Pieces of the Puzzle

Six weeks ago, when I discovered that I had cancer, I told  MJ that life felt like pieces of a puzzle in a box. I suggested that we empty the box, spread it on the table, and start putting the puzzle together one piece at a time. There was a sense that one day it will form a beautiful picture.

Since then, we have watched as God has literally helped us to fit pieces together in mind boggling and faith building ways. It would take multiple blogs to describe each piece and explain how they connect together. Everything from closing the chapter of our life in South Africa to being blessed with some of the finest medical care that anyone could ask for. Slowly but surely, the picture is coming together.

After weeks of appointments, scans, tests, and x-rays, another piece will be added as chemo begins on Friday. The decision to start chemo before surgery is allowing one of the pieces of the puzzle (a tumour in my liver) to shrink in size so that surgery will be less complicated.

At times, some of the pieces seem out of place. They seem more like misfits, like finding out I need to do an emergency root canal the day before chemo starts. However, what seems like a misfit can be God’s way of preventing something far more serious in the future.

MJ and I continue to hold tightly to the right hand of our Heavenly Father, the Healer. We thank God for being surrounded by such a tremendous medical team. We are equally thankful for the incredible army of people who have told us they are praying. There are few words to adequately describe how overwhelming and humbling it is to be lifted so high in prayer. Prayer will guide the medical team and prayer will move God’s hand so that His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Although there are many pieces of the puzzle still on the table, we are confident of what the picture will look like in the future because we already see how it is coming together in the present.

Just a reminder, that whatever my lot, God is still showering me with peace because it is well with my soul!

Until next time…

Don

Christ Stollen

To the readers of this blog, it may appear that I need a lesson in spelling. Back in October, while MJ was grocery shopping here in South Africa, I came across a German Christmas fruit bread called “Christ Stollen” which actually means: “after Christ”. As MJ finished her grocery list, my mind kept going back to the first Christmas and how Herod tried to steal and kill Jesus, the Son of God, born to Mary and Joseph. 

To this day, 2000 years “after Christ” was born, a “Herod spirit” prevails around the world. Over the centuries, revolutionists and dictators have tried to eliminate Christianity. Even today, governments in different parts of the world are removing crosses from churches and shutting them down all together. The ministry initiatives we are involved in can attest to this.

In spite of the fact that people are still trying to steal the Christ of Christmas, He and His message are still very much alive!!!

Here are a few thoughts that will encourage us to make sure that no one steals Christ from Christmas.

1) Never lose the spirit of Christmas

John 1:14

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

2) Never lose the spirit of giving at Christmas and all year long.

2 Corinthians 8:7

“But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

3) Never stop telling your children and their children about the spirit of Christmas

Deuteronomy 4:9

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

Together, let’s make sure that no one steals Christ from our Christmas!

Until next time…

Don

She Said Yes!

MJ brought two wonderful children into the world, Stephanie, thirty-five years ago and Jonathan, thirty-one years ago.

Over the years, our children have brought great joy to our home with little to no hardship along the journey. A blessing we do not take for granted. In all stages of life, we have formed lasting memories that are re-visited from time to time as an opportunity to thank God for His faithfulness.

This past Friday, an event took place that has been added to the top of the “memory pile”.  MJ and I woke up at 3 in the morning to watch live through the amazing technology of Face Time as Jonatas Trindade bent a knee and proposed to our daughter Stephanie. Rather than a quiet engagement, Jonatas chose to propose in front of their closest friends and family at Stephanie’s thirty-fifth birthday party.

Over the years, Stephanie has chosen to wait for the right man that God would bring into her life. In a recent conversation she said to me: “Dad, it has been worth the wait!”

I have watched as Jonatas has treated our daughter with the dignity and respect she so deserves.  To see the happiness that he has brought to Stephanie gives to me as her father a peace and joy that seems to move beyond the ability to put into words.

