Thursday, 21 July 2016

Driving in Peace

Image result for dunvegan alberta
Canola to infinity
My title for this post is a bit of a play on words. A recent road trip took me to the city of Grande Prairie and from there to the  town of Peace River. That whole area of Northwest Alberta is known as the Peace Country, after the mighty Peace River. As a matter of fact, an annual Youth gathering there has one of the coolest titles I've heard; Disturbing the Peace, to be held later this year at Grande Prairie Alliance, a really good Alpha church.

The first picture above is where the Highway 2 crosses the river at Dunvegan. The second picture is of some of the bright yellow fields of canola one sees along both sides of the highway. I love travelling this Province.

In Peace River I had some interesting and encouraging calls. My first appointment was with Pastor Nathan Friedt at First Baptist, a church who has been taking the lead in that community, Alpha-wise. Nathan is a former Youth Pastor who left for Vancouver Island for a time, then was called back to be their Senior Pastor. They must have liked him, and I don't blame him. We had a very encouraging visit and brief time of prayer.

My next call was a cold call on the Catholic Church, appropriately named, "Our Lady of Peace." Fr. Cyril Joseph and I had a good conversation about Alpha and the possibility of his parish using it in conjunction with their RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults).

Finally I dropped in to the offices of the Anglican Diocese of Athabasca. Bishop Fraser Lawton (with whom I get along pretty well, as we are both, "car guys") and his Administrator, Danielle, had just returned from the Anglican Church of Canada national synod in Toronto, at which a motion  was passed which will ultimately lead to the approval same sex marriage in that denomination. Bp Fraser was among those standing against this motion, and in addition to the usual jet lag, I suspect was emotionally weary as well, so I didn't stay long - just long enough to say I was thinking and praying for them.

An interesting "coincidence" took place before all this on our way from St Albert to Grande Prairie. We stopped at McDonald's in Whitecourt. I was just leaving the till when I heard someone call my name. I turned around and it took me a couple of seconds to recognize Fariborz Khandani, a former Muslim from Iran who came to Christian faith and is now Rector of Christ Church Anglican Church in Grande Prairie, also in Bp Fraser's Diocese of Athabasca. He was travelling in the opposite direction, to Edmonton. We had a good time of discussion over Big Macs and a short time of prayer right there in McDonald's. I'm hoping his church will be one to run Alpha in the fall. For various reasons, which I'll not get into here, I believe it was not a coincidence that we met, but divinely ordained.

But you never know who you'll run into. It's a small world when you're a Christian. Family is everywhere.



Wednesday, 20 July 2016


Eva and I returned a couple of weeks ago from a few days in Vegas. "Vegas?" you ask, in the summer? Well, yes. We had a package deal that gave us free hotel in exchange, I didn't realize until the pitchman was halfway through his spiel, the, "Opportunity" to sit through a two hour time-share presentation. I've sat through one of these before and swore never to do it again. In addition to not particularly enjoying being subjected to a relatively high-pressure pitch, I don't really feel right wasting a sales person's time. I had no intention of buying anything, and I didn't.

But, hey, free is free. We also had Air Miles to pay for a hotel on the way down and Wyndham points for one on the way back. So all it cost us was gas. Well, gas plus food and entertainment. We carried and kept a fair amount of food in a cooler that we drained and filled with ice from the hotel ice makers twice a day. And we found a place on the Miracle Mile who served $9 entrees and $3 Margueritas. I gambled a total of $2, while waiting for my lovely bride outside a casino washroom. My last dollar won me 3 cents, which I just left in the machine for the next high roller.

We saw a couple of shows, notably Penn and Teller, which I thought was terrible, and The Million Dollar Quartet, which we both thought was fantastic.

The drive down was rather eventful. Somewhere south of Idaho Falls, at mile 87 of  I 15, we saw three kids standing on an overpass. Eva even commented that she hoped they weren't going to throw anything at us. Well, they did. We saw him throw it and heard a great bang, thinking it had hit the roof. When we had a chance to inspect the car however, we found he had hit the right front fender, damaging it, the hood and the headlight. Thanking God it didn't hit the windshield. That could have been disastrous.

Why we had a chance to inspect it is another story. I called 911 to report the incident, but basically kept on driving. Some time later we began to notice a strange noise coming from underneath the car. I feared the worst. I pulled in to a rest area and that is when I saw the damage. Looking under the hood I saw that the plastic skid plate under the motor had broken loose so that over about 50 miles an hour it dragged on the highway. Not a big problem. We stopped at the next town and found a NAPA store where a young man came out, crawled under the car and removed it. He wasn't going to charge us but I gave him ten bucks anyway, and let him keep the broken skid plate.

While we were in Vegas I checked out the Alpha USA website to find local Alphas. There is only one running, and only two in all of Nevada. I jokingly posted on Facebook that, "They need a Regional Director down here!"

I suppose it might be nice when the temperature is -30 in Alberta.



From Generation to Generation

Seniors' Alpha

Just a couple of things, among many, happening with Alpha right now, at opposite ends of the generational spectrum.

First, [a well-known local home developer] is hoping to run Alpha in four of their Seniors' residences, starting in mid-September. Their corporate chaplain has asked me to help find teams from among local churches.

Seniors are now my generation, the "baby boomers," once rebellious against the establishment. That spirit of rebelliousness would seem now to be once again appropriate, as our culture seems to be departing more and more from its roots. It's time to rebel once again against the 'establishment' and turn back toward God.

Youth Alpha
Turning to Youth, Alpha's Youth Film Series (YFS) has had a tremendous impact since its introduction in 2013. If you can see the infographic (just out) to the right, it has been viewed by nearly 70,000 Canadian teens. Over 20,000 young people have come to a new or renewed faith through it. Last year alone, 2015, over 6000 teens came to faith through Alpha's YFS. It is being run in more and more junior high and high schools, both Catholic and public. Just this morning I spoke with  Youth worker in a town in East-central Alberta whose church is planning to run it in their local high school.

I must admit, I sometimes fall into the trap of worrying too much about what I see going on around me, culturally and politically, but I'm then convicted. I will let others be concerned about those things. I have one aim, job, duty. That is to help churches and my brothers and sisters in Christ reach their communities for Jesus. I must leave politics to others.

Please keep Alpha, and me in my position, in your prayers.