Updated: Jan 14, 2021
All Your Promises Are Yes and Amen!
Toronto! My first entry into Canada and a city with so much personal history. Called "Toronto the Good" after a Christian mayor, William Howland, whose heart for the poor lead him to found inner city missions in the 1800's, Toronto was the city that I saw the goodness of my Heavenly Father and His redeeming love at work in my own life in a very personal way. Just a year before I had come to this bustling metropolis to meet my dad for the first time in over twenty years! What a journey, and thankfully - a victorious one. And here I was again, in the heat of July celebrating Canada Day for the first time ever with my dad. Dinner in Chinatown and a few more visits to follow. A trip to Toronto Island, where we biked and cooked hot dogs on the beach, some lively discussions, and a revisit to High Park, where we had made our introduction in July of 2018. Amazing that a year had already gone by...
And what would I have done without my friends and "family" from the three week Bible school I had done at Catch the Fire. Their love and support through the whole journey had been invaluable to me. I decided to stop by to say hi to some of these friends who lived in Toronto and even caught up with a friend from Latvia who was in town to do the second school.
From Toronto I headed down to Niagara to stay with a wonderful couple who had been part of the Leadership School of Ministry I had been part of. They pastor in the area and trace their roots back to India. It was wonderful seeing Niagara Falls and touring Niagara on the Lake, an area well known for it's vineyards and fruit trees. I even came across a winery called NOMAD!
As Tolkien so aptly put, "Not all who wander are lost." Indeed, I was a pilgrim on a quest.
My friends in Niagara have a huge heart and passion for revival. I had no idea how rich the area was in stories of what God has done and is doing, or that there was a house of prayer, Niagara House of His Presence, which I happened to be in the area for on just the right day.
And the family had some powerful testimonies of God's healing and miracles in their lives. Indeed, Jeeva's doctor even called him the Miracle Man. And for a generation growing up with numerable allergies and food intolerances, Jaya's testimony hit close to home.
It was fascinating to learn of the part that Canada played in the Underground Railroad. For American slaves, the nation truly was viewed as the Promised land for the many who were able to flee. Salem chapel in St Catherine’s was one of the destinations, where Harriet Tubman, the Moses of her people, lead her people into freedom. She was known as the most famous "conductor" and public face of the Underground Railroad in British North America and helped countless refugees to settle in their new home.
And Canada remains a country where many come for refuge and freedom, even today. But what exactly does it mean to be Canadian? Multicultural eh? Here are some thoughts of a few of the friends I had visited with during my time in The Greater Toronto Area.
So many wonderful conversations, and stories, including the pioneer story of an Inuit Mission.
And then there was a story I watched in the theater, which appeared to be Canada's most controversial movie for 2019. In a country credited for freedom of speech it was sobering to think that theaters were too afraid to show the movie because of threats and backlash. Thankfully a few were brave enough to screen the movie, and I was blessed to be passing through one of the few towns that did, the week it showed. Policy making is a right and a privelege in a democratic country like Canada, but I'm still convinced that what will really have long term impact on policy making is Revival.
And so my spiritual quest continued...
Revival historians have credited a three year revival that began in Hamilton in 1858 as the initial spark that began the Third Great Awakening! The revival was marked by prayer and humility, and was lead by lay ministers rather than professional clergy. What was unique about this revival was that it impacted all social classes who bowed their knees before the altar as one, and... it was lead by a woman, Phoebe Palmer.
Visiting Hamilton today, one is confronted with the reality of a large homeless population. There is even a sculpture in front of one of the churches to help Christians identify with this great need in the city and an amazing cafe close by, which had a unique outreach to the homeless, where everyone could meet as equals. Maybe loving the homeless really is like Mother Theresa said, loving "Jesus in disguise".
A highlight in Hamilton was joining The Greater Ontario House of Prayer for their summer Prayer Truck, and staying with a wonderful family committed to hope and community.
From Hamilton I traveled north to the Jean de Brebeuf Memorial. Here I walked in the shoes of the first missionary martyrs in Canada. These French Jesuits pioneered into the inner regions, building a strong community and relationship with the Wendat Nation. After ten years their community was attacked and destroyed by the Iroquois Nation. A memorial was built on the site of their sacrifice. The words of Brebeuf reveal his incredible dedication to this mission.
"My God, my Saviour, I take from thy hand the cup of thy sufferings. I vow never to fail thee in the grace of martyrdom, if by thy mercy, thou dost offer it to me. I bind myself, and when I have received the stroke of death, I will accept it from thy gracious hand with all pleasure and with joy in my heart; to thee my blood, my body and my life!"
