Called…to Speak of Simple Things

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I remember an LWML convention in Edmonton where each morning, after leaving the hotel, a group of us would walk by some homeless men sitting on a wall. They would call to us and we would ignore them, heads averted, and walk by. I have often thought about that time and that we missed an excellent opportunity to speak with these men. Today I would not hesitate to begin a conversation. “Hello. My name is Edna. What brought you here?” I talk to people wherever I am – in the Costco line, in elevators. I just speak about simple things. How easy is that!

In 2017, my husband and I left our ranch in the foothills of Alberta and settled into a two-bedroom condo in Lethbridge. Initially there was much to do – downsizing and reallocating possessions, and just get established in a new place. Even though there was family about, activities and courses at a seniors’ centre and in the condo, travelling and Bible study at Immanuel Lutheran, our new church home, I felt increasingly without a purpose in life. I cried to the Lord asking Him to give me something to do.

I had an old computer but did not want to connect to the Internet immediately, so I joined the Lethbridge Public Library and used the computer there. That got me out of the condo at least once a week. While in the library one day I noticed they had a literacy program called Read On that was asking for volunteers. My husband Mark and I registered for the two-day weekend seminar. Mark volunteered to tutor math, while I agreed to help teach English. My first assignment came in January of 2019. We were warned not to become involved with our students. We were to get them to read books and write essays in preparation for their exams to become Canadian citizens.

Torben, in his late sixties, came from Denmark. His English was limited, and he was more interested in talking than reading so when we met each week we talked for an hour or more. He would also write stories about his life and I would edit them…a great way to get to know his life story.

Torben had been a ward of the state and received a limited education. As a youth he worked as a cook’s assistant on a tanker ship in the Mediterranean, travelling between Italy and Lebanon. He visited Vietnam and nearly died from a bad reaction to an antimalarial drug. He described a vacation in Indonesia where he took pictures that I found amazing; he is an excellent photographer. Eventually Torben became an entrepreneur, operating a security lock business which employed many people. He was married four times and has four children – one from each marriage.

Near the end of 2017 he came to Canada on the invitation of his son who was living in Medicine Hat, Alta. This son promised to sponsor him to become a Permanent Resident, but they had a falling out and Torben moved to Lethbridge.

Pastor Lee Loveridge came from Kelowna and preached a series of sermons for Easter weekend. His Maundy Thursday and Good Friday sermons inspired me to invite Torben, via email, for Easter Sunday. Sunday morning came and Mark and I went to church. Torben joined us. After the service, a brunch was served and Torben was introduced to several people. He liked Pastor Lee immediately and since then has attended church regularly, even when Mark and I do not accompany him.

We now consider Torben a member of our family. He calls us regularly or emails and we joke about our frequent communication.

Torben has been living in Canada on a Visitor’s Visa and, with my help and that of Lethbridge Immigration, he has secured two extensions but eventually that will run out. His son had not followed up on the permanent residency and when they met with a consultant and the son learned that, if it was granted, he would be responsible for his dad for 20 years, he became angry and refused to be his father’s sponsor. Since the rules say only a relative can become a sponsor it seemed a dead end but going back to Denmark has its own complications.

My husband and I pray often for God to help Torben. I have written letters to the Ministry of Immigration and Refugees offering to sponsor him. It an anxious time, especially for Torben, with no clear direction.

I believe God calls us to serve others in many and various ways. When God called Isaiah, the prophet responded by saying, “Here am I. Send me.” I asked God to give me something to do. “Here am I. Send me.” And He did, to talk with Torben and many others.

Edna, Alberta

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