Winter in Canada


Winter in Canada

A Winter Solstice –
It is almost two months ago that we arrived in Swan River, Manitoba.
Even though only a few short weeks have passed, it feels like we have done so much already.
Exploring the countryside – especially along the Swan River – has been a fun experience. On our last stroll, a week ago, Kevin decided that the river looked solid enough to walk on so he ‘walked on water’ so to speak. At least he stayed close to the edge of the river because I promised to go for help if the ice cracked and he fell in. I was NOT going in after him! He ventured a few steps on the icy river and to my relief got back onto its bank without falling through the ice.
Today we received our first gift of fresh fish – caught by a member in our congregation on his ice-fishing trip. That seems like a very different pass-time. They apparently sit in a warm ice-fishing shack so it does not sound too taxing after all.
As from today we can start the countdown to spring! It is still many months away but at least we’ve reached the winter solstice and so far we are surviving the cold.


Waiting …

We’re standing on the brink of a new adventure – ministry in the United Church of Canada.

When the position in Manitoba was confirmed, we started the process of applying for our Canadian visas.  Little did we know that this process could take up to ten weeks.

Embracing the waiting time, we began exploring some lovely nature spots in and around Durban (South Africa).  We have swung from tree to tree with the Karkloof Canopy Trails in the Karkloof Nature Reserve, admired the beauty of the Karkloof Waterfall and watched the magnificent raptors in the area.

On clear Spring days we have walked along the beach and picnicked in the Botanic Gardens.  We have visited friends and played board games with energetic competitiveness.

We have explored the Indigenous Plant Fair and visited the Sustainable Living Exhibition.

In the evenings we have watched classic movies and drunk Milo before going to bed.

On cool and rainy days we have read much and surfed the Internet, discovering many exciting things about Swan River, which will soon be our new home in Canada.

Waiting does not need to be a boring or anxious pass-time.  We have endeavoured to fill it with activities that make memories – memories from home that will go with us and sustain us in a foreign land.

Waiting …

I share a poem:- 

‘Waiting’  by John Burroughs

“Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.

I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me;
No wind can drive my bark astray,
Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it hath sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height;
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delight.

The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
Can keep my own away from me.” 

The Learning to Live Series – Book One – by John van de Laar

“Learning to Belong”  –  Book Review by Jenny Sprong  (December 2012)

Introduction – Learning to Live:

I am beginning to read this book at the end of my term as an EA (see in Palestine and Israel.  Reflecting on my EAPPI experience, in East Jerusalem for three months, made me realise just how much there is a need for “connection” with God and with others.  This applies to everyone but especially also to Palestinian an Israeli people.  (It definitely applies to me and the loneliness I experienced, even in community, reminded me of this need for both worship and for connection.)

Before I share a very brief summary of the daily devotions contained in this guide – to whet your appetite – I shall describe something of its format.  The book is divided into four weeks, each with seven daily devotional guides.  At the conclusion of each week there are suggested questions for discussion and other thought-provoking comments.

I shall be going back to do this exercise daily – it was an interesting experience reading it almost in one sitting but its value, in my opinion, would be to reflectively read each day’s guide and to actually do what the author suggests under the four main headings:

To read

To think about

To do

To pray

I found the material challenging and deeply though-provoking.  John has consulted widely and his examples are relevant and to the point.  I enjoy the author’s sense of humour and value the way he is able to blend in something of his own story in order to illustrate the devotional value of this daily reflective exercise.

Each daily devotion is approximately 3 to 4 pages long – plus a reading from Scripture.  I enjoy the author’s frank discussion of sensitive issues and welcome the invitation he makes to his readers to live as a ‘called community’.  I found some of his suggestions enormously challenging – especially those in which I recognise my own difficulties to love as Jesus loves.  I write about these challenges openly because that means there is a growing edge for each of us in this book.  Very few of us are all the way there yet!

I highly recommend this devotional book – for all.  Whether we are new Christ-followers or whether we have been on the road for many years, these reflections are designed to become our own.  Yes, some stories and illustrations are used to get us thinking, but on the whole the reflections grow meaningful from our own experiences, which resonate with those recorded in the book.

It helps me to make short notes when I read and so I did exactly that whilst reading this book.  The highlights, which stood out for me, might not be the essence of the day’s reflections for you but I offer them, for your information, if you would like to read further:-

Week 1:  Yes, my own children “like God but not the Church”.

Day 1:

Support and solidarity are essential.  Knowing someone cares and is practically supportive.  (The SA/British Teams finished jointly!)

Day 2:

A place in which to belong is important for every human being!  Even though being connected through social media today, people still fear a deep connection with others and many are deeply lonely.  Often, this is because of previous rejection or betrayal.  We need to learn to love again.

Day 3:

We need to overcome our fear – “… we are healed when we choose to be in community.”   Jesus calls us, from or out of the most awkward positions.  Social Justice and God’s ‘Jubilee Dream’.

Day 4:

The fear of commitment and the pain of relationships.  We need to become a safe place for others first.”  Community becomes healing when we risk and share the pain.

Day 5:

Worship and prayer often help us to break down the barriers of law, culture, tradition, race and division.  If we stay and listen long enough, God speaks to us.  Healing and connection often happen through worship and prayer.  The choice is ours to make.

