To Bethlehem We Go

This morning we packed up from our place on the Dead Sea and quickly made our way to Masada which means fortress. It is likely a refuge used by David which later became a fortress built up by Herod the Great. He never lived there, and since it protects nothing in particular it is really just a show of wealth and power.
We rode up on a cable car but climbed down the back, up another mountain then down again.  I think George, our guide, wants to make sure we feel the landscape and don’t just see it. 

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Israel

We crossed into Israel yesterday. As our guide said, Israel is the only Western country in this region. There is a stark contrast as we crossed the border. Same landscape but suddenly there are many more cars and businesses. Egypt is rather challenged economically right now.
We actually walked across the border as we also changed buses and guides. We also travel without a police escort here.
   Yesterday morning we wandered around in the wilderness, experiencing a bit of what the Israelites did. There is a lot of very harsh country here. Hot dry mountainous yet the most common way to die is by drowning. When it does rain nothing is absorbed and so the dry river bed (wadi) suddenly can become a raging river.
Now we are on the edge of the Dead Sea. We floated in it before dinner. You can’t sink. Very relaxing and soothing after a lot of hot hiking.
We are well.  Our colleagues and friends are great company. Our guide is a passionate teacher and leader. God is good. Shabbat Shalom 

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Canada Student Jobs: Our Response

1 Peter 2:11-12 (MSG) Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.

I learned a new word this month – attestation –  which can be read as a confirmation or testimony.

This new word came in the form of part of a condition the Canadian Gov’t has imposed on us as an organization requesting funding to hire a number of students under the Canadian Summer Job (CSJ) program.

Immanuel CRC has participated in this program over the past few years with us hiring up to 3 students to work with our staff to support graphic arts work and assisting Christene Cousins and the Gospel Arts Camp. This CSJ program paid for work these students did. We were hoping to hire up to 4 student this coming summer, when we were advised that as part of the application process, the executives of the organization would have to sign an Attestation for the application to proceed.

The Attestation is as follows:

To be eligible for the Summer Jobs program a Christian charity must now “attest” that:

“Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights, and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”

On its surface and a quick read it appears a positive statement to affirm. But the history of what caused this statement and the restrictions it imposes on the application process is anything but.

Articles like the one in the Global News –  indicate that this Attestation is aimed at any organization that has anti-abortion positions.

When the Government mandate becomes a public statement. The Response of our Community of Believers (Immanuel CRC) becomes public as well.

At this month’s Executive Council meeting it was decided that we would proceed to fill out the applications for Canadian Summer Job program as we have done in previous years. However, we would not sign the Attestation form.

We will also advise our local federal MPs; Immanuel’s history of history of hiring Summer students in the past and that we would like to continue to do so, but without the Attestation.

If you wish to be involved, there are petitions on the Campaign for Life website as well as the Canadian Council of Christian Charities website. You can also advise your Federal MP how you feel.

Blessings,

Joss DeGroot

On Behalf of EC

Links to further information:

Are you Coming? Please say yes!

Are you coming to a “Holy Spirit Event” at Immanuel in January? Please say YES.

I am convinced that our God desires to give each one of us abundant LIFE through the Holy Spirit:

  1. forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
  2. transformation to be more and more like Jesus.
  3. empowerment with gifts for love and service to God and others.
  4. unity as an authentic community.

The events will be about 2 hours long and will involve worship, teaching and prayer about these four works of the Spirit, and maybe a bit of eating together. I would so love to see you come to learn more about the Spirit’s work and to experience his LIFE-giving presence more fully for yourself.

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Waiting for Word and Spirit

Advent is a time of waiting.  Waiting for Jesus to come.  We are not used to waiting for much anymore.  Communication is instant; when is the last time you waited for a letter to cross the ocean on a boat so you could hear from a loved one?  How many of you have only read about that in books?

We talk about food as instant (instant oatmeal, instant coffee) or at least fast.  When is the last time you had to wait for someone to butcher an animal and roast it over an open fire before you ate?  Again, how many of us have only experienced that in a book or movie?

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Pa and Kra Biked Fah

We are done!  We did it!  We dipped our front tires ceremonially in the Atlantic Ocean about 3:30 Tuesday afternoon.  It is not like we hadn’t seen the Atlantic yet…we saw the effects of ocean tide in the St Lawrence before Quebec City already.  We followed the seashore from halfway down New Brunswick, and crossed ocean water into PEI and on the ferry out.  And then on our last day we were teased with views of the ocean at least 20 km before we hit the beach…over and over again.  We waited 9 km from the beach for everyone to arrive so we could end together and the final 3 km were done with a police escort.  It was very emotional to see all the family and friends waving and cheering as we came in.

About three days into the ride, I was not sure we could do this.  I knew we could do the biking – that had gone very well.  I wondered if we could come up with a different word rhyming with Pa, Kra and Fah for each blog.  But in the end my family came through and Pa and Kra biked fah to be greeted by Ma, Oma, Sarah, Hannah and Noah (last three are my nieces and grand-nephew).  Seeing beloved family reminded me that a big piece of poverty is a lack of healthy relationships and that we are rich in that area.  And we appreciate all the more that which we have after giving it up for a while.

