Rhythm of Life
Rhythm of Life
We all remember checking on the chrysalis in the back of the classroom every morning in elementary school. In science class we would sketch a picture of what the chrysalis looked like that week and note any small changes. But then one morning, we’d come into the classroom and everything would be different. The energy among the students would be almost electric, students from other classrooms would try to sneak in to have a peak, and word spread through the entire school. The chrysalis had opened, and the butterfly was here. It was a magical moment; after weeks of small changes, barely noticeable, here was this small miracle, with four big wings and splashes of colour. The teacher would spend the day calling our attention back to our Math or English class because we couldn’t help but look towards the back of the classroom to make sure it really happened, that our caterpillar had really become a butterfly.
I had the same feeling when I walked into our S.W.A.G. (Saved with Amazing Grace) Team meeting on Sunday. I remember them being small children, running around the downstairs of the church, falling over on their short legs, being adorable the way little kids are. I vaguely remember seeing them when they were a bit older when I came home to visit from Taiwan and they’d all walk towards the front of the church for the children’s story before running off to Sunday school. But now, now they are these amazing people, that make jokes, have ideas, interact, play games. They have stories and life experiences that they can share and base opinions on. They are butterflies. It’s amazing to me. I didn’t even know it had happened until we were all in Aunt Laurie’s basement, eating cookies and discussing books and sports and sky diving. My favorite thing about this magical moment was watching them interact with each other. This group, they just need a place to come together; our job is to say a short prayer and do a devotion but they do the rest. They are the splashes of colour that will make our meetings magical. Maybe it’s because I am not a mom that this took me by surprise but it makes me so happy. They are the promise of a great year ahead, and I really can’t put into words how pumped I am to be a part of it.
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2
The Christian grade school I attended as a child was in the city of Hamilton, but the area had not yet been developed at that time, so there was still a lot of open space around it. At lunch time, the students would often go out into the nearby field to play and build forts of sticks or goldenrod. If it had rained, there were spots in the field that could get quite muddy.
One day, when the school bell rang, all the other children ran for the building. But the mud had slurped up all around my boots and I was stuck. Eventually, in desperation, I stepped out of them, tugged once more to get them loose and ran in stocking feet, my boots in hand.
Everyone was already in class by the time I got there, so I tiptoed down the hall to the washroom, hoping I would avoid detection and to get my boots clean there. Unfortunately, the Grade 8 monitor was on patrol, and her reaction was: “Look how dirty your boots are! Look what a mess you’ve made! I’m telling!” And I got in more trouble.
Sometimes I think that, even now, it’s easy to be like that monitor. It’s easy to say to people, “What a mess you are!” We stigmatize them so that they find it difficult to clean up their lives. In anger and judgment, we tell them they deserve more condemnation, firmly adjusting our own halo of law-abiding self-righteousness in the process.
Is there another way we as a Christian community could be more loving? What if the response had been something like “Wow, those boots are pretty dirty! I’ll help you clean up so you can get to class.” I would have been so grateful for some kindness when I already knew I had messed up.
When we’ve left muddy footprints of sin all over our own and others’ lives, we feel badly and wish we hadn’t been so foolish. But God doesn’t just look at us and say, “You got yourself into this, and now it’s your problem!” God rescues our feet from the miry clay and gives us a firm place to stand. He sent Jesus to earth because He knew we couldn’t clean up our sin by ourselves. And we as a community of Christ in St. Thomas have been sent to live out that kindness, forgiveness and restoration within our small group, and in the community around us.
Our church community has been blessed since 1991 with a club we call Friendship Club, because friends care about each other, enjoy each other’s company, and look out for each other. We sing, pray, learn Bible stories, enjoy snack, and make crafts together. From the time Roz garlands our necks with name tags to the end of the evening as we join hands in singing, we are reminded that we are all part of a circle receiving God’s love. Music is a big part of expressing our joy, and Annie Robert’s piano playing is always a highlight of our Wednesday evenings.
At Friendship, we listen to each other’s concerns, joys and sorrows, and care for each other as unique personalities. For Helen, the year was always just a prelude for the really important day – her “birt’day,” as in “my birt’day’s tum’n up!” She began this reminder immediately after each birthday to keep us on track for the next year. Randy was our drummer and always got a starring role when we sang The Little Drummer Boy. Roy’s favourite song was “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” and he once waved off my hovering assistance for his reading at a Christmas program as if swatting off a fly, which made everyone laugh. Keith has a delightfully droll British sense of humour. Frankie was always interested in politics and local events, so we dubbed him “Mr. Mayor.” Peter faithfully reminded us twice-yearly to change our clocks. David may be unable to speak, but he understands everything and can write down what he needs to communicate for prayer requests. Marjory would ask about our loved ones, “how’s yo honey?” Tracey loves to make art.
