Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Category Archives: Canadiana

Divine intervention

Daniel was in a dilemma. He was a captive in a strange land, yet now he was being offered training that would prepare him for a lucrative career. The only problem was that one of the benefits of this training program was that he would be given the same food to eat that the king ate. The food itself was not what troubled Daniel. It would be healthy, nutritious food; but it was food that had been offered in sacrifice to the king’s god. Daniel knew that he was in captivity because God’s people had compromised for years with the gods of the heathen peoples around them.

So Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile himself. What a momentous decision for a young man to make. He knew his decision might result in being barred from the great opportunity before him, it might even have fatal consequences. But that was his decision and he held to it.

God blessed Daniel’s decision. That gave Him a man in Babylon who was fully devoted to Him and He would use Daniel to move the king of Babylon to protect the people of God. We know how things went from there. The king had dreams, Daniel interpreted them. The king promoted Daniel and his three friends to the highest administrative positions in Babylon.

Daniel’s three friends were cast into a super-heated furnace and came out without even the smell of smoke on them. The king then decreed severe punishment for anyone who would say anything against the God of Daniel’s three friends.

The king lost his mind and was put out to pasture with the animals. I imagine that all the time that he was out with the beasts he kept telling himself “I am the great king Nebuchadnezzar, I can just get up and walk back into the palace any time I want and continue as before.” But he couldn’t. It wasn’t until he admitted that the God of heaven was greater than he was, that his reason returned to him. Now Nebuchadnezzar fully acknowledged and submitted to the God of heaven as supreme.

Nebuchadnezzar’s son learned nothing from his father’s experience. When he became king he threw a great party and called for the vessels from the temple of God to be brought out and used for drinking wine at his party. Then he saw the writing on the wall. No one knew what it meant, finally his mother came and told him to call for Daniel. Daniel told him the writing said that he had been weighed and found wanting and the kingdom would be taken from him.

Babylon was overthrown that very night by the Medes and Persians. Daniel continued as a trusted advisor to the king of Persia. They were others in the Persian kingdom who put their lives on the line to be faithful to God, such as Esther, Mordecai and Nehemiah. It appears from history that as long as there were people who refused to defile themselves with paganism, God intervened directly in the affairs of great heathen kingdoms to protect His people.

At what point in time are we in North America. Is God about to reveal the writing on the wall for Canada and the USA? Or will the writing on the wall be for us as Christians in these countries? Is God about to weigh us in the balance and declare that we have come up short?

God has intervened in the history of our two countries to provide for our religious freedom. Yet it seems to me that we have been to prone to honour men for what God has done, even to the point of calling our nations Christian nations. They are not, and never have been. Is labelling a nation of this world as Christian and regarding men and historical places and events almost as saints, sacred writings and shrines much different than defiling ourselves with food sacrificed to idols?

God has intervened directly to provide freedom of conscience in our two lands. Delegates at the Continental Congress in 1774 debated which church should be the official state church of the new nation, because almost all delegates agreed that such a thing was necessary. The New England states were Congregationalist and allowed no other church. The southern states allowed only the Church of England. Maryland was Roman Catholic. Only Rhode Island and Pennsylvania had no official state church. Because of these divisions the delegates were not able to come to agreement and finally abandoned the idea of having a state church for the new republic.

This was not the work of great men with a true vision of liberty of conscience. It looks to me more like a direct intervention of God to prepare the way for the establishment of His church in North America.

Likewise in Canada, as long as Upper Canada and Lower Canada (Ontario and Quebec) were separate colonies, The Church of England was the state church in one and the Roman Catholic church was in the other. But when they were united under a single government in 1841 it was no longer possible to have a state church for the whole country and as the country expanded eastward and westward it was not possible to make any one church official.

When Mennonites first settled in Upper Canada around 1800, they were tolerated, but could not conduct legal marriage services. The Orange Lodge was very powerful in Ontario and fiercely opposed to any groups who were not White, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. The Roman Catholic church in Quebec was equally intolerant. I see it as divine intervention that Canada was brought together in such a way that neither camp could dominate the country, thus allowing freedom of conscience for God’s people.

New belief systems have emerged and become predominant in both countries, propagated by the cathedrals of learning (the universities), and the whole educational system. We are now coming to a point where freedom of conscience is seen as a dangerous thing, almost treasonous.

