Friday, December 30, 2011

Kerikeri to Wellington

We are off! There were no suitable campervans in the Kerikeri area, so our friends John and Michelle took us to Auckland on their way to a family camp at Totara Springs in Matamata. They have done so much for us, and made the buying of a van as easy for us as could be. Don't laugh: it is an 1997 Toyota Previa with (you won't believe this) 739,000 km. However, both engine and transmission are fairly new, everything works and we will just hope and pray that it will keep doing so for another 5000 km! People do tend to keep their vehicles a long time, but this is a lot even for here. Cars have to be checked and certified every six months, so they are kept up well.

By the time we completed the purchase, gassed up and found some food, it was getting on in the afternoon. We had the option of going to another friend's place near Hamiltion this day or the next, so we decided to go the two hours south and get to their place 12 km from Ngaruawahia that day (here is how they remember how to spell it: nine-girls-are-running-under-a-wharf-and-here-i-am). So glad we did! Mike was in my C&C group at my first church where I was youth pastor and also used to work at Camp Qwanoes as chef in the summers. Except for a bit of gray hair he hasn't changed a bit. Still full of fun and mischief, and still the talker. And he struck gold when he found his wife Helen (also at Qwanoes) - she is a farm girl from nearby and one of those Proverbs 31 kind of people. They and their son David made us feel at home right away. David took me down to the creek to find crayfish by torchlight, Helen laid out a gracious meal for us (though we told her about our McD's burger on the way) and Mike had story after story, about our days together long ago and all that he has been doing since.

We spent the next two days with them. They took us to the little surf town of Raglan, where we had lunch at a little cafe and wandered along the harbour. We went to the best left-hand break in the southern hemisphere, but the day was flat and there were no surfers. Mike loves to cook and loves to eat, and he and Helen pulled out all the stops, with roast ham and amazing steaks, with kumara and barbequed smoked potatoes and wonderful veggies. I may not fit in my plane seat on the way home! David and I had nerf wars all over their beautiful 95-year-old house, slipping on the hardwood floors. Mike loves to talk theology, and Helen and Sarah got along like sisters. It was hard to leave, but we hope to connect with them again on our way back north, when they will be staying at their bach on an east coast beach.

The day we left was a wet one. A cyclone has been building in the Tasman Sea, and we got the first taste. Much of the drive was typical Hobbiton, but there were also steep and snaky parts through jungle growth, and several places where the beach was right beside the road.


This photo is interesting, because it looks like a sunny beach with shadows coming from the left. Actually it wasn't sunny and there were no shadows; it is the sand that is black. Someone was surfing here, and it was at least double overhead with some nice tubes.

We didn't have any plan of where to stay that night. We passed a few campgrounds, but nothing seemed quite right. We were nearing New Plymouth, and Sarah suggested pulling into a smaller town by the beach to see what we could find. We drove past many houses and directly down to a park that was free of "no camping" signs, which made it fair game. It was right by the beach and had a washroom. I talked with a local on the beach, who told me that no one would mind us staying there overnight, and that a few locals might come by and drink and beer or two and leave, but it was quite safe. He was right.


We got through cooking dinner out the back of the van, and then the mist turned to rain, which drummed on the roof all night, so that we often could not even hear the breakers. But we slept well, and I think our little van stood the test - or we stood the test in our little van. I coudn't imagine we will find worse weather than that.

Until today. When we got up, it was still raining, and we had to dry the condensation off the windshield. All day, the rain pelted down and the van was rocked by the wind. We missed seeing a majestic cone that in the pictures looks like Mt. Fuji, and really couldn't see much of anything until we got near Wellington. But we accepted the journey God gave us with grateful hearts that we were safe and dry. A friendly cashier from Toronto recommended that we see the Cable Car Museum. We went, and it was cool, but we decided to come back a sunnier day. Instead, we went to Hannah Dunn's home (she also spent a summer at Qwanoes), for which we are grateful, though Hannah herself is in Australia! We will see her on our trip back north again. As I write, the wind is howling around the house, and it is cold! Hannah's dad turned the heat off for the summer, so her sister's New Years party will be a bit chilly. By the way, Happy New Year's, a whole day early for you North Americans!

Tomorrow, we are booked to cross Cook Strait (which could be a bit rough) and start our South Island adventure! Stay tuned.

PS - I'm past 70,000 words.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bay of Islands

We have landed! Our first few days in New Zealand have been quiet and restful, partly because after the first couple of days there has been a steady, soaking rain. Not ideal for us, but the people here are very grateful to have an end to a long drought, both for the fields and for the water tanks everyone uses that are fed by rainwater from their roofs. Anyway, it's warm. No one even wears rain jackets here.

