Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Cornish Chronicles – Christmas 2018
Alex Philip Memorial Edition

2018 has been the year in which we have said goodbye to our son in law Alex Philip. So much of our actions and activities in the last twelve months have been moulded and shaped around the events leading up to his passing away, that we have decided to dedicate this edition of our annual newsletter as a special commemorative edition in memory of Alex.
Travels this Year

This year we travelled to South Africa in February/March to visit friends and family. Cher stayed for six weeks to see her Mum and sister Lynne in East London and Rob took three weeks – time to see his brother and sister and families in the Johannesburg area and then a week to 10 days in East London to see Cher’s Mom. South Africa is always lovely at that time of year, so it was a welcome break from the rigors of an Ontario winter. Rob was needed back home to help in a variety of ways with keeping Alex company at home, medical visits etc.

We did get our RV out of storage for the year in the Spring, but apart from using it at Fairhaven’s in August for a week with the family, there was no opportunity to do any “away” RVing. Every now and then Rob would take the RV out, park it on our driveway, and whisper sweet nothings to it, while he polished and shone it, just to let it know that we still love it.

A turning point

In the second half of 2017, Alex had been put on to Avastin, which would not cure the tumor but would slow down its growth and improve the quality of Alex’s life.  Avastin is not approved by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, and was to involve significant expense, but then God, who owns all the cattle on a thousand hills, came to the rescue. Friends, family, PCA family and a generous grant from the drug company all helped to make it possible.  The bottom line was that Alex was able to enjoy the benefits of Avastin for as long as the doctors felt it was being helpful.

In April this year, a turning point was reached. The doctors at Sunnybrook hospital told Elaine and Alex, that Avastin had done all it could, there was nothing more they could do, and that they needed to go home, put their affairs in order and start make the most of their time together. The staff and medical team at Sunnybrook had done a wonderful job, over the course of five years of extending Alex’s length and quality of life.

Alex, who, with the help of Avastin, had been well enough to return to teaching, which he loved, for a couple of months, stopped working a few weeks later. It was a sad day for him. Elaine took a leave of absence from the school at the end of April and we all began to prepare ourselves for what might lie ahead. We began to be a lot more present at Elaine and Alex’s home, sleeping over a few nights a week, to help with whatever odd jobs and fetching and carrying that was needed, along with food preparation and general household running.

Country Cousins find a new Friend

When we went to Bible college in UK in 1983, we didn’t know where in the world we might end up. We wanted our girls to stay connected to their wider family of cousins back in South Africa. Rob began to tell Elaine and Julia a series of Country Cousin stories about their cousins which mainly took place on “Uncle Nev’s (Rob’s brother) farm”, where we had enjoyed a family reunion before leaving for UK. We recorded quite a lot of the stories and they have survived to the present, jumped a generation, and are now being enjoyed by Elaine and Julia’s kids. Fresh stories are still being told and a current crop of Canadian Country Cousin stories are being recounted, and recorded, whenever the occasion demands, and Grandad can find the energy to come up with another one. Miraculously and through the power of imagination, some of the key characters from the South African stories have found their way to Canada and their exploits continue along with the current crop of cousins.

When the news came out that there was nothing more that could be done for Alex by Sunnybrook Hospital, Rob felt the urge to start telling stories to the kids that included a version of Alex who never aged or declined in health. In fact, this new Alex, who would be known as “Uncle Alex” had somehow discovered an amazing source of new adventures, powers and a zany zest for life which allowed him to lead the Cousins into a whole new realm of mystery and possibility. Uncle Alex also had developed a taste for whacky dress up and each story saw him appearing in a variety of outrageous outfits which has had the kids chuckling and spell bound. We are about to present these stories on CD to each of the grandchildren as a Christmas gift in a special “Uncle Alex Commemorative edition”. In a situation in which we felt so powerless to help, or make a difference, somehow venturing off into these stories, has helped to maintain our big picture perspective.
Making the time Count

Elaine and Alex have enjoyed the support over the years of an amazing variety of friends, family, church and PCA (People’s Christian Academy) school families. Alex had attended PCA as a student from the age of four, until he left high school, for university and then returned directly to teach and be the school chaplain for the last 15 years. During that time, he had accumulated a massive support network of alumni, parents and teaching colleagues.

As the need arose, this diverse support group kicked into gear in the form of meals, and other practical help. The level of care that Elaine and Alex have experienced has been moving beyond words. For at least a year, Elaine has not had to worry about coming up with meals. The PCA parents’ group has come up with a Facebook type page which allowed them to schedule who was doing which meals and when. People from the church and wider support network have turned up to do plumbing jobs, mow the lawn every week, and help in other practical ways. Rob’s brother Alan built a wheelchair ramp to help with getting Alex in and out of the house, which had become increasingly difficult. Everybody, who loved Elaine and Alex, pitched in. Someone, hearing of our situation offered us the loan of a motorized scooter for Alex, to get around in. When Alex first test drove it, he cracked a massive smile – he had desperately missed not being able to drive, and this gave him his wings back to a certain extent. His first comment was “I’m going to drive down to the store and buy a loaf of bread, just because I can.”

In May Elaine was contacted by Alex’s graduating class and asked to bring Alex and the kids to the school one evening. They had a surprise for him. Alex over the years had kidded his graduating classes that they spent way too much time, money and angst on their high school prom each year. He suggested to them that they should skip the big expensive meal in favor of a Big Mac, drop the limo and replace it with a horse drawn carriage which would be way more romantic. So, on the evening in question the students presented Alex and family with an Alex version of a high school prom. They were treated to a horse and carriage ride, Big Macs for dinner and then the students “Punished” Alex by treating him to a pun filled evening of fun and laughter. Alex laughed in a way he hadn’t for months and enjoyed being smothered in the love of his students.

An enjoyable moment was taking the family to a live showing of the Magician’s nephew at Niagara on the Lake in May. Alex and Sammy had enjoyed reading the whole Narnia series together over the previous year or so, so this was a special moment. When we got out of the car at the theatre, Alex was exultant. “They told me I’d be dead by now, and here we are”, he said. His smile told the whole story.

One of the PCA parents donated Elaine and Alex a few days at a luxury condo in Collingwood. In early June we accompanied them, to help with all the logistics of getting Alex in and out of cars, hitch up trailers for the scooter and so on. For a few days we lived in luxury. Alex was keen to get into a swimming pool and enjoy the relative weightlessness of being in water. We found one of the hotel pools that had the least number of stairs to contend with and managed to get Alex into the pool. This was a great victory and Alex was delighted.

One of the things on Alex’s wish list was that he could participate in a final family week at Fairhavens, a Christian resort about an hour north of Port Perry. We had enjoyed these family weeks for the previous five years. Typically, we had camped in our RV and mobile homes and done our own catering. We decided to treat ourselves to a week in the motel section of the resort and eat all our meals in the dining room. In the first week of July, we went with our whole family and were joined for a day or two by Alex’s dad and brother Charles and family. A cousin Wesley and family popped in for day visits. Once again, we managed to get Alex into the pool, with a variety of helping angels. Alex was at the stage, where if he went down, he was hard to get up. Stairs down into water is one thing. Getting out again is another whole venture.

