Tuesday, November 27, 2007

God Provides for us, and calls us to Provide for Others

If you are a regular reader of our blog (and a big thanks to those of you who drop us a note and let us know you are reading - it keeps us encouraged!), you will have heard of how God has provided for us in the past two and a half months (yes we are half way through our trip!). This past week has been no exception. We drove in wearily to Santa Rosa, California one night trying to find a bathroom and just "happened" to enter on the right road for the hotel that we had a coupon for. And by staying at that hotel we earned ourselves a free night anywhere in the hotel chain because we had stayed at another hotel in the chain in October!

Another blessing was that a trip to AAA with our host Steve from last weekend got us a camping map which led us to a great campsite at a great price ($15/night x 5 nights = only $75!) right outside Napa, California. Now, don't let the sign scare you, the campsite was a great fit for our family - lots of space, very hot during the day (though we did wake up with frost a few mornings), an amazing Frisbee golf course on a steep hillside, and a 42 flock wild turkey wake up at 6:40 am! The kids also had a great time catching little lizards, playing tag, and getting a sun tan/burn on their faces.

If you were thinking that we were in Napa because we are wine connoisseurs, you are sadly mistaken. There were two reasons we were here. The first was to connect with my cousin Rudie Fast from Sacramento. He drove down to meet us for lunch on Friday, and we had a great time talking about family, faith, and the joys of living in California. It was great to see him again, and to be together with family.

We also stayed here because this was the closest campground to our very fun weekend destination - Six Flags Discovery Kingdom! We had bought a season pass back in April, and finally cashed it in on the opening weekend of their very first "Holiday in the Park" season. We had a great time as a family hanging out with Looney Tunes characters, Frosty, and reindeer. There were a lot of different shows we could watch as well. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo used to be called Six Flags Marine World, and the shows emphasized the water connection - we saw a dolphin show, watched the sea lions "Save Christmas," and experienced the beauty and power of Shouka the killer whale.

I have seen both dolphin and sea lion shows before, but being that close to a killer whale was a new and amazing experience. Shouka jumped, did some tricks, and also did came right out of the water and did a spin on some concrete so we could see just how big she was. God is an amazing creator, and the fact that these intelligent animals can be trained (how they do it I have no idea!) is truly incredible.

Most of the year here in the San Fransisco area things are pretty warm, so I guess that is why there is such a draw for people to sit in the "splash zone" at the Six Flags water shows. However, the Shouka show was at 7:00 pm, it was dark, it was Nov 23, with a temperature at around 5 degrees. So you think people would know better. Well, I guess not, and since we are parents who sometimes let our kids do what they think is best, we let Joseph, Caleb and Lorianne sit right up front in hopes of them getting wet. After a few near misses, they all got totally soaked from a tail splash from Shouka. Once wet, they didn't feel so brave, and they also realized that salt water can really sting cold skin. We as parents didn't want to get wet and were higher up. It is a good thing, because we saw a lot of adults take on a lot of water, and ruin a lot of clothes and electronic gear.

I would show you a lot more pictures, but our net connection is a bit slow at our hotel here in Lost Hills, CA. (By the way, did you notice that we got a new camera? No more cracked lens!) But I can explain to you in words, about how God has challenged us to provide for others. Through scripture, and a great book we have been reading as a family every night called "The Printer of Udell" we have been reminded that Christianity needs to be applied for it to be real. God gave us some opportunities to do that this past week, and I am thankful that we took them. With our season passes we received coupon books that included 9 free passes to the "Holiday in the Park" at Six Flags. I will be honest and say that I wanted to only partially gift them to people and see if we could get $10 a piece for them. God in his graciousness spoke to Lois and thus we decided to give them away. The first night God led us to a family of 6 who were new to California and coming to the park for the first time. And the second night we gave away our remaining 3 tickets to a Grandma and Grandpa who were taking there two little grand kids (only one of who needed a ticket!) out for an evening so their parents could go on a date. Our kids were pretty pumped that God had answered our prayers and allowed us to just the right people.

Finally, homelessness is something that is very real to people. The story we are reading deals with a man seeks to help those who are truly in need of a place to stay. Throughout our trip we have, at times, felt somewhat "homeless," and have also encountered people on the streets who really were homeless. And then these past 5 days God led us to camp beside Mrs. Becky and her son Charlie, who through no fault of their own, have lived in a tent in Skyline Park for 5 months as they wait for different Government agencies to sort out their situation and find them a home.

