Friday, July 27, 2012

In Stan's Own Words

I came across this piece published in Prairie Tabernacle Congregation's September 2007 issue of Forum. Taken from their masthead, "Forum is a Prairie Tabernacle platform for exchanging spiritual ideas, encouragements, and insights."

Stan Christon, in his own words:


Stan Christon’s War Years  

I was born on November 3, 1922 in Middlesboro, England, the youngest of seven and the only surviving twin. At 14, I started my apprenticeship as a carpenter and accepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior. When WWII started, I enlisted into the 129th Anti-Tank regiment and trained as a gunner with the 51st Highland Scottish Division in January 1942. We were 24 men to a Quonset 
hut. On October 23, we took our positions in the front lines at El-Alamein, 50 miles from Cairo.

After one of the heaviest bombardments and shelling, I awoke in my foxhole covered with sand; my overcoat, which was above my head, was shredded by shrapnel. The incredible peace of God which passes all understanding kept me from all fear. One man in our unit asked, "Can I lengthen your foxhole and stay 
close by you? Is it wrong to smoke and drink?" 

Twelve thousand of the 8th Army under General Montgomery died in those ten days; one died three yards from me, struck by a sniper. General Rommel's forces made a magnificent retreat through North Africa to Wadi Akarit on the Mareth line. Our convoy was cannoned, leaving our sergeant dead only 
five trucks ahead of me. While cooking dinner, the enemy shelled us; the ground shook; a tree was stripped of its branches. I prayed; my life 
flashed before me; and our rice dinner was spoiled. One time in the Libyan Desert, a colonel in his vehicle raced up and stopped us from going over a hill where we would have been taken prisoner in five minutes. 

Our anti-tank guns were hitched behind the 7th Tank Division. Captain Crossley said "Christon, post this letter for me if I don't make it back." We crouched behind the tank turrets and went over the poppy plains dotted with hillocks. A halt was called as one of our tanks was aflame and enemy planes swooped over us so low we could see the pilots' faces. I read airmail letter from a friend, which said "Read Psalm 27:1-3.”[FN1] Captain Crossley survived and 
I returned his letter to him. 

Next morning, we attended the memorial of 200 of the Black Watch infantry who gave their lives in the battle. This hymn [FN2] comes to mind. 

O valiant hearts who to your glory came 
through dust of conflict and through battle flame; 
tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved, 
your memory hallowed in the land you loved. 

Splendid you passed, the great surrender made;  
into the light that nevermore shall fade;  
deep your contentment in that blest abode,  
who wait the last clear trumpet-call of God.  

We returned to Cairo and I enjoyed a trip to the Holy Land for two weeks. I was transferred to the Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment and joined the 8th Army in Italy. Peace was declared May 10, 1945, and the war ended. I was chosen to 
guard prisoner of war camps for many months following the war. 

In a letter from a friend sent from Cairo, I read, "And behold, I am with you, in all places where you go, and will bring you back again into this land" (Genesis 28:15). 

In January 1951 the S.S. Banfora took me out again, this time to Ivory Coast, West Africa, where Alice and I spent 25 years with the WEC International, pioneering among tribal people. 
1. Ps. 27:1-3 (NIV): The LORD is my light and 
my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD 
is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I 
be afraid? When evil men advance against me 
to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my 
foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. 
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not 
fear; though war break out against me, even 
then will I be confident. 

2. “O Valiant Hearts,” John Stanhope 
Arkwright, 1919. 

The Angel of the Lord Encamps Round 
Them Who Fear Him (Ps. 34:7)

Gentle Giant

Today we buried one of Dad's friends, Stan Christon. His obituary reflects the man so perfectly, I wanted to share it with you:

ROBERT "STAN" CHRISTON went to be with the Lord on July 22, 2012, at the age of 89 in the Linden Nursing Home. Born in Middlesbrough, England, on November 3, 1922, the youngest of seven children, Stan was a born leader. As a child, he was captain of his cricket team, and played a mean game of snooker, taking home the Christmas turkey on more than one occasion. At the age of 13, he received Jesus Christ as his Saviour. The next year he left school and began his apprenticeship to become a carpenter.

In January 1942 at the age of 19, Stan was drafted to serve in WWII. He received military training in Scotland, and was enlisted with the British 8th Army under General Montgomery. Stan served three years of intense front line action through North Africa and into Italy. He survived El Alamein, and his life was spared many times in front line battles. Towards the end of WWII Stan transferred to the Anti-Aircraft regiment. Peace was declared May 10, 1945. For two years following the war Stan worked as a guard at Prisoner of War camps in Italy.

