Friday, June 27, 2008

Quebec City - My Portal to Canada

To mark 400 years,
Je me souviens.

Why go to Canada?
Memories of cold winters in Loughborough, England, no central heating, and having hot water bottles by our feet just to get to sleep.
Toes chilled to the point of pain in the mornings.
Dad fetching coal to start the fire in the dining room, and taking a blowtorch to the outside loo to melt the layer of ice that had formed in the bowl.

Hearing my mother tell the stories of Jesus, and even then, seeking the face of God on my bedroom wall.
My younger brother and I waiting together for my sister to be born.
Being inside a dark church, hearing, "Shush, God is here."
Playing with tops and trains and wooden hammers and an alphabet set, each block an animal picture with its letter, A for antelope, B for Buffalo. Distinct recollection of the moment I realized that letters could be put together to made words. Amazement! Reading simple nursery rhymes, long before I started school. Remembering that we were to look for police if we were threatened or lost. Being the oldest, the one to set the example. Doing jigsaw puzzles while it rained outside. Listening to the wireless (radio), not having TV, or even a fridge.

Being allowed to play records on an old manually cranked phonograph. Walking to visit my Nana, hearing the bells of the marvellous carillon in the large park near her house.

Remembering peacocks, budgies and poodles. Almost every Sunday having tea with my great-grandparents who lived in a big old house another short walk past Nana’s. The clip-clop of horse-drawn cart on cobblestones, the smells of the cattle yard and the weekly market, fair days. Being disappointed, yet excited when at seven and a half, my parents decided to bring us to Canada.

Leaving Liverpool on the Empress of Canada. Setting foot on Canadian soil, taking a whirlwind tour through the narrow streets of Old Quebec City, visiting a church decorated red and gold, getting back on the ship and on to Montreal, passing multi-coloured roof tiles on the homes which hugged the cliffs.

The cross on Mount Royal. Living in a duplex, shopping at vast supermarkets. Growing beans in a glass jar. Spelling bees. Memorizing the 23rd Psalm for a poetry recital in Grade five, and after reading only four or five words, being told by my teacher, ‘Sit down! That’s not poetry, that’s Scripture!’ In grade six, getting hold of a Gideons Centennial Edition of the New Testament, being intrigued by the book of Revelation and the Gospels. And EXPO '67; Canada, notre pays! Trips with school and family to visit the Plains of Abraham.

Being told to look to the church and God for help with spiritual struggles. Reading everything: Hardy Boys, Jules Verne, modern sci-fi, historical romance, … Recovering from chicken pox, being given a book all about ghosts, mind reading, astral travel and other strange ideas. One night I experienced a very real personal attack. I felt physically grabbed by someone or something not of this world. Childhood's End?

Throughout high school being shy and always managing to avoid speaking in class. Pulling up roots again, moving to Nova Scotia. At university, taking honors Physics and Engineering. New friends giving me copies of the Bible, strange books with titles like Bel and the Dragon, and the Wisdom of Sirach. Being challenged to seriously consider the story and claims of Jesus, attending Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, and for the first time, clearly hearing the message of the cross: the good news that Jesus had died for me; discovering that I needed to make a personal response to His sacrifice.

Asking God to reveal Himself to me if he really was there. Shortly afterward, feeling my heart being powerfully touched by His loving presence. Talking to my friends at length even in the middle of the night. Being prayed for. Experiencing a turmoil that required hospitalization. Spending two months at home with my family. Writing in my New Testament of my decision to receive the Lord Jesus as my personal Savior. Three days later, being admitted to psychiatric hospital; my baptism of fire!

On to Toronto, passing by Quebec City, and Montreal, passing again to revisit the Maritimes, pondering lingering early memories of God and church. Being born again, a new childhood: excitement!