global view of Europe, joy to the world, The Tin Collector's Tales, Europe, Africa, Germany, Netherlands, Dutch, friends, Great Britain, England, Ireland, heritage, nations, King, Chile, Canada, Helen, daughters

Joy to the World

“What do you want to accomplish with your writing?” In meditating on this question recently, the answer, “Serve the Lord with gladness,” popped immediately into my head. What a challenge—to bring joy to the world, to the Lord, and to my own life.

In Psalm 2:8, God offers Earth’s true king, our Lord and Savior: “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance.” As His daughter, I want to ask daily for the world. Not for power or possessions, not for a perfect journey without jarring delays or detours, not for a road without bumps and bruises.

But dear Lord, give me the world. And give joy to the world…through me. Of course, I haven’t traveled everywhere and never will. That’s a fact, in my physical body. But I can sing Joy to the World in my spirit and serve with all my heart. My words—my voice—can touch the world.

“Joy to the world / The Lord is come / Let Earth receive her King / Let every heart prepare Him room / And heaven and nature sing.” –Isaac Watts

Though it’s long past the Christmas-carol season, it’s always time to see the world. Do you think I can meet the challenge? That is, find 80 tins in my collection with reference to the world? Since I favor tins that real products come in, few mere souvenir fancies fill my shelves.

When asked, “Where would you like to travel to?” I always list Italy, France, and Spain. In our trip around the world in 80 tins, we covered those three nations in the past post.

Then, from Denmark, we arrive in…

GERMANY at Last

One of my daughters, however, always named Germany as her most desired destination. Eventually, she visited there twice for extended periods. After her most recent stay—a language internship—she brought me back number 41, a lovely little blue-and-gold tin like an enameled jewel box. It once held tiny gingerbread cookies, so picture them dipped in a mug of steaming chocolate at a snowy Nuremburg Christmas fair. “Joy to the World…”

Though South America has infamously harbored a host of Nazi war criminals, God has also lavished us in Chile with dozens of faithful German missionaries in the years since World War II. In fact, our last German colleagues recently retired to their homeland. While their cultural character differs from us, their practical-love quotient exceeds our own. They’ll be sorely missed.

As were the couple who sent back tin number 42 after our daughter’s first trip to Germany some years before. Hailing from Strasbourg, this black lidded canister features a white-gowned Edwardian lady, lassie, and beagle poling downriver in a rowboat. It’s labeled Reckitt’s Blue, which I discovered was laundry bluing (a sort of bleach, I’d call it) that came in ultramarine tablets.

That idyllic pre-WWI scene reminds me of the backstory of my book Legacy of the Linnebrink Light. Both Cristina Linnebrink and Leonel Nahuelanca descend from German immigrant farming families in southern Chile. In the end, their godly heritage certainly transforms their dreary lives to dazzling.

Number 43, a set of round Cavendish & Harvey candy tins, sounds eminently English but are actually “made in Deutschland.” These appear frequently in our Chilean supermarkets, in butterscotch, orange, mint, and an array of other flavors. Upon investigation, I learn that Germany manufactures a great many other imports that I wouldn’t necessarily think of as German.

So we move on to a…

NETHERLANDS Garden

Number 44 is the second in the European Tour biscuits series. Of course, it contained Danish (not Dutch!) butter cookies, but never mind. Welcome to Amsterdam, where we see a blond girl, carrying an armful of tulips, ride a bicycle over a canal bridge. An orange windmill dominates the background.

Canadian soldiers “liberated” Holland at the close of the Second World War, and many of those grateful Dutchmen immigrated to Canada in the decades following the war. God has blessed us with MANY wonderful lifelong friends among them. I can’t help but shake my head in amazement at the transformation wrought in the hearts of some harassed by soldiers as children now serving hand-in-hand with our German co-workers. The power of God’s joy to the world.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

Another “Dutch” item on my shelf shows blue-and-white windmills, tulips, and wooden clogs. I’m not going to count it, as it’s not exactly a tin but an erstwhile can of powdered milk, decoupaged with napkins! But imagine a piece of Delft Blue pottery transposed to metal.

Next we cross the Channel to…

Jolly Old ENGLAND

My husband always mentions Great Britain in his travel Bucket List, because his paternal family roots go back to Suffolk, England. Circa 1910, his great-grandparents, with their two oldest sons, made the Alberta prairies their new home. Thus, they escaped the Great War but not the Spanish influenza, which claimed the life of Great-grandma, by then a mother of six.

Meanwhile, back in the Old Country, number 45, the third European Tour tin, says Welcome to London. All I can respond is, “Wow!” Did the artist ever put a lot of landmarks into this cartoon depiction of the capital of the United Kingdom.

 A man in a derby hat hails an iconic black cab parked by a red phone booth. In the traffic jam behind, I make out Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower Bridge, the London Eye (Ferris wheel), a red double-decker bus, a Buckingham Palace guard with a bearskin hat, and even a pigeon raising an umbrella to the rain! And—I had to look this one up—the Gherkin, a relatively new tower that resembles a cross between a pickle and a space shuttle.

“Live your life by a compass, not a clock.” – Stephen Covey

And here’s number 46, which in my ignorance I thought might be the London Stock Exchange (it looks vaguely like the Santiago one). Turns out it’s Harrod’s department store, pictured on a big round tin of Kenneth Stevens men’s socks. I should probably call it the Sock Exchange.

English Education

What a learning experience here. I discovered that literally hundreds of fascinating and historically significant buildings fill the city of London. Here’s another icon, number 47, a faded-red canister with a letter slot at the top, representing a GR Post Office box. Again, I had no clue what GR meant.

