Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Home for the Holidays - almost

It has been a hectic road trip so far, but we are officially back in Canada for the Holidays. After leaving Koinonia on the 19th we have stayed near Atlanta, Independence Missouri, Sioux City South Dakota, Brandon Manitoba and Regina, Saskatchewan. Tonight we should be in Taber to visit with Trevor and my extended family for Christmas.

From Dec 27 to January 1 we plan to be in the Calgary area visiting with friends and family. Then we will head for Vancouver Island and move into our new house there.

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Our home and native Land!

Well, it is official.... We are back in Canada and currently in Brandon to visit with Jan's extended family.

Roads have been good and we hope to head for Alberta tomorrow to see Trevor and my family.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Koinonia Christmas Party - and Farewells...

Well, today was the last day of our internship. Koinonia celebrated with a big Community Christmas party and all the interns were recognized for their service over the past 3 months. There were many emotional farewells with our new friends and suddenly Koinonia is now a fascinating set of memories.

Krista was singled out for an intern award - even though she officially was not an intern for this term. Her special recognition was for starting a daily aerobic work-out class at Koinonia that will continue in her absence. She will definitely be missed.

It took much longer than expected to pack and move our trailer over to storage at Sunny acres. Even longer to get out of Americus and onto the highway. Tonight we are in Forsyth Georgia. Tomorrow perhaps it will be Independence Missouri - provided all goes well.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shaking Trees

Our internship at Koinonia officially ends tomorrow (Friday Dec 19th) and we start our journey back to Canada. This timing also coincides with the completion of the pecan harvest.

In earlier postings I mentioned the process of sweeping the pecans into windrows and picking them up with the harvester. Most of these nuts had fallen from the trees during high winds or rainstorms. These pecans are called free-falls.

Unfortunately, the big majority of the nuts prefer to stay attached to the branches. This means you either need a very long step ladder or some way to persuade the branches to release the pecans so gravity can do it’s job.

The solution to this problem is a tree-shaker. This machine, as shown in the photo, simply grabs the trunk of the tree and then shakes the living daylights out of it. Nuts come raining to the ground, along with masses of leaves and branches.

We have just completed the second round of tree shaking. The first round was done while the trees were green - as shown in the photo. The second round after the leaves had all fallen and the trees all appear dead.

The other day I noticed something quite profound. Pecan trees tend to be quite brittle and whenever they are shaken, weak branches break off and fall to the ground. This can mean alot of work to pick up the fallen sticks - which otherwise cause chaos for the harvest machinery and unloading process - when the trees are leafy and green. Unfortunately, it is alarmingly more work when the trees are leafless and dormant.

As if that isn’t bad enough, dead trees are very dry and brittle and they shed limbs at an alarming rate. Naturally you can avoid shaking dead trees in the early Fall since they can be easily recognized. In the Winter, the live trees and dead trees look pretty much alike. At least until you shake them! Bud found this out the other day when he accidentally shook a dead tree at the end of one of the rows and major limbs and branches went flying everywhere.

I suppose this might be alot like people. When everything is going along smoothly, we all appear the same. Until something comes along to shake us. If we are spiritually alive, I suppose we should come out all right. If we are spiritually dormant, who knows what parts of our life will come crashing down!
This current round of oil supply/demand driven price chaos and the resulting economic instability, job losses, etc. will certainly be shaking lots of trees in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Christmas Thought

Even though the weather has been beautiful with temperatures in the 70s, you can still sense the days are getting shorter and you can believe that Christmas is on the way. Today it was my turn to give the noon devotion - or the lunchtime spiritual thought - and this whole idea of Christmas had been very much on my mind. While it has become a major holiday for us, the early Christians didn’t give it any thought. In fact, there is solid evidence that suggests that the origin of our Christmas celebrations came from pre-Christian times.

Our ancestors were completely dependent on agriculture to provide for their livelihood. Without modern technology, they were keenly aware of the cycles of nature. Each year they observed the coming of Spring and waited for the best time to plant their crops. The increasing intensity of the sun brought the Summer season. Plants flourished, matured and began to ripen. Then the sun would slowly seem to recede again - days grew shorter until the Fall equinox. This was marked with harvest festivals with thanksgiving for the abundant harvest. Then in steady progression the nights would get longer and colder until it seemed that cold and darkness would overcome the entire world. Leaves fell from the trees, grass turned brown, and it appeared that all of nature was dying with the receding sunlight. Would death and darkness win? Would the sun disappear completely leaving the earth to die? Rituals and sacrifices urged the sun to return again. Until a few days after the Winter Solstice, it could be observed that the daylight was increasing again, bringing with it hope for new life.

It seems that the Roman Church found it too difficult to stop people from celebrating this Winter Solstice festival so they simply shifted the focus to the birth of Jesus. This is why we celebrate Christmas on December 25 - four days after the solstice and the first day that you can be sure the days are beginning to lengthen again. Perhaps this is as it should be, since the birth of Jesus also brought hope for new life.

Each one of us has a strong personal tie to this cycle of nature. We are all born, and then barring accident or illness, we grow to maturity, then slowly decline. The events, people, places and ideas that we experience during this cycle of our life create our own personal world-view and our individual reality. From this perspective, our death marks the end of our world. However, God exists in a completely different Reality. One that is not bound by time nor by space.

