Saturday, November 28, 2009

MY NEW CAREER--Official Missionary Prayer Letter

The other day I paced around my living room, staring at my grandkid’s pictures, and wearing my fluffy pink ‘Grandma’ bathrobe. With the phone in my ear I spoke to a travel clinic nurse, hardly able to believe the words coming out of my mouth. “I’m going to India.”

Nine years ago I felt the call to write. At times I felt like Noah. “You want me to do what, Lord? You want me to write books? Who’s going to read anything I write?”

But God did amazing things. While I worked at Trinity Western University I received writing courses for free. He provided me with writing groups, critique partners, mentors, scholarships, literary agents. This past year He validated my writing ability with the ACFW Genesis Award. He allowed a small non-fictional piece I’d written to be published in a Focus on the Family book on adoption. But after finishing two fictional novels—the latest set in India—the elusive contract for publication is still that. Elusive. Remaining unpublished in Christian Fiction didn’t bother me. But I wondered—have I hoodwinked myself with my vivid imagination? Did God really call me to write?

A few months ago my friend Hilary who works with Children’s Camps International congratulated me on my novel set in India. “I wish you could come to India with us.”

My heart thumped. I wanted to go. But I had a part time job in a small local Chilliwack business. “There’s no way,” I said. “That’s the start of the busy season where I work.” I couldn’t lose that income no matter how small it was.

A few weeks passed. The work in the little office grew less and less. Then 2 weeks ago the boss said, “We don’t have enough work, I’m afraid we have to lay you off.”

Usually when people hear that, they gasp with disappointment. I practically laughed with joy. But now what? In the midst of prayer it dawned on me—that at this crossroads of my life I could do anything. Go anywhere. I could even go to India. In awe of who He is, I said, 'Wherever You want me to go—I’ll go. Whatever You want me to do—I’ll do. Just use me."

I contacted CCI. There was still time to join the team. This 2 week trip is designed to educate people about the incredible work God is doing through the indigenous pastors in India. Apparently a young pastor came up from Tamil Nadu 6 years ago to Winkler Bible Camp in Manitoba. There he learned the skills of running a kids’ camp and took those skills home to India. The short story is; God blessed that enormously. Children and their families are coming to know Jesus in droves in the south of India because of these children’s camps. That young pastor’s name is Antony Samy.

I felt God’s call to go, but wondered, What can I do? All I really know how to do these days is write a book.

The president of CCI, Ray Weiler, got back to me right away. In the midst of our conversation he told me, “We’ve been praying for someone who can write a book. We need someone to tell Antony’s story and what God is doing.”

You could’ve knocked me down with a feather. The past 6 years of learning began to make sense. That’s when I felt the courage to say, “Ray, I can write a book.”

I'm humbly asking for your prayers. There is no funding to pay me. Like most missionaries I must raise my own support. But if God wants me to do this, then He will provide the $3700 for this short term missions trip. The trip to Tamil Nadu, the southern-most tip of India, is set for this January 16th to the 30th.

I’ve had my inoculations. I’m applying for my travel visa and have dug out my passport. I am going to India the last 2 weeks of January. There I’ll research an amazing work that God is doing. And when I come home I’ll need your prayers over the following six months, for the creative powers to do justice to . . . ‘Antony’s Story’.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your prayers.

If you would like to support me by prayer, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at
If you would like to support my trip financially, you may send the funds to:

Children's Camps International
300 - 571 Main Street
Winkler, Manitoba R6W 1G3

Make the cheque out to Children's Camps International and they will send you an official charitable tax receipt. Just slip a separate note into the envelope to say that the funds are designated for Christine Schmidtke. Thank you.

Isaiah 30:8 ‘Now go, write it on a tablet before them. And inscribe it on a scroll, that it may serve in the time to come as a witness forever.’
Antony and Emery Samy on their wedding day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

GO AWAY--Guest Blogger--Jacky Huberts

Back in my Trinity Western University days (when I worked there), I had a whole community of co-workers. They became family. Even after leaving my position there, I still keep close ties to as many of them as I can. Last week I introduced you to one of my old Trinity friends. Today is another. Jacky Huberts. Oh the stories I could tell--the most tortuous being the day our co-worker Dave Heidebrecht and our boss Marty Penninga pulled the wool over my eyes when Jacky went on her honeymoon. But I'll save that for another day. When I can get even. Today is a long-awaited piece from Jacky about motherhood.

GO AWAY--By Jacky Huberts

I’ve learned the most interesting things about myself since becoming a parent. I can actually be a morning person when I put my mind to it. I can multitask better than I thought possible. I can live on less sleep than I thought (although I don’t prefer it. I can cook. Who knew?

