My dad celebrated his 89th birthday on January 28, 2016. Milestones such as these always give opportunity for a time of reflection, and this was no exception.
When my dad was born, his village in the Netherlands was home to one car; it belonged to the doctor. His dad made his living hauling milk to the dairy for the regional farms by picking up those tin milk cans we now decorate and display in our homes or yards. They would haul the milk to the dairy using a cart and a horse. Between the milk deliveries, my grandfather would head out into the woods to chop down a tree and the wood would be sold for the income it brought in.
Of the seven boys in his family, my dad was the only one to move to Canada. He and his own family started out their Canadian experience in Petrolia, Ontario and when my oldest sister was ready for grade one they sent her to the newly formed Christian school in Wyoming. They certainly could not financially afford it—it was tough going in those early days in Canada. My mother was unwell and my Dad’s job didn’t pay that well. But they couldn’t have imagined the alternative. It was imperative for them that their children went to a Christian school. If there hadn’t been one nearby, they would have either started one, or moved.
In the early 60s, a work opportunity took our family from Petrolia to Whitby, and our Christian school experience moved to Immanuel Christian School in Oshawa. Later when Durham Christian High School opened in Bowmanville, my youngest sister made the trek there as well.
As I served the many visitors that made their way to my parents’ apartment on my Dad’s birthday, each one of them (knowing that I now work for “that organization of Christian schools”) would ask about the schools that they were familiar with.
“So Raymond,” they would start—(yes, I am Raymond to these people who remember the childhood version of me)—“So Raymond, tell us how things are in the Christian schools. Will things be okay?” they ask. Eventually the conversation of mixed English, Dutch (and yes, even Frisian) would continue to the weather, to old friendships, and to who is ill, but it would predictably end up back at the church and Christian schools.
Much has changed in my Dad’s life—he has seen more change than anyone could have ever imagined in the past century. I chuckled with delight as an 85 year old grandmother brought out her iPad and showed off pictures of her grandchildren on Facebook, while another older gentleman expressed frustration that no one has been able to successfully link his tablet to the wifi in his apartment. We have come a long way from the one car and horse drawn cart bringing milk to the dairy.
But what hasn’t changed is that generation’s love for their Lord and their deep commitment to instill an education (now in their grandchildren and great-grandchildren) that is deeply rooted in the word of God, fully integrated with the Christian faith. They express their concern with deep emotion, evidenced by the tears they shed as they bid me farewell on the way out of the apartment, sharing words like, “We will pray for you and your work Raymond,” and “Our schools are so important”.
God bless my parents and their generation for what they have built and continue to love. May we also be found that faithful.