Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  It's hard to believe it is almost 2010 (3 more hours to go)!  Thank you so much for all the concentrated prayers during this Christmas season.  I have really sensed God's presence, and while it has been a hard time, "the joy of the Lord" has been my strength.

I just got back from seeing Glenn.  The past 2-3 days the pain has diminished considerably so the doctor has started lowering his dosage of Methadone.  As the pain is going away on it's own, there will be no need to do a nerve block now, which on one hand is a relief.  For about 3 weeks now, Glenn has been sleeping most of his days and nights away, so as you can imagine he has gotten quite weak.  The last 2 mornings he has had raspy breathing, which is beginning to concern us.  The doctor says his lungs sound clear so far, but we are keeping our eyes on it.  We are hoping that once the Methadone dosage is lowered, Glenn's mind will clear up and he will be able to be awake more and able to think clearly.  Besides that, there really isn't much else to report.

All the best to each of your in the coming year.

Till next time....



Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Another Christmas!!!!  It’s so hard to believe another year is almost over.  Wow!!  May this be a blessed season for all of you.  Thanks so much for standing with us in prayer and for all your encouragement.

Glenn is still in the hospital.  Not much has changed.  He usually wakes up around 3:00 a.m. with a lot of pain and it takes until about 9:30 a.m. before the drugs kick in to make him comfortable enough to be able to sleep.  He then spends most of the day sleeping so that when I go to see him in the evening he is a bit more alert and able to visit for a bit.  As it is the Christmas and there are a number of days off around this time of hear, not much else is happening.  The doctor told me they will probably do the nerve block next week.  He is still hopeful that the radiation will work, but I’m beginning to wonder as it’s been two weeks now since he had his radiation treatments.  Besides that, there really is not much else to report.  We are weary and at times feel overwhelmed, but we continue to persevere knowing that God is in control and our lives are in his hand.

God bless you and Happy New Year!



Sunday, December 20, 2009


Hi!  Just wanted to write a quick note to let you know that Glenn is back in the hospital.  Last weekend was a nightmare as far as the pain was concerned, so on Tuesday, the doctor decided the best thing would be to change Glenn's medication from the pain pump to Methadone and oral drug.  He told us, though, that it is very difficult  to figure out the proper dosage with Methadone, so he wanted Glenn in the hospital for the switch over.  Thursday night was the worst night of pain for Glenn yet, so when the doctor came to see him in the morning he told Glenn he was going to increase the dosage, but he would be very sleepy.  By that time, Glenn was about ready for anything and he agreed so for the last 2 days Glenn has been sleeping most of the time.  Yesterday Glenn woke up with a fever and his hemoglobin was down to 69, so blood cultures and other tests were done to see if he has an infection of some kind and he was given another 2 bags of blood last night.  When I saw him last night he had better color and was more alert so the extra blood seems to have helped him a bit. 

Please pray for peace for Glenn.  He is quite discouraged by this latest turn of events.  I will try to keep you informed.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

My song for 2009 Christmas season

Each year, I seem to get some silly Christmas song in my mind.  Last year, it was “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”  This year, it’s this little classic. So, I thought I would share it with you. Enjoy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Home from the hospital

Well, I am home.  I still feel pretty drugged up and everything I wrote in the previous blog still holds.  I am exhausted and simply worn out.  Pray that God will restore my strength at this time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How does one keep one’s faith when heavily drugged?

Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of The Voice of the Martyrs, readily admitted that of all of the tortures that he faced, it was the use of drugs by his persecutors that he found the most difficult. When I first read that over 12 years ago, I could not grasp the truth of what he was referring to, especially not when I had read of the horrific physical tortures that he had endured.

Now, as I struggle to write each line of this blog, I understand Pastor Wurmbrand’s words far better.

Right now I am in hospital undergoing radiation treatment. My doctor is hoping to shrink cancerous lymph nodes in my lower back and pelvic region that have increased in size and are pressing against nerves, causing a great deal of pain.

To counter this pain, I am taking painkillers that are increasingly hindering my ability to think clearly. Emotionally, these drugs are making me fragile and insecure, and my inability to remember details is only reinforcing this.

Yes, I can understand why Pastor Wurmbrand felt that drugs were the greatest challenge that he had faced in his years of torture. You find yourself in a position when you wonder how successful you are really being in controlling your mind, mouth, or emotions. You simply don’t know. You fear what you might have said but which you cannot remember. You cannot remember Bible verses that were once precious to you. You cannot remember things that you know you should know (right now, for example, I cannot remember how many years Pastor Wurmbrand was in prison. I should know this and I could look it up, but it is good that you know what I am referring to. I simply do not remember if it was 12 or 14 years).

When drugged up, you find it harder to retain one’s confession of faith and truth when you cannot control your tongue. Of course, I am sure of God’s faithfulness at times like this. But drugs make you wonder what is real was real and what was drug-induced. Perhaps your past faithfulness was just a ruse. Guilt becomes a constant companion.

To that end, I ask you to pray for me during this time. More importantly, pray for Christian prisoners who undergo such drug-induced torture daily. For me, there is hope that it will end soon. For many of them, there is no such hope.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cry for help on a Sunday morning

Woke up at 5:30 this morning when my roommate decided that he needed to have his light on. Thankfully, he obliged when I asked him to turn it off. What amazes me are people who think that it would have have been a good idea to begin with. I could not tell what he as doing that required illumination.

But that kind of ruined my night, especially as the pain in my legs and thighs began to increase in earnest. As I write this, I am trying to supplement my regular pain killers with boluses every 30 minutes. Not helping much. “God help me!” is the only cry that I can utter right now. It is probably all I need to pray. It is sound and honours Him.

I am struck by the people who are trying to help my roommate. It think it is his wife or girlfriend right now. She is literally bombarding him with questions. Not surprisingly, he is not answering most of them. I am sure that deep inside, he is simply saying, “Please be quiet and just be here for me. I will ask if I need something.” I am sure she is well-meaning though. But care-giving is a gift, not a natural talent for fallen human beings, it seems to me. Perhaps it can be training but the best are those who just seem to know how to do it, I’ve met a few people like this and I have to be careful not to measure everyone else against them. That would be grossly unfair, wouldn’t it?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

In the hospital

I ended up in the hospital yesterday after I woke up and found that the drugs that I had been given for the pain were far too strong.  Denita took my in for my first radiation treatment but then they checked me into the oncology ward to get my drug regiment until control.  I was also undergoing a lot of pain from the radiation treatment.  Frankly, I don’t remember a lot about yesterday.

So, here I sit.  The pain in my legs is under control, but my head is sill a bit fuzzy. 

On Monday, I pick up with the radiation treatment that they hope will shrink the lymph nodes that are pressing up against my nerves.  I really hope that this gets to the bottom of the problem.  I really do.

Thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Prodded, poked, and then zapped

As we are seeking to get to the bottom of what is causing me such pain in my bottom, it would appear that my lymph nodes in my abdomen are pressing in on some nerves causing me the pain that I have been experiencing over the past three weeks. So, starting tomorrow morning at 8:30, I will be beginning a round of radiation treatment that will last for five days. The doctors hope that this will shrink the nodes and ease up the pressure on my nerves, which would sure be nice. I must confess that this constant pain, though it waxes and wanes and is by far the most severe in the mornings, has really been hard on me emotionally.

It is amazing, of course, that we have been able to get these appointments so quickly. God’s hand is certainly at work in this.