So I set about on another journey of detection. The GR is what is known as the Royal Cipher, indicating the British sovereign of the time. In this case, George Rex (presumably George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II). So this tin dates to the period of 1936-1952.

Everything fit into place for me then. My elderly missionary friend Helen gave me the tin as a keepsake when she retired from Chile. It had belonged to her husband John, who had used it as a piggy bank since childhood! For him, a symbol of childish glee. For me, a treasure trove of memories—joy to the world, where this couple served with gladness.

Backing up to Harrod’s, tin 48, a metallic hunter green number, came with English toffee from the store. I can’t help but think of everything else “English” sold there, but I suspect my dear Irish friend probably picked the toffee tin up at Heathrow just before his flight to Chile. So thoughtful.

Continuing the subject of candy, next we have number 49, a round turquoise tin with pink and white English roses. I snagged it for a dollar or two at a thrift shop in Moncton, New Brunswick. Sadly, no one wanted this gilded-and-tarnished gem, but I’d like to think it’s vintage if not antique. Somehow it found its way to Canada from Meltis Ltd. Confectioners in Bedford, England.

Quality Gifts

Ditto for number 50, Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts, traveling from Maidstone, Kent. My husband, whose favorite candy is licorice (or liquorice, English spelling) allsorts, rolled his eyes when I ruefully admitted that the big tin from the thrift shop was empty.

Personally, I’m not convinced, but Mr. Trebor Bassett informs on his box that licorice boasts centuries of history as the candy of kings. A college girlfriend of mine confessed to a crazed fondness for black licorice pipes! Sounds rather redneck, but I assure you she was—and is—a lady of quality.

And that brings us to number 51, Quality Street chocolates and toffees, a round fuchsia-pink tin featuring Victorian carolers: “Deck the Halls” and “Joy to the World…” Yes, I know, it was made by Nestlé in Vevey, Switzerland. But it was gifted to us from a Northern Irish missionary in Chile who snatched it up as quintessential “home.” Apparently, many Europeans, including my American friend who grew up in France, enjoy a Quality Street holiday tradition and associate the candy with “Christmas in England.”

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

However specific that seems, it feels like a gift of global friendship, one we’ve always tried to impart to our daughters. The younger two possess not dual but triple citizenship. They’re at ease in slums and subways, mansions and mud huts, cabins and cathedrals. They’ll try any dish once. They have beloved friends “red and yellow, black and white”—and copper, olive, brown, and pink—who speak Mandarin and Mapudungún and the mangled English of six continents.

Keep Calm and Drink Tea

So somehow they’ve always belonged everywhere. And perhaps nowhere in particular, either, but it’s an opportunity to proclaim that “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness” (Ps. 24:1) and to ask Him for the world.

It used to be said that the sun never set on the British Empire. I don’t know the extent of the Commonwealth today, but I’m sure that our God and King desires to bring peace on earth and joy to the world where He is welcomed and obeyed. Go ahead and ask your Father for the nations.

Ask that God might grant us to enjoy all our journeys, yet remember we’re only on a trip. To feel at home in every nation and still know we’re not home yet. To love the world, but not get too comfortable in it. 

Maybe we could pause to relax with a cup of tea, though. What’s more English than that? Chilean supermarkets sell a whole line of Lipton and Twinings, including number 52, a little red box with a gold top. This serves up Twinings breakfast tea.

I’m also rested and encouraged by the friend who blessed me with number 53, the Fisherman’s Friend box of throat lozenges. The fishing boat and the bearded fellow in a yellow sou’wester on the lid make me think of the rough seas of Scotland. Plenty of canny, frugal Scots anchor our family tree, too.

In fact, all the British and Canadian roots intertwine under number 54, the Union Jack in the form of a mini suitcase. I found this one (I think!) at a gift store in Chile, but I’m pretty sure that my daughter brought number 55, the mini red phone booth, from her 2015 jaunt in Great Britain.

Green Tea in IRELAND?

Yet another dear friend returned from her trip to Northern Ireland and delighted me with number 56, the set of three mini green phone booths containing—you bet—green tea. The Irish don’t usually want to copy the Brits, but I guess they like their tea too.

The word about me and my tins from around the world has spread. Two years ago, Irish visitors to Chile presented me with a cargo of the yummiest fudge that ever traveled in a tin. Number 57 shows the Titanic shipyard in Belfast. My husband’s other great-grandmother, a Kennedy, came to Canada from Carrickfergus, just outside of Belfast, around the turn of the 20th century. So we trace our heritage to there as well.

Obviously, Great-grandma didn’t sail on the Titanic, but certainly in steerage rather than first-class. Like many Irish girls of the time, she labored in an Ontario linen mill until she married a half-black man and moved to the wilds of northern Canada. Another chapter in the story of God’s grace and joy to the world, to our family, and to every person on the planet.

And as our time in the Eastern Hemisphere ends, I ask myself:

What happened to AFRICA?

No doubt, Europe has as much spiritual need as its neighbor to the south, but I’m sorry not have a representative from the African continent. The best I can suggest is tin number 58, Turkish Delight. Now, I realize that Turkey’s not located in either Europe or Africa, but mostly in Asia. But the tall oval canister depicting the silhouette of a mosque at sunset conjures images of North Africa, in my mind at least.

It also reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the powdered jelly candy that plays a part in that tale, and the redemption of a captive world through the return of its rightful King. Joy to the world, for the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King…

So Lord, I’m asking for the world. Not for more tins, but for more time and talents, greater skills and strength to reach the nations and contribute joy to the world in Your name.

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness.” –Psalm 100:1

Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing.

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