I am usually very reluctant to go back to my home country. It means hours of tedious air and car travel, public speaking, raising funds, and often poor mattresses for my bad back. And I could say that the above was pretty well true for much of my recent time in Canada. Nonetheless something happened in me to strengthen my heart and return my lost love for Canada.
If you love surprises, so do we, and the surprises began and kept coming…
The beauty of early summer. I have always had a love for ancient cultures and inspiring landscapes. While visiting England I have experienced the silent awe of walking the ground that was trod by kings and queens of antiquity. The very soil exhales history. While in France the narrow roads winding through fields of green and quaint villages whispered and tickled my soul. The centuries of cow paths now turned into roads and soldier’s foot battles must have happened mere inches from our presence. How I want to also boast of my native Holland and it’s windmills and brick roads reminding me of a heritage of hard working people who knew how to tame nature’s fury; not to metion the ancient cheeze recipes and salted licorice! Seriously, everywhere one would take a Euro-glance one would be greeted with a monument of man or nature that said, “We have been here way before you, yes, for countless generations.”
But my ‘Oh Canada’, so young, never gave me the sense of majesty and history like my birth continent. As I drove the back roads I saw uneven highway being gobbled up by unhappy growth and the wildness surrounded by sad-sack fences that needed human mending. The major highways were tedious with weeds and uninspiring landscapes. And yet this summer the boredom was replaced by a pulling in of the beauty of the Maples and Spruce and the wild untamed. I found the green of the grass thick with splendor. The hours on and in rivers warmed by summer’s heat invigorated my body with natures wild and dark-watery embrace. The cool evenings blessed me consistently, giving relief to hot days. The evening fireflies showing off their incandescent wonder delighting our eyes and inspiring a kiss or two by the sacred pond.
Then there was the joy of reconnecting with my church life. This was one place I wanted to avoid, the church stage of pressure and performance; it seemed to kill the natural bent of the land and my heart. How could I avoid putting a good show in these big buildings built explicitly for the show? Standing in front of hungry-for- validation-ears and I was being asked to validate myself so to justify my presence and their support of my ministry, or my mission. I asked the Lord to bless me with Jabez-like provision. I also told the Lord to free me from the worry and the need to ask for money, even if the iron was hot and the shirt needing pressing. I had booked every possible weekend but one. It too got booked in the city of Ottawa on the very day we celebrate our country. It was like Jabez’s prayer was stretching the centuries over upon us as we gawked with the tens of thousands for a sight of English royalty and being rewarded with a fleeting glimpse. My adopted daughter, who had spent all of 17 months of her 14 year old life on Canadian soil, squealed with delight on the shoulders of her mother, “I am so glad I am Canadian!”
And there were the unlikely friendships that were conceived unnaturally in Thailand by unknown Canadians who had come to experience first hand our lives. Instead of fading like the dandelion they took on a new shoot like the bamboo. Barbecues, boat rides, Wonderland, and horseback riding filled and thrilled our days. My family was blessed to live in the heart of Toronto the good for almost a month because of an unlikely friendship. And financial pressures were relieved when a Pastor asked his church near the beginning of our time to bless us so we could have fun without continually thinking about expenses. Surprised by the response to our message.
This could be really the better part of it all. After twenty years of spiritual and physical and mental labour in Thailand we had nothing really to boast about, save the grace of God. We spoke of our trials and failures and the dangers of entitlement. We shared of our changing perspective of what defines the good life. And then we closed the thirty minute presentation raising our Ebenezer to the sufficiency of God’s grace. Our scars speak not of shame, but of faith’s survival and renewal. So many words of encouragement afterwards left us thinking that the time spent in trials and testings may have had a deeper purpose than we thought possible.
I told my family that I was sad that we could not stay longer and see the snow fall and the air explode from our lungs on a frosty day. I was falling in love not only with the rugged beauty but with the Canadian way. It was all so wonderful and the stories and memories of the summer of 2011 will keep us riding the wave for a while still. Thank you Canada for your land nd freedom. And thank you the Pentecostal Assemblies, you have blessed me so much and remained my spiritual family for a long time. “I am so glad I am Canadian!”