There are other things though, that I’ve learned about myself that are not so great. My kids have started to repeat certain things that I say.

My older son told me the other day, “Go away Mom. That’s what you tell me to do sometimes.”

I cringed. Go away. I never realized how often I said that to my boys, until the day he told me that.

Since becoming a parent, I can’t do anything without an audience anymore. Every move I make, I have a little shadow following me. My least favourite place that they follow me to is the bathroom. No mother can go pee in peace anymore. Why is that? What is so intriguing about it? No matter what the reason, they follow me.

Kids are also very good at mooching. Maybe it’s because I have boys, I don’t know. There is not a time during the day that I can sit down and eat something on my own. As soon as I sit, there they are, like little predators ready to pounce on their prey. You’d think I never feed them. No wonder mothers resort to hiding snacks for themselves and gorging on them when no one is around.

These moments have created the famous two words to come out of my mouth numerous times. Go Away! They’re not pleasant, but they get the job done. A mother deserves peace every once in a while, right?

I got to thinking one day though. Who else do I say this to? My husband? My annoying friend? Worse yet, do I say this to God? The answer for me is yes.

Go away; I don’t want to argue with you anymore.

Go away; I don’t want to hear about your problems.

Go away, I know what You are calling me to do, I just don’t want to hear it.

Saying these words to my kids has taught me a lot. These two words are ugly and they hurt.

These two words need to go away.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Picture is the logo for Children's Camps International

Being an immigrant gives one an automatic feeling of belonging to something bigger—a feeling of global citizenship perhaps. This was especially true for me being born in Northern Ireland and immigrating to Canada.

But Northern Ireland officially belongs to England, so as a citizen of that country; I feel genuine love and a sense of loyalty to Queen Elizabeth II. Besides, she’s been a wonderful sovereign and deserves my respect.

Thing is, ask any resident of Northern Ireland if they’re Irish and they’ll say, “Of course I am.”

And I too love Ireland, and feel linked that great and charming culture of beating bodhráns, flutes and penny whistles. I am Irish. Period. I can live on tea and potatoes quite happily.

So coming from those six small counties in the Northeastern part of that island called Ireland, I feel Irish, British, and of course Scottish. To the horror of my youngest son, I also love the sound of bag pipes. It was my Scottish ancestors years ago that the English moved onto Irish farms when they supplanted the Irish that were living there. But that was centuries ago. Time to move on.

Add to that the loyalties I gained when we immigrated to Canada. As a kid I grew up in the Niagara Peninsula and my friends were usually first or second generation Canadian. Like me their roots were British, or Italian, or Polish, or from any one of several shifting sections of Europe at the time. I grew up listening to all kinds of dialects and smelling the aromas from the neighborhood of tomato and basil, of cabbage rolls and highly spiced sausage, of home-made wine, and stronger coffee than I was ever used to. So different from spuds, tea and cabbage. Seriously, my mother was a wonderful cook.

Add to that the music I listened to from across the border in the United States. Detroit’s rhythmic and blue sounds of Mo-Town music got me through my teens. Groups like The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and my all-time-favorite, Marvin Gaye and his song 'What's Going On'.

The Vietnam War took place during my childhood. As a pre-teen just as I was becoming aware of the world, I'd watch the six o’clock news and I see American soldiers being beaten while they marched through the streets of Hanoi. That scared the life out of me when I was 12 years old. Those young POW’s were from just across the border, and I felt a kinship.

A couple of weeks ago I talked about the Canadian Cultural Mosaic. In the United States they refer to that wonderful blending of immigrant cultures as The Melting Pot.

A mosaic is a beautiful art form to view—all sparking colors and depth of contrast. The melting pot gives the sense of warmth, a full stomach, and comfort. Either way, it’s a good thing. As someone not born on North American soil, I’m just plain grateful to be here.

But I’m also a citizen of a place greater than Canada or the United States. I belong to the family of God. Heaven is stamped as my home on my eternal passport.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

HIS HALO SLIPPED--Guest Blogger--Elinore Relf

It never ceases to amaze me the power of each person's story. Through Elinore Relf's eyes we see the staunch and caring hearts of hard-working prairie farmers, and the transforming power of her husband's experience through a terrible ordeal. But as we see it all through Elinore's eyes, we see a hint of Elinore herself--her humility and inner strenth, her soft-spoken wit that leaves you smiling with just the trace of a tear at the corner of your eye.