The freedom we have enjoyed was not granted to us by great and noble politicians, but by the direct work of God. The solution to our present situation will not come from political sources. We must seek God’s mercy and purpose in our hearts not to defile ourselves with ideas, beliefs and programs that come from other sources.

Happy thoughts

Image by Scottslm from Pixabay 

There’s a bluebird on your windowsill
There’s a rainbow in your sky
There are happy thoughts, your heart to fill
Near enough to make you cry.

(The first stanza of Bluebird on you Windowsill by Elizabeth Clarke.)

Elizabeth Clarke was a nurse at the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. One day in 1947 one of her patients, a young boy, was thrilled when a bird perched on the windowsill next to his bed. That evening she wrote the words to this song, and soon after added a melody to the words.

She sang the song often to her patients. Soon friends and coworkers encouraged her to publish it. She sang the song on a Vancouver radio station and before long it was being recorded by well-known singers like Wilf Carter, Tex Williams, Doris Day and Bing Crosby.

Elizabeth Clarke once told a journalist “I didn’t intend to write it – it just came.” She donated all the royalties from the song to children’s hospitals across Canada and continued her nursing career until her death in 1960.

But God Can Save Us Yet

[This is an excerpt from a Canadian Classic, Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie, first published in 1852.  At the climax of the crisis described here, she buries her head in her apron. It was her custom to  pull up her apron to cover her head for privacy when praying.]

The winter and spring of 1834 had passed away. The latter was uncommonly cold and backward; so much so that we had a very heavy fall of snow upon the 14th and 15th of May

A late, cold spring in Canada is generally succeeded by a burning, hot summer; and the summer of ’34 was the hottest I ever remember.  No rain fell upon the earth for many weeks, till nature drooped and withered beneath one bright blaze of sunlight; and the ague and fever in the woods, and the cholera in the large towns and cities, spread death and sickness through the country.

Moodie had made during the winter a large clearing of twenty acres around the house. The progress of the workmen had been watched by me with the keenest interest. Every tree that reached the ground opened a wider gap in the dark wood, giving us a broader ray of light and a clearer glimpse of the blue sky. But when the dark cedar swamp fronting the house fell beneath the strokes of the axe, and we got a first view of the lake my joy was complete: a new and beautiful object was now constantly before me, which gave me the greatest pleasure.

The confusion of an uncleared fallow spread around us on every side. Huge trunks of trees and piles of brush gave a littered and uncomfortable appearance to the locality, and as the weather had been very dry for some weeks, I heard my husband talking with his choppers as to the expediency of firing the fallow. They still urged him to wait a little longer, until he could get a good breeze to carry the fire well through the brush.

Business called him suddenly to Toronto, but he left a strict charge with old Thomas and his sons, who were engaged in the job, by no means to attempt to burn it off till he returned, as he wished to be upon the premises himself in case of any danger. He had previously burnt all the heaps immediately about the doors. While he was absent, old Thomas and his second son fell sick with the ague, and went home to their own township, leaving John, a surly, obstinate young man, in charge of the shanty, where they slept, and kept their tools and provisions.

The day was sultry, and towards noon a strong wind sprang up that roared in the pine tops like the dashing of distant billows, but without in the least degree abating the heat. The children were lying listlessly on the floor for coolness, and the girl and I were finishing sun-bonnets, when Mary suddenly exclaimed, “Bless us, mistress, what a smoke!” I ran immediately to the door, but was not able to distinguish ten yards before me. The swamp immediately below us was on fire, and the heavy wind was driving a dense black cloud of smoke directly towards us.

“What can this mean?” I cried. “Who can have set fire to the fallow?”

John Thomas stood pale and trembling before me. “John, what is the meaning of this fire?”

“Oh, ma’am, I hope you will forgive me; it was I set fire to it, and I would give all I have in the world if I had not done it.”

“What is the danger?”

“Oh, I’m terribly feared that we shall all be burnt up,” said the fellow, beginning to whimper.

“We must get out of it as fast as we can, and leave the house to its fate.”

“We can’t get out,” said the man, in a low, hollow tone, which seemed the concentration of fear; “I would have got out if I could; but just step to the back door, ma’am, and see.”

I had not felt the least alarm up to this minute. Judge then my horror, when, on going to the back door, I saw that the fellow, to make sure of his work, had fired the field in fifty different places. Behind, before, on every side, we were surrounded by a wall of fire, burning ferociously within a hundred yards of us, and cutting off all possibility of retreat.

