My Grandfather and Mr. Brooks: Did they cross paths?

Note:  For those following me as an Amity Foundation teacher in China, I will update about my return-to-China news and current status of that in another entry.  For now, this posting seemed timely and appropriate so I include it here.

Lawrence Brooks, the oldest living WW 2 veteran, served in New Guinea and the Philippines with the 91st battalion.

A CNN article caught my eye several days ago.

Reporter Kelsie Smith, in her September 5th article, wrote:  “The oldest living American to serve in World War II is turning 111 years old, and you can join the celebration.” She went on with the following:

“Lawrence Brooks served as a support worker in the predominantly Black American 91st Engineer Battalion stationed in New Guinea and then the Philippines and reached the rank of private first class during the war. On September 12, he celebrates his 111th birthday. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans has thrown parties for the past five years to honor Brooks. Last year, family, veterans, and current military service members celebrated the veteran’s new milestone at the museum, with cupcakes and a musical performance by the museum’s vocal trio, the Victory Belles.

But this year, due to the pandemic, the celebration will look a little different. The museum is asking Americans around the country to send birthday cards.

On the big day, a small group of museum staff will deliver the cards to Brook at his home for a private celebration. Staff plans to wear face masks and practice social distancing. The Victory Belles will still serenade him.

To join the celebration, send a card to:

The National WWII Museum    c/o: Happy 111th Mr. Brooks!    945 Magazine Street New Orleans, LA  70130.”

Photos, such as the one below,  followed of Mr. Brooks in past birthday celebrations enjoying his special day.

Did they cross paths?

After reading the article, I wondered if my grandfather’s battalion and Brook’s ever came in contact with one another.

As mentioned in previous posts, my grandfather also served in the Army in New Guinea and the Philippines at the same time as Mr. Brooks.  His role was that of chaplain, assigned to the 101st AAA  (Anti Aircraft Artillery) and had him traveling extensively to outlying foxholes and gunnery stations by peep. (A peep is slang for a WW II  jeep attached to an armored regiment.)

Or perhaps my grandfather had met the 91st’s chaplain, if not the men themselves. In his journal entries, he mentioned the “colored” troops (the term used at that time), including that he had met their chaplain.  It seems that for the African-American soldiers, one Black chaplain was assigned to their battalion with segregation of the troops still practiced to some extent, although not in all instances.

My Grandfather’s Opinions on Race Relations

Marvin’s Army trunk is seen here with his 5 journals from the war years displayed.

Throughout his journals, there were numerous references to those from different backgrounds, both in race, religion and nationality:  Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, women, homosexuals, Australians, Brits, native New Guineans, Filippinos, the Japanese … As a chaplain in the Army, he was confronted with ministering to and/or associating with all.  His writings portray an unedited, uncensored, raw telling of his thoughts and feelings:  some progressive, some less so; some thought-provoking , some banal; some applaudable, some cringeworthy.

With today’s current situation in America, I was struck by one particular entry, which I will share here.

A  Revealing Journal Entry 

In Volume 2 of my grandfather’s WW 2  journals, I found an entry dated Feb. 1, 1944.  His orders for overseas’ deployment came and he was waiting it out in San Francisco before departure for New Guinea.  During that time period, he detailed his numerous encounters with other officers heading out.  Their many conversations he recorded.  Some left him with a feeling of disgust and indignation, others that of bemusement and still more with admiration and respect.

This one below I found of particular interest, especially due to the current situation in America regarding racism:

“Also an officer in JAGD (Judge Advocate General’s Department) stated that there were many more AWOLs among Negro soldiers than among whites.  My answer to him was that the white American has much more to fight for.  He has a bigger stake in America.  Will the colored soldier fight for the privilege of riding in Jim Crow cars, of being discriminated against in labor unions, of being denied proper educational facilities and of being denied access to the professions?  Most assuredly, he is not going to be enthusiastic about fighting for the maintenance of such insistutions.  The JAGD Lt. then asked, ‘What better country could he belong to and fight for?’  I mentioned Australia, England, Free France and South America, Mexico:  This officer changed the subject.”

My Ponderings

Such shameful treatment of American citizens, during that time period as well as today, gives me even greater admiration for those who served and are serving in our US Armed forces as racial and ethnic minorities, including women and LGBT armed forces personnel.  Despite blatant discrimination and all the wrongdoings that follow with it, here we witness, in such individuals, a commitment to hoped-for change, an optimism that things will get better, and that military service to this country is a respected calling to be carried out with honor and pride.  It takes a strong, dedicated and determined person to fight for a country that still struggles for justice, fairness and equality among its people.

To Mr. Brooks

On that final note, I would like to extend an upcoming Happy Birthday to you, Private First Class Lawrence Brooks.  Your card is in the mail, along with hundreds of others, I’m sure.   If my grandfather were alive today, he’d be right there beside you, offering a prayer of thanksgiving for your service, your life and your commitment to America.

From Illinois, here’s wishing Mr. Brooks, and all who read this 平安 (ping ahn), Peace, for your day.

Posted in A WW 2 chaplain's encounters with discrimination, World War 2 Letters, WW 2 Letters: My grandmother writes | 1 Comment

A 51-year-old church newsletter rings true today

Connie (my grandmother) and Marvin (Rev. Maris) in the parsonage, around 1970.

The yellow-tinted, aged paper caught my eye, seeming to call out for a reader.

In preparation for her upcoming house move, my mom had been going through cabinets.  She’d been pulling out dusty folders from hidden drawers and came across a mimeographed, typed, 2-page newsletter entitled The United Church of Christ (UCC),  dated March 18, 1969, Garden Prairie, Illinois.  The church was among one of the last  my grandfather, Rev. Marvin Maris, served during his over 40 years of service to the UCC.  With so many other papers, church programs, bulletins, newspaper articles, old photos and other odds-and-ends materials bursting from their filing cabinet, this one faded item seemed destined for the trash heap.  But in a moment of nostalgic weakness, I scooped it up and began reading.

