Our meetinghouse on fire, Linwood, Ontario, Canada, 14 May 1971.
The springlike afternoon in which our children helped dig up and seed our garden, I nearly found myself back into the early spring of southern Ontario, Canada. The sun, the voice of the children’s happiness, the sisters co-operating in Jesus’ harmony, was just like years ago. But the fact that we have spring in September, in our Hutterite community on the under side of the world, the atmosphere of spring and harmony in Christ surrounded our month of spring 2010. In ten year’s our family, our community, our blessed unity in God has kept us in joyful unity.
On that day, forty years ago, my sister Susie, working with my grown sister Nancy, my cousin Tobias, my married brother David and his wife, and my Dad, hurried with our seeding. My sister Velina had a sprained knee, and was on crutches, and had to go to America four times a year to get a Cortisone injection. She had just gotten back on the bus, and was telling us of what she had seen on her trip to of Hamilton, Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, where she got the treatment.
Having heard of all that had happened, we tramped upstairs, read our Bibles, blew out the candle, and we cosied up in our beds to sleep. Several hours later, my sisters called out in frightened voice. The northern sky was lit up almost like day. We all fumbled into our clothes and rushed out onto the road toward the meetinghouse up the gravel road, only a kilometre away.
Our meetinghouse was burning. The meetinghouse where we all came to a loving family of believers, all of our old people, the parents, the young people, all the children like one big family. How would we be happy now?
Many neighbours had already come along before we did. Horses were galloping along, and several fire trucks with sirens came onto the scene. My sister with her crutches also came hobbling along. My aunt Rebecca Bauman and her family were already there when we arrived (her husband, my uncle, lived in Belize and later Lobelville, Tennessee most the time). All our friends, the Mennonites, the Lutheran, and Catholic neighbours came racing in.
It was a totally wind still night, and the flames blazed upwards, making a mushroom at the top, like a miniature Hiroshima. There was no chance of saving anything.
There were wild boys from town( the “Lausbuben”, which means indecent boys) standing around, slapping each other on the back, smoking, and drinking. They had lit the fire, but knew we would not do anything back. The police came and wanted us to accuse them, but we would not.
We were not worried about the “Lausbuben” that acted against us. Our question was why was God allowing this to happen? What was wrong? What was he needing to tell us?
Those last years we had been growing up and increasing steadily. New people were coming to us from here and there. People from Mexico, Pennsylvania (the Reidenbach people), the Shenandoah valley of Virginia, even my uncle and aunt from the Muddy Pond community in Tennessee had come to us up north in Canada mostly in the year before.
But my Mamme Schoerg (my great aunt MaryAnne), my Mamme Susie, and my grandmother Leah Hoover, my dads mother, were wondering, what God has been telling us?
After the fire, the young people wanted to build a much larger meetinghouse. My brother Cleason become one of the young men wanting a new building. But there were questions and doubts.
Some of the brothers felt unsettled. Many people from other Mennonite congregations were coming to try and help. Even many worldly people. Some brothers thought anyone else coming in to help, would be like Tobiat and Sanballet, with Nehemiah. Others thought we were running ahead with the world.
We wondered and in a few years we all wondered what had happened to us. We scattered. Everyone went different ways. Some to here some to there. The new meetinghouse was built, but fell to nothing. There it is, to this day, tall grass and weeds all around it. It has been empty for thirty years.
But new remnants of this Canadian group have reunited, thanks to the Lord, here and there. We, a few of their descendants have found in a new place, in Tasmania, a new community. But we are weak, we are nothing more than we were thirty years ago at the transient thing we had coming together in southern Ontario. How should we be any stronger, any more stable?
We are weak, instable mortal people. When we stand before the judgement seat of God what will we say?
Very quickly our height, our strength, falls and disappears. This is my cry. We get nothing much done. Very quickly it goes down and falls apart. Let only God, in his mercy, help us along, where everything goes up in fire.
In our weakness let us pray, like the publican: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy, on us sinners!”
As long as we live on earth, let us pray one for another.
Rocky Cape Christian Community
19509 Bass Highway
Detention River, Tasmania 7321