August 2009


Asia is a strange eclectic mix of cultures. We both love the diversity of it and wish our own “home and native land” was a bit more welcoming of the richness that foreign cultures bring to a country. Here we are on the first night of our stay in the Philippines eating at a Bavarian restaurant, complete with bratwurst and weiner schneitzel on the menu.

Not that we would necessarily recommend a quick trip to Angeles City to check it out. Air Asia flies to the old U.S. army base at Clark Field just outside town as they cannot get landing rights to Manila or Cebu in the south. This suits us just fine, as we are headed for the Asian Theological Seminary in Baguio City to the north. Unfortunately Angeles is everything you would imagine a town that grew up to service the U.S. army might be; full of karoke bars and massage parlours. Being hustled by Asian hotties who should still be in school is bad enough. Being offered Viagra on every street corner, I take that as a personal affront!

This hotel – called the Swiss Chalet, of all things – is nestled in the heart of this district, but it is strangely welcoming and secure, a European outpost in an Asian cosmopolitan mix. We have rented a car, and tomorrow we head out for the cool clear north to meet with the TWR staff and establish some contacts. We have some concerns regarding our safety on the roads in a strange country, and we are counting on the Lord to keep us safe. We will keep you posted.

Jon Age 4

Liz Age 1Dave Age 3

I have been house bound for three days this week while Telecom Malaysia has been working on repairing our “very, big problem” with our phone line, by which we access the internet. It seemed like a great opportunity to get started on the task of scanning in all of our old photos.

The ’80s was a wonderful decade for our family starting with Jon’s birth in 1980, Dave in 81 and Liz in 83. During that time we also celebrated four family weddings and welcomed several new nieces and nephews. There were summer vacations at the cottage, major anniversaries and Christmas celebrations in various family homes. Each picture I scanned was an opportunity to relive the joy and excitement of those experiences that were so very precious.

I know that passport pictures are generally not the most flattering but these photos taken for  our kids first passports, in preparation for our year in Bangladesh are among my favourites.

Jon and Nicole
Pam and I married what in our day was considered relatively late. I was 28, she was 26. Most of our friends were married when they were 21 and were making sympathetic clucking noises about our tardiness. We ignored them until we found each other. Thirty years on we are both glad we waited.

But not everybody does. Pam’s cousin Sandra, a regular visitor to our site, has been with her husband Larry from the get go, and I think they are coming up for 40 years together. My Mom married Dad when she was 21 (after an engagement of two weeks!) and the marriage lasted better than 50 years before he passed away. People are different, that’s all, and age is no determiner of commitment.

So when our son Jon and his girlfriend Nicole, both 20 at the time, sat us down and explained to us that they were determined to get married and did they have our blessing, we gave it without hestitation. Jon was mature when he was five and always had a very clear idea of where he was going in life. He and Nicole had been a steady item for three years, and it was obvious that they were ready for the next step in their relationship.

The wedding was beautiful, and it was a great blessing to Pam and I to see our son and new bride so happy. But it has been an increasing joy to see how the Lord has filled their young lives with friends and family and children of their own to nurture and raise. The Bible says that he who finds a good wife, finds a good thing. This has certainly been my experience, and it is obviously our son’s experience as well. So Happy Anniversary Jon and Nicole. May you live long enough to see your joy replicated in your children’s lives.

008I was delighted to learn from the TWR Philippines team, that they had recieved a letter from a TWR listener in Malaysia and then to find that she actually lives in Kuala Lumpur. I am sure there are many others in this country but I have yet to meet them.

Yesterday I went to visit with this lovely lady who daily listens to the English programs from the Philippines, broadcast via shortwave from the island of Guam. She is a single, retired Midwife and for eighteen years her only source of spiritual teaching and encouragement was through her radio. Two years ago, Mary had a chance encounter with a former co-worker whom she had not seen for thirteen years. This lady invited her to attend church with her so now Mary has regular fellowship and Bible study to provide support and encouragement.