What I found was so similar to today’s churches, large and small: a much-needed  commitment by the congregation to run the church well, to volunteer, to get projects off the ground, to attend services, to financially give and, above all, “HELP, HELP, HELP!”, as the newsletter so fervently begged.  I counted 6 “help”s, along with quite pointed sentences urgently calling for assistance and involvement.

My mom revealed it was most likely her mom, Connie, who wrote the newsletter, not so much Marvin.  I’m sure he was consulted but Connie had a take-charge knack for enthusiastically pulling folks together as the pastor’s wife.  Marvin’s erudite, scholarly approach to ministry was balanced by Connie’s ability to be more down-to-earth in seeing to the  fellowship aspect of church-going.  She was a good one to get projects off the ground, albeit sometimes at the last minute, and rally the troops (i.e., church members) to participate.

This is obviously apparent in the below newsletter, created and typed 51 years ago, with topics and sentiments that still hold true to those of today’s churches.  For my Christian followers, see how many are reported by Marvin and Connie that you find true today in your own church community.  My guess is that there are more than a few.

============================================================================18 March, 1969

The United Church of Christ   Garden Prairie, IL

From Marvin and Connie Maris:

SPRING IS HERE:  The birds are back, ducks are traveling!  Time to clean up and pick up!  Bring your pails, mops, rakes, clippers and other equipment Saturday, March 22, this coming Saturday and help get the place ready for Easter.  WE NEED YOUR HELP.  Teenagers, men and women, old and young!  Come early and work as long as you can.

FRIDAY MARCH 21:  Cookie bake.  Order your cookies from any church school member … or call parsonage.  Proceeds for Summer program and building fund.

RUMMAGE SALE:  FRIDAY MARCH 28.  Bring your good used things to the church by Thursday evening.  Please press and hang clothing on hangers.  It will help the workers.  Donations of baked goods for sale welcomed.  Lunch served also.  Come and help, buy, give.  All for the church treasury.  This is an all church project.  Set up Thursday, sell Friday, clean up Saturday.

THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY has been instructed by the church council to give each of you a quarterly statement of monies given to the church.  This is a private thing and no one else knows what you give. It is one way to keep your tax records straight, also.

DID YOU KNOW:  We have three choirs, a rhythm group (devotion in motion), two Youth Fellowships (age group 7th through 12th grades), two women’s circles, a women’s fellowship, church school ….. and we should have the church overflowing on Sunday mornings.  You are not doing your share when you stay at home or go other places.  We need you, you need a church in Garden Prairie.  Someone from a larger church remarked the other day that she was surprised how much activity we have here.  It gets discouraging for those who DO THINGS for the rest of you to forget to become involved also.  How about trying a little harder?

MAUNDY THURSDAY.     SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION. 8 p.m.

EASTER      SUNRISE SERVICE      6:30 a.m. Breakfast follows. Let Frances Snider know how you will help.  Service by youth groups

EASTER.  11 a.m. worship service, three choirs and a special Easter message.  Will you be there?

BOONE COUNTY RELIGIOUS CENSUS:  This is an effort to reach the unchurched.  Our church is responsible for Bonus Township.  We need 20 workers and several drivers.  This is for Sunday, April 20.  This is a good way to invite people to our church also.  WILL YOU HELP EVEN TO DRIVE A CAR SO THAT SOME OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE CAN PARTICIPATE?

The church school brought in $27.00 for the One Great Hour of Sharing.  Did you do your part? You can still give.

SPRING FLING:  AN EVENING OF FUN AND ENTERTAINMENT at Educational building, April 10.  Tickets available from Circle 2 members.  There will be 100 tickets only.  Get yours and invite your friends to come.  Supper and entertainment.  Mrs. Priscilla Wieck, Mashall, Illinois, will be doing the program.  A Spring Fling is traditional in many parts of Europe where the keeping of Lent was taken very seriously. It is the celebration of the breaking out of winter and the promise of bright, sunny, warm days.

VACATION CHURCH SCHOOL:  With help, we will conduct another Vacation Church School during June.  We will need teachers and helpers.  It is not too early to plan

Our Treasurer is getting a big headache because the necessary $30.00 a day to run the church is not coming in.  Are you doing your fair share?  Lent and Easter is a good time to think about it and to get out those back envelopes and tuck in a little extra.  The fuel bills have been high because we are using the buildings more.  HELP!  HELP! HELP!

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Misguided Prayer

O Lord, so long as the weather is reasonably fine,

so long as I have no visitors,

so long a nobody asks me to do any work,

so long as I can sit in the back pew,

so long as they don’t choose hymns I don’t know,

so long as my grandson is asked to recite at the Christmas programs,

so long as I can get out in time for the game on TV,

I will honor Thee with my presece at one of the services of Thy church

whenever I feel like it.

(From the bulletin of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Williamsville, New York.)

====================================

Some must blend the plaster, Some must carry the stone;

Neigh man nor the Master Can ever build alone.

Building a room for a shelter, Or building a house for a king,

Only by working together Can we ever accomplish a thing.

====================================

Someone said this: “The tithe, in its broadest sense, is the setting aside first a definite share of one’s income regularly for the work of the Lord.  In the stricter sense, it is the setting aside for the work of the Lord first, exactly one tenth.  Any person who takes Christ seriously will find it difficult to justify the giving of left overs!  Try it faithfully for a year and find for yourself its joys.  You will find a deeper and richer life.”

What percent of time, talent and money are you returning to God who gave all for you?

