“He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:”
After consultation with the palliative care doctors, Bob's IV was removed to not cause him swelling and, being unable to swallow, the decision was made not to opt for a feeding tube. Bob is in his final days and his treatment is focused on comfort. Pray for God's peace for Bob and rest at the end.
Nel and her sister continue to spend each afternoon with Bob in hospital. Pray for their time with Bob, that it would be filled with God's presence, and for God's comfort as they grieve his current suffering and anticipate his return to the Lord.
Friends wishing to visit Bob may do so at North York General Hospital in room 5SE 5-142.
Our retreat was a time of refreshment and a good reminder from 2 Corinthians that God’s grace is sufficient for us and his power is made perfect in weakness (2Cor 12:9).
During the month of May, Tinah and I will host a training day for our community health team. I just received some new health teaching materials that I’m excited to share with new lessons on sanitation, TB, HIV/AIDS, and immunizations.
My team is temporarily small with Rose & Lilly sick, Akol & Lomuria on maternity leave, and Naduk & Betty working in Namalu. So it’s just been Nakut and I this past week working together. Both Tuesday and today we read the Easter story in the villages and discussed why we will be celebrating this weekend. Ayaru Yesu alakatwak! (Jesus is Risen!).
Yesterday, we walked to Nakasien for an immunization outreach. It went really efficiently and the village was happy to receive us. We gave out deworming pills to the children, tetanus toxoid vaccines to pregnant mothers, and did HIV counselling and testing with nine adults. The young children were all caught up on their immunizations. We will conduct these outreaches once a month for the next few months in villages that are further away than where we normally teach community health.
Just a short pikipiki putt from Hanneke’s stands David Livingston’s home that has been preserved for over 150 years as a memorial to his missionary and exploring work and his passion to see the brutal slave trade abolished among the East Africans that he devoted his life to. An Arab slave trader had constructed the sprawling house as a holding station for slaves funnelled from points west. When there were about 80 confined in one small room, they were forced to continue their trek to the coast and Zanzibar’s human markets. Many died or were killed on their horrific journey. The weight of the chains (preserved at the house) was oppressive and the yokes ripped into the necks of countless healthy adults and many children. The slave trader had hoped that Livingston would help him make contacts for his lucrative evil pursuit. When Livingston refused, he abandoned his house to Livingston.
Nearby stands a rather secluded 90-year-old printing facility which was established by the White Fathers, a German RC mission group. Huge Heidelberg presses, original lead movable type faces, binding and finishing machinery, most dust covered, blend with the lingering smell of printers’ ink. Although our young guide lamented the demise of the trade due to the computer, he was excited to show us the massive, functional machinery. A portion of the facility still prints school books and small orders, but the hulking machinery remains mute. The majority of Tanzania’s printing has been relocated to Dar es Salaam.
One of Hanneke’s girls, Margarethe, works at The Children’s Home, an orphanage on the outskirts of Tabora. They look after 30 kids to the age of elven. We bought soccer balls downtown and gave them to the kids. They soon mobbed us. One young ten-year old girl, Ruth, looked pleadingly into my eyes and asked if I would take her home. The facilities are immaculate and the care is good. Three of the kids have AIDS and are receiving treatment. They are receiving good spiritual encouragement as well. During the four-month furlough of the founders, Margarethe is in charge and would love prayer.
As we look to the celebration of Easter this weekend, we are filled with thanksgiving: thanksgiving for a Saviour who died in our place and rose again; thanksgiving for a loving family that has journeyed with us through many joys and sorrows; thanksgiving for two wonderful children, and two "new" children (their spouses); thanksgiving for 3.6 treasured grandchildren; thanksgiving for a church home and family both in Canada and Singapore, in which we have found love, support, acceptance, and meaningful service for the Lord; thanksgiving for the work and ministry of OMF in reaching East Asians around the world with the Good News; thanksgiving for all our partners in ministry (that's all of you!) who keep us in prayer and make it possible for us to serve where the Lord has called us; thanksgiving for our marriage, friendship, and partnership since our high school days. All these things come to mind when we reflect on all we have to be thankful for, and we acknowledge that they are all truly gifts from God.