But I am growing tired of going from one crisis to another with few breaks in between. I am saddened by changes in my life that I know have needed to be made but which leave me feeling like I will never be able to reach my potential. I watch how all of this wears my wife down and it hurts me to see her so tired and so burdened. Yes, we agreed to be in this “for better or for worse” but I would have liked to have given her more of the “for better.” And every time I start feeling good again and hope rises anew that perhaps I might be able to live out a little more of my life with some degree of normality, then I am struck down again with another affliction.

Yes, I am whining a bit. But is that so wrong from time to time?

It does mean that we need your prayers in the days to come. Please pray that this radiation treatment really will address this pain.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer."

As part of my daily devotional practice over the past few months, I have been reading a chapter or two from Mike Mason’s book The Gospel According to Job. This morning’s reading was especially helpful to me in light of my present circumstances. For those of you who have been reading my personal blog, you will have known that I have been experiencing severe pain in my lower torso and left leg for over two weeks. Job’s words in 30:20 have been my cry as well, just as I know that they are the cry of God’s persecuted children worldwide. I hope that you find these words a blessing as I have.

True Prayer
"I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer." (30:20)

In the Bible we often read of people "crying out to the Lord." But what does it mean to "cry out"? Does it mean to express oneself demurely to God, with polite restraint, using the well-worn, time-honored phrases of the conventional prayer meeting? Or do the words "cry out" suggest more the sort of sound a man might make whose legs have just been caught up in a piece of machinery? "Surely [God] will save you from the fowler's snare;" sings the psalmist (91:3). A snare is a leghold trap, a contrivance designed to catch an animal and hold it until it dies of shock or starvation, condemning it in the meanwhile to hopeless struggle and horror. Is this not the sort of situation that might bring a human being to the point of crying out to God?

There is no true prayer without agony. Perhaps this is the problem in many of our churches. What little prayer we have is shallow, timid, carefully censored, and full of oratorical flourishes and hot air. There is little agony in it, and therefore little honesty or humility. We seem to think that the Lord is like everyone else we know, and that He cannot handle real honesty. So we put on our Sunday best to visit Him, and when we return home and take off our fancy duds we are left alone with what is underneath: the dirty underwear of hypocrisy.

Why do we flatly refuse to bring real emotions to our prayer meetings? Do we think that the public humbling of ourselves before the Lord should always be a pretty and an enjoyable thing? Do we think the Lord is only honored so long as our own public image and personal dignity are in no way compromised? But the truth is just the opposite: only when we ourselves are prepared to lose face can the Lord's face begin to shine through. It is for Him to exalt us; our part is to humble ourselves. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14).

Even in our private prayers, let alone in our public ones, we Christians have a way of tiptoeing around the throne of God as if He were an invalid or a doddering old man. But who do we think we are kidding? The Lord always knows exactly what we are feeling. He knows all there is to know about us. There is not a shadow of doubt or anger or hate in our hearts but God sees it. So why not just lay all our cards on the table? Real prayer is playing straight with God. If we have never cried out to the Lord, perhaps it is because we have not realized the true horror of our situation. We need to be careful that we do not grow so preoccupied with maintaining our spiritual equilibrium that we regard it as unseemly to cry out to God.

At bottom, probably what we are most afraid of in prayer is that no answer will come, and that then we will be left worse off than before. But true prayer has two parts: first there is the crying out, and then there is the waiting for an answer. If we are the sort of people who insist on having instant answers, then we shall certainly lack the courage to cry out. Though we might continue to go through the motions of prayer, we will have given up on the real thing.

Towards the end of the book of Jeremiah, the nation of Judah was on its last legs. It had been conquered by the Babylonians, and most of its people had been led away into captivity. Only a small remnant was left under the puppet governor Gedaliah. But when Gedaliah was assassinated by a rebel, suddenly even these survivors were in peril, for everyone knew that a brutal reprisal could be expected from the Babylonians. So what were they to do? What they did, surprisingly, was to go to the prophet Jeremiah and beg him to consult the Lord for them. Furthermore they bound themselves to obey God's Word no matter what. Their situation was desperate. They were crying out. Jeremiah agreed to pray for them.

At this point, we read one of the most astounding understatements in the Bible: "Ten days later the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah" (42:7). Imagine! Ten days later! Who could possibly wait ten days under such circumstances? Did the Lord not understand that this was a dire emergency? After ten days, naturally, the people had already made up their minds to ignore God's answer and to do exactly what they felt like doing: run like crazy down to Egypt. When the pressure was on, they performed the first requirement of prayer admirably: they cried out to the Lord. But for the second half of prayer they had no stomach. They could not wait for an answer.

[Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job. Crossway, 1994: 309-310. Available to order from The Voice of the Martyrs]

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The latest news

shootingpain It’s been a while since we did a thorough update on my health and that’s not because things have been uneventful.  So here goes….

While my haemoglobin and energy levels have been excellent, I have been experiencing a great deal of pain in my left hip and leg for the past two weeks.  We wondered if perhaps it was unrelated to my cancer and just a matter of something being out in my back. However, Dr. Sauls, our main doctor, suspects that lymph nodes in my torso are pushing and pinching a nerve that is sending this shooting pain down my leg.  Hence, he has increased my prednisone levels to see if the nodes will shrink down and next week we will be perhaps looking at radiation treatment.  He has ordered an MRI for next week as well to see if he can see where the problem really is. 

In the meantime, I am on increased painkillers and daily seeing a chiropractor to deal with the pain.  Mornings are horrendous, I must say. The pain is sometimes almost unbearable.

So, we would very much appreciate your prayers in the coming days.  This has been quite a discouraging turn of events I must confess.  It really feels sometimes like we never get a break for very long and we would like to get off of this rollercoaster.  Pray that the Lord will keep our spirits up and close to His at this time.  He has been faithful and we want to be faithful to Him even when we don’t understand what He is doing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A real pain in the butt

It has certainly been an entertaining week for the Penner household, if entertaining is the right word. As I mentioned in my blog on Sudany, I have had some considerable shooting pain in my lower back and left leg (a pinched nerve obviously than made even sitting a real pain). It got much worse in the past few days. Much worse!!

On the other hand, my energy level has been great and I have been able to go to the office every day this week (and plan to go in for the remaining two days).  

So, here I was with great energy levels but incredible pain.  It just didn’t seem fair.

I have to admit that for a few minutes yesterday I was slightly annoyed at God; why does it always seem that there is some health issue that I am having to deal with?  If it isn’t cancer, it’s shingles, or cracked ribs or back pain or low hemoglobin levels.  I guess I was just tired of never being able to say that I am doing “fine” without some condition being put on the comment.

But God is God and I am not. He is also my Father and I know that He is control of my life, even when I don’t understand the “why” of everything that happens to me.  So, we walk by faith.

Anyway, the back pain is finally letting up after having gone to the chiropractor every morning this week.  I am hopeful that the rest of the week will be a little less a pain in the butt (quite literally).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Back feeling a bit better

The back is feeling a little better this evening. The pain diminished over the afternoon. Please pray for a good night and that I won't have the same problem tomorrow. I have meetings tomorrow with staff and potential donors for the mission. Would be nice not to have to hobble and wince through them.

Please pray

I am asking for your urgent prayers for severe lower back pain that I have been experiencing since last night.  It started a few days ago, but last night the pain began shooting down my left leg and this morning I am in considerable pain.  There’s just no relief from it.  Thanks for praying.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Woo hoo and praise the Lord

My blood tests today showed that my hemoglobin level continues to be really good (for me) and so no transfusion again this week and another two week break until my next appointment. Woo yoo!! And praise the Lord

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The blessing of uselessness

With the decline of my health over the past year, one of the issues that I struggle with is a sense of uselessness since I can no longer do many of the things that I used to be able to do in my service for the persecuted around the world.  Watching my colleagues do things that I once did and found so much pleasure in is hard.  It is easy to feel…useless and unneeded.  I don’t say that to sound whiney.  I think many who go through suffering often feel this way, especially if they have lived active lives.