Five months in a tent - can you imagine that? Yet they aren't bitter, they were always smiling, and Mrs. Becky always took time to teach our children about something from the area, point out some wildlife or plant life that they could learn about as she drove Charlie to his job every day. As we got to know them, and then realized that we were camping by choice, and had the freedom to pack up whenever we wanted and go to a hotel, we sensed that we needed to help them. A month's rent in Napa costs at a minimum $1200 for a one bedroom place, and while we did not give them that much, after praying as a family, we shared from what God has blessed us with so that they can maybe spend a few nights in a hotel, get some extra things for Christmas, or just pay some bills which we may not know about.

All of us have so much compared to so many. Jesus says "what you do to the least of these, you are doing for me." Who are the "least of these" in your life? Do they live on your street, do you pass them on your way to work, or are they sitting in the back row of your church waiting for someone to truly live out the teachings of Jesus? What about the missionaries that you know are doing without so that God's work can be done? And what of those many mission agencies that are giving their all so that the Gospel can be proclaimed, yet are so often frustrated because of lack of funds?

Christmas is coming and the Walmarts and Future Shops will be packed. May God continue to speak to us all about those who truly are in need, and how we can go without (or more realisticly at least with a little less) so that they won't have to.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blessed by the Claasen's

If you read Lorianne's last blog, you saw pictures of the wonderful couple who hosted us this past weekend. While we did not know them when we arrived, we left as friends. God used this amazing couple to bless us so much. Steve, with his love for our kids, willingness to take us shopping and teach things, and his generosity in even paying for car wash (which was very needed!), was a gracious gift. He also loved to play Settlers which was fun for us and our kids. Jan is an amazing cook and served us graciously, took us on hikes, and loved our kids by providing toys for them and teaching them a new game.

This is just a small list of all the grace and goodness we experienced in the warm, relaxing, and fun homestead that they call "Camp Grenada" (yes it is after the song!). Thank you Jan and Steve, and more importantly, all glory goes to God, who has his kids all over the world, and gives them the gifts to serve and bless his servants.

We learned much from them in how to host people, and hopefully we can be as good to those who come to visit us as they were to us. And for all of you out there who are thinking of hosting complete strangers come into your home, please do - because we appreciate it!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A curvy Road, a Racy Van, Redwoods, and a Rain Forest

Having travelled on Highway 101 almost all the way down the Oregon Coast, this past week the Dueck 6 drove on in our decked out mini-van heading further south into California's Redwood country. Hwy 101 is an incredibly beautiful drive, with lots and lots and lots of curves and ups and downs to keep you focused. Sometimes you are in the trees, and then 5 minutes later you are on a cliff hugging the ocean shore. Amazing! If you ever get out this way, we highly recommend the drive.

Now for those of you who are perceptive you may have noticed the adjective "decked" in front of mini-van in the previous paragraph. How do you deck out, supe up, or just generally try to make a van look cool you ask? Well to start with, you take a middle-aged guy who loves Hot Wheels cars and wanted to be a race car driver in Gr. 1. Add to that a frugal mind and limited resources. Then mix in 4 enthusiastic kids and a wife who knows that her husband really wanted to "let loose" in a Mennonite/pastor/conservative sort of way. And what do you have?

A $20 set of blue flame decals that are now one the "Dueck 6 Mobile!"

(If you look closely, you will see that my search for bumper stickers has been more successful of late, and if you look really closely, you will see the official Hot Wheels logo right on the back of our rooftop carrier!) Okay, while it isn't really a Vanagon from the 60's, it is at least a good attempt to fit into the cool California culture, wouldn't you say?

California has truly been cool, and for the most part rainy. We had two rainy days in a great motel (great means a suite with two separate sleeping areas, 3 queen size beds, and two TV's for only $75!) in Crescent City, then headed for three nights of camping at Prairie Creek State Park in the Redwood National Forest. On our two sunny afternoons we went on some amazing hikes, and were surrounded by some truly awe-inspiring trees. The pictures really don't do them justice, but here is the best we can do to give you a taste of these truly massive creations of God.

Height: Some of the these Coastal Redwoods grow to be over 350 ft tall. That's as tall as a 30 story building (meaning they are as tall as the Revolving Restaurant in Winnipeg). Standing under one makes you feel like a tiny ant. Some of these old growth trees may be 2000 years old, with most of the larger trees being at least 500 years old.

The forests we hiked through were incredibly damp, even with the sun shining. These trees need over 500 gallons of water every day, and they got 40% of their moisture intake from the fog that is an almost daily occurrence.

