Agents of hope amid adversity

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 7, 2022

I believe many of these immigrants see … that God sent them here to preserve life, even though harm had been intended to them, but God intended it for good in the long term. —Janyce Konkin

In last week’s column we considered how a Painted Lady butterfly beautifully exemplifies Cochrane authenticity coach David Irvine’s wisdom on adversity in our life journeys. “The adversity journey, the journey to your authentic self, describes the process of surrendering to a time of great difficulty,” he said, “allowing the pain to crack us open, so that a stronger, wiser, kinder person will emerge.”

From the insightful responses I received from our coffee companions, this certainly cracked open your hearts to share with us your own adversity journeys. Forefront in your thinking has been our recent pandemic, the testy weather, climate change, and the economy.

But one line of thought, in particular, has really caught my attention: the extreme adversity faced by many in war-torn Ukraine, parts of the Middle East, and Africa, that has led them to immigrate to Canada. In large measure, they’ve arrived on our shores virtually penniless, but in overcoming their adversity, they are becoming successful contributors to the greater good.

I’m reminded of a letter we received two years ago from Calgary reader Janyce Konkin, President of Peace Africa Alliance Consulting, Educating and Training Centre. As examples of overcoming adversity, she wrote:

“How about the entire scenario of immigrants who are forced from their homelands and must flee to new countries because of wars, dictatorships and persecution for beliefs? They must go through many trials on their road to freedom, including learning a new language, a new system of living, upgrading their education – most often working the most menial of jobs while doing so. They face many trials and tribulations regarding racism and bigotry for being outsiders.”

She cited one of my favourite Old Testament Bible stories, that of Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph. Joseph was the victim of much jealousy and betrayal, and because of that adversity, found himself in an Egyptian prison as a devastating famine neared, the right place at the right time to be God’s instrument of life and hope for his tormentors. (See my column for July 23, 2020, “When life’s the pits, remember Joseph.”)

In a similar way, Janyce said, “I believe many of these immigrants see exactly as you have written – that God sent them here to preserve life, even though harm had been intended to them, but God intended it for good in the long term. They have found refuge from famine and war, and a home-away-from-home. These pits have allowed them to be at the right place at the right time, to not only learn new ways but also to help us to learn new ways.”

Indeed, as she noted, these immigrants see themselves in the context of a much bigger picture. Many of them “are not only becoming educated with advanced degrees, but they are using those degrees to help build stronger societies, whether here in their new homes or also influencing matters back in their original homes. They continue to bridge the gaps in so many ways by sending money back home to ensure not just survival of their remaining families, but also to ensure education of the new generations. They also build schools and medical centres for their home communities, ensuring advancement of techniques and knowledge, sharing their new-found methods and wisdom in order to be God’s agent of life and hope.”

Another of our longtime coffee companions, Sandy Corenblum, sees the providential hand of God in all this, just as Joseph did, and just as it is apparent in the Painted Lady butterfly. “Such beauty in your yellow flying friend,” she wrote. “God presents Himself in all shapes and forms. How He needs our love and attention just as much as we need His. As a child I used to pray, ‘God bless God.’” She has reverted to that now also as a senior.

Yes, God bless God. May we echo that in our responses to adversity as agents of blessing to God by bringing hope into the lives of all around us on this troubled planet.


© 2022 Warren Harbeck

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