This morning, however, I read the following during my devotion time from Mike Mason’s The Gospel According to Job.  I hope you are as blessed and challenged by this as I was.


“Oh, for the days when I was in my prime,
When God’s intimate friendship blessed my house.” (29:4)

Suffering, like the enemy who causes it, is a many-headed beast, and one of the heads is called Uselessness. A sufferer’s existence can seem so pointless, so stagnant and unworthy. Little wonder that Job’s mood in this chapter is one of intense nostalgia as he longs for “the good old days” when not only was he blessed by God, but when God’s blessing enabled him to bless others. Such feelings are perfectly human and understandable. We all want to be useful and productive. But one of the things we learn from the many set-backs of life is that God, in His wisdom, has a use for uselessness. The Lord Himself seems to be fond of standing around and doing nothing. When we imitate Him in this, the Bible calls it “waiting on the Lord.” But just think of how God waits on us! For thousands of years He has waited for mankind to turn to Him. Right now it is just as though He were standing on a street corner outside our home, hands in His pockets, whistling a gospel tune, waiting for us to keep our appointment with Him. Are we too busy with more pressing matters? Being useless, it seems, is not an important enough activity for us, and so we leave it to God.

Of course it is true that, as Jesus taught, “My Father is always working” (John 5:17). But to our human eyes God’s work often looks like idleness. His methods can appear so lackadaisical, so they involve pain on our part. Suffering puts us out of commission (at least from our perspective), so that we can no longer work, no longer contribute, no longer do much of value. Without this intense feeling of uselessness, suffering and even dying might not seem half so bad. Perhaps it is even true that the very soul of suffering is not so much pain itself, in all its forms, as it is the simple humiliation of having all our plans brought to a standstill, the indignity of being made to stop and wait.

How interesting it is that when the Lord appeared to Moses, and later to Joshua, to each of them He said the same thing: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Ex. 3:5; Josh. 5:15). Why should you take off your shoes in the Lord’s presence? Because without shoes you are not going anywhere. You might try to walk, but you will not get very far, especially in the hot sand and sharp rocks of the wilderness. Taking off one’s shoes may not be quite as drastic as cutting off one’s feet, but it amounts to the same thing. Barefootedness means immobilization, and so it is a symbol of submission. Being immobile (in other words, having nothing better to do) is a prerequisite for worship, and worship is the prerequisite for all activity, all service.

Many churches today are eager to mobilize for the Lord, but without paying much attention to the prior and greater work of immobilization. We need to learn how to kick off our shoes and discover that the place where we are standing is holy. When Daniel saw a vision of the Ancient of Days on His throne, “ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” And what was this multitude doing? Not much. All we are told is that “the court was seated, and the books were opened.” And without anyone moving an inch four powerful empires were destroyed (Dan. 7:10-12). In Heaven, apparently, they know the meaning of the saying, “Don’t just do something—stand there!”

The people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and the soles of their shoes never wore out. Why not? Because they only moved at the Lord’s command. In many ways they were disobedient, but in this one point they were constrained to obey because pillars of cloud and of fire were hanging over them. If today we find our souls (pun intended) wearing out, it may be because we are running around doing a lot of things that the Lord has not told us to do. We want to be fruitful. We want to work for our church and contribute to our society. We want to do something, not simply believe. When circumstances are such that we cannot do anything, we get restless and squirm, and just like Job we think back on our full and productive days and we long to see them return. We long to go back, not just so we can feel good again, but so we can get on with our “real work,” get on with making our contribution.

But listen to the words of Catherine Doherty: “If you want to see what a ‘contribution’ really is, look at the Man on the cross. That’s a contribution. When you are hanging on a cross you cannot do anything because you are crucified.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Feeling not so great

The last couple of days haven’t been so great for me. I am feeling short of breath again and my chest feel slightly congested at night. I am hoping that it is not a sign of a new cold or pneumonia again. Wouldn’t that be great! It’s been great feeling good the last few weeks. It’s discouraging to be feeling down again, to be honest.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A few notes about Mississauga

Mississauga is probably one of the least known cities in Canada, even by Canadians.  A lot of that probably has to do with our close proximity to Toronto.

But did you realize that Canada's sixth largest city with 730,000 residents and 55,000 businesses, including 61 Fortune 500 companies with Canadian head offices or major divisional head offices?

Yes, the traffic can be bad here and people drive too fast. Yes, we do not have a decent local paper.  But I must say that I like living here.  And we are certainly NOT just a part of Toronto.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Week in review

Friday night and I’m bushed. Went to the office today and it was great.  Part of it included an hour long session of teaching of some of our newer staff from the last couple of years who have not had the opportunity to sit through one of my theology of persecution seminars. I enjoyed it, though I don’t think that I could do more than an hour of teaching. Still, it was great doing one of the things that I enjoy the most.

All in all, a great week.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday without a clinic appointment

It really felt strange today to spend a Thursday without having to go to the hospital or the clinic.  I liked it a lot.  I am still feeling fine and hope that I can go the whole week without having to check in. 

Thanks for your prayers. Much appreciated. Wish I had more to report.  Actually, I’m glad that I don’t.  :-)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pics of my nephew

I just got some great pictures from my brother Brian of his son, Jacob’s 4th birthday and Halloween party.  I thought I would post them so you can see what a cute nephew I have.  Man, I wish I lived closer so I could get to know this little guy better.   Happy Birthday, Jacob. Your Uncle Glenn really loves you!

Jacob's 4th B-day & Halloween 001 Trick or treat!
Jacob's 4th B-day & Halloween 045 The Birthday boy!
Jacob's 4th B-day & Halloween 047Wearing the birthday horn hat at Montana’s.  Guess he wasn’t that impressed, apparently

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ever wondered?

Ever wondered who was the first to see a cow and think, "I wonder what happens if I squeeze these dangly things?" 

Or what would ever possess someone to think that maybe it might be a good idea to ride a wild horse? And having been thrown the first time (probably painfully), whatever would possess that same person to try again?

Ever wondered something? Share it…

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Haemoglobin continues to rise

My blood tests today were a real surprise to me and to my doctor as my haemoglobin levels continue to rise, meaning that my bone marrow is continuing to produce red blood cells.  Today’s levels were at 107, as compared to 97 last week.  The doctor simply said, “I don’t understand why!”

I certainly give the credit to the prayers that so many of you continue to bring before the Lord on my behalf. Thanks so much!  Now I don’t have to go back for two weeks! Will be nice to have a break for a week.

As for the H1N1 shots, I am going to wait a few days until hopefully the current panic calms down and the line-ups become more manageable. The idea of waiting for 4-5 hours in crowds with coughing kids just seems to me to be a foolish thing for an immuno-compromised person to be asked to do.  What annoys me is how the Health Minister actually said that she was glad to see these line-ups, as it was an indication that people were taking the risk seriously.  I see it as a sign that they didn’t plan on how to handle the high risk patients first.  Right now they are allowing any Tom, Dick or Henry to line-up with their families, regardless of age, leaving those of us who were supposed to get the shots first waiting in the shadows hoping that we don’t get sick before we can finally shuffle in and get the shot.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday night update

Well, it’s Monday night and I’m sitting here watching television, which isn’t uncommon for me on a Monday.  Some of my favorite shows are (CSI: Miami, House, and Lie to Me) all on Monday night.  Frustratingly enough, we are into reruns already but thankfully my memory is so poor that I often forget the basic story lines and so I can usually rewatch them again without too much boredom.

