An Easter Unlike the Rest
A message from CBWC Executive Minister Rob Ogilvie
That first Holy Week was a time unlike any other. Palm Sunday had people rejoicing and celebrating as the new king made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Yet, four days later, that same man was arrested and the following day put to death. And just as His closest followers were trying to understand this new reality, suddenly—miraculously—they learned that the tomb was empty. Jesus was alive!
The week the Saviour of the world defeated sin and death and rose again is a week that will never be forgotten, although this year will be celebrated much differently than usual. No group gatherings, physical distancing and social isolating means that our church buildings will not be filled with people remembering, lamenting and then celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. It will be different, but Easter will not be forgotten. It can’t be forgotten, because it’s the hope of the resurrection that we cling to today in this time of upheaval and uncertainty.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.”
Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.”
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
It’s the message of Jesus that lives on, that carries us, that continually reminds us that this world is not all that there is.
Jesus said, “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust Me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live.”
So, as together we try to understand our reality, and as we live with this great uncertainty, and as this Easter will be celebrated differently, may the Good News be that the Saviour of the world loves you so much that He invites you to love and trust Him back, and allow Him to be your strength, your comfort and your peace.
I wish you all a blessed Easter, and keep well!
Below you will find a prayer written in early March by Rev. Sam Chaise, as a response to the pandemic which we are in. We thought you might appreciate his words.
A Prayer in the Midst of a New Coronavirus
We come to you, God, as we are.
Not as we’ve heard we should be, not as we think we should be, not even as we hope we will be, but as we are.
And for many of us, if not all, we come in this moment with fear, because the headlines on our screens and in our papers are about the unknown, about a new disease that seems to be stalking the earth and stalking us.
We know of Your promise, and Your call, which says, “Do not fear”, and have to say that at times, that seems a little bit crazy, or at least unrealistic.
And we wonder what You mean by that, because for sure we know You don’t mean that everything’s fine or that everything will necessarily be okay. Perhaps it is a call to remind ourselves that our fear can be enfolded by something larger, some that is not global in scope but larger than the universe. Something that is love.
We confess that we live in such an unusual and amazing time in history that we’re not good at facing these kinds of global threats. We know that most of our ancestors were used to this sort of thing – they were used to living with the unknown because so much then was unknown – they were more used to sickness and death than we are because it was all around them. So we acknowledge that our fear, and our lack of resilience, is actually a sign that we live in a time of great blessing, where the diseases that killed so many in our history are now managed with medication. So, thank You.
We also acknowledge the gift that it is to live in Canada, with the wealth of resources that have been invested in our medical system, and the fact that it is available to all regardless of ability to pay. We pray for parts of the world that would be devastated were this virus to hit them, where there is poverty, minimal health care, and just very little resilience to be able to deal with this virus.
We also pray for the many people who have been, and will be affected by the economic downturn . . .for the millions of people in the Global South who live close to the edge in terms of livelihood, for whom a lack of economic growth means that difference between eating healthy food or perhaps just eating rice. It may be that more people will be harmed by the downturn in the global economy than by the virus itself, and we pray for them.
And we pray for one another. We pray that our fear will not cause us to turn on one another, keep resources from one another, or withdraw from one another. We think of Your people, who lived centuries ago, who were known for the fact that as others were fleeing plague-ridden cities, Christians were marching in, in order to care for the sick, knowing that if they died, they would come alive again in the resurrection. And that because of that, as others marvelled at the courage and sacrifice of Your people, they wanted to know about the God who inspired those people. And we wish we could be like them. We want to be like them.
Or, do we?
At the least, we aspire to that. And, so, if this does get bad, we ask that You fill us with Your Spirit so that Your Church will become known for its courage, hope, and self-sacrifice. What a story that would be . . .
So, in the end, we long for more than a lack of fear. We pray for hope, faith, courage, conviction, resilience, and people who bear witness to a larger story than this current story that is gripping our world.
The Remarkable Story of Dr. Gerald Hankins
By Jenna Hanger
There are many times in our life where it feels like what we are going through now will never end. It is easy to be short-sighted, to let the worries of today eclipse the vision of tomorrow. But life is a journey with many twists and turns. Our current worries and stresses will fade away, and new ones will replace them. There is one constant though—one thing we can always depend on to never change—and that is the faithfulness of the Lord.
Dr. Gerald Hankins’ life is a testimony to this. This October will mark his 97th birthday. Born on October 16,1923, he has seen much in his long, remarkable life. In his time, Gerald served in WWII, became a surgeon, then a missionary doctor, then a successful writer. His path has crossed with the likes of Mother Teresa, as well as Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary (the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest) and many other notable persons.
His mother raised him and his younger brother in a small town outside of Calgary, AB. His childhood years were during the Great Depression, a hard and stressful time for his small family. Education was always of great importance to him, but hard to come by. The only school available to him was a two-room schoolhouse with two teachers who had the enormous task of teaching every subject to their students. Despite that, Gerald was very grateful to have the opportunity to be educated, as this isn’t a luxury everyone has.