============================================================================
A Few Photos from that time period
Posted in A Small-town American Church: 51 years ago, Illinois: United Church of Christ in 1969 | Leave a comment

75 years later, Atomic bomb reflections re-surface

Previously, I mentioned I’d been going through the World War II correspondence between my grandmother, Connie Maris in Holland, Michigan, and her husband, Chaplain (Captain) Marvin E. Maris, serving overseas’ in New Guinea and the Philippines from 1944 – 1945 (Below is my grandfather’s sketch of his Pacific service journey.)

 

Connie’s daily letter-writing habits detailed her many activities as a young mother of two,  the local town’s goings-on, church happenings (she was very active in the Holland Methodist Church), and tons of gossip, all interspersed with her varied thoughts, observations and feelings on all kinds of subject matter.  I remember Grandmother Connie was never one to hold opinions to herself.  I see that, in her younger years, that held true as well from the letters I’ve been reading.

As the 75th anniversary arrives of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the ending of World War II (V-J Day, August 15, 1945), I’d like to share in this post two letters written from Connie to Marvin.  Both were composed while she was attending a 1-week Christian retreat camp at Lake Louise, located in Johannesburg, Michigan.  This was 215 miles from Holland, where she was living while waiting for her husband to come home from the war.  Connie had volunteered to be one of the counselors for the young girls and also the leader for several adult Bible study groups.  My mom was attending as well, age 12, and my uncle, age 7.

Before launching into the letters, I’m including a bit of information regarding the camp and its ties to Christianity and Methodism.

A History of Lake Louise Camp  (Taken from the Lake Louise website)

As the logging era in Northern Michigan waned and Great Depression descended upon the United States, the Horner family of Eaton Rapids, MI held approximately 5,500 acres of “stump land” surrounding a spring-fed lake in Northern Michigan.

In 1934, the Horner family approached their pastor, Rev. Stanley Niles, desiring to give these lands away. Together, the Horners and Rev. Niles envisioned a youth camp and cottage sites for clergy families surrounding the lake.

They created Lake Louise Christian Community, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, to receive the gift and hold the land in trust for the two United Methodist Michigan conferences, and by extension, all Michigan Methodists. Yet the current ministry transcends traditional Christian denominational lines, welcoming all persons of Christian faith, and seeks to offer an environment in which all persons feel welcome, regardless of faith tradition.

The transformational camping experiences of children, youth, and adults of the Methodist Church linger in their memories and continue forming their lives and faith long after they leave.

Christian camping at Lake Louise began in 1935 and continues uninterrupted to this day.  Today, the Lake Louise staff works with dedicated volunteer deans and counselors to develop and offer vibrant Christian camping programs.

My Reflections to the Above

When my grandmother’s camp experience took place, the facility must have been quite new in 1945, having been built with additions during the 9 years since it was established.  Connie mentioned participants staying in cabins and I read on the Lake Louise website  that Tennant Chapel  was later built in the 1950s. The chapel , which is fully functional today, seats approximately 160 people and has a sound system and piano.  Not sure what my grandmother’s worship experiences were like but I doubt a fully equipped chapel with sound system was available.

Back to the Letters:  My Grandmother Writes about The Atomic Bomb

It was during this week at camp when world history was made. How very telling that her closing remarks on the atomic bomb echo much the same sentiment many of us have today, 75 years later.   She writes as follows:

Note:   M.M. is Marvin Maris, my grandfather. Ed Dixon is one of the study leaders,  held as a POW (Prisoner of War) before being repatriated.  I was saddened concerning the derogatory remark my grandmother made concerning the Japanese (“the Japs,” she calls them) but I include it unedited.  Those are my grandmother’s words and reveal the sentiment of the times, that of animosity toward an Asian country  that started the war and whose military perpetuated inhumane conditions, treating POW’s with disdain, scorn and contempt. 

Aug. 8, Wednesday 1945, Lake Louise  camp

Dearest M.M.,

It’s a lovely warm day.  The baseball game between faculty and kids was won by the kids so now tomorrow, we’ll see a bunch of crippled old men!!

Just had a nice talk with Ed Dixon.  He sure has done things.  Spent 50 days in solitary confinement at first because the Japs thought he was a spy and then was secondly placed with the British 1 1/2 years, allowed to walk around, etc., and then was 6 months in a concentration camp before being repatriated.  It makes me feel very humble to talk to a man like that.  I seem to be marking time and doing little. You are doing for the family.

All my love, dearest one, and I’ll write later — 50 gals milling around so I’ll quit as they make noise.  All my love, Connie

Wednesday August 13, 1945

Dearest –

Here we sit and wait for the news that the war is over.  Everyone is jittery but it doesn’t keep much to be impatient. I wonder how anyone can shout and celebrate – there has been too much destruction and chaos.  I haven’t too much faith in man and what he can do anymore.  This atomic bomb – might well be used against us in time. We are too smart!

I don’t think I can hardly tell you what all I gained at the camp this week. You know the spirit there was unusual.  You expect horsing around and all the rest but somehow, thru all the fun and laughter, there was the undercurrent of thoughtfulness. There was no emotionalism but a fine experience living together.  Ed Dixon gave us four points which he says he got out of his personal Pentecost in a Japanese prison.

1- The Bible wears well — it satisfies man’s hungry (Man cannot live by bread alone!). His fare consisted of rice and a little cabbage soup.  2- God answers prayer. 3- The value of little things.  He said that he had always taken a chair for granted but he had none. A tea cup became a symbol of that value. It comforted him as he held it filled with hot water in his hands and as he drank from it.  4 – Jesus is utterly adequate.

I had quite a talk with him just before we left for home.   I most certainly got a lot from him.  As I was talking about the re-establishing of our home, I asked him how it was for him coming back after over 2 years in a prison concentration camp.  He said that it was a hard thing for him to adjust himself to being patient with the children and thoughtful of Esther — he’d been out for himself for so long.

