If Atlantic Canada is known for its' hospitality, I truly got a taste of what my Maritime friends had to offer in Nova Scotia. I started off in Dartmouth, with a lovely couple who run a B&B. Treated like a guest, I was so grateful for our hearty conversations, delicious food, comfortable bed, and Atlantic humour. A port city, Halifax has been an entry point for many a traveller, both past and present. I was happy to be among them.
A nation of immigrants, I was excited to connect with my own immigrant roots at Pier 21. Although, I personally only immigrated to Canada in 2018, my grandparents on my dad's side had both come across by boat from Slovakia when they were just children. It was amazing to see a picture of the literal boat that my grandmother came across the ocean on, as her family sought a new life and better working conditions as economic immigrants to Canada.
And why do so many look to Canada for a new start? Fleeing conflict zones and war torn countries, asylum seekers come for freedom..., come for peace. Canada has become the home for so many diverse nationalities and ethnicities, including my own.
One of Canada's greatest non-violent icons has to be the renowned revivalist from the 18th century, Henry Aline. Known as the apostle of Nova Scotia, Alline took up the cause of Christ, during the American revolution, when others were taking up arms.
As a soldier fighting for a different kingdom, he sought to lead his countrymen into a spiritual battle for the souls of his fellow man.
Visiting his memorial in Falmouth ended up being a spontaneous part of my journey, inspired by a conversation I had had in New Brunswick. Who was this young revivalist, who traveled by horseback and snowshoe throughout the Maritimes to share the good news of salvation in one of the most uncertain times of North American history? He preached wherever he was welcome - in barns, and fields and homes.
Challenging the doctrine of the cold calvinism of the time, he championed a view of God, now widely held within the global church body. God is a God of LOVE, to a broken and dying world. What a legacy this man left, paving the way for the present day Baptist movement.
And on my quest to know more about Henry Alline, I came across a road sign pointing me in the direction of the origin of ice hockey. I had to stop by and see the acclaimed pond, where a few young men from a private boarding school, started to hit a puck around on the ice.
The road to the pond was along a dusty track through an intriguing farm, where giant pumpkins are grown! The locals even have a pumpkin race down river in the summer time!
The Black Loyalist Heritage Center was a discovery I had not expected to come across on my travels, but when I woke up early into my trip thinking about the underground railroad, I knew it was Providence guiding me, when that very day I had a conversation with the descendant of a Black Loyalist. These black slaves from the United States had fought alongside the British during the war of 1776. Promised their freedom and land to start a new life in "Canada", they were relocated after the war to this part of Nova Scotia. They were not prepared for the harsh wilderness conditions and the extreme cold. Many suffered, and when given the opportunity decided to move back to the land of their ancestors.
As a white African, it was fascinating to come across the mention of my nation, Zimbabwe, in the exhibit, and to find out that converted Christians within this Black Loyalist community became the first missionaries to West Africa, bringing the good news to the lands from which there ancestors had been enslaved. Faith was an integral part of the Black Loyalist community here in Nova Scotia, and faith lead Moses Wilkinson, who became the first leader of the Methodists in Birchtown, to plant the first Methodist church in Settler Town, Sierra Leone. A powerful and charismatic preacher, his congregation followed him over the ocean to Africa.
The museum itself is a victory for the descendants of the Black Loyalists, considering some of the racial tensions of the past, seen in the Shelburne Race Riots. When David George, the leading Baptist minister of the Black people, starting baptizing White people, the settlers were furious! "John Marrant, Black Loyalist and Methodist Preacher and Missionary, visited and conducted services throughout the area. From his personal notes we gain fascinating insights about some of the early relationships. In 1785, "In the afternoon, I preaching again to a larger congregation of white and black, and Indians, when groans and sightings were heard through the congregation, and many were not able to contain; but cried out to God to have mercy upon them, and would not depart from this place" (Birchwood Museum).
For many of these Black Loyalists, life was very difficult, for they were "free but not equal."
The Book of Negroes covers the stories of this fascinating people and their heritage.
During my short time in Nova Scotia, I also had the privilege of staying with a family who have a ministry working with orphans in Kenya. They have a special work amidst the most vulnerable, and the missionaries of Heartbeat ministries carry the Father's Heart wherever they go. If there was ever a revelation that we need as Africans, it is that we are not orphans, and that we are loved by an amazing Father, who pursues His children. How is it that Zimbabwe has the highest rate of orphans per capita? And what will our society look like if we don't heed the call to step into the gap and practise the true religion, espoused in James 1:27. It was such a blessing to stay with them, hear their hearts, and seek to understand together the two very different and sometime contrasting worlds we both had in common. I even stayed in their Africa themed guest room. I felt right at home.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
For they will be filled." Matthew 6
Being in Nova Scotia, I couldn't come all the way and not visit Peggy's Cove. I'm so thankful that I had the opportunity to visit one of Canada's most iconic light houses. It's beautiful!
And yes, "The wind and waves still know His name."
As the sun set on a hazy evening in August, I breathed in the fresh air of the ocean one last time. My Eastern Exploration had come to an end. I had seen so much in just two weeks, and yet two weeks is hardly adequate to do justice to what Atlantic Canada has to offer. And what about the final home of the renowned inventor, Alexander Bell - the rugged coastline of Cape Breton? Not to mention, their cool celtic accent? And didn't some of the people there have a connection to the Hebrides revival? Or, so I've heard? And then there is the connection between Halifax and the Titanic and the role that Canada played, not to mention the infamous province of Newfoundland?... I had heard that their hospitality was on a whole other level. The whole island had rallied together and housed and fed the passengers of re-routed flights during 9-11. I still had so much more of Canada to see...