Saturday, February 22, 2014

Holding the Ropes

The story is told of that great pioneer missionary to India, William Carey. A minister to a congregation in England, he was in a meeting discussing the spiritual needs of various places, and the secretary of the committee remarked, "There is a gold mine in India, but it seems almost as deep as the centre of the earth. Who will venture to explore it?"

"I will venture to go down," Carey responded, "but remember that you must hold the ropes." 

In April 1793, he sailed for India. Through his work and example, and with his oft-repeated challenge ringing in their ears ("Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God"), others like David Livingstone, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor left their homelands to care for the physical and spiritual needs of others. Many years later, in 1959, Allan T. Ironside also followed God's call to India.

He and Mum officially "retired" in 1999; but the reality is that almost without fail they went back to India every year, trying to plan their trips so that they could participate in the graduation conferences.

This year, Dad will not be able to make it back for the graduation conferences at those beloved colleges in which he and Mum invested their lives. Although he's better, he is not strong and the travel would be too much for him. Our winter has been so long and the super bugs making their rounds throughout Alberta have been particularly merciless.

And so this year he will be holding the ropes all the way from Canada for the men who are scheduled to speak. 

Prayer time at the Manor: taken
two days before he became so ill ...

Deb and I also got a mild version of what Dad has been enduring, so we too will be doing our best to hold the ropes from this end as well.

As you know, every year Reading the Leaves and the Tea House work on a project for one of the children's homes associated with a college in India. This year, we discovered an urgent need for the children's home where our little buddy Chetan lives.

The Powers That Be have decreed that the Children's Home needs to have a vehicle with separate seats and seat belts for each child. Now, for anyone familiar with travel in India, we know that there is always room for one more person in any type of vehicle! However, we also know that the kids would be much safer if they had a reliable vehicle to transport them to school each day.

Ed and Sarah Chelli have spearheaded the research and the most economical, practical van with 15 passenger seats is this one, manufactured in India:

Brand new it costs $14,000-15,000 - a great price compared with what we would pay in North America, but still staggering for our little Children's Home!

Thanks to the amazingly generous response of last year, after the mattresses and bedding were purchased we had a surplus of $2,000, which I left with Ed to be used for the Children's Home. He is putting that money toward the van. In addition, in the last few weeks we have received $1,490 from people who have asked what this year's project is. (A goodly portion of that was given with much love and prayer from the Oldies who attend Dad's Tuesday morning Bible study group at the Robertson Manor!)

So I'm putting it out to you all who have held the ropes for these children's homes right from when we raised money for the bunk beds for the Tsunami Children's Home: if you feel that you are able - in these tougher economic times - to help toward the purchase of this van, the TH will once again be accepting donations. As always, ALL the money goes directly to the project. And because this is not what's called a "soft" project (which apparently bedding and bunk beds are!), we can get tax receipts for donations over $50. If you would like more information, please email me at

Dad is back in Three Hills, and this week he once more took the Robertson Manor Tuesday study. This coming week he hopes to be able to resume the Wednesday evening study at the Tea House. Please continue to pray for continued restoration of strength and health. God promises that His strength is made perfect in our weakness and we see Him working even through this time of Dad's suffering.

Today would have been my Mum's 77th birthday. Dad always would sing to her that old song "Have I told you lately that I love you?" Today he had no voice for singing, so he played Jim Reeves' version of it for BA and me as we sipped tea and remembered a truly great woman.

But oh how he longs - how we all do! - to be back in what we consider in many ways to be our true home land ... to rid ourselves of this bitter cold, these mountains of snow; to be in the place of great congregational singing and outstanding preaching and unquestioning welcome and unwavering love.

To be in India.

Monday, February 10, 2014

If a Picture Is Worth 1000 Words, What Are 1000 Prayers Worth?

This picture, for starters ...

Yesterday morning an anxious 22-year-old grandson made his way to Deb's home. He opened the front door and was greeted by a dear, familiar voice:

"How's my boy?"

"There's my Poppa!" he exclaimed, his voice catching in his throat.

And indeed, our beloved Dad / Poppa / Grandpa / Bop / brother/ uncle / pastor / teacher / mentor / friend is showing remarkable signs of unmistakably improved health. 

We often quote the words of that ancient sage, Job: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away ..." 

Sunday morning the Lord gave - "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow."

" ... Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Who Am I Going To Call On Sunday?" - Bernice Anderson McComish

Yesterday we laid to rest one of the best women I know.
Here is the obituary for Bernice:
Bernice McComish (nee Anderson) – The memorial service for Bernice McComish is scheduled for 11:00 am, Saturday, February 8 at Bethel Evangelical Missionary Church, 123 4th Ave S, Three Hills. Bernice Elsie McComish was born the fifth child of nine to Alfred and Elsie Anderson on July 29, 1931.  She lived on the Anderson Farm in the Lake Thelma district and attended a one-room school to grade nine.  For high school she stayed in a dorm in Castor, returning to the farm on weekends. The farm was a busy place without the modern conveniences of today so Bernice did her share of farm and house work, including milking cows, stooking, and driving her own team hauling bundles. During the years of high school and of sharing an apartment with other young ladies while working in a bank in Coronation, Bernice made friends that lasted a lifetime. At 23 years old on Feb. 19, 1954, she married a local rancher, Arden McComish, They worked together on the farm for 20 years, raising four children.  In 1974, they moved to Three Hills where their children finished their general education at Prairie High School.  Bernice lost her spouse in July, 2002.  She lived her final years at the Golden Hills Lodge and felt so blest to be surrounded by wonderful friends and staff. It was in her early twenties that Bernice realized the importance of having God in her life and accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Saviour and Lord. During her years on the farm, she was very involved in her small local church.  Bernice was a devoted wife and mother who gave her time to her family, while also providing encouragement and help to extended family and friends. As she got older, her conversation turned more and more toward heaven.  On Friday evening, January 31, 2014, after a few hours in hospital, God took her home. She leaves many who will miss her greatly but also rejoice with her in the new life she is enjoying:  her sons, Wallace (Bonnie) of Stettler and Bryan (Eileen) of Erskine; her daughters, Deanna (Glenn) Odland of Singapore and Arlene of London, Ontario; three brothers, Lawrence (Edith) Anderson of Hanna; Ken (Lil) Anderson of Calgary, and Cliff (Helen) Anderson of Calgary; one sister, Edna Kary of Irricana; one brother-in-law Dave (Mary) of Three Hills; eight grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; in-laws through marriage to Arden, numerous nieces, nephews and friends. She was predeceased by her loving husband, Arden, four sisters, seven brothers-in-law and two nephews.

I got to know Bernice through my parents. Bernice and Dad had grown up in the same area; she was a year older than he and never failed to delight in that fact.
She and her husband, Arden, befriended my parents as they worked in India and helped support them financially and with their love and prayers. After Arden passed away, Bernice continued on. 
It was always a delight to have her in the TH - she would give me both a hello hug and a goodbye one. She liked her coffee black, the mug set down on the left side of her place setting, with the handle of the mug to the left, because of her poor arthritic hands. And she liked her chocolate Ovation served to her not at the time of the bill but with her last half cup of coffee. She would come to the TH with her friends; but what would make her light up were the visits with her family - she, Edna, Lynette, Dave and Mary were often together at one of our corner tables for Sunday dinner. She unfailingly made me feel that what I was doing was important and that she was grateful.
Her funeral was a tribute to a gracious, godly woman. Not only her children but her grandchildren spoke about her as the one they wanted to spend time with, the one who loved them unconditionally, the one who was always there for them.
At the funeral I sat next to my Uncle Clark, who had known her his whole life, and who said this about her: "She was always smiling. You never saw her without a smile on her face ..."
Pastor Dave Lanigan brought a very fitting word for this extraordinary woman who never pretended to be something she was not; she didn't have to because who she was was courageous, loyal, loving, happy, caring. But one part that particularly gave me pause was when he was talking about Bernice departing this world for the next. 
The word depart, he said, has several different applications. First, it was used for a ship sailing out of the harbour. We can watch that ship travel further and further away from us until it's a dot on the horizon, and then it disappears. It doesn't mean the ship has vanished; it's still sailing toward its destination, getting ready to drop anchor in another port.
Secondly, Pastor Dave said, the word depart also applied to a soldier pulling up his tent pegs and packing up his tent to move to the next destination.
Lastly, the word is evocative of oxen who have been labouring under their yoke from the start of the day, methodically ploughing field after field. Finally, as the sun starts to set the farmer approaches his team and with his own hands lifts the heavy, cumbersome frame from off his animals' shoulders.
As Pastor Dave talked about Bernice being released from her burden and care just as surely as the oxen were, my mind darted off to the words the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples: "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls" (gospel of Matthew chapter 11 verse 29). Bernice of her own volition answered that challenge - and on January 31, Jesus lifted the yoke off her faithful shoulders and said, Well done!
Toward the end of the service her son Wallace spoke, a deeply moving tribute to this mother who loved her children with every fibre of her being. He talked of how he always called her every Sunday night, not because he had to but because he knew she enjoyed that special time they had set aside. Even if he'd talked to her on Saturday, he would call her the next night. One of the things she used to love about this particular son is that he has an uncanny way of imitating singers, much to her delight - music was one of Bernice's passions.
As he closed his remarks, he said he was going to sing for her one last time - just his voice this time, singing to his beloved mother.
And the song he chose? Johnny Reid's poignant "Who Am I going To Call On Sunday?" Just a boy, longing to talk to his Mom.
Just like each one of us who've lost someone so precious to us we can't imagine quite how life can go on without our beloved one. We would never wish them back to this world of care and pain and suffering; but oh, how we'd love to hear their voice one more time ...