Marriage, to him, is a triangle – husband and wife and God.  When we try to solve our difficulties without the peak of the triangle, we are pretty apt to get into difficulties.  I know I’ve been a difficult person to live with and I don’t promise any great change but I am trying to be more patient and understanding.  Maybe that will help some.

Those of us who have our men away just put our heads down and cried when the announcement came Friday at dinner that peace negotiations were started.  If you get a chance to go to China or Japan or wherever before coming home, I won’t blame you at all for taking it.  I know that you’ll likely never get over again and what you see now, you’ll always have. We can wait and understand.  If you get home – OK, too.  You know we’re waiting as anxiously as the next one.

By the time this reaches you, maybe this terrible war will be over.  I am horrified by the atomic bomb.  Is that what being civilized does?  If the wrong parties get it before we can discover a good use for that power, I can think of no hope for us all.

Now I’ll eat my breakfast and do some work. My prayers go winging along with this–

All my love, Connie

 

Posted in 75th anniversary of dropping the Atomic bomb, A Visit Home to America, Michigan in 1945, Michigan's Lake Louise: A look back in time, Travel, World War 2 Letters, WW 2 Letters: My grandmother writes, WW 2: VJ Day | Leave a comment

My battle with the Virus

Like so many others, my battle with the virus has left me exhausted, mentally drained, frustrated and wondering, “When will this ever end?!”

But unlike so many others, my Covid-19 struggle is not one of health but of bookings.

Although foreigners such as myself are still blocked from entry into China, that hasn’t stopped me from booking my return ticket.  If there’s a sudden lift to the ban, I want to be ready before my visa expires on Sept. 30 so I can speed back to my Chinese college. With airlines now waiving re-booking fees due to uncertain times, it’s becoming easier to change flights. But booking a ticket and holding onto it has become more and more of a challenge.  Our US airlines flying into China have had numerous cancelations or changes.  This is due to  ongoing restrictions from other countries not wanting Americans to enter their borders.  Our ability to deal with the virus still remains a huge problem as cases and deaths continue to rise.  My flight schedules have gone as follows:

February  11:  Canceled.    September 1:  Changed.  August 19:  canceled.  August 31:  canceled. September 9:  Canceled.

Several people, such as my mom, are wondering why I’m bothering making reservations. “Why not just wait until the ban is lifted and get a flight right away?”

There are several reasons for this:

  1.  Flight availability:  There are currently only 2 flights out of America a week on Delta and United.  Delta is following guidelines of leaving vacant seats in between passengers to social distance. Their seats are completely booked now until close to December.  United is all that’s left, and their seats are available at last-minute notice because (according to what I’ve been seeing) it seems they are not following recommended guidelines of keeping people apart.  We are packed in like sardines.
  2. Cost:  There is a crazy array of costs that change daily, weekly and even monthly on both United and Delta .  What used to be affordable for people of low incomes such as myself have now catapulted to millionaire status, so it seems.  Last-minute bookings are impossible for me to afford unless I want to completely empty both my savings and checking account. Let me give you what I’ve been contending with for the past 8 months

a). On June 23, I booked my $583 one-way ticket to China for  Aug. 31.

b) On July 14, I changed to an earlier flight on August 19, recommended to me due to a 2-week quarantine needed and my visa expiration date.  That ticket was the cheapest I could afford at $1,560 as compared to other offerings topping $3,500.  (Yes!! One way and in economy!).

c) On July 8, I was informed the August 19 was canceled so I booked a second affordable ticket for $1,600 on Sept. 1.

d) On Jul 23, I was informed the Sept. 1 ticket was canceled. The next affordable ticket was Sept. 9, at $2,200.

e). Now Sept. 9 has been canceled, leaving me somewhat stranded.  Why?  Flights have now skyrocketed to $6,000 and up for economy, one-way, to China.  Those prices seem to be holding steady until late October.

Bleak Outlook

It doesn’t really matter at present being able to enter China because foreigners are still banned.  And my visa will expire soon, meaning a last-minute dash to China will be out of the question.  I will be starting the visa application from scratch.  This takes several months, with a mandatory physical exam completion, official documents of invitation  from my college and the Amity Foundation, forms to complete and appointments to be made at the Chinese Embassy in D.C.  (Currently, that is the only place where visas are being processed.  A majority of Chinese Consulates, including the nearest  one to me in Chicago, is not open.)

Staying Upbeat

Despite all the above frustrations, I trust that eventually,  I will get back to my college. I have been told that the leaders are eager to have my return and are willing to process any visa requirements needed.  I am now their only foreign language teacher,  a role which I have treasured and cherished  for 13 years.  I would never abandon them, or my Luzhou church community, unless absolutely necessary.

Here’s wishing you 平安 (ping ahn, Peace) for your day as I hold fast to my 3 Ps:  Patience, perseverance and positive thinking!

My mom’s moon flowers, which only bloom under the moon’s beams. Even in the darkest of times, or rather the darkest of nights, small blessings do occur.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Battling the Virus, The Airline Ticket Wars during Coronavirus | 2 Comments

Views from Around the World: Window-swap.com

“Open a window somewhere in the world”

This is the beginning of a world journey to be taken by any one of us through window-swap.com.

My mom read about this unique, quirky website in one of her magazines.  A pair in Singapore (Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Balasubramaniam) dreamed up a way for all of us to enjoy the sights and sounds of other countries via 10-minute clips of what people see from their windows, thus the term window-swap.

According to the article, there are over 500 of these for anyone to click through, one after another, and get a feel of living somewhere other than where you are.

