Adventures in Alberta
Updated: May 21, 2021
Trailing the railroad into Alberta, I started my time in the Wild Rose province in a town called Medicine Hat with the "friend of a friend." This whole journey so far had been through friendship, first with my Heavenly Father and then through the amazing people who had opened up their homes and hearts to me in my pursuit of discovering Canadian identity.
With a mutual love for both prayer and missions, the Global Prayer of House was the perfect place to start. Although closed for the summer, I got an inside tour from my host, who is one of the base prayer warriors and worshipers. And what a cool testimony she shared with me.
Driving through the the land of giant marsh-mellows, a term the locals give to the hay bales in the fields, I took in the change of scenery. I was clearly in ranching country now and felt right at home. Alberta was actually where it all began. It was here in the province that boasts the beautiful Rockie Mountains that my mom and dad had met many moons before.
Determined to make it to Lake Louise for my birthday, I was so thankful when my hosts decided to join me on this significant personal pilgrimage into the mountains. Little did I know that if I had tried to drive alone, my car would not have made it.
The parking lot was full on arrival, but favor was on our side, and after prayer and a touch of French Canadian charm, we ended up in a makeshift parking space. What a majestic lake it was to behold. After breathing in the fresh air coming off the glacial waters, we hiked up to a beautiful little tea house for a warm cup of herbal delight. It is quite a unique tea room, in that, all it's produce needs to be carried up and down the mountain daily.
From there we decided to hike on to an overlook of one of the most iconic lakes in the nation, I was so thankful to be in the Rockies, and particularly here.
My hosts were very accommodating, and we were able to trade some amazing stories of all that God had done and was doing in our lives. Having started my epic journey from within the heart of Quebec, it was intriguing to hear the passionate testimony of a Quebecer, who found God out west. This was also where he met his beautiful bride, an Albertan, and settled down.
My next hosts were Albertan transplants, and had pursued the call of God on their lives to Calgary where they worked as a nurse and tree arborist. They had even been to South Africa on their honeymoon, and I was so thankful for their kindness, open fridge policy, a place to offload half of my luggage and the use of their tent and a sleeping bag if I decided to camp out for a night or two on my exploration of the Canadian wilderness.
Calgary reminded me a lot of Denver, Colorado, although culturally they say it's more like Texas. With horses and oil, and a great deal of conflict and controversy over the Canadian pipeline, this city was a nice mix of where "country meets cosmopolitan".
Here in Calgary, I connected with one of the leaders of The Burn in order to find out more about God's heart and vision for prayer and local mission in the province.
I was also delighted to join a group of youth, who seek the Lord through "Tehillah Prayer" and Worship, which is a gathering that has been going for over 30 plus years.
From Calgary I headed south to experience a genuine taste of the local cowboy culture. A Rodeo with some real cowgirls in Okotoks, a delicious steak on the cowboy trail and saskatoon berry picking in the horse paddock. It was truly a gift of Providence that when I couldn't drive much further, I ended up staying with a family who knew how to fix cars! Thank you Ben and Karen for saving me from roadside service on some lonely wilderness trail.
The road to Banff is a scenic drive, and although the town is extremely commercial and inundated with international tourists, I was welcomed into the home of a local artist, who had been in the city for a couple of decades. A must stop for everyone, I was delighted by all the hiking opportunities, waterfalls, lakes, glacial blue waters and was even blessed with some tasty dishes from a Peruvian chef who she shared her house with.
Wildlife were few and far between, but I did get a glimpse of a coyote on a nearby golf course.
I totally missed the bear in the yard. Only the neighbor had seen it, but there were a couple of deer who found sanctuary in the garden, and were a welcome regular sighting.
In Edmonton, I was blessed to spend a week with an another incredible artist, whose paintings are very symbolic and meaningful. Susan and I had met at The North Battleford Prayer gathering the November before and soon found out that we had much in common.
Edmonton is actually quite a bustling city and I got my introduction to Albertan History through a tour of the local History Museum, which we wandered through with much interest. We loved dreaming about what God might do with our mutual love for history and art in the future, and was a real treat getting a first hand look at her art studio and creative process.
Although I have not made it up north to the more remote territories of Canada, watching a movie called Snow Walker was an interesting introduction to the resilience of the Inuit people. Susan shared with me about her unique journey north and a painting she had done which was inspired from that time - Thy Kingdom Come.
While in Edmonton, I also got to hear Graham Cooke live, as he shared about the brilliant possibilities of Christian living, and I managed to connect to one of Canada's most long standing Houses Of Prayer, HOPE, and join them for a few of their sets for the nation.
I also ended up crashing with a South African doctor I had met my first week in Toronto. Maybe it was providential that we sat next to each other during the international conference we were both at? I really know it was. We had so much to catch up on from all our experiences in and across Canada, and I was equally thankful for a couch to crash on while watching the Next Battle For Canada, live from St. John. New Brunswick.
We shared a few adventures, including a trip to the Bison Sanctuary and praying downtown at the local parliament building. Visiting Summit church was also a highlight, and I was delighted to be at the service where the pastor was preaching on one of my favorite psalms, Ps. 126.
She also introduced me to a dear friend of hers who is a 91 year old journalist and educator. He was part of forming an organization called The Company of the Cross and was part of a Wilderness Boarding School for boys. Although not in existence anymore, I was intrigued by his accounts of epic canoe trips, snow shoe races and turning boys into men. A curious historian myself, I thoroughly indulged in his storytelling and browsing through a whole collection of Christian History Books that he had coauthored.