There are many other programs that she enjoys so she keeps two radios, one of which is always tuned to the station that recieves the TWR broadcast. She doesn’t want to risk losing that frequency and being unable to locate it again as it can be tricky.
Here are some excerpts from the letter that she sent:

“I have been listening to KTWR since 23rd April 1989. Yes, 20 years ago, accidently I tuned into TWR. I have been enriched, blessed and more closer to the Almighty. Thanks to TWR. Though the length of the broadcast has been shortened tremendously but life changing radio is my daily companion.”
“Please convey my gratitude to all the Pastors and missionaries and employees and their families for bringing the message of the Almighty through the radio especially to those who can’t afford an internet service like me. Many Pastors whom I am very grateful for Dr. Charles Swindoll, Dr. Adrian Rogers, Stewart Briscoe, Luis Palau and Erwin Lutzer and others whose names I have not mentioned. I pray for them daily.”

bioluminescence-under-the-southern-skyTaylor’s College sends their staff away for a morale boosting/team building weekend once a year. Pam doesn’t get to go, so last year, in a funk, neither did I. Regretfully I found out it was an exceptional resort as turtle-watching was high on the aganda. This year I agonized again. Yes, it is a free weekend, but it is pretty selfish of me. In the end, Pam, who was wise long before she got married, prevailed and I went.

And I got to see bioluminescent plankton! This was not what I was expecting. I was expecting a boring morale boosting team building weekennd filled with dumb games and long, squirmingly embarrassing performances. Instead what I got was a half-decent resort with very nice food, good entertainment from an excellent guitarist and singer, great company from my colleagues and an awesome light show in the water.

I must confess I balked a little the first night when someone suggested a midnight swim. It was well past midnight and I am an inveterate early riser. With the best of intentions I ended up doing a bunk and going to bed when I got back to my room. But the reports the following morning left me with no choice the next evening. I wasn’t going to miss what they were describing. So last night we headed down to the beach at a very respectable 11:30. There was no moon (although Mars was enormous!) so we had to pick our way pretty carefully down to the water, a hundred feet further out with the tide than in the morning.

Once in the water, I began to see sign that this was going to be something else. With every wave that came in, there was light activity (nothing like in the picture, I don’t have that kind of camera). As we waded further out and the light from the shore decreased, the light from the water increased. Now with every step little light sparkles would dance up from where we walked. They were not milky and cloudy, but rather individual points of light, like little underwater fireflies.

When you made waves with your hand the sparkles would increase, when you sent a spray of water into the air, sparkles would appear where they landed. When you raised your knees sparkles would rise from under the water to the surface, when you splashed water onto yourself, little sparkles would cling to your chest hair. When you swam, your arms would glow with a bright blue-white irridescence. It was utterly charming and almost magical. My friends and I were reluctant to leave even after 45 minutes of this. I only regret that I did not get to share this wondrous moment with Pam. But I am going to take her there the first chance we get.

A biology teacher can explain to you that “Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Its name is a hybrid word, originating from the Greek bios for living and the Latin lumen meaning light. Bioluminescence is a naturally occuring form of chemiluminescence where energy is released by a chemical reaction in the form of light emission.” What he or she won’t be able to tell you is why. Neither are they likely to accept your explanation that God simply delights in making the world beautiful and a constant source of awe and joy for those He has blessed with the capacity to see and appreciate His creation. Knowing this makes it all the more delightful.

I’ve got a lot of favourite verses in the Bible. “I have been young, and now I am old, and yet I have never seen the Lord’s faithful begging bread” (Psalm 37:25) springs to mind. “He that has begun a good work will complete it” (Philippians 1:6) is another favourite. But there was a verse that was especially significant to me around the time I was just getting to know that Christ died for me.

Among the few things that I am not too proud of in my life is the fact that I flunked my first year at Carleton University in Ottawa. I was too young and having way too much fun. In those days failing meant you had to wait two years before applying again as a mature student. Somehow those two years turned into four, and although I got to see a lot of the world during those years and had a lot of unforgetable and formative experiences, I began to wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t ‘tuned in and dropped out’, as the saying went in those days.