"It is in his death that his life is best understood and that his work bore its greatest fruit. Conversions, which for many years were few in number, grew to number in the hundreds and even thousands in the years following Brébeuf’s martyrdom. The dispersion of the Huron spread the Christian faith among the native peoples of the Great Lakes. And these converts formed the Christian communities that the Jesuits were to found among the Iroquois and the natives of the west. Brébeuf’s death, like his Saviour’s, led others to eternal life."
Canada Portraits of Faith
Three Sisters soup: (beans, squash and corn)
My visit to Muskoka, renowned for it's beauty, was my introduction to "cottage country". Many Canadians spend part of their summer in cottage country, taking advantage of the lakes and outdoors, and I enjoyed getting my feet wet at a local waterfall in the area, where I stayed with a wonderful couple who are part of YWAM Muskoka. With mutual friends, we immediately connected over our love for prayer, missions and Africa.
My stay was short and sweet, but meaningful, and I loved meeting another prophetic artist who had painted a beautiful piece on Forgiveness and Healing.
Canada is called to bring healing to the nations (Rev 22:2), but as a nation we still have some internal healing that needs to take place. It was truly enlightening to hear some of the thoughts and stories from the YWAM base leader, who herself is First Nations.
And as healing in the land is directly connected to prayer (2 Chronicles 7:14) , it was special that the staff at this YWAM base have a deep desire to be a House of Prayer.
From Muskoka, I traveled to Northbay to join the House Of Prayer there for their weekly gathering. I loved how the children were an active part of the worship! They have been faithful for many years in pursuing the presence of God in the area, and the nations.
Driving across Ontario takes a lot more time than one realizes, and I was so thankful for all the stops along the way. As I started my journey north and west, I got the opportunity to stay with a great host who is in her 90's and still as energetic as ever. Manitoulin Island (God's Island), is the only unceded First Nations territory in Canada, and was one of my first stops along The Great Lakes Region. Welcomed with fresh fish and wide open spaces, I was introduced to an iconic lighthouse on the island and a great local hike, called Cup and Saucer.
Home of the Wikwemikong people, this unique unceded reserve is a land with no European treaties. I got to chat with a local pastor who shared stories of the growing First Nations "house church", the medicine man who gave his life to the Lord and the way that First Nations people know how to do community so well. I loved the First Nations art piece of the trinity that I came across at the first Jesuit mission in northern Ontario.
From the island, I drove up to Sault St. Marie and saw my first originals of Canada's renowned Group of Seven at the local art gallery where my cousin worked. It was also fascinating chatting with her husband about life as a Canadian fire fighter.
The drive around Lake Superior is gorgeous! As well as the beautiful coves and beaches, two intriguing stops were Wawa, where they have a giant wild goose and the town where Winnie the Pooh originated. Did you know that the Book character was inspired after a black bear from Canada? In 1914 Lieutenant Colbourn purchased a black bear in White River on route too overseas. He called her Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg. While serving in France he left her in the care of the London Zoo, where she was watched and loved by many, including A.A.Milne and his son Christopher.
As I drove into Thunderbay along the highway of courage, I stopped at a statue to remember one of Canada's icons, a young man named Terry Fox. He was a cancer research activist, an athlete and a humanitarian. He started to run across Canada from east to west to raise money and awareness to the disease that eventually took his life part way through his Marathon of Hope. It was here in Thunderbay, that he had to stop his run. To date he remains a prominent figure in Canadian folklore. His determination united the nation.
Canada still needs prayer for unity. One of the issues that most divides the nation is regarding the treatment, restitution and atrocities committed against Canada's first people, the First Nations. Chatting with a nurse and one of the members of the Thunderbay House of Prayer, I was intrigued to find out that in her opinion, New Zealand is about thirty years ahead of Canada regarding reconciliation. For one of the most "tolerant" countries in the world, Canada still has much to process and learn. Will God heal our land? Prayer is paramount.
Learning about the challenges in Canadian healthcare, and all that the First Nations face in their search for the restoration of their culture and identity, I am reminded of the thoughts of Billy Graham, who felt that the third great awakening could be directly connected to revival within the North American native population.
Being a northern city, surrounded by First Nations reserves, I pondered how fitting it was that Thunderbay looked out on a mountain range called, The Sleeping Giant. One of the prayers I had prayed on my journey across Canada was that the nation would wake up to what God was wanting to do, echoeing the heart of Canada's first knwn revivalist, Henry Aline.
Looking out over the vast expanse, the haze gave a countenance of sleepiness, but my heart wondered, ... is this not the hour of awakening? Oh Canada, I stand on guard for thee...