How am I feeling?  Still feeling pretty good, though I am not going to the office because others on staff have colds and that is about the last thing I need right now.  Besides most of what I need now is now here at my home office. Tomorrow I plan to rewrite the section of my book on Philemon.  I’ll probably post it online on the theology of persecution research website. Should be fun!   

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Canadian police chase

For those of you who don’t live in Canada, you have no idea just how true to life this ad is…

Friday, October 23, 2009

Windows 7: Trust me

Even though I am a PC user, this is just too funny…

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Feeling great

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503Glad to report that for the last week, I have been feeling great.  Praise the Lord!  My energy is good, my mind is clear and I have been sleeping well.  Thanks for your prayers.

I just received my t-shirt from my niece, Alicia which her team put together recently in their funding raising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada’s Light the Night event in Calgary on the evening of September 26.  Our team named themselves after my favourite YouTube cartoon “Llamas with Hats”. Not bad, eh?

Thanks Alicia for all your hard work!  You’re the best!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from the Penners

As you can tell, we are all together for Thanksgiving this year!  What a joy!  Denita’s Mom & Dad are also down from Alberta so we have a houseful for dinner today.  Was a delicious meal.  Am I ever glad that I got my appetite back!  The turkey was perfect this year.

I’m getting stronger day by day, slowly recuperating from the pneumonia.  Just have to pace myself.  Thanks for your prayers. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Glenn Penner: The Final Journey

Recently Cheryl Weber of 100 Huntley Street did an interview with me (which will air this Friday) regarding my seven year battle with cancer and how working with the persecuted church has impacted and been impacted by that.  I am amazed and humbled by the end result.  Cheryl has captured my heart exactly in this interview and the legacy that I hope to leave behind.    On behalf of my myself and my entire family, I want to thank Cheryl for this incredible gift.

You can also view this video on our multimedia site!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday update

It’s been quite a week. I have been home since Wednesday, though I had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance on Thursday due to some terrible chest pains that they still don’t quite understand where they came from.  But I ended up home again and am almost finished with the antibiotics that they are giving me. Tomorrow is the last day. I look forward to being finished with them.  Either they or something else I am taking has been causing me anxiety again over the last 18 hours.  Not as bad as a week ago, but disconcerting nonetheless.  I would appreciate your prayers as I find it very disturbing.  I feel closed in and panicky for no reason at all.  As a result, I had a terrible sleep last night and am rather drowsy today.  But I can’t really sleep due to the anxiety.  So, it’s a vicious circle.  What a life….

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Latest update from Denita

Thanks for all the prayers.  My head is spinning with all that has happened in the past week.  It's unbelievable the difference one day can make.  As I said in my last email Saturday was a really hard day for Glenn as he suffered from the effects of the steroid they had been giving him.  He didn't have a great night that night and called me quite early Sunday morning asking if I could come down to the hospital.  Overnight (Saturday night) things had gotten worse.  His pneumonia got worse, he developed a fever and his cancer count had gone up.  The doctor told us in the morning that the bronchoscopy test did not show pneumocystis, so he was going to take him off the antibiotics he was on and would put him on a stronger one to see if that would have any affect on the pneumonia.  Glenn slept most of the day on Sunday, and we were pretty worried about him.  When I saw him Monday morning, however, he had a slight fever, but he had had a good sleep during the night and was feeling quite a bit better.  As the day progressed, he continued to improve and today he is better than I have seen him for 2-3 weeks.  The doctor told him this morning that he will be having an x-ray tomorrow and, as the antibiotics have to be given intravenously, if homecare can be arranged to do that, he will probably be able to come home towards the end of this week.  Phew....the roller coaster ride of emotions is incredible!  Anyways, this just confirms to me that prayer is important and so I just want to say again thank you.



Monday, September 28, 2009

Please… no more health advice.

May I make a request that you please not send me any more comments encouraging me to try this or that diet.  In the last 6 years I had heard of them all and tried a few of them that I thought seemed reasonable.

But frankly few of you seem to realize that cancer is multifaceted and what works for one may not work for another.  I also find such comments of little comfort as I struggle to check my emails a couple of times a day.  It is very frustrating to have to deal with multiple unsolicited health advice, regardless of how well-meaning it is. It is too reminiscent of Job’s friends.  Hence, I am not approving any of these comments, nor am I going to read them.  I am simply asking for your prayer; not for your advice.  Thanks for your help in this way.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Glenn is hospital (update from Denita)

Before I shut my computer down for the night, I thought I'd better send out an update.  Since Glenn started taking the antibiotics this week for his pneumonia, he has been so nauseous.  When he couldn't quit wretching this morning, I called the doctor and they have decided to put him in the hospital so that they can give him his meds intravenously.  We still don't know for sure what kind of pneumonia he has, so he is having some tests for that, but I feel a whole lot better knowing he is where he can get the care he needs.  When he gets sick like this, I feel so helpless.  I'll keep you posted when I know more.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Update from my dear wife

Thought I would send out a quick update as I know many of you don't read Glenn's blogs.  The past couple of weeks have been rough for Glenn.  Even though his blood levels have been up above the 80 mark for 3 weeks in a row now, he has been feeling increasingly worse - very tired and having a lot of problems with his breathing.  Sunday and Monday he woke up with nausea and wretching/vomiting, so yesterday we made a special trip to see the doctor.  Again his blood levels were fine, so the doctor decided to do an x-ray to see if that would show us anything.  Sure enough, something has shown up on his left lung and the doctor is pretty sure Glenn has some form of pneumonia.  Since the doctor isn't sure what kind of pneumonia it is yet, he started Glenn on a couple of different antiobiotics and has ordered further tests.  Today (Tuesday) Glenn will have a blood test to test for CMV and we are waiting for a call from the respirologist for an appointment for a bronchoscopy to test for another kind of bacteria.  If the bronchoscopy shows that Glenn has pneumocystis, the treatment for that is high a dose of antibiotic for a longer period of time.  Glenn was quite worried last night about how he was going to sleep because every time he would lay down, he would get panicky.  After a bit of a struggle and some intense nausea, he was able to get to sleep and actually slept all night.  We covet your prayers again at this time.

Please continue to pray for David too as we still haven't gotten to the bottom of his problem yet.  Some days the struggle seems too heavy, and yet I'm am confident that God is good, He has a plan, and He will give the grace and strength we need for each day.



Monday, September 21, 2009


This morning we went to the clinic after feeling like roadkill again wehn I woke up. After a chest x-ray, it clearly showed that I have some sort of pneumonia. They will be treating me for both the "garden variety" and a more complicated one that need a bronchoscopy to diagnose for sure. So here we go with the antibiotics again. But at least we know what is wrong. But man, I feel bad and the humidity today only makes things worse.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Job’s friends

While I appreciate the good intentions of most people, I do wonder if people are the least bit aware of the message they send to someone who is chronically sick when they send them books like “Why Christians Get Sick” (like I got this week) or information on the latest health or vitamin craze that worked from so-and-so’s cancer (a totally different kind from mine). Again, I know people mean well, but it feels so much like the advice of Job’s friends who didn’t know well enough to stay silent in the face of long-term and unexplainable illness.

