Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Airline Ticket Scam

Our Dream

Ewa and I had a belated honeymoon once she landed in Canada with 'landed immigrant' status in early May, 1996.  I picked her up at the Calgary airport and we drove through British Columbia to Vancouver Island.  During the drive and on the island, we thought how fun and wonderful it would be to one day invite Ewa parents - who had never travelled outside of Poland - to visit us, and show them the mountains and the sea.

Once we moved to Edmonton, it looked like that dream would come to fruition.  We had a small house with extra room for them to stay, and a significant tax return to pay for their tickets.  We purchased some tickets through a Polish travel agent in Edmonton, and waited for Ewa's parents to receive them.  Here's some excerpts from my journals that document what happened next...

AirLine Ticket Scam

May 21, 1997
I have lots of questions.
I got laid off from work today.  Hired April 29 - laid off May 21.  We moved to Edmonton banking everything on this job.  Ewa’s parents are coming in 9 days from Poland.  And I thought the weekend was bad.

May 23, 1997
This evening we found out that the fellow we bought airplane tickets from for Ewa's parents trip isn’t exactly trustworthy.  They haven’t received the tickets yet, and it is a week before they fly. The fellow hadn’t even sent the money.  He said he would send it over a month ago.

June 1, 1997

Ewa' parents in front of the
Alberta Legislature
in Edmonton
God has been good to us.  Apparently, last week Saturday was the last day we could have done anything about the tickets for Mom and Dad.  God got ahold of us just in time as it might have been too late a day later.  Seats became available in economy class which was really a miracle because there was a line up for people to have a seat on the plane and it didn’t seem like the fellow we bought the tickets from was going to pay Mom and Dad’s way up to business class.  He was just leaving the phone off the hook at the store.  So, Mom and Dad are here now.... The travel agent has flown the coop.  The store is closed and he has left the city.  The story made local news.

July 12, 1997
Last weekend, we certainly saw God's faithfulness and Father heart as we went on a weekend trip to Calgary, Canmore, Banff, and the Rockies.  We had a great time and it couldn’t have worked out better.  The weather was fantastic.  Our trip itinerary filled up nicely and we saw lots of wildlife.  2 bears, a moose, mountain goats, sheep, a couple deer and lots of elk.  It was a great experience for Ewa's parents. 


Ewa and her Mom in the
Christmas store in Banff


God's Protection and Provision

God protected and provided for us.  We didn't lose the flight tickets - Ewa's parents arrived and returned safely. 

Even through that crazy summer with no job (see this post), no steady income, and other disheartening experiences, we were able to take them for a weekend to see Calgary, Banff, Jasper, and the Ice-field Parkway. 

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Phillipians 4:19

Monday, April 11, 2022

Employment in Edmonton

Full Circle With God

There are some Biblical accounts where God does what I'd call 'a circle of completion.'  He gives a person a dream, a starting place, or a 'state of being', then a whole bunch of activities and changes take place, and in the end the people involved find themselves returning full-circle.  Some examples I can think of are Jacob and Bethel, Joseph and his dreams, Job and his story, Joshua and Jericho.  There are some situations in Ewa's and my life where we've seen this, too.  Landing full-time employment once we'd moved from Slave Lake to Edmonton is one of those stories for us.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

On The Move

Living and working in Slave Lake served two purposes for us:  

  1. Through my employment at the OSB plant there it allowed me to sponsor Ewa's immigration to Canada, and 
  2. We hoped it would serve as a springboard for me to start a more meaningful career and move us to a larger, more connected city.
While there, I tried taking a correspondence course in Accounting from the University of Athabasca, but I found learning something entirely new, by myself, while working shift work, was very challenging.  I also applied to become an air-traffic controller, and made it through a couple rounds of interviews, before ultimately falling short there as well.  I was finally successful in landing a good paying position in Edmonton at a large plant the printed milk cartons.  Around the same time we bought a small house in Edmonton and moved.

A Crazy Summer

We were so excited about this new employment and new house!  Additionally, our tax return came back for the previous year and we had some extra money so we invited Ewa's parents to visit us for the summer.  Unfortunately, events after that didn't quite go as expected.  Take a look at excerpts from my journals that summer:

May 21, 1997
I have lots of questions.
I got laid off from work today.  Hired April 29 - laid off May 21.  We moved to Edmonton banking everything on this job.  Ewa’s parents are coming in 9 days from Poland.  And I thought the weekend was bad.
On the weekend, Ewa and I realized that we would be pretty short with funds while her parents would be here for the summer (after paying for their flights).  I got paid more and put in more hours at the OSB plant in Slave Lake.  I tried to encourage myself with the song ‘God will make a way, where there seems to be no way…’  The song goes on to say  ‘... and He will do something new today…’ 
This certainly is something new.  Please understand - I don’t mean that sarcastically.  I know God has something better in store.  This route, however, kind of took me off guard.