Check out Elcio’s window from Ubatula, Brazil.  Or how about Liliana’s window in Santiago, Chile. There’s Anna’s window with her sleeping kitty in Brooklyn, New York, David’s window with coconut trees and distant ocean views from Kai Tao, Thailand,  Indre’s window with crystal clear blue skies overlooking Vilnius, Lithuania and Sitara’s open-air porch with wicker furnishings in Chennai, India. (Don’t forget to pet her dog!)

Not only can you comfortably settle yourself for 10-minute intervals into the home surroundings of  another but you can record your own window view to send and be added to the site as well.  Directions are easy to follow through “Submit”  on the window-swap home page.

With Covid-19 barreling full speed throughout the globe, including the U.S., there’s been an increase of travel restrictions, fears and anxieties, and often times curiosity as to how others around the globe are managing in a pandemic situation. I am discovering this amazing Internet find to be the perfect place to calm my spirit, put a smile on my face and pull me out of my mundane, hometown environment.  Once “gone,”  I can meditate in my chosen space, in another’s home, without endangering anyone’s safety, or being a burden and a bother.

How cool is that?!

After you check it out, let me know your favorites.  I haven’t seen them all yet and would love visit recommendations.

Here’s wishing you Peace (平安, ping-an) for your day, and happy viewing!

From our kitchen window, we’ve been watching this surprise start-up sunflower, a product of our back deck’s wildlife antics of dropping seeds here and there. Welcome, little sunflower, to our home!

 

Posted in A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, coronavirus, Illinois, Smalltown American Life, Travel | Leave a comment

Back to Worship: My Hometown Church and My Chinese Church Open for Worship

 Welcome Back!!

July 5th had our Marshall First UMC open to worship in the sanctuary.  The preparation for this was quite stringent and lasted several weeks.  I listened in on  the discussions via Zoom, which my mom participated in as a church committee member:  Sign-up online  required for both services, masks worn at all times, temperature checks at the door, limited to 45 people sitting in the sanctuary at one time, families can sit together but all else need to be spaced apart, sanitation procedures before and after each service, no wandering about the church, no singing (that expels spittle and germs),  and no fellowship coffee hour, children’s church or Sunday school gatherings.

Just in and out for worship.

Such procedures seemed daunting but church members have all stepped up to the occasion.  Volunteers came forward for entrance checks, ushering and cleaning.  With no choir, Jo Sanders, our organist, worked hard to prepare schedules for special music singers and instrumentalists for the next few months.  (My mother and I are “booked” for the first Sunday of every month until my China return). Live streaming has now been placed in effect for our Facebook page.  And in-person committee meetings (with distancing) will soon follow as well as Zoom meetings continuing.

Here at Marshall First UMC, I am so happy to say we are learning to connect in a new, different way, one which brings us relief, joy and I’m sure God’s blessings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

News from my Chinese Church Family 

         Like us in America, my church in Luzhou used to be mask-free with people socializing in tight circles and having plenty of people-to-people close contact. 

Worship Before the Virus (BV)

        But during the virus lockdown, large gatherings were forbidden.  Chinese churches moved to online services which most watched on their smart phones through a special worship App. A vast majority of Chinese have smart phones, including the elderly, and all are quite adept at using them. I now hear restrictions will soon be lifted.  The Luzhou Protestant Church is currently preparing to worship once again in the 1913 sanctuary. Government guidelines for safety include limiting the number of worshipers present (but not the number of services that can be held), sitting 3-feet apart, wearing masks and what sanitation procedures to follow. 

I was sent this picture.  Luzhou church members, including the praise and liturgical dance groups, are practicing for the church building’s opening to worship at the end of this month. Notice pews have been marked with white X’s for sitting apart. Also, parishioners must wear masks. Those seated here are practicing for their celebration performances for that first Sunday of worship after doors that were shut for 6 months are opened.

        My church choir family, of which I am a part, is anxious to begin rehearsals once again. In our WeChat group (comparable to Facebook), we have been instructed how to keep our voices in shape and which hymns to practice for future anthems . I also post the daily English prayer for those in our group who want to challenge their language abilities. Despite being apart, we can still connect in this special way and it is a true godsend.

Other News

Those on my newsletter list, please be looking for my Summer 2020 updates.  With 2 loyal volunteers, at my hometown church, we will be stuffing and sealing my 850 envelopes to send out this week.  We will have our masks on, we will social distance and we will sanitize before and after our task is finished.  If you’d like a newsletter, just send a note and a mailing address.  I’ll get it out to you ASAP.

More reports to follow, and if you were wondering, rescue kitty Ping-ping is having a wonderful time in her new home with Ms. Zhen.  Weekly photos from her new owner show a happy, healthy and loved feline.  As I said before, a match made in heaven!

Until next time, here’s wishing you 平安 (Ping Ahn), Peace,  for your week. Stay cool!

 

Posted in A Message of Faith, A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, coronavirus, Coronovirus Situation, Illinois, Luzhou, Luzhou Protestant Church in China, Return to China, Smalltown American Life, The Chinese Church, Travel, Visit To The States, Wuhan coronavirus | Leave a comment

News of rescue kitty 平平 (Ping-Ping): A match made in heaven

The Recap from previous post

Last October, an abandoned newborn kitten was handed to me by a colleague who found her on our campus. Near death and in dire straights, she blossomed with a good dose of antibiotics and round-the-clock care. Her recovery prompted me to find her a name, given by a UMC church group in Flowery Branch, Georgia who had been following her story.  We called her Pingan Hua (Peaceful Flower), or Ping-ping for short.  Below, she is on the mend in December.

Here she is, 7 months later, at the kennel in Luzhou where she’s being housed.

And here I am, clear across the world and stuck in America due to Covid-19, trying desperately to find Ping-ping her forever home.

