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News

Oregon abandons decriminalizing hard drugs

“America’s most radical experiment with drug decriminalization has ended, after more than three years of painful results,” The Atlantic reported in early April. Increased overdose deaths and “chaos in the streets” has the state of Oregon going back to criminalizing hard drugs.

When the state decided to decriminalize drugs in 2020, 59 percent of voters supported it. Decriminalization advocates wanted to focus on a strategy of reducing the harm that drugs cause to users. Over $260 million was spent on services to help make this a reality.

Three years later, 64 percent now want to go back, with support particularly strong among African American and Hispanic Oregonians. The New York Times reported that a wide range of officials supported a rollback in policy, citing surging homelessness, street protests, “an exodus of downtown businesses, record numbers of homicides, the rapid spread of fentanyl and soaring overdose deaths.”

British Columbia followed Oregon’s lead by decriminalizing many hard drugs in 2023. Adults in possession of heroin, fentanyl, crack, meth, ecstasy, and some other hard drugs, so long as they are for personal use, will not be charged. This is an experiment being run until 2026. The province’s NDP government is already being criticized by mayors of smaller cities in the province who are reporting public disorder similar to what’s been experienced in Oregon. Yet BC is pressing on with its experiment.

An underlying motivation for decriminalizing hard drugs and providing “safe supply” of drugs, even at the taxpayers’ expense, is the belief that drug problems will lessen if we ditch the the stigma associated with drug use. If we stop treating it as shameful and immoral, then, so the argument goes, more people might seek treatment. But as Romans 7 teaches us, the law plays in important role “in order that sin might be recognized as sin.” Secular society may succeed in changing its laws to reduce the stigma of sin, but as we’re seeing in Oregon, making sin seem less sinful isn’t the answer. That will only serve to hold sinners in bondage further. What is needed is something that the law can never accomplish. “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).



Interview with an artist

Hetty Veldkamp’s landscapes began with a birthday

Interview with an artist

*****

Lighthouse at Snug Harbour

36" x 24”

“Taken last year when a friend gave us a boat ride to Snug Harbour, near Killbear Park. As we were entering the harbor, the sun was low and casting a warm glow on everything. It was such a beautiful moment and i tried to capture it in this painting.”

Years ago, Hetty Veldkamp retired from a successful career in graphic design to raise her family. But then, two decades later, a birthday gift she created for her husband launched her second artistic career, this time as a landscape painter.

She’d always been drawn to art. When she was younger Hetty would often create pencil drawings, just for fun, based on photos from magazines or advertisements. Her high school art teacher saw potential in her work and encouraged Hetty to consider art as a career.

After studying illustration and graphic design at Sheridan College, Hetty accepted a job as a graphic designer/coordinator with the Alberta government’s Public Affairs Bureau. She designed brochures, report covers, and logos for the various government departments. Then in the evenings Hetty would work on freelance projects or paint small watercolor paintings which she sold to friends and colleagues. “I was busy with everything art.” But when she and her husband decided to have a family, Hetty took a break from art-making.

That break would last 25 years.

For as long as she can remember Hetty has also been drawn to nature. She grew up beside the sea, living in a quaint fishing village in the Netherlands. She later settled in the rural Niagara Region in southern Ontario after immigrating to Canada with her parents. In the years that followed, Hetty and her family explored the many different regions of Ontario’s “cottage country” and Hetty became “hooked on the peace and beauty found there.”

“I have always enjoyed the great outdoors, hiking, camping, and cottaging. The vistas of Northern Ontario, Kilarney, Algonquin, and Killbear Provincial Parks; Georgian Bay and the landscapes of northeastern Ontario are a real inspiration to me.”

Lily on a Summer Day
40" x 20"
“This one was inspired while kayaking near a friend's cottage. It was summer and so peaceful, the lilies just seem so calm and serene. Lilies are a popular subject, and I paint them often.”

For her, they all brought the words of Psalm 8 to mind; “How majestic is your name in all the earth!”

It was those experiences and memories of those landscapes, previously painted by members of the famous Group of Seven, that inspired Hetty to pick up her brushes again. First she painted a painting as a gift to her husband for his birthday. She didn’t stop there. Many more paintings followed, some successful and some not so much. But Hetty persevered. She now has no problem selling everything she produces. Scenes of Ontario’s north feature prominently in her vast portfolio on her website. Judging by the number of paintings that are labeled “SOLD,” the scenes are popular with buyers too!

