Saturday, January 12, 2008

Greetings from Vancouver Island!

So here I am on Vancouver Island, far on the west coast of Canada. Strange, when this weblog is supposed to be about Moldova! However, I just wanted to check in as I know many of my loyal readers may be wondering what I’m up to, now that I am on furlough.

Just to fill you in, after a great Christmas with my family, I am now doing official “deputation”, which means I go to different churches to raise prayer and financial support and to report on the ministry in which I am involved in Moldova. Last Sunday was my first Sunday preaching, as a missionary, in a Canadian church. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Ward Memorial Baptist, a small Vancouver church with a decidedly international flavour and a warm welcoming atmosphere.

This Sunday I will be preaching in two churches here on Vancouver Island. I came a few days early to meet some colleagues and do some networking. I enjoyed hearing the Baptist pastor and author, Mark Buchanan, speak at a ministerial about the process his church is involved in of reaching out to First Nations people. He spoke of justice issues and the importance of the church owning the ministry of reconciliation with those who, in this case, are their close neighbours. Often, it seems to me, Canadians tend to ignore or avoid native issues so it was very encouraging to hear that a church is actively addressing the injustices of the past and the mistrust of the present. I also met with a colleague who, as a single woman, adopted two Romanian orphans many years ago, and again I was encouraged to see and hear of ways that Christians are actively seeking to live out the gospel and to share the abundance with which they have been blessed. These two examples show that the sharing of abundance is not always in a material form, i.e. giving money. The wealth we have consists also of relational blessings and spiritual resources, psychological well-being and an understanding of justice. Canadians in general are materially wealthy compared with many nations, but they are also wealthy socially and psychologically and educationally. I am more aware than ever of the Scriptural exhortation of the reason for wealth: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” (2 Corinthians 9:11a) The second part of that verse goes on to say, “…and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” That has been true of me in the sense that I have been at the receiving end of much generosity on the part of family and friends and fellow believers who don’t even know me. Their generosity is not something I can repay, but it does result in thanksgiving to God. And Lord willing, I will make an effort to pass on those blessings to others as I have opportunity.

While I am on Vancouver Island I am also doing some sightseeing. I was only in Victoria once before and that was when I was a child. This afternoon I took a bus tour, just to get an overview. Now I have to work on my message for Sunday, so this will be short. Enjoy the photos – Victoria is a lovely city, and as you can see there are many indicators of the presence of several First Nations people groups in this area.

PS – Please feel free to make comments on my page and remember you can do it anonymously but it is nice to know who is commenting.

PPS – To Corinne and all my Dutch friends – please note the Carillon tower, which was donated by the Dutch community of British Columbia in honour of Canada’s 100th birthday in 1967, and the cornerstone was unveiled by Queen Juliana. Across the street is the Peace Tulip Garden which commemorates the Canadian troops who liberated the Netherlands at the end of WW2.

A Day with Alejandro

Last week I very magnanimously offered my daughter a day off. And I spent a good part of the day with my grandson all to myself. We went to the beach and the first thrill he had was banging on a yellow metal bench. Ah, the simple delights of a child! Eventually, once we got the swimmingly big falling-off boots changed to sneakers that fit and made use of the stroller as a pushcart to keep him focused, we made our way to the beach. A child’s best playground, even in January! Alejandro quickly mastered the art of picking up rocks, persuading his grandmother to pick him up, and then attempting to throw them into the water. The other option he mastered was picking up rocks and passing them to his grandmother so that SHE could throw them more successfully into the water. He laughed at the resounding plop when a big one landed in the drink. On the way back to the car a seagull flew in and landed right on the fence beside us – apparently to have a silent conversation with my delighted grandson. Finally the gull crowed a gull-y goodbye and we parted company.

Back at my little seaside suite, Alejandro was content to eat Cheerios and to chase a ball around. He enjoyed munching on fishy crackers and playing with the dinky cars I had bought for him. Before we headed for his home, he browsed multiple times through Grandma’s brag album which featured guess who? Alejandro, of course! We had a wonderful day together and as soon as I put him in his car seat, he fell asleep. When his mommy arrived home, I’m not sure which of them was happier to see each other. But the good news is that I believe Marah will be willing to let him go with Grandma another day soon.

When I got back to my place, oddly enough my body was aching and I went to bed far earlier than my customary time. Guess I must be getting old.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Christmas has come and gone and now I find myself on the brink of 2008, thankful for all the ways God has blessed me. Of course, in recent days those blessings have taken the form of family members and time together with them. On Christmas day we sat around the dinner table with all 3 of my kids, my grandson, my son-in-law and his brother, and my 88-year-old mother. Mom flew out to Vancouver from Hamilton to join us for Christmas, and to enjoy her role as great-grandmother. Little Alejandro was a bit puzzled by all the various aspects of stockings and gift-opening, etc. He was glad to get some of his new things but his mom had to help him open most of his gifts! I think my adult children still have as much delight in receiving gifts as they ever did. We had a lot of fun filling one another's stockings - a long-standing Christmas tradition in our family. Our family circle was completed by the very active participation of my brother's three pets - 2 dogs and a cat - as we are house-sitting in my brother's home. The animals ensure that there is never a dull moment (should one ever arise!).
Alejandro by the Christmas tree
So now it is New Year's Eve and I am celebrating it quietly. The month ahead holds lots of challenges for me as I visit various churches in the Vancouver area to share about our ministry and mission in Moldova. And I am conscious that in Moldova, tonight people are celebrating what generally is the largest celebration of the Christmas period - New Year's Eve. Moldovans of the Orthodox tradition will not even be observing Christmas until January 7. New Year's eve is a time of great feasting and partying. Carolers will be coming to people's doors for the next week or two in Moldova to sing seasonal songs and recite poetry. It is expected that children come to the door, ringing a bell and singing or reciting poetry with the expectation of receiving food or money in appreciation of their efforts. Do Canadian children even still memorize poetry?? And we used to carol in the neighbourhood when I was a teenager, but do people still do that anymore? Or is that a regional thing?
I'm not sure if reverse culture shock has struck yet, but I certainly do feel the materialism of our culture. I was thinking today of the fact that in Moldova, when life is hard (which it often is), people look to the west or to some other country or situation, thinking their happiness is to be found there. But here in Canada, if life presents challenges or difficulties people generally don't look to go somewhere else, but they look to the malls and E-bay and acquiring more stuff to satisfy their quest for happiness and fulfillment. Or they seek to change themselves in some manner, to make everything alright.
Do we all seek to escape the difficulties and challenges of life? Or do we receive the challenges, along with the benefits and joys, as gifts from the Lord, meant for our growth and well-being? James said "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you are involved in various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance (or the ability to endure). But you must let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2-4) How often are we willing to learn endurance? ... to hang in even when the going gets rough? Who knows what benefit it will be to ourselves and probably to another when we make the effort to stick with it, even when 'it' isn't comfortable, pleasant, or easy?
I know of a young woman in Moldova who returned to her home village rather than leaving the country. As a result of her endurance and her choice to seek the welfare of her family and her village rather than 'escaping' and seeking her own fortune, there is now a church in that village. There is a feeding program for the elderly and a children's program for the poorest children of the village.
My hope and prayer for myself and for my children is that the majority of our decisions will not be based on our own happiness but on the possibility of improving someone else's lot in life. As we have received so much in our lives, we need to look for opportunities to give to others. May your New Year 2008 be filled with the joy of giving!