Friday, February 7, 2014

Where Two Or Three Are Gathered Together ...

It had been a particularly tough day, Tuesday. Dad was almost motionless all day: he could barely open his eyes, barely eat or drink anything, barely speak to us.

Even Matt, when he came over, was unable to capture his interest.

We called our dear Naomi and our dear Navaid, who reassured us of their constant support and availability.

Later on Elliot and Oliver, and an assortment of Dad's children, filled up the house and the space with sound, with laughter, with conversation; and he managed to sit up for a while, to half-enter into what was going on, to walk around behind us when the swirl got too fast.

Wednesday was slightly more promising. He was more alert and he could move around with greater ease. But his eyes were dead, glassy, no light or spark in them.

Then Brian came over to visit.

Brian may as well be another son to Dad. They have known each other since Brian was about 16, and Mum and Dad loved Brian as though he was their own from all those years ago.

He sat across from Dad, not saying too much or forcing the conversation, his penetrating, loving gaze never leaving Dad's face. 

And suddenly Dad began to talk.

"You know the verse, The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous shall run to it and be safe?" he asked Brian, who nodded.

"I've been giving these kinds of verses to people for decades. I need them for myself now ..."

Deb said to me later, "When you can't talk to your best Friend, who you're used to talking to throughout the day every day, you just want to die ..."

"They're still there," Brian replied confidently, with conviction.

"Yes," Dad whispered.

Wednesday evening Bronwyn came over with the boys; and she brought Ian Trigg, the lead pastor of Foothills, with her.

Ian sat on a little stool that had been drawn up next to the couch where Dad lay. He took Dad's hand and started to ask him questions about India, about his ministry.

They began with Dad arriving back in 1959 and teaching a few students in Chembur, Bombay. They went on to how the college moved to Bangalore but how Dad stayed in Bombay to continue studying with the students there, to work in the churches he had become involved with.

We talked about coming back to Canada on furlough ... the educational systems for us as third culture kids - "Fourth culture kids, really!" Bronwyn exclaimed when we looked at it through the eyes of Ian ... what it was like for Dad and Mum to leave us in Canada  - "The worst kind of pain," he admitted.

We talked about how, through the seeds planted by two men who sent letters requesting Dad to join their work, John Teibe and Jake Johnson, Dad went to India to fulfill God's calling for his life.

And as Dad told Ian about churches planted, colleges started, orphanages and children's homes flourishing, work with prostitutes and victims of HIV, deaf schools, music ministries, Ian marvelled at how God had worked and continues to work because Dad and people like him were and are so faithful to their call.

Bronwyn told Ian that the verse that has governed Dad's life, that has comforted him and directed him and sustained him, is the one found in the first letter to the Thessalonian church, chapter 5 and verse 24: "FAITHFUL IS HE THAT CALLETH YOU, WHO ALSO WILL DO IT."

"It's about His faithfulness," Dad replied to Ian. "He is the One who does it all."

As he prepared to leave, Ian asked if he could pray for Dad. These two godly men linked hands and Ian thanked God for the ministry Dad has had that has impact all over the world today. He thanked God for the ministry that Dad continues to have, preaching, leading Bible studies, counselling, sharing, helping to shape the characters of those who will seize the baton and carry on with the race. He prayed for strength for Dad in a huge ministry that he has and that will continue to develop: that of praying for people, of holding them up before God, a ministry of intercessory prayer.

And then Dad prayed for Ian - for his ministry, for his family, for him.

And in the hush, all of us in the room knew that we were standing on holy ground.

For where two or three are gathered together in My name,
there am I in the midst of them.
(Matthew 18:20)