In Friendship, we’ve been blessed with an interdenominational group, mentors and students from a variety of church backgrounds. We just all love Jesus. We’ve seen God provide for our needs and answer our prayers, unconventional though they may be. This includes petitions for a sick horse, new porch steps, various digestive and other ailments not normally mentioned in polite company. The horse recovered, instead of porch steps the petition was answered with a whole new place to live, and our intercessory prayers for healing were heard. There’s an honesty and simplicity about the group that is very attractive. It keeps us coming back week after week, and year after year. At Friendship we can see that each person is important to God, that he values them just as they are.
Our Friends are God’s gifts to us as individuals, and a blessing to the whole church community. We are so thankful for them!
Forty years have passed since the fateful day of June 26, 1978. How does one begin to summarise the journey since? An event so tragic and powerful shapes how you go on and have to get used to a new normal. It was a life changing event, something one never really is ready for.
We thought we had the perfect picture: happy marriage with two beautiful children - Jodie, born July 14, 1973 and our son Chris born January 8, 1975. We owned a house and had a dog, Toby, who was very much loved by Jodie! Andy, my husband had a steady job and I was a stay-at-home mom. My extended family lived and still lives in the Netherlands. I am the second of 6 siblings.
I had immigrated to Canada in 1970. I was originally only intending to stay for a year! I lived with my aunt, uncle and cousins. I met Andy very early in that year and it became clear that I would not be going back to live in The Netherlands. Canada became my permanent home.
My family in Holland were eager to come and see where I had settled. My parents along with my elder sister and her baby son came to visit in 1975. In 1976 my next sister came with her husband-to-be. In 1978 it was my youngest sister that wanted to come, along with our cousin Djoke. They were eighteen and nineteen years old respectively. They arrived on June 22, 1978 and planned three weeks in Canada.
It was very exciting for them and we were eager to show them our corner of the world. We had a great time getting reacquainted. We talked, shared and explored. (Believe me; I have lived those last days over and over again in my mind!) The girls were excited to go see the lake and beach, so on Monday morning June 26, 1978 we packed a lunch and set off with five of us to Port Stanley. (Even as I write this I am experiencing anxiety!) It was a windy day as June days often are on Lake Erie. We spent time on the beach and had lunch. After lunch, we went for a walk and continued on the pier. The gate was open and there was a person fishing. Chris, our little guy, was tired, so I decided to return to the beach with him and sat in the sand watching the girls walk further on the pier, Jodie in the middle with Djoke and my sister each holding a little hand. Jodie was just three weeks shy of her fifth birthday. She was skipping along, a happy healthy little girl along with two beautiful young woman full of promise.
How do you explain and reason in your mind why there were two that never came back from that walk? Due to the wind, a big wave came and swept all three in the water. My sister, Hendrika, was the only one that survived. The person that was fishing was a sixteen year old boy. He jumped in risking his own life to save her. A piece of us had been ripped away… Oh, the heartache!
Was this God`s will? Anger, hurt and deep, deep sadness? We wanted to hide and crawl in a corner and never come out! People arrived at the door with food. The mailbox was full of cards and letters with messages of condolence. Visitors filled our living room. Family stayed and slept on our floor, not wanting to leave our side. The congregation of our church arranged search parties on the lake to look for the bodies, while other church members cook and bring food to the searchers. The communion of the Saints is alive and well! We are thankful, oh so thankful for all the support then and the years after. It is through His people that the Lord has shown His love and mercy!
We were blessed with three more children, very healthy beautiful boys in years following. Our church family rejoiced with us and encouraged us to go on, with their love and support.
Forty years is a long time, but in our minds Jodie still is our little four year old and we miss her so very much!
About two years ago we were able to connect with the boy that saved my sister. He is now in his fifties. It was a very difficult experience for him also. He is a very compassionate and caring man and our lives have been enriched by meeting him.
Djoke`s family was forever changed by her loss. She was the eldest of five siblings. The distance between Port Stanley and The Netherlands made the tragedy complicated and unreal for her family. I visited whenever I was there, but those visits were so very difficult! It is never easy to see other people grieving.
My sister had her own healing journey. She has been able to overcome her Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome through counselling in the last five years. Life is much better for her now.
We will never know what our lives would have been like had we been able to keep our daughter, but we often wonder. This is our new normal and we have lived it 40 years since.
