In the Bleak Mid-winter...
An age old hymn that we used to sing at high school recently came to mind-
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron
Water like a stone
Snow had fallen
Snow on snow on snow
In the bleak midwinter
But what I can I give him
Give him my heart
Give him my heart
Gustav Holst/Christian Rosetti
Indeed, this poem finally seemed vividly appropriate in the context I found myself in, when the days are gray, and it's dark by 4pm. The ice, the snow, the slush, the chill... How do I survive?
I choose to give him my heart - a heart of gratitude, a grateful heart, inspite of the weather...
Another way to keep my spirits up was to follow in the footsteps of the Algonquin. I'm so thankful for the invention of the snowshoe. It's one of the only things that will get me outside, on a cold snowy day. The beauty of the woods in the winter...
"The long native heritage was at least as valuable to the early European invaders as any technology they brought from Europe. The light birchbark canoes of the Algonquin covered distances at a speed that astonished the first explorers, and their snowshoes made travel possible in winter." p75, A Short History of Canada
And every so often when the sun is out, I have learned to appreciate the “white, imprisoned fields...those bright, cold dazzling winter days, which bombard us with their brilliancy, and command our admiration but never our love.”
p124, Anne’s House of Dreams
And what would I do without community! If there is ever a time one needs community, it is in the winter. I'm so thankful for my local church community and the occasional Sunday lunch, my friends from the prayer room, and every friend I have shared a hearty conversation with, including "the cheer of the driftwood fire" (p112).
Thankfully wood is not scarce in Canada, and I am in the process of becoming an expert fire maker (out of necessity). With a good fire, the temperature in my room can increase by at least 7-8 degrees, and for a moment, I feel as if I'm back in Africa. Oh Africa!
At times like this, when I am too afraid to brave the cold, I find company in a great many books I am reading, including one of South Africa's greatest classics, Cry The Beloved Country. How have I never read this book before? And with a background in agricultural ministry, and a heart for healing and reconciliation in Africa, the words of this book wrung so true.
"Here the tribes live, and the soil is sick, almost beyond healing." p4
"He told them too of the sickness of the land, and how the grass had disappeared, and of the dongas that ran from hill to valley, and valley to hill; how it was a land of old men and old women, of mothers and children; how the maize grew barely to the height of a man; how the tribe was broken, and the house was broken, and the man broken; how when they went away, many never came back, many never wrote anymore." p5
I truly believe the healing of the land is more than a literal healing of the soil. It includes both the place, and the people. So much pain, so much pride, so much dwelling on the past. How will we heal?
“There is only one thing that has power completely, and that is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power. I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good for their country, come together to work for it. I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating.” p7
"Cry, The Beloved Country" is a beautiful novel and just what I needed on a cold Canadian day. I even decided to make an African breakfast to go with it, with freshpak rooibos I had brought in my suitcase from a few months back. #iloveafrica
And with all the recent news about a devastating cyclone that hit Mozambique and Eastern Zimbabwe, I have been so proud to see the response of the Zimbabwean people. The church has become a true force for good, collecting and distributing food aid and supplies into the affected area. The private sector have donated helicopters to fly into areas where there are no roads or bridges have been washed away. Friends from the Mountain Club of Zimbabwe have been driving doctors in to help people. As a newspaper article said, "But the real story is not what the government is doing. It’s what ordinary Zimbabweans are doing." As friends on the ground continue to pray, "God is giving Zimbabwe a new heart."
Many people have lost their homes, and in Mozambique alone about 85% of the city of Beira has been washed away! Thankful for Canadian responders who are playing their part, even if it is a drop in the ocean of need. So many devastated lives, left homeless...
And what happens to the homeless in Canada? I can't imagine being homeless in Canada, especially during the winter!
Social media becomes a friend more than ever during the winter, and I have enjoyed listening to some of the latest releases from Christian artists in mainstream media, such as Lauren Daigle and Tori Kelly. And I came across a song on my youtube search, by one of the first Canadian artists I ever remember listening to, Avril Lavigne. This song was written during her struggle with lymes disease and is a beautiful prayer from a searching and surrendered heart.
"I'll meet you there at the altar
As I fall down to my knees
God keep my head above water
Come rescue me..."
If there is one place where believers are building an altar of praise and prayer, it is definitely at QHOP. Hibernating at the House of Prayer, where the "fire on the altar" is kept aflame from 8-4 Monday to Friday, has definitely been a highlight for me. You just never know what God is going to do, when you set your face to seek Him.
"The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out."
And when the days are miserably cold, it helps to spice up your life with tasty Colombian food and a little Colombian fire. Eating spicy food really helps your immune system and I became a good friend of ginger and spiracha hot chilli sauce over the winter months. Learning how to make arepas and empanadas was a fun opportunity to reminisce about my days in Texas, where my Venezuelan friend introduced me to tasty dishes, and a favourite, sweet plantains!
When I was in YWAM, I was supposed to go to Colombia on a mission outreach. Sadly, my visa status in the US prevented me from going, but now many years later, I had the opportunity to sow into the lives of three young Colombians, as I helped with math lessons, school runs and childcare. Listening to a radio broadcast on mental health, I could relate to the topic of debate. How helpful is social media in the life of a teen? The answer varies, and the speaker concluded with a statement that I agree with. Social media is still a reward, and not a right.
Yet, what would we do without social media? Having a couple in the house, who recently arrived from Colombia to minister to the International students in town, has been a welcome addition. They actually met on facebook, and Clara, who is originally from Venezuela, has her own youtube channel. When I visited Venezuela back in 2008, there were so many parallels to Zimbabwe. With the present crisis at hand, the news of economic collapse, the refugee exodus and the cries for freedom coming out of the nation, we are more than thankful to be in a country of relative political and economic stability. A country, that for the most part, welcomes the exile and the refugee to a new start. Canada is indeed a mosaic.
Canada is also a mission field. Recently, I was introduced to a truly Canadian board game one cold winters night, with an international gathering of mainly Chinese students from a local Chinese Bible study. We all proved highly competitive and had good fun attempting Croquignole. But just how easy is it to share your faith in Quebec?
Some say you can't just walk up to people in Quebec and share the gospel, because a wall goes up due to past religious oppression. But, after a chat with one of the mission outreach leaders at my local church, who had just come back from a mission trip to YWAM Mazatlan, I was encouraged to hear that the team were all inspired with a new boldness to speak out. After a taste of Hispanic culture and intentional street ministry during the annual celebration of Carnaval, it was a blessing to know that a group of Canadians had chosen to leave their comfort zone and use their limited Spring Break to reach out to others.