I closed the door and went back to the parlour. Fear was knocking loudly at my heart – I felt stupefied. The girl sat upon the floor by the children, who had both fallen asleep. She was silently weeping; while the fool who had caused the mischief was crying aloud.

A strange calm succeeded my first alarm; tears and lamentations were useless; a horrible death was impending over us, and yet I could not believe that we were to die.

My eye fell upon the sleeping angels, locked peacefully in each other’s arms, and my tears flowed for the first time. Mary, the servant-girl, looked piteously up in my face. The good, faithful creature had not uttered one word of complaint, but now she faltered forth, “The dear precious lambs! Oh such a death!”

I threw myself down upon the floor beside them, and pressed them alternately to my heart, while inwardly I thanked God that they were asleep, unconscious of danger.

The heat soon became suffocating. We were parched with thirst, and there was not a drop of water in the house. I turned once more to the door, hoping that a passage might have been burnt through to the water. I saw nothing but a dense cloud of fire and smoke – could hear nothing but the crackling and roaring of the flames, which were gaining so fast on us that I felt their scorching breath in my face.

“Ah,” thought I – and it was a most bitter thought – “what will my beloved husband say when he returns and finds that poor Susy and his dear girls have perished in this miserable manner? But God can save us yet.”

The thought had scarcely found a voice in my heart before the wind rose to a hurricane, scattering the flames on all sides into a tempest of burning billows. I buried my head in my apron, for I thought that our time was come, and that all was lost, when a most terrific crash of thunder burst over our heads, and, like the breaking of a water-spout, down came the rushing torrent of rain which had been pent up for so many weeks. In a few minutes the chip-yard was all afloat, and the fire effectually checked. The storm which, unnoticed by us, had been gathering all day, and which was the only one of any note we had that summer, continued to rage all night, and before morning had quite subdued the cruel enemy whose approach we had viewed with such dread.

The imminent danger in which we had been placed struck me more forcibly after it was past than at the time, and both the girl and myself sank to our knees and offered up our hearts in humble thanksgiving to that God who had saved us by an act of His Providence from an awful and sudden death. When all hope from human assistance was lost, His hand was mercifully stretched forth, making His strength more perfectly manifested in our weakness.

“He is their stay when earthly hope is lost,
“The light and anchor of the tempest-toss’d.”

You don’t know the wind

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Image by ptra from Pixabay

The title comes from a line in an art book published 25 years ago, titled If you’re not from the prairie . . . The art is by Henry Ripplinger and the poetic text by David Bouchard. Together they evoke childhood in rural Saskatchewan just as I remember it.

Another line in the book says “You’ve never heard grass.” People in other parts of the country know the sound of the wind in the trees. We don’t have many of those on the prairie. I remember warm summer days in my boyhood when I would walk through the pasture and hear the sound of the grass swaying in the gentle breeze.

Another favourite Saskatchewan book is the novel Who has Seen the Wind, byW. O. Mitchell. The description of the boy listening to the sounds made by the wind in the grass is picture perfect, a beautiful example of showing, not telling.

I have travelled across Canada, seen the Pacific in the west and the Atlantic in the east. I have lived in half of the provinces and I know there is wind everywhere. Yet there is something about the wind that blows across the flat prairie with few trees to impede it that speaks to me in a way that tells me that here I am at home.

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Image by sspiehs3 from Pixabay

We don’t enjoy it when the wind blows at gale force for several days. But then, we don’t enjoy it either when it is a hot summer day, the mosquitos are around us like a cloud and there is not even a little breeze to blow them away. For better or for worse, the wind is part of what it means to be a flatlander.

  • If you’re not from the prairie . . . , © 1993 by David Bouchard and Henry Ripplinger. Published by Raincoast Books, Vancouver.
  • Who has seen the wind, © 1947 by W. O. Mitchell. Published by Macmillan of Canada, Toronto.

How Old Wives Lake Got its Name

When one travels south from Moose Jaw one soon enters a vast upland area rising from the flat prairie. This is the Missouri Coteau. The water in the streams and rivers east of the Coteau flow into the Assiniboine River and eventually into Hudson’s Bay. Streams and rivers of the Coteau flow to the Missouri River, then the Mississippi and finally the Gulf of Mexico.