By August, it was getting harder to move Alex around. One final adventure remained. Alex and Elaine were invited to the wedding of one of their ex students. It was held at the Old Mill in Etobicoke. Rob was asked to accompany them to help with driving, wheel chair and so on. The Old Mill is a beautiful old conference and hotel complex which has developed over the decades. As such it is a rambling old building built on a variety of levels and with not much thought given to wheel chair access or ease. The entrance we disembarked at turned out to be a distance from the wedding room. The manager assured us it was not a problem, and that he would help us get Alex out of the car. I don’t think he realized what he’d volunteered for. Alex was quite weak at that stage and the logistics of getting in and out of a vehicle was stretching to say the least. The manager and Rob eventually manoeuvred Alex into his wheel chair. We thank the Lord for averting a fall which would have been disastrous. The manager then led us through an amazing variety of rooms, levels, kitchens, storage rooms and service elevators and finally with a great flourish delivered us to the reception room, which was deserted. We asked him where the wedding service was happening. Crestfallen he told us it was just around the corner from where we had entered the hotel. We retraced our steps and enjoyed the wedding service. That was our last out and about adventure. It had become too challenging and risky to be moving Alex around in and out of cars.

In August, we spent a second week at Fairhavens minus Elaine and Alex. Sammy joined us for a couple of days, but Esther stayed at home as she was reluctant to let Mom and Dad out of her sight. The week at Fairhavens was good, but not the same without Elaine and Alex. Part of our family was missing, and we felt it.

 One of the blessings of this trying time has been that we have had so much quality time with Sammy and Esther while we have enjoyed a Summer Staycation. We had lots of opportunity to take them bike riding and arranged cousin zoo trips for them and John, James and Peter, Julia’s boys. We often got to take Sammy to his twice a week soccer club and Esther would tag along. Rob has been reading our memoirs to the kids and they have had much fun re-living some of our early days prior to coming to Canada. This has been a wonderful opportunity for us to bond with our grandchildren in a way that we could not have done by any other means. 

The End of the Beginning
It was getting harder to manage Alex at home. Even a simple trip to the washroom became a bit of an ordeal as he was weak on his feet. Elaine was on constant alert in the middle of the night to help Alex get up and down when needed. She managed, but was not strong enough on her own, she was exhausted, and her back was getting sore. PSWs began coming in three days a week to help with dressing, showering and prep for bed time. The PSWs were angels in disguise. Alex lost no opportunity to share the gospel with them and pray with and for them.

We moved in full time with Elaine and Alex the week after we returned from Fairhavens. Elaine needed extra help and the moral support. Early one morning in late August, Elaine called us. Alex was significantly weaker and unable to speak. The tumor was progressing, causing brain swelling and resulting symptoms. We called 911 and they came and amazingly got Alex downstairs and into the ambulance and to Emergency. From here, Alex was admitted into the palliative care ward at Markham Stouffville hospital, which “just happened” to be a five-minute walk from Elaine and Alex’s house. Over the next 10 – 12 weeks this proximity proved to be a great blessing.

Overnight our lives changed significantly. Elaine started spending most of her waking hours at Alex’s bedside at the hospital. Alex was given medication to reduce the brain swelling. This brought him back to consciousness and he could communicate again. He never suffered any pain. The care given to him in palliative care was wonderful. The team of Nurses, Social Workers, Occupational and Physio Therapists did a remarkable job of caring for the whole family. Elaine spent her days and many nights at the hospital. We looked after the kids and kept the household running. The kids had moved into Elaine and Alex’s bedroom and when Elaine was not there, Cher was needed to sleep with them. A group of Alex’s male friends and cousins took it in turns to sleep nights at the hospital with him, so he was never left on his own. Elaine has commented that she and Alex enjoyed their days together at the hospital in a special way as they had each other’s undivided attention. One night the social worker arranged for the kids to have a sleep over at the hospital with Alex and Elaine. The nurses wheeled in two extra cots, a giant screen TV and arranged for each of the kids to have stuffed toys, colorful blankets and lots of snacks. Such love and care were wonderful to behold.

Alex was desperately keen to come home. Practically it wasn’t feasible ongoingly, but it was remarkably easy to put him in a wheelchair and walk him home for an hour or two before he got uncomfortable in the wheelchair or tired and needed to get back to his hospital bed. At the hospital Alex was often blessed with a steady stream of visitors to pray and encourage him.

The family pulled together for the final part of the journey. Wesley, his cousin, would sometimes arrange a worship time in Alex’s room on a Sunday afternoon. Alex’s brother, Charles, who had been coming up on many weekends to help, took a leave of absence from his work in New York State and came and helped daily for a couple of months. Jacob Uncle was a regular at Alex’s bedside, keeping Elaine company for a few hours most days. Julia took a week off her home-schooling routine and came and helped Elaine with funeral arrangements when the time came. It has been a privilege to be part of a family that is so supportive. We have all grown closer together.

Inevitably the end had to come. In the weeks ahead of his passing, Alex would occasionally get a bit confused, but then would snap out of it and be back with us. In his final week, he slept most of the time. It became apparent that the end was drawing near. On the evening before he passed away, Elaine called us and asked us to bring the kids to sleep in the room with them. During the night Elaine climbed onto the bed and held Alex in her arms. He passed away peacefully around 4am on Sunday November 4th. We are so grateful that his end was peaceful and that he was surrounded by those he loved most.

Send off fit for a king

The visitation and funeral arrangements were something to behold. A large crowd was expected at the funeral and as Elaine and Alex’s own church would not have managed the numbers, the People’s Church, where Alex had had some connections, was arranged.

On the Friday, two visitations were held. The funeral home was a short distance from PCA, the school. In the afternoon, the two-hour visitation service was dedicated to the high school students and teachers. It was a remarkable and inspiring time. 350 or so students and staff turned up and the time was filled with story after story of students and teachers recounting how special Alex was to them and how their lives had changed because of him. After every few stories a different group of students would come forward to greet Elaine and view Alex’s body. It was a powerful testimony to a life well spent.

On the Friday evening, about 700 people turned up and for about three hours or so, we sang and listened to story after story of the impact Alex had had on their lives. Rob spoke in memory of Alex. He commented that we had learnt more about Alex that day than we ever knew of him in person. Others too made similar comments.

The funeral service on the Saturday was very special. It was attended by around 1000 people. The eulogies were moving and inspiring. Sammy, Esther and Elaine courageously went forward for the final eulogy. Sammy spoke very briefly. Elaine delivered a fifteen-minute tribute to the love of her life. It was a remarkable piece of writing and she delivered it with poise and confidence. We were heartbroken on her behalf but immensely proud of her. Proceedings ended at the graveside, followed by a meal for about 250 people who attended that part of the day.

It had been a two-day marathon, but Alex had received a send off fit for a king. It was a celebration which was uplifting and yet tinged with sadness.

The heroes of this story have been Elaine and Alex. Alex has borne the hardships, disappointment and indignities of his situation with remarkable grace and good humor. Up until the last time I heard Alex speak, his response to how he was doing was “Great. How are you?” Elaine has stuck by her man through thick and thin during the last five and a half years that the tumor took its course. She has advocated for Alex, cared for him at every level and literally barely left his side in recent months. She has shown strength of character, courage and loyalty to the end. We salute them both.

Moving Forward from Here

We have continued with much of our ministry related responsibilities in 2018. Cheryl oversees our ministry in the Durham Region where we live, and Rob oversees the work in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) which is a massive sprawling metropolis which is becoming increasingly hard to move around in because of congestion.  We helped with the logistics of putting together a National Conference, which ended the day before Alex passed away. These activities kept us busy and occupied, but our pre-occupation and priority has been with Elaine, Alex and their kids, which has sometimes found us frantically juggling and dropping a few balls here and there.