In the three minute video that captures  the engagement moment, you can hear Stephanie say to Jonatas, “My Dad knows?”, and “he said yes?!” Stephanie, I said yes because of the maturity with which you and Jonatas have handled this brief relationship. Jonatas, I said yes because of the gentleman like qualities you have displayed towards our daughter. The other yes is the fact that Jesus is at the centre of your relationship. Yes, yes, yes!!!

Mom and I are literally an ocean apart from both of you, but our family members who are closest to us have shared with us how happy you are, how genuine your relationship is, and Jonatas, the gentleman that you are. We may be an ocean apart, but the expanse of an ocean can not hinder the closeness we feel to both of you in our hearts.

Jonatas, I am so glad you asked the question, and Stephanie I am so glad that you said yes!

Be assured of our love and support as you begin this journey together. As a family we look forward to adding to the “Mann memory pile”!

Love to both of you!

Dad

P. S. This blog was shared with Stephanie and Jonatas first, and they gave me their blessing to share it with you.

A Month of Remembrance

Many of us took time over the weekend to remember those who have fought in world wars. Today, we are the beneficiaries of the freedom they fought for.

Remembrance Day is always an opportunity for me to remember my father, who along with his brother, enlisted as Canadian soldiers in World War II. I still remember the days as a young boy when my father and Uncle Hubert would sit in our living room and reminisce about their experiences while serving the Canadian military in England. Thankfully, both my father and uncle survived the war and returned home.

Ironically, my November remembrance is not just one day, it lasts the whole month. Eleven days after remembering those, including my father, who fought for our freedom, my brother and I take time to remember the fateful day when our father and mother made such a premature departure from this earth. In spite of the fact that my father survived a war, he and my mother could not survive the injuries of a horrific car accident on November 22, 1979. Today, they are enjoying  the prize for which God called them heavenward in Christ Jesus. For this reason, my brother and I had these words engraved on their tombstone at Union Cemetery, in Cobourg, Ontario: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21).

This blog was inspired in part by the devotional I read in Our Daily Bread on November 11, 2018.

“Dr. William Wallace was serving as a missionary surgeon in Wuzhou, China, in the 1940s when Japan attacked China. Wallace, who was in charge of Stout Memorial Hospital at the time, ordered the hospital to load his equipment on barges and continue to function as a hospital while floating up and down rivers to avoid infantry attacks.

During dangerous times, Philippians 1:21—one of Wallace’s favorite verses—reminded him that if he lived, he had work to do for the Savior; but if he died, he had the promise of eternity with Christ. The verse took on special meaning when he died while falsely imprisoned in 1951.”

Sometimes what we think has the potential to bring our life to an end, like a world war, is not what actually takes us. Instead, it is the surprise of the “suddenly’s”, things that come out of nowhere or sideswipe us, that lead to our death. That’s why it is important to live for Christ while we walk on this earth. Even if we are broadsided by a “suddenly”, we gain the promise of eternity with Christ because we lived for Him while we walked this earth.”

Do this in remembrance of Jesus!

Until next time…

Don

Lip It or Live It?

In a recent BBC article entitled “Letter from Africa: Kenya unveils biblical strategy to tackle corruption”, the writer states: “Corruption is eating us up alive, with new scandals emerging day after day…The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the country’s official body for fighting corruption, appears overwhelmed by the scale of the problem…Indeed the problem appears to be getting worse…The figure for those who paid bribes to receive government services has risen to 62%, up from 46% just two years ago…So running out of ideas for tackling this menace, the anti-corruption commission has turned to a new weapon – the Bible.”

The writer goes on to ask the question: “What about non-christians?…I personally have nothing against the Bible. I read it regularly and I know of quite a few characters in there who were deeply corrupt, starting with Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Christ who betrayed him for a fee only to take his own life later. But there are a few questions that I and fellow Kenyans would like the good bishop to bear in mind. Many of the top leaders who have been accused of, or charged with, corruption are church-going, Bible readers. Is there another version of the holy book that the bishop could recommend to them?”

If corruption is to be tackled head on in any country around the world, we are going to have to move beyond just lip service. Just saying you read the Bible and/or attend church is not going to cut it.