Many years ago this was all grassland, with water in all the low spots between the hills. There are a few larger bodies of water, the largest being Old Wives Lake, just north of the town of Mossbank. Wildlife is abundant in the hills; the lake is a migratory bird preserve. Buffalo no longer roam these hills; they are now partly cattle country, partly grain-growing country.

Missouri_Coteau_(656541298).jpg

But for hundreds of years the Missouri Coteau was home to vast herds of buffalo and prime hunting ground for indigenous people. The Lakota people inhabited an area that extended from Old Wives Lake south into Montana. The Lakota medicine man Sitting Bull always claimed to have been born on the north side of the Medicine Line (the USA-Canada border). I don’t believe there is any reason to doubt the accuracy of his memory.

The Nakota people, closely related to the Lakota and speaking the same language, lived further east but also came to these hills to hunt buffalo. The Cree people who lived northeast along the Qu’Appelle Valley also hunted in this area. These people all respected each other and made no trouble for each other.

The Blackfoot people lived far to the west and did not come to these hills to hunt. However, sometimes a group of young braves ventured into the hill to seek an occasion to prove their manhood.

And so it happened on a day many years ago that a Cree hunting party had set up camp not far from the body of water now known as Old Wives Lake. The buffalo hunt was a family affair. The men killed the buffalo and brought them back to the camp. The women and children busied themselves scraping and drying the hides, collecting wild berries and pounding the meat and berries into pemmican.

Toward evening a scout returned to camp with the chilling report that a large group of Blackfoot braves was encamped in a nearby valley. Everyone knew that at the crack of dawn the Blackfoot’s braves would come galloping over the hill and slaughter everyone in the camp. The Blackfeet had done this many times before and their hidden presence left no doubt as to their intentions.

The men gathered around a campfire to plan a way of escape. There was a small chance they could drive off the Blackfeet, but many lives would be lost, especially of the women and children. To slip away during the night would silence the drums and let their campfires go out; that would send a signal to the Blackfeet to attack immediately. Their situation seemed hopeless.

Then the old women approached the men and said: “We have been talking. There is no hope for us all to get out of here alive. We will stay, keep the campfires burning, beat the drums and sing all night. You take the young women and children and slip away in the darkness. By morning you will be far from here and you will be safe.”

At first the men refused to consider this idea. But as they talked it became clear that this was the only way to save their young women and children. So they slipped away silently in the night, heading back toward the Qu’Appelle Valley.

The old women remained, kept the campfires burning, beat the drums and sang all night. In the morning the Blackfoot braves swept over the top of the hill, attacked the camp and killed the few old women who had stayed behind.

Soon the story was being told around campfires all through the west of how  mighty Blackfoot warriors had bravely attacked the camp of a Cree hunting party and killed a few aged women. The story reached the Blackfoot elders and they told the young braves “You have brought shame to our people, You shall not go into those hills again.”

From that time the lake and the small river that flows into it have been known as Notukeu (old woman) by the Cree. When French-speaking people came into the area and heard the story they translated the name to la Vieille. On English language maps the river is labelled Notukeu and the lake is Old Wives Lake.

The Bible tells us that God loves us the same way that these old women loved their children and grandchildren: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isaiah 49:15).

In the New Testament, Jesus compares Himself to a mother hen: “ how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37).

Black Threads in Our Tapestry

This is Black History Month, so I decided to tell about some little-known aspects of Saskatchewan’s history.

The first people in Saskatchewan were those we now refer to as Indigenous: The Dené, Cree, Saulteaux (pronounced So-toe), Dakota, Lakota and Nakota. Then came the French and Scottish fur traders and explorers. Some of them stayed, took wives of the people who were already here, and their descendants are known as Métis.

Then the land was opened up for homesteading and landless people from Eastern Canada, the USA and Europe were invited to come and settle this “new” land. Well, it was new to most white people anyway, and it was white people who were wanted as settlers.

The homesteaders came from many countries, languages and cultures and of necessity learned to live and work together to survive and prosper. They faced challenges of breaking the land, learning what crops to grow, getting those crops to market, surviving harsh winters and summer insect plagues. A few gave up and left, most couldn’t afford to leave so they stuck it out through all the hardships of the early years and eventually prospered.

