Monthly Archives: April 2016

Why I Believe in Angels–3rd. in the series

“The good that comes to us in life—even the good that comes from God is sometimes mixed with distress.” Written by Dr. Stan Walters in a recent letter

The next morning at the General Hospital in Kingston, I was wheeled into the O.R. All this time I was totally unconscious. There the surgeon removed the round piece of skull that had been pushed down on the brain along with hair. (That was when I had a full head of hair.) And I suppose he did his best to remove the dirt and any other detritus that is in every cattle barn. The hospital put me in an adult ward for they wished me to have a quiet place. I don’t recall when I became conscious once again—it just happened. I do remember the kindness of an older sister, Keitha for she brought in ivory soap bars for me to carve into little animals. When I gave my wonderfully skilled carvings–excuse the hyperbole–to the nurses they were ecstatic.

The doctor passed on to the family just how close I had come to dying. The bolt had barely missed a major artery. With a severed artery I would have died right there in the barn. Remember this too—there were no antibiotics in those days but even so no infection followed the accident or surgery. The doctor explained that the bone would not grow back but that with time a cartilage would form protection. If the bone had grown back would that have made any difference in being a bonehead? This did occur—for a number of years after that accident, if I rubbed my fingers over that spot on my head I would feel it on the left of my face and a bit down by left side. I have a reminder with me of the mercies of God.

My nephew Allan when he was young often heard the story of this accident. He has mentioned to me that my dad used to say that God answered his prayers and saved my life. Once again I see in all of this a spiritual dimension beyond the world we know so well. Without doubt it is because of His angels am sitting at the computer writing this post.

I learned the hard way that I had to be careful about any blow to the head. It was in Bible School one day when during recess I was tussling with some of the boys and received a blow to the head. For almost two days I did not know who I was or where. I remember wandering around the school trying to sort it all out. A similar situation happened when I was studying in Kentucky. Some of us went to the gym across the street and there a few of us picked up boxing gloves. I am told I hit a chap too hard to his liking and since he knew something of boxing, he decked me. My friends lead me back across the street to my room for I was disoriented. Did the effects of that blow have stay with me?

Until I began to write this piece I had had forgotten the impression that this accident had on me. I was totally and still am convinced that it was God’s angels that watched over me during that time. They gave me back my life. Following that time, the sense of “owing” influenced my purpose in dedicating my life to my Lord. That commitment was small for how can a person recompense anyone for a “saved” life?

Too many strange things happened in that accident for me to chalk it all up to chance. God had sent his angels to change the course of my history. So may I suggest that you discard your doubts about angels for a time and let the strange and wonderful circumstances of life speak to you. Those “chances” will tell you about a spiritual dimension beyond this material world.

And I fervently believe this—angels are often seen through tears.

 

Why I Believe in Angels–2

“In a profession, service to the client is primary, more important by far than service to self.” Anon

I find it so very strange that I ever ended up in Brazil. That wonderment has to do with an incident—no I’d better call it an accident for it should have ended my life. I was nine or ten years old at the time. I now look back and add up the strange things that happened that day to allow me to live.  That’s right–the body of that boy should have been buried along with the many other Kennys at Lilys Cemetery  just North of Seeley’s bay, Ontario.

This accident happened on the family farm on Taylor road north of Gananoque. I was playing in the barn with a friend David Moores and my younger sister Alma. There were lots of dangerous things to do in the barn. We might jump from a hay mow to a pile of hay below or perhaps walk some of the beams from one side of the barn to the other. There was one place next the granary where we could dig into the hay and make a little tunnel or we would climb the makeshift ladder on the end of the barn to look out across the countryside.

That famous day—I almost wrote fatal—the three of us were down in the cow stable playing on the litter carrier. It was used to carry the manure out to a pile beyond the barn and it was built so that it ran on a flexible steel cable. It dumped its load at the right place and then gravity brought it back into the barn. When we tired of pushing the carrier, we took turns riding it; it is important to know this happened during the summer when the carrier was dry. The fun was bouncing it on the cable so that it became a bucking horse. When it was my turn the wheels flipped off the cable and I fell with it to the stable floor.

