Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, July 27, 2018

*The Enemy that Never Was

In 1942, a young girl named Osono (whom local friends may know as Sally) and her family left her father’s farm in the Vancouver area to live in an internment camp in the interior of British Columbia—along with thousands of other Japanese Canadians. The children did not understand what was happening, only that their parents felt unhappy about the move. Born in Canada, the kids had no reason to think they were different than any other Canadians. They didn’t understand that Japan had dropped bombs on Hawaii, or how that act made them suspect. They couldn’t grasp that both American and Canadian governments had decided their parents could no longer be trusted. They were innocent of the prejudice all too prevalent in the world around them.

Once in the internment communities, many of the children reported that they enjoyed the time as though they were off at summer camp. School and recreational activities were provided, and they spent plenty of time with other kids—all of whom looked like they did. While the kids knew that “somewhere, far away,” a war was being fought, it had little to do with them. The only real down side was that, for many, their fathers were away much of the time, working in lumber camps.

Meanwhile, here in Manitoba, farmers were overwhelmed because so much of our workforce had joined or been drafted into military service, leaving farms without laborers to bring in the harvest. The Canadian government decided it could solve two problems by offering the Japanese Canadians the opportunity to come to Manitoba to work on farms. That way, they could keep their families together. To Osono’s parents and many others, it sounded like a better alternative in a horribly confusing time. They’d already lost their homes, property, businesses, and dignity. How could this be any worse?
Photo - Art Miki (third from right)

Osono remembers making the long trip by train and how she had no desire to work on a farm or be separated from her friends. She recalls her dismay at seeing miles and miles of “nothing.” Her family ended up on the Tully family’s sugar beet farm near Oakville, Manitoba. What Osono could not possibly have known is that Mr. Tully endured ridicule from neighboring farmers for taking so many of these workers. Or that she would eventually elope with one of the Tully sons. Or that doing so would cause a major scandal in the community. Or that the birth of her twin boys would restore peace and bring the families together.

By the 1970s, younger Japanese Canadians, most of whom had been sheltered from the reasons behind the move to Manitoba, began uncovering the truth of their family history. More than 22,000 Japanese Canadians had been forced into this situation, and returning to their former lives, even after the war ended, had become impossible. Their properties had been sold to cover the cost of their own internment and relocation! 

It’s an astonishing story, and I wanted to share it with you in the hopes that you’ll watch a fascinating documentary being aired this weekend. On Saturday, July 28, at 7:00 p.m., CBC will air the hour-long film called Facing Injustice: The Relocation of Japanese Canadians to Manitoba. Osono and her son Terry Tully both appear in the film. Produced and directed (and originally narrated) by Aaron Floresco, the version you’ll see on CBC is narrated by Dr. David Suzuki. Through interviews and archival photos and footage, Facing Injustice tells the personal stories behind this little-known period of Canadian history, and shows how one community reconciled the past and organized a national redress movement.

If you miss the broadcast, most of CBC’s documentaries are available online after they’ve aired. Until then, you can see a short trailer from Facing Injustice HERE.

*The title of this post was borrowed from the book by the same name by Ken Adachi. I’m reading it now.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Boiled Egg, Anyone?

It’s official. I can no longer be left unsupervised.

Normally, I blame my husband for everything. But he wasn’t around when this awful thing happened, which means it takes longer for me to figure out how it’s his fault.

I could blame it on the clothesline. It was laundry day, and I was carrying each load outside to dry while I did other things inside. Except I wasn’t actually outside when this awful thing happened.

I could blame it on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They came to my door with an invitation to their latest event while this awful thing was happening. Except I didn’t actually answer the door.

While we're on religious groups, maybe I should blame it on Warren Jeffs, convicted felon and leader of the FLDS (Fundamental Church of Latter Day Saints). Because while this awful thing was happening, I sat at my desk, mesmerized by a documentary featuring some of the wives and children who escaped his polygamist cult telling their unbelievably heart-breaking stories.

I could blame the things that go bump all day long. If it weren’t for the air conditioner or the washing machine or the fridge or any one of several things in my house that frequently make strange noises, I’d have noticed the racket coming from my kitchen sooner.

I could blame my busy life. I’d had a lot going on that week. Much to distract my mind.

