A Swift Cur­rent Christ­mas — Part I

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Viewpoints - BY RAY FRIESEN

The mo­ment Jose (his friends all called him Joe) walked in the door that Fri­day night, Maria knew some­thing was wrong. What now?! Hadn’t they had enough?!

The rag­ing fire that burnt through Fort McMur­ray that had them all flee­ing last sum­mer? Sure, their house had been spared but Joe missed days of work, and some of their friends had not been so lucky.

Then the un­cer­tainty of start up af­ter the fire. And the un­cer­tainty caused by drop­ping oil prices and what it was do­ing to the eq­uity in their home. She had lost her job a month ago but given the na­ture of Joe’s work, his job would be se­cure. But, now some­thing else had gone wrong! What could it be?

“I got my two-week no­tice to­day,” Joe said. “Two weeks of work and I’m done, along with a bunch of other guys.”

“Oh, no!” was all Maria could man­age as she fell into Joe’s hug and started to cry.

Both toyed with their food at sup­per. They tried talk­ing but what could they say. Two weeks, and they would be out of work and with­out a pay cheque. A mort­gage on the house. Pay­ments on the truck. They had to eat and pay util­ity bills. What would they do?

As sup­per fin­ished, Joe’s cell phoned dinged. Joe checked his text mes­sages and read the new­est one.

“It’s from Zack,” he said. “He and Liz want to have break­fast to­mor­row.”

When Maria raised her eye­brows in ques­tion, he added, “Yeah, Zack also lost his job.” Zack and Liz were their clos­est friends. The fact that Zack and Liz were Mus­lim (they had changed their names when they moved to Fort Mac so no one would guess they were Mus­lim and they trusted in the for­give­ness of Al­lah the Mer­ci­ful when it came to head scarves), the fact that they were Mus­lim and Joe and Maria Men­non­ite did not mat­ter. Friend­ship, a deep friend­ship by now, over­came any bar­ri­ers re­li­gion might raise.

The next morn­ing the four of them sat over break­fast at their favourite diner and talked. What would they do? Where could they go? Sud­denly all four cell phones dinged, in­di­cat­ing a text mes­sage.

They checked and re­al­ized they had all re­ceived the same mes­sage: “Go to Swift Cur­rent. There is work in Swift Cur­rent.”

No one rec­og­nized the source of the texts. They looked at each other, per­plexed. Where had this come from? Who was tex­ting them? Zack was the first to speak, “I have heard the ru­mor and I know a bunch of guys are think­ing of go­ing. Maybe, if we hurry, we can get there and get work quickly. Ap­par­ently they are build­ing a new gas-fired elec­tric plant and there is work in con­struc­tion and in the ser­vice in­dus­tries. Maybe we can all land jobs.”

“Sure,” said Maria, “What do we have to lose?” For a mo­ment all four looked at each other, and then started mak­ing plans. Zack, who had a com­pany truck, would have to give it up. Maria’s car was an old beater and they would just leave it with neigh­bors who were look­ing for a sec­ond car. They owed as much on their houses as they were worth. They would sim­ply turn in the keys.

With Joe’s truck they would have a way to SC and a lit­tle bit of cash till they got jobs. Wolf En­ergy had said they would be happy to give them pay in lieu of no­tice. Mon­day Zack and Joe would pick up their cheques. Hope­fully it would be enough to tide them over till they got work in Swift Cur­rent.

(Ex­cerpted from Ray Friesen, Jump into the Story: The Art of Creative Preach­ing (Eu­gene, OR: Wipf & Stock) to be re­leased in spring, 2019). Used by per­mis­sion.

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