The BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY...
Updated: Jan 11, 2021
From La Belle Province to the Beautiful Country - Hello British Columbia!
After miles of driving across Canada, I was finally west.
As I drove over the mountain pass, my heart leaped with anticipation. Having left Calgary in a snowstorm, I was delighted to find that the roads on the BC side were all clear. And thank-goodness they were, as I was on a mission to get to Kelowna in time to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with Harvest Ministries. Not only was the weather on my side, but I was incredibly blessed to stay with friends of my mom, whom she had met while working in Switzerland. They opened their arms to me like family and gave me a key to the house as they headed east for a couple of weeks. I made myself at home, amazed at how Providentially located they were. I could literally walk across the road to join Harvest in welcoming in the year 5779.
Having heard so much about the mountains and vineyards, I was not disappointed. In no time, I was out exploring the area, embracing the quirkiness of Kelowna and enjoying the fresh air found on the local hiking trails, overlooking one of Canada's most beautiful, lakefront cities.
Renowned for it's apple orchards and wineries, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was a priest who had planted the first orchard and vineyard in the area. This seemed the perfect fit, considering Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine.
Father Pendosy, remembered as Canada’s Johnny Appleseed, was the man with the vision for the agricultural prosperity of the Okanagan. Dedicated to God and the well-being of the local indigenous people, he was known as a mediator, interpreter and peace-keeper.
Visiting the historic site dedicated to his life and mission became a regular occurrence for me, as I thought about the role of agriculture in modern day missions, sat by the well reading an all time favorite, and listened to a song that soon became a personal anthem for the season.
Kelowna was a place I had longed to visit, and I was blessed every moment I had there. From the beauty of the natural surroundings, to the community I found at Harvest Ministries, to the kind hospitality I received from my wonderful hosts. By the time Canadian Thanksgiving arrived, how could I not be thankful. I was with wonderful people, and in a region of Canada that I could easily live for the rest of my life. From scenic drives, to stomping grapes, I was always up for another adventure, and when a friend treated me to a concert one night, I couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate, than by dancing and singing along to a live performance by the renowned Irish band, Rend Collective. It's time to light some revival fires!
This is our revival anthem
Can you feel the darkness shaking
O, we are the dry bones rising
This will be our great awakening
This is our revival anthem!
Their heart for intentional community and vulnerable accountability speaks to the heart, and one of the first songs I sang along to, as I started my Canadian pilgrimage east to the Maritimes, was none other than their infamous song My Lighthouse. How culminating to celebrate my journey across the nation with a band that has brought so much joy and authenticity to the faith. And what a bonus to learn that one of the singers from their opening band was from South Africa! I immediately loved the unique style of the duet, Land of Color, and quickly acquired a new daily favorite to wake up to called none other than, Morning Song.
I remain totally amazed at God's timing. Ever a grape enthusiast, I had arrived in one of the most beautiful regions of the country, right on time for the grape harvest and the Okanagan Grape Festival. I headed south to Oliver and got a firsthand taste, and even had a short chat with a local pastor in the area, who prays at the opening of this event every year.
Another dream come true was harvesting grapes for a day at a local winery. I loved learning on the job and the reality of what it means to "Abide in the vine" took on a whole new light.
It was interesting to learn that depending on how you prune your vine greatly affects the outcome of the harvest and how much fruit you bear (John 15).
Although the grape picking is quite a taxing ordeal, you never know who may show up in the vineyard to work, including all the summer fruit pickers from Quebec. Indeed, I was not the only one who had traveled thousands of miles west. It was pretty chilly on the day I harvested, and when I learned that pruning took place in winter, I thanked God for the opportunity to have experienced the grape harvest in the fall. I decided to pass on harvesting grapes in the early hours of the morning, and leave the making of ice wine to those with thicker skins.
From The Okanagan, I drove down the twisting mountain roads to Vancouver. The city welcomed me with a week full of rain, and although I was finding it hard to embrace the dampness of the wet coast, my hosts definitely lifted my spirits, and introduced me to some of the highlights of this great city. What a treat to have a tour with local Vancouver residents who were born and raised in the city. So many people have moved to this seaside metropolis, that it's actually very rare to meet an original Vancouverite, not to mention three generations who are living in the same area. We started with a trip to the local Fish Market at Granville Island.
The timing of my arrival in Vancouver was yet again incredibly providential, considering I arrived in time for election week. Rejoining the prayer team I had met in Ottawa at the beginning of summer, was a delight. I even got to experience a campaign rally with my host, and scrutineering when we volunteered in a swing riding, where we put our faith in action.
Although the elections may not have gone the way that we had hoped, the lead intercessor encouraged us with the exhortation to steward our hearts. I rejoiced in the reality that no one was abducted or killed, and the fact that I could participate without fear in a democratic election. Embracing the freedom of living in a democracy, we continued to pray for those in authority, knowing that true change would only happen through a spiritual awakening.
