Tuesday, December 19, 2017

My Brother John

During much of the last 23 years, I have not lived near the place where I grew up and where many of my family lives.  For those of you who do not know my family, I have four older brothers, who are married and have children and grandchildren.  Two of my brothers live in British Columbia while the other families live in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  Having family spread out like that, makes visiting times quite special.  I enjoy watching how the dynamic of each family is different even though we are all related.  I also appreciate how a number of them really make an effort to stay connected in various ways.
My parents have passed away, mom 20 years ago and dad 17 years ago.  That puts my siblings and I, in the first generation of our family.  It was a bit weird the first while, although I will point out that there is a 13-year difference between my oldest brother and me.  Still, visiting was good, and I always try to stay in contact, especially now that I live on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.  
As I go through life, I am always amazed at how things happen.  I can attest to the fact that randomness of events is not how I see things.  I see God's hand in how things unfold, only realizing God's hand after the fact.  This came to light again the last little while.  
On October 3rd, God called my oldest brother, John home.  In August, John had been told by the doctor that there was a mass in his lung and it probably was cancerous.  I still remember the Saturday afternoon, September 2nd, he called me via Skype to let me know what was going on.  That was the last time I talked with John.
Where was God's hand in all this?  Well, as I was getting reports from my other brothers on how John was doing, I kept thinking about that last Skype call, as well as the visit I had with John and Nel this past July.  It was a short visit, I arrived in Edmonton on Saturday, July 1st and flew out again on Monday evening, July 3rd.  Even though I was fighting a cold and would take naps because the cold medicine put me out, I had an enjoyable visit.  John and Nel hosted a BBQ at their place, and their sons and daughters-in-law came.  The Sunday I went to worship at New Life Fellowship CRC with John and Nel and that evening drove around Red Deer to see some of the areas affected by the wind storm they experienced earlier in the spring.  On Monday, we went to Fort Edmonton.  I had never been there, and it was a fun day wandering around the different buildings representing the different time periods in Edmonton's history.  It was so relaxing.  That evening John and Nel brought me to the Edmonton airport.  This would be the last time I would see John on this side of heaven.  These three days were a precious gift.  
When I go overseas, one of the things I do to prepare mentally is to think about what I would do if someone dies while I am overseas.  The last year or so, I hadn't really thought about that so much because I never would have anticipated that one of my brothers would be called home.  Again, God's hand was putting the pieces together.  The arrangements were not set yet, but there was a possible date, and I thought I would just explore the cost of flights to Calgary.  It turned out that a direct flight was quite reasonable, so I went ahead and booked it.  In the end,  the date shared was the date the arrangements were made for.  God had put all the pieces together.  
I landed in Calgary on Canadian Thanksgiving day, Monday, October 9th.  It was the first time in 20 years that I was in Canada for Canadian Thanksgiving.  I admit I didn't really think about that much though.  I rented a car, which would make it easier for me to navigate to and from Calgary as well as the time I was in Red Deer.
Driving from Calgary Airport up to Red Deer.

The car I rented. 
John's celebration of life service was held at New Life Fellowship CRC in Red Deer on Tuesday, October 10th.  It was truly a celebration of who John was.  Highlight stories were about how he lived his life for God, and his optimistic, generous, and friendly personality. 

There were some family members and friends who traveled to Red Deer for the service, and I was able to chat with them after the service, some of whom it has been years since we last saw each other.  That evening we reserved a room at the hotel and had food provided for dinner for some of the family and some of those who worked at Langelaar Transport (John's trucking company).  After dinner, we shared stories about John.  It was a special time and a special day. 
Hotel where Nick, Myrna, Case, Anne and I stayed and those are snow flurries. 

I am sad that I no longer will have those Saturday afternoon chats via Skype with John.  Even though I am on the other side of the "pond," I miss him a lot.  I would never wish John back on this earth.  His last few months were not easy, and the road ahead on this earth would have been difficult for him.  That too was God's providence.
I am so grateful for the many people who have prayed for and been a comfort to my family and me during the last months, as we learn to live on this earth without John.  God has called us to be a community, and we felt that community support from around the world.  Thank you.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

API Cross Country, Guam

This year I had the privilege of chaperoning Christian Academy in Japan's Cross Country team to the Asia-Pacific Invitational meet in Guam.  There were seven females and seven males along with the 2 coaches.  A few moms also flew into Guam watch the races.  The days are generally very early wake up times and the races happen right after the sun rises.  It warms up significantly once the sun rises.
 We arrived at the hotel, Pacific Islands Club Hotel before midnight.  The moon was quite clear. 

The following day, the students had the opportunity to run/walk through the course.  That evening before the first race, we went to a great pasta restaurant.

 The Pacific Islands Club Hotel was a great place to stay.  They had a variety of pools and activities as well as some beach property.

The view from my room.

 The wake-up call was by 4:30 am, and we arrived at the field while it was still dark.  We were using flashlights, although you could see the finish.
 The John F. Kennedy High School hosted the API meet on their school grounds.  This year, they were doing some renovations, and we were unable to use one of their fields, so the route was marked out with flags.

Good morning! 

CAJ team after the first race
The beach by the hotel
The following day, was the relay race.  Each team was one female and one male. The females started on the first circuit which did include running on the beach.  They would pass the baton to their male partner who would run the same circuit.  Each runner ran the course two times, with the males finishing the race.

Starting line

An interesting plant.

Baton exchange area

Finish line

Waiting at the finish line.

That evening we had a banquet where trophies and awards were given out to the runners.  CAJ did well at this cross country meet.  Our students are able to build relationships with fellow High School students from International schools in Asia. I am grateful that I can chaperone CAJ's cross country team.