So.... I have lots of questions.  I’m always kind of excited when I get into a situation like this because I know something has to happen.  Will I have a job a week from now?  God can do amazing things.  Who knows where I’ll be working?  I wonder how I’ll look back on this situation a year from now.

Ewa and I were talking over supper, thinking wistfully that maybe we had missed God in the opportunity with the milk-carton printing company and this move to Edmonton.  I do not believe that.  We had prayed that God would either open or shut the doors for this job opportunity, as well as this move.  God opened the doors and now here we find ourselves.  I believe that this is all part of God’s plan.  Now we just have to continue to seek Him and His direction for the next step.

May 23, 1997
God, we look to You for provision.  There is not much hope given to us by the milk-carton printing company as far as any kind of extended severance agreement or the opportunity for a choice to work somewhere else within the company.  I talked with P.K. - head human relations man in Memphis - and he at least sympathized with me and agreed that we had a raw deal here. Later I had a meeting with management here and signed the severance package we were originally given.
Saw a job in the paper last night and another on the computer in the library today.  Applied for them both.  This is all I can do besides pray.
Come and save us God...
I see lots of big bills on the horizon.  At this point, there is only money to pay into the first week of June.

June 29, 1997
Well, I have been working as a vacuum cleaner salesman for the last two and a half weeks. It has sure been a challenge.  I find that I am too concerned about what people think to do my job properly.  A salesman is supposed to sell things. Not just educate people on their product.  I am too polite.  I need to develop urgency and need in my presentation.  There are a couple of jobs as printing estimators in the paper that I am going to apply for this week.  I will continue selling vacuums until one of two things happens: 

  1. I start to sell vacuums in volume - then I won’t look for another job.
  2. I get hired at one of these jobs that I’m applying for.  
God has really been with us through this time.  The milk-carton printing company gave us an extension of severance pay to the end of June.  So as of Wednesday I am not receiving pay any more.  God knows what will happen then.  We plan to go to Canmore for 2 nights next weekend, taking Ewa's Mom and Dad with us. 

July 12, 1997
God, You are our only strength and hope.  Friday turned out to be quite a day.  We miscarried our first baby early in the morning.  I took Ewa to the hospital. She was there until 3 in the afternoon.  She had to have a DnC done.  I left the hospital at about 1 to go home, have a shower, and then I had to get insurance for the car.  That turned out to be a little surprise when I found out that we would have to pay $400 more per year for our insurance because we live in the city now.  Just what we need in the financial situation we are already in.  I don’t have any vacuum cleaner sales yet... 

Aug. 4, 1997
Lots of Old Testament stories seem very applicable to our lives this summer.  It certainly hasn’t been an easy one.  We have completely depleted our RRSP money and have had to borrow more from Mom and Dad to make it through August.  Ewa has been really struggling with her hormones and the whole situation.  We both had a different picture of how her parents would spend the summer here.  The job with the vacuum sales company doesn’t seem to be working out.  They are not completely honest in all their dealings with customers as well as with dealers.  

Aug. 14, 1997
Oh, God!!  I need Your help.  Today I gave all the vacuum cleaner sales stuff back to the office.  I am now completely unemployed.  I struggle to know what You want me to do.  Sometimes life seems really complicated.  Ewa’s Mom and Dad leave for Poland in less than 2 weeks.  God, my only hope is You.  Please show me if there is something I am doing wrong.  I can’t walk in the dark very long.  

Sept. 30, 1997

A printing press similar to the one I
worked on in Leduc
Well, I have a job now.  In fact, this is the 2nd week I’ve been working.  I’m working for a newspaper printing place in Leduc.  I’m sure learning a lot. I have been hired as a second pressman.  They are paying me $14/hour.

God's Full Circle

So where is God's circle of completion in all of this?  I had forgotten about it myself, until I read this journal entry I wrote several years later....

April 11, 2001
I was reminded of something interesting that happened before I left the newspaper printing place in Leduc.
My manager was looking to hire someone to fill my position when I left.  We were working days and he brought in a prospect, and believe it or not (my mouth sure dropped) he was showing around a fellow that had interviewed me at the milk-carton printing company

I talked to my boss later, and apparently a year after they laid us off, the whole milk-carton printing plant in Edmonton folded.  To see the hand of God on that whole situation from that perspective makes that whole rough, jobless summer a lot less of a bad memory.  This fellow had been looking for a job for a year already!  Wow!!  Thank you, God, for your direction there, even though it seemed like I was taking the only available job opportunity at the time.  

