Joe Wheeler was frequently found at a table in the coffee shop in Saskatoon’s lone Christian bookstore. He had accumulated a wealth of Bible knowledge and a wealth of experiences over his lifetime and loved to share this wealth with others. Sometimes I was one of those others.
Joe died 16 months ago and the coffee shop closed not long after, probably just a coincidence. His obituary described Joe as an exuberant storyteller, then added that the details of his stories were mostly true. So I will retell the following story that I heard from Joe, with the caveat that the details are no doubt mostly true.
There was a Mennonite congregation in a large town north of Saskatoon, whose members were Plautdietsch speaking people who had managed to get out of the Soviet Union after the tumult of the Bolshevik revolution. Joe said the congregation never prospered spiritually because the members were obsessed with bitterness over the way they had been treated by Russia’s new Communist government.
One Sunday morning they had a visiting minister, a man who had also come out of the USSR after the revolution. He told the congregation, “Yes, the Russian Communist government treated us very badly. But, we deserved it. We deserved it for our attitude towards the Ukrainian and Russian peasants, and the way we treated them when things were going so good for us.”
The message was heard with stone cold silence and incomprehension.