Right now, we are all in recovery mode. The kids are back into their school routine. Elaine will go back to teaching at PCA at the end of January and we will do our annual pilgrimage to South Africa to see family in January. We are having a toned-down Christmas. For the first time in 27 years we haven’t put up any Christmas lights on or in our house. We are still living between Elaine’s house and ours, but slowly moving back into our Port Perry home. Longer term we will stay with Elaine a couple of nights a week to help with practicalities and rides in the busiest part of her week. We are all working towards a new normal. Time will be our best friend in that regard as we figure out the shape of things to come.

Other Family Matters

Julia and Chris continue living a very hectic life in Oshawa. Julia home schools her three rambunctious boys, John (7), James (5) and Peter (3). Home schooling, done properly, is not for the faint hearted. Julia is kept busy arranging activities with other home-schooling parents and involving her boys in a Rolls Royce version of school outings which only the most exclusive private schools could ever hope to offer. We look after the three boys on Thursdays for the day and get to help with supervising some of their homework. We note that Peter, who is three years old is absorbing, sponge like, what the other boys are learning, and he sometimes astounds us with what he knows.

The three boys are at a stage where they are fascinated by Lego. They have a whole bedroom in their home dedicated to Lego and we are often invited in to this holy of holies to come and join in the fun.

Julia and Chris are very involved in their church and neighborhood and there is never a dull moment. 

Chris’s work situation has been fluid as his company is now enjoying its second take over situation since he joined them 2- 3 years ago. Chris has survived the cut and thrust of these moves and in fact has enjoyed a nice raise which is a good sign. He also now is required to spend a week at head office in Minneapolis from time to time which is a new twist. We have warned Chris that a transfer to Minneapolis will require written permission from both sets of grandparents and we wish him good luck with that request.

And Finally

This has not been our normal newsletter, but for us it has not been a normal year. Life is an adventure, and not all the twists and turns are welcome ones. We remain thankful for all the friends and family members who have been so supportive of us as we have stepped through the challenges of the last twelve months. Mostly we are thankful, that when our loved ones pass away, they move on to a better place. Death has lost its sting, because Jesus came and presented Himself as a living sacrifice for each of us who choose to accept His generosity. Thank you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for all that you have done, to turn the tables on death and decay in favor of Hope and Joy.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Joyful New year.

God Bless from Rob and Cheryl.
December 2018

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Cornish Chronicles 2017 - it's official: we're retired.

Dear Friends and Family,

Rob and Cher - enjoying the good
 life on our Fall Colors Cruise
The time has come to write our annual Cornish update. For weeks now, as Christmas emails have been steadily coming in, I’ve resisted the urge to sit down and write. As my Dad used to say “there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things”. This saying used to infuriate me because inevitably what he really meant was that I had to do things his way. Anyway back to my point. In my case, the right time to do our annual update is between Christmas and New Year. All the major news of the year is behind us and ready to be reported on and we are in that wonderful lull between the frazzledness of the Christmas buildup and the final fling of New Year. So today is the right day – the sun is shining on fields of open snow, it was -24 degrees this morning when we awoke, so no chance of being tempted to go out and sit on the back deck enjoying the sunshine.

2017 has been a relatively quiet one for us in terms of major events. Having said that we have also found ourselves to be more than fully occupied with more than one would ever imagine for a couple who are supposedly retired. I’m beginning to realize that for us at least, retirement means we have retired from being paid, but not from being busy.

Rob, Cher, Neville and Maureen did a short jaunt
to a game park in S. Africa and saw lots of animals
Our travel schedule this year, whilst not particularly exotic, has been steady, with a variety of short term forays versus any major long term trips. The one exception to that would be travel to South Africa, where our plans, by necessity, needed to be flexible. In January and February, we had planned to be visiting friends and family in South Africa for six weeks. Isn’t this the retired persons dream – fun in the sun in January and February? Unfortunately it turned out that our son in law Alex needed a second round of 6 weeks of radiation soon after we were due to leave. This required Alex to be driven to Sunnybrook hospital daily for his treatments. We decided that we needed to split up, with Cher spending the full planned 6 weeks in South Africa, while I did a brief pop in there for three weeks only, returning to help Alex and Elaine with the routine at home and rides to and from appointments.

Sammy, Esther, Elaine and Alex taking
in some of the Tulip Festival - Ottawa, May 2017
Our next jaunt was a four day trip to Ottawa in our RV in the middle of May to the tulip festival with Alex, Elaine, Sammy and Esther. It was still cold at that stage, but the beauty of RV camping is that one doesn’t need to suffer too much with the elements. The Ottawa Tulip Festival is an annual thank you from the Dutch government to Canada for having sheltered members of their royal family during the Second World War. Each year the Dutch government sends tens of thousands of tulip bulbs to be displayed in the parks of Ottawa. It makes for a spectacular display and a “must see” at some stage. Add it to your bucket list.

 Niagara Falls from the
Canadian side
A couple of weeks later, Julia and her three boys and us ventured out in our newly acquired eight seater KIA van to visit Niagara Falls to meet up with our long time East London friends Boots (Chris) and Allie (Alison) Horsfall. They were visiting their daughter Jenny, husband Jeff, and three grandchildren, who had moved recently from UK and are now doing ministry in Pennsylvania in the USA. We had agreed to rendezvous in Niagara Falls on the USA side for a couple of days. Unfortunately Elaine and Alex were unable to make it which was a pity as Jenny had been good friends of both Elaine and Julia in our pre Canadian days in East London, South Africa and they hadn’t seen each other for decades. For those who have not seen Niagara Falls, which they hadn’t, it is a very impressive sight, especially when viewed from the Canadian side, I should hasten to add. Us Canadians are typically known for our low key modesty, but hey Cher and I have enough of the brash South African still left in us that we can still flaunt it a bit. Boots and Allie were duly impressed with the “Canadian Falls”.

In the spirit of making hay while the sun shines, literally, and making the most of summer, we booked ourselves and the RV into Beavermeade Campsite again for a week at the end of July. Julia and her boys joined us for a few days and Elaine, Alex Sammy and Esther also spent some time with us. We love these memory making opportunities and Beavermeade is a great spot to do it in, combining, beautiful surroundings, lovely beach, the boating activity of the Trent Severn Waterway and a variety of parks complete with splash pads. What more could one want?

Grandad and Nanna with their full team of chiddles,
celebrating Canada 150. 
John, Sammy and Esther
dressed up for their cowboy
theme night at camp
Our next jaunt was to our annual family week at Fairhavens Christian Camp in early August.  2017 is the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada, so we all got to wear our Canada 150 tee shirts. Our week at Fairhavens has become a tradition and for the first time ever we managed to have all three of our living units, mobile homes or our RV, all together in one space, where the grandchildren could play together and we could keep an eye on them. The kids are looked after in the mornings, and evenings, while the adults go to their chapel program, which makes for a nice break for everyone. We love to give the grandchildren these opportunities to bond and spend time together with their cousins. 

Canadian Country Cousins
2017 Collection
One of the things we did this year was to add a series of stories about the Canadian Country Cousins. We started this tradition in 1983 – 1985 when we lived in UK. We wanted to make sure that Elaine and Julia would remember who their cousins were, so Rob told the girls stories about the Country Cousins who got up to all kinds of adventures with their South African cousins on Uncle Nev’s (Rob’s brother) farm. These 35 year old stories have ended up on CD’s which currently provide endless entertainment to Elaine and Julia’s kids. So this year Rob started a Canadian Cousin’s series. Some of the characters, such as the Big Black Bull and the Cheeky Baboons, from South Africa have found their way to Canada. In the world of imagination, anything is possible. We made up a CD for the grandchildren of the 2017 edition of Canadian stories as Christmas presents for the two sets of children. Hopefully their children will listen to them one day!

