January 2008


Happy Birthday Dad, Grand Pa, Great Grand Pa (Uncle Joe to some of our readers).  We love you!grear-granpa-christmas.jpg 

My Dad is the sweetest man on earth and at 83 still gets great joy out of life, his family and his painting and projects around the house.  He is always delighted to be on the sidelines, cheering on his grand children in whatever activity they are involved.  He has been a constant source of support and encouragement to me all my life and to Steve and I throughout our marriage.  He has provided a consistent godly example to us all and I never once saw him place his own needs above those of his family. 

Dad did not have an easy start. He was one of about 100,000 child immigrants called “Home Children” who were sent to Canada from Great Britain in the hopes that they would have a better chance at a healthy life in rural Canada.   After a number of years with the McRae family in a small town near Cornwall and some time out west, he headed to Toronto where he met Mom.  Dad and Mom were both saved in Toronto when they were teenagers and married young.  Working two jobs for much of his life while supporting seven children wasn’t easy in the rural areas around London, but Dad never faltered in his faith or tired of offering hospitality to whoever the Lord sent their way. 

When Mom became ill he nursed her tenderly and faithfully for years, earning a reputation in Mom’s nursing homes for his compassion, thoughtfulness to others, and his resilience. If there are better examples of what courage and kindness it takes to be a true follower of Christ, I’ve yet to meet them. We love you Dad, and wish you all the best on this special day.

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We’ve always been pretty good at planning. It takes time and a willingness to listen to what the other is trying to say. I’ve always thought better in conversation than I do in isolation, so talking is pretty important to me.

It took about twenty years of planning to get back to Asia. The last three years have been more about timing – the when, not the what. We both always knew that we would come back. Bangladesh had affected us that deeply. We also knew that the door was closing pretty rapidly. It is not easy to get a job overseas once you reach the age of sixty.

So now that we are here its all about managing our health so we can stay for a bit. We are both looking at the calendar with one eye and our vital signs with the other. The good news is that Malaysia is a pretty good place to live (provided you don’t drive!) and with the pool at our condo and the walking we both do it is pretty easy to stay fit. The bad news is that at our age it just takes one bad fall and we’re in big trouble.

I’m encouraged by the fact that my Mom is nearing 89 and Pam’s Dad 83 and both still have all their faculties – somewhat gently used, it’s true. My sister at sixty plus was looking after her granddaughter just this month while her daughter was having her second child, and my brother at just past sixty is considering going back to university to get his Ph.D! Good for all of them! I hope we can do as well when we get there in the not-too-distant future.

If you live long enough, every good thing comes around again. When we were young and having kids all our friends were having kids. It was kid city at our church, at work, in our neighbourhood; kids popping out everywhere! Okay, I understand it only seems easy to our gender. But regardless of who did the work, they were fun days. But now we are old enough that our kids are having kids and it is even more fun (more joy, fewer sleepless nights).

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Case in point: my nephew Jack. Isn’t he a charmer! He is my older sister Rosey’s older son Colin’s child. His wife Verity had a bit of a rough time with his birth and the little gaffer had to stay an extra week in hospital recovering. But he’s home now and growing well; a happy, healthy little boy.

Then there is Joe, or Joseph, if you please, my sister Rosey’s daughter Claire’s second child, born just this last week. Notice that already he’s got more hair than I do! He was kind of in a hurry to be born and Mom Claire and Dad Phil barely made it to the hospital in time. Grandma Chappell stayed home to look after Megan, who is a very active one and half year old.

Of course then there is Abigail, our son Jon and his wife Nicole’s second child, due in March, a sister for their first-born, Benjamin. I tell you, babies just a-popping out everywhere! Our only trick now is how we are going to arrange our travel plans so that we can see all these babies while they are still willing to be cuddled!

