The last few weeks have been a scramble in our household and it took the first winter snowstorm of the year yesterday to remind us that our Christmas letter is overdue. Not that the writing of our Christmas letter is a chore; we derive great joy in connecting with friends around the world and in recalling the joys of the past year.
|Elizabeth and Johan|
Perhaps the highlight of 2012 was when Elizabeth, her husband Johan and their daughter Sanna moved to Montreal in July. It is such a delight to have them nearby – they live about 25 minutes away on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Verdun. Sanna is well established in the Nursery Sunday School at our Montreal Citadel congregation. Elizabeth’s career continues to progress with the signing of some good record contracts, tours to the USA, across Canada, Europe and Japan and a concert in Toronto’s Massey Hall. Sanna’s passport is already well-stamped as she hits the circuit with her parents.
John lives in Toronto so we see him when we are in Toronto on business. For Glen that is at least once a month. John is active on the board of the Canadian Paraplegic Association and is making good headway in the launch of his work in self-care for persons with spinal cord injuries. If you go to http://blog.sci-u.ca, you will see the web-site that features the work he is doing with his colleagues. He continues to be active at the Church of the Redeemer in downtown Toronto and enjoys the worship and culture of that congregation. John will be in Montreal for Christmas and we are looking forward to that.
The Salvation Army Montreal Citadel band remains one of Glen’s great preoccupations. The band has grown to 22 members and has been very active in community life at Christmas with a number of major Christmas concerts along with other churches and school boards in Montreal. Maybe the thrill of the Christmas run was the band’s interpretation of a magnificent setting of Who is He in yonder stall? before a capacity crowd at the English Montreal School Board’s Christmas concert last Saturday. Glen is also involved as a member of the board of Booth University College (a Salvation Army university college in Winnipeg) and on the board of Christian Direction, a Montreal-based organization involved in creative urban ministry in Montreal and throughout the French-speaking world.
|Montreal Citadel Band|
Eleanor is working two days a week writing and has had a number
of articles accepted for publication in different magazines. Writing is her passion, a bit like band music is for Glen. Her work as a chaplain at Montclair Residence – a Salvation Army senior citizens’ home - and at The Salvation Army’s divisional headquarters in Montreal fills out her time and brings great satisfaction.
|Eleanor at Book Signing|
Our church at Montreal Citadel continues to grow. Glen leads the band and plays the piano, Eleanor is on the leadership team and we team teach the College and Careers discovery Group, a delightful experience every Sunday morning. On Sunday evenings (bi-weekly) we are members of a bible study group in Laval, a suburb north of Montreal with an eclectic group of 5 Christian couples. The group is led by Glenn Smith, the Executive Director of Christian Direction. He and his wife Sandy are great friends and the group (which actually meets in French even though half of us are English-speaking) is so stimulating.
Our holidays took us back to Tennessee (a chalet in the Great Smoky Mountains) with a side trip to Charlotte NC and a visit to the Billy Graham Centre. History may have passed the evangelistic crusade by, in a sense, but it was a great experience to see the hand of God in the life and witness of Billy Graham and, most notably, to see the complex web of people over several generations who impacted each other until one of them brought Billy Graham to faith in Christ. The ongoing mosaic of God’s action is a marvel.
In August we were at The Salvation Army’s national Music School where we taught the social justice option. The typical student is a 20-yearold university student and we just love working with that group. In October, we took another week in Chicago as guests at the Territorial Leaders’ retreat of The Salvation Army’s Central USA territory.
|Sanna with her class|
In a tough economy the work of Health Partners has its challenges, but the mission is strong and opening up on new fronts. Glen is, at one and the same time, excited about the new program developments in the health of mothers and children and concerned about financing. We work, pray and trust. We have been able to tell our story on Parliament Hill, in Fort McMurray, Alberta and before the pharmaceutical industry at its annual meetings.
Last Sunday we did the message at the morning worship service at our Montreal Citadel congregation. We spoke on Galatians 4:4, how in the fullness of time God kept His promise in the birth of Jesus. We reflected on a moment 23 years ago, walking through a Paris train station in our Salvation Army uniforms when we were stopped and asked if we could help a single mother with two children who had nothing. With John and Elizabeth, we went to the crumby hotel room the lady and her two children were living in with some gifts and food. When we knocked at the door of the room, she opened and greeted us with the words: “I knew you would come. My friend said she had spoken to someone from The Salvation Army, and I knew you would come.” Her confidence was not in us, but in The Salvation Army. If people can trust the Army like that, how much more can we trust God who, in the fullness of time, came to our neighbourhood to live among us.
That is why we celebrate Christmas: IMMANUEL -God is with us. May the peace and hope of the season stand guard over you this year and into 2013.
Eleanor and Glen Shepherd