Today's story also explains why Elinor has so many gorgeous coats. Each time I admire one in the church foyer, she grins and squeezes my arm. "Oh one of my kids gave it to me."

Elinore's grown-up children are only following their father's example. But you'll have to read the story to understand. (The picture shows Elinore and Bill on their fortieth anniversary, wearing the same dress and suit they wore on the day of their wedding.)


I sat on the doorstep of our farm home, sweaty and hot after mowing the lawn on a sunny day in July, 1972. Relaxing on the cool cement step, I reflected on the past year. Our 2 oldest children had graduated from high school. The haying was finished and 5000 bales, in excellent condition, stood in the fields, plenty of feed to winter the herd of 60 Holsteins on our dairy farm. The crops were showing promise of a bumper crop. Everything was going well. This was going to be a good year. My husband, Bill, and our ten-year-old daughter, Jo-Anne, had gone to the city to pick up supplies, a delightful reprieve after an arduous day’s baling. They should be home in time for milking—or so I thought. Then the phone rang.

“This is the Regina General Hospital. Your husband and daughter have been in an accident. Bill has a broken neck and Jo-Anne is in E.R. with cuts and bruises.”

“Lord, this can’t be happening. A Broken neck! Please don’t let him be paralysed.”

Jo-Anne was a pathetic sight when I picked her up in Emergency and we hurried to the Orthopaedic ward. Dr. Ailsby had just arrived and we listened intently.

“Bill, your cervical vertebrae is broken in two places (that’s the hangman’s vertebrae). Another quarter of an inch and it would have broken right through. One part has moved ahead, stretching and pinching the spinal cord. You must be careful not to move or your spinal cord could be severed. That would cause paralysis. I’m going to put a strap under your chin and attached it to a twenty-pound weight that will hang down the head of your bed. The weight should make the bones slip into place. Now, I have to meet with the Board of Directors of the Hospital to get their approval for a twenty thousand dollar halo contraption to be flown in from Toronto. It will be the first for Regina. I have just finished training in Los Angeles where they are having great success with halos. If I don’t get their approval you will be in a striker bed for six weeks or longer."

“What happened, Bill?” I asked as soon as the doctor left. “Are you in pain?”

“Pain! It’s like ten thousand toothaches. A three-tonne truck hit us at an intersection. I pulled Jo-Anne down on my knee and leaned over to protect her. Then we were pushed into another car. Guess I was knocked out and when I came to, I was choking. Knew my neck was broken so I put my hands around my neck to hold my head up. Told the ambulance attendants and X-ray technicians my neck was broken but they said I wouldn’t be talking if that had happened. They turned me and pulled me rather roughly and I blacked out. When I came to, three doctors were beside me. I could move my arms but nothing from there down. They were afraid to move me. Had to lie on the stretcher all day until Dr. Ailsby was available.”

We left Bill, knowing he would be in excruciating pain until the dislocated bones slipped into place, especially as they did not want to sedate him in case he moved. At the point when he thought he couldn’t endure the pain any longer, he felt the bones slip into place. Praise the Lord, the paralysis left and so did the pain.

The halo arrived from Toronto, a fearsome looking cage that would be attached to a body cast. Four bolts were drilled into Bill’s skull to anchor the steel contraption. “Put up with our halo for two months and you’ll be as good as new,” they told him.

Bill spent most of the time in a recliner chair as lying down was too uncomfortable. He supervised the farming operations but found it difficult not to run into things with the cumbersome halo that extended 9 inches above his temples. In true Saskatchewan form, the neighbours came with their hayracks and trucks to put 5000 bales in the loft. Their wives came with food and 25 people sat at tables on the lawn to enjoy a roast-beef dinner. We were overwhelmed with their kindness.

Seven weeks had passed and the pain medication took its toll on Bill. One day he started up the stairs but didn’t bend enough at the landing. The halo hit the ceiling and the screws slipped out of the holes in his skull and dug into other places on his head. He stumbled into the kitchen screaming, “Get Dad. Tell him to bring his Allen wrenches and take this thing off.”

Just then my dad and mother arrived. With shaking hands the two old farmers unscrewed the bolts and Bill, exhausted by the pain, exhaled a sigh of relief.
X-rays showed that the vertebrae had healed so well that a hard-collar would be enough protection. What a happy day.

By Christmas Bill was back to normal—no whiplash, no arthritis, no pain. I was overwhelmed when Bill took me shopping and bought me a knee length fur coat.

“Just to let you know,” he said, “how much I appreciate how hard you worked to keep things running smoothly this summer.”