I have read the Koran twice. I will read it again this year. You cannot fight for what is reasonable unless you know what those who oppose you are fighting for. Perhaps there is some middle ground of agreement you can reach. Perhaps there is something you can learn from their holy books. Perhaps not. I will let you be the judge as I reproduce for you 27 verses taken from Sura 68 (chapter 68). I have not chosen to edit a word. It speaks for itself:

Sura 68. The Pen, or the Letter N

68.1 Nun. By the pen and that which they write therewith,
68.2 Thou art not, for thy Lord’s favour unto thee, a madman.
68.3 And lo! thine verily will be a reward unfailing.
68.4 And lo! thou art of a tremendous nature.
68.5 And thou wilt see and they will see
68.6 Which of you is the demented.
68.7 Lo! thy Lord is Best Aware of him who strayeth from His way, and He is Best Aware of those who walk aright
68.8 Therefore obey not thou the rejecters
68.9 Who would have had thee compromise, that they may compromise.
68.10 Neither obey thou each feeble oath-monger,
68.11 Detracter, spreader abroad of slanders,
68.12 Hinderer of the good, transgressor, malefactor
68.13 Greedy therewithal, intrusive.
68.14 It is because he is possessed of wealth and children
68.15 That, when Our revelations are recited unto him, he saith: Mere fables of the men of old.
68.16 We shall brand him on the nose.
68.17 Lo! We have tried them as We tried the owners of the garden when they vowed that they would pluck its fruit next morning
68.18 And made no exception
68.19 Then a visitation from thy Lord came upon it while they slept
68.20 And in the morning it was as if plucked.
68.21 And they cried out one unto another in the morning,
68.22 Saying: Run unto your field if ye would pluck
68.23 So they went off, saying one unto another in low tones:
68.24 No needy man shall enter it to-day against you.
68.25 They went betimes, strong in purpose.
68.26 But when they saw it, they said: Lo! we are in error!
68.27 Nay, but we are desolate!

Now read any 27 verses from Matthew, chapter 5.

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A good teacher lets his students know something about himself. Not excessively, and certainly not to fulfill a need, but because there is pedagogical value in doing so: people learn better if they understand the person who is teaching them. So you have to let your students know who you are. (The reverse is obviously also true: you have to be interested in who they are!)

This week in my introduction to things Canadian – hockey, the Maple Leaf, snow – the canoe came up. So I told my students about the canoe I built in St. Thomas some thirty years ago. And how my love for the canoe stretched back to when I was a kid and had learned to paddle in Algonquin Park. I told them of the waterfall where the mighty Magnetewan enters a chute only five meters wide where three fellow teachers and I nearly lost our boats and our lives.

I told them about taking my kids out for camping trips when they were small and how they had come to understand and share my love for Canada’s natural beauty. Then I told them that I had given my boat away when we had come to Malaysia, and how I missed it. They gave a collective “aww.”

But I think the lesson had more of an effect on me than them, and I left class mulling over what I had said. Unlike the guitar, my canoe is irreplaceable. I don’t have the knowledge, tools or space to ever build another one. Nor will any canoe I ever buy replace the memories of that particular craft. But there’s the consolation, isn’t it? For I have the memories of all those wonderful trips with family and friends, and they too are irreplaceable.

School started up again yesterday and in spite of the fact that our month break was rich and full and productive, we are both pretty happy to be back in the routine of work.  Steve is teaching the same courses as last semester and his classes are a bit smaller so that will, at least, mean a decrease in preparation and marking time.

It is awesome to look back over this month and think about all the joys that we experienced inspite of being half a world away from our family and friends.  Our two weeks in Cambodia provided us with a new understanding of their history and culture, opportunities to see amazing sights, meet people who challenged our hearts and make some connections for our future ministry in that country.

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We returned to KL on Dec 21st for a Christmas Party with some staff and friends, hosted by fellow Canadian expats, Bill and Kim.  Following two days with a nasty flu bug, we celebrated Christmas Eve with Steve’s Malaysian co-worker, Rowena and her family.  We had a great dinner, attended the Christmas eve service at their church and even got in some carolling with the family.