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Car Fire!

God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done.  2 Corinthians 9:8

When we moved to Edmonton in 1997 we had a 1991 Olds Cutlass Sierra for driving around.  It had a lot of mileage on it and was beginning to require expensive maintenance.  We were concerned about this as it was our only form of transportation and I needed a means to get to work and back (a 25km drive, one way), so we asked God for help.

Sometimes God's help arrives in round-about, unexpected ways.  Here's an excerpt from journal entry from Jan. 9, 1998:

We have had quite the experience this past week.  Monday evening, our car burned in our garage.  Today we received news that the insurance company is going to write it off.  Looks like we’ll be getting a new car. 

Here's what happened...  Arriving home from work that day, I had parked the car in our townhouse's attached garage.  Sitting down to supper, I heard some weird noises from the garage, so I asked Ewa "What's that popping sound in the garage?"  I went to look and the garage was full of fire and smoke (mostly smoke).  I immediately shut the door and called the fire department.  They came and put the fire out.  

Fortunately, there was no major structural damage to the garage - mostly smoke damage.  However the car was totalled.  The fire investigator said they'd seen this before and the fire was caused from static-electric shot somewhere around the gas tank.  

We asked God for help in finding a newer used car for us - something that would last longer and be a bit more reliable.  God answered!  Here's another journal excerpt from Jan. 31 1997:

God has really been our provider in this whole car situation.  A week ago Thursday we were torn as to what to do with buying a car.  We didn’t feel totally at peace with the red Honda Accord here in Millwoods that we had looked at.  Then we went to look at a 91 Accord at a Ford dealership way up north Edmonton.  It turned out to be the one that God was providing for us.  It had only 127,000 km as opposed to the red Accord which had 195,000 km.  Not only that, but they offered us a great deal - no trade in - and we were able to buy a 40,000 km/2 year warranty along with it. 
THEN, we had agreed with our car insurance company that we would get $5900. for the Olds minus $500. deductible.  When we went to pick up the cheque yesterday, it was for $6313.  God’s provision!  It turned out that with a fire, we didn’t have to pay deductible, AND they added GST to the $5900.  We are truly blessed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

God Winks in Slave Lake - Part 2

 After Ewa and I got married, we lived in Warsaw, Poland.  After almost a year, we went to the Canadian embassy to ask them if, in the event we had children, they could obtain dual citizenship.  We got that answer, but at the same time the embassy told us that immigration law in Canada had changed and if we ever wanted to move back to Canada the ONLY way they would allow Ewa into the country was if she officially immigrated.  

We didn't want to be in a situation where Ewa was not free to travel to Canada, so we decided to change our plan to live in Poland.  We quit our work contract in Warsaw and I went to Canada alone so I could find a job and sponsor Ewa's immigration.  I left Poland in Sept. 1994 and God provided immediate employment for me in Slave Lake, Alberta.

Read Part 1 of God Winks in Slave Lake here

Moose!

There is a lot of wilderness and wildlife in northern Alberta surrounding Slave Lake.  In fact, the highways there have a swath of extra forest cleared on each side so drivers can see wildlife approaching the road more clearly - it a safety issue!  Moose are particularly numerous and dangerous because they are dark, quite large, an have a high centre of gravity.  My Dad had a work colleague lose her life in a car accident with a moose as she was returning to Slave Lake from a trip.

This is nearly what happened to me as well.  Early one morning after a night shift at the OSB plant, I was driving home from work struggling to stay awake.  It was still dark out (the shift ended at 6am).  Suddenly on the passenger side of my car a large bull moose appeared, preparing to trot across the highway.  I was doing the speed limit and I had no time to react.  Fortunately, I was just ahead of him as I passed him.  If I had been a couple seconds later, I would have taken his legs out and he would have come through my windshield.  God's protection and timing!

That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you—under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day...  
Psalm 91:3-5

The Dream of the Lost Gloves

Journal entry from May 29, 1999
Before I forget, I made a mental note to write this story in the Journal before I forgot it again.  Ewa reminded me of it one night when we were having small group and talking about things that God had done for us...

