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God's Week Has 7 Days

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Preface / Forward
About the Author

Second-Mile Service
Jan 25 

Martin Luther extolled faithful work: God even milks the cow through you. He didn't say much about letter carriers, so let me try.

Peter Epp had spent nearly a year in a Soviet prison, long before we in the West ever heard the words glasnost or perestroika . He was tortured but never found out why.

When they finally released him, he was sent to a labor camp near the Arctic Circle. For a decade he worked in a uranium mine, cut off from family. It was a brutal life of toil and deprivation.

Stories like this are common among the Russian Mennonites who were finally permitted to emigrate in the late 1980s. But for us, this story is special.

Peter, you see, is family.

He is a relative I didn't know we had. My late grandfather had talked of kinfolk who hadn't made it out of Russia. When Stalin scattered what was left of the Mennonites, contact was broken.

Peter was one of those relatives. Thanks to the Gorbachev reforms, he had managed to emigrate to Germany.

Now, in his late 60s, he was here in Canada to meet his extended family.

What a wonderful visit it was! For a month he circulated among us. There were tears, laughter, stories, and rekindled memories as a frozen chapter of family history was thawed and brought to life.

His visit was made possible by some unknown civil servant who went to extra effort to do the job right. Maybe he was someone who believes in doing everything as unto the Lord.

Peter Epp had been at a loss as to how to track down his missing family. When he settled in Germany, he wrote a letter to my maternal grandmother, not knowing she had passed away ten years earlier. He addressed it to Margaret Epp, Steinbach USA.

Right town. Wrong country.

The USA is a big place. Steinbach isn't. It's a town of about 9,000 in southeastern Manitoba. Not many American postal clerks have ever heard of it. Who knows what head-scratching the letter caused when none of the fifty states had a Steinbach. Someone, however, must have cared enough to check another country. If they hadn't bothered, no one would have noticed.

Whatever they did, it worked. After two months the letter finally arrived in the right town, where the name Epp is well-known. Soon we were reconnected.

I'd heard of this kind of thing happening to celebrities, like the foreign letter sent years ago to Billy Graham, Many Apples, Many Sodas. I didn't think it was still possible in this day of electronic sorting and dead-letter boxes.

So now we have a bigger family. An expanded circle of fellowship. A new store of precious memories.

We also have enduring gratitude for some anonymous friend in a postal station somewhere.

Someone who knows the meaning of second-mile service.

    God's Week  |  Preface  |  Forward  |  About the Author