Thursday, July 18, 2013


Nancy and I just got back from Lake Tahoe. We’d gone to attend the wedding of Corina Nour, a young Moldovan woman who’d first come to live with us about ten years ago to attend Emporia High school as an international exchange student.  
I was the “officiant” at the ceremony, thanks to a gracious invitation from Corina and her fiancĂ©, Sherwin Sheik. It was one of the great honors of my life.
Looking back on things now, it’s clear to us that God has had his fingerprints all over the plan for Corina’s life.
It all began quietly. Nancy and I had just gotten back from a short getaway to Chicago. As soon as we got home, Nancy went upstairs to her office and began catching up on all the news here in Emporia. She browsed through the back issues of the Gazette and read a short blurb from Glen and Carol Strickland about their need for a host family for a young woman from Moldova. Nancy was intrigued and suggested we consider contacting the Stricklands. I wasn’t too sure at first, but Nancy convinced me that hosting a student would be a healthy exercise for us.
Corina left Moldova sometime in early August. She spent a couple of days in New York, thanks to the big east coast blackout of 2003. When she arrived in Wichita she looked like she’d been through the mill. After finding out that their airline had lost her luggage and then making arrangements to get it to Emporia when it was found, we headed home.
It took her a few days, but Corina plowed her way through the early problems she faced. It wasn’t long from there till she was thriving in an atmosphere where opportunities were ever-present
As the weeks and months passed, Nancy and I came to see how special our relationship with Corina had become. It never became a parent-child relationship. We saw from Corina’s life that she had wonderful parents in Moldova. There was no need to reinvent the parent wheel. We felt strongly that our best role was to be Corina’s friends and that, at the appropriate times, to be advisors and confidants.
She excelled in everything she tried, whether it was languages, history, literature, or debate. The reports from the school validated what we’d come to know. Corina was one in a billion.
Her year in Emporia was over in a flash. As we got her to the departure gate in Wichita we were all overcome with emotion. Was this to be our last time ever seeing each other? And what of Corina’s life? How would all her incredible potential be fulfilled?
The years passed. She did quite well back home in Moldova. She went to Romania to do her undergraduate work in finance. When she was close to graduating we saw a new door of opportunity we could make available to her – a masters’ program at E.S.U. We were confident that she understood how to take advantage of the opportunity. She accepted and came back.
The next four years were a whirlwind. She parlayed a 4.0 G.P.A. and her work ethic into a job at the Granada Theatre and another as a graduate assistant at the university. By the time she was in the throes of her last year the big opportunity came – an internship at Cisco Systems in San Jose. She completed the internship, came back, graduated, and was then offered a full time position with Cisco.
But it doesn’t end there. She met Sherwin, the man who is now her husband, in California under the most incredible circumstances. There’s not enough space to write about it now. Suffice it to say that it was truly a match made in heaven.
How do these incredible things happen? Chance? Luck? The only explanation that I find satisfactory is the grace of God. What else could explain the tight connection between a young woman from a liberated Soviet republic and two American retirees who answered a last minute call for help? What else could explain the fact that Sherwin’s family had come to the California to escape the clutches of the Iranian revolution?  And, the timing of the internship at Cisco? It was perfect.  
As I watched Corina come down the aisle with her father to take her vows I had to fight back the tears. I was awestruck by her stunning beauty, but I was even more amazed at how God had taken such disparate pieces, cultures, and events and stitched them together with such love and care.
We’re back home now, settled in. In quiet moments we occasionally find ourselves wondering how Corina and Sherwin’s dreams will be realized. However that plays itself out, we’ll be eternally grateful for being a small part of setting it all in motion.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


A few years ago Nancy and I spent part of our vacation in Normandy. We had a wonderful time. The people of Normandy are especially gracious. I think the graciousness stems from the deep sense of appreciation the people of Normandy have for those who gave their lives to liberate them back in 1944.
This sense of appreciation is especially evident in the tender care the people of Normandy give as custodians for the cemeteries and monuments that dot the landscape. I remember passing through the American Cemetery that overlooks Omaha Beach. As I weaved my way around the white crosses or the stars of David that mark the final resting places of the brave souls who gave their lives I could see that there wasn’t a blade of grass out of place. It’s a reflection of the love the people of Normandy have for those who died liberating them.
While in Normandy I took part of a day to walk up Omaha Beach. I started at the water’s edge and made my way slowly up the beach. As I did I occasionally looked up, trying to get some sense of what things must have been like on June 6th, 1944. I came to the conclusion that everyone who embarked from the landing craft must have reckoned themselves to be dead men before they ever set foot on French soil.
Why would so many men risk what must have seemed like certain death? Did they all have death wishes? Did they enjoy the inner feelings of terror they must have felt? The only answer that seems satisfactory to me is that they loved liberty, their own and that of others, more than they loved their own lives.
Nine thousand, three hundred and eighty-seven Americans are buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy. They lie peacefully, cared for lovingly and tenderly by the people of Normandy.
The 4th of July is just about upon us. Fireworks are already on sale her in Emporia.
I doubt that I’ll be lighting up any bottle rockets, I’ll try to celebrate, but I’m going to have a hard time. It’s not because I don’t understand what liberty is all about or because I don’t appreciate the sacrifices so many Americans are still willing to make to preserve liberty. I’m having a hard time because I believe many of our leaders have lost their way. They have forgotten.
Maybe if I remind them they’ll listen. Maybe they’ll realize that liberty’s timeless voices need to be heard these days.
In his “Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law,” One of our Founding Fathers, John Adams, said, “The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.”
In August, 1776, Samuel Adams had this to say to American loyalists who valued security under the tyranny of King George more than liberty – “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
On March 23rd, 1775, Patrick Henry¸ speaking at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, uttered these now famous words – “Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Speaking to the ratifying committee of the Virginia legislature in June of 1788, Patrick Henry warned, “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
In his 1838 Lyceum address, Abraham Lincoln answered the question of what might ever destroy the American union with these stark words – At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
In 1787, James Madison warned “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”
And finally there’s this timeless wisdom from a James Madison to Thomas Jefferson letter penned in 1798 – “Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged against provisions against danger, real or pretended from abroad.”