Ewa had bought me some nice leather gloves in Poland.  I had them with me when I came to Canada in the fall of 1994.  Used them that winter (of 94-95) in Slave Lake and then put them 'away' until next winter.  Ewa immigrated to Canada that spring in May.  Eventually next winter came and I couldn't find the gloves anywhere.  I looked for them high and low and came up empty handed (haha, nice pun), so I made a mental prayer to God asking Him to help me find them.  Later the next day, I took a nap and I dreamt of precisely where they were.  They were in the garage in one of the old, large, pool chlorine buckets.  I woke up and went immediately to that old chlorine bucket in the garage.  Sure enough, thats exactly where they were.  

God's direction in a dream!

Click here for more true stories of God working in my life

Monday, February 28, 2022

God Winks in Slave Lake - Part 1

After Ewa and I got married, we lived in Warsaw, Poland.  After almost a year, we went to the Canadian embassy to ask them if, in the event we had children, they could obtain dual citizenship.  We got that answer, but at the same time the embassy told us that immigration law in Canada had changed and if we ever wanted to move back to Canada the ONLY way they would allow Ewa into the country was if she officially immigrated.  

We didn't want to be in a situation where Ewa was not free to travel to Canada, so we decided to change our plans.  We quit our work contract in Warsaw and I went to Canada alone so I could find a job and sponsor Ewa's immigration.  I left Poland in Sept. 1994 and God provided immediate employment for me in Slave Lake, Alberta.

Working at the OSB Plant

While in Slave Lake, I worked at an Oriented Strand-board Plant that made plywood from wood wafers.  I worked 4 12-hour days, had 3 and a half days off and then worked 4 12-hour nights followed by 4 days off.  Some of those shift transitions could be brutal - particularly the first night shift.  

Oriented Strand Board

My initial responsibility there was clean up.  Conveyers carrying bark and other wood waste to the burner never caught everything, or sometimes got plugged or overflowed.  I got to cleanup the messes.  It was heavy, hard work shovelling wet wood waste back into the convey which was sometimes higher than my head.  Late one dark, very cold evening I was taking a short break from this labour when I noticed some very large icicles hanging down the side of the structure.  Considering their size (over 3 feet long) I thought they could be a danger to someone, so I decided to knock them down.  In my tired state, I didn't properly factor how they might fall once I broke them with my shovel.  When they fell, a large piece hit my hardhat, knocked it off and then hit my face.  I needed stitches, but I was told that I was fortunate the injury wasn't worse given the size and weight of the icicle.  God's Protection!

Waferizer
After a couple months doing cleanup, I got informally moved up to the 'Green-End' crew. We were responsible for ensuring the mill had a consistent flow of wood wafers to make the boards.  This involved running machines that debarked the logs coming into the mill, trimming these logs into 2 foot lengths and ensuring those 2 foot lengths were oriented correctly as they were fed into 'waferizers' which turned the logs into wafers.  The debarking and log trimming was mostly an automated process, but making sure the log sections were oriented properly going into the waferizers was manually done, and these logs could be heavy.  We used tools called pickaroons to help move these logs into position.

Pickaroon

Food processors are loud.  Waferizers scream past them in decibels.  One could get very mentally and physically exhausted from the noise and the work in the wee hours of the morning.  I had to be very conscious of the moves, pulls, and yanks I made orienting the wood so I didn't hurt myself.  

One evening I pulled a muscle in my back, but convinced myself I could work through it.  By the time the shift was over, I was hurting in a big way.  This was concerning because the mill tried very hard to avoid lost time injuries and my back felt like it was going to require some time off to heal.  

After arriving home, I was getting ready for bed and found my back pain was so overwhelming that I was struggling to breathe!  I called my Mom for help.  She came and I told her my back was hurting and I couldn't breathe.  She prayed for me right there, and within 30 seconds the pain was entirely gone.  It was amazing!  God healed me!

"The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all"  Psalm 34:19
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  Psalm 46:1

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Stamp Collecting and God?

Found - My Old Stamp Collection!

My Mom passed away recently, and as my Dad was cleaning things up in their house, he discovered my old stamp collection - from 40 years ago!  I brought it home and went through it and was rather surprised
at some of the stamps I found.  I'd forgotten that Mom had casually helped me by occasionally purchasing mint stamps at the post office when she went there.  I'd also forgotten that I'd purchased some older stamps myself.  I decided to do some research and see their value now, and the cost and effort it would take to get started at collecting again.

