Our last day in Canada comes with mixed feelings. No matter how much like home a place feels, there really is no country like the United States. We may have our troubles and may be doing some really stupid things, but there is still no more amazing place than the US.
Here in Canada, however, the Independent Baptist churches are in their first generation. To me, it's like going back about twenty or thirty years, to what it was like back in the eighties when I was newly saved. The churches are small, many of them still meeting in storefronts, and the people are devoted to their church, but especially to the Lord. Such a sense of dedication to God as we felt amongst these people!
One dear elderly lady I spoke with told me with tears in her eyes about how good her pastor and family had been to her since the loss of her husband. "They are my salvation," she said simply. "I just don't know what I would have done without them." The pastor and his family pick her up for every service, and make sure her every need is met.
Another pastor and his family, the ones at the church we are staying at right now, is away visiting the pastor's wife's family. They've been gone for almost a week, and of course, we are in the church parking lot. Folks don't realize that we missionaries can see everything going on at a church (and we know the church can see everything that's going on at our motorhome!). It's amazing to see the care of these people for their church and their pastor while they've been away. Yesterday, one lady carefully watered all the flowers on the church's and pastor's property. And then, today, I saw a man walking around with a watering can, checking on all the plants and watering them again!
And then there's the Canadian military. So far as we know, and we've been here several times and talked to hundreds of people, there is no missionary to the Canadian military. As far as Independent missionaries go, there are roughly fifty or sixty missionaries to the American military, but not one to the Canadian military. Thankfully, my husband has been meeting with some pastors near some bases, discussing the need and the possibilities of reaching their bases.
Sunday night after church, my family and I had dinner with a Canadian pastor and his wife. The dear lady spoke tearfully about her son, who spent three years in the Canadian Forces and served alongside troops from the States in Afghanistan. "In a few days, Canada Day will be here, and there are the fireworks. Someone asked my son if he would put them on for them, but he said he couldn't do it. Not yet. He's just not ready yet."
"I never understood," she told me, "how having a loved one in the military affected the entire family. My son came back from Afghanistan a different person. The things he saw, the things he went through, and the things he did…he's different. He will never be the same. And because of what he went through, we're different, too. It has affected us all."
"The first year he was back, on Canada Day, when one of the fireworks exploded, it didn't matter where he was in the house, he would drop to the floor, crying. I would go over to him, rub his back, and say, 'It's ok, honey, it'll pass, it'll pass.' He was so embarrassed, but we understood."
"And then there was the time he had a knee injury and had to stay behind while his unit went to the forward camp. While he was recovering, his unit came under attack, and his battle buddy got killed. My son has never been the same. He knows he should have died, too, and wonders why his friend had to die. It doesn't matter what I say to him, it makes no difference. He still feels that nagging guilt."
"Being a Christian has really helped him a lot, though," she said with a smile. Then her eyes became very serious, she leaned forward and wondered aloud, "What do these folks do who aren't saved? How do they handle such things without a Savior to go to?" Then, just as quickly, she answered her own question. "Well, they don't. The suicide rates and divorce rates among soldiers are the highest ever. They have no help, no support, no one to turn to."
Folks, who will reach these Canadian forces? Who will point them to the Savior who can guide them through all their trials? We can only do so much, but it seems there is always more to do. Pray that the Lord will send forth laborers unto His harvest, for the fields are white!
The wheels of the bus turn faster and faster, taking us back to our homeland. But I think part of our hearts have been left in Canada.