A long wait has prayers answered

My plea to find rescue Ping-ping a home has been ongoing.  I posted the following in my WeChat moments, hoping once again for someone to contact me.

大家好!我需要你的帮助。 我还在美国。由于感染了病毒,我无法返回中国。 我在沧州的救援需要一个家。 他在宠物店等。 她叫平平。 她是一只雌猫,1岁。 她被人搞砸了。 她是一只室内猫。 她不喜欢住在外面。 她不会损坏家具。 她喜欢其他的猫和狗。 请给平平一个充满爱的幸福家庭。 如果您有兴趣,请与我联系。 告诉你的朋友! 谢谢!!

“Hi, everyone! I need your help. I’m still in America. Due to the virus, I can not yet return to China. My rescue in Luzhou needs a home. She’s waiting at the kennel. Her name is Ping-ping. She is a female cat, 1 year old. She has been spayed. She is an indoor cat. She doesn’t like staying outside. She doesn’t damage furniture. She likes other cats and dogs. Please give Ping-ping a happy family full of love. If you are interested, please contact me. Tell your friends! Thank you!!”

The message, with pictures,  went out on June 26.

2 hours later came the reply: “你可以把它留给我 我会照顾你的猫 我会给她一个好家。”    Leave it to me.  I’ll take care of your cat. I will give her a good home.

From whom, of all people, did this message come?  None other than our former choir director at the Luzhou Protestant Church, Zeng Yujie.

The offer of a forever home

Yujie was very quick to announce in her note to me that she was not busy and wanted to pick up Ping-ping the next day.  She explained she had raised a cat before, calming my concern of a first-time pet owner.

From past experience, I know that Chinese don’t often understand the great responsibility of feline ownership, nor do they want to spend the extra money needed to take ownership seriously:  proper pet food (not their left-over, oily and spicy stir fries with dangerous fish bones), vaccinations (often Chinese don’t bother), store-bought kitty litter (a majority improvise with construction site discarded crumbled brick pieces), plastic litter container (cardboard boxes are used instead) and scratching boards (cats that scratch furniture are sometimes abandoned, thrown into the streets to fend for themselves.)

In China, animal rescuers such as myself have a stressful time placing our charges in good homes.

But Yujie put my fears to rest by immediately sending me a video of her lovely, home where Ping-ping would live, and assured me that the kitty would never be released outside.  She also  included in our WeChat message photos of how prepared she was.  Kitty litter and tray ready to go and one of the best cat food brands we have in China, Royal Canine, all waiting for Ping-ping’s arrival.

A Smooth Pick-up

My next task was to contact the kennel owner and staff to tell them that Ping-ping would be leaving them the next day.  I put the two in contact so they could co-ordinate pick-up times and then anxiously awaited news of kitty’s departure from her 7-month foster compartment at the shop.

Due to time differences, I had to wait an entire nail-biting day until nearly midnight before the “pings!” began on my phone of messages, videos and photos being received.

Yujie arrives, reaching inside to pet her new kitty. I fortuitously left Ping-ping’s carrier as an after-thought, not knowing my 1-month absence would stretch into 7 months. The staff,  in the above, are looking on.

I later received word from the kennel employees that they cried when Ping-ping left them.  She had really grown on them! (But obviously not enough for someone to step up and adopt her.  Hmmmm.)

An Easy Adjustment

At first, Ping-ping was worried and scared when she emerged from her carrier.

Yujie left her alone.

And then came the photos 2 hours later.

Ping-ping contentedly rolling on furniture.

Ping-ping gazing out the window onto the apartment complex below.

Ping-ping perched on top of the piano as Yujie plays hymns and sings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously,  Ping-ping had truly taken to her new home and loving caregiver.  No worries from my end  of her being tossed out into the cruel world.  This kitty was here to stay!

Blessings Abound

It has been 3 weeks since Ping-ping found her forever home.  Yujie has updated me weekly about her new family member’s silly habits and numerous feline activities.  Ping-ping loves her cat food and especially enjoys her evening bowl of goat’s milk, which is to be good for her pretty gray coat, according to her owner.

Being a devout Christian, Yujie gets up every morning at 5 a.m. to send out the scripture readings on her phone to those of us in the daily Bible reading class.  (I am also a member of that church group.). She prays and goes over her lessons as do many Chinese Christians at the Luzhou Protestant Church.  During that time, she shared with me that Ping-ping flops at her feet as she reads aloud Biblical passages for both to ponder over, contemplate and meditate on.

It gladdens my heart to know that Ping-ping’s Christian education is continuing onward. She was first introduced to my faith in my home, when all during December, my student Christmas parties  took place one after another after another.  While I did my best to share with little kitty the true meaning of this season, a very young Ping-ping cared more about batting at Christmas ornaments and playing with sparkly tinsel roping than she did about hearing of Christ’s birth. Good to know that, under Yujie’s faithful tutelage, she might very well become a Christian yet!

Thank you, Yujie,  for giving Ping-ping the perfect home, the perfect life and the perfect  human companion, yourself.  I think I can honestly say this was in every way a match made in heaven.


Posted in A Visit Home to America, China, Chinese Christians reach out, coronavirus, coronavirus, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, My Rescue Animals in China, Tales from The Yangtze River, Tales of China, Travel | 1 Comment

My mom’s last newspaper column for the summer

Walk with Me by Priscilla Wieck

Summer is my usual time to take a break so this is my last column until September. Hopefully in July, I will be moving to 710 Mulberry Street, just a few blocks from the big white house on the corner where I have resided for the last 40 years. It will be different but I am looking forward to a much smaller space to care for and a new flower garden to tend.

Downsizing: From this 1917 home …..

 

to this 1970’s “granny house.”