This morning we opened our Facebook account(s) to see what might be happening in the lives of those with whom we are connected. The very first article that appeared was one written by our daughter, Anne, as she reflected on the three-year anniversary of her cancer diagnosis. As we read through it, we acknowledge yet another realisation of thanksgiving: that God remains with us even (perhaps especially) in the most difficult of times -- and that His strength and grace provide all that we need to endure.
I've reproduced Anne's post below. Her words remind us that regardless of our circumstances we are held in the Saviour's hands, and that we have the hope of eternity in Him. I hope her words are an encouragement to you as well.
May you know the special blessings of Easter and the full richness of God's blessings, Scott & Beth
Three years ago, my doctor told me that instead of a simple endometriosis surgery, he’d had to perform an emergency appendectomy and that he’d also found ‘something else’ in my pelvis. He ‘didn’t know what it was, but knew it didn’t belong’ so he’d ‘taken it out’ and ‘sent it to the lab’ and ‘we would see’. I didn’t pay too much attention to those words; in hindsight I recognize his caution and fear; he knew my appendix didn’t look like appendicitis despite the fact the it was about to rupture, and it’s never good to find something you know doesn’t belong in the body. I’d had what we now suspect was a carcinoid crisis in the hospital the night after the surgery, but nobody knew what it was then or how to deal with it and it had been terrifying. When they kept me a second night, I didn’t fight too much because I was so sore and tired, but on the second morning I was so done and ready to go, so relieved to hear ‘appendix, out’ and ‘go home’. In the days between the surgery and my diagnosis, I didn’t even think about cancer, or wonder if anything else might be wrong, despite the fact that on the way to the surgery I’d told Coleman that I thought I had cancer. When they said appendix, it didn’t even occur to me you could get cancer in the appendix; I’d never heard of it. I learned of it a few days later when the doctor’s office called first thing Monday morning and said ‘come in, NOW’, when I had an appointment scheduled for Thursday. I knew in my gut (haha) and my heart and as I lay there nursing Eleanor to sleep for a nap before leaving for the office. I googled ‘appendix cancer’ so when I learned it with my head an hour later, I knew what I was looking for on the pathology report.
One of the things we have been most grateful for is that ‘something else’ that the doctor knew ‘didn’t belong’. It was a metastatic tumour and it let us know from the very start that this was metastatic and incurable, that this was a long-term, never-ending thing in our lives now. Having that knowledge and mindset has been invaluable as we make decisions that balance risks of treatment vs quality of life, as we learn how to keep living with cancer instead of sacrificing everything in our lives in order to try to be rid of the cancer. That’s not a choice everyone gets to make, or has to face.
Three years after my OB/GYN discovered cancer in my pelvis, I am 23 weeks pregnant with our third child. All of our children were conceived and carried while I had cancer, but the first two times we didn’t know. Now we do. I’ve found a surprising (wonderful!) number of resources that exist for pregnant women who have cancer, but all target women who are diagnosed during their pregnancies; there is almost no mention of women who have cancer and become pregnant. It’s such a rare thing, to hold those two realities at the same time. Through this pregnancy I’ve been intimately aware of carrying both death and life in my pelvis.
As we come through Lent into Holy Week and approach the darkness of Good Friday and the Light of Easter, I’ve been reflecting on the reality that we all carry death and life within us. We all carry destructive potential that would consume everything around us and ultimately ourselves, like cancer. We all carry the potential to create something living with the Divine, to nurture that life within ourselves, to nourish and care for something that can cost us from ourselves but is ultimately fruitful, useful, beautiful, that we can send out into the world to love and ma
Double-toasted we wait in the sun, the drone of the twin prop Air Tanzania, Canadian-made Bombardier Dash 8, overwhelmed the chattering of greeters and enchanting bird sounds. Alvin has arrived on Tabora soil from Dar es Salaam. The front door opens downward becoming the stairs. The third passenger to descend was a smiling, waving Alvin, rather like royalty on tour.