Kerry, Lynne, Cher and Mom Tobin,
enjoying the good life in East London, S. Africa
No sooner did we finish our week at Fairhavens than Cheryl got word that her Mom was not doing well in South Africa. On the spur of the moment we decided that Cher should go and see Mom. Cher was on the plane that night and was gone for 2- 3 weeks, which left Rob high and dry watching our lawn guy cutting the grass each week. Fortunately Mom started to improve almost immediately, so Cher got to spend a couple of good weeks with sister Lynne and family along with Mom in good and improving shape. 

L. to R. Ed and Andrea Zak, Alice and John Chase, Cher
and Rob, Rose and Alan
Our final travel fling for the year was a September Fall Colors Cruise. The name of the cruise is a tribute to good marketing as there was nary a Fall color to be found. Being a couple of weeks early and primarily too far south didn’t help. We were joined by four other couples, my two brothers Neville and Alan along with their spouses Maureen and Rosemarie and Alice and John Chase and Ed and Andrea Zak. The cruise began in Quebec City and then went out to sea via the St. Lawrence waterway to Prince Edward Island, and then followed the Nova Scotia and New England coastlines down to New York, stopping in at about 10 different ports over 11 days. It was wonderful to visit so many ports that we have never seen. It was also great to meet up with our group every evening over dinner to swap notes on our days adventures. In addition we got some keen card playing going in our spare time. The on board evening entertainment was exceptional most nights. The three siblings and spouses ended our trip with a daylong train ride from New York to Montreal on the Adirondack Amtrack line. This was our last shot at seeing fall colors which once again was mainly a non-event. The funny part of this story is that both Alan and Neville are color blind, so even if there had been colors, they would not have seen them.  That pretty much completed our travels for the year, so life has been pretty staid and boring since then. 

Our cruise dinner group met every evening for
a debrief on the day's activities
Early in the year the tenant in our basement apartment had given us notice that she and her two sons were moving out. That gave us the nudge we needed to get our apartment up to scratch to meet all of the town’s fire and building code requirements to give us full and complete “legal” status,  before our next tenant moved in. We had been warned that this can be a hazardous exercise as between the Fire Department and Township Building Inspectors they can be picky to put it mildly and extreme pickiness converts in to costly dollars. I called the Chief Fire Officer to ask him where to start. He was a nice guy. His advice to me was “Rob, I am extremely busy, and don’t need any more work. Believe me you don’t want me to come and inspect your apartment, as my requirements will be stringent. Just do the best you can to make it safe and I’ll pretend this call never happened”. With advice like that, we decided to go with the spirit of the law, “make it safe” rather than get too bogged down with the letter of the law, which promised to be tedious and costly. We called in a contractor and did our best to accord with the safety regulations without going overboard. That cost us more than we had anticipated, but were pleased with the outcome before our new tenants moved in. Blow me down if in the Fall if we didn’t get a letter from the one and same Chief Fire Officer (CFO), saying that “it has come to my attention, that you are running an apartment in your basement and I need to come and inspect it prior to you applying to the Township for legal apartment status”. I nearly died. The CFO duly arrived to inspect and referred us to the township to get his recommended work done. The bottom line is that Rob has now developed what seems to be a good working relationship with the Building Inspector who is doing their best to minimize the additional work we need to do, seeing that we have already done a good job of trying to meet the spirit of the law. In January we are having to give our tenants a month’s free rent, and send them to live elsewhere for a month while we get the work done. It has not been a profitable year for the apartment rental side of the Cornish financial empire.

We continue on with our work of welcoming new immigrants to Canada. We have had three Syrian families join us in Port Perry over the last twelve months. This has been a combined churches and community project. Cher and I have joined two of the teams working with the families. It has been wonderfully satisfying to be part of helping these folk begin to rebuild their lives in this great country of Canada which has extended its helping hand to generations of immigrants who have fled the various unhappy circumstances which history has dished up to them. The husbands of all three families are now working, rent is being paid, driving licenses are being acquired, English spoken and kids settling into school well and in some cases excelling. As the local community has teamed up it is amazing what can be achieved. Each family is now well on the way to being integrated, contributing members of society.

We continue on at our local church Emmanuel Community Church. We both attend Sunday morning small groups before our Sunday morning services. Rob does Service Leading about once a month and Cher continues to serve on the Missions Committee which she has been part of for about twelve years now. Together we lead a Welcome Team and Committee, which exists to make newcomers welcome and encourage them to keep returning and become integrated members of our church family. We have some success with this, but never enough. Attracting and keeping young families is a major challenge. The future of the church looks bleak if we don’t solve this riddle both locally and nationally.

The official published book. It won't make
the bestseller list, but it was fun to do. 
In this, our first full year of retirement, Rob embarked on one of his bucket list items. He decided to write the memoirs of our pre-Canada exploits in Southern Africa, complete with photographs to liven things up a bit. He wrote it initially as a blog, completing 17 chapters in all, which took us up to the time of our departure for Canada in January of 1991. Each blog/chapter took at least 10 hours to complete, so it turned into a major project. The intention all along, was that this would be a gift to our girls and families to remember us by and the plan was to turn it into a book which they would be given as a Christmas gift. Turning the blog into a format suitable for publishing as a book was a pile of work. We now have it figured out, so call us first if you want us to step you through the process. For those wishing to read our pre Canada story it can be found at www.robwithcher.blogspot.ca. The entries from April to November 2017 contain Chapters 1 to 17. The 200 page published book is too expensive to make copies of. 

Rob is trying to maintain his fitness level. Due to time spent away from Port Perry, his local gym membership expired and never got renewed. He has now signed up for a membership in Markham, where Elaine and Alex live so that he can attend with Alex. For the first time he has signed up with a personal coach, who Rob feels bears a remarkable likeness to Attila the Hun, a man low in empathy and lacking in any grace or mercy. Despite this, Rob is already noticing an uptick in adoring looks from his none too easily impressed wife.

All that remains is for us to give an update on our kids and rapidly growing grandchildren who are the delight of our lives.

Elaine, Alex, Sammy and Esther

Elaine continues to teach Bible in the Middle and High School at People’s Christian Academy. She loves her teaching and particularly her subject. It gives her great joy to be helping her students understand the major themes of the Bible, giving them a foundation for life which most Christians take a lifetime to acquire. She is busy to the extreme and we spend quite a bit of our time each week, helping her to keep up with the treadmill demands of teaching, house management, kids and husband.

Alex, Elaine and kids
Esther, Elaine and Sammy all go
off to school together - soon to be
joined by Alex again. 
Alex has been at home since his second round of radiation in the Spring. During the year he has begun to weaken on his left side, which slows him down when walking. Currently he is on a new drug, not yet recognized in Ontario, which is making him feel stronger and more confident. Because of this Alex is now feeling well enough to return to his School Chaplain role for part of each day from January onward. We spend a day or two most weeks taking Alex to various appointments and Rob is now going to the gym with him weekly, where he works hard at keeping his muscle tone up. 

Sammy and Esther on their
way to Awana, their weekly
Bible Club
We sleep over often in Alex and Elaine’s basement where we are very comfortable and have enjoyed the extra family time that has given us all.  One of the side benefits is that I occasionally have been assigned the task of overseeing Sammy and Esther’s piano practicing. They make it look easy so I have decided to revive a long lost opportunity and am hoping to start to learn the piano along with them with Elaine as my coach and teacher. We’ll see how this New Year’s resolution pans out over time.