In ancient Israel, the prophet Jeremiah was lamenting about the nation’s corruption. They had “turned their backs to God and not their faces”, immorality mattered little to her, and truth had perished. Than Jeremiah used these piercing words to describe Israel: “You are always on their lips but far from their hearts.” (Jeremiah 12:2b)

If integrity is to grip a nation, it must move beyond lip service and become a matter of the heart. Integrity is a lifestyle that cannot be forced on you, it must start within the heart and work its way from the inside out!

This past September, while training a group of leaders from across Nairobi, Bill and I were privileged to have a brief meeting with Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, the leader of the Ethics and Anti-Anti-Corruption Commission of Kenya. We presented him with a copy of our CLI manual.

The Six Pillars of Integrity taught in the manual are biblically based, differentiating between characters who lived a lifestyle of integrity no matter the cost, and others whose corrupt leadership led to their downfall.

As part of the CLI process, the manual is a strategic component of our cohort experience (integrity groups of ten people). We firmly believe that information applied on a regular basis, will lead to genuine and lasting transformation.

If we are going to use the Bible to fight corruption, we must not just “lip it” we must live it!

Note: To read the full BBC article, click on this link https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-45863819?fbclid=IwAR3zaDf2UPrzG-EHSyHLnpuMr_yPQfUyaVMRrHvfJlQc12btUhxPmwV2OLo

Until next time…

Don

Enflammés, pas retraités

L’expression « Il n’y a pas de mots » a été une déclaration récurrente depuis la naissance de Bâtir un pont entre la Chine et l’Afrique (BCA), il y a sept ans.

Aujourd’hui, j’écris ce blog depuis notre Centre culturel Bridge dans l’Afrique. MJ et moi savourons l’occasion de passer une semaine avec notre plus récent ajout à la famille du BCA.

Vendredi dernier, nous avons pris R et J à l’aéroport et les avons amenés à ce qui sera leur foyer d’accueil pour les deux prochains mois.

Comment un employé du gouvernement à la retraite et son épouse, qui donnent bénévolement de leur temps pour établir des relations avec les Chinois au Canada, ont-ils été « enflammés » pour passer deux mois à bâtir des liens relationnels avec des Chinois vivant en Afrique? Une partie de la réponse réside dans des amis, des petits groupes et une église qu’ils fréquentent tous.

Des amis de longue date de MJ et moi ont commencé à fréquenter une église dans leur communauté et ont décidé de se joindre à un petit groupe au sein de l’église qui se réunit le dimanche soir. Ils ont rencontré R et J et ont réalisé qu’ils avaient le potentiel de répondre à un besoin temporaire du Centre culturel Bridge. Nous sommes présentement à la recherche d’un couple qui viendra sur une base permanente pour tisser des liens avec plus de cent mille Chinois qui vivent et travaillent dans cette partie de l’Afrique. Entre-temps, R et J sont venus temporairement continuer de bâtir un lien relationnel en utilisant l’enseignement de l’anglais comme langue seconde et d’autres initiatives comme des rencontres pour jouer au ping-pong.

MJ et moi devons beaucoup à nos amis qui croient en ce que nous faisons sur le sol africain, et nous ont mis en contact avec un couple qui a mis sa retraite en veilleuse et a « rallumé » sa passion pour les Chinois en Afrique. Nous sommes reconnaissants pour une église qui a attisé la flamme et soutient dans la prière la mission de R et J pour les deux prochains mois.

Enfin, nous remercions Dieu pour les églises qui voient le potentiel et la valeur des « petits groupes ». Sans eux, R et J auraient pu entrer et sortir de l’église dimanche après dimanche sans jamais entendre parler du besoin du BCA. IL N’Y A PAS DE MOTS!!!

À la prochaine…

Don

Re-fired, Not Retired

The phrase “There are no words” has been a recurring statement ever since the Bridging China and Africa (BCA) initiative was birthed seven years ago

Today, I write this blog from our Bridge Cultural Centre in Africa. MJ and I are enjoying the opportunity of spending a week with our newest addition to the BCA family.