Life went back to normal but there was a difference in Bill. It was months after the accident before Bill felt that he could share an experience that had changed his outlook on life.

“When the truck hit us, I left my body. I walked down a hallway that shimmered with luminous lights. Ahead I could see a door and hear the most glorious music. Heavenly choirs were singing. I was drawn to it and was filled with a peace and joy that I had never experienced before. I wanted to keep on going and never leave. Then I looked down. I saw our wrecked truck. I saw my precious little daughter lying on my lap, covered with glass and blood. I had to get back to her. I saw myself slumped over the steering wheel. I was choking. Then I saw my hands come up to lift my head and support it. I started to breath. I was back in my body again and regaining consciousness. I have gone over it in my mind so many times. How could I see myself, below me in the truck, unless I was dead for a few minutes? I feel that God has given me some more time and I will never take life for granted.”

Fifteen years went by. They were good years. Bill sold the dairy herd, enlarged the farm to two sections, got his pilot’s license, became a ski instructor and patroller, sang in the church choir, became a Saskatchewan Wheat Pool delegate and lived each day to the fullest. He saw our 3 children married and was a devoted grandfather to 6 grandchildren. Dr. Ailsby, his friend and fishing buddy, was with him when they did the test that confirmed Bill had A.L.S. With a heavy heart he sold the farm that had been in the family for 100 years and we moved to British Columbia. Five years after his diagnosis he was on a respirator and finding it difficult to breath.

One day in November, with family near, he said, “Do you see the man at the door? He’s waiting for me... I can hear the music and see the lights.”

This time Bill didn’t turn back.

I still get phone calls asking to speak to William Relf. I tell them, “Certainly, if you have a direct line to Heaven.”

Sunday, November 01, 2009


My husband said to me the other day that there’s no mystery left in the world.

When I sit down at my laptop to work on my latest manuscript, I can be (happily) interrupted many times throughout the day by emails pinging in from all parts of the globe--from Africa, the next Australia, then jump over to someone living on an island in the Pacific, not to mention the loads of writing friends I have scattered across Canada and the United States. Most of them I haven’t met in person, but that’s okay. As writers, we’re happier writing out how we feel anyway.

The common denominator between myself and all these other folks is first of all, we all love the same Lord Jesus Christ, and secondly we all feel called to write about Him. However, we don’t write songs or books on Christian living—as necessary as those things are. We write fiction—Christian Fiction.

God gives every one of His children talents, and in this bunch of people, He wired us to write stories. Our goal is to tell truth in parable form.

Many of the writers I know are from the United States, but there’s another group that I affiliate with, and they are writers who live in other parts of the world. We call ourselves International Christian Fiction Writers. Because that’s the fascinating thing about Christ, He too affiliates with people from all over. He isn’t bound by differences in culture, in fact He embraces it.

That was one of the things I loved about my old job at Trinity Western University, a Christian university here in Langley, British Columbia. In the summertime, when the undergrads went home, the school put on special Grad studies and conferences for international pastors and church workers. As a secretary, there was many a summer day I’d walk from the cafeteria, past the outside lunch tables shaded by the umbrellas emblazoned with the Coca-Cola emblem, and watch ministers, pastors, church workers of all Christian denominations walk past me. Often I’d catch a trace of their language. Their cultural clothing, especially those from Africa, would take my breath away, and my eyes would fill with tears. Our God is such a great big God—wrapping His arms around all the people He created. I was so happy to be a part of it.

Something like that has just happened in my new profession. I left my job at Trinity to take a lower-paying, less mentally demanding job, so that I could save my energies to write Christian Fiction. And again, I find myself enthralled with the color and texture of the various writers I meet. It's like what we in Canada call the meeting of all our immigrant cultures—a Cultural Mosaic. I was one of those immigrants—a four year old Irish child who came over with my mother and sister in 1962.

So today, I’m proud to introduce you to a group of people who, like me, seek to follow the calling to be one of His writers.

Please check out the launching of the International Christian Fiction Writer’s blog. Our first posting will show up November 1 at 12:00 AM Eastern Standard time.

By turn, each day, one of our group will post a piece on the flavor of writing from in international standpoint. I’ll be taking my turn as well.

So I hope to see you there. I hope you'll support us in prayer or by buying the published books, those who seek to tell about Christ in stories woven from their perspective as Christians in far-away lands.

You can also find our group on FaceBook.

I'm currently writing my third novel, and the theme of that story is the same as for this posting today:

Matthew 5:14,15,16 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

So I encourage you, whatever your gifting is from the Father, use it today for His kingdom.