We have enjoyed reconnecting with people we met here six years ago. We were met at the airport by Michelle (she lived with us for a couple of years not long after we arrived at Qwanoes) and her kids Josh and Ellie, who were 9 and 7 last time we were here and are now 15 and 13. We are getting to know them all over again. Then later Daniel (7) and Lana (5) came home from their last day of school and immediately pulled us into their play. Finally Michelle's Husband John came back, driving a small logging truck piled with logs. This family is so good to be with. We are staying in their camper, next to a field with horses, but they have included us in their lives and with their family and friend gatherings. We already have four invitations to dinner this week!

We are still looking for a camper van to take us all over the country after Christmas. I have emailed about a couple of the many listed at trademe.co.nz but haven't heard back yet. Between now and then, the plan is to park the camper we are staying in at a beach nearby, so we look forward to that. But for now we are quite content to hang out with Michelle and family.

So what will this time be about? We are still wondering and waiting. There are potential opportunities forming at home (no, we don't intend to stay in New Zealand forever!), and for now this is a good place for us. I'm doing more writing (I'm past 50k words now), and the weather is supposed to clear by Friday. God has blessed us by putting us here, and we look forward to watching it unfold.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Following the Sun / Following the Son

We are sitting in the Vancouver Airport, a couple hours from a 14-hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand. The sun just set here but is high in the sky there, and it will set there and rise again before we land. If you are following us on this Blog, we hope that it will be a good journey, and that by following us you will follow Jesus.

Just to catch you up, after our return across Canada in which we got to visit with about 90 Kaleo students and several others, we spent a few days feeling footloose in Victoria and then headed for California at the invitation of Amanda. We had never been down the Oregon Coast, and found it marvelous. I guess it is cool that our coast is rugged and wild, but it was sure nice to drive mile after mile and actually see the beaches and headlands and lighthouses of the West Coast. California was warm and sunny, and Amanda had a fair bit of time off just then so we talked lots and had adventures like a day out on the houseboat and a chilly dip in the lake.

We also visited Bethel while in Redding, which was an interesting experience. Several people prayed for us who were clearly sent from God to speak to our situation and to encourage us. One told me to focus more on what God is doing, rather than what he is not doing, underlining the message that he has been giving us all along the way.

Back in Victoria, we had several weeks of house-sitting, very timely. We had more time with our boys than we have in a long while, and attended a little church and Bible study with Nicki and company where God has drawn together a crowd of young adults, which we found very interesting. I am curious about what God is doing in and through the young adult crowd in Canada these days. I also did a fair bit of writing, which is why this Blog has suffered, but maybe one day you will see the results of what is becoming a book.

One evening, I was sitting downstairs thinking and praying, and I said to God, "You know, we have done all these things you have asked of us during this transitional time. And now it is time to show us what's next." The answer was clear and interesting: in the next four days, after a year of hearing about no opportunities, four were brought to my attention, and another yesterday. All of them were from camps, all were not right now but in the spring, and maybe none of them will work out. But I had the impression that God was saying, "You want opportunities? Here, I have dozens of them in my pocket! I can pull them out any time. Trust me. Wait."

So, we are off to New Zealand, which for us has been a good place for waiting on God. We will stay with friends for a couple weeks in the far north, and then hopefully buy a camper van and tour the country north to south and back again. It feels a bit strange to be away for Christmas, but we had a little celebration with Ben and Danny the other night, and they are okay with it. I understand that Christmas in NZ is typically a barbeque at the beach. We can handle that.

We will try to keep as up to date here as we can, though internet access will be a bit intermittent. We appreciate your prayers!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The End of This Chapter

We woke up to a high enough overcast that the mountains were clear and beautiful, standing up all around us like we were in some gigantic mouth. We stopped in at my brother Gary's place in Enderby at noon and caught up with him and his wife Joan over sandwiches at a great (and obviously popular) eatery called Hungry Jack's on Cliff Avenue.

Then we carried on to Vernon, to reconnect with our friends Richard and Shaleah, and our puppy Barkley! They have been looking after him since June, which has been a huge help to us and it seems they have enjoyed him too. He went nuts when he saw us and would not stop jumping straight into the air until he got it into his mind that I could toss a ball for him to chase, which he did with as much energy as ever. He has certainly settled down in these past few months and is more obedient than ever. That's what happens in a family of dog trainers.


It was also very cool to watch how Richard & Shaleah's three kids are adjusting so well to life in Canada after eight years in Tanzania. Several families came over that evening for supper and Bible study, all with young kids, which is great because it is often hard for young families to manage getting together this way. This led to a good discussion the next morning about families and parenting and adoption. They adopted their little girl in Tanzania when she was just three months old, and she has fit in so well. But one day she will likely have to process the kind of emotions I have seen in other adopted young women in the past few years.

I realized as we carried on down the road to Kelowna that these girls not only feel abandoned by their birth family, which was just an action once done to them for whatever reason. They also feel "abandonable," which relates to who they are: they feel like people who can be discarded. These may or may not be reasonable feelings or emotions in keeping with the circumstances of their adoption. But the feelings are real nonetheless.