After my salvation I found this verse from Joel 2:25 to be a great comfort: “The Lord will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten”. When I read that verse I did what countless Christians have done when the Bible speaks to them: I claimed that verse as a promise from God and trusted Him to bring it about in my life, to make it real. And that is exactly what He has done. My life with Christ has been a wonderfully rewarding adventure and now here I am at sixty, and I can say without question that the Lord has restored to me all those lost years. He has made me productive in ways that I never imagined and has given me strength of purpose and body to continue to serve Him in a greater way than I dreamed possible. Locusts of doubt and dissipation, despair and disapproval once ate up my hope and my future; but God restored to me my dreams, and made them a present living reality.

If that kind of faith strikes you as a mental crutch, them maybe you need to consider what healing looks like. It’s not a crutch if what Christ has given you are brand new legs that enable you to run instead of crawl through life, and continue to stride forward when you are old. God doesn’t make junk, and His promises aren’t flimsy words. They are something you can build a life upon, something that will sustain you and give you strength. Nor is God done with me yet; in fact I see before me a whole new vista of opportunity and adventure with Him. Here’s another great verse from Revelation 21:5: “Behold, I make all things new!” And I say in response: ‘Bring it on, Lord’.


Is that Dave? Lessee: GameBoy in hand, check! Digital watch on wrist, check! Happy little smile on face, check! Must be Dave. Middle kids are like that. They don’t get to be whining and demanding, because their parents got over the mistake of tending to every little bump and scrape with the first kid. They don’t get to be precious and protected, because they’re not the last kid the parents are ever going to have. Instead they have a decent chance of growing up pretty close to normal because they are in the middle, and they get to do pretty much what they want, so long as they keep their head down.

They also get to be the conciliator between the other two and learn how to be diplomatic and accommodating. That can wear on anyone after a while, and middle kids are still human and everyone can get tired of a steady diet of accommodating others and need some private time. That is not a perfect match with our Dave, but it comes pretty close. A nice kid, a decent kid, who cares about others and gives everyone who comes his way fair value.

It is amazing how different each of your kids can be. As you age it is especially rewarding to see them mature and become who they are. We are proud of all of our kids, but today is Dave’s birthday, so he gets a digital hug from us today. It was fun having you around while you were growing up, son. Have a Happy Birthday!

088We love to meet new people, in fact that is one of the highlights of our current life. Everywhere we go we have the opportunity to meet the most amazing people whose lives have touched a large part of the world.  At People’s Church in Toronto, I met Mrs. G, of whom I had heard wonderful stories and she really is as sweet as her picture would suggest.

 Mrs. G—Kitty Anna Griffiths, of Toronto, Canada—is loved worldwide for her warm, captivating style. A British high-school teacher turned storyteller, she has served with her husband, Gerald, in churches in Britain, South Africa, and Canada, and has told stories to children in many countries. In 1991 she received the degree of Doctor of Literature from Biola University, California.

Her Bible stories are broadcast in English on hundreds of weekly releases in North America and worldwide by shortwave, satellite and internet. Believing that “all scripture is inspired by God”, Mrs. G studies the text to make sure her stories bring out the meaning of the scripture. As part of her research, she has visited Israel six times, three times as a guest of the government of Israel.

The stories combine accuracy with modern appeal. Mrs. G has made the Bible come alive for thousands of children—and adults—at home, in church, in schools, camps, cars, hospitals, in all kinds of places. The stories are for children of all ages—3 to 103! Right now, the youngest correspondent is 3, the oldest 105! Entertaining and educational, the stories are full of spiritual instruction.

The stories have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin, Rumanian, Norwegian, Farsi, Khmer, Amharic, and Russian. Bible Stories Alive are “you are there” stories. Things of long ago come alive and you feel part of the drama. One little girl says, “I feel I am with Jesus,” and a medical doctor says, “You make the Bible people become family”.