Redwood roots are very shallow (only about 6 feet deep), but they can grow for hundreds of feet to the side, intertwining with the roots of other trees for stability and strength. The stronger the connections, the less likely they are to get blown over in a storm. This is a great picture of how church life should be - working together, supporting, encouraging, and strengthening each other to do the tasks God calls us to in the face of opposition from a hostile world.

Lois' favorite trees were the "goose pen" trees. Redwoods have a 1 foot thick bark which protects them from fire and fungi. However fire may sometimes get in and burn out the inside of the tree. The trees may be almost completely hollowed out inside, yet still be very much alive. Early settlers to the area used to store their geese in these trees, barring the opening with a gate. As you can see, they work great for holding children too!

We had three days of hiking and camping among these great trees. Unfortunately it rained the last couple of days we were there, which didn't really dampen our spirits, but it did make us really damp! The kids were great about it, and enjoyed the chance to eat a few meals in the van. While at the campground we had the opportunity to meet a cyclist from England and share a meal with him. We enjoyed the adult conversation, and he welcomed the chance to talk with us and our kids.

One of things about travelling to different areas is that you see things that you didn't even know existed. I had heard about and seen pictures of Redwoods, but one place I had never dreamed about was Fern Canyon. After a 30 minute ride down a wet gravel road, a 10 minute walk on a trail, we all entered into what seemed like another world. We saw first hand what looked great on postcards, and what was also a part of the Lost World, Jurassic Park Movie. Here is a picture of what we saw, but again, it does nothing to convey the beauty and serenity of the place.

The walls of this canyon are covered with the delicate 5 fingered fern. With the creek, the massive uprooted Redwoods, the 30 foot high walls of green, this was one of those places that truly surpassed all that people said about it.

How many years was this small canyon here before anybody discovered it? One small creek flowing into the vast Pacific Ocean carved this beautiful canyon. God, in his creative goodness and power saw fit to decorate this canyon with ferns to bring glory to himself, and joy to those people fortunate enough to visit it.

Redwoods and Rain Forests. Truly, "the whole earth is full of His glory." Isaiah 6:3

Goodbye Oregon, Hello California

The "Your home is a Van News".

Reporter Lorianne M. Dueck

Hey, that's not right, in this post our van isn't always our home! Anyway, let's not let this post turn out like the Hoodoo one.

Before we had left Oregon, I made a party for my family. We had sandwiches, not that party-like but I set it up restaurant style. Yes, I like to make meals. That party turned out to be our goodbye Oregon party. I'll miss those Oregon state park signs, sniff. At our party we played Monopoly. We had bought it earlier that day at a Christian Thrift Store in almost mint condition to. I must confess to the public that I have always wanted a monopoly game. So that night we did #5 on the list of the top ten things to do in a yurt in Oregon. Oh, we have also done #10 - Do absolutely nothing!

Well, all Oregon coast must come to an end, and this one did too. Though sooner than the others. but we must keep moving forward. And in front of us was the long and thin golden state.


You'll never guess who was there to meet us. It was my storybook friend Paul Bunyan and his pet bull Babe. If you know the story they say he logged the whole of North Dakota. He probably went too far a couple times and got lower Manitoba and Saskatchewan too!!! It's a wonder that the Red woods are still there! Those people on the fence are us. My dad's only as big as his boot!

In California we stayed at Mr. Steve and Mrs. Jan's house. They treated us like their kids! Mrs. Jan cooked up a storm and let us play games and with bubbles while Mr. Steve rowed boats and did archery with the boys. He also let us steer his tractor and play with little toy cars!!! While we were there I started some Christmas presents. (I know it's early, but the supplies was there and I was SO exited) Mrs. Jan gave me wrapping paper and showed me and my mom a cool store where we could look for the materials that I needed to make my gifts.

This is Mr. Steve. He reads while we are playing with hot wheels tracks or playing Lego. And this is Mrs. Jan. She likes to cook. She made us pies and Rice Crispy cakes. She set up our rooms really nice and put M&Ms on our pillows!! We were sad when we had to go. We liked them alot and want to go back.
Well good bye for now and hope to hear your comments soon on "Your Home is a Van" News!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sometimes crabby, but not when crabbing!

