October 2009


Abel and MelOne of the real pleasures of my travels with the TWR Singapore team has been the opportunity to get to know Mel (P. Mallika), who has worked out of that office for a number of years. Last year I got to travel with her and Serene to Nepal to visit some TWR listeners there. On that trip we shared some unique experiences together, mostly good but there were certainly others that we probably would rather not repeat.  Together we visited  brothels and prisons, slept in filthy bug infested hotels, travelled almost impassable roads and tried our best to swallow some unique foods.  However, we also had the privilege of meeting some of the most wonderful women and hearing their stories of the impact of Project Hannah on their lives.

Just this past month I was with Mel and Serene once again, this time in Vietnam. Although the scenery was not nearly as dramatic as the foothills of the Himalyas, the area around DaNang had its own beauty, and Mel was once again good company as we listened to believers and listeners share their stories of how the ministry of TWR had impacted their lives.

In her years with the Media Resource Group, Mel has developed an extensive knowledge of the programs that TWR braodcasts and an amazing love for the listeners.  Her role with TWR opened the door for her to travel to Dallas for a Christian radio broadcasters conference where she was able to make connections with other organizations involved in broadcasting.

God works in amazing ways and in Dallas she met Abel, a Mexican pastor and musician who lost his wife to illness five years ago. One thing led to another, and this weekend we are going down to Singapore to celebrate their formal engagement prior to her moving to Dallas where they will be married.  Mel will continue with TWR for the time being but she will be sorely missed by the entire Singapore team. We wish her and Abel the Lord’s blessing on their marriage.

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infidelAs a Christian I have thought deeply about my relationship with Muslims. I have read the Quran from cover to cover, not once, but twice. We spent a year in the predominantly Muslim country of Bangladesh and are now working our way through our third year in Malaysia. I work and eat with Muslims, and Muslims make up the overwhelming majority of the students that I teach. I would not wish to offend them in the least. I recognize that the only way forward for the West and Islam is through understanding and dialogue.

It is in that spirit that I urge all our Muslim readers, and those who have an interest in this cultural dialogue, to find and read a copy of this important book. Having read thousands of books, from Dante to Dostoevsvky, C.S. Lewis to Cervantes, Milton to Moby Dick, I can tell you that this is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read in my life.

I encourage you to put this book on your reading list for the coming year. It will expand your understanding of Islam tremendously, and uplift you with the tenacity and beauty of the human spirit. This is one amazing life, and yes I do see the providential provision of a loving God in the preservation of this unique woman. She has a story to tell that needs to be heard.

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I am not a race fan, I am a Formula 1 fan. There is a difference. There is something special about watching the world’s best driving the most highly engineered vehicles on the planet that appeals to me. The NASCAR circuit, sometimes refered to as rednecks driving in circles, holds no such appeal.

That said, I was not going to miss the opportunity to see the World Championship Motorcycle races when they arrived in Malaysia on the weekend, especially when grandstand tickets were $10! We parked ourselves at the end of the starting grid, at the first turn, which is a downhill S-curve. The action was great, and the dog-fights – especially in the 250cc class – were outstanding, with takes and retakes within seconds. The 1000cc race was a blowout, the Ducatti of Casey Stoner tearing away from the higher revving Yamahas, Hondas and Susukis in the rain and building a 25 second lead with five laps to spare.

With the race in the bag we skipped out ahead of the crowd and got out of the parking lot before the jam. I had rented a car for the day so we made a quick escape before the traffic began to build and had an easy ride home. With friends Jim and Michel along for some easy conversation, three good races and cooler weather it was great outing on a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

Our friend, Kay posted a link on Facebook to this video of the work of Kseniya Simonova, the winner of “Ukraine’s Got Talent 2009.” This remarkable, young lady creates a story of the history of her country in an incredible display of a unique talent.

We are so intrigued and moved not only by the vast number of stories within each culture, but the variety of amazingly talented ways there are to tell these stories. The world seems to us to hold such an incredible wealth of wonderfully rich cultures, each contributing in its own way to the story of mankind’s journey upon this earth.

It is a long video at over eight minutes, but once you have started to watch, you will not be able to tear your eyes away. So get a cup of tea and and be prepared to see an art form that is completely captivating.

Norton CoverOn my desk in my little cubicle at Taylor’s College sits a battered two volume edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. I bought it used in 1973 in my second year at Guelph University, and it has been by my side ever since. It is a plain grey cover, unlike the Turner illustration on this picture. Its leaves are well paged, and its binding sags, but it is a dear friend and companion, and I would be loathe to lose it.

When I graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.Ed. in 1975 I intended to be a high school English teacher. But life is what happens while you are making other plans and I was desperate to get out Toronto and took the first job that offered me that chance. It happened to be a position teaching Industrial Arts in St. Thomas, Ontario. Shop had been my minor at OISE, something I took more for my own personal interest than any serious thought of teaching it, but it was a job, and I always figured that once I had a permanent contract, I could switch to high school, and my first love, English.