Sammy and Esther are both doing well at school and maturing in a lovely way. They are both diligent students and destined for academic prowess I’m guessing. They are kept busy between school commitments, soccer, swimming, and ballet involvements and so on. Sammy loves to read and showed me his 25 library books that he had borrowed recently.

Julia, Chris, John, James, and Peter

L. to R. Chris, James, Julia, Peter, John
Julia made a momentous decision this year to homeschool their children. Our provincial government, always on the leading edge of “forward, progressive thinking” has recently introduced a sex education program which makes me want to turn in my grave, and I’m not even there yet! Needless to say, we are very supportive of her having taken this step, although it is a major commitment on her part and not for the faint hearted. We too are part of this project and contribute in a variety of ways most weeks. Julia, whilst stretched is enjoying this and, by our estimates, doing a wonderful job of it.

Chris continues on with his work with a local software company which is owned by large USA corporation. There has been a Christmas takeover in the last week by an opposition company, which has led to what we all hope and pray will be a limited staff reduction, which Chris was fortunate to escape. Chris, like his boys is an avid Lego nut and they all spend many a happy hour in the bedroom of their house that is dedicated to Lego projects!
John - sweet smile and
keen mind

John (5), continues to be a lively, interested and full of beans little boy. He is fascinated by the world of nature and is most often found with his nose glued to the ground observing his latest insect discovery. We have a large box of rubber dinosaurs and John is an authority on each of them, being able to name them and tell us what they eat and how they fight and move around.

James - Captain America???
James (4) lives in a world of imaginary characters and super heroes. Without TV and movies on the topic, he has somehow acquired a great depth of knowledge of these characters. He is most often found dressed up in a costume portraying one of his heroes. His favorite costume is his cowboy outfit, complete with hat and boots. On our trip to Niagara Falls earlier in the year, Julia was requested on numerous occasions by tourists if they could take a photo of James.

Peter - strong man with a
big smile
Peter (2), is a force of nature. Despite being almost two years younger than him, Peter is almost the same size and weight as James. He has been slow to speak, but fast to smile. He is beginning to speak now, but has no problem in following the conversation and insert himself into the action. He will often walk by one of his brothers and give them a playful “nudge” which leaves them sprawling, followed by one of his mischievous giggles. His most recent notorious exploit, was to upend about 15 of his cousin, Esther’s jigsaw puzzles into a pile on the floor and then do his best to mix them all up. That caused a bit of gnashing of teeth, by parents and grandparents.

Our final word on 2017 is for us to wish all of you God’s richest blessings in the upcoming year. In whatever life brings you, we wish you strength, patience, courage and gratitude.

With much love,

Rob and Cheryl

December 2017

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Moving Moments Ch.17 - The End of the Beginning

Moving Moments
Chapter 17
The End of the Beginning

Elaine and Julia. They were such sweet little tiddlers
Our SU lives kept us very focused. Did we have much of a life outside of SU? In fact we did manage to keep some other things on the go which meant we were busy to say the least.

It was fun to see the girls growing up and beginning to do all the things that little girls do. Piano, ballet and swimming lessons, along with a fair dose of birthday parties were all part of the mix. Probably our source of most satisfaction was in how the girls were so happily involved in all of the SU activities that we were. They got to see camps and holiday clubs happen from the ground up. When the activities came along they were thoroughly involved as campers. They became veteran campers and no doubt would have ended up becoming one of the teenage leaders at some point, who they so ardently looked up to.

Julia on right in one of her school
dramatic productions
Julia and Elaine with their collection of buddies. 
Julia and Elaine attended Clarendon Prep and Primary school respectively. This was a five minute drive from our house. Like many of the East London government schools, the standard of teaching and quality of education was akin to a very pricey private school. Clarendon was a girl’s only school  and many of the teachers were Christians, which of course gave it its own unique flavor. There was an SU group at the Primary school, which Elaine attended faithfully along with her buddies. Cher and Audrey Anderson both ran that group. Clarendon was “old school” in many of its practices and policies. When the teacher entered the classroom the girls had to stand up and greet her and could only sit when the teacher gave permission. This mimicked our own upbringing in Northern and Southern Rhodesia and we thoroughly approved this.

Julia - student at
Clarendon Prep
Elaine - student at
Clarendon Primary
After two or three years of living at the SU house, SU began to grow and needed more space. As it happened we were ready to move out. The SU house was on the edge of a low income area and it was quite common to have beggars coming to our front door asking for food. We would go into the kitchen, make some sandwiches and duly deliver them, with a piece of fruit. It wasn’t uncommon for the individuals to look at our bread sandwiches in disgust and throw them down the passage back at us. They were looking for money and our offering didn’t impress them. These fairly regular visitations also meant that we had to be more on guard security wise. We still had the money from the sale of our house in Johannesburg and decided it was time to buy a house of our own. We would regain our privacy and we could choose a part of the city we’d like to live in.

Cher’s sister Lynne, and husband Glenn Paterson had moved back to East London a year or two earlier as Glen had been transferred there with his job. They were living in Nahoon, which was a nice quiet suburb on a main road heading towards Nahoon Beach. Naturally Cher wanted to live close to her sister, and so it was that we ended up a couple of small blocks from them at 67 Kennington Road. Our house was small but in great condition. We had a nice front yard but a huge back yard which dipped down at the back and overlooked a dambo, which is a type of wetland. About a quarter of a kilometer away we could see the next row of houses on the other sider of the dambo. After the craziness of the SU house we felt very privileged to have such a beautiful, private outlook all to ourselves. We began to settle down to life in the ‘burbs’.

It was around this time that I started to have a real problem with sleeping at night. My SU responsibilities kept me very busy and I would often go to bed my head buzzing with the doings of the day. This would be followed by hours of sleeplessness, often only relieved when I would get up to do some of the work that was keeping my mind so occupied. This wasn’t a healthy way to conduct my life as I don’t function too well with lack of sleep. I guess we had been praying about it when a thought dropped into my mind – “maybe I should cut out my 10pm cup of coffee” which I was used to enjoying before bedtime. I suppose our bodies change and at some point I couldn’t tolerate as much caffeine. I cut out the late night coffee and lo and behold I got my sleep back for the most part. I’m grateful to the Lord for leading me to this simple conclusion otherwise I might have been a basket case in the not too distant future.

Some of our SU Band of Brothers
L to R. - Mike Smallbones, Peter Holmes (SU National
Director) & Daryl Henning
One of the things which my SU work entailed was getting together once or twice a year with all of the Area Directors from the rest of South Africa. There were about 8-10 of us. It was always a time of good fellowship. Iron sharpens iron and so it was with us. At that time we were all men. We were a band of brothers on a mission together. At the same time as we were encouraging one another, we were actually spurring one another on to greater things. We would have times of worship together. There is something uniquely inspiring about men, who are sold out to God, singing lustily to God at the top of their voices. I used to come away from these meetings both inspired and motivated but also sometimes feeling the burden of not being able to keep up with all of the super talented guys we had on our national team, lead by Peter Holmes.