As my health continues to decline, I really don’t need to be told that I could have done something differently or that it is time to try some radical, unproven, expensive treatment. As I have shared before, we have decided not to pursue this approach, largely because there is pretty much no chance that it will do anything more than just make my remaining time nasty and unpleasant. Perhaps this is what I am going through now. And yes, I keep hoping for some relief from what I am experiencing. And I will look for that. But an ultimate cure? No, that is not on the horizon; of this I am sure. I just wish people could realize that life is more than living at any cost.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I’m discouraged

It hasn’t been often that I have fallen into a pit of discouragement, but I have to admit that I am definitely in one today. I woke up early this morning feeling weak and like I was suffocating. Struggling through the morning, I finally started feeling a bit better around 12:20 pm but, to be honest, it has been a terrible, no good, rotten day.  I tried to do some writing on Mark 4, but can’t seem to concentrate long enough to do it.  My nose is constantly running and my ability to type seems to be getting worse as the numbness in my left hand, while not getting worse, is obviously here to stay.  I have never been a good typist; now I am seriously bad and makes it hard to write much.  I really could use your prayers.  So could Denita. Unfortunately, when I get up early, so does she, as in my present state there isn’t much that I can do on my own.

I was so hoping that the meds for high blood sugar would help. Maybe they still will. But I was sure feeling better yesterday than I am today.

On a positive note, I have a meeting on Monday that I am looking forward to (if I can drag my sorry butt to the office).  Please pray that God will guide.  I’ll give you more details later as I am able.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Weekly update

For the third week in a row, my blood levels are stable.  But why, then, am I so tired and out of breath?

We may have found out why.  High blood sugar level.  In fact, really quite high. The cause?  Probably the prednisone I have been on for years.

So, hopefully with the new med, I’ll be back to a greater sense of normality in the next few days, once I start on it tomorrow.  I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, please keep praying.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Breathing not so easily

One would think that with good blood result that I would be feeling batter than I am.  For the second week in a row, my haemoglobin levels are well above what I need for a transfusion (they were identical this week than last).  And my platelet levels have actually increased from last week!  All of this ios great news, as it shows that my body is still creating what I need.

But at the same time, my stamina and lung capacity is markedly worse.  As long as I don’t exert myself much, I’m okay.  But walking, climbing stairs, carrying things even a short distance, exhausts me.  Both yesterday and today I ended up having to take a nap in the morning just to recuperate from rather light exertion.   I am finding that I can only work at the office for half a day now before I have to come home.  I can work from home alright, but that’s because everything is right at arm’s length.

I am going to start some breathing exercises to see if I can’t build some capacity.

Add to that, I am really worried about Denita. She is so tired all of the time.  She needs a rest so badly, 

Friday, September 11, 2009

Join in the Heroes of Heart Gala

I have a great family!  I really do.  And it’s things like this that remind me of this.  The following is something that they have written up and asked if it could be posted on my blog.  So, with a real sense of unworthiness for the kind words that they have written (because I know that I am not nearly worthy of the accolades), I am honoured to urge you to get involved in the Heros of Heart Gala on September 19 in Didsbury, Alberta. If you can’t attend, check out for others ways that you can support this worthy cause.

Heroes of Heart Gala: Courage runs in the blood

In honour of Glenn, a true hero in our eyes, the Penner family has taken on a special event on September 19 in the multi-purpose room at the Didsbury Memorial Complex. His courage and determination have touched us in the deepest places of our hearts and we want to celebrate that.

The “Heroes of Heart Gala” has something for everyone. This is no small event; if you’re in area, you won’t want to miss it!

Ladies young and old, if you enjoy classical string quartets, be sure to purchase your tickets in plenty of time and reserve a seat. The Lilly String Quartet ( is a highly professional ensemble, all of whom play with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. They have recently returned from a Western Canada tour and are ready to touch your heart with the sweet sound of strings. Tea and squares will be served at 3:00 pm. Those who purchase a ticket to the tea will be able to purchase a ticket for half price for the evening event.

At 5:30 we kick it back western style with beef on a bun, silent auction, photo show and sale, and live country entertainment. We will have local talent, Monika with a K who will also have a band with her. Her band includes pianist Jerry Proppe ( and guitarist Brent Saklofske (, along with a drummer and a bass player. We will also hear from Mary Ellen Goslin, award winning vocalist and yodeler. Bidding for the silent auction begins at 6:00 and closes at 8:00. The evening will also include a twist on a traditional “murder mystery dinner”. It will be a sort of “Theft Mystery Dinner”. Guaranteed, some fiend will show up who has the audacity to steal a prize from a fundraiser! Participation is optional, but those who choose to join in will have fun gathering clues and showing off their sleuthing skills. Participants in the mystery will be entered into a draw to win an exclusive door prize. Curious? Purchase your tickets early so you’ll be sure to get in on the action!

Children will be thoroughly entertained as well. The Giggle Gang ( is a local clown troup and Whitney Huget-Penner from Calgary is a very talented face painter. There will also be games, prizes and we're working on having a visit from some balloon animals. The children will be as entertained as the parents, so if Mom and Dad want an evening off and burn off some of the kids’ energy at the same time, this is a great time to do just that.

All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. Our September 19 gala is in anticipation of the fifth annual Light the Night walk in Calgary, a five kilometre walk along the Bow River. Our Llamas with Hats team is walking in honour of Glenn, our friend, uncle, brother and mentor. While we’re unable to care for him personally, our love, our prayers and our support are always with him.

There has been a long line-up of sponsors throughout Olds, Didsbury and Carstairs who have thrown their support behind this event. People can visit our sponsors’ page to find out more. You can also listen for our public service announcements on 96.5 CKFM between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the following venues:

Didsbury Computers – 2016, 17 Ave, Didsbury
Front Porch Realty – 2009, 20 Ave, Didsbury
Fun Times Hobby and Cycle – 5026, 50th Street, Olds
No Worries Tanning – 330, 6900 46 Street, Olds
Carstairs Family Pharmacy – 120B, 10th Ave S, Carstairs

All of the details for the event are at

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A lot of worship songs aren’t for “blokes” – Matt Redman

Some pretty good comments here.  It does feel sometimes like a lot of contemporary worship songs are written from a “Jesus is my boyfriend” point of view.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Unusually well today

Just wanted to drop everyone a note to let you know that I am feeling better today than I have for a couple of weeks. Might have something to do with having slept in until 8:15 this morning, but regardless it feels good to feel good. Thanks for your prayers.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blood levels good

This morning I had my blood tests and whatever is causing my tiredness, it is not my blood. Thank God. My haemoglobin levels are the 90’s and my platelets are into the 60’s for the first time in a while.  I just think it’s a combination of alot of things. Keep praying.  Thanks

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I’m not feeling well

bouncingball I have to admit it, the last couple of weeks I haven’t been feeling well. Tired, short of breath, my attention span wanders.  I am noticing that, like a ball, each time I hit the floor, I don’t seem to bounce back quite as high as I did the time before.  The cracking of my ribs set me back and I am not bouncing back to where I was before that even though my ribs no longer hurt.  Guess I am finding a new normal…

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Denita’s latest update

Hi.  Just wanted to let you know that David came home from the hospital yesterday.  He is doing much better.  Thanks for your prayers.

Please continue to pray for Glenn.  His breathing seems more laboured lately.  We're thinking it could have a lot to do with the humidity.  As much as I like summer, I am looking forward to having less humidity so we can turn the air conditioner off and have Glenn be comfortable. 

God bless you all for standing with us.



Thursday, August 27, 2009

Domain names you don’t want your website to have

My brother Jim has warned me in the past to be very careful about what domain names we use for our websites as a mission. Sometimes, my sticking words together, you end up with something rather different than what you intended.  Take this notorious examples:

  • Who Represents is where you can find the name of the agent that represents any celebrity. Their Web site is
  • Experts Exchange is a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views at
  • Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island at
  • Need a therapist? Try Therapist Finder at
  • Italian Power Generator company has the interesting domain name
  • The Mole Station Native Nursery in New South Wales can be found at
  • Looking for IP computer software? There is always
  • The designers at Speed of Art await you at
  • A holiday rentals company in Spain is called Choose Spain. Their website?
  • TeachersTalk: An online community for teachers and student to discuss all areas of teaching, including…
  • IHA Vegas’ holiday rentals have an interesting website, I am sure.
  • And finally, Childrens Wear, a British kids' apparel company.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Transfusion today

Well, I had a transfusion today and am feeling much better.  My haemoglobin levels had dropped to 69 and so a couple of units are just what the doctor ordered (literally and figuratively).