Stan made a promise to God that should he survive WWII he would dedicate the rest of his life to serving Him. He graduated in 1948 from Cliff College, a Bible School in England, and was accepted by WEC (Worldwide Evangelization for Christ, an interdenominational missions agency), and he spent the next 25 years working in Ivory Coast in West Africa. During his time there he built a leper dispensary. He also built an orphanage for abandoned babies, along with many churches, mission stations and a wing for a hospital. Stan met and married Alice Kvigstad in 1955 in Ivory Coast, and together they raised their four children and continued to pioneer among the tribe's people. The African folk gave Stan and Alice tremendous support and referred to Stan as a man with white skin and an African heart.

Some people would describe Stan's life as stressful, turbulent and full of hardship and poverty. Stan would tell you he had a life that was exciting, full of adventure and extremely rewarding. He was a man driven to make the world, in particular the Ivory Coast, a better place.

In 1974 Stan and Alice and their four children returned to Canada and settled in Three Hills, AB. He continued to work as a carpenter for the next three years. In 1977 Stan had a major heart attack. We will always be grateful to the community of Three Hills, especially the folks at Manor Gospel Church, for all their help during this difficult time. Stan then worked as a painter for the Golden Hills School Division until his retirement.

Stan leaves as his legacy his faith in God, his generosity to those less fortunate, and a strong work ethic. The world is a better place because of Stan's life.

Grateful to have shared Stan's life are his children ...grandchildren ... great-grandchildren ... Stan's wife, Alice, his parents, Robert and Clara Christon, brothers Sid and Bill and sisters Dorothy, Louise and Doris predeceased Stan.

Stan's smile, grateful and generous attitude and gentle demeanour will be sadly missed. 

We wish to express our gratitude and heartfelt thanks to all the staff at the Linden Nursing Home for their gentle, compassionate care during Stan's last years of his life.


What else is there to add to a wonderful recollection of a life well lived? He was a great friend to Dad; Dad loved and admired this man. Stan loved music and singing. He would always sit next to the piano on a Tuesday morning at the Manor meetings and he would choose some of the old, exquisite, oft-forgotten hymns and then sing them melodiously and with feeling. When Dad would ask him to pray, he prayed with fervour and confidence, knowing that God was listening to him. Knowing that God was right there. When Dad would visit Stan they would share nuggets from Bible passages - both of them knowing where their treasure was being stored. 

He had the biggest hands of any person I've ever seen. Yet his hands were utterly gentle, able to tackle delicate tasks I would hesitate to take on.

And he had the heart to match those hands.

Stan will be missed enormously. Knowing him as superficially as I did, I miss him. Another prayer warrior in Three Hills has been silenced on this earth; the community of Christ followers will be the worse for it.

But his voice, which had faded away to nothing in the last little while, is once again restored to him and he is singing praises face to face to the One Whom he served and praised all those years on earth.

He was truly a wonderful man.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Grand Parade ...

As I wrapped up my Friday's work in the TH and crawled up the stairs toward my home and bed, I glanced at my clock: 4:15 a.m. on Saturday morning. I glanced out of the glassed door leading to the deck upstairs and the breath caught in my throat at the sight of the sun tiptoeing across the horizon. Three recalcitrant stars hung on stubbornly, perhaps still basking in the afterglow of the previous evening's light show competition between Three Hills and God ...

The alarm was set for 6:30, two stingy hours later; and as I tried to wake up I blearily looked out of my window, to be treated with this sight, this promise of good things to come for the day:

And, honestly, everything worked in the kitchen that morning, despite the minuscule slumber! Cinnamon rolls flipped out perfectly ... the chocolate cream pie was silky ... the strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries filling the fresh berry pies were plump and luscious ... the labour-intensive (remember 4:15 a.m.?!) custard for the trifles had set to the optimum consistency overnight ... the quiches (pear with caramelized onions and brie, or spinach with feta and sun-dried tomatoes) were golden ... the cheese sauce for the chicken crepes was made with aged white cheddar and smoked Gouda ... coffee was brewing and water was boiling for tea. Now all I needed was a quiet little day, which is traditional for parade day at the TH, and all would be perfect.

And so it started.

Then the parade headed our way ...

For the first time our annual parade was coming all the way up Main Street, passing the TH, so that the Oldies in the Chateau and the Golden Hills Lodge who couldn't get out would still be able to catch a glimpse. Our parking lot started to fill up, everyone preparing to enjoy the sunshine and the floats.
Where were my manners? I should have served coffee!

Three of my favourite TH regulars ...

Just after 11 o'clock we heard the police car siren heralding the start of the parade. The familiar red serge, a segment of our nation's finest, marched smartly led by a pint-sized representative:

Anybody know who the young man is?