During WWII Gerald joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and served as a radio navigator with the Royal Air Force Squadrons 96 and 176 in Britain, India and Burma. In 1943, Gerald and his pilot were flying near Edinburgh, Scotland in a two-engine fighter plane called The Mosquito when one of their engines failed. A more experienced pilot might have been able to cope, but his pilot was new, like himself. They smashed into some buildings; the pilot was able to walk away unscathed, but Gerald sustained significant fractures to his spine. Three vertebrae were crushed. He ended up in a plaster cast that covered his whole torso for around ten months. While able to be mobile, he couldn’t bend at all. This accident turned out to be one of the most significant instances in his life.
He was recovering in the general ward in the Princess Margaret Rose Hospital in Edinburgh when a middle-aged, grey-haired lady came along and started visiting with him. She suddenly looked at him straight in the eye and asked rather forcefully, “Do you know the Lord?” Gerald had to take a deep breath and he answered honestly that he didn’t. She gave him a little Bible, which he still has to this day, and he started reading it. He didn’t understand it all because of the language, but it was the start of Gerald’s faith journey, the beginning of a process that went on over the years to develop into a steadfast faithfulness.
“That’s one thing I am most grateful for. A wee, Scottish lady having asked that question. She wouldn’t let me dodge it,” Gerald said, laughing as he recounted her forwardness. “I’ll be forever grateful to her.”
After Gerald recovered from his injury, he went back to flying. In 1945, he served with a night fighter group in India until the war ended. Upon his return home, Gerald pursued his education, got married and became a General Surgeon in Calgary, AB. He and his wife, Alison, had five children and they all became involved with the First Baptist Church.
As time went on, Gerald had an interest in becoming a medical missionary. In 1966 he took part in a two-week mission trip to Mexico, but felt anything more extensive should wait until his children were grown. Then, in 1970, an opportunity was presented to him. His friend Dr. Helen Huston needed a locum to cover for her at the United Mission to Nepal hospital in Ampipal, which she had established. The one month commitment turned into a four-year term in 1974 in Kathmandu, which eventually led to twelve years serving as a doctor in Nepal.
When asked if the experience was what he expected, Gerald answered with a resounding, “No!” then laughed.
“There was good and bad about it. For one thing, the facilities in a mission hospital are pretty primitive. You have to do with second-class materials and equipment. And your staff, goodness knows, are willing but not fully trained. These were the real challenges,” Gerald said.
The time spent in Nepal, Gerald expressed, was a tremendous experience overall, with many memorable moments. He recounted a particular situation that always stuck with him; a teenage girl who had a fractured femur was carried to their hospital for three days in a basket on someone’s back. The pain she had experienced to get help was unimaginable. He also performed several tracheotomies and dealt with a lot of bowel obstructions. Another time that stands out amongst the sea of memories was working in a field clinic in a very remote village, performing surgery by flashlight. “Those were challenging times,” Gerald laughed.
These experiences led Gerald to pursue another venture—writing. It started with heading up an enormous project; writing a medical textbook that third world doctors could use. To give patients the best care possible, doctors had to learn how to do surgeries differently than they would in a first world setting, in circumstances that were much less forgiving. The textbook, Surgery in a Third World Country, began by Gerald taking notes on various types of surgeries, then referencing classical textbooks of surgery. The textbook was accepted by local doctors in the country, and they arranged for it to be printed. It went on to have a wide circulation.
“That’s one achievement I can look back on and say, ‘Well I’m glad to have done that’,” Gerald said.
Writing the textbook was a catalyst for a whole new career for Gerald. He returned to Canada in 1986. In the following years he would complete short medical relief missions in Inuvik, N.W.T. Then, in 1990, he officially retired from the medical field to pursue his newfound love of writing.
He ended up writing biographies on Dr. Helen Huston, Dr. Arthur Jenkyns, Dr. Otto Schaefer and Dr. Gary McPherson, all of whom received the Order of Canada. He also published a book on Calgary’s Mustard Seed Street Ministry, and wrote several articles, poems and stories over the years.
When asked why he thinks it’s important to tell others’ stories, Gerald replied, “Because people do worthwhile and interesting things. When you think about people who are willing to go overseas and use their talents to cure diseases or if they are engineers, or whatever, I think skills like that deserved to be preserved in written form.” Gerald shared that one of the highlights of his life was meeting people from various races who have achieved remarkable things in both peace and wartime.
Gerald admitted writing never came particularly easy to him. It took a lot of hard work and dedication, but he is very glad to have done it. “I never planned to do much writing initially, but once you get into the swing of it, it can be very rewarding you know,” Gerald said. “Whether your books reach a wide market, to me never felt to be a major object. If you got something that can be helpful to other people, or express some real good opinions that you have [it’s worth the effort of doing].”