Dave is still in the hospital.  Please continue to pray for him. That’s about all I really need to say at this time.  Just keep praying for him.

Pray, too, as Denita is torn between being with our son and caring for me.  I am trying to let her spend as much time as possible with him, but It has added to strain that I am feeling. Thankfully, my ribs are healing and I am not in as much pain as I was earlier this week.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Please pray for us

We could sure use your prayers today.  Not only am I continuing to struggle every morning in particular for my breath due to injuring myself last week, combined with the increased humidity and pollution that we are experiencing here in Ontario this week, but last night we had to rush our 20-year-old son, David to the emergency department unexpectedly.  I won’t go into the details, but sufficient to say, we are very worried about him. He stayed the night in the hospital and we are praying that he will get the help he needs right now. It made for a very long night last night and even more pressure on us (and on Denita especially). So please pray for us. Thanks

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The books of my life

Since I moved my library from my office at the mission to my study at home, I have been feeling what I can only imagine retired pastors and teachers often feel; a sense of quiet sadness.  For years I have been picking up books and reference material, first as a pastor and then as a missionary and mission leader.

Now, as my ministry slowly takes a new direction because of my health, I am struck with the fact that some of these books will probably never be used by me again.  Whole sections are longer longer relevant to me.

At one time, I was responsible for the Christian education ministry at a growing church in southern Manitoba. I loved my time there.  But these great books on Christian education, developmental psychology, learning styles and curriculum development that I once saw as the tools of my trade, so to speak, no longer play a useful role in my life. If we had someone on staff who was involved in full-time teaching, undoubtedly they would find them useful. But I have no idea if we will ever have someone fill that kind of role.

One of my specialities over the years has been leadership. My collection of leadership books is excellent.  But my role as a leader at VOMC will soon diminish, as it needs to, when we get a new CEO. I recognize that leadership is influence more than position.  But is it good stewardship to have these books sit in my library?  Surely someone else could benefit from them. Is not the role of leadership the privilege of serving others rather than grasping after and hoarding authority and knowledge? Knowledge is not real power; giving it away to others is.

Over the years, I worked hard at developing my cross-cultural awareness and skills and passing them on to my colleagues here at the mission.  Floyd, our COO, has picked up this ball with enthusiasm.  Should I pass on these books as well? Will they really be used?

I have seen pastors and teachers hang on to their books long after they retired, only to have their families donate them to charity or give them away to whoever will take them upon their death.  That’s actually how I got a number of my books over the years!

I would hate to see that happen to my library, especially given the quality of books that I have worked hard to obtain.  At present, the largest part of it; my commentaries, dictionaries, language aids, and other reference books are still necessary for me to have, as I intend to focus on this kind of biblical research in my upcoming new role as Scholar-in-residence/Executive Advisor.

But it’s sad for me, I must confess. My books reflect my life of service.  With them come warm memories, a few regrets, and the occasional “Why did I ever buy that book??”  But mostly, they evoke a sense of closure that I guess I’m still not entirely ready for deep down.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mixed blessings

Time for my weekly update.

First the good news. For the first time in months, I am able to go two weeks without a transfusion!  My haemoglobin levels were at 80, which is right on the tipping point.  So we decided not to go for one.  Also, my platelets were the same as last week!  This is great, as it means my bone marrow is still pumping out what it needs to.

Now the bad news.  Without going into all of the embarrassing details, I managed to either crack a rib or pull a muscle on the left side of my rib cage as I was laying on the floor of my office on Tuesday night.  This leaves me in quite a bit of pain in the mornings especially.  So, I am now using a little more morphine to cut the pain but not enough to make me foggy (though I was a little drowsy this afternoon).  Only time will heal this.  But it does make breathing and coughing a bit more of a challenge than they already were.

What fun times I have! Always seems to be something.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blood levels looking great

Today I had the best blood test results that I have had in months!  My haemoglobin levels were at 90 (10 points above what is the tipping point for having to have a transfusion) and my platelets were at 52 (again, quite a bit up from past weeks).  The reason perhaps for my blasé feelings lately may be an increased blood sugar level which might be a side-effect of the prednisone.  Having been prescribed meds for that, we’ll see if the new drug helps. I am also increasing my oxygen and morphine levels a bit.

Thanks for your prayers on my behalf.  God is at work.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Feeling off the bubble

level_bubble I have to confess, I haven’t been feeling entirely on the level health-wise for the past couple of weeks, but this week in particular. I wake up feeling nauseous and tired and it really isn’t until noon that I feel reasonably normal.  Thankfully, I work from home most days now and so there isn’t the rush to get to the office.  But I would appreciate your prayers. I don’t know what to make of it and I doubt that much really needs to change medically.  I just feel run down.  Of course, it probably has a lot to do with the humidity. Praise God for AC.

This week, the mission officially began its search for a new CEO. I will stay with the mission once this person is found, but in a role more in line with my physical issues.  I will blog more about this in the days to come.  For now, please know that this was my idea and that the mission is no way pushed me into this. Quite honestly, I think they would have been willing for me to stay as CEO for as long as I wanted to, but I really feel that this is the best for our work with the persecuted church. And that is what really matters to me!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Transfusion day

Yup, I needed a transfusion today. My haemoglobin levels were up from last week but not high enough to be able to skip a week.  I could tell.  I had been dragging around most of the week.  Hopefully this will top me up for a while.  Thanks again for praying!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Customer service

I am passionate about good customer service at the mission.  But every now and then you do feel like writing something like this:


Time for an update

I know that I haven’t updated you much on how my health is doing lately.  Quite honestly, there hasn’t been that much to update about, which I guess is a good thing.  I am pretty stable, although there are days like today and yesterday when I haven't felt so great. The humidity here in southern Ontario is probably to blame to that, as it really makes it harder to breath at times, even though we haven’t had much heat this summer to speak of.

My platelet levels continue to rise, praise God!  I did need a blood transfusion last Friday to top me up, as I had gone two weeks without one and my levels dropped below the 80 threshold.   We’ll see how it goes next week.  Again, if you have never donated blood, please do so. You could be saving a life. If you are O positive, it could be me!!

I am thoroughly enjoying working at home more often now, even though it means not having the personal contact with the staff as much.  Certainly not a long term solution to the leadership need of the mission for sure.

Thanks for your prayers.  I’ll try to update later in the week after my next appointment at Credit Valley.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

“Excited” to be cutting your level of service

I received the most curious letter today from the Mississauga Halton Community Care Access Centre. Here is a scan of it.


I have thought for some time now that the word “excited” has tended to be a bit overused nowadays.  I once heard a pastor use the phrase “we’re excited” well over a dozen times in one announcement a few years ago as he was describing the new fall programming. I’m sorry; maybe I am a dour, stick-in-the-mud but I don’t really have the emotional reaction of “excitement” to a lot of things.  Pleased or happy, okay.  Excited?  Much less so.

But this letter I received today is an absolute hoot. It is apparent from the content of the letter that the Mississauga Halton Community Care Access Centre is “excited” to announce that they are cutting back on their service of delivering my medical supplies to my home! Now, we will have the convenience of being able to travel across the city to one of three locations (none of which are anywhere close to our home) to pick up my medical supplies up ourselves and all of which are only open when we are at work.  This excites them!  Yikes!