Learning About Stamps

Philately (the study of stamps), as I discovered at the local stamp store, is pretty involved.  Stamps can be: 

  • Printed on different types of paper.  Did you know that some stamp paper is UV tagged and fluorescent when see under a Ultra-Violet light?
  • Created with different adhesive types.  Older stamps used gum (glue), most newer stamps are self-adhesive, like stickers
  • Separated by:
    • a manual process (like scissors) These are generally very old stamps.
    • perforations (the lines of holes you rip to separate a stamp).  Because there are different types of perforations, there are actually special rulers to determine which type a stamp has.
    • machine cut - with self-adhesive stamps
  • Mint or Used - generally mint stamps are worth more, but there are a bunch of factors that can come into play, like:
    • their 'face value' (the original cost of the stamp) 
    • a used stamp's cancellation mark - some people actually collect these!
    • was there an error in the printing? Scratched plates, missing ink, ink scum, hickies, mis-aligned or missing perforations can cause a stamp's value to skyrocket
  • Older or newer, obviously.  Older stamps were printed using a different type of printing process
    (gravure). This print process meant that older stamps didn't have many colours, and the stamp's design could often be seen embossed through the paper on the gum side of the stamp.  I was surprised to discover I could buy older mint stamps relatively cheaply.  I enjoy the history and nostalgia of the older stamps.  I was shocked to discover in my recent e-bay purchase that the seller had gratuitously included an 1863 Queen Victoria stamp from Nova Scotia and a 1943 Newfoundland airmail stamp - before they were provinces of Canada!
  • Given a 'Scott' number.  This essentially a code that uniquely identifies the stamp in its country of origin and can also make users aware if its an anomalous stamp in some way, depending on the code any predicates it might have.
 All of these classifications for stamps probably shouldn't have surprised me - I'd spent almost a decade of my life as a printing pressman.  Having that printing experience accelerated my interest in collecting again and motivated me to learn more.

Stamps and... God?

How does God figure into stamp collecting?  I got to thinking about this last night and realized there a bunch of interesting parallels.  I'll just highlight a few of the main ones here:

We are all unique and precious in God's sight. 

"Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands...."  Isaiah 49:16a
"Why even the very hairs on your heads are numbered."  Luke 12:6b
Each stamp is unique.  Its place on the printed sheet is actually given a code.  Individual stamps have a personal history for a stamp collector.  Used stamps will have unique cancellation marks that can make them special to collectors.  Similarly, we are all unique and precious in God's sight.  God knows our personal history from before we were born (Psalm 139:13-16).  God has a special purpose for each of us, just like stamps are printed, cancelled, and used for mail delivery all over the world.  The exact same two stamps printed beside each other on a sheet could end up with completely different cancellation marks on opposite sides of the world!

God uses our imperfections to make us better.

"I’ll refine them as silver is refined, test them for purity as gold is tested." Zechariah 13:9
"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8
In many cases, stamp imperfections increase the value of the stamp. Missed UV tagging, print plate scratches, ink colour inconsistencies, and mis-placed perforations are all examples of 'mistakes' that end up making a stamp 'better' in the eyes of collectors.  God also uses our foibles, mishaps, issues, and errors, to transform us into something precious and valuable in His eyes.  

Value

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life"  John 3:16
Stamp value attribution can be rather complex.  Whole catalogues are published annually, that attempt to gauge the value of stamps.  Just one stamp in these catalogues can have a plethora of prices depending on different conditions and ways it could be collected - some of these I've mentioned above.  Essentially though, an individual stamp's true value comes down to one simple thing - how much a buyer is willing to pay for that particular stamp.

Our value with God could be judged the same way.  Its not hard compare ourselves to others and estimate our worth to God based on what we've accomplished for him, or how perfect we think we are.  But our real value to God comes down to one thing:  What price was He willing to pay for us?  

The Bible says that our sin separated us from God, and the price for that sin is death.  But it also says that God gave His only Son to 'pay' that price for us and put us back in right standing with Him.  God gave the most valuable thing He had for us!  We must be highly esteemed and valuable in His eyes!!  

"So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger?"  Roman 8:31-34

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Living in Europe

Full Circle With God

It seems to me there are some Biblical accounts where God does what I'd call 'a circle of completion.'  He gives a person a dream, a starting place, or a 'state of being', then a whole bunch of activities and change happen, and in the end the people involved find themselves returning full-circle.  Some examples I can think of are Jacob and Bethel, Joseph and his dreams, Job and his life, Joshua and Jericho.  There are some situations in Ewa's and my life where we've seen this, too.  Here's one of them...

