Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

The importance of French

One of our ministers visited in Côte d’Ivoire and was invited to preach the sermon in a Sunday worship service. He spoke in English, the missionary translated to French and a local brother translated to the local language. Someone might ask, “Why didn’t the missionary learn the local language?” The answer to that is another question, “Which one?” There are around 100 tribal languages in Côte d’Ivoire.

Many languages of the world serve as a means of identifying a group of people of common heritage and distinguishing them from other tribal groups. Imagine trying to run a government, a legal system, a school system, a medical system, a police force, an army, using 100 different languages. These languages serves as barriers, walls really, around the individual tribal groups.

Another language is needed to serve as a bridge to connect all these tribal groups and enable the unified administration of the country and all its functions. This is where French comes in. Many people may still speak their tribal language, but it is apt to be only an oral language. For business and many other purposes the usefulness of French as a national language has become more and more evident. Not only within Côte d’Ivoire, but also in their relationship with other countries and for the ability to access all the resources that are available in the French language.

There are 75 million people in the world who speak French as their mother tongue. If we stop there, French does not appear to be a very important language. But if we consider French as a bridge language, a language that people use on a daily basis, that number is much higher, probably about four times higher. And that number is growing rapidly. It is estimated that 100 to 125 million people are learning French and that by 2050 the number of French speaking people in the world will reach 500 million. Some say 600 or 700 million.

English and French are the only two languages that are spoken on every continent and by at least a few people in every country of the world. There are other languages that are spoken by large numbers of people, but do not serve as bridges between people of different ethnic origin. Swahili serves as a bridge language in parts of eastern Africa, but isn’t particularly useful in Europe or North America.

On a local level, there are 6,000 children in Saskatoon, our nearest city, who are receiving their education in French. Some are from French-speaking families and attend a French school, most are attending French immersion schools. Among these are many new Canadians of Asian and Hispanic background.

What are all these people reading? There is an abundance of information and entertainment available in French, but the supply of literature that portrays an authentic Anabaptist-Mennonite faith is limited. That is the reason for the existence and activity of the French editing committee of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, of which I am a member.

Back home again

We arrived home at midnight Monday from our trip to Quebec. The next morning I went to pick up our cats from the place where they were boarded. They were both sleeping peacefully when I first saw them, but as soon as they heard my voice they began a loud chorus of “Get me out of here!” Now we are all home and have spent the past two days resting up from our trip.

Making our escape

Image by Bee Iyata from Pixabay 

Can’t stand the smoke, can’t stand the heat, we’ve got to get out of this place.

We are in the middle of the hottest driest summer in years. Farmers are giving up on getting a grain harvest on some of their fields and cutting the grain for green feed for cattle. Hay crops are poor. The smoke drifting across the prairies from forest fires in B.C. and northern Saskatchewan adds to the misery. We see it, smell it, taste it, feel it burning our eyes.

My wife and I have decided to take a week off to visit a part of Canada where they have an amazing natural phenomenon – water droplets falling from the sky. They call it rain, perhaps you’ve heard of it?

OK, bad joke. I’m just in a bad humour. I hope a week in Quebec will brighten my outlook on life.

Out with the new, in with the old

Effective Sunday, July 11 (yesterday), all COVID-19 restrictions required by the government of Saskatchewan have come to an end. When I sat down in church yesterday morning, the brother beside me said:

“This is something new!”

“No it isn’t,” I replied, “This is something old. We are done with the new.”

Image by ivabalk from Pixabay 

Nocturnal visitor

My wife sets dishes of water on the lawn for the birds. We think birdbaths can be a deathtrap for the little guys – a cat can sneak up beneath an unsuspecting bird and remain hidden by the lip of the dish. With the dishes at ground level, the birds can see any approaching danger.

She filled those water dishes before going to bed last night; this morning they were all empty. We suspected something else than birds had been around in the night. Finding a trail of scat droppings across the lawn confirmed our suspicions and gave sufficient evidence to identify the visitor.

Image by M W from Pixabay 

Yep, we have moose in this country. We may not often see them, but sometimes they leave evidence of their visits.

Have you ever seen it this hot?

The high today was 40°. That is 104° on the Fahrenheit scale. Someone asked me the question above. Well yes I have, I remember a family picnic 70 years ago when the temperature hit 105° F. I was shirtless much of the day and got quite a sunburn, but I survived that and other weather extremes.

I remember a hot, dry summer when Mom hung sheets over all the windows in an attempt to keep the dust out of the house. I remember a summer when all the ditches were full of water. I remember winter mornings when the thermometer showed -50° F, I wore two layers of clothing to walk a half mile to school and had to step lively to avoid frostbite. I remember blizzards that lasted two or three days and stopped traffic on highways and railroads.

I believe I was six years old when a passenger train was trapped by a blizzard a few miles outside the town of Mossbank. The people in town carried food through the blizzard so those trapped on the train could eat. When the blizzard ended, it took a small army of men with shovels to dig the train out.

Saskatchewan is a land of weather extremes. I remember spring floods, droughts, dust storms, grasshopper plagues, prairie fires, hail, tornadoes. Solomon said: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9.

In between the extremes there has been a lot of good weather, good times, a lot of beauty. Saskatchewan is one of the most productive agricultural areas in North America and a good place to live. I have lived in other places, but always came home; the last time was 23 years ago.

