Friday, February 22, 2013

February 22, 1937

Some Time We'll Understand
Not now, but in the coming years,
It may be in the better land,
We’ll read the meaning of our tears,
And there, some time, we’ll understand.
We’ll catch the broken thread again,
And finish what we here began;
Heav’n will the mysteries explain,
And then, ah then, we’ll understand.

We’ll know why clouds instead of sun
Were over many a cherished plan;
Why song has ceased when scarce begun;
’Tis there, some time, we’ll understand.

God knows the way, He holds the key,
He guides us with unerring hand;
Some time with tearless eyes we’ll see;
Yes, there, up there, we’ll understand.

Then trust in God through all the days;
Fear not, for He doth hold thy hand;
Though dark thy way, still sing and praise,
Some time, some time we’ll understand.
(Maxwell N Cornelius, 1891)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"My Breath is in Your Hand"

On Sunday my Dad preached at Big Valley .

My Dad has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. It means his lungs don't work as well as they should, and as a result he has been suffering for over a year from a lack of oxygen.

In the summer he had to go for some sort of cardio testing, which he managed to complete and to produce acceptable levels. When it was over, he was exhausted and winded.

"How did you manage to get through it?" we asked him curiously. 

I told God, 'My breath is in Your hands,' ... " he replied. 
Amy the nurse getting Dad's history ...

On February 7 he had an appointment with one of the world's truly compassionate doctors, Dr. Lohmann. "Are you sure you want to go to India?" she asked him three times. 

"Very sure," he responded.

She wrote out various prescriptions, and Deb booked another appointment.

Dr Lohmann, exuding kindness, with practical tips
and encouragement to have a great trip ...

Last Friday my Dad was put on oxygen therapy.

Lovely Beatta, the RT who worked us in ...

Two days later he preached one of the most encouraging sermons I have ever heard. 

He started off by reading Matthew chapter 14, verses 22 through 27, the story of the disciples who were heading off across the lake in a boat. A storm whipped up and then Jesus appeared, walking on the water. The already terrified guys thought he was a ghost. 

Then Jesus spoke. "Be of good cheer," He said. "It is I. Be not afraid."

There's both a situation and a principle contained in verse 26, Dad said, that is often faced in life, and it is this: Jesus comes to us, and we don't recognize Him.

Think of the assembly of Jesus' people after He had been crucified, Dad went on. We find His disciples huddled together in a locked room with uncertainty, confusion and fear. And the fear was from external forces.

"Then came Jesus" (John 20:19).

There are two aspects to His coming to which Dad drew our attention.

  • Jesus came to them right where they were - not where they should be, but where they were.
  • Jesus did not scold them. He was just with them. How often we jump on a person who's done something foolish! They already know they've done something dumb - our stepping on their face when they're already down on the ground, as it were, just makes it worse.
Jesus in fact said PEACE. "Peace be unto you." It's a wonderful thing, Dad marvelled, when God comes and reassures us that we are not forgotten.

Then he led us to the story of the days right after the Great Flood of Genesis chapter 8 and verses 9-11. Noah had sent the dove out, and she returned to the ark very quickly. A few days later he sent her out again; this time she returned bearing an olive leaf in her mouth. The third time Noah sent her out, she never came back.

Such a small thing, a leaf! Yet it was a message for Noah that he was not forgotten.

Chapter 18 of the first book of the Kings tells us of Elijah, who had taken a stand against the prophets of the Baalim idols. Israel had had no rain for three years and Elijah promised the king that there would be rain imminently.

Then he went away to the top of Mount Carmel and beseeched God to bring the rain. He anxiously sent his servant up to scan the sky for something, anything. Finally, on the seventh time the servant reported sighting a tiny cloud on the horizon, a cloud the size of a man's hand.  

The little cloud conveyed a message from God to Elijah, Dad observed. "You're not forgotten; I hear you. I am with you. I'm coming."

Look at what Joseph went through! Sold by his own brothers into slavery, he was taken into Potiphar's house. Mrs Potiphar soon had her eye on him and tried to seduce him. When that failed, she lied and said that he had attacked her. Joseph got thrown into jail, where he was forgotten for at least two years. Then he interpreted the Pharaoh's dream; and in gratitude the Pharaoh raised him up to be second only to himself in the land. 

Through all of these circumstances, we read that "The Lord was with Joseph."

It was a few years after Joseph's meteoric rise from jailbird to second in command that the mighty famine struck the whole area and in due course Joseph's own brothers came looking to buy food.