Or the smoke detector. Why didn’t it go off?

Or my blond hair. Except that comes from a bottle.

Or the stove.

Or the science of evaporation.

Or the bossa nova.

But whatever I do, I will not blame it on my age.

It’s true I completely forgot about the pot of eggs I’d put on to boil. It’s true I forgot to set a timer. When the cracking and popping grew loud enough to command my attention, I finally remembered the eggs. I paused the video about the FLDS and ran to my kitchen, expecting flames at worst and black smoke at least. The photo shows what I found.

Be glad I can’t share the smell.

I shut off the burner, carried the pot out to the deck, opened windows, and turned on fans. An hour later, everything was back to normal, except perhaps my pride. I’d scrubbed the pot, thrown out the burned eggs, and put on some fresh ones—remembering the timer.

I sincerely hope I’ve learned a valuable lesson. All for the low, low price of six eggs.

Ever since Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the snake, it’s been part of our human nature to assign fault elsewhere for our mistakes and misdeeds. I expect to remember this incident every time I boil an egg. If only I could remember to quit looking for someone or something else to point a finger at.

We hear the phrase “No shame, no blame” a lot these days—in counselors’ offices, on TV, and in self-help books. What would happen if, instead of blaming others or shaming myself, I chose to be grateful? For minimum damage. For stainless-steel cookware. For catching on before it got much worse. For the ease with which we can produce heat for cooking. For the means to purchase more eggs. For timers. And for lessons learned, even at my advanced age.

Woops. I said it.

(And if  you're too young to catch the Bossa Nova reference, here's a link to the original song for your enjoyment.)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Truth is Stranger

I’m quite capable of making stuff up, but I have a tale to tell that I wouldn’t and couldn’t have invented. But it’s true, and it gives me goosebumps. And it shows me that God cares for my heart. And that he also has a sharp sense of humor.

Before I delve into it, you need to know that for at least a decade now, my church (Prairie Alliance) has used as its motto, “UPSIDEDOWN.” If you check its website, you’ll see that the phrase is based on a story from Acts 17, where the followers of Jesus were accused of “turning the world upside down.” In the first century, the church was a disruptive force in society. Paul and his companions, (including Luke, who recorded the events) ushered in a new normal: the presence of the Kingdom of God on earth. In it, positions of power were flipped, extravagant generosity met the needs of the neglected, gender roles were being rewritten. That’s exactly what Christians today are called to, and it is the desire of my church to be that same force in our community: turning it UPSIDEDOWN with the good news of Jesus Christ.

This “upside down” accusation happened while Paul and his colleagues were in Macedonia, which was then a province in Greece. (You need to remember that bit: Macedonia.) For reasons the Bible doesn’t clearly explain, Paul’s attempts to enter various other places were thwarted. Then, Luke writes, That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us!’ The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.” (from Acts 16)

The story has become known as Paul’s “Macedonian Call,” and is referred to in an old hymn I grew up with called Send the Light.

That’s the back story. Now for mine.

For a long time, I’ve asked God how the things I’m doing with my life could possibly fit into my church’s UPSIDEDOWN dream. I see others doing “real” ministry, like going on mission trips, teaching, working with kids, serving the poor. Really making a difference. Sending the light. Meanwhile, I mostly stay home, hammering away on my laptop. Although I strive to write books and columns that will draw readers closer to their Creator, my stories seem disconnected from my church’s mission. I feel isolated, the words at times superficial. “Lord, I’d love it if you could grant me some small picture of what my part of this puzzle looks like,” I prayed. “How and where do I fit?”

Then I received an email from my publisher informing me that my first novel is going to be translated into a foreign language. I’d always wondered if this might happen one day. Which language would it be? What would they title it? What might the cover look like? Would it be French or Spanish? Possibly Dutch or German?

No. It’s none of those. It’s being translated into a language I didn’t even know existed, in a country I didn’t know still existed.

It’s called the Republic of Macedonia. Macedonians will be reading a story in their own language (Macedonian), set in Manitoba, dreamed up by a somewhat bewildered woman in little ol’ Portage la Prairie, who identifies with a motley group of Jesus-followers longing to turn the world upside down like Paul did. In Macedonia.

And I kind of lost it. Because you can’t make this stuff up.