Old money and new money

During my teen years, I used to pick up the latest copy of Look magazine at the drugstore and read it end to end. I can only remember one article. I don’t remember the title, but it was about people from families that had been wealthy for several generations and the new rich.

The point of the article was that those with old money did not feel they had anything to prove, while those who had recently become wealthy were always trying to prove, to themselves and others, that they were rich.

One example was two men going into the hardware store to buy gloves for working in the yard. The clerk (this was back in the day when stores still had clerks) showed each man the same pair of gloves. The first man, the one who had always been wealthy, did not find it at all embarrassing to ask “Don’t you have something a little cheaper? I only want them for working in the dirt and the bushes.”

The second man, whose wealth was of more recent date, asked “Don’t you have something better than that? I don’t care how much they cost.”

Why do we as Christians so often behave like the second man, as though we needed to prove something? If we are children of God we are heirs of imperishable riches. We should have a calm peace and assurance that lets us stand aside from the mad rush for the riches that shall perish.

Songs of summer

Image by GeorgiaLens from Pixabay 

At 3:30 in the morning the melodious song of a brown thrasher is heard through our open bedroom window. He is up at the very first glimmer of day, but it’s much too early for us to get up yet. He is the size of robin, with a much longer tail, shy about letting himself be seen, but not shy about letting himself be heard.

At this time of year here in the flatlands of Saskatchewan, there are 17 hours from sunrise to sunset, and 18½ hours when it is light enough to read outside without artificial light. The trees around us are alive with the sound of music. The brown thrasher is heard mostly in morning and evening, other birds from time to time, the wrens are twittering all day long.

We have many birdhouses around our yard. The wrens take possession of most of them, nest in two or three, and fill the rest with twigs. It seems they want to discourage others from moving in next door.

Last Saturday was the school closing program for our school. The rules now allow 150 people to gather outdoors, so we brought our lawn chairs and sat on the church lawn as the children sang and spoke to us. Whenever there was a break in the singing from the children, we could hear a brown thrasher singing from the trees.

The next day we gathered for an outdoor worship service. It was a hot day, so we spread our lawn chairs out under the shade of the poplar trees and the ministers spoke to us from the shade of the church entrance. There was quite a distance between us, but two big speakers brought their voices to us.

That makes me wonder; I can hear the song of a meadowlark sitting on a fence post as I drive by on the highway with the windows closed and the air conditioner going. Why do I have trouble understanding what someone says in church if they don’t speak directly into the microphone?

Springtime in Saskatchewan

Image by GeorgiaLens from Pixabay 

Spring comes with a rush here. In a few weeks we go from brown grass and lifeless trees to an explosion of green, populated by a profusion of songbirds. Last to arrive are the swallows, wrens and hummingbirds. The little guy in the picture is a Carolina Wren. They don’t come here, but the house wrens in our yard are almost the same except the eye stripe is not as pronounced. They are very active, very vocal. heard more often than they are seen.

Summer here is short, but it is intense. Today there are 16½ hours between sunrise and sunset, which explains the explosive growth of trees, lawns, gardens and field crops.

Yet this is dry country, almost desert. The Palliser Expedition 0f 1860 described a large part of southern Saskatchewan as unfit for cultivation. There have been years of drought, but the development of drought tolerant grain varieties, along with improved tillage equipment and methods that disturb the soil as little as possible have made this an immensely prosperous farming area.

The prairie landscape was treeless, except along the rare water courses. the people who settled here planted trees around their farmyards and in their towns. Many of these trees, like poplar, Manitoba maple and caragana, might be considered weeds elsewhere. But they grow quickly and survive our harsh winters.

There are native wildflowers, like the prairie lily, crocus, scarlet mallow and wild rose pictured below. You have to look for them, though; because of the climate many grow close to the ground or only in sheltered areas.

Pr

Nurseries have selected and developed a great variety of flowers, vegetables, fruits and ornamental shrubs that are hardy for this area. So, for a few months every summer, our country blossoms like a rose.

Recovery

Chris had been on a waiting list for surgery since last October. The last time she enquired it sounded like she would have to wait a few more months since the medical system has been occupied caring for COVID patients. Then out of the blue came a phone call saying the surgeon has an open slot on May 25, due to a cancellation. Do you want it?

She jumped at the chance to be done with the waiting. We got to the hospital by 7:00 last Tuesday morning and the surgery took place three hours later. After the surgery she was given Tylenol and morphine for the pain. She came home the next afternoon with instructions to take three regular strength Tylenol every four hours. They gave her a prescription for morphine, in case the Tylenol wasn’t enough.

We didn’t know what to expect, but her recovery has surprised both of us. She never needed to get the morphine prescription filled and by today hardy needs Tylenol either. She should not lift anything over five kilos nor do anything too strenuous. She asked me to change the sheets on the bed yesterday, but is able to do almost all of her normal activities. Best of all, the surgery has corrected the original problem!

At the same time, today is the first day of the first stage of reopening Saskatchewan. If all goes well, stage two will come in three weeks and if that goes well, stage three will follow in another three weeks. That will mean the end of all COVID restrictions.

It’s beginning to look like an enjoyable summer ahead of us. We are thankful to God for bringing us safely thus far and this double recovery is extra cause for rejoicing.

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