The best advice Gerald can pass on to the next generation is to keep learning and never give up. “I always thought it was important to learn, not to give up on a project or something when you got a start or some skills. Because the people with tenacity and endurance are the ones who get things done in this world,” he said. “Even people with mediocre skills and interests can achieve a lot if they are persistent and constantly seeking to learn new things.”
As for what he would have done differently, Gerald laughed and said, “Just about everything. Could have done a better job all around. I was fortunate enough to be living in a time when there were opportunities galore. [I could have] learned new skills and been trained… could have done better. That’s all I could say in retrospect. Having said that, I am thankful to have opportunities that I could never have anticipated.”
Gerald was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2005. He now resides in a little community outside of Red Deer, AB.
Embodied Connection Amidst Physical Distancing
By Mary Dickau from Beulah Garden Homes and founding member of CHAT
In the last 3 weeks at BG Homes, we have been facing down COVID-19 with continuous transitional decisions made toward keeping our resident neighbourhood safe and providing good care. These efforts include empowering our community to stand together, to endure, and to find comfort and peace amidst this pandemic. As one of our team said, “It has been like trying to drink all the water that is coming out of the firehose and not drown!”
For instance, how do we put measures in place towards distancing and self-isolation while living out the Gospel that teaches us to break down the walls of isolation and fear? The very act of self-isolation and quarantine means to being hidden—not heard, not seen, not connected. Last week, some of my friends who are in their 30s and 40s told me that they have always enjoyed time away from others; however, now that it is being enforced as protocol, it does not feel very good to them at all. They feel vulnerable, fearful, alone. One person realized what he is encountering now is something that older adults feel much of the time and more so in these days. Strangely, the fear of COVID-19 has now made people fearful of being around older adults too, “In case they get it.” One person at Beulah said that people are fearful to step on the property and bring supplies to the door of the building, in case they run into a resident who might be outside sitting on a bench. What has been set in place as protection for the vulnerable has become twisted into fear OF the vulnerable. Jesus taught us to replace fear with love. What does that mean in this present situation? How can we participate in the love Christ has for the vulnerable during COVID-19 in ways that embody connection while keeping everyone safe?
‘Be Careful but do not be Afraid.’ Fear is so normal for us but God’s response—seen clearly in the gospels—is for us to bring our fear to the One who will replace our fear with love. Loving people in a fearful time has such power of life and this Christ-light shows up strongly in the darkness of these days. Of course, before I can love well, I need to recognize and bring my own fear to Christ; to trust Jesus for readying me to ‘live the gospel’ in the instances of my work and home. I have needed to recognize that being careful and wise is NOT the same thing as being afraid. COVID-19 is giving me an opportunity to practice how to live the Love of God well in fearful circumstances.
The Spirit of God, who has hovered over darkness since before the beginning of time while initiating life, comfort and peace, has a surprising way for us to follow. One surprise at Beulah has been the institution of Patio Concerts. We can no longer physically gather, but two musicians came with their fiddles and guitar to walk around the outside of our buildings playing music. Residents could open their windows, step out on their patios, cheer, and wave to each other. Some residents even came outside to dance and play in the sun— while keeping appropriate distance. We had a beautiful time. Perhaps joy, laughter and comfort are more possible in these days, where we can no longer take our physical life for granted. At a conference on Aging, hosted by Regent College years ago, Maxine Hancock said that one of the best ways to live the Christian life well was to contemplate our mortality for fifteen minutes every day. She explained that as we face our own physical death, we remember that we are finite beings, but also that Christ lives in us forever and has defeated death. Contemplating this mystery gives me a sense of deep grace and hope that reaches far beyond my days and abilities, along with a response of gratitude and increased strength for the day.
Throughout history, Christians have been known by their response to plagues and pandemics. They have walked in when the world walked out. They have held hope in the face of death. While we are all figuring out how to walk the way of Christ in these present circumstances, I invite you to consider how the truth of these words impact you and your community’s response: “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.”
Be careful, but don’t be afraid.
About the author:
Mary Dickau offers Spiritual and Community Care for a community of more than 350 Older Adult residents at Beulah Gardens. Mary is an elder at Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, and her other job is facilitating an urban retreat called Stillpointe, where she hosts weekly rhythms of prayer and meets with people for Spiritual Direction and Healing Prayer. She is passionate about looking for the love and grace of God found within our shared stories and journey of life. Mary’s family includes three adult sons, two daughters-in-law, a grandson, a therapy dog named Bella and whoever walks in their door. Mary is a founding member of CHAT.
For more information about CHAT Canada, and to keep up to date about their services and events visit their website https://chatcanada.org.
Event Updates: Covid-19
Online Assembly: Registration open
NMO: Rescheduled for 2021
OEC: Postponed to later in 2020
BLTS/Ascent Reunion: Postponed to later date (yet to be determined)
BCY Assembly: Registration open
Banff Pastors Conference: Registration opens May 1st
SERVE: Cancelled. See you in 2021!
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Making Connections is the Monthly Newsletter of the CBWC.