Christmas day we had a quiet morning and then went to a lovely “High Tea” at the home of an Australian friend, Fiona, where we met some of her friends and co-workers.  Then on to one of our favourite restaurants, Ole-Ole Bali, for “Christmas Dinner” with the Taylor’s Canadians, and back to our apartment for coffee and snacks and a lovely evening with friends.

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The 26th and 27th were work days for Steve as each lecturer at Taylor’s is required to “volunteer” three days of their vacation to be available to counsel incoming students and their parents.  I spent a couple of days nursing my “bug” which had by now turned into a nasty head cold.

 The 28th was a hard day for us as, it being the 27th in Canada, was the day that the Carter family were all together at my brother’s home celebrating Christmas.  It was a joy for us to know that our kids were all home in London sharing Christmas with family and it was so much fun to talk with everyone on the phone while they were together.  However, it was also Benjamin, our grandson’s, first birthday and as he was born on the day of Mom’s funeral, it was a very difficult day to be so far away. 

 New Year’s Eve was a bit unique in that we had the 16 Canadian’s over for a BBQ at our condo, which is home for the five couples who are here.  After a fantastic meal of steak and chicken, we hung out at Bill and Kim’s until it was time to go up to our swimming pool,  and bring in 2008 watching the fireworks all around us.

Thanks to our favourite carrier, AirAsia, we got free flights to Penang an island in the north of Malaysia so we spent three days on a beautiful beach area called Tangung Bunga.  Relaxed, saw yet another amazing part of Malaysia and returned ready to work.

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This is Nary. He is a Cambodian believer, saved while still a young teenager in the early 70’s. He had some education, so he was immediately suspect when the Khmer Rouge came to power. He was village kid though, and that is what saved him. If he had lived in the city he would have been killed immediately. Instead he was sent to another village near the Vietnamese border to work in the rice paddies.

At six he and the others who had been ‘relocated’ would be awakened by their guards. They would get a small bowl of rice gruel and be sent to work. At noon they would get another small bowl of gruel which they ate squatting in the fields. They worked until 10 every night. If they were sick or injured their rations were reduced. If they complained they were killed. They were not allowed to talk, read or sing. Nary buried a copy of the New Testament in the field. On a good day he would dig up his copy, tear off a page for that day and rebury the scriptures again. At night he would destroy the page so he wouldn’t be caught. The scriptures kept his faith alive.

He was allowed to return home for two days to be with his mother while she died, but he was not allowed to feed her. Not even the milk from a coconut. Food was wasted on those who were dying, he was told. Thirty years later telling us this story, he quietly cries. He was ‘relocated’ again, this time near the border with Laos. During the floods they would harvest rice in water up to their necks, placing the sheaves in tree branches to dry. The leeches, as long as your hand, would cover their bodies, weakening them further as they worked.

Incredibly Nary not only survived, but when the Vietnamese ‘liberated’ Cambodia, Nary was set aside for education and training. He studied in Moscow and eventually returned to Cambodia rising to the level of govenor of one of the provinces. Beside his quarters was the jail, where the captives of the ongoing insurgency were kept. Nary could hear their cries as they perished, and through their voices heard God reminding him of all those who were dying in Cambodia without the hope of Christ that had strengthened him through the horrors of war.

He resigned his position and left the Communist Party, an almost unheard of event. He should have been executed, but again God miraculously intervened. After obtaining his Masters at the Asian Theological Seminary in Manilla, he returned once again to Cambodia where he now teaches at the Bible College. In his spare time time he pastors three churches, one in Phnom Penh, and two in neighbouring villages.

Nary, and those like him, are why we are here. We want to be a part of the effort to bring hope and encouragement to countries and people who have suffered for too long under all the man-made “isms” of the world and the horrors they have wrought. Yes this was a tough Christmas and New Year’s without our families and friends, but for all that it is still a tremendous privilege to be here in Christ’s name, serving Him in this needy part of the part, and therefore it is indeed a Happy New Year.