Just suppose Joseph's brothers hadn't sold him, Dad asked, or if Potiphar's wife hadn't lied about him? He would have had a pretty good life ... but when the famine struck, what would have happened to his family and people?

God used the brush strokes of envy from the brothers' paintbrush to paint the picture of His purposes. Mrs Potiphar's lies, the languishing in jail? God was in it all. 

Then Dad told of a time, back in the 1950s, where he had been preaching intensely and he was emotionally exhausted and deeply depressed. He returned back to his family's farm and helped his Dad out around the place. He felt that his ministry and maybe his life were finished. The book of Isaiah, chapter 38 and verses 11 through 14 were the only words that seemed to sum up exactly what he was feeling:

11 I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.
12 Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
13 I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
14 Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.

One day he was working with his dad when a car drove into the farmyard. Out stepped the president of the College from which my Dad had graduated. Cyril Hutchinson spoke for a little while with Bapa, as all his grandchildren would call him years later; and then Cyril turned to Dad. He told Dad that he had been in Edmonton and was heading to Calgary, but he had wanted to invite Dad personally to be the speaker at the college's conference. He had come an enormous distance out of his way to see Dad face to face.

And at that moment Dad knew that  Cyril was God's face for Dad that day. Cyril was God's voice to Dad saying, "You are not forgotten."

Dad recounted a story, found in the devotional book Streams in the Desert, of a missionary woman who was sent boxes of oatmeal from a Scottish man. She had no other food except for some cans of condensed milk. She had no money. Her health started to fail and she begged God to let her receive mail with some monetary gift in order for her to get the medical attention she needed and some fresh fruit and vegetables to make her better and stronger.

But no mail came. For four weeks, nothing. All she had was the oatmeal and milk, and so every day for a month she ate oatmeal gruel. On about the third week she started to feel better and by the end of the fourth week she was healed. And at the end of the fourth week, she received mail with some money enclosed and she was able to buy sustaining food.

When she came back to the States she was sharing this story in a meeting. A doctor in the audience quizzed her more closely on her symptoms and then responded that the cure for that particular disease was four weeks of nothing but oatmeal gruel. Any other food would have made her worse.

God had given her the cure. He was in the oatmeal, even though at the time she could not possibly have known it!

Dad mentioned one more incident from the Bible. and this one stood out for me more than any other. In the first book of the Kings, chapter 19 and verses 10-12 we see the great prophet Elijah once again. He had taken a stand against the people turning away from God and had spoken up; now he was in fear of losing his life. He felt alone and forsaken by all, and he cried out to God for some word that he was not forgotten.

God told him to go to the mountain and stand before Him. Elijah did so, and it says, "The Lord passed by." Suddenly there was a terrific wind so strong that the mountain split and rocks shattered into pieces; but, it says, "but the Lord was not in the wind." Following this there was an earthquake; but "the Lord was not in the earthquake." Next there was a fire; but "the Lord was not in the fire." All are displays of power and majesty and what we might think of as typical God-like judgment - but God was not present in any of these things!

And then he heard it - "a still, small voice," and he knew that he was not forgotten He knew that God had not forsaken him.

To change tracks a little bit, I had forgotten to bring my Bible to church on Sunday morning. I was debating whether to turn back as we were barely away from the TH; but we were running a little bit behind and the wind was whipping the snow into a frenzy so I decided to take my chances on finding one at the church.

I had been "running a little bit behind" since Dad had been issued oxygen on Friday.

When we arrived there was a left-behind Gideon Bible in a pew and I gratefully took that to use for the service, following along as I always do whenever he reads out a text.

But when it came to the "still, small voice" part, the words in the Gideon Bible were slightly different. The words in the Gideon Bible said, "a sound of a gentle blowing."

Exactly the sound of the oxygen giving Dad a reprieve from coughing and sleeplessness.

I looked to the left of where I was sitting, where my Dad's oxygen canister was waiting as he preached with such power and authority and love ten feet away. Then I glanced around the little church, filled with the golden glow of old wood, natural light and something more this morning: People were visibly moved as Dad gently suggested that God is showing His face, is making His presence felt, whether we recognize it or not.

Dad is very thankful for the oxygen, because it will enable him to go back to the land of his heart and preach to the people of his heart again this year. 

An olive leaf.

A cloud the size of a hand.

The jealousy of brothers.

A detoured car trip.


An oxygen canister.

God has not forgotten us. He is with us.