The other day I was studying Hebrew again and I ran across something that truly amazed me. In reading the first chapter of Matthew I found a fascinating passage describing Joseph’s encounter with an angel as he was dreaming. In English we are familiar with the statement “His name will be Jesus because he will save his people”. In Hebrew it goes something like this “shemu Yeshua kee yeshua et imu”. OK. So most good bibles already have a footnote to say that Jesus means “Jehovah saves” - or even “he will save” - and it can mean either. What that footnote didn’t say is that “Shua” or “saves” actually comes from a Hebrew root YSHA that suggests “the action of being delivered from a tight, narrow place of danger to a wide open place of safety”. Perhaps the early Israelites were claustrophobic? Actually we preserve some of this same thinking in our English expressions like “I was really in a bind” or “feeling cornered”. When we are in a tight space we have limited choices and no room to move.

What did Jesus come to do? Perhaps he comes to us in our narrow and finite individual realities (which are bounded by birth and death, distance and time) and delivers us into the wide-open, unlimited Reality of God.

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

PS. In support of my spoken devotion, Bud Styles - with support from Norris, Donnie and Emma Sue favoured us with a couple of Bud's favorite spirituals. This one was called "Jesus, He's gonna fixit - Oh yes He will now!"

I really wish you could have heard it - It was truly amazing!!

Used trailer, Anyone?

Things have been hectic lately. Jan has been swamped in the shipping department and the pecan harvest is just now coming to a close. Now the more urgent priority is that we are rapidly coming to the end of our internship and our return trip is very complicated. We really want to be in Brandon for Dec. 23 to visit Jan's relatives and in Taber for Dec 24 to see my folks and Trevor. This means we have to cover over 2500 miles between Friday afternoon (Dec 19th) and next Wednesday. Should be interesting!

On top of that, we have had a very difficult time getting straight answers from the RV dealers down here. We thought we had a solid consignment and warranty service arrangement and then the dealer changed terms at the last minute.

Now we are working on plan D (Plans A through C sure didn't work). It goes something like this:
1) Park the trailer here at Koinonia and leave it behind for now
2) Pack what we need in the truck and head for Canada on Friday afternoon
3) After Christmas holidays, drive to Vancouver Island and get settled in our new house
4) Research the most cost-effective solution for the trailer
5) Drive the truck back to Koinonia in March or April and pick up the trailer - then drag it back to Canada.

So - if you know anyone who wants to buy a good used trailer - just let us know!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Back to Canada

As you can see in this photo, Koinonia has enjoyed some beautiful sunsets lately. Perhaps it is the best way to symbolize that we are officially in our last week in Georgia. By lunchtime on Friday, we should be hooking up the trailer and making our way back to Canada.

As for plans, they look something like this:
1) Try to arrive in Taber for Christmas. Spend a couple of days with Keith's family and hopefully connect with Trevor.
2) Spend a few days in the Calgary area, connect with Jan's family and friends.
3) Some time, close to New Years, we should point the truck West and make our way to our log house on Vancouver Island. Krista wants to start high school there at the beginning of February.

As for Koinonia, it is been a very rich and powerful experience that will take a very long time to process. It has certainly been a learning experience - and you know the old saying "some days you live and other days you learn". It has been learning for the entire 3 and a half months!

(As for the trailer - we are looking to leave it in Georgia on a consignment lot - we are sure we won't need it in the long-run. Know anyone looking for a good used trailer???)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Koinonia Product Season!

Life at Koinonia is crazier than usual these days. While we are still busy with the Pecan Harvest, a second activity has roared past in intensity and attention. This is affectionately known as Product Season and it is the time of year when all the pecans, bakery products and Clarence Jordan's Cottonpatch Translations are sold and shipped all over North America.

To arrive just in time for Christmas! - hopefully....

It can be a little daunting - we work for weeks harvesting pecans, and several months to process the all the nuts. Then the folks in the bakery work for months to turn the nuts, chocolate, etc. into delicious delicacies, package them and store them in cold storage. Then within a few short weeks, filled with thousands of phone calls and web-based orders, the cold storage is emptied and the products find their way - via Fedex - all around the continent.

This amazing mail-order business is nothing new. Clarence Jordan came up with the idea almost 40 years ago when the KKK boycotts made it impossible to buy or sell in the local area. They needed some way to survive and Clarence dreamed up the idea of a mail-order catalogue with the catchphrase " Help us ship the nuts out of Georgia". Since the launching of this idea, the mail-order sale of pecan-based products has been the primary revenue stream for Koinonia and has provided jobs for many of the locals in an area with few other opportunities.

This experience has been especially interesting for Jan, as she has had the chance to bake and package lots of goodies over the past few months. Then she worked for several days in the pecan processing plant and now she has moved on to shipping where she is filling orders with the all the great stuff that she baked and packaged.

So - let me put in a little advertisement for Koinonia. If you are looking for some great peach cake, fantastic chocolate, fresh pecans or fascinating reading material for Christmas - please follow this link and see what's on offer:

If you order soon, it should get there for Christmas. Don't delay too long or the folks in shipping (and this means Jan too) will get overly stressed out trying to get it there on time...

And I'm not on commission - honest - (except for the chocolate and peachcake samples that show-up in the coffee room from time to time).