I guess I don’t share their enthusiastic delight. I’d hate to see what gets them out-and-out thrilled!

The most important leadership lessons I have learned (so far).

One thing about having untreatable cancer is that it does tend to make one a little more reflective about the past.  Personally, I have found this really quite liberating on a number of levels.  Someone once said that an unexamined life is not worth living.  There is probably some truth there.

As I look back over my life and ministry, I won’t pretend that I have been the perfect leader. I am rather aware of my shortcomings, as are those who work with me at The Voice of the Martyrs.  Thankfully, they are a very gracious bunch.  But I  hope that I have modeled a commitment to the several different lessons that I have learned over the years that have shaped the way that I lead our mission. So here are eight of the most important leadership lessons I have learned (so far).

1. Promote the cause, not the organization.  I sincerely believe that most organizations blow it at this very point. Most advertizing by non-profits and missions seems to be committed to telling the public how wonderful they are.  The fact is, people often care very little about organizations, at least to begin with.  They are probably more likely to be interested in your cause or in those you are trying to serve.  At The Voice of the Martyrs, I insist that we talk about persecuted Christians first and foremost. At many meetings that I have spoken at, I have actually had people complain, good-naturedly, that they wish that I had said more about The Voice of the Martyrs. I suppose a little balance is required but I would rather error on the side of saying too little about VOMC and too much about persecuted Christians than the other way around.  In fact, I think that the public is getting tired of organizations that only put out information that is geared to promote themselves and ignore the work of others.

2. There is no pie! I think that part of the reason so many organizations fall into the trap of self-promotion is that they sincerely believe that there is only a limited amount of resources out there and that they need to compete with others to get their share, their piece of the pie. Have we forgotten Who our real source is and how infinite His bounty is?  There is no pie, in God’s economy.

3. Only say what you know is true.  This is a maxim in our Communications Team when it comes to reporting on persecution.  We would rather under-report something than exaggerate a story and report something that we are not sure about.  We will also not engage in promotional campaigns with slogans that are catchy and attention-grabbing but which we simply can’t support or say without hesitation are truthful.  I am not prepared to risk the reputation of The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada in order to attract new supporters if the means of doing so requires that we hedge on truthfulness.

4. Everything a person does either builds or undermines trust. My staff will hear me say this quite often. In missiological studies, it is called the Prior Question of Trust. I try to live by it.

5. A cross-centre gospel requires cross-centred messengers.  This the overriding theme of my book In the Shadow of the Cross and I believe that it has ramifications for all Christians regardless of where we live.  God’s purposes are always accomplished in a context of sacrifice, suffering, humility, and weakness.  Christ calls each of us to a life marked by these things.

6. Know your mission and stick with it unwaveringly. The mission of The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada is to glorify God by serving His persecuted church.  Straight-forward and simple. It tells us what we do and also what we will not do.  We simply will not get involved in otherwise worthy ministries that do not directly help us to fulfill this mission, even if it means turning away donors.

7. Leadership is influence.  Leaders are not leaders just because someone has given them a title or a position in an organization.  Leaders influence others to fulfill a shared mission in accordance with shared purposes and values.  I hope that I have done that well here at The Voice of the Martyrs.

8. Leadership style must be situational.  There is no one right leadership style.  I believe that good leaders must adapt their leadership styles according to the skill and motivation of those they lead, providing instruction and encouragement as needed in each situation.  Inflexible leaders who adopt one primary style can only lead some people some of the time. A good leader seeks to be able to lead all people all of the time just so long as the person is willing to be led or influenced.

I would love to hear from other leaders as to what are some of the most important leadership lessons that you have learned to this point in their journey.

A Prayer in the Wilderness.

It was 4:00 in the morning, January 2, 2007. A week earlier I had received a bone-marrow transplant to treat the leukemia that I had been diagnosed with in mid-2002. My throat felt like it was on fire. And the pain spread from there to my ears. It was excruciating. I felt as if I would lose my mind. Then unexplainably, my teeth started chattering uncontrollably. I was surprised by this because I did not have a fever and I wasn't cold. I wrapped my head with a blanket, hoping that the heat would provide some comfort from the unrelenting, throbbing pain.

As I hunched on the chair beside my hospital bed, I thought back to stories that I had read from Richard Wurmbrand. I seemed to recall of how extreme pain could bring about such chattering of teeth as the body responds in shock to the horror that it is enduring.

Huddling there alone in the middle of the night in Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, I managed to find a ray of comfort in the knowledge the agony I was experiencing was perhaps in magnitude, if not in nature, similar to that suffered by the persecuted during dark early mornings of torturous pain. The pain remained, but I was reminded that the God of Richard Wurmbrand was my God too. And I cried out to Him, trusting in His grace.

In the early 1990’s my family and I spent almost a year living in eastern Ukraine. This was just following the collapse of communism and life was hard for the people of the former Soviet Union. For many, it still is. Disappointment is a daily reality and pessimism is an art form.

One day our language teacher came to our home and told us of a discussion she had overheard while waiting for the bus. It seems one elderly man asked another how he was doing. The second man thought for a moment and replied, “Well, worse than yesterday but not as bad as tomorrow.”

Facing a seemingly hopeless situation, it’s hard not to feel that way sometimes. The present is nothing much to talk about but at least it’s not as bad as tomorrow promises to be, if the past is any indication. At times like that, the future is hidden in a thick fog of uncertainty and past events give us little confidence that things will get better. Loved ones tell us to look up but we don’t need hope that might disappear like a vapour. Simplistic answers, while well meaning, seem to mock the seriousness of our situation.

In 2 Samuel 15-16, we find David facing a time in his life when he was undergoing emotions like these. Like many of ours, David’s family life was not ideal. His troubles began with his son, Amnon, and then with Absalom. At the end of his life it was his son, Adonijah. Conflict and betrayal seemed to permeate the house of this man whom God said was a man after his own heart. But his sons…they were another matter.

The best answer I can come up with for why David had such troubles comes from the prophet Nathan’s words to him in 2 Samuel 12. Nathan declares, in the name of the Lord, that the sword would never depart from David’s house because of his act of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. He had destroyed a home and now God would never allow David’s home to be one of peace.

It doesn’t seem particularly fair, does it? Especially in this day and age when many seem to believe that all one needs do is confess one’s sin and then he/she can carry on as though there are no consequences for one’s decisions. But David’s life is evidence to the contrary.

God WILL forgive us each and every time that we confess our sins. This is true. But the consequences of our sins can follow us for the rest of our lives. And this God does not promise to release us from.

And so it was with David. And in 2 Samuel 15 -16, we find him in the wilderness of Judah, a hot desolate spot. He is not on vacation, heading south for a little sun. Rather, he is running for his life. And in hot pursuit is one of his sons, Absalom.

Absalom had a special place in David’s heart. He was many things that a father would want in a son. But after a number of unfortunate events with mistakes made on both sides, we find David fleeing for his life from his own son. Absalom had seized the throne and sent out troops to hunt down his own father.

Betrayed by his son and many of his dearest friends and advisors, David flees into the wilderness with a group of loyal followers, where he regroups and plans.

And prays.

Psalm 63 records the prayer of a heartbroken father. A father who has no idea where to turn and whom he can trust. And so he turns to the only secure place he knows. He turns to God.

Lord, My Desire (verses 1-4)

David begins by looking around at the wilderness to which he has fled, far from the comforts of his home, and he cries out,

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

wilderness“Oh, God, I need you” is how we might summarize his cry, “My soul is like this wilderness. I feel dry. I feel empty. Oh Lord, turn to me. I need You.