Mrs G’s connection to TWR goes back a long way as her stories have been broadcast by TWR for over fifty years.

Stokes Bay
Last night we had some of the newbies over for dinner. Pam made some yummy curry, and after a delightful meal we eased back and told each other some stories about our families and our travels. Amy told us about a friend who had a unique experience that demonstrated the power of prayer, and in response I shared this one.

When our kids were small we used to rent a cottage up on the Bruce Peninsula on Barrow Bay. The scenery was lovely, but if you know Georgian Bay you know that the water is always cold. But no matter, as ten miles across the peninsula was Stokes Bay, a lovely little cove on Lake Huron where the water is shallow and warm and there is a sandy beach and shade near the shore.

That day was particularly nice. Our favourite spot under a tree was free, the air and the water were pleasant and warm, and the kids were just a delight. We spent the entire day just running and splashing through the water, building sandcastles and having a picnic lunch in the shade. It was so nice we hated to leave, and dragged out our departure until everyone else had gone and the beach was deserted.

As I gathered up my clothes I realized that my car keys were not in my blue jeans or the backpack and I recalled that when we had arrived I had put them in the pocket of my bathing suit! A cold dread came over me, and the most pleasant sunny spot you can imagine became suddenly dark and threatening. The sun was going down. Shortly now it would be dark and there was ten miles of back road through forest to safety. In growing alarm I waded out into the water and looked at the nearly five acres we had frolicked in and I could feel both terror and despair creep into my soul. How would I ever find my keys in all of this?

I didn’t even know where to begin, so I bowed and prayed. I said, “Lord, I have been an absolute idiot. I am responsible for three tiny children and my failure to be careful has put them at risk. Please help me find my keys, and don’t allow my children to suffer for my foolishness.” Then with my head still bowed I opened my eyes, and there at my feet, between my toes, lay my keys! They were not even obscured by sand, but looked as if someone had just placed them there a moment ago. I didn’t have to take a single step; I just reached down and picked them up. That is the power of prayer.

People with no experience of God often ask how Christians can believe in a God that is so obviously uninterested in mankind; who is so distant and aloof. The answer is simple: we don’t. We believe in a God who is as real as you are, whose Spirit is a constant comfort, who listens to our every prayer and treats us each day like His family. I’m sure that some of you will rationalize this little story with words like ‘luck’ or ‘circumstance’, and if you want to go on kidding yourself and being deliberately blind to the greater reality all around you, that is your choice. But please don’t prattle on to Christians with your silly nonsense about a distant and uninterested God. That’s not who He is, and for you to think so is as foolish as a man who forgets his responsibilities to his children and goes swimming with keys!

It is a wonderful thing to live in a multi-cultural society. I noticed this morning that the malls are once again filling up with stalls selling Moon Cakes.

mooncake1We are just heading into the first in a series of celebrations that will take us all the way through to February with plenty of decorations and amazing food. This is the third major festival of the Chinese calendar, which is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month and has to do with the union of man’s spirit with nature in order to achieve perfect harmony so that the contemplation of nature becomes a way of life.


This festival is also known as the Moon Cake Festival because a special kind of sweet cake (yueh ping) prepared in the shape of the moon and filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds and duck eggs is served as a traditional Chung Chiu delicacy. Nobody actually knows when the custom of eating moon cake to celebrate the Moon Festival began, but one story traces its origin to the 14th century. At the time, China was in revolt against the Mongols. Chu Yuen-chang, and his senior deputy, Liu Po-wen, discussed battle plan and developed a secret moon cake strategy to take a certain walled city held by the Mongol enemy. Liu dressed up as a Taoist priest and entered the besieged city bearing moon cake. He distributed these to the city’s populace. When the time for the year’s Chung Chiu festival arrived, people opened their cakes and found hidden messages advising them to coordinate their uprising with the troops outside. Thus, the emperor-to-be ingeniously took the city and his throne. Moon cake of course, became even more famous.  (