Life is good - Retirement, health, children and grandchildren - yet we look back and see a cloud following us - a cloud of sadness! One cannot live with a burden of guilt and regret! We pray to God to take it so we are able to go on when we truly believe He frees us from it.
After forty years, we are not celebrating a sad event, but reflecting, acknowledging, and cherishing the constant support and care from a loving church.
I am a son of a peasant who used to live in my native land, Cambodia. After Cambodia fell in chaos condition I was coerced away from my parents and siblings to join in the army who was commanded to attack their own people without reason which I would not agree with.
At that time the political drive of the society forced people to serve its immense misery and demands though I did not like to do it. I was not only physically forced to serve but also mentally and nobody could share ideas or to listen to other opinion. The oppression was increased from one generation to the next. The youth in my generation [1971-1973], who were around 20 years old was forced to leave families. Their human right was taken away from protecting their own freedom. Especially there was distrust among the people and even within the family.
New law and regulation forced the young people not even to forgive their own parents if there was a mistake. After serving under the unjustness of the new government; I was hurt mentally and consciously. Sometimes, I followed the command as I liked to do it, but I actually pretended to like it.
Another regime arrived through the rescue of a neighbor country. War also continued and left my family with a new religion. My family used to observe Buddhism and later changed to follow Brahmanism. It seemed as if there was no own native religion. Khmer nation changed from a democracy to an uncivilized society. There is not a genuine national army, or no real national devotee, but only a compulsory army and animosity among their own people. Everyone is enemy. The similar condition exists till today. There is no Khmer hero. The national army from one generation to the next was also forced to serve. They all became victims of the new government. There is no monument of the genuine Khmer heroes for the next generation to remember. In opposite, those who have sacrificed their lives in war were accused from either side. There was no justice, freedom, and mercy for them at all. Neighbor countries watched and laughed and just waited to take over the country.
Nowadays Khmer people still live in an ancient system which existed two thousand years ago. One tyrant king was overthrown, next one was installed. Whoever is the head of family is the heir and inherits the power. All properties and riches is given to him or her and they own them as their personal belongings. The suffering and slavery of my family living in Cambodia right now still exists. What they experienced in the past prompts them to live out today. In comparison: gold usually valued as 10 K, now seems to be only valued as if 1 K, because generosity, moral conduct and good manner are not important anymore for the present generation and many Khmer people care not to observe these aspects of life.
In Angkor Era, there is Angkor Wat (a magnificent temple) which represented a great nation, now people are careless of the greatness which was built by our Khmer conquerors because it is meaningless for them in the present time. They dig, break, and steal, whatever they can find to sell it for their daily living.
Some of the survivors from that grand horror and agony are rescued and set aside by the Creator, who is God of all things and all races. He calls His children and people to come to Him in His time to receive His gift of the Holy Spirit. His love, honesty, justice, salvation, and mercy that were lifted up in the refugee camps softened the hearts of those who listened and obeyed His word. They thoughtfully surrendered to Him through the conviction of the Holy Spirit to obey and to follow, leading to their arrival in Canada. This was made possible through the honest servants of God from today St. Thomas, First Christian Reformed Church.
Later I really knew that my family and I were sponsored to leave from refugee camp though we owned no personal belongings to come to Canada. We owned no piece of land. My family consisted of four living souls, father, mother, and two sons. But God planned a great plan for us to lack nothing. At first there was a challenge of how to live here. We did not know anyone or have any friend who came from the same horrifying place and nation, but in opposite, we began to know better people who are like our parents. As a Buddhist, I could not find any other Buddhist who has a heart like a Christian. I am a son of peasant who had never dreamed to have a car but God gave me cars. I used to think that only those who are rich and smart could get education in the third country, but God also had a plan for me too.
Why I was a Buddhist is because I just followed my ancestor. I was ashamed after I found out I could not find a good Buddhist like a good Christian. The goodness I found could not be made by human power, but by God only. That goodness is to the glory of God, through this congregation in this church. They have shown us how to lift up God’s name through which His prominent salvation is freely given. Any religion that does not practice like Christian could not find salvation through Christ. And also there is no salvation through human work because the salvation is given through God’s grace for those whom God has selected.
From my daily living and for the future, I believe that God already did have a plan for my family. I pray for my family - may God forgive us and keep us in Him. He has chosen us and may we live under his wings, justice, perfection, mercy, love, and kindness forever and ever. Amen!
May the God of kindness always be the great Rock where my family finds refuge! May we always remember the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” NIV
I believe that whatever I have today is God’s plan for my family. May my God be praised everyday as he governs us from the beginning till the end! With a heartfelt love given by the gracious God
San Sok and family