Seeing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police en masse always fills my heart with pride. Sure, an occasional rogue elephant separates itself from the herd; but almost invariably these men and women are dedicated, skilled, honourable and self-sacrificial in situations fraught with danger.

Following close behind was the first of the Pipes:
Next our town officers waved from spiffy little convertibles. Two of the TH favourites were, fortunately, on the TH side of the road:
Hey, Al ...

... and Vernon

Then came our Mayor, Tim Shearlaw. Since he was appointed in 2010, this man has worked ceaselessly to do whatever it takes to make Three Hills rise to its potential. He listens to anyone who wants to talk to him constructively (and listens to a lot of the other stuff too, mind you! I believe I griped at him a couple of times and he heard me out patiently but with a little twinkle in his eye, his dimples not far away from the surface ...) and he strives to build consensus. He has gone a long way to construct bridges between the two traditional town factions, the College and the Town as they used to be known. 

I think he got me back at Parade time. Through his microphone he boomed out, "Now we pass the Nilgiris Tea House. Is it too much to expect a cup of coffee? I take mine black ..." 
Next time call ahead, your Worship!
There were various categories of entries that followed.

Old Cars:

Ahh, George, you're never too far from us, are you?

From this ...

... to these ...

Lumbering up in the distance:
Monster tractors!

Many local businesses were represented as well - alas, I got just a few as I was running in and out of the TH supervising the preparation of lunch!:
What? Could that be our mayor AGAIN?! This time around
he had 
a cute, friendly woman in the wagon with him ...
And th
is time around when he started heckling about coffee,
I handed a cup to Saad, my speediest employee that morning;
Saad in turn nobly chased the parade until he caught up
with Tim and presented him his beverage of choice ...

"All the way!"

Look at that beauty ... inside and out ...

Lawrence's and Bobbie's clan!

Our local jurist ... and the only person who walked
over and let children select candy from his pail.
Fear of litigation due to a misplaced flying gumball, perhaps?!
Mum's friend Mumtaz ...

The place that looks after Josephine ...

One of the TH's original friends ...

We're more than just a little hick town, ya know!
Hooray for the train!

Then we had people telling stories:
Courageous director of the Three Hills Arts Academy

Prairie Bible College ...

... welcoming the world!

This was just my cup of tea ...

There were other stories being told, too:
That saxophone player keeps the TH's
behind-the-scenes maintenance on an even keel.
But you won't ever catch him blowing his own horn ...

Go, Thrashers! Maybe this year?

The Kneehill Historical Society Museum - thanks
particularly to Glen, the dapper, gracious gent
in green, for kindly lending the TH some artifacts
and pictures to display for the weekend ...
Fading skills demonstrated by vibrant ladies

The TH's neighbours

Equality. Love. Kindness.
Ideals to which all of us could aspire ...

Here's to the ladies!
They may not have had the flashiest entry ...
but what I know is they consistently win

I'd bank with them even if my sister DIDN'T work there!

Thanks for everything, Diana, Emmy,
Mary Lynne, Cammy, Denise, Stephanie
and - of course - BethAnne!

Oldies but Goodies

My neighbours to the east ...

Three Cheers for the Lodge! This sign reads:
"I am older than Three Hills - 102 years old"

Wes, one of our dear friends, who
valiantly continues to press on

Riding in the back, waving as perfectly as Her Majesty:
Jessie, beloved of many in this town
What parade would be complete without horses?!

One last cheer for another band of pipers, and I had to open the TH for lunch:

We had a frenetically busy day in the TH, with one break long enough to help us rearrange the tables from the group of 18 we had welcomed back to our normal arrangements.

But during that whole afternoon, I must admit to a few pangs of regret that I had not entered into the town spirit and put together a float for the parade. To be quite honest, it didn't occur to me that it would be a good thing to do until I saw the valiant red serge leading the way. I berated myself for not being more organized, for having no imagination, for not thinking ahead.

That evening I went to my computer and up popped a message:


Who said that the Nilgiris Tea House did not participate in the parade?


There was an attached file, which I opened with great curiosity:
There I was, walking in the parade route! 

(Looking so elegantly turned out in my old maroon apron, I might add ...)

I had actually just run out of the kitchen and was trying to catch up with the band to take their picture, but had a few moments of conversation with one of the parade participants on the way ... a Kodak moment, if there is indeed such a thing these days!

And to my friends Rick and Joan - who do have imagination and who take time to observe and appreciate the subtle humour life sometimes offers up in unexpected ways - thank you for ending my day on such a chipper, optimistic note!

It was a GRAND parade ...  Happy Birthday, Three Hills!