I was going to title this entry "We're not crabby, just crabbing!" but Lois said I should be a bit more honest. We have been on the road now for 60 days, and there still are times when we do get crabby with each other. Yurts are bigger than tents, but the noise that our four children produce (especially "Boombox" Joseph) does cause Mom and Dad to get frustrated. We have noticed that as parents we struggle with listening to our kids when they ask us questions (as in "Dad, are you actually listening to what I am saying?") and that we are all still too quick to speak harshly to each other. I could list our kid's sins, but Lorianne says I can't, and Caleb says there are too many to list! Suffice to say, their sins are no different than most kids, and in fact they crop up a lot less than they did at the beginning of the trip, for which we are very thankful. God is guiding us in our parenting, and our children are grasping the truth that a big part of their mission in this world is to honor and glorify God by submitting to and obeying their parents. Thanks for your prayers - the Dueck 6 team is still going strong.

Okay, enough of the deep family self revelation. The catchy title actually has to do with an amazing time we had as a family on Thursday doing something that I never thought we would do - crabbing! Crabbing and clamming are two coastal activities that we had hoped to do here in Oregon. We discovered that clamming involves lots of muck and pails and shovels, and is very dependent on minus low tides (a minus tide is a low tide cycle that is actually 0 - 2 feet lower than normal). So we scrapped that idea, and focused on crabbing. God gratefully provided us some new friends from Harbor Baptist Church in Winchester Bay who not only had us over for an incredibly delicious supper, they also lent us a crab basket. As you can see from the pictures, the basket lies flat when on the dock or on the bottom of the sea. To actually catch something in the basket you of course need bait. Many of the locals use turkey drumsticks or chicken legs, but we just bought a frozen fish carcass from the local store and headed out to the Charleston boat docks to try our luck.

Fortunately for us there were a few locals on the dock to help us Prairie folk figure out how the whole system works. They said it was simple and it really was. Once you attach the bait to the bottom of the basket, and you have tied the one end of the rope to the dock, you just throw the basket in the water and let it sink to the bottom. Then wait about 10 minutes and pull it up. So that's what we did. And you know what, it actually worked! I really had my doubts that we would ever actually go crabbing, and then I really didn't think we would catch anything, but as you can see, God was gracious to us and the crabbing was good!

Now I have to clarify what I mean when I say the crabbing was "good." It was good for us because every 5 or 10 minutes the kids could pull up the basket and there was anywhere from three to 12 crabs in our basket. It was good because we were having a ton of fun, the weather was great, and we saw some harbour seals and a sea lion playing amongst the boats, and we observed a whole bunch of little jelly fish just floating along. But if we had been actually hoping to keep and eat anything, then the crabbing wasn't "good" at all because we didn't catch any crabs (of the good eating variety) that we could keep.

To keep a crab in Oregon it has to be 5 1/2 inches wide across the back. Every novice crabber has to have a measuring tool (the orange thing in the picture) which you place across the back of the crab to see if it measures up. The biggest one we caught was about 4 1/2 inches. We didn't feel to bad at not catching one, because there were a few others on the dock with crab rings and boxes and they weren't catching much of eating size either. These other crabbers were very kind to our kids, letting them watch them haul up their catch, teaching them how to put the crabs "to sleep," showing them the different types of crabs, and letting them help throw the little crabs back.

Overall, it was just a great time "going crabbing." We got to be outside, do something we had never done, and learn a lot. There are lots of big boats in the area that will be going crabbing out on the ocean when the season starts on December 1. The harbor is full of the boats, and all their crab rings are piled up on the dock waiting to be used. But for now, crabbing season is only open in the bay areas, which worked great for us. And while we didn't eat any crab on the coast, we did have some amazing fish and chips and clam chowder.

Sadly, our wonderful time on the Oregon Coast is almost done. We are currently staying at the last of the wonderful State parks that they have here in Oregon, and we will no longer be seeing this sign which led us to some of the most amazing parts of God's creation that we have ever encountered. Tomorrow, we will be leaving our "yurting lifestyle" behind as we head to California and the Redwood Forests. We are very thankful that God has provided us with a family to stay with next weekend, and we are also very excited that our ministry stay in Los Angeles has been confirmed beginning November 27.