Hanneke prepared a Malaysian feast and then T-shirts and various gifts were handed out. Alvin made the easy transition of bonding with the kids and workers and feels the climate of Tabora gives him the home-again feeling of Borneo.
Jackie continues to enjoy her mobility and walked three km to spend time shopping with her friends and have her nails painted—a teenage luxury. She is very aware of the prayers of so any friends.
Torrents of rain are hammering on the metal roof with a vengeance so loud that it muzzles the ground shuddering thunder. The rain is needed.
Cappuccino is a dog who performs the middle-eastern hospitality ritual of foot washing—or washing whatever exposed skin she finds available. It is hard just to sit quietly or she shows up with her affectionate nuzzling and licking, with a hint of pleasurable satisfaction in her brown eyes.
Phones are so cheap and rates are counted in pennies/hours. Seems like more people have phones here than back in Canada.
Today was exciting for us. On the way home from church—a very pleasant and moving affair with two young people sharing their recent journey to Christ from their M past. The three choirs were really great--as we passed the train station, Jackie and Kiri insisted on stopping the car so they could get out and walk the two km home. Three weeks ago, Jackie was in a wheelchair with great pain. Today she chose to walk. God is answering your prayers.
Alvin has arrived in Tanzania and spent his first day captive to an unauthorized tour host on Zanzibar Island.
Spring is springing slowly this year in Lebanon. The pine woods are festooned with pale pink and lavender wild cyclamen because of the abundant rain we have enjoyed.
Today, we tooled up the highway aggressively taking every advantage and collected the 50 Shawarma beef sandwiches, part gift of Fish and Loaves (4 weekends in April). Then headed back we made a quick detour to a used car parts lot, squeezed off the highway, and listened to a lengthy discussion over a front end hood replacement from an unfortunate BMW. No decision/squeezed back onto the highway. 45 hungry mouths attacked the shawarma plus 5 adults.
The best surprise of the day was Nadi asking to reread the story of Abraham in Genesis which we had done last year. The ArabBible was again put to good use, and little Ra'af sneaked in and sitting close to Nadi, followed. Nadi, eagerly guided her so that soon she could read 'Abram' and 'again' as the text continued. Nadi turned out to be a natural teacher.
Then another lad asked if he could do Bible Study with me. So I'm off to find a suitable place. Stairwells are uncomfortable, but....
You never know how God is going to orchestrate His opportunity!
Keep praying for me!
Bob remains in NYGH and continues to have trouble swallowing. There is a 30-day limit on his being away from his long care space. Nel is able to be with him daily and is hoping for some relief of her debilitating knee pain.
The loving eyes of God behold me (PS.32:8)
The loving arms of God enfold me (DEUT.33.27)
The almighty power of God protects me (PS.7:10)
Thou God seest me
God knew me and loved me before my birth (PS.139:15-16, JER.1:5)
He chose the right path for my sojourn on earth (JOB 23:10)
He proves every moment that He cares for me (1PTR. 5:7)
Thou God seest me
He promised that never forsaken I’ll be (HB.13:5)
He’s prepared for each need and all trials I’ll see (MAT.6:33,PHLP4:19)
He works in the “all things” so like Jesus I’ll be (RO.8:28-29)
Thou God seest me
His Word is a vast mine of treasure for me (PS.119:89)
The deeper I dig greater riches I see (COL.3:16)
My Teacher the Spirit continues to be (JN.16:13)
Thou God seest me
His goodness and mercy all the way follow me (PS.23:6)
His grace that is greater is lavished on me (EPH.1:7)
Gladly I trust Him - - precious, faithful is He (2COR.1:20)
Thou God seest me
I was invited to contribute to a devotional for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, also found in the YouVersion Bible app.
THE WORD BECAME FLESH
This phrase portrays the sublime simplicity of sound and quiet contemplation achieved by Egil Hovland (1924-2013), the Norweigian composer. The book of John openly declares that God himself has come into the world. Hovland composed his airy choral piece with vulnerable and exposed harmonies, greatly resembling how God himself walked among us.