Dad's breath is in His hand.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"i carry your heart with me"

She wears the delicate heart close to her own most of the time. It's the last she has of him.

Valentine's day will be hard this year. Every day has been hard since he left without even a proper goodbye.

They found him near his truck. There was a note: "I'm sorry ..."

Reba, his 18-year-old dog, still goes out and sits on the driveway each day, waiting for him to come home.

So, on Valentine's day, this poem by e.e. cummings is dedicated to you, Heather.

And to you, Arny, whose beloved wife Deb passed away just two months ago after a valiant battle with cancer. To you, too, Matt, her precious son.

To Paul, who cared for his Barb so tenderly for all those years ...

It's dedicated to you, my darling Char. This time last year you and Brian were at the TH together. This year you are going to be helping me serve others - but oh, the yearning in your heart for one more day! And for Rebecca, his beautiful daughter, and Bob, his giant of a son who will always be my little brother from Food Cellar days.

This is dedicated to any of you reading this who have suffered your own tremendous, heart-stopping loss in the past year. How I wish I could put my arms around you today. I wish even more that your loved one could ...

And - as always - this is for you, Dad and Mum. You give us the clearest example of how indeed "the greatest of these is love."

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

(e. e. cummings)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"My Name is Chetan"

We're going home!!

On February 27th evening, I will be catching a plane in Calgary that will get me to Bangalore in the early watches of March 1. On March 1 evening, Dad, BA and Deb will be boarding their own plane which will land them in the predawn of March 3.

The countdown is on.


When we were in Bangalore last March our brother Ed's wife, Sarah, told us of a Children's Home for which she has responsibility. Deb and I had the chance to go out with her on her weekly visit.

Bagalur is about 40 - 45 kms away from Bangalore, depending on your route. On a whim, I did a Map Quest search: it charmingly and naively states that the time it will take is either 37 or 41 minutes, depending on the route.

It didn't factor in traffic; a permanently collapsed bridge necessitating an extensive detour; narrow, winding, bumpy streets; livestock ambling along on the road like tourists; and a festival procession. It didn't factor in that this is not North American driving. Our trip took almost two hours going there and almost three hours coming home.
The road to Bagalur

Finally we pulled into an open space and drove into the compound.

There was a group of girls under a little gazebo who waved a greeting.

Dorm rooms in the background

Four of the boys called out from the verandah.

Well, three of the boys did. One - the tiniest of all - wouldn't look at us or really respond.

Kitchen cupboard

Sarah gave us a quick tour of the place and then got down to the duties and tasks she had to attend to that week. I - of course - headed back into the kitchen.

Gas stove. Sometimes they have to line up
for hours for the cylinders.

Degunta and wife

This is not a luxury establishment by any means: there are "house parents" - Degunta, who is also a teacher at the College, and his wife - and they have been joined by Sushila, a young lady who had just graduated from the College with her Masters in Religious Education and had felt the call to work with these children. They care for the kids and do the heavy lifting; but each child has responsibilities and chores that he or she must accomplish.


Deb went outside to visit with the children, only to discover that after their initial clamorous greeting, they had headed off to enjoy their precious moments of playtime in the sun.

All except for one. 

She glimpsed him sitting with Sushila under the gazebo, so she walked over to the two of them and asked if she could join them. The child said nothing, but Sushila welcomed her warmly.

Deb chatted with Sushila and found out that while she had been at the College she had come out to work with the kids, and had taught them in Vacation Bible School when they were all bussed in to Bangalore for what would be their equivalent of camp the previous summer. 

Slowly as the two women talked Deb started to catch the tiny boy's eye. Slowly she started to weave him into the conversation. Slowly he began to respond.

Finally she asked him his name, and she gave him my notebook in which to write it:

"My name is Chetan," he said shyly.

He had to go do something and then we heard his sad story. His father was no longer in the picture and his mother could not support three children. Chetan is the youngest of the three. With no doubt desperation, in January she had brought him to the children's home to be taken in and cared for.

He was five years old.  

He was still in shock three months later. We asked Sushila and Degunta's wife how long it would take before he was okay, and the bleak answer was, "Three years. After three years he'll be adjusted."

Three. Years.

Three years of questioning why your mama kept your siblings and gave you away. How he must wonder what he had done that was so awful that she left him with strangers! Did he cry himself to sleep each night longing for the comfort of her voice, the softness of her sari as her arms wrapped around him?