Last Friday, we picked up R & J at the airport and brought them to what will be their home away from home for the next two months.

How does a retired government employee and his wife, who volunteer their time building relationships with Chinese in Canada, get “re-fired” to spend two months building relational bridges with Chinese in Africa? Part of the answer lies in friends, small groups, and a church that they all attend.

Life long friends of MJ and myself started attending a church in their community and decided to join a small group within the church who meet on Sunday nights. They met R & J and began to recognise their potential to meet a temporary need that exists at the Bridge Cultural Centre. Presently, we are looking for a couple who will come on a permanent basis to build a bridge with more than one hundred thousand Chinese who live and work in this part of Africa. In the meantime, R & J have come on a temporary basis to continue to build a relational bridge using ESL (English as a Second Language) and ping pong gatherings amongst other initiatives.

MJ and I are indebted to friends who believe in what we do on African soil, and have put us in contact with a couple who put retirement on hold and “re-fired” their passion for Chinese in Africa. We are grateful for a church that has fanned the “re-firing” flame and are prayerfully supporting R & J’s mission for the next two months. 

Finally, we thank God for churches who see the power and value of “small groups”. Without them, R & J may have walked in and out of church Sunday after Sunday and never heard about BCA’s need. THERE ARE NO WORDS!!!

Until next time…

Don

Ten Things I’m Thankful For

On a recent trip to Sierra Leone, I had the privilege of meeting an eighty-five year old retired professor who actually received part of his university education in Western Canada. It is not often that you get to sit in the presence of a godly man who exudes passion and displays God’s love, as we did the day we had lunch in his home.

During our dinner table conversations, he shared with us that one of the things that keeps his passion alive is his final prayer of the day before he retires for the night. He always takes time to review his day, talk to God, and thank Him for ten blessings of the day that has just passed.

So today, on this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, I want to take time to make a list of ten things I am thankful for.

1) I am thankful for my wife, Marie-José, and the fact that our mutual love for each other grows with each passing day. Thanks for your love, the laughs, and the lasting memories we are making together.

2) I am thankful for our wonderful children, Stephanie, Jonathan, and his wife Julia, who love God with a passion, and have relentless work ethics in their respective careers.

3) I am thankful for a spiritual heritage that has been passed down for three generations and now MJ and I are able to carry it through to our own children.

4) I am thankful for a brother and his wife who have always been there for me. Keith and Linda, the untimely loss of Mom and Dad has only brought us that much closer over the years.

5) I am thankful for in-laws who love me as if I was one of their own. Maman and Papa, you are incredible people who have shown me familial love as if I was a son.

6) I am thankful for friends who are more like family. True friends are rare to find and MJ and I are blessed with some of the choicest!

7) I am thankful for a lifetime of ministry. I can’t think of anything that I would want to do more  than what God called me to as a sixteen year old teenager.

8) I am thankful for the privilege that MJ and I have to live on African soil. Thank you to everyone who makes us feel so welcome at our home away from home.

9) I am thankful for a full life that has allowed me to do more than I ever dreamed could be accomplished in a lifetime. There are no words!

10) I am thankful that I know my Redeemer and the fact that He loves me in spite of my imperfections.

Why don’t you take time before the Thanksgiving Weekend is over to make your own top ten list of things you are thankful for.

Until next time…

Don

Special Monday Musings – Tuesday Edition

Today marks the last day in Monrovia, Liberia before our team, consisting of myself, Bill Pipke, and Bonifes Adoyo (the Bishop emeritus of Christ Is the Answer Ministries – Kenya) move on to Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Throughout our two weeks in East and West Africa, we have watched God orchestrate unique experiences, opportunities, and appointments. Last night was no exception.

We had one thousand CLI manuals printed here in Liberia. In the process of the printing I arranged for our Sierra Leone National Chair person (pictured between Bill and I) to come to Monrovia and carry the CLI manuals back to Freetown. As the story goes, he was only able to come yesterday, at the time we happened to be here in Monrovia. Desmond travelled over fourteen hours and arrived at 7 p.m. last night. As I stood outside of the print shop waiting for his arrival, suddenly, as if out of no where and in the darkness of the night, Desmond appeared and said “hi Don”. He proceeded to tell me that he had to leave his vehicle at the Sierra Leone border and travel two hours by taxi to Monrovia.