“We beheld the glory, of the Father” expands the word “glory” to portray the humanity of God as found in the life of Jesus.
In Hovland’s piece, the phrase “full of grace and truth” is unexpectedly drawn out. Our attention is captivated as “grace” is given generous space to fill the hearts of all, to eventually descend on the word “truth” in order to dwell on the everlasting character of our Lord. While this phrase is simply written, the rhythm of these words faintly subverts the flow of the song, and we the listeners along with it. Something breathtaking is about to happen.
The harmonies expand exquisitely with “in Him was life, and the life was the light of all” through musical dissonance and resolution, waves of discomfort and rest pulling us ever forward to the apex of the piece where it is fully proclaimed that in him was life, and the life was the light of all. We experience this tension in our bodies, while witnessing the brokenness within us and around us. Our whole selves lean forward in our need for resolution and grace.
We do experience musical resolution, yet in a somewhat hollow, empty declaration that his own received him not. God himself walked among us, we beheld his glory and yet did not receive him. In him was true life, yet our eyes, ears, and hearts preferred to settle for half-truths and discord.
The composer, while sharing with us in our lack did not leave us hopeless, but brings comfort by reassuring us again that the Word did most certainly dwell among us. Our Saviour came simply, seamlessly, and vulnerably to bring profound healing for his children and hope to the world. His love for us is never failing, and we continue to bear witness of his glory today, full of grace and truth.
Prayer: Lord, we are grateful that you came into this world, in human form. Thank you that in you we can have true life. You are the light of this world. Today, we behold your glory and marvel in your grace in our lives. Amen.
- Written by Ann Chow
If you wish to listen to Egil Hovland’s piece click below:
Lots of walking yesterday. First under fluffy pillows thrown against the Mediterranean blue canopy along fields of sunflowers nodding their heads in African greeting on the road to the Malumba clinic. In the impressive new clinic, built with help of KWM, Dr Thomas was treating several needy clients from this other-side-of-beyond area.
As soon as we returned to Hanneke’s home, Mfaume suggested another trip to the downtown market to buy shirts. We leisurely navigated the noisy streets inhaling adequate amounts of vehicular pollutants and occasionally sauntering under the canopy of ancient mango trees.
Many special people: One M man of 89 who continues working on his maize fields although now the cancer racking his body is taking its grim toll. He is so grateful for the help of Hanneke’s God and asked us to pray for him. A young fellow invaded the conversation and announced that Dr Hanneke had saved his life when she found him writhing in pain on the mud floor of his remote hut ten years ago and transported him to the hospital.
For over three decades Hanneke has shared the story of Jesus and his concern for our need. Her journey is often fraught with thankless difficult situations, yet on rare occasions, the eyes and stories of many provide a hint of those rarefied breezes from the fields of heaven, when she will be welcomed to more beauty than fields of nodding sunflowers and greeted by smiling faces, where pain is not even a distant memory.
Taboraians are people-people. Adults greet each other with “jambo” and a right-hand wave. [The right hand is the clean hand.] Kids love greeting English speaking musungos with “Hello, how are you? I am very fine, thank you.” All without the need of a response. Men walk hand-in-hand discussing life—slightly awkward at first. Clucking chickens are free to forage wherever, as long as they come home to lay their eggs. Dogs woof incessantly behind cement block walls crowned with glass shards. Slowly Tabora is greening. The government has implemented a tree planting campaign. Many varieties of trees are planted around the town and protected. Repurposed soda bottles with small holes in their lids hang by the sapling for irrigation. Many roads have recently been solidly paved.
“In your marketplace they traded with your beautiful garments, blue fabric, embroidered work and multicolored rugs with cords twisted and tightly knotted.” Ezekiel 27:24. Some things are timeless as in Ezekiel’s day: like the marketplace—although the dB level has definitely escalated since so many vendors have a powerful speaker blasting aggressive sales pitches, each trying to gain more attention, by upping the volume. A sea of shoes spreads to the market horizon. Too often your breath is sucked away by the indescribable odour of dried dagaa fish stacked in Kilimanjaro mountains as well as fly enclosed filets of beef and assorted intestinal delicacies. Vegetables are a colour palatte of Solomonic beauty.