Hetty lives and works in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Working primarily in oil paint she works to capture her love of the outdoors and the peace she finds there.

“The lakes, trees, islands and rocks are beautiful; the ever-changing skies and water continue to inspire me.”

I remember Hetty speaking at my high school for a career day – she was one of the people who inspired me to pursue illustration and design. I even studied at the same college as she did!

You can see more of Hetty’s artwork on Facebook, Instagram, or at ArtByHetty.com. You can also email her at [email protected].

Jason Bouwman loves landscape painting too. Find his work at JasonBouwman.com and send him suggestions for artists to profile at [email protected].


Today's Devotional

April 18 - The fruit of the Spirit - Peace

"For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." - Romans 5:10


Scripture reading: Romans 5:1-11

The third fruit of the Spirit is peace. This peace is both the objective peace we have with God and the subjective sense of wellness the…

Today's Manna Podcast

Judgment pronounced: Jonah

Serving #451 of Manna, prepared by Ryan Kampen, is called "Judgment pronounced" (Jonah).











Book Reviews, Graphic novels

The Unwanted: Stories of Syrian refugees

by Don Brown 2018 / 104 pages This is not a pleasant read because it lays out a tragedy for which there seems no ready solution. In 2011, Syria descended into civil war after the dictatorial ruler, President Bashar al-Assad, used his military force to attempt to squelch protests. But the deaths that resulted only sparked more protests. Soon Assad's own soldiers were joining with the protesters. And for the dozen years since then, the country has been in a constant state of conflict. And with constant warfare comes refugees. Of Syria's pre-war population of 22 million, at least 5 million have fled after their homes were destroyed or their friends, neighbors, or family members were shot and killed. That's what this book is about: the millions of Syrian refugees' search for safety and security. As Don Brown explains, many Syrians were forced to leave with little or nothing to their name. While there was compassion for them early, as the thousands fleeing turned into millions fleeing, the refugees became an increasing expense for any nation that allowed them in. So borders started being blocked, barbwire went up, and anyone who wanted to leave had to turn to smugglers, some of whom would deliver on their promises, sneaking the refugees across the border. But others would prey on the fleeing Syrians, taking their money but doing little or nothing for them. It is a sad, sad story, and it continues to this day. What Don Brown doesn't get into much is the legitimate security concerns countries have about letting thousands and hundreds of thousands of refugees in. Most are Muslim, and many are undocumented, making it easy for radical elements to hide amongst them. So, countries would want to check credentials before letting a refugee in. But how can you check credentials they don't have? At the same time, the Bible tells us that whoever is generous to the needy honors his Maker (Prov. 14:31). So, how can help be offered on this enormous scale? Cautions While Don Brown is very restrained in showing the impacts of the war, there are a few panels where, even as most of the violence occurred just out of frame, some blood is shown. That, and the overall topic matter, means this is one for high school. Conclusion I think the strength of the book is that Don Brown spends his time explaining the problem without pretending to have a solution. There is no simple solution. But there is a pressing need. And there are some individual actions that can be done, like praying for God's intervention. The peace that no one seems able to bring, only He can accomplish. Another possibility is donating to Syrian relief efforts like the Canadian Reformed World Relief Fund....



Book Reviews, Graphic novels

The Unwanted: Stories of Syrian refugees

by Don Brown 2018 / 104 pages This is not a pleasant read because it lays out a tragedy for which there seems no ready solution. In 2011, Syria descended into civil war after the dictatorial ruler, President Bashar al-Assad, used his military force to attempt to squelch protests. But the deaths that resulted only sparked more protests. Soon Assad's own soldiers were joining with the protesters. And for the dozen years since then, the country has been in a constant state of conflict. And with constant warfare comes refugees. Of Syria's pre-war population of 22 million, at least 5 million have fled after their homes were destroyed or their friends, neighbors, or family members were shot and killed. That's what this book is about: the millions of Syrian refugees' search for safety and security. As Don Brown explains, many Syrians were forced to leave with little or nothing to their name. While there was compassion for them early, as the thousands fleeing turned into millions fleeing, the refugees became an increasing expense for any nation that allowed them in. So borders started being blocked, barbwire went up, and anyone who wanted to leave had to turn to smugglers, some of whom would deliver on their promises, sneaking the refugees across the border. But others would prey on the fleeing Syrians, taking their money but doing little or nothing for them. It is a sad, sad story, and it continues to this day. What Don Brown doesn't get into much is the legitimate security concerns countries have about letting thousands and hundreds of thousands of refugees in. Most are Muslim, and many are undocumented, making it easy for radical elements to hide amongst them. So, countries would want to check credentials before letting a refugee in. But how can you check credentials they don't have? At the same time, the Bible tells us that whoever is generous to the needy honors his Maker (Prov. 14:31). So, how can help be offered on this enormous scale? Cautions While Don Brown is very restrained in showing the impacts of the war, there are a few panels where, even as most of the violence occurred just out of frame, some blood is shown. That, and the overall topic matter, means this is one for high school. Conclusion I think the strength of the book is that Don Brown spends his time explaining the problem without pretending to have a solution. There is no simple solution. But there is a pressing need. And there are some individual actions that can be done, like praying for God's intervention. The peace that no one seems able to bring, only He can accomplish. Another possibility is donating to Syrian relief efforts like the Canadian Reformed World Relief Fund....