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Pa and Kra Biking Fah in Awe

PEI, land of Anne and red soil and the confederation bridge. Canada 150 is big here. At the only island CRC, hospitality is huge. We were greeted with appetizers of mussels and oysters then treated to a feast and celebration as C2C comes to a close.
Two more rides, but the prep for completion began a week ago already, before our leg was half done, for those going coast to coast. There have been testimonies and thank-yous and plans outlined for our final landing at the Atlantic on Tuesday. It is great to be part of the last leg and feel both the joy and fatigue of the group.  These are resilient riders for sure.
We also continue to hear about the work of World Renew and Partners International. Today in a conversation with the Partners rep, I learned about their work helping support sustainable agriculture and business – something they are already working at in Haiti. I was especially glad to hear that the funds raised by C2C go to new efforts and projects previously on the back burner.
We camped on the church lawn, worshipped and ate lunch with them, enjoyed a few rain showers since we are not on the bikes, and walked in beautiful touristic downtown Charlottetown.
We are in awe of this island province, our community of faith generously fighting poverty, people we have met along the way and come to love, testimonies of life changing experience, and the fact that words cannot convey the depth of this experience. Thank you again for your prayers and support as we participate in this transformative journey.

Pa and Kra Biking Fah Working the Jaw

We go to PEI tomorrow, enter Nova Scotia Monday and dip in the Atlantic on Tuesday. That is all that is left.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one struggling yesterday; many commented on having a down day. Today the weather and scenery along the gulf were excellent and varied with many homes and fisheries to see and a few towns to navigate.
We work out jaws in two main ways on this journey. First is by chewing. For breakfast we have a choice of cereal porridge boiled egg fruit and yoghurt. I choose them all. The coffee is rationed so when Timmies shows up 15 km into the ride there is a long line. We pack a lunch. A couple sandwiches at least. Then every 20-25 km there is a rest stop with cookies fruit chips peanuts in abundance. And there is always water and Gatorade. For supper there is usually some seven course meal and the cooks do a great job.  Good thing I lost weight because this trip is surprisingly not a recipe for weight loss.
The other jaw workout is talking. There are vocal and hand signals like “car back” “hole” “crack” “gravel” “shoulder ends” “tracks” and any other danger in sight. These are especially important when we ride close with others and in traffic. Kara and I have added many unnecessary ones like “trees” and “sign” and out favourites “hill ahead” and “Bill ahead”. During boring stretches we jaw out some tunes. The aforementioned Bill has a speaker on his bike and pumps out his playlist even taking requests. When we are on our own we make up songs based on Veggie Tales tunes among others. Or in a particularly rough patch of road where we point and say
“Hole” frequently, we start to sing the word in many different notes. Sometimes in camp Kara forgets we are not alone on the road and let’s fly with her version of “Que Sera Sera” which is “c’est Kara Kara”. Yup, long hours of hard pedalling and exposed to the elements is having it’s affect. I had wondered, upon discovering that we forgot to sign ourselves in to camp at the end of the ride for four days straight, why nobody was concerned that we were missing….

Pa and Kra Biking Fah Meet a Kalverda

He was not the Dan one would expect to meet in New Brunswick having just
pedalled through Allardville. I had visions of the roadside filled with
diminutive Bruin fans there.  Instead, there was Dan Kalverda in Tim Hortons
in Miramichi.
Today was the first day that made us think about being done. It was
cold when we started, we did not feel very energetic and there was not much
new to see. The excitement of the day was riding on a skinny shoulder with
trucks passing close, sudden cracks and holes, and a 6″ drop to soft gravel
on our right.  That and crossing a high bridge under construction, so stop
and go traffic, with a strong crosswind trying to knock us over. I have
video of this from my GoPro but you will have to wait to see it till I make
a montage of all 126 clips (so far).
We are not routine people and this tour is full of routine. Same schedule: different day and place.
 It is also hard being here with so many new people when family and
friends are far away. Ben is off to Montreal and Don is struggling so our
hearts and minds go there.
     Finally, there are only so many different ways to put your butt on a
bike seat and none are pleasant for long. However, none of our short-term challenges endured with incredible support and abundant food among mature healthy people in a rich environment is anything compared with what those we are riding for endure. Last night World Renew gave us a great analogy about their work. They do community development in a way that allows people to learn to support themselves. This was compared to us biking with support vehicles or a draft line; we need to do the cycling ourselves but others make it possible to succeed.

Pa and Kra Biking Fah in the Spirit of the Law

Whatever the weather networks say, it only rains at night.  We have the
soothing sound of rain on the tent to drown out snoring and zippers and when

we get up it is done. Packing up in the rain would be very messy. As it is
when we unpack in the afternoon things dry up very fast. Our shower stuff is
often dry by bedtime.
We started with a flat today. After one yesterday too. So I put a new
tire on her bike. I think she is getting too heavy for the thin tires. She
even beats me down hills now.  So we bike in the “spirit of the law.” We make sure it is clear and
safe but we avoid full stops at stop signs, for example.  There are also
“laws” about bikers themselves. For example, you would think that youth would be an advantage, but the first 10 riders in each day are definitely

 

older than me. Also, the typical shape of a biker is lean with strong legs and little upper body bulk, and while there are plenty of those. there are also people of every shape and size.
Today was a rough day for some folks. It was wet on the roads and there 
were a couple of falls at an angled railway crossing. We have also had to say good-bye to one cyclist who was hurt a couple days ago and cannot continue. Overall most of us are well and happy, though those riding the whole deal are quite ready to be done.
Every evening now a couple of people share reflections  It is moving to hear what motivates people to come and how the experience shapes them. We have been blessed with only minor challenges like flats and fatigue butin this tight community you also bear each other’s burdens.  For example our new friend Doug lost his wife earlier this year and is processing that as he bikes. Everyone has a story and we are learning a couple each day.