After Ewa and I got married, we lived in Warsaw, Poland for a year.  We worked for the Polish Baptist Union Publishing House during that time.  Part of the employment agreement with them was they would provide us a place to live.  That place ended up being a new, rather large apartment at their seminary in a suburb of Warsaw called Radosc (radosc means 'joy' in Polish).  Living there for that year was something of a 'full circle moment' for Ewa.  Here's why:

Building a Seminary

Previous to us getting married, Ewa had worked as a liaison between the North Carolina Southern Baptists and the Polish Baptist Union on a project.  That project involved building that seminary!  When she was originally asked to become the liaison, she was very concerned about how involved she might become with the project and wondered if taking the position was the right thing for her to do.  As the day of the decision loomed, she had a dream on night that two ministers she was acquainted with from the States had arrived in Warsaw on the train specifically to visit her with a message.  She woke up struck at the clarity of this dream and curious because she thought they were back Stateside at the time.  Later that day, out of the blue a phone call came from this pair of ministers saying they were at the Warsaw train station!  They asked if Ewa could come and meet with them as they had a message for her.  The message was to encourage her with taking this opportunity - God would support her in it.

Ewa worked on the project for a gruelling 3.5 years.  The work involved travelling to North Carolina in the winters to recruit and prepare construction teams that would come over to Poland in the warmer months.  When these teams came to Poland, she worked as their translator and guide.  The weekdays were spent working with the teams on the Seminary construction.  On the weekends she took the teams to see various churches and cities around Poland.  She had considerable time and effort (literally blood, sweat, and tears) invested in that Seminary construction partnership and project.

Even the land the seminary was built on had an interesting story.  Before WWII the land had been owned by a Jewish family.  During the war they had been protected and hidden by Polish Baptist Christians.  After the war, they gifted this land to the Polish Baptist Union as a token of appreciation.  However, the Union couldn't possess the land until after communism fell in Poland, which was why construction didn't start on the seminary until the early 1990s.   

Living at the Seminary

Our first year of marriage living at the seminary was poignant for us.  Ewa got to enjoy some of the 'fruit of her labour' in living there.  Because our apartment was so large, we were able to host lots of guests. I had Polish language lessons in the evenings there, learning better Polish grammar.  Ewa blew an electrical fuse in the complex installing a light fixture (220 volt system over there).  We bought our first clothes washer, our first piece of furniture, and our first TV in that apartment. We had a 2km one way walk through a forest to the bus stop for work each day.  I carried that new TV from that bus stop all the way back to the apartment the evening we bought it - what a workout!  God had provided our first living space for us in a special way.  It was a provision that closed a circle in completing a busy, fulfilling chapter in Ewa's life.

90s Europe Trip - The Bad Passport
90s Europe Trip - The Engagement Ring
90s Europe Trip - Vienna

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

90s Europe Trip - Vienna

My second overseas trip was to Europe.  Many of my friends had already been to or lived in Europe in some form or fashion and I had heard all of their stories and was itching to get there myself.  I had several reasons for going:

  1. My main motivation for the trip was to go to Poland and meet the family of my girl friend, Ewa.  I needed to know if I could live in Poland as I was considering marrying her.  Consequently getting exposure to the culture and language was pretty important to me.
  2. I wanted to spend some time with a great friend of mine, Kevin,  in Holland.  I had met him in Texas, and he had been working and living in Holland for close to a year and I wanted to catch up with him.
  3. I had some graphic arts film negatives to deliver to an organization in Austria.  They were translating some Christian discipleship tracts into various eastern European languages and the art work for these tracts was on the film I was delivering.
  4. I wanted to accompany a professor of mine and visit our mutual friend Janis, in his home country, Latvia.  I had worked and gone to school with him in Texas for a while and I wanted to see him in his home country.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.  2 Thessalonians 2:16,17

My trip lasted from the middle of December 1993 to April 1994.  In February, Ewa and I travelled by bus from Poland through the Czech Republic to Vienna, Austria.  I was delivering the graphic arts film for translations to an organization called Operation Mobilization in Spillern, a suburb of Vienna.  We had also arranged stay there for a week.  It ended up being quite cold that particular week and we were mostly using public transportation to get around.  I was glad I had packed the warm clothes I did, but we'd still return to our dorms with numb hands and feet. 

In a square in Vienna
Several things happened on that trip that were memorable and highlighted God's faithfulness to me...

The Couple from Brazil

Unfortunately, I'm having to recall these details from memory because several years of my journals were lost to mold and mildew in storage.  As I mentioned above, one of the main reasons for this trip was to discover if Ewa was to be my 'forever partner.'  I had proposed to her earlier on the trip on New Year's Eve, but life happens and I was beginning to question if getting married then was a good idea .  One of the reasons for my hesitation was Ewa is almost 7 years older than me.  