And then it emerged that most of these children had one parent living still. These parents, most of them loving their children and simply unable in their abject poverty to so much as even feed them, did the only thing they knew to do to keep them off the streets where the only thing they would be qualified for was to beg - or, in a land weighted down with human trafficking, subjected to a worse fate. They chose to give them away rather than that.

A few children had been rescued from abusive situations; most were there as a testament to their parent's great love for them.

But how does one explain that to a girl who, at 13 and just entering puberty, is sobbing for the mother who sent her away before she was 10?

How do you explain it to Chetan?

I realized that day that even in a safe, secure atmosphere where one's needs are provided for, there are worse things from the point of view of a child than being orphaned. The perceived abandonment of a parent - how do you recover from that?

My heart lashed out at the parents who could send their kids away.

In the days and weeks to come, however, another mother came to my mind. A woman named Jochebed had given birth to a son but due to the political situation in the land, his was an "illegal birth." She kept him hidden for as long as she could, loving him like only a mother can love. But finally she knew she would have to give him up to spare the rest of her family. So she placed him in a waterproofed basket and left him on the banks of the river, hoping for the best. 

We know the rest of the story: that baby's name was Moses - the prophet-and-leader-of-Israel Moses.

And I thought of two other parents who wept every single time they had to leave any of their children in boarding school. Mum and Dad were the most devoted parents any boarding school kids could ask for. One or other of them came to see us almost every month; and they wrote to each of us every week at least once. We had birthday outings and care packages and weekends out of the dorm. We were home for every vacation. Despite all of this, we cried and they cried when we had to be parted. Every time.

How much worse it is for these children in Bagalur! I mourned deep in my soul.

As we drove back home to the College that evening, I was of two minds about the Children's Home. But really, in a country of 1.2 billion people where vast communities of people still look up to the poverty line, what choice did some of those parents have? And how their hearts must have broken as they surrendered their most precious treasures to be raised by someone else.

One of the first places I am going to visit when I get back to Bangalore is the Children's Home in Bagalur. A number of you have asked if there is anything you can do to help support children's work in India. You had made the bunk beds possible for the Tsunami orphanage in South India. And now you want to do more.

I wrote Sarah asking if there was any pressing need for these kids.

Sarah wrote me back:

Thank you for wanting to visit the children in Bagalur.  We can go out there on Saturday afternoon as they will have school in the morning.  There are 7 boys and 7 girls that we take care of now. Three of the boys are older 14-16 years old, three boys are 8-10 years old and the littlest one is 6.  The girls are all 12-15 years old.  They do not need anything specifically.  You may bring what ever is possible to bring, or we can purchase clothes, toys or other things for them when you come.  They need new bed rolls, but that is a bigger expense ...

When I looked into the bed roll need I was also told the children need a sheet, a pillow cover and a mosquito net.

So here is the list and cost for each item:

Bed Rolls Rs 500 each - 10 needed - [ = $10 per bed roll, i.e., mattress]*
Small sheet/pillow cover Rs 200 each - 14 needed - [ = $4 per sheet set]
Mosquito net - 200 each - 12 needed [ = $4 per mosquito net]

Any way you can help will be greatly appreciated, please do not feel obligated to help with it all.  Pray the Lord will provide.

*The information in red was added by me.

In addition, both children's homes pray at this time of year for the money required to enrol the kids in school - the new school year starts in July, and it costs about $20 per kid to get them into school for the year. There are about 65 kids in all between the homes. These are village schools they attend, but at least the kids are learning to read and write.

This list is not intended to put pressure on my RtLers in any way. It's just that some of you have been asking ... and some of you have already been giving, so you'll know what your generosity is going toward.

I would love to take a little stuffed animal for each of the children in Bagalur, like we did for the Tsunami kids last year - and this year, I would love to be able to equip each of those kids with a back pack - in which case, we would need 50 back packs in all! If anyone wants to drop off stuffed toys or back packs, keep in mind that they need to be either new or very gently used.

Just before we left I sought out Sushila. "Please look after him in a special way," I besought her. "He's so little and alone."

"I will love him," she assured me.

I believe her. You see, Sushila herself has suffered from birth, supported every step of her life by a twisted club foot. She is full of compassion and tenderness in return for those who suffer. 

As we drove away that evening the sun splashed its last hurrah for the day across the canvas of the sky.

And I whispered a prayer for Chetan, the little boy who had snuck into my heart much like Alex did in South Africa in 2007:

"Oh God, let him know that he is beautiful. Let him know that he is loved. Let him know that he is Yours."