I was Presbyterian, but most of the rest of our leadership group were died in the wool Baptists. At that time in South Africa there was a lot of buzz about “Signs and Wonders” teaching that was coming in and young people were flocking to charismatic churches where they found openness to this approach. SU was the largest youth ministry in the country and we were beginning to feel that we might be losing touch with our audience. We needed to get up to speed with all the Signs and Wonders phenomena. John Wimber, from California, was one of the leaders at the forefront of this teaching. Cher and I had first encountered John Wimber whilst at Bible College in UK, when one of our classes was visited by the Holy Spirit in a wonderful and memorable way inspired by a guy who had attended a John Wimber conference in London.  He was going to be in Johannesburg for a week of teaching to church leaders, so our group of rather died in the wool, stodgy evangelicals decided to risk life and limb and go and see what he had to say. We also decided to encourage other SU staff around the country to go aswell. We held our breath and made our way to Johannesburg at the appointed time. I was excited. If God had something going on and we were missing out, I wanted to know about it and be part of it.

John Wimber's teaching had a big impact on me. 
John Wimber was a breath of fresh air. His teaching was fascinating but not at all scary or weird. He told his story of how he had come into this type of ministry from a drugs and rock and roll background. When he came to the Lord, his background was so unchurched that he expected that the miracles and signs and wonders told of in the Bible were to be the norm for this day and age too. The stories are too many to tell, but the bottom line is that he recounted how as he prayed to God for modern day miracles, God began to lead him into a ministry in this direction. It started with “words of knowledge”, which gave an insight into how God was wanting to work and who and how people should be prayed for. With this type of prayer, there was a far higher rate of “successful outcomes”. He also showed how the disciples were initially a stumbling, bumbling bunch of regular men who needed to practice and hone their ministry skill set before they could effectively pull off miracles for themselves. He encouraged us to pray expectantly and then put into practice some of what we had learnt from him. The bottom line was that we began to practice asking God how we should pray for people and situations and then listen for any words of knowledge which might come and then pray accordingly. We don’t need to fear “failure” as it is our job to ask, and it’s God’s role to answer. Responsibility for the outcome of our prayers resides with God. I found this a very releasing approach. If things didn’t work out as I wanted or expected, it didn’t matter. The outcome was in God’s hands.  As an SU leadership team our week with John Wimber represented a step forward as we embraced a greater openness to the work of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives and ministries.

Mom and Dad in their golden years
During the week with John Wimber I had been staying with Mom and Dad in Boksburg. Dad had been suffering a lot of physical discomfort with a very painful hip. I was coming home each day from the John Wimber conference and giving Mom and Dad a blow by blow account of what was happening, including some of the signs and wonders. Mom was interested and Dad was polite. He was not a Christian. His pride was holding him back from 25 – 30 years ago when my sister Rose had come home from UK to Chingola, in Zambia, as a newly minted Christian, to announce to her family that we were “ all heathens and needed to be saved, otherwise we were all going to hell”. Whilst this statement may have been true it had not gone down well, especially with Dad. He had hunkered down and refused to countenance Christianity from that time on. At the end of the week with Mom and Dad, as I was heading out of the door to catch my plane, I finally plucked up the courage to say to Dad, “Dad all week we have been praying for people to be healed of various ailments and we have seen some amazing miracles. How’s about we pray for your hip and perhaps the Lord will heal you?” I think Dad was so desperate with the pain in his hip he didn’t feel he had anything to lose, so he agreed. I prayed and as far as I could tell nothing happened, nor did Dad feel any improvement. I was disappointed, but said to him, “Dad, don’t lose heart. Maybe God will still heal you over the next few days”, and then I left for the airport.

Jesus knocks patiently at the
door of our lives
About three weeks later, Cher and I had to be in Johannesburg for a family event and another SU meeting. We drove up to Johannesburg and were discussing why nothing had “happened” when I had prayed for Dad. As I was reflecting on it, a word dropped into my mind. John Wimber, describes a word of knowledge as a “whis” or half a whisper. It’s a thought, that is half heard and there is no certainty that it is more than just one’s imagination. Nevertheless one prays in faith, trusting that it is God who has spoken and not just our minds playing tricks. The word didn’t reflect well on Dad or his character. I wondered if the word that had dropped into my mind was a word of knowledge. A couple of days later, we were having a family gathering and I decided I would get Dad in a corner and talk to him on his own. I found my opportunity and asked him, “Dad has there been any improvement in your hip?” The response was negative. “Dad, is there anything in your life that perhaps may be standing between you and God healing you?” I said. Once again the response was negative. I took a deep breath and said, “Dad does the word…..mean anything to you? Do you think this might be standing in the way of God healing you?” Once again there was a negative response from Dad. At that stage, unplanned, the words just tumbled out of my mouth and I said, “Dad, have you ever asked Jesus into your life?” “No”, was the response. I said to him, “Dad would you like to ask Him into your life?” He said, quietly and simply, “Yes!”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was my tough, proud Dad who had backed himself into a corner of pride, decades earlier and had refused steadfastly to respond to the Good News for all this time. I explained to Dad that if he really meant it, he was going to have to give up and renounce some things which he held dear, including all of his Masonic regalia and vows. Dad quite simply said, “I’m willing to give up those things”. With that response, I lead Dad in a simple prayer of commitment, which I used with kids in my SU work and also he renounced his sin and his Masonic allegiances. Together we dug out his Masonic regalia and he surrendered it to me to be destroyed. My week with John Wimber had lead me to, pray for him for healing and then a word of knowledge had somehow unlocked Dad’s willingness to let go of his pride and invited Jesus into his heart and life. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Dad was 80 at the time. We had prayed for him for decades and he had finally come into the Kingdom. He was too old to do much about becoming very involved in church, but at night he and Mom would hold hands and lie in bed and Dad would say to her, “You pray My Dear and I’ll listen”. Oh my goodness, how good God is. My prayer for healing for Dad had been answered in the most wonderful way possible, but not in the way I had expected it to be.

We literally gave Mom and Dad a Pot of Gold.
They would be digesting the impact of that for months. 
Mom and Dad's 50th Celebration
was a lot of fun. 
In 1989, Mom and Dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. A large family gathering was planned at Nev and Mau’s house in Benoni. Cher and I went up for the celebration. What do you buy for folks at that age and stage that would be of any use to them? Eventually we decided on something quite different. There was a brand of canned food in South Africa at the time called “Pot of Gold”. We decided to buy one of each type of canned food that Pot of Gold sold. We couldn’t believe how many there were. When we were done, the cans filled a large laundry hamper. We had fun with Mom and Dad as they opened up their treasures one by one. They had enough food there to last them about six months. At the celebration party at Nev and Mau’s house everybody who wanted to, could stand up and say a word or two about the happy couple. At this stage, Mom’s old “houseboy”, Dhluwayo, who we called “July” was working for Nev and Mau in a very light capacity. After leaving Zambia in 1974, Mom and Dad had left July in Zambia as they didn’t feel that taking him back to apartheid South Africa would be good for him, after having experienced the freedom available to him in Zambia. July had regularly pleaded with Mom to bring him back to South Africa so that he could look after her. Mom and Dad were not in a position to do this, but eventually Nev was able to bring him down to South Africa and give him a retirement job in their house. July was at the celebration and towards the end of people saying a word or two July stood up and said his piece. In a very traditional African way, he started at the very beginning and recounted how he had started working with Mom when he was seventeen. He then went on to name the years of various family occasions and celebrations, from that time on, including years of birth of the four kids, Neville, Rosemary, Alan and Rob. It was a wonderful tribute to our family and showed us in no uncertain terms that he considered himself as, and in fact was, a loyal member of our family. July died, some years later, cared for to his dying day by members of our family as he spent his last days in hospital.