But why is HISTORY important anyway ? According to this local historian -
Thankful for new friends and old, I got the pleasure of reconnecting with a Canadian American at the infamous restaurant, Remedy, where she treated me to a pistachio chai and curry. From there we browsed through one of my favorite Canadian stores, the bookstore Indigo and ended up driving through the city in her very "Canadian" car.
With temperatures as crazy as they get in Edmonton during the winter, I was so grateful to hear of how this city has become a model in the nation for caring for the homeless through the many months of below freezing. One of the organizations leading the way is called
Hope Mission, and was where she worked when she first moved to the city from Toronto.
After over two weeks in Edmonton it was time to move on. My next stop, Peace County. It was great to travel north and get a taste of a more rural community. Some of the trees were already changing color, and it was here that I got a glimpse of a bear browsing in the wheat fields. My hosts were related to a friend I had met in Rwanda, and welcomed me like family. They had a uniquely Canadian love story, and had actually met while tree planting in B.C.
I enjoyed hearing about their work with the First Nations people, driving out for a moose call experience, and joining them at their small town church. Their kids are really cute too!
While browsing through their family library, I came upon a DVD that really blessed me. It was the story of how the love of God transformed a local community in Papua New Guinea. The book, Peace Child, had inspired me deeply in my youth as I contemplated the life of becoming a missionary. When I found out that this couple were Canadian and had gone to Bible School here in Alberta, I was amazed at the Providence of God. Here I was on a mission exploring the rich Christian heritage of Canada, and it had all started back in Africa through a few books written by Canadian missionaries. Missionaries who had lived out Canada's mandate of literally taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Their heart for God had lead them to a tribe who at the time actively practiced cannibalism. God's love transformed the community forever.
In the same spirit of pioneering and peace, I drove up one morning to Peace River, the most northern town on my journey across Canada. Stopping at the local museum, I was introduced to a couple of the early pioneers who trekked through and opened up some of the most remote territories of The true North: Alexander Mackenzie and David Thompson.
There is even a river route that Canadian students still explore by canoe, known as the Alexander Mackenzie Voyageur Route, which follows along some of Canada's major rivers all the way from Quebec to B.C.
Like Alexander Mackenzie, David Thompson was another well known explorer, known by the First Nations as both a "philosopher" and "stargazer". He logged 80,000km across Canada with his faithful wife Charlotte, who was the daughter of a Scottish trader and Cree woman, and who was his constant companion for almost six decades.
Many others followed in their footsteps, though mostly for the monetary gain they could receive through beaver trading. Getting a first hand feel of furs and beavers hats, I wondered at the absurdity of just what it took to feed the fashion craze of the European fur hat market.
Enjoying the yellowing of the leaves and a drive through the countryside alongside Peace River, I decided to take the local ferry for a quick experience on the water. I also came across an Augustine mission which was originally set up to reach out to the First Nations people and had had a specific focus on agriculture and teaching sustainability in such a remote part of the world.
And if there was ever a passage for my time in Peace Country, I marveled at how God lead me to Psalm 147:14-15, which says "He’s the one who brings peace to your borders, feeding you the most excellent of fare. He sends out his orders throughout the world; his words run as swift messengers, bringing them to pass."
Just before leaving the land of "peace" I got my very first Albertan horse ride. Ever a horse enthusiast, I really enjoyed riding on a western saddle passed a field of bison, after stopping for a honey glazed donut and tea. I even got to take some delicious bison burgers home for a parting breakfast the following morning. Nothing like a meal fresh from the source!
Thankfully, this was not my last riding experience. After camping out for the night in Jasper National Park and stopping for a quick viewing of the receding glacier, I ended up back in Calgary with a family who were originally from Southern Africa. Right at home in my own culture, it only seemed fitting that I would head out for a day trip to visit another Zimbabwean.
I had a great time getting a first hand trail experience in a beautiful part of Southern Alberta. Joining a family friend of my uncle, who is a professional cattle wrangler and foundational horse trainer, I hopped onto one of the horses in his care during the changing of the leaves. After fresh air and chicken wings at the local pub with his friends, I headed back to my home base in Calgary, thankful for another opportunity to experience what it meant to be Albertan.
I had no idea that I would spend six weeks in Alberta, but I wouldn't have missed out on all the amazing people and experiences I was blessed to have. I ended my time enjoying a multicultural love feast with another Zimbabwean family at a church called Jubilee; I cried my way through the movie Overcomer, which was definitely a film for the season, with a story line that was really close to home; and experienced an answer to my prayers at a Sonship Gathering, hosted by a ministry called Father Heart in collaboration with Uchurch Calgary.
My whole journey to Canada had been an exploration of my identity as a daughter of the Father, and I couldn't be more grateful to connect with a ministry whose mandate was:
To see the revelation of the love of the Father go to every stream of Christianity, to every denomination, to every country, every culture and finally face to face with every person.
With family and members in 60+ countries, I can't wait to get to New Zealand one day and plug into the roots of all that God has done through Father Heart International.
"When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child,
God has made you also an heir." Galatians 4:5-7
As soon as the conference was done, I hit the road. The weather was a little rough, but I was on a mission to get to Kelowna for Rosh Hashanah 5780, and headed out in the early hours.
What can I say? You know you're a Canadian when you leave Calgary in a snowstorm and drive over the Rockies with your new snow tires. Thankfully, the car I was given had come with four snow tires and although I had planned to head out over the mountains before the first snow, I just couldn't miss the Father Heart gathering. Because of this, I learned a little about just how cold it is to put air in your tires when the temperature drops more than ten degrees. Thankfully, my friend Phil helped me figure out how to put my tires on, while Midas helped me torque them for free. An early start, eight hours later, a mountain pass and a few stops in-between, I reached my Canadian Promised Land... the Beautiful Country, B.C.