One day last week, some of our students were out back playing “Pato, Pato, Ganso” (Duck, Duck, Goose) with the kids in El Callejon. It reminded me of playing it during Vacation Bible School in a little park near Bathurst and Bloor in Toronto.
Since today is Canada Day, I’ve been thinking back on growing up there. As I’ve shared before, my dad was a ‘home missionary’ working in the inner city of Toronto, and then planting a church in Calgary.In Toronto, we lived in a neighborhood surrounded by immigrant families. Most of the adults, and many of the children, had been born in other countries, like Greece and Italy. Far from their lands, they attempted to bring a bit of the old country to this new place.
Most of the small yards did not have grass and a swing set like ours did, but instead grew tomatoes and other vegetables, with a tiny patio covered by grape vines. Many had a chicken coop, and a room in their basement for curing olives and making wine.
Like immigrants everywhere, the kids seemed to adapt first, learning English in school, dressing less like their parents, more like we did. It was the 1970’s, which meant instead of simple, dark pants or skirts, and plain white tops, they joined us in brown and blue striped pants with orange and red flowered peasant blouses. What must their parents have thought!My dad had a storefront ministry called The Lighthouse. Here, kids from the neighborhood would come to play games, do crafts, sing songs (with my dad rocking the autoharp to This is the Day!) and learn about Jesus.
The Christian Reformed Church had a program called ‘SWIM’ teams (Summer Workshop in Ministry) where college kids signed up and were sent to work cross-culturally for the summer.
We had SWIM teams most summers. Being a little kid, I didn’t think to talk with them about their experience coming into a new setting, working with kids so different from themselves. Doing what I do now, I wonder how their lives may have been impacted.
Did they feel as helpless not being able to communicate as we do sometimes? Did the differences in culture impact the way they were able to share the Gospel?
You know, I don’t even know where they lived or ate! I know we didn’t have a lovely base like we have here at SI. There were also no digital cameras – and no Facebook to post up photos. There were no smart phones, just rotary phones for a quick call to parents.
I do know my parents had a love for Jesus, a desire to share Him. They had met in Harlem, New York, and spent their lives together serving God. I’m humbled that God has chosen to call me to serve Him, too. And, I'm proud to be a part of an organization that has the same desire to see Christ proclaimed.
Today I am grateful for my growing up years. For that experience of cross-cultural living in downtown Toronto. For playing with Stevie next door, whose mom insisted on calling him Stephanaci (spelled wrong, I’m sure!), for playing Duck, Duck, Goose and singing This Is the Day, for seeing people who looked and talked differently, but were seeking a better life.
I pray that like my parents, my life will be about serving our amazing God. That when there are frustrations and fears, on the days when it feels hopeless and like nothing is changing (or is changing for the worse!) I will remember that the same God who called my mom and dad is with me.
Happy Canada Day, everyone! Happy Sunday! Happy day, knowing this truly is the day that our Lord has made! Let’s rejoice and be glad in it!