Cousin's, Aunts, Grannies and kids
 Ernest Cornish's children  - Pat, Jimmy
and Llewellin on the right with families

These kinds of family gatherings were few and far between, but wonderful when we had occasion to gather such as for Mom and Dad's 50th. Now our family is scattered over four continents - a sad commentary on Southern  Africa's troubled history. 

This would be the last time our original family of six Cornish's would be together in one place
L. to R. Neville, Rosemary, Douglas (Dad), Daphne (Mom), Alan and Robin

Cher and I were members at Stirling Presbyterian Church in East London. The pastor was George Anderson, who had been a SU staff worker in East London 6–8 years before my time. For that reason George, knew our situation well and was very supportive of us and our work. Stirling Presbyterian was one of East London’s flagship evangelical churches and remains so to this day. One of the things that SU did was to promote daily Bible reading by Christians as a way of growing in the Lord. SU offered a range of devotional guides which we encouraged people to help people to read the Bible daily. I had used these “SU Notes” as they were called, since becoming a Christian, so I knew their value in a personal way. George was a great supporter of SU Notes and did a very good job of promoting their use in his congregation. About 100 people in the congregation were reading the same Bible passage each day of their lives. It made for a great way to enjoy fellowship together and it was common for folks to say to one another, “What did you think of today’s passage?” I became an elder at the church and Cher got involved in a Friday afternoon kid’s club, which our girls attended, called Adventurers. George, with his SU background knew tons of games, which he taught to the kids and of course Cher. Because of this on the job training, Cher is to this day, our “go to” person when looking for a good icebreaker or game to play to build relationships.

Dale College - a top boys school
in the Border Region. 
In July of 1990 Cher and I were running the King William’s Town Holiday Club. We had inherited this activity from Jeremy Clampett and had run it every year since he left. The Holiday Club was run at Dale College which was an all boy’s boarding school. The team would occupy the dormitory facilities and then we would use the school hall and meeting rooms to run the club. We had a morning program for the kids and a teenage program for the youth in the evenings. We knew the ropes by this stage and whilst never over confident, we did have things under control. Little did we know what was about to happen. On the first night of our teenage program, our band was getting warmed up and practicing before the program began. They were having problems getting the sound right. Nevertheless we continued on. The program went off fine, but the music was definitely off and the sound was distorting. Once the visiting youth left, we normally did a team debrief at the end of each day. On this occasion we were all sitting on the floor in a circle and discussing what had happened to the sound on the evening program, when suddenly one of the girls screamed. We were astounded and asked her what was going on. She replied, “a voice just spoke in my ear and said it was going to kill me”. We were shocked. We had been there with her and hadn’t heard anything. We decided that it was possible we were experiencing a demonic attack and we needed to begin to pray and praise the Lord and declare His sovereignty. We stood up, held hands, and began to sing and praise God. Almost immediately one of of our mature guy leaders began to laugh uncontrollably. We had heard of this phenomenon happening in some churches so weren’t too surprised. We assumed he would stop after a while, but he continued on and seemed out of control. Eventually I got some of the guys to escort him to the farthest dormitory and leave him there as he was causing a disturbance. We definitely felt we were under attack. We moved into a smaller room and tried to figure out what to do next. At that point one of the girls was struck dumb. We were beside ourselves trying to figure out how to cope with everything that was going on. SU did not do this kind of stuff! We continued to pray and then we asked the girl to write down on a piece of paper what was going on and why she couldn’t speak. She wrote some words on the paper in a language that no one understood or recognized. We asked if anyone in the room had an interpretation and someone did. I cannot remember what it said, but it was a strange nonsensical message that was hard to comprehend. By this stage it was getting late. We seemed to have reached an impasse with whatever demonic forces were attacking us. We had a full and busy program to run the next day, so I said to the team, “Go to bed and when we wake up in the morning, everything will be ok”. So we sent the one guy who was still laughing and the girl who could not speak, to bed in that condition. Nothing else seemed to be working. Cher and I went to our quarters amazed and perplexed at what we were experiencing. One of the more mature guys on our team went to bed and was immediately overwhelmed by a crushing fear which threatened to suffocate him. He cried out to the two guys in the beds on either side of him to pray for him at which point the fear left him. The next morning our laugher had finally stopped laughing and our dumb girl had got her speech back. That was a good thing as I was wondering how I was going to explain to her parents that their sweet daughter had had her voice stolen at our SU Holiday Club! Our team continued functioning well but everyone was understandably very twitchy, and tended to be spotting demons around every corner and behind every bush. Eventually on the third day of the Club one of the team member guys who had been staying at home, asked for permission to speak to the team as he had a word from the Lord. He announced that this had been a distraction, caused by Satan and that we were there to reach the kids with the gospel and it was time to stop demon spotting and get on with our jobs. It was as if someone walked into the room and switched on a light. The team took a deep breath, the atmosphere lifted and we finished the week on a high note. 

King Williams Town Holiday Club
Our team of experienced teen
leaders did a great job despite
trying circumstances
King Williams Town Holiday Club
Eunice Easton and I leading singing 
The sequel to this story was I needed to go and speak to the school principal to explain to him what had transpired during our Holiday Club and in his buildings.  I suspected he’d think I’d gone off my rocker. Instead he listened quietly. When I finished, he told me that some of the boys in the boarding school had been engaging in occult activities in the dormitories. A few weeks prior to the Holiday Club some of these boys had found a black man walking on one of the sports fields at night and had beaten him to death with a hockey stick. I had read the story of the man having been killed in the newspaper but there had been no mention that it was schoolboys who had done it. That experience alerted me in a very real way as to the fact that in much of our work there were spiritual forces at play that could not be seen. Normally God’s sovereignty ruled out the kind of attack we had experienced. Clearly though in this instance, Satan and his minions had been called into play in a very specific way and evil had been let out of the box. We were inexperienced in dealing with such a direct attack, but God’s control was never seriously in doubt.

It was around about the middle of 1989 that I was driving down the road on my way from running a Holiday Club when I was listening to the news. The big story of the day was about a skirmish our South Africa Defence Force (SADF) troops had encountered in Namibia, on the border with Angola, with SWAPO freedom fighters. Seven or so of our SADF forces had been killed in the fight. This kind of cross border military action was not out of the ordinary as the SADF were active in keeping insurgents at bay on our borders. However, this time I found myself seeing it through different lenses. I could see that the political situation in South Africa was not going to get better. It was going to get worse. The world stood united against South Africa and the future looked bleak for the whites. The townships were in chaos, with a post Soweto riot generation of young blacks who were extremely militant. People in the townships who were considered as apartheid collaborators were being hounded and killed by these out of control youngsters, often by necklacing. Necklacing involved forcing a tire over the arms and shoulders of a victim. Gasoline was then poured into the tire and set alight, leaving the hapless individual helpless and dying a horrible death. Cher and I had been through this process of the black folk claiming their rights in the face of resistant whites in Northern Rhodesia/Zambia and then Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe for most of our lives. It never ended well for the whites who were condemned by the world as oppressors and forced to give up the fight for control of the country. I could see that South Africa was likely headed the same way. At that moment, as I drove home after a good day at the SU Holiday Club, that thought came into my mind and began to take root.