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Fever year: the killer flu of 1918

by Don Brown 2019 / 96 pages In the Spring of 1918, even as the First World War was winding down, a more deadly foe made its presence known. An army cook, in Camp Funston, Kansas, reported sick, and over the next month a thousand of his campmates would also fall ill. Author Don Brown seems to be making the case that the Spanish Flu didn't originate in Spain, but in America, making the jump overseas with the soldiers that departed as the US entered the "war to end all wars." That, however, is a contentious point. The other sources I consulted agree that the disease was called the Spanish Flu only because the Spanish press was being more open about the numbers of citizens being struck down, and not because they were the actual source of the sickness. The true source of the illness seems to be a mystery. What's uncontested is the devastating nature of the epidemic. Before it was through, the Spanish Flu would travel around the world, and more than 50 million would die. By way of comparison, about half that numbered died during the entirety of the First World War, and as many as a third of those were from the Spanish Flu, and not weapons. The moral of Don Brown's story could be taken in very different directions, based on the particular bias of the reader. That this flu jumped from city to city via infected travelers could be seen as proving the need for lockdowns. That health authorities assured the public of facts not in evidence – that there was no reason to worry – could be used to argue health authorities have a long history of lying to us. That New York kept schools and most businesses open, and that the city had a lower than average death rate, could be used to argue against lockdowns. That San Francisco embraced masks but had the worst death rate on the west coast might be used to argue against masks' efficacy. Or folks could look to how San Francisco banned all social gatherings except church services and see that as evidence that their ban needed to go further. As you can see, there is a lot information offered up, and it points in all sorts of directions. What's more certain are the heroes: doctors and nurses who worked endless hours trying to aid the ever growing numbers in need. Neighbors and even the elderly all chipped in when whole families would get laid low. Brown details the search for a vaccine, and how there was a real mystery to be solved. Though the flu was obviously highly contagious, doctors weren't sure about the how. Sick patients could cough right in the face of volunteers without infecting them. Cautions This graphic novel came out at the end of 2019, 100 years after the Spanish Flu it chronicles, but just a few months before COVID-19 made its appearance. I've been wondering ever since if that was the very worst of times, or the best of times for this graphic novel to get published. If I'd reviewed this during the lockdowns, I might have added cautions about drawing too strong a conclusion from the information offered up in a comic book. That's still a good thought, but a little less necessary. While Don Brown illustrates the dead with some restraint – simple lines communicate discomfort and pain, but aren't realistic enough to really shock – this still isn't a comic for kids. 50 million people died from the Spanish Flu, so the topic is too grim for the very young. But I'd recommend it as a great one for a high school library. Conclusion Our recent history makes that an even more intriguing, and even more sobering read. What we went through parallels much of what the world endured then, though theirs was the far deadlier plague. That a virus can infect a third of the world reminds everyone to "seek the Lord while He may be found" (Is. 55). That's a lesson we were reminded of in the last few years, and one everyone would do well not to forget....




News



Featured



Today's Devotional

April 18 - The fruit of the Spirit - Peace

"For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." - Romans 5:10


Scripture reading: Romans 5:1-11

The third fruit of the Spirit is peace. This peace is both the objective peace we have with God and the subjective sense of wellness the…

Today's Manna Podcast

Judgment pronounced: Jonah

Serving #451 of Manna, prepared by Ryan Kampen, is called "Judgment pronounced" (Jonah).


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