Home MB HeraldColumns Letters September/October 2017

Letters September/October 2017

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Real empathy

It’s always a treat to get the latest issue in the mail.

You’re always pertinent, although this one (“on dying– the next stage,” July/August 2017) cuts closer to the bone than some.

I’m currently on a hiatus between chemotherapy sessions, and will restart treatments in 2 weeks. My oncologist tells me I’m “treatable but not curable,” and this puts life into a new perspective. Apart from the mundane things like updating one’s will, granting power of attorney (my brother and I had just been thinking about getting our Mom to assign this to one of us), such a diagnosis also gives new meaning to the witness of our daily existence. A friend remarked this must give me lots to share.

It’s true. Wearing the yellow daffodil on my lapel, I find daily interactions have opened conversational avenues in ways I never imagined. When asked how I’m doing, I get to share God’s faithfulness as it plays out in my day-to-day existence.

Thus far in the journey, I’ve encountered but two drawbacks: the tendency to become self-centred (this is huge in my life right now), and expressions of sympathy rather than empathy from church folk. The empathy from my neighbours, coworkers and clients is far more welcome than the (well-meant) expressions of sympathy I often receive from believers.

Wayne Janzen
New Westminster, B.C.


Space to evolve

The July/Aug. issue of the MB Herald had some insightful and refreshing dialogue. In Out Front, Jon Isaak offers that it is acceptable (even necessary) to not always interpret Scripture from within traditional boundaries. Unless spiritual enlightenment is deemed to have been a fait accompli some time in the past, it is logical that Scripture would speak truths to cultures and even individuals relative to present circumstances.

Scripture is not compromised by our seeking out its relevancy to the present; its credibility is in fact preserved and enhanced by it. Spiritual truths need space to evolve.

In “Tell me a story” in the Witness insert, Anne Thiessen asks if we consider Bible stories too simple to carry the deep doctrines of the faith. I would also ask whether doctrine based on literal reading of Scripture without the enlightenment by the Spirit does not end up woefully short of conveying the fullness of “the metanarrative of the Bible.” The stories via the Spirit facilitate experiencing the God of Scripture well beyond what literal reading alone does – if in faith we risk to let them.

In light of the encouraging articles cited above, I dare to wonder if Carol, the mother of a transgender child (Letters, May/June), might find some hope that somewhere Scripture may communicate God’s grace toward the child and to her. I accept her contention that God does not make sexual mistakes, but I would offer that genetics as part of reproduction does. Genetic birth defects are common and often medically treatable. It is somewhat understandable a person would resort to drastic methods when who they are supposed to be feels so foreign and emotionally painful.

Jake Janzen
Abbotsford, B.C.


The dignity of choice

Re: “Between two worlds” and “Journeying to the next stage” (Features, July/August).

Thank you, Lawrence and Sharon, for provoking me to begin forming a response to Bill C-14. Ecclesiastes 3:2 says there is “a time to be born, and a time to die.” Lawrence states there is a “Christian worldview on the sanctity of life” that is “essential to uphold.” If all checks and balances confirm that to continue living will become intolerable, if prayers to “take my loved one home” are mere empty cries, when there is no more “sanctity,” purpose and money, just the agony of waiting; to have arranged for the time to die makes sense.

Sharon pictures the ideal support: Walter “needed the Spirit’s touch through the community of believers.” Unless there is strong discipline in place, such visits can degenerate to messiness by well-meaning people: I have visited dear colleagues at various stages of physical and spiritual brokenness as they struggle to understand the sovereignty of God. They say to me, “All I see ahead is unbearable suffering.” I was appalled when a visitor told my dying friend that God was testing his faith – God was not finished with him yet! Another visitor commented that all of us were to learn patience and trust. Such thinking hints that God is in this suffering to gain glory and praise for himself: an example of hubris even Greek tragedians might avoid expressing.

Then I study John 9:1–41, and I am perplexed. All nature has a set time to live – be it brief or long (e.g., fruit fly, turtle; snowdrop, sequoia).

My viewpoint is subject to change as more research reveals more options. We have the gift – the opportunity – to choose what makes sense. MAiD is one choice.

John Wittenberg
Abbotsford, B.C.

Compassion care is paramount

Thank-you for the July/August MB Herald tackling the issue of end-of-life care, and its timely and insightful commentary exploring Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). One of the refrains that has struck me as I’ve read about MAiD is the desperate appeal for a pastoral presence in the face of death. It’s echoed by Sharon Simpson: “Our whole family could have used a guide” (“Journeying”).

Being this sort of guide is part of the work of our pastors. We must be willing to accept that our guiding journey will take us through the valley of the shadow of death; it’s part of what makes us shepherds and our work pastoral.

Spiritual guides come in all forms, and I admire Simpson’s embrace of this role in other’s lives. With an aging population, pastors are needed more than ever. I hope we can be just as likely to find them as welcome company at our deathbeds as we are to find them as charismatic occupants of the public stage.

In the decades to come, compassion may become the more important instrument of our office, accomplishing much more eternal good than visionary leadership alone.

Kevin Koop
Medicine Hat, Alta.

“Be there” amid deep questions

Re: “From the mother of a transgender child,” Letters, May/June.

I’ve not yet met someone who calls themselves transgender, but the thought occurs to me that if that person has made a decision to be that way, it’s something more than a choice based on a rational thinking process. I think many of our young people are troubled by deep questions: about their personal identity, and who they really are. I would hope that Christians who know of someone struggling with these questions would not rush in and simply condemn them. We live in a society that challenges almost everything we used to accept as naturally “God-given.”

Let’s be there for them. Growing up has never been easy, and it’s not getting easier.

Roland Derksen



Mennonite Brethren Herald welcomes your letters of 150–200 words on issues relevant to the Mennonite Brethren church, especially in response to material published in the Herald. Please include name, address and phone number, and keep your letters courteous and about one subject only. We will edit letters for length and clarity. We will not publish letters sent anonymously, although we may withhold names from publication at the request of the letter writer and at our discretion. Publication is subject to space limitations. Letters also appear online. Because the Letters column is a free forum for discussion, it should be understood that letters represent the position of the letter writer, not necessarily the position of theHerald or the Mennonite Brethren church. Send letters to mbherald@mbchurches.ca.

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