The more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was time for Cher and I to consider leaving South Africa and start looking for somewhere else in the world where being white was not grounds for blanket condemnation and where our girls could grow up in safety and security. This began a long conversation for Cher and I, which at times was tense and other times had its humorous side. Our biggest concern in thinking about leaving was that we would be saying good bye to our families. Neither of us liked the idea of leaving aging parents in their twilight years. Fortunately there were siblings on either side to be with our parents, but it didn’t feel good to be considering leaving them. We had faced this possibility when we went to Bible College in UK and God had brought us back to South Africa. One solution was to see if the whole family could move together and set up in a new country of our choosing. I broached this subject with the wider family at one point and the idea was dismissed out of hand. Leaving South Africa in those days was considered tantamount to “taking the chicken run” or an act of betrayal, so bang went that idea.

Canada had always been a country that fascinated me. 
In an internet and Google-less world, research was done in the good old fashioned way via the library. One day I went to the library and took out a pile of books on UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. I was content to limit our search to countries where English was spoken and our basic culture would not have to change dramatically. On paging through the books I ruled out UK - lousy weather, USA – too hard to get into, Australia – too dry and barren looking and finally New Zealand – beautiful, but too far from anywhere. That left Canada. I loved the pictures of the mountains, green forests and picturesque lakes. I had always been fascinated by Canada when poring over maps as a child. It was so big and grand and seemed to offer us a British background country with what must be lots of opportunity.  I guessed they would have significant spiritual needs. Which country doesn’t? They also had a small SU work going and maybe needed help. It was geographically much more central to the things that we felt were central and important. It was a neighbor to the USA and a short flight to UK which had always been a type of focal point in our worlds with our British colonial background. It was also a consideration that Rose and Roy were living not too far from Toronto as they were back from their work with Wycliffe in the Philippines. If we were to be moving to the other side of the world away from most of our family, we should try and be close to Rose and Roy if that was a possibility.

Having completed my less than scientific, objective research, Cher and I went to have afternoon tea with George and Audrey Anderson. We were good friends with their whole family. Their four girls and our two were ardent SU campers and good friends at church, school and camp. It was a Monday, George’s pastor’s day off. While Cher and Audrey were in the kitchen making the tea, I thought I might confide in George, as our friend and pastor, the struggle that we were going through in gaining peace over the matter of leaving South Africa or not. As I was bracing myself for the conversation, George leaned over to me in a confiding way and said, “Rob, I have something to share with you. Audrey and I are considering leaving South Africa and moving to Canada”. I nearly fell off my seat. I had just come from my research project, having arrived at the same conclusion, and here was George telling me that they were thinking the same way. When Audrey and Cher got back from the kitchen, with the tea, George and I were deep into discussion. It was a great help having them as sounding boards to our own thinking. They were about a year ahead of us in the process, so we were able to pick their brains.

This was the beginning of a year and a half long process for Cher and I of prayer, searching and waiting for the Lord’s guidance. It was hard to discern if the motivation for the move was coming from me or if the Lord had put this train of thought in my mind. At the end of the day we both heard from the Lord the following verses at different times which spoke to us convincingly:

These words which God spoke originally to Abraham; “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you – Genesis 12 v.1”. This verse appears three times in the Bible and between Cher and I we read this verse from all three of those places when we were praying for guidance.

In the space of two weeks in July 1990 I read Isaiah 6 v. 8 which said; “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

This may seem rather clear in hindsight, but at the time we were beset with guilt at leaving our parents and fear of making an irreparable mistake. We were considering a big move and our feelings wavered back and forth like the wind. God in His grace, made it very clear to us ultimately through verses such as those above and also circumstances as we nudged our way forward. By the end of July of 1990 we had received sufficient clarity that we decided I should go over to Canada to check things out, meet some ministries who might be interested in me and see what developed. I stayed with Rose and Roy initially and then began to move around meeting with Scripture Union, Child Evangelism Fellowship and Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship. By that time George and Audrey had arrived in Canada and had been posted to a struggling Presbyterian church in Ile Perot, near Montreal. I visited them and got the scoop on how it was to be newly landed from South Africa. It was both encouraging and daunting at the same time. One of the things that astounded me in Canada was the lack of crime and the apparent absence of need of security. Rose and Roy would leave their house in the woods unlocked, sometimes for weeks on end. One day in August I heard that Toronto had just had their 63rd murder of the year. I thought they must have made a mistake. One weekend in Soweto in South Africa could make up this number of murders. It didn’t seem possible that a country could be this law abiding.

Ontario, Candad - who wouldn't want
to live in country as beautiful as this?
The Anderson Clan were now living near Montreal in Quebec.
The girls learnt to speak French in double quick time

Rob and Roy - preparing for a cold win

Rose and Roy's house in the forest - near
Lakeridge. Who would have thought a house
could be picked up and moved? 

I left my exploratory trip to Canada having been offered a job with SU as Business Manager and in a senior role with Child Evangelism Fellowship. I identified with the SU role despite it being very much an office job. SU in Canada was struggling, particularly with its work with young people. I felt that with my experience from South Africa I would be able to help breathe new life into the work in Canada. This was the job I decided to accept, with much trepidation. SU were keen for me to come and offered to pay our airfares. One by one, our practical concerns and considerations were beginning to be resolved. When I got back to South Africa, we prayed and discussed and reached a place of peace, where together, we felt that God was calling us to go to Canada to work with Scripture Union.

John Booker, General Director of
SU Canada with wife Marjorie
Mom and I were very close. Saying
goodbye to her was very difficult. 
During this process of seeking guidance, life carried on and our responsibilities continued. In the autumn of 1990 Dad died unexpectedly. He had contracted pneumonia and been put in hospital so they could keep an eye on him. He seemed fine. I asked Nev and Al if I needed to be worried and if I should come up to Johannesburg. They assured me that he was ok and there was no need to panic. And then he just died. There was no real warning. I regret to this day that I never got to say goodbye to him. I suppose I’ll get the chance to see him again in heaven. My Mom had been with him at the hospital and had just popped home to have some supper and freshen up. He died while she was at home. She was terribly distressed at not having been there when he went. She worried about this for some time after he died. Then one morning she woke up very early and she said Dad was in the room. He was smiling and looked well and healthy and he said to her, “I’m fine. You don’t need to worry about me”. She stopped worrying after that. Thank you Lord for giving Mom this insight. God is good and loves to comfort us when we are in distress.

With Dad having died in that year it became even harder to think about leaving South Africa. Mom was well looked after by Nev and Al and we lived a long way from her anyway, but somehow moving to the other side of the world was a very final step. At that stage we were well into our plans to leave for Canada and God was beginning to confirm what we had been feeling He was saying to us. With heavy hearts we would be leaving both of our sets of parents and trusting them to the Lord’s care.
Julia and Elaine with dog, Boerie.
Julia couldn't understand why we
were leaving Boerie behind. "He is a
member of our family isn't he?" Ouch.
East London had been a very good time for us as
a family. God had blessed us in so many ways. 
And so it was that on the morning of January 17th 1991 we departed for Jan Smuts airport in Johannesburg. Our farewells had been said in East London and again in Johannesburg. The African chapter of our lives was about to close and the Canadian chapter begin. We were heart broken and yet expectant at the same time. God had been faithful to us in every area in which we had trusted Him. We felt confident this would not change, but our hearts were sore at who we were leaving behind.  Life in Africa had been good to us. We had lived the lives of privileged colonials and whites. We had also enjoyed some immensely satisfying experiences since becoming Christians. Life in God’s service is an adventure filled with color, depth and rich, rewarding experiences. Now we were moving into a different world. What would God have in store for us in Canada? Only time would tell, but we felt secure in the knowledge that nowhere in this world is far from God’s reach. He is just a prayer away at any time. Thank you Lord for the good years you gave us in Africa. We will remember them to the end of our days.