But I loved teaching Shop, and held onto it long after I could see the writing on the wall that it was on the way out. It gave me an opportunity to work with my kids, who loved coming in on the weekends and building things with their Dad. The facilities helped me renovate two houses, and the expertise stood me in good stead on the third. The kids I taught were always enthusiastic about the subject, and loved building skateboards, stools and baseball bats. I felt that what I did helped to keep them motivated about coming to school.

When the shops were closed there was a position in my school across the hall in Science. It seemed to be a good fit, and with a back door on the classroom and access to a conservation area where I could take my classes for samples, I enjoyed another good fifteen years of doing something I really enjoyed. The learning curve was steep, but by the end of my tenure I was teaching seminars on the technological aspects of the Science curriculum and driving computer driven robots across remote locations.

My present position as a high school English teacher is the third phase of my career, and finally I am getting to use that old Norton Anthology that I have been lugging around all these years. My lessons are invariable Power Point presentations and my writing projects are web based and interactive. But there at the core is this deep love for literature and the intricacies of human understanding that I am finally getting to explore and present, and I am enjoying every minute of it.

I am just so eternally grateful to God for seeing me through all the changes of my career that have given me such tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment. Each phase has had its purpose and its joys, and I still go to work excited about what I will learn, and how I can help my students to learn. And when I am unsure about a reference, there is my Norton beside me to help. That’s what old friends are for.

Parasailing

When we were kids Mom and Dad would take us to Wasaga Beach for a day. Pam’s family used to go to Ipperwash. When we had kids we would go to Little Beach at Port Stanley for the day, or up to the Bruce Penisula to hang out at the beach for a week. There’s just something about the gentle splash of the water and the sun dancing on the waves that settles into your spirit and just relaxes you.

We have had our share of vacations this term and I wasn’t eager to get away for Deepavali, the Hindu Festival of Light. But Air Asia had a special on for Langkawi at a price we couldn’t resist, so we went for the long weekend, and just got back. We are very glad we went.

Langkawi is a much overlooked little island in the Andaman Sea between the more famous Phuket to the north and Penang to the south. It has been designated by UNESCO as a GeoPark, like the Cotswolds and the Shetlands, so that development is limited and controlled. As a result you don’t get hordes of tourists or overpriced tacky souvenirs. We stayed at a modest little resort with near access to the beach at Cenang, easily the equal of Patong Beach in Phuket, or Batu Ferengi in Penang but much more laid back and undeveloped. We stayed for the entire day at one little spot, drinking club soda and ice tea and knoshing on some very nice green curry for lunch for around 10 bucks for the entire day.

The sea was clean, the beach very shallowly sloped for splashing in and the view was restful and pleasant. We watched the tide recede for the day and watched it come back in again in the evening. We sat and drank our tea and soda and read and chatted away, then came back the next day and did the same thing again. It was such a nice holiday, and a very nice way to spend Deepavali. Unfortunately all that swimming and fresh air wore us out and we had to retire before the fireworks, but I assure you we had a very Happy Deepavali, and we hope all our Hindu friends did as well. May good always triumph over evil, and light over darkness.

Oh yes, there was a little bit of excitement. That’s me in the air above the beach on a really lovely parasail ride over the bay. Great view from up there and a real feeling of serenity. I loved it.

Unlike my husband and son, I am not usually given to writing posts about the things that are burdening my heart. However, this is a thought that I have struggled with almost daily since our trips into the Philippines and Vietnam.

I feel compassion deeply for people and came here to put that into action in some small way. Many times my compassion for the women can feel overwhelming and emotionally draining, especially when the needs I see are so basic and so desperate. I know that I need to find a balance because I can’t help everyone, in fact there is little I can do even for the immediate needs of food and shelter for most of the people I meet.

Laotian Lady

 

When I look past the poverty and dirt and hunger, I see in the faces of the women their beauty and dignity and their hopes for their lives. I realize that except for the place they were born and the circumstances of their lives, they could have all the opportunities that I have.

I don’t want to only meet their physical needs, as important as they are, I want to meet the needs of their heart, for them to know that they have great value and are loved and are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.

 

 

Compassion literally means to feel with, to suffer with. Everyone is capable of compassion, and yet everyone tends to avoid it because it’s uncomfortable. And the avoidance produces psychic numbing — resistance to experiencing our pain for the world and other beings” Joanna Macy

I never want to lose the blessing that my heart hurts for the women. I never want to just live here and do good things. I want to long to help more and I want to love these women in a greater depth than ever before. So what I am learning about, and praying about and hopefully growing in, is how to move beyond wanting to help the women and even feeling pity to genuine compassion and love that leads to action.

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