While in Vancouver, I also got to visit The Beaches, take a hike through Stanley Park and along the Seawall, enjoy meaningful conversations with believers in the area, eat fresh salmon, herring eggs and fried bread at a First Nations mission fundraiser and visit a renowned Bible College. With students from everywhere, I felt quite at home in this spiritually academic space. I joined the weekly worship at Regent College, and got to listen to a musical sermon on the connection between jazz, Exodus and the spiritual heritage of American slaves.
Founded in 1968, Regent was the first graduate school of theology in North America to make the education of the laity its central focus. Chatting with a professor on the history of revival, I was intrigued to find out that the Moravian mission movement actually began with a group of praying teenagers in Czechoslovakia.
I also came across a new friend in the book shop, who became a very treasured companion on the rest of my journey west. On the Road With St. Augustine delves into "A Real-World Spirituality For Restless Hearts".
As the infamous African theologian, Augustine said himself, "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee." Although I would miss hearing the author share in a lecture a few weeks later, I connected heartily to the subject matter.
Popular speaker and award-winning author James K. A. Smith has spent time on the road with Augustine and invites us to join him on this journey with an ancient African thinker who knows far more about us than we might expect. Augustine, says Smith, is the patron saint of restless hearts--a guide who has been there, asked our questions, and knows our frustrations and failed pursuits. Augustine spent a lifetime searching for his heart's true home and he can help us find our way... On the Road with Saint Augustine offers a fresh articulation of Christianity that speaks to our deepest hungers, fears, and hopes. Addressing believers and skeptics alike, this book shows how Augustine's timeless wisdom speaks
to the worries and struggles of contemporary life, covering such wide-ranging topics
as ambition, sex, friendship, freedom, parenthood, and death.
It was a blessing to be around theologians and intercessors alike, and I enjoyed the company of another dear couple whose heart for Canada was evident. With the falls leaves changing, we enjoyed a walk to the waters edge and conversations about prayer and nature.
Everyone I met had a story to tell and a unique take on Canadian identity. I was always eager to learn more, and it's not every day you meet someone who is still playing ice hockey at 85!
Having chased the fall out west, I was so thankful that instead of several layers of clothing, I only needed a couple. Although I may have missed the summer vibe of Vancouver, where the beaches are covered in people and the streets alive with the hustle and bustle of visitors, I took time to smell the fresh sea air, play in the leaves and sit on the shoreline looking west.
From old Chinese men trying to catch crabs to wet suit surfers catching the waves, I took in the diversity of this city with a happy heart. The nations are literally everywhere, even a large Iranian population in one of the northern suburbs. Canada - What a mission-field?!
With the nations on my doorstep, I even got to go to lunch with Zimbabwean pastors who had immigrated to Canada from the city I grew up in. They even treated me to Nandos famous chicken, which was truly a taste of home and a welcome discovery amidst the local cuisine.
I had many interesting conversations in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. From a hearty chat with Ed Hird, whose book I had read as one of my intros to the nations Christian history, to praying with a fiery and passionate group of ladies from all over the world, who were part of the Lower Mainland Intercessors group, to a tour around one of Canada's beloved Christian campuses, my days were often spontaneous and Spirit-lead, but definitely never boring.
With a deep love for Christian education, it was interesting to find out a little more from my energetic tour guide on how to pray for a generation raised on social media.
I also got to stop by at the Athletes in Action offices in Langley, which is an area affectionately known as a mission hub and part of the Bible Belt of British Columbia. This amazing work is reaching the nations, and it was a couple from this very ministry, who had served in South Africa, who had blessed me with the car that I had driven all the way out west in.
While staying with friends connected to my Dutch agricultural contacts, I visited a lovely sustainable farming community, called Arocha, for a deliciously organic lunch. I felt so at home in the gardens and on the land, enjoying the hospitality and conversations I had on Dominion, The Creation Gospel, and Watershed discipleship. How different the world would be today if we learned to follow in the footsteps of one of their mottos, by living greener and lighter.
If Vancouver and the greater mainland area is likened to different types of soil, the following thoughts from a local pastor in the downtown area, is definitely some food for thought. What a blessing his family were to me, as I traveled to and fro from the Delta area where they lived.
Visiting Fort Langley, one misty morning, seemed to bring everything into perspective for me. The birthplace of BC, Fort Langley was a Metis fur trading outpost. Built by the Hudson Bay Company in 1827, it operated a large farm, began the west coast salmon packing industry, and exported produce to ports in Alaska and Hawaii. For these travelling traders -
Home was not a place
“For Metis in the fur trade, home was often an entire network of
places in a seasonal round of travel”
Such had been my journey across Canada.
A poem written by a dear friend