If this virus situation ever gets resolved, I plan to have an open house so all of you curious readers can see what has been taking place. Right now, it doesn’t appear that much visiting will happen for quite a while so I have plenty of time to get settled in before the big reveal.

Traveling through Books

I haven’t been doing much book reading these past few months since Connie has been here. We have been spending our late summer evenings with Netflix and Amazon Prime and not much time is left for books. In the process of packing up for the move, I found a reference book that I had written about a couple of years ago, Book Lust To Go . “Read Your Way Around the World with Nancy Pearl” is the subtitle. Hundreds of books from many different countries are listed as “recommended reading for travelers, vagabonds and dreamers.”

Ms. Pearl is an armchair traveler, librarian, book lover and a compulsive reader. She must be all of these as she boasts that she has read every book she recommends. Since many of us have now decided to limit our travels because of potential virus exposure, now is a good time to arm chair travel. For my personal reading, I gravitate toward a book series. If you stay with a series, you don’t have to keep finding the next book to read.  Another lies ahead, already selected for you. Guess I am a lazy reader.

Suspense and Intrigue

Dorothy Gilman, an espionage writer has created a heroine who belongs not only to the CIA but to the local garden club. In the first novel (1966), “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax”,Gilman introduces us to Emily Pollifax ,a 60-ish bored New Jersey widow who offers her services to the CIA to find adventure. Through the 14 book series, readers travel to Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, China, Sicily and elsewhere. This series is one of Pearl’s top picks and I am looking forward to joining Emily on her journeys.

Mysteries Galore

If you are a mystery fan, Colin Dexter has penned 13 intriguing novels(1975-1999) set in and around Oxford , England. The novels feature Inspector Endeavor Morse, an ill tempered but lovable Brit , and his partner, Robbie Lewis. Begin reading with Last Bus to Woodstock and you will be hooked. This detective series has been made for British TV and episodes are still shown occasionally on America’s PBS. The novels feature good story lines as well as journeys around the island nation.

Walk for Life

As a walker, I became intrigued with Pearl’s recommendation of “A Walk Across France” by Miles Morland. At the age of 45 ,Moreland left his job as a broker in England and took a hike with his wife, Guislaine across France from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Both he and his wife were in poor physical condition but they committed to walking 20 miles a day. Their journey strengthened not only their health but their marriage according to the Pearl . I am ordering this book from our great library system soon. You can do the same for any of these titles you have interest in.

I agree with Pearl when she recommends Peter Jenkin’s fascinating “A Walk Across America.” Jenkins began his journey with his dog,Cooper, in 1973 in New York and continued to New Orleans where he met the woman who would become his wife. He ended his trek in Florence ,Oregon in 1979, a six year journey. Great reading! Jenkins retired from walking in 2012 and instead made a 2 year drive across America in a 1957 Chevy. That story also makes a good read.

Gearing up for cozy winter reads

I am making a list of other books from Pearl’s listings for my winter reading. The evenings will be longer then and Netflix and Amazon Prime may have lost their attraction. Winter flu and virus restrictions will most likely still be around so we all need something to look forward to. Arm chair traveling through books sounds like a good way to spend a long winter’s night,  doesn’t it?

“The more that you read,

The more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

The more places you’ll go.”–Dr. Suess

Until September, Peace

Posted in Illinois, Travel, Visit To The States, Walk with Me: My mom's newspaper column | 1 Comment

“John Dana, Where are you?”: One mystery somewhat resolved

Recap from June 14th Post, “Dear Chaplain,”

If you haven’t kept up on my entries, I came across hundreds of war letters sent back and forth from my grandmother, Connie Maris, and her husband, Army Chaplain, Captain Marvin Maris, who was serving in New Guinea and the Philippines from 1942-45.

      In those many piles, I found a letter from a mother who wrote to Marvin on July 12, 1945.  Mrs D. B. Dana (Olga H. Dana)  of Kewaunee, Wisconsin,  inquired about her son, John Haney Dana,  whom she hadn’t heard from in 5 months.  She wrote a 2-page, type-written letter describing her situation as a widow, (her husband was a physician)  and her worries concerning John, who had always been an avid writer although a bit of a rebel.  His silence was unusual and was causing great concern.  She had 2 other sons as well, one who was discharged from the Navy due to illness and the other, Mike Dana, who was on a destroyer. 

        I didn’t find any information about my grandfather’s reply to her, which left John’s absence a mystery.  What had become of Olga’s beloved son, John?  POW (Prisoner of War)? Killed in Action?  AWOL (military acronym meaning “absent without leave”)?  Court marshaled and dismissed? In the brig (abbreviation for brigade, with the meaning being imprisoned in a military jail/prison)?  Just plain lazy, too embarrassed with a demotion or too ashamed to confess bad behavior to his poor, worried mamma?

This left me doing some digging.  I didn’t have much  help through the National Archives for WW 2 servicemen so I went to the website of Kewaunee, Wisconsin, where Olga had lived.  There I found a city hall contact email.  I sent out a brief explanation of myself and included a summary of Olga’s July 12, 1945, letter to my grandfather.  Off it went, with me  waiting for a reply.

A Rapid Response

Within just 2 hours, this reply came to my inbox, complete with photos.

Hi Ms. Wieck,

I’m Joe Mills, a Kewaunee city councilman. The clerk forwarded your email to me as I’ve been working on updating our cemetery records.  The photos I’m sending are what I’ve found so far.  Since John’s headstone states he died in 1971 I’m assuming he survived WWII!  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

There are no military plaques for either him nor his brother Byron.  I can’t find anything on Mike Dana, yet.  There is no mention of relatives/offspring of John, Byron, Mike or their parents.  I will research any obituary records I can find to see if there is anybody still alive connected to the family. 

Please feel free to email me with any other thoughts on this that you might have.