Day 6:

What does it mean to belong?  Stories in the Scriptures tell of incidences in people’s lives that brought them into a worshipping community.  Companions often assist us in our spiritual journey.

Day 7:

Gathering together is a healing exercise – “the decision to gather week after week is prophetic, transforming and healing.”

Exploration and Questions!

Highlights of the week.

Week 2:   What does it mean to be called of God?  We need to find our voice in life!

Day 8:

Our purpose?  We want the world to be a better place when we die.  We want to make a contribution.

Day 9:

We are ALL called.  What does it mean to fulfill our roles as Christ-followers?  Hear God’s voice and the ‘voice within’.

Day 10:

What is God’s dream?  A little boy shares his lunch and thousands have more than enough to eat.  Let us share what we have to offer.

Day 11:

Groups making a difference!  God calls us together with others and, as individuals, we work out our calling in our communities.

Day 12:

Being equipped to fulfill our calling.  Using our gifts for God and for others.

Day 13:

Worship is the key.  Isaiah’s experience of worship – what is my own?  Celebrating the mystery of worship.

Day 14:

How do we express our calling in our everyday life?  Doing small things for others.  Often we find that we can only truly live out our calling in a group – we compliment one another because when we ‘do mission’ together, we share our various gifts.

Week 3:  Invocation – God shining through.

Day 15:

We need an “ah-hah” moment in our spiritual experience. So many divisions in our world.  Something needs to give us a jolt in order to begin the healing of the divisions.

Day 16:

“While they were debating climate change, climate changed!”   Give thanks for those who love nature and promote the links between religion and science.

Day 17:

Emmanuel – God with us – a God with skin on!  These spiritual and physical worlds are intertwined.

Day 18:

Being called and being filled with God’s Holy Spirit.  A Pentecost experience helps us to experience the reality of God.

Day 19:

Inviting God!  Allowing worship to be the significant space where God meets with us.

Day 20:

To really feel “at home” is a gift a gracious hostess creates.  Being at home with God comes from understanding the nature of a loving God.

Day 21:

How we live our lives is an example of who it is we follow.  When we expect God, our lives change.

Week 4:  Instead of hiding our defenses, let us lower them.  “I see you” is the literal translation of the Zulu greeting.

Day 22:

Withstanding the pressure to conform.  Love, with all your heart … Let us learn to function well in the real world – not only in the ‘religious’ world.

Day 23:

A strange collection of people – the disciples of Jesus.  Diverse and very ordinary.  We, too, need to learn to love one another as love is the key to health in our world.

Day 24:

The dangers of exclusivity – do people sense that they are not welcome?  Living in community is difficult but essential in order to impart the love of God to one another.

Day 25:

Our part in developing community – being authentic as we seek to live in harmony with one another.

Day 26:

Greeting someone is an act of the will –  do I willingly ‘see’ another person during worship?  There is much to busy myself with in order to avoid building community but church is about community.  Here we risk connecting.

Day 27:

Tell what you saw!  Share your stories and invite others to do the same.  We need people to witness our lives – acknowledge the meaning of our lives.

Day 28:

A life that affirms others – remaining open to others.  We need to become more open and less protective of our own space.  When we offer friendliness to others they begin to feel warm and accepted by God, too.

Exploration (after each week):

Time of sharing, worship and discussion.

Where to now?

Ministry to those who come to weddings and funerals.  The two places of intense emotions – love and grief.  Belong to a small group and include regular worship in your weekly routine.


Khan Al Ahmar Jahalin Bedouin Village and their “Mud and Tyre” School

A demolition order hangs over the Khan Al Ahmar Ecological Bedouin School – this little school for 100 children was built from old car tyres (see the bits sticking out in the wall) and mud.

The Jahalin Bedouins were forced to flee from the Negev Desert in 1951 and they are living in this area, seventeen kilometres outside of Jerusalem on the Jericho road, illegally – according to the IDF.  No building, whatsoever, is allowed in Area C so not only is their little school under threat but so are all their tent-like structures, in which Bedouins traditionally live. Their community also has an eviction order and alternative places to live are being explored.  The lawyer of the Bedouins has rejected one suggested site, which was previously a garbage dump.  He was able to submit a valid report that this site was not fit for humans to live on.  The tragedy is that the Israeli Government wants to force Bedouins to relocate to a city/town environment, which is totally foreign to them.  They prefer living out in the open and they do not wish to give up their animals.

Although the most recent court decision rejected an appeal by the settlers to demolish the primary school (they said it threatened their security), the school still has a demolition order hanging over it.  The judge urged the IDF to enter into dialogue with the Bedouin community.  The international community, which was responsible for funding the building of the school, is involved in lobbying the Israeli Government with regard to the complexities of this situation.  These 94 children do not have access to education because there is no other school nearly.  There is no school bus to Jericho for them and, in the past when boys did walk the 20 kms to school, 5 of them were killed on the highway by passing vehicles.

Whether the demolition order hangs overhead indefinitely or whether it is carried out within a few months, these people live in constant fear.  This is not normal.  People should be allowed to build homes when they marry and their family increases.