Asking him how he would get back to the border with the manuals, he said he would have to take another taxi. It so happens that our driver who accompanied me to the print shop owns his own taxi. He agreed to take Desmond and the 360 kgs of manuals back to the border last night. After having a light supper, Desmond and Augustine squeezed themselves into a small Toyota with 900 manuals and returned to the border where Desmond would sleep at a guest house on the Liberia/Sierra Leone border so that he could get an early start back to Freetown this morning. Picture a plane at the end of a runway as it begins to ascend to the sky, and you will have a glimpse of what the small Toyota looked like as they left for the border last night.

Our driver came to my room this morning to give me a report. He and Desmond arrived at the Sierra Leone border last night about 11:30 p.m. The customs officer agreed to store the manuals in his office, where they would be safe until morning. Augustine, arrived back in Monrovia at 3 o’clock this morning, and Desmond is on his way back to Freetown with 900 CLI manuals. I am overwhelmed by the commitment that our people have to get the integrity message proclaimed here in Africa. They are always willing to go the extra mile and then some. 

A dear friend wrote me on FaceBook this morning with this promise from Psalm 126: “The one who goes out weeping, carrying a bag of seeds, will surely return with a joyful song.”

Desmond is on his way back to Freetown, Sierra Leone with a rather big bag of integrity seed. Please pray with us that as we begin our Summit in Freetown on Friday called “Conquering the Big Five of Corruption”, there will be a joyful song of integrity that will arise from the Summit and be heard across Sierra Leone.

Thanks for your prayers!

Don, Bill and Bonifes

Equipping and Empowering the Vulnerable

Yesterday, my heart pounded with pride as I watched Marie-José live out her passion for the vulnerable.

Chintenge Creations second sewing school, started in the Mamelodi township, was featured at the Mamelodi International Assemblies of God Church, where the school is housed.

Most of the ladies (and a couple of gentlemen) that you see in these pictures have little to nothing compared to those of us who read this blog. Some of them live in extreme poverty. Five months ago, the thought of touching a sewing machine, instilled fear, today, the outfits that they are wearing were created by the works of their hands.

I watched in amazement and listened intently as MJ shared her passion and enthusiasm with the two thousand plus people who attended that service. The congregation applauded when they heard how these ladies will graduate in November with the necessary tailoring skills and small business knowledge  to start their own sewing enterprises, providing them with the ability to support their families!

 MJ, thank you for having a true understanding of what missions is about. Your passion is contagious, your love for those you pour into week after week is genuine, and your ability to see a dream become a reality is inspiring. I am proud to call you my wife and best friend.

On another note, I would appreciate your prayers for MJ and myself. This coming Wednesday, I will meet Bill Pipke in Nairobi, Kenya and we will embark on a three week, four country tour of East and West Africa. Please pray for MJ’s protection during my absence and pray for fruitful ministry during my travels.

The following schedule will help you to know when to pray and what to pray for.

September 6 – CLI meeting with the Anti-Corruption Committee of Kenya

September 7 to 8 – CLI strategy meetings with our Kenya National Chairperson and his committee 

September 10 to 13 – Introduction of CLI to Assemblies of God leadership in Accra, Ghana

September 14 to 15 – CLI Introductory Summit in Monrovia, Liberia

September 21 to 22 – Transformation Sierra Leone/CLI Big Five of Corruption Summit

Our quarterly newsletter will come to your mailbox in the month of October. At that time, we will introduce to you Rick and Janice Sui who are going to spend two months building relationships and establishing ESL with the Chinese at our Bridge Cultural Centre. They are a precious couple that God has brought across our path.

Thank you for your ongoing prayer support. We experience their effects on a regular basis.

Continued blessings!

Don and Marie-José (MJ)


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