A friend of mine is the clerk at Community Congregational Church so I will be checking with her to see if we can expand this search a bit.

Sincerely, Joe Mills

Closure of Sorts

With Joe’s above photos and information, I was able to piece together a bit more  than I’d had before.

  1.  John obviously survived the war, dying at the age of 53 in 1971.  When Olga wrote her letter, he was 27 years old.
  2. Byron passed away in 1975 at the age of 54.  My guess is he is the one whom Olga mentioned as having been discharged from the Navy and living in Santa Fe, NM, when she wrote.
  3. No tombstone for Mike, the youngest of the brothers at age 18 in 1945, as Olga had mentioned.
  4. Olga herself outlived at least two of her sons, having left this world in 1975 at age 83.  She was 54 years old at the time the letter was written.

I did contact Joe, sending him the full letter and I hoped he could find some extended family around the area who could provide more but I never heard back.  I am very grateful, however, for the photos and the knowledge that John must have come home at some point, maybe even taking care of or living with his aging mother until he himself died in 1971.

What a shame that both sons lived only into their 50s while their mom carried on into her 80s.  With no remaining relatives to ask, I find myself still wondering about the family.  What was John’s excuse for not writing?  What did he do after the war?  Whatever happened to youngest son, Mike?  Did Byron return from Santa Fe to be near to his mom?  Did any son marry and have children, although no cemetery marker hints at this?

Despite clearing up one small piece of the puzzle, there seems to be so many more that remain.  I guess I’ll just have to content myself with having one question answered  while a hundred more are left simmering away in this one family’s history of mysteries.

Posted in a Veteran, A Visit Home to Marshall, A WW 2 Chaplain's Duties, Travel, Visit To The States, World War 2 Letters | Leave a comment

It’s Father’s Day! (My mom’s weekly column)

Walk with Me, By Priscilla Wieck

The recent breezy cool mornings have made our early walks pleasant again this week. I have been trying to remember to check out the interesting outdoor sit places that are attached to some of the older homes in town. Several look so inviting, it makes me want to try them out. Lots of work and imagination have gone into these little nooks and crannies.

Adapting an older house for modern living can be challenging but rewarding. Many families in our town have found creative ways to include not only sitting places but outdoor cooking areas as well. (Below:  Our hostas’ haven provides a sheltered cubbyhole for our backyard rabbit families and the back deck was a favorite of husband Bill for his cookouts.)

Father’s Day is Upon Us

In case it slipped up on you, this Sunday, June 21st, is Father’s Day. All forms of advertising media have tried to help readers find gifts for the big day. I have noticed that many of these suggestions are geared to be helpful for outdoor grilling. We know that most men want their steaks or burgers grilled to their own liking so being “king of the grill” ensures that. Bill received his share of Chief Cook aprons and long-handled barbecue tools over his many fatherhood years. He presided at countless cookouts while making sure his steaks were medium red and his burgers juicy.

The Gift List

CNN decided to take a different look at available gifts for fathers this year. Yesterday, they posted on line a list of 19 gadget gifts for the big day. Some of these suggestions have universal appeal as they are not just grill related. In case you are a late gift purchaser, they will still be available on line after Sunday and your “gift is coming” cards are available to download now.

The first item that caught my interest is called Fit Track. It is advertised as letting you see inside your body. Using your smart phone and the accompanying smart scale , you can take a free physical exam at home, monitoring 17 key health insights including body fat, muscle and bone mass and hydration levels. Maybe some things are better unknown?

I might actually send for this next gadget:  Peeps Carbon Technology, NASA’s solution for dirty eye glasses (now available to the public).  Peeps utilizes soft carbon microfiber pads to eliminate oil and fingerprints instead of those cloths and sprays that end up just smearing lenses and making them worse. At least that’s my experience. If it’s astronaut endorsed it has to work, doesn’t it? Glasses’ wearers rejoice!

FIXD is a gadget that both mothers and fathers who commute to work would appreciate. It tells you why your check engine light is on, how severe it is and how much the repair should cost. The company claims that it easily plugs into any gas, diesel or hybrid car from 1996 onwards. It also adds that FIXD can alert the car owner to 17,000 potential mechanical issues in real time. Scam mechanics beware!

For outdoor family time , BUZZB-GONE’s company advertises that its product is “the ultimate protection from mosquitoes.”  It is a small, round light devise that uses UV light to attract insects and a 360 degree suction fan to capture them. It is said to be safe for children and pets, kills without using chemicals, and is perfect for camping and outdoor gatherings.  It can also can be used indoors. Might help with those June arrivals of buffalo gnats maybe?

Another gift for Father that might benefit family members is the DODOW,  touted as being “the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have.”  It is a small, metronome light that is scientifically designed to block out overactive thought patterns and lull you into a deep peaceful sleep. Users claim that they fall asleep before the 8-minute sound mode ends and after a few months, their brain is trained to fall asleep without using it. It combines yoga, meditation and behavioral therapy. Fathers who get a good night’s sleep are happy fathers, aren’t they?

There are many other suggestions for Father’s Day gift gadgets on the CNN website. Prices aren’t listed, so beware.

Missing our Fathers

For those of us whose fathers are no longer living, Sunday will be a day of remembrance. It will be a time to tell the family stories of “Remember when Dad ….?”  It will be bittersweet for some and painful for others but there will be memories of love and happy times scattered in between.  So to all fathers everywhere—Happy Father’s Day! And thank you for being great Dads.

“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” —-Billy Graham

Peace

Husband and Father Bill, years ago, taking care of manly duties mowing the lawn. To all fathers everywhere, put up your feet and enjoy the love of your family on this special day.

Posted in A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, Father's Day, Illinois, Smalltown American Life | 2 Comments