Saturday, August 23, 2008

Family celebrations

It is not often that we can get together as a family. We managed it last summer when we went to a cottage for a week. And we were able to this again early in August, when our youngest daughter Pauline drove up from Massachusetts with her two children, Gracie and Chris. Unfortunately, her husband Greg was unable to come this time. Pauline is expecting another baby in November, but she was brave enough to drive all the way from their place  just outside Boston to our Toronto home, and made it in less than ten hours. The children really behaved well, with a little help, of course, from the DVD player in the van.

The occasion was the celebration of number of birthdays: Sharon's (July 22), Adrian's (August 5), and Pauline's (August 6). It was wonderful to have Pauline join us for these birthdays and great to be together for the week of her visit. We had a great time showing Gracie and Chris around the parks and other recreational spots of Toronto. Gracie was duly impressed by the  visit to a real castle (Casa Loma) and the children really loved the day we spent on Toronto Island, which is accessible only by ferry. They were able to visit a farm, go swimming, and even take a ride on a carrousal. And we took time to explore the pool only a few blocks from our place at Christie Pits.  Even though Pauline and the children were with us for a whole week the visit went much too quickly.

We managed to get a photo taken of us all, in front of our house. Our son David, is standing behind us; Sharon behind Wendy, and Pauline on the right, with Gracie and Chris in front. David is still in Toronto after several years working overseas, in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This fall he hopes to take courses in community development. Sharon, our oldest, lives at our house and manages the place while we are out of the country. It is too bad that Greg was unable to be present, but he had to keep working in Boston.

You may have noticed bars in front of the basement window. We installed them shortly after our return from the IICS vision conference mid-July. While we were gone, our basement apartment was broken into. A number of items were stolen, especially older jewelry, coins we had collected on our travels, tools, and other small things; from time to time we still discover that items we thought were in a certain location are simply gone. None of these stolen items were expensive, but some did have sentimental value. We are thankful that our thief overlooked European passports, British and European currency, and that we had our laptops with us. During the six years of our stay in Nigeria we never experienced a successful break-in, although some money and other items were stolen by some who worked for us.

A few days after Pauline left, we drove to Cambridge, to help celebrate the 65th birthday and retirement of Wendy's brother, Andy Elgersma (August 7). His children put together a lovely surprise party for him. He was certainly surprised when he entered the room where he was invited to have a low-key supper, and discovered instead a large group of family and friends, some of whom can be seen in the photo below. Andy is tall and white-haired, standing directly behind Wendy.

From left to right is Grace (Wendy's youngest sister, who lives in Cambridge), Andy, and Peter and Jane Elgersma. Peter is our cousin. Again it is not often that Wendy's family gets together. Unfortunately, Pat, the oldest sister lives in the Netherlands, and was unable to be present, although she wanted to come. That might have been an even greater surprise!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

IICS vision conference, July 17-19

Once every other year, CSI/IICS professors are required to attend the annual IICS Vision Conference in Kansas City, MO. This year's conference was special, for it was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of IICS. The theme of this conference was 'worldviews'. Both of us attended this conference; it promised to be a time of renewing acquaintance with good friends,  both among IICS and CSI colleagues, and the plenary speakers: Elaine Storkey, whome we have known for many years, and Paul Marshall, whom we have known since the 1980s, when he taught at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto; in fact, when we returned from missionary service in the Philippines in 1987 we took over Paul's house in Toronto. Unfortunately, Elaine was unable to come to this year's conference, due to illness, but she is now scheduled for next year. Paul, who is now with the Hudson Institute, where he does research on religious freedom, gave two excellent speeches, which we thoroughly enjoyed, and we had lunch with Paul before we left Kansas City. The other main speaker this year was David Naugle, who has written  an excellent history of worldviews.  In addition, about sixty short papers were presented (about seven at a time); a few of these were given by CSI/IICS professors, but for the most part by academics who have heard of IICS and appreciate its vision of academic ministry. We certainly hope that some of them may take up the challenge of serving overseas with CSI/IICS.

We took the opportunity to have a photo taken of those of our "Africa team" present at the conference, from left to right: Rudy and Marlene Wiebe, who teach at the College of Education in Pangshin, near Jos; Henk and Vicky VanAndel, from Edmonton--Henk serves as executive director of CSI; Prof. Joseph Ilori, from Nigeria, who has directed the program of preparing manuals for teachers of Christian education there, and served as president of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary for many years; Danny and Mary McCain, who founded IICS and have been our neighbors at the University of Jos for many years; and us, Wendy and Adrian Helleman. As you may have gathered from this photo, one of the best aspects of such a conference is the opportunity to network with colleagues from all over the world. This year we met old friends and made new ones from places as far away as Russia, South Africa, and Nigeria. CSI and IICS now have 43 professors teaching in 16 countries.

We began our travels early in the week, since we had  to go to Florida to have our IICS dentist, Dr. Leong do some work on our teeth; from there we flew to Kansas City, but we did have some nasty experiences which have taken away some of the joy of flying. We were stuck in Atlanta for the better part of a day due to storms, and our luggage arrived at a different airport the next day. It would not have been so bad, except that services at the Atlanta airport were stretched to the limit, and people were in line for hours simply trying to get to a help desk or phone. We were still quite fortunate, since many people at that airport were delayed for more than a day, with no alternatives of finding a hotel room anywhere. On the return trip, via Minneapolis, our Sunday flight was also delayed, this time because of mechanical problems; we finally got home in the early hours of Monday morning.