“I remember how it was when I was still in Jerusalem. I saw You in Your sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory. Lord, because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You.

“I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands (verse 4).”

In the midst of his emptiness, rather than doubting his relationship with God and forsaking his worship of Him, David knows that this is the time to run into God’s presence. “I will turn to You in my time of need because I know who You are. You are my desire. I will earnestly seek you. I am dependent upon You. You are the only one I can turn to.”

Witnessing the faith and courage of persecuted Christians around the world prepared me to face cancer. Does that surprise you? The day I was diagnosed with cancer, as I lay in bed that night, my thoughts took me to the young people whom I had met in Ethiopia, men and women who lived in abject poverty because of their decision to follow Jesus. I had heard them share how Jesus meant everything to them and how they needed nothing else but Him. Their lives and testimonies had touched me so deeply. And I said to God, “Lord, if they can trust You, so can I. I will not deny You through this!”

I held onto to that throughout the wilderness years that followed when I had no idea what God had in mind for my life. I had decided that I would trust the God of the persecuted. If He loved them and could keep them faithful to Himself through their affliction, this same God could hold me to Himself as well.

Throughout the scripture, we find that there was something about the wilderness that reminded God’s people of their need for God and their dependence upon Him. Our “wilderness” experiences, our times of sorrow and insecurity, ought to do the same.

But for many of us, our wilderness experiences become times when we doubt and seek for other solutions. In Jeremiah 2:12, we find the Lord making this observation about His people, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Water in the wilderness is life. In my travels to Sudan over the years, I’ve come face to face with this reality. If you lose your water in Sudan, you’ll probably lose your life. This was a real concern for us when, during one trip, rebel soldiers began to steal our water bottles. They want to use them to make home brewed alcohol.

If we had been trapped in the wilderness of Sudan, we could not have turned to these soldiers and asked for the alcohol to keep us alive. Quite apart from whether Christians should drink alcohol, this foul stuff would have dehydrated us at the very time when we needed moisture to replace what the heat and sun was sucking out of us. Just drinking liquids wasn’t enough. It had to be the right kind of liquids.

You can look elsewhere to try to find the solutions to your problems. You can try to fill the ache in your heart by drinking what the world promises will satisfy. But it’s home brew. And at the very time you need it, it’ll let you down.

When you’re in the wilderness is not the time to doubt God’s goodness and turn to other places to fill your thirst. It’s tempting, but it’s a cheat. We need to turn to Him with the same earnestness of the Psalmist; “Lord, You are my desire. I need You. I earnestly seek You.”

Will you say that to God today? Even if it’s with a heavy and desperate heart, will you acknowledge your dependency upon Him, crying out, “God, You’re my only chance. I acknowledge that and I seek You today.”

Lord, My Delight (verses 5-8)

In verse 5 of Psalm 63, we find the hope of the psalmist expressed as he prays, “My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”

“Lord, You are my delight,” he says. “In my time of need, You are everything I need.”

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

He clings to God in his time of need and he finds security there.

There is security in knowing that once you have committed a situation to God, it is no longer in your hands. As a songwriter said, “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.”

David learned early in his life that the safest place to leave one’s problems was in God’s hands.

The apostle Paul learned the same thing when he wrote in Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In everything, Paul says, “present your requests to God. Tell Him your needs, your heartbreaks, your fears, your hurts.”

Does that mean that your problems will disappear or that your circumstances will immediately improve? You already know the answer to that, don’t you?

Sadly, even in the situation facing David at this time did not result in the reconciliation with his son that I’m sure he so earnestly desired. His son was murdered in cold blood as he fled the battlefield.

But when you turn to God in the midst of your situation, you can have the confidence that comes from clinging to God, knowing that you are being upheld by His right hand. You have the assurance of knowing that He is there with you in the midst of the pain and His strength can be yours in the midst of weakness.

Sometimes, He will deliver you, change your situation and lift you out. At other times, He chooses to give you the wisdom, the grace, and the strength to go through the situation.

One is not necessarily better than the other or more of an answer to prayer. Nor is it a matter of accepting second-best. It is the assurance of knowing that whatever comes into your life, it must first of all pass through the sovereign hands of God. It is an expression of His grace being demonstrated in the way He chooses to work in your life.

There is security in knowing that God is working on your behalf, even when it might not immediately feel like it. Cling to that knowledge. Don’t let it go. “God, You are my delight. I am satisfied with You. You are all that I need.”

Lord, My Defense (verses 9-11)

In verses 9-11, David’s mind turns to those whom he knows are pursuing him, those who have been sent by his son to destroy him and he says,

They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.
But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Perhaps in that last phrase, David was thinking of his most trusted advisor, Ahithophel, who turned his back on David and joined in Absalom’s rebellion. There are few things more devastating than betrayal by a close friend.

William Tyndale holds the distinction of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language. Convinced of the need for God’s people to read the Word of God in their own language, Tyndale translated the New Testament and the first five books of the Old Testament into English, despite having to flee to Germany due to threats on his life. It was in Germany that the first English scriptures were printed in two sizes; one large and one small. Like Bible smugglers today, he reasoned that he might be able to hide the smaller ones better. Stashed in barrels covered with cloth and articles for sale, in bales of cloth, in sacks of flour, and in a number of other ways, Tyndale’s Bibles were smuggled across the English Channel from Europe. For years he had to hide from the agents of the English king and clergy who were determined to kill him. Then in 1535, while living in Antwerp, Holland, he met a fellow Englishman named Henry Phillips who presented himself to Tyndale as being sympathetic to his cause. Unknown to Tyndale, however, Phillips was plotting with the emperor's magistrates to arrest him. Over a period of time, he gained Tyndale’s trust and friendship.

tyndale1aOne day Phillips invited Tyndale out to dinner. But Phillips had set a trap for him.  Upon leaving his residence, Phillips identified Tyndale to a group of soldiers who had been waiting for them. He was arrested and after a sixteen month imprisonment, an ecclesiastical panel convicted Tyndale of heresy and turned him over to the secular authority. In October, 1536 William Tyndale was executed, being first strangled and then burned at the stake. As he died, his last words were, "Lord, open the king of England's eyes."

Within two years his prayer was answered as The Great Bible, an English Bible based upon his work, was approved by the king and all churches were obligated to provide copies of it to their congregants.

When David learned about his friend’s betrayal, he too prayed: “"O LORD, please turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness" (2 Samuel 15:31).

Like Tyndale’s prayer, David’s prayer was answered but not quite as David might have expected. Rather, Ahithophel gave Absalom some great advice, advice that would surely have destroyed David, had Absalom listened to it. But instead, Absalom ignored it and David was saved as a result.

The mouth of the liar WAS silenced…no one would listen to him.

God can do the most amazing things in the process of leading His people through the wilderness experiences of their lives. He can bring victory out of apparent defeat, and turn disadvantage into strength.

There is one catch; will we trust Him to do His work in His own way? Will we find confidence in the face of uncertainty, insecurity, helplessness and discouragement, not in psyching ourselves up or thinking positive thoughts, but looking reality square in the eye and confessing that God is in control?

  • When we feel weak we can count on His strength.
  • When we feel uncertain, we can count on His guidance.
  • When we feel alone, we can count on His presence.

The wilderness can become a place of worship, as we declare our desire, our satisfaction, and our confidence in our God, praying with the psalmist,

“Lord, You are my desire. I earnestly seek You because I need You.”
“Lord, You are my delight. I know that You are everything I need.”
“Lord, You are my defence. I am safe with You. I can trust You.”