I had tried to catch up with Bruce and Val to see if I could stay Wednesday night with them. I tried calling them a number of times on Wednesday after I arrived home but no one answered. It wasn’t until late Friday afternoon that I finally managed to get hold of Bruce to tell him that I wouldn’t be staying Friday night with them as planned because I was already in Matamata. I told him that the Lord had sent me home early and a brief summary of all that had been happened in terms of leading us into mission. Bruce then said to me, “No problem buddy. We were looking forward to seeing you but understand that it didn't work out. Maybe it was good that you didn't stay with us. I have become a bit of a Philistine and I may have put a damper on all of your sense of the Lord leading you into mission.” I was dumbfounded. I had said nothing about the verse that had struck me and me thinking that somehow it related to Bruce and Val but thinking “they weren’t Philistines” yet he was saying he had become a bit of a Philistine. I didn't know what to say. I can’t remember what I said and Bruce doesn't remember the detail. To him it was just a passing phone conversation. To me it was all highly significant because the sense that God was leading me very specifically. It was very real at the time and my sense that Ex 13:17 was connected to it was strong yet my reason told me it couldn’t be. Now Bruce was telling me in fact my inkling in all this was indeed correct and that if I had spent the night with Bruce and Val it would have influenced me negatively. God had been protecting me all along.
Order My Steps Before Me LORD
I always put my life in God hands to use on a daily basis. I allow people to interrupt my planned schedule. I simply pray most days that God will order my steps before me and bring me across the path of someone He may want me to help. I have done that for years. It is not that every day is random and disjointed when I do that. Most days continue on as planned. However some days take a dramatic turn from what I had planned for the day in order to help someone in need.
Helping a Woman with a Flat Tyre Led to Move Out
It can happen as a result of someone in need we come across, as in the story I told you of the woman in Wellington who had a puncture by the side of the road (see Gem 1556). God used that serendipitous moment to not only help her but to lead my life in the direction He desired. I have had other occasions when I have felt the LORD’s prompting to go over and talk to a particular person – at the mall, in the room, along the way. I once spent an entire weekend at a rock music festival paired with someone else and being led by the LORD as to which people to go to talk to next. That my friends turned into such an awesome weekend it was awe inspiring.
God Often Showed Us the Same Things but in Different Ways
While at Bible College I had a study room next door to my friend John Mason. I was blown away when many times John would knock on the door and interrupt my Greek study to share what he had got “from the Holy Spirit”. Or ask me what I was getting from my study of the Greek text only to then tell me, “yes the Holy Spirit gave me that too . . . in a word picture”. He would tell me about it and indeed he had gained similar input but in a very different way. In a totally unstructured and spontaneous way, whereas working on the left-brain side is very time oriented and time consuming. I was envious but I could see it was valid. Paul was clearly open to the Holy Spirit’s input to him and willing to receive and accept it was from God.
900 Men and their Families Saved After All Had the Same Dream in the Night
A group of people connected with reaching M people with the Gospel in the Middle East prayed something very significant. They asked God to give many M people the same dream on the same night, including M leaders so that a larger group of people would be open and grow together and support one another. Often working with M people it is a case of winning one by one against the tide. A large number of people worldwide began praying for a breakthrough in the M world as a result of God speaking to scores of M men through the same dream on the same night. The story of what happened is what I received on the sound byte recording of a woman telling the result of concerted prayer.
A pastor was spoken to by God to go to a particular M people group and live among them to share Christ with them. He went because the Lord told him to go with his family and live in a particular town. He went and a few days after he arrived someone rang his bell on the gate before his front door. He went to the gate and found three masked men who put a gun to his head and shot him dead. Not long after that God spoke to another pastor and told him to take his family and go to the same town to work with these people and take the other man’s place. He moved into the same flat the first pastor had lived in.
Not long after he arrived with his family to live in that town, the gate bell rang again and when he went to answer it, the same three masked men were standing there. They put a mask or a hood over his head and then took him and threw him into the boot (trunk) of a car. He rode in the boot for a long time until finally the car stopped and they dragged him out of the boot, and marched him into a building still masked. They finally took the mask off and the pastor found himself in a giant room filled with 900 M men. When he saw all those men gathered the pastor figured they were planning a public execution for him to be videoed and put on the internet.
At that point one of the masked men said, "Sir we don't mean to frighten you. Do you remember that man who lived in that flat before you lived there?" The pastor said, "Yes I do." The man said "Well I am the one who pulled the trigger. The three of us are the ones who killed that first pastor. The night that we killed him, every single one of us in this room had the same dream. We dreamt that the blood of that pastor was on our hands. But that God in his mercy would send someone in his place to tell us how to get the blood off our hands. Are you that man?" That night that pastor had the amazing opportunity to share the Gospel with 900 M men and lead them to become Christ –followers. All 900 of those men came to know Christ as a result of having the same dream. And later all of the families of those 900 men also came to know Christ and follow Him.
That is a verifiable true story of how God spoke to many people by the same dream on the same night in answer to prayer and then led hundreds, more likely thousands to follow Him.
What Do You Do For a Living Ian?
Nothing in my experience points to this as graphically as two encounters I had on planes. Both encounters started the same way with a plain ordinary introduction.
“Hello my name is Ian.”
“Hi Ian, my name is ______. Ian what do you do for a living?”
“I work with Wycliffe Bible Translators.”
From that point on, either the doors are open wide or slammed shut. There seems no middle ground. Just that one innocent statement of what I do evokes interesting reactions. The first experience happened on a flight from Brisbane to Auckland. This was the one and only time I had been upgraded from Economy to First Class. I was soon joined by my travelling companion and we introduced ourselves as above. When I told him what I did he remarked, "Well that is fascinating. Tell me about it." That started a three and half hour conversation about spiritual things and resulted in the person coming back to God after spending years away from Him. My companion asked all sorts of questions, genuinely wanting to know. He asked how I was funded to do what I did. I told him. Then he said, "Ian, may I ask you a personal question?" I said, "Yes, you can ask me anything." "How is it that you are seated in First Class if you gain your money from the gifts that ordinary people give to you?" I smiled and said, "That's a very astute question. Actually this is the one and only time I have been bumped up to 1st Class. I believe I have been put here for you." He said, "I think you are right!" and we proceeded to talk non-stop until the flight attendant told us that we would be landing soon which surprised us both. She said, "Gentlemen you have been talking non-stop from the time you boarded. We are beginning our descent to Auckland now."
The second encounter occurred on a flight from L.A to Auckland. The introduction was exactly the same as the conversation above. That is, we introduced ourselves and she asked what I did [for a living]. I told her I worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators. Instantly her reaction was to pointedly turn her back to me and face the window for the next 40 minutes. When dinner came and she turned back toward the front of the plane her table and lowered her table. I innocently dared to speak to her again and asked, “Did you choose the beef or the chicken?” I assure you dear reader, my question contained no hidden meanings in the words “beef” or “chicken”. It was just a simple question. No sooner had I asked it but the woman turned back toward her favourite window, ate her meal at a strange angle shutting me out, and after the meal sat with her body angled to the window for the duration of the flight. It made my heart go out to her in sympathy but I knew I wasn't the one to help her. I had become unwittingly part of her problem. I felt sorry for her. Clearly she had been deeply hurt by religion or religious people. I longed to be able to talk to her and help her but she didn't give me chance and I knew not to try to talk to her anymore. But it did talk to the LORD on her behalf.
As Paul wrote centuries ago, to some we are the fragrance of life while to others we are the stench of death, through nothing we have done or said.