While Spillern we met some of the staff working with the Operation Mobilization office there.  We had an engaging discussion with a married couple that were from Brazil - and it turned out she was also older than he was.  Unfortunately I don't remember their names now, but they invited us over for dinner one evening, and shared their story with us.  Hearing the story of how they met and their encouragement, I felt God encouraging me that this relationship with Ewa would have His blessing and work out.  God provided the confirmation I needed on that significant life decision!

Ewa's Surprises

Ewa had come with me on this trip because she hadn't been to Austria before and she had time available.  I had limited contact with the people at the Spillern OM office before arriving, so we weren't sure what to expect.  Ewa knew no one.  My only acquaintance there was my contact, and as it turned out, I didn't know him as well as I thought I did.

We finally met my contact in the middle of our week there (he did a lot of travelling).  In talking with him, we discovered that the name I knew him by, 'Charles', was actually a pseudonym (for safety and anonymity) because he spent most of his time smuggling Christian literature into communist countries.  This was a bit of a surprise to me, but immediately reminded me of Brother Andrew and one of my favourite books - God's Smuggler.

Charles then proceeded to ask Ewa if she knew any pastors in Poland.  Ewa actually knew quite a few pastors in Poland because of her previous years working as a liaison between the Polish Baptist Union and the Southern Baptists of North Carolina.  It turned out that Ewa and Charles knew several of the same Polish pastors.  He asked Ewa if she remember times when a truck would arrive in the middle of the night at her church in Czestohowa with a 'delivery', which she recalled.  He said 'I helped drive those trucks to that church!'  Talking further, we discovered that Ewa's first Bible, and much of the edible provisions that she received from that church during her time at college in Czestohowa were from those truck deliveries from the OM office in Austria!  This was very encouraging 'devine appointment' for both Charles and Ewa.  God's provision of encouragement.
Ewa

Even back then, Austria was expensive and we were both on budgets.  Ewa was quite concerned about how much money she had left.  Towards the env of our week there, Ewa came back to her room after we had been out and found a note with money for her on her bed.  She was so happy and thankful for this, God's provision again.  We were so encourage in our trip to Vienna.


Sunday, February 6, 2022

90s Europe Trip - The Bad Passport

My second overseas trip was to Europe.  Many of my friends had already been to or lived in Europe in some form or fashion.  I had heard their stories and was itching to get there myself.  I had several reasons for going:

  1. My main motivation for the trip was to go to Poland and meet the family of my girl friend, Ewa.  I needed to know if I could live in Poland as I was considering marrying her.  Consequently getting exposure to the culture and language was pretty important to me.
  2. I wanted to spend some time with a great friend of mine, Kevin,  in Holland.  I had met him in Texas, and he had been working and living in Holland for close to a year and I wanted to catch up with him.
  3. I had some graphic arts film negatives to deliver to an organization in Austria.  They were translating some Christian discipleship tracts into various eastern European languages and the art work for these tracts was on the film I was delivering.
  4. I wanted to accompany a professor of mine and visit our mutual friend Janis, in his home country, Latvia.  I had worked and gone to school with him in Texas for a while and I wanted to see him in his home country.
The Lord will keep you from all harm - He will watch over your life;  the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.  Psalm 121:7-8  

Canadian Embassy - Warsaw

My trip lasted from the middle of December 1993 to April 1994.  I spent the Christmas holidays with Ewa's family and had a great time with them.  In the middle of January, we travelled to Warsaw so I could get Visas for my other trips.  At that time I needed Visa's for my stay in Latvia as well as a transit visa for my passage through the Czech Republic to Austria.  However, when I stopped at the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw to ask a question, they examined my passport and asked me (really, they politely confiscated my passport and told me) to get a new one.  It turned out that the lamination on the ID page of my passport was coming off.  

They said passport could look faked because of the delamination and as a result it could get confiscated at a boarder crossing.  Suddenly our time in Warsaw got much busier.  I had to get a new passport photos, a new passport, a new Polish Visa, and then get my Visa's for the other countries - all in a week. This was rather frustrating as it cost extra money and time to do all of this.  