So stay tuned for the further adventures of the Dueck 6!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Turning 7 years old on the Dunes

Our first of three kids birthdays on this trip happened this week as Joseph turned seven on November 1. After a very yummy breakfast of icing and seaworld sprinkles on a cinnamon raisin bagel and cereal, Joseph opened the cards that Conrad picked up when in Winnipeg and ours which revealed the birthday adventure of the morning. We headed to the Sandland Adventure Tours near Florence, OR to go on a sandland tour on their custom-made buggy. Brad was our driver and he harnessed us all into the car, gave us goggles, and let us experience the dunes in a fast and fun way. There are 47 miles of sand dunes and many thousands of acres of sand. Imagine that God knows how many grains of sand are there!!!! Later this day, we had a wiener roast with chips and cake, which was Joseph's choice for a meal. Joseph is officially 7 years old. Joseph also received birthday greetings via email which we opened when we could at a hotel on Saturday, Nov. 3. Thanks for the greetings! We were thankful to find a great outing for our car-loving, speed-loving kid right on his birthday! God is good and personal!!!

We also went for a hike on the dunes yesterday. Here are some shots of the fun we had, including Dad showing the kids the correct way to jump off the dunes!

P.S. In case you are wondering, that streak on the last pictures does come from a crack on the glass covering our camera lens. We won't be near a large town for awhile, so we can't get it fixed right away. We are thankful that we can still take pictures, and that God gives us the grace to recognize that stuff is just stuff, and not really that important.

Enjoying the Oregon Coast

What a great week it has been as a bunch of folks from the Prairies have experienced the amazing beauty of the Pacific Northwest. God has blessed with amazing sunshine every day, and that has made all the beachcombing, hiking, seal watching, tide pool exploring that much more fun.

The blessings of God extend everywhere, and for us it is a weekly occurrence to pray about where we should be staying and wait to see what God will provide. We are so thankful as he always provides, and not just adequately, but in abundance. For two nights in Lincoln city we had an amazing hotel right on the ocean. The view was breathtaking, and there was even an outdoor hot tub overlooking the beach! We could walk down the steps to the beach and just have a great time.

One of the ways that God used this hotel to bless our kids was that in the miles of beach we walked in Lincoln City, the only tide pools were right near our hotel. Tide pools are found in rocks that are submerged at high tide, but exposed when the tide goes out at low tide, trapping sea life inside. Our kids explored for hours among the different pools, and had a great time. Lorianne collected shells, finding as many different types as she could.

Joseph and Caleb were the big hermit crab hunters, and they collected a whole bucketful on our second day. It was great to see our two oldest boys having fun together as they worked to fill their bucket. They don't often do things together (except watching each other play Game Boy!), and we have been praying that they would become better friends.

All of us had fun touching sea anemones, looking for little fish, avoiding the waves and trying (unsuccessfully in the kids case!) to stay dry. It was very relaxing and encouraging for us as parents to just sit back and watch our kids have so much fun.

After leaving this beautiful hotel, we entered into the world of "yurting." As you can see from the picture, a yurt is a round shaped hut modelled after the type of lodging used in Mongolia. They are large, comfortably sleep 4 kids and two adults, have a table and chair, and most importantly for camping in November, they have a heater! You can't cook in them, and we still need to provide all the bedding. Yurts cost only $27-29 a night, which is more than a tent spot which costs $12, but less than half the cost of a hotel. Oregon is the place that developed yurts at State Parks, and we are looking forward to staying in them for the next week or so. The plan is to get back to tenting when we get to California, which should be in a week or so.

Using our yurts as a home base we went driving and hiking up and down the coast. We went to a place called Strawberry Hill upon a recommendation we received from a transplanted Oregonian NCEM Missionary back in Prince Albert, Sask. He said we would see seals, and we did! They were just hanging out in the sun, enjoying the day like we were, in a great place provided by God for their (and our) enjoyment. Thanks for the tip Jim!

Up and down the Oregon Coast are many lighthouses. Many of them are over a hundred years old, and are still in use today. This is a picture of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, and at 93 feet, it is Oregon's tallest. It is over 135 years old and is still using its original Fresnel lens. We went on a tour of the lighthouse at Heceta Head and discovered that the bulbs inside the light are 1000 watt bulbs, and cost $350 to replace. The amazing thing is that the light from these relatively small bulbs (about 7 inches tall) can be seen up to 20 miles away! It is the lens, and the "bullseye" in the center of the lens that refracts the light out so powerfully. The cost of replacing one of the lenses? A mere $25,000.
As parents we couldn't pass up the teachable moment provided by these lighthouses. We talked with our kids how we as followers of Christ are to be lighthouses in our families, neighbourhoods and around the world. We have the gospel message, the truth that we can be forgiven of our sins and freed from the wrath of God through His love, a message that is powerful enough to break through the darkest storms of life. And we pray that our light will continue to shine for many years to come.