The first black person to arrive in Saskatchewan was Alfred Shadd, from a prominent family in the Buxton settlement south of Chatham, Ontario. This was a settlement of people who had escaped slavery and travelled north on the underground railway to Canada. Alfred Shadd saw an ad for a teacher at Kinistino, Saskatchewan and came out in 1896 to fill that position. After a year he returned to Ontario to complete his studies to be a doctor, then came back and settled in Melfort as a doctor. Eventually he also operated a drug store, a newspaper and a farm where he raised Shorthorn cattle. He served on the town council and came very close to being elected to the provincial legislature. He died suddenly of appendicitis in 1915.

Lewis and Lillie LaFayette of Oskaloosa, Iowa arrived in Saskatchewan in 1906. Lewis first worked on a farm near Regina. At times during their first winter the temperature dropped to 60° below zero (Fahrenheit). In 1909 Lewis took up a homestead at Fiske, west of Rosetown and there he raised a family of ten. He farmed with horses at first, then purchased a Waterloo steam engine in 1913. Two of his brothers joined him at Fiske and for a number of years they ran an all-black threshing crew of 22 men, bringing workers from the USA and helping their neighbours throughout the district get their grain in the bin.

Lewis helped organize the first country school in his area, named Oskaloosa school. He helped organize the first telephone service and served on the telephone board. He was also involved in establishing a co-operative grain elevator. Descendants of Lewis and Lillie are now scattered over Saskatchewan and Alberta.

After the Civil War thousands of former slaves fled to the Oklahoma Territory where they could vote, go to school and live in relative freedom. Oklahoma became a state in 1907 and quickly introduced segregation and denied blacks the right to vote. Dozens of families decided to head north, lured by the promise of obtaining land by homesteading. Twelve families took up homesteads north of Maidstone, Saskatchewan, the others continued on to Amber Valley, Alberta.

About this time the Canadian government panicked at the idea of the Canadian West filling up with black settlers, and instructed immigration officials to refuse entry to blacks on health grounds, claiming the climate of the country was much too harsh for them to survive.

In 1912 the families north of Maidstone built the Shiloh Baptist Church. Joseph and Mattie Mayes were the best known members of the community; Mattie served as a midwife for many in the surrounding area. The descendants of the original settlers have all moved on by now, but the church and cemetery are maintained as heritage properties, a memorial to this group of black homesteaders.

A grandson of Joseph and Mattie Mayes relocated to North Battleford with his wife and raised a family of seven. They were the only black family in the city and experienced no prejudice. One daughter is now a nurse in Saskatoon, another is a veterinarian and their brother Reuben played pro football in the NFL from 1986 to 1993.

These were the pioneers, the first black threads in Saskatchewan’s tapestry. Many more have followed, at first mostly from Eastern Canada and the USA but in more recent years many have come from the Caribbean and Africa.

About fifteen years ago it was said that most of the workers at the broiler processing plant in Wynyard were people who had come here from Sudan as refugees. For a few years, our family doctor was a man who received his education in Kinshasa, D. R. Congo. He speaks French, English and five African languages. Now he is the main doctor at a walk-in clinic in Saskatoon. I have met two people of African origin who have written and published Christian books after settling in Saskatoon, one is from Zambia and the other from Nigeria.

The tapestry of our province is still being enriched by the addition of these black threads.

The Bluenose

The picture in yesterday’s post showed Canada’s most famous ship,  the Bluenose, a fishing schooner launched at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in 1921. The Bluenose won the International Fisherman’s Race numerous times in the 1920’s and 1930’s, being defeated only once. It also set the record for the largest load of fish brought into Lunenburg harbour. It has appeared on Canada’s ten cent coin since 1937.Canadian_Dime_-_reverse

Will Harriet Tubman appear on the Canadian $100 bill?

Earlier this year, the Bank of Canada asked the public for suggestions for a woman to appear on the $100 bill. The woman selected must nor be fictional, must have died at least 25 years ago and must have played a significant role in Canadian history. Harriet Tubman was one of the names proposed.