Looking back, I can definitely see that God was looking out for me(!) in getting that passport fixed.  It would have been terrible to ride on a bus for several hours only to be turned away at a border crossing because the main page of my passport was delaminating.  In retrospect, I was also very grateful to have several extra days in my schedule, and Ewa's availability and help as a translator and guide to deal with that situation.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

90s Europe Trip - The Engagement Ring

 My second overseas trip was to Europe.  Many of my friends had already been to or lived in Europe in some form or fashion and I had heard all of their stories and was itching to get there myself.  I had several reasons for going:

  1. My main motivation for the trip was to go to Poland and meet the family of my girl friend, Ewa.  I needed to know if I could live in Poland as I was considering marrying her.  Consequently getting exposure to the culture and language was pretty important to me.
  2. I wanted to spend some time with a great friend of mine, Kevin,  in Holland.  I had met him in Texas, and he had been working and living in Holland for close to a year and I wanted to catch up with him.
  3. I had some graphic arts film negatives to deliver to an organization in Austria.  They were translating some Christian discipleship tracts into various eastern European languages and the art work for these tracts was on the film I was delivering.
  4. I wanted to accompany a professor of mine and visit our mutual friend Janis, in his home country, Latvia.  I had worked and gone to school with him in Texas for a while and I wanted to see him in his home country.
What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.  
Luke 12:6-7

God Cares

I proposed to Ewa on New Years Eve during this trip. We were in a little town called Krynica nestled in the Polish mountains.  Later, we bought an engagement ring together in Wroclaw - you can see the ring in picture.  Ewa was concerned because she knew that people would ask to see the engagement ring, and she had a rather large wart on the middle finger beside her ring finger.  

I don't remember exactly how our conversation went surrounding this concern, but Ewa and I agreed to pray about this wart and ask God to remove it.  We prayed and then moved on to other things.  

God definitely heard that prayer, as within 2-3 weeks the wart on Ewa's finger was completely gone!  

God is our healer and He cares about our concerns!


Monday, January 31, 2022

A Calloused Heart

Callouses

Where do callouses come from?  My understanding is that they are the body's healthy response to pain, friction, pressure, irritation...  Callouses on your feet and hands can protect you.  But they can also make the affected areas unfeeling, hard, insensitive, and numb. 

A Calloused Heart

I wouldn't have considered myself hard-hearted.  At least, not until I read these verses from Isaiah - but it didn't use that term.  The line 'Make the heart of this people calloused...' got my attention.  In a sense I may not be hard-hearted, but in a different light...    

This scripture, along with most of the other references to 'hard heartedness' in the Bible speak to this issue from the context of religion and relationship with God.  And that's how I've always considered/measured whether or not my heart was 'hard'.  Pondering this further however, using the 'calloused' connotation, I realized I can also develop callouses on my heart from disharmony, contention, hurt, and strife in a variety of areas:

  • My own, personal relationship with God.  Have I ever questioned or blamed God for certain circumstances in my life?  God isn't afraid of honest questions, but as soon as that changes to me blaming Him for a circumstance I find myself in....
  • My relationship with my family.  Are there unspoken thoughts of 'why can't they do this?' that boil over into arguments?  Or areas of conversation we intentionally avoid?  Do I ever think 'Why are they bringing this up again?' or 'Why can't they be more....?' or 'That's not fair!'
  • My relationship with my church.  Have I been hurt in the past by spiritual leaders I looked up to and respected?  Have I ever felt like I was manipulated, discouraged, taken advantage of, or disapproved by them?

Has hurt, friction, pain, or pressure from any of these areas calloused my heart? Ugh.  Suddenly I feel like David in Psalm 51 - 'Create in me a clean heart, oh God...'  I need a heart transplant.

Diagnosis

How can I tell if I have a calloused heart?  Well, how would I (even mentally) respond to some of the questions or circumstances above?  For me, almost all those hypotheticals bring specific circumstances to mind.  Additionally, I have a couple of litmus tests...

Callous Removal

How does one remove callouses?  The best way I know is a soak in water, and then scrape.  I didn't research that answer, it's just the simple and pragmatic solution that has worked for me (I'm a guy, what can I say?)

What about a callous of the heart?  First and foremost, I need to understand that its the kindness of God that leads me to realize I need a renewed heart.  His desire is for my heart to be healed, soft, and whole.  He understands that I didn't intend to get callouses on my heart.  I need to remind myself the He loves me and wants the best for me - His best!  Then, I think I need to:

  • Acknowledge the hurt, turn back to God and trust that He is good and has my ultimate-best destiny in His hands..  Basically saying 'Your will be done, God, not mine.  I submit and surrender control of these things that have calloused my heart over to You.'
  • Be washed (soaked) in the water of the Word - read and ponder the Bible.  
  • Spend time in His presence - in singing worship songs, praying, or simply hanging out with God doing every day things.  



Airline Ticket Scam

Our Dream Ewa and I had a belated honeymoon once she landed in Canada with 'landed immigrant' status in early May, 1996.  I picked h...