Today is Canada’s 150th birthday as a nation. Throughout the country, celebrations commemorate our history, our heritage and our nationhood. This month our writers will honour Canada, focusing any Canadian theme that resonates.
A Legacy of Faith and God’s Faithfulness
“There it is,” said my nephew Trevor, driving into the parking lot. Across the street stood the Joseph Schneider Haus, almost hidden behind an old spruce.
|At the Joseph Schneider Haus|
This house, the first home in what is now Kitchener, Ontario, was built in 1816. It has been restored and is now a National Historic Site. But beyond the historical significance, it had special meaning for us: Joseph Schneider was my great-great-great grandfather.
Several years earlier, I had heard about this part of our family heritage. I was eager to learn more, and so when I attended a conference in Toronto, I connected with my nephew Trevor who lived in the area, and together we travelled to Kitchener.
As we toured the house and outbuildings, I couldn’t help but think of the legacy Joseph and his family left us.
Joseph and his family arrived in Canada to set down family roots.
Trevor and I had come to explore our family roots.
Touring the Haus and museum, we learned Joseph and his family had travelled by Conestoga wagon from Pennsylvania, taking over seven weeks. In contrast, I had flown from Calgary to Toronto in an afternoon.
The day after touring the Haus and graveyard where Joseph and his wife Barbara were buried, and then watching the Grey Cup game (by the way, the Toronto Argonauts defeated the BC Lions 27-19), Trevor and I headed to the library at the University of Waterloo to see our Schneider Family Bible. Our forefathers had lived in Switzerland and purchased this Froschauer Bible in 1561. It’s a rare book indeed, one of only eight known copies of this edition! It even predates our English King James Bible by fifty years!
The librarian welcomed our visit. “About five or six family members from across Canada and United States come every year to look at the Bible and touch their family’s history,” he said, pulling the big brown book from the reference shelf.
|Trevor Examining the Bible|
He gave us white gloves before touching the antique book. I was already familiar with the Bible, having received pictures from a distant relative. But now touching it was electrifying.
I felt the leather cover. The Bible had once been a high quality book, very expensive, but over the years it had become worn. Jewels once decorated the front cover. Had family members sold a jewel or two to pay for a passage to the next destination?
The Bible had been through a dramatic history, transported through boat trips, on wagons in winter and summer weather, surviving move after move after move through Europe, into Pennsylvania, and then to Kitchener. The centuries of use and travel had been hard on it.
If only it could tell it story! Those details are lost to history, but as Trevor and leafed through the pages delicate with age, we discovered clues. Corners and edges of the front and back pages, once worn away, had been restored. The book of James, the three Johns and Revelation, had fallen out. But someone with a vested interest in preserving the Bible had hand written those books.
Lastly, we looked through the pages containing the family genealogy, beginning in 1534. Different heads of families recorded marriages, children and deaths. The person who received the Bible after the father passed away wrote this important transfer. Migration from one location or country to another were noted. The personalities of the writers shone through with their artistic Swiss handwriting that included unique flairs and swirls. We couldn’t read the German, but on further pages someone had neatly translated the German into English.
I tried to imagine my ancestors who had owned the Bible. Had the father pulled his family together each evening to read the next chapter? Did they discuss God's faithfulness from His Word? Had they memorized large portions? I could only peek into this written heritage of their lives and journeys.
However, their voices behind the written genealogy echo across almost six centuries and across two continents, and speak of perseverance and faith in God.
It was a strategic weekend, as Trevor and I knew we were the recipients of a great heritage. Our forefathers had been part of making Canada the great nation that it is today. But more, we had touched their legacy of faith and God’s faithfulness.
“The faith we often take for granted has been defended at great cost,” wrote Lloyd John Ogilvie. “We are fortunate to have freedom of worship in which we can openly follow Christ. But we dare not take it for granted. It should spur us on to faithfulness and obedience to Christ today.”
I prayed that we, too, would leave a godly heritage to our families, churches, communities and Canada itself.