That was the moment I believe angels intervened. A large bolt that at one time had repaired the trolley wheels had not been cut flush. It hit and penetrated my skull instantly paralyzing my left side. Alma tells me she and Davids loaded me on a wagon and hauled me to the house. But nothing could be done till supper time when dad came in from the fields. I lay on the couch in the summer kitchen semi -conscious while the others ate. My brother Clifford who is 10 years older than I says that while he was at the table eating he could see my pulse from the blood oozing from the hole in my skull. He fainted and fell backwards to the floor.

I was mostly unconscious from the time I was laid down on the couch. Dad however thought the injury was not serious. So the family went to the barn to milk the cows. Still not too concerned dad took mother to the prayer meeting at the church a couple of miles away. When they returned home I suppose it was at mother’s urging that they took me in to Gananoque to a doctor. He of course could do nothing so at his instructions I was taken from there to the Kingston General Hospital. I recall nothing about the trip but I know this—the cows had to be milked the next morning. I imagine the farm work was left to dad and my brother and it is more than likely that mother stayed with me at the hospital.

Later on…

 

 

Brazil, a Melting Pot

“Believing leads to seeing but seeing doesn’t always lead to believing.” Ben Witherington

The term, “melting pot” could easily refer to Brazil at this moment in history. It has assimilated a number of other nationalities and made them its own. But that has not always been so. After 1850 when slavery ended the government and farmers paid the passage of Europeans to Brazil to work in the coffee fields—most of them were Italians. The farmers had a slave mentality so working conditions were miserable. Japanese were encouraged to immigrate to Brazil in 1908 and in the next seven years 15,000 arrived. Beginning with WWI 164,000 more came. But a melting pot did not happen.

When we worked in the interior of the State of São Paulo, part of our ministry was out on the huge coffee farms. Each farm had its row of housing for the colonos—the workers. The houses had no ceilings, a rough brick floor, instead of glass windows wood panels, no indoor plumbing or toilets. The workers would say, “We need food, clothing and medicines to be able to live. What we earn only provides two of those.” Though the Brazilian government does provide some social programs yet there is an immense contrast between the rich and the poor.

Brazil has forced the melting pot on different peoples at different times in its history. Example: Getulio Vargas before WWII promoted with laws the “whitening of the population.” Other language newspapers than Portuguese were banned. Only the Portuguese language could be used in schools among the large Japanese, Italian and German populations.

But the melting pot was happening. I recall a family that attended church when we lived in the interior. While his was a darker complexion that the typical Brazilian, yet his wife was blond and fair skinned. Nobody thought anything of that. I do not suggest there was never any color discrimination. But I do recall a book written by a Brazilian sociologist that extolled the virtues of the Brazilian melting pot. That included European blood lines, the Africans brought over as slaves and the native Indians. With the amalgamation of people from other nations the author proclaimed that it made the Brazilians a superior people. So what can I say?

The multiculturalism of the early years of the nation did not focus on allowing different cultures and languages to melt together. The opposite. That happened was because of the strength of the immigrant population. The melting pot has become more evident in recent years and may be described as moving away from a “salad bowl” approach.

It is interesting that our church’s mission work in Brazil began with a request by a Japanese, Daniel Nishizumi, to come help. The Japanese valued their culture—that certainly makes sense. The result was that most of our churches during the early years of our denomination there were Japanese. In recent times there has been a dramatic change with the planting of many Brazilian congregations. In a number of those churches, Japanese not only attend but give leadership.

The other day I came across picture of some of our Japanese friends from the time we lived in Brazil. Among them was Minoru Tsukamoto. His life began in Japan during WWII. Much of that time he was hungry with a lack of food that bordering on starvation. I knew Minoru as short and thin. As a Christian missionary to Paraguay he used his immense energy to minister there to his people.  His work was difficult for these poor farmers were spread all across the country.