We purchased twenty-two trees for the new plot for $20 and will plant them tomorrow, including two cashew trees. Tanzanian cashews are superb in taste and quality but most locals are not fond of them. Maybe once their own trees produce in seven years, they might learn to enjoy their own harvest.
When crossing any road—you need the compound eyes of a fly and the darting agility of a crab. Pikipiki (motorcycles), bikes, cars, fume spewing buses, lumbering trucks and begazes (enclosed three wheeled people and goods movers) emerge from everywhere. You must check then recheck constantly. Begazes often have creative signs emblazoned on them: “God is Good.” “Am not perfect.” “The donkey has not education, but he is never out of work.”
This evening twelve members of Hanneke’s church arrived unexpectedly to sing and pray for Jacky.
Once again I want to thank you for all your prayers, you kind messages of encouragement too Jacky as well as to myself as well as your financial support.
May the Lord bless each one of you!
I may not have answered everyone as I was a bit overloaded with messages and en my computer had problems. It has been fixed so now I am catching up!
I have attached my latest news of my happy family in Tabora!
Sunday service was colourful and worshipful, yet slightly confusing. God’s house, AIC, in Tabora is a solid white mud brick structure. Inside, time and creosote darkened the rugged wooden trusses that lift their arms to support the corrugated steel roof.
When we arrived the magic of singing called to us. Men sit on the right and women on the left. The benches were very basic and required an additional padding—attached to the worshipper. No comfortable pew here. Few creature comforts are a part of daily life in East Africa. Kids sat with either parent, usually with the mother. The little kids were so neatly outfitted—full dresses made ballerinas out of the little girls. Men were neat-casual while the woman wore a colourful array of dresses.
Three choirs opened our service: The regular choir of some 20 swaying singers. The youth choir with another 20 younger worshippers and the Mamma’s choir of 15. Mama Magdalena’s effortless voice soared through the rafters, reverberating off the solid walls, clear and resonate, sending shivers of joy down the spine. A gone-to-heaven experience.
The sermon did not challenge me, since the pastor didn’t use my very few Swahili words often. I prayed and enjoyed.
The service ended three hours later and we filed outside and shook hands with those leaving, shadowed under a sprawling mango tree.
Hanneke has two dogs, a necessary security measure for any mzungu living in Tanzania. Mother, Cappuccino and her son, Buddy wrestle and beat each other up constantly. However, when the sun reaches its boiling point, that layer of hair becomes very uncomfortable. Buddy has learned the green way to keep cool. He digs a body-sized hole in a shady part the lawn. His front paws fling sandy soil airborne. When the crater is about 1/3 m deep, he snuggles himself comfortably inside. The only activity interrupting his contentment is the victorious thumping of his tail.
Friday has swooped on me like the soaring Malibu stork, the bird that soars so majestically and then lands to forage on some decaying carrion. They are nicknamed Tanzania’s Sanitation Engineers. Despite their unattractive appearance—sparce hair on their featherless heads and legs covered with their own poo--they are ecologically very valuable. Never try to eat one of these towering six-foot-tall machines or you are likely to die of some inner poisoning.
Jackie needs a private tutor since she cannot attend school. She is writing exams and struggling to concentrate because of the pain. She does not have energy to push herself but has ridden the stationary bike a few times which strengthened her legs enough to graduate to crutches from her wheelchair. Today she felt a numbness creeping into her hands and some pain. Then later tonight she surprised us all by walking outside on her own painful feet.
Today in the market as while we tried to avoid stepping into treacherous trenches of putrid liquids diluted in the rain water, we were accosted by a mentally obstinate man. He screamed at us and kept clutching us, we sought the escape of several shops but we were followed. The merchants were immune to him now, finally a shoe salesman, brought out a bamboo stick and threatened him until he took off. The drama was so sad, to be threatened by another human with a stick. There is so little help for people suffering complicated diseases here.