You see, Harriet Tubman’s main claim to fame was as a conductor on the Underground Railway, leading black people from slavery in the U.S south to freedom in Canada. She once said  “I wouldn’t trust Uncle Sam with my people no longer, but I brought ’em all clear off to Canada.” St. Catherines, Ontario was her home from 1851 to 1861, the height of her activity as a conductor on the Underground Railway. This covers most of the time between the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, which made life risky for black people anywhere in the USA, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Bethel Chapel BME church

This church, the Bethel Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church, was Harriet Tubman’s home church in St. Catherines. It is considered to be the oldest black church in Canada and is still home to an active congregation. It has been designated a National Historic Site, due to its connection to Harriet Tubman.

York University in Toronto is home to the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diaspora.

It’s unlikely that Harriet Tubman will be selected for the $100 dollar bill. For one thing, I don’t believe she ever became a Canadian citizen. Yet she is well known in Canada and played a prominent role in our history. I suspect it is more likely that she will turn up on a Canadian postage stamp. I’m a little surprised that it hasn’t happened already.

Why I wear a poppy

One hundred years ago Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the poem, In Flanders Fields.  McCrae was a surgeon with a Canadian artillery regiment in the First World War and a day earlier had buried a close friend on the battlefield near Ypres, Belgium. Poppy seeds lie dormant in the ground until the soil is disturbed by cultivation or some other cause.  The soil at Ypres had been thoroughly disturbed by the digging of trenches and graves.  As McCrae wrote, the area where his friend and many other soldiers lay buried was covered with red poppy flowers.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

This poem is the reason that so many people in Canada wear a red poppy pin on Remembrance Day and the days leading up to it. It is our way of showing respect for those who have suffered n war.

The last verse of the poem speaks of taking up the quarrel with the foe.  This militaristic sentiment might raise the question of whether a non-resistant Christian should wear a poppy.

I was four years old when I first saw my uncle Garry after the Second World War.  The scar on his chin was very striking to a young lad; he had been struck by shrapnel and part of his chin blown away.  When he was found and carried back to the hospital tent, they placed him on a board laid across two barrels and the wound was cleaned and sewn up without benefit of anaesthetic.

Uncle Norman was my mother’s youngest brother, born when she was 18.  She claimed that she was the one who raised him; her mother was busy with all the other responsibilities of caring for her large family.  One day when I was nine years old my father was waiting for me when I got out of school.  On the way home, he told me that they had received news that Uncle Norman had been killed in Korea.  A few weeks later my mother’s last letters to him were returned unopened.

Not many people who have been involved in war ever glory about what they have done.  The memories are too painful.  It is not unusual to hear stories of children going through a trunk of their father’s effects after his death and finding medals and citations for bravery in battle.  Dad had never mentioned them; he had been a hero in the war, but when the war was over he just wanted to forget what he had seen.

I have no desire to appear to be unmoved by the suffering of war. That is why I wear a poppy.

(This is a slightly edited repeat of a post from two years ago.)

What handicap?

Frances Kelsey died this morning in London, Ontario, at the age of 101. Why is that worthy of note? Well, Frances Kelsey was the Canadian lady who prevented the thalidomide tragedy from spreading to the USA.

Thalidomide was developed by a German pharmaceutical company as a remedy for morning sickness. It went on sale there as an over the counter medication in 1957 and soon thereafter in other European countries. It was available in Canada from 1959 to 1962. In 1960, Doctor Kelsey was medical agent for the US Food and Drug Administration when the German company tried to get approval to sell thalidomide in the USA. She had doubts about its safety and refused to approve it, despite the pressure applied by the pharmaceutical company.

There were 10,000 to 20,000 babies born in Canada with missing or deformed limbs because their mothers took thalidomide during pregnancy. Many more were born in Europe, none in the USA. If you were born in the USA during the years that thalidomide could have been available, you can thank God that this lady trusted her doubts about the safety of this medication and refused to allow its approval.

But let me tell you about another remarkable lady. I can’t remember her name and don’t know what has become of her, but she was born without arms due to thalidomide. Thirty years ago, she was writing a column for the weekly newspaper that served the community where we lived in Ontario. She lived alone in an apartment in another small town. In one article she told how she used her toes to type her articles, to do her cooking and all the other daily tasks that we use our hands for.

One day I came out or the bank just as a young lady with no arms left the newspaper office across the street. I watched as she walked around to the driver’s door of a jeep-type vehicle, lifter her right foot out of her boot (it was winter and there was snow on the ground) reached into her coat pocket for the keys, unlocked the door, put her foot back in the boot, got in the vehicle and drove away.

And most of us think our feet are only for walking on!

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