When I think of “melting pot” I think of their food–Brazil has a good variety of recipes. When in the South of the country you would not want to miss a churrasco, a tasty meal of barbecued meats. Then there is the feijoada, a stew of slow-cooked black beans most often with dried pork sausage. It is served with rice and sprinkled with manioc flour. But traditionally feijoada includes most any part of a pig. As I write, I recall some of our missionaries being invited to a social club for a meal—a dinner of feijoada. I never was that fond of this food but one of our group found part of a pig’s snout poking up through the beans. But it was the pig’s eye staring at him that hurt his appetite.

No matter what this friend found in his feijoada, another loved it no matter what. I recall having dinner with him in a restaurant with both of us having jeijoada. I ate my share but the large serving bowl had more yet. I remember he finished it off–so I must say regarding this Brazilian food—to each his own.

About the Brazilian melting pot—our family was comfortable in their society with one reason being their wonderful acceptance of us. They were always forgiving and helpful. The rest of the world could learn something from the point of view we experienced.

 

Why I Should Believe in Angels

“A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.” Anon

Bad situations come along and we suppose that luck is the reason we’ve escaped from them. It is not hard to manufacture all sorts of reasons why in the end a problem worked out quite well. We leave out any answers beyond the material world. But why do we leave out any spiritual dimension such as angels?  The reason is obvious for all through years of school and during our daily lives very few admit there is a spiritual world beyond the one in which we live day by day.

However, remember this. A few years ago the best scientists didn’t know anything about quarks, the Higgs boson or other similar particles. But of course those building blocks of matter did exist. Remember this: a few hundred years ago in Europe scientists refused to examine meteorites brought to them. They said that rocks did not fall from the sky. Similarly, now those who believe only in the material world cannot accept that a spiritual world might exist around us. For me that dimension includes angels

I cannot accept that luck and the material world has all the answers to the good events that got our family through tough corners. I’ve mentioned many of those in this blog–difficult situations when we had no answers. I’ve not gone further and mentioned why I thought those hard times worked out as well as they did. Some might call them miracles or perhaps God’s direct intervention. I’ve often thought of them as the ministry of His angels.

Here is a bit of that post that you might want to look up. In “Throwing Dice for One’s Life” I mention how Doris trusted me when we plopped down in Brazil. That was a country where then we had no friends. She gambled her life and future, adding to all that the gambling what would touch the life of our four month old daughter Monica. Remember, it is impossible to stay on a street corner in São Paulo as in any or the world’s other great cities.

When Doris and I went to Brazil we had no one to meet us, could not say “Good Day” in Portuguese, had no Brazilian money nor had any sure idea of the city where we were going. We were marching off the end of the world. Strange? Yes, but I remember this. The gambling instinct is part of the greatness of every human. What we did seemed so very normal to us back then for taking chances is part of man’s God-given nature. We went to Brazil as missionaries living by faith–some might call that foolish gambling.

What I believed really happened is that God had his angels working to keep us not only safe but get us ready for that first step to our work in Brazil. Here is what happened. When our prop plane took off from Porto Rico I think it was, after refueling, two other couples boarded with each having small children. They were Mennonite missionaries going to Brazil and when they found out our predicament they offered the help of one of their families in São Paulo. These folks helped us through customs, then explained that Campinas was a city too far away to take a taxi. They did get us a taxi and paid the fare. At the bus station they bought our tickets, escorted us over an hour away to Campinas and there arranged a modest hotel.

Not only will I ever respect and appreciate those Mennonite missionaries but when I think of the chance of them meeting us at that airport—it seems now an impossible situation. You see, they had missed the plane the day before. We all could say it was just chance. Perhaps, but what a wonderful chance—for us better than winning the 649 lottery. When incidents happen like that again and again and again, I can only say that God’s angels were there all that time. Not just all the time but working overtime. Wow.