This morning Mfaume and I did laundry together. He is better than any modern machine. Vigoroursly scrubbing and thoroughly rinsing all the while keeping up an animated conversation. Neither you nor your clothes would ever get that care, love and personality from any fancy washing equipment.
Ngassa is gaining strength in his leg day by day. Following the operation, the leg is now straight and he will have his temporary pins removed soon. He is looking forward to get back to school.
Remembef Don as he copes with reduced vision. There has been limited improvement in his sight. He still apprecites opportunities to preach.
You can purchase his recent autobiography on Amazon.ca.
Join us May 4-5 for a missions-focused weekend of events and services at Knox!
Spring Faith + Practice: Prayers in Missions
Saturday, May 4, 2019
9:00am to 3:30pm
THE PRAYER LIFE OF DANIEL, WITH MARY ANNE VOELKEL
SEMINARS (choose one)
GUIDED PRAYER TIME FOR MISSIONS, WITH MARY ANNE VOELKEL
THE BIBLE AND PRAYER, WITH JACK VOELKEL
WHEN PRAYER DOESN’T SEEM TO WORK, WITH RACHEL TULLOCH
KIDS CONFERENCE - Ages 3-13
WITH GUEST WORSHIP LEADER AND TEACHER, BRAD G
(and Nursery care)
Sunday, May 5
11am - MARY ANNE VOELKEL preaching
5pm - MARY ANNE VOELKEL preaching
12:30 - 3:30pm - Lunch and Missions Speakers
All are welcome!
Greetings from the warm heart/heat of Tabora, Tanzania. Even as the drone of the props on the Bombardier hacked the warm air forcing us forward, I already sensed a strange homecoming feeling.
Looking out over the sprawling landscape, gleaming metal roofs connected by red earth trails, splotched the green vista and I saw familiar sites, I realized I was finally nearing home. Trying to unfold my mind and crumpled body from the rigors of my trip that spanned three calendar days, would be the first challenge.
With nothing but hand baggage, I raced through the small number of passengers and into the warmth of Hanneke, Mfaume and Ngassa’s arms as well as the more intense embrace of the 32C heat.
he latest blog provides an update of the sights and sounds from a recent trip to Skylark. We know that you have had the people of Nicaragua and particularly our staff at Skylark and our local community on your heart and in your prayers. Thank you and let’s continue to lift them up. If you feel God calling you to get more personally involved in growing His community in Nicaragua, please be in touch. 2019 is a year of building on the results of the community survey, completed in 2018, and providing the helps and supports that are needed as much as ever in the Los Medranos area. We are looking to expand our health, construction, family and various training teams.
Nicaragua, as a country, is far from being "out of the woods", but we are excited to be welcoming our first Threefold team back to the Centre in early May - the first such team in over a year. We anticipate that local trainees will have some difficult stories to share with the upcoming Paramedical (first-response) training team - it is no coincidence that we feature a picture of the local fire station leaders in our Annual Report. Please add them to, and keep them in, your prayers.
Thanks for praying. It has been a hard journey here in South Africa. I landed and within hours learned the news that my father died the day I left. I have been thankful for the 2 families that hosted me when I arrived— helping me to process grief and to discern if I was to stay or go back. My sense in prayer, along with praying friends at home, was I was to stay. And it was significant to mark the day of the funeral with the family I was staying with.
It has been a lot to hold being so far away, and yet in the last couple days realized with my spiritual director that it is significant to carry such loss and grief and struggle with being here as part of my lenten journey— walking with Jesus toward the cross. Some of the things I didn’t expect was how my presence would affect others here— some positive, others not so much...which makes sense considering the history of the land.
I have connected a little bit with the university here, met some students and will be traveling to Soweto and the Apartheid museum this weekend. April 1-6 I will fly to Zimbabwe and teach 13 staff and 60-100 students in the IFES movement. Please pray as I prepare to speak, pray for a strong sensitivity to Holy Spirit.
Attached are photos of my host family and their kids. Niq and Fatima, and their children, Minehle, Luyanda and Jonathan.