In Kelowna, we went to visit my mom, who soon after my dad's passing in February went into a full care facility. She was angry about it back then, so I was amazed at how calm and content she is in her situation now. She is lonely though, and because memory loss keeps her from knowing how frequently she has visitors or how long we have visited with her, goodbyes are always tough - she never wants us to leave. So we talked and played Scrabble (she beat me the first game, pulling out a 46-point word right at the end) and Skippo (I won, which rarely happens). Then she reluctantly saw us out the door until the next day.

We were glad to be staying once again with Kristie, in her beautiful home overlooking Okanagan Lake, and to see her so much more full of energy and looking like herself again. More of the grace of God! I took a late-night walk down to the Lake, and the stars were beautiful and bright. It felt so good to get air in my lungs - too many days of driving and coffee shops and no exercise.

We had a nice lazy start to the day, took my mom out for lunch at Tim's and then more games of Scrabble. Sorry, I won, though mom had a stretch of 120 points in four turns. But no matter how long we stay, it is never enough for mom, who by necessity lives in the moment. She prefers moments with us over moments alone, and we can't blame her. But it does lift her spirits to have us with her, even if she can't remember afterward why she feels happy.

That evening, Marissa came over - who just moved to Kelowna to take a hairdressing course - and I made a beef stir-fry for us all, which went well with Marissa's great salad and other additions by Kristie and Sarah. So good to see Marissa after a full year. Later we went to see a condo that Marissa might share. "Very tempting," she said, and no doubt since it was brand new, gorgeous and the patio door opens to Woods Lake! We sat there a long time (a friend of Kristie's gave her the key) and talked and didn't want to leave.

The next morning we met Doris - who also just moved to Kelowna, "like all the cool people," as Marissa put it - and had brunch at the Jammery, a popular spot overlooking Duck Lake. Doris amazed us with how quickly God has established her here and opened ministry opportunities with the young adults at Trinity Baptist, my home church.

We took my mom for a drive that afternoon and she enjoyed the sunshine and orchards bursting with apples and the views of the Lake. It's fun because she enjoys the same views multiple times and usually makes the same comments each time! Finished the day at Kristie's with leftovers, the movie Miss Potter (better than it sounds) and a walk with Kristie under a nearly full Moon and with the lights on the water.

After saying farewell to Kristie, we went to the 9:00 am service at Trinity with my mom. We were very glad to see that our friend Storm was leading worship, and it was beautiful. On a Sunday back in February, he came to Trinity to lead worship and be checked out by the church, and it was my dad's last Sunday there before he passed away, and he told me how much he liked Storm and hoped he would get the position of worship leader there. It was good to chat with him and catch up a bit.

We found ourselves in the um... unfortunate?? predicament of being invited to two Thanksgiving dinners on the same day. So we went early to my Mom's sister's place (at 92 she is still hosting the family gathering) and could smell the turkey but couldn't eat it, then confused my mom by leaving early and drove four hours to Chilliwack to have turkey with Sarah's sister and family! Confused? My brain and stomach felt the same, but really it is a blessing to have so much family tugging us about.

Ben and Danny joined us there too, so it was a happy gathering. Danny has been away at a digital film school in Hawaii these past six months and arrived back a couple weeks before. Ben picked him up in Bellingham and they and Amber (K1) drove together down the Oregon coast to California and saw Amanda (K3-5 leader). So it was great to be back together after so many adventures.

We spent a couple relaxing, rainy days there and then continued west to Langley, where Mikayla (K3) and family hosted a gathering of Kaleo students from around the lower mainland.


Lisa (K1 leader); Mark, Matthew, Mikayla, Kirk (K3); Andrew, Sheri, Joel (K5); Bob (K7 - check out his "hair"); Holly, Steve and Bryan (K8) all came together, not all knowing one another but knowing us. So good to see them all, and so little time to talk with each one. As one student said to us on this trip, it's like they are sending Sarah and I off to the next adventure with their blessing. We are truly feeling that, but are still wondering what that next adventure will be.

Well, the end of the journey. We boarded a good old-fashioned BC ferry, all too familiar to us, and rolled into Victoria, 10,000 kilometers older, perhaps a little wiser and definitely blessed. We spent our last night in the camper at Goldstream Park among the giant trees of the west coast, ready to turn the page to the next chapter. We thank you for journeying with us, and appreciate your continuing prayers and affirmation.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Dinosaurs to Mountains

We haven't been to see the dinosaurs since Ben was very little. The Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum in Drumheller is quite amazing, if you can forgive Darwin and zillions of years, and simply be in awe of creatures God once created. It was especially nice that admission was free due to an Alberta Arts thing.


This was our favorite room: set like a gallery with dark walls, well-lit displays, gilt frames around them, classical music, leather chairs and an enormous T-Rex dominating centre stage. We sat here a long time, soaking it in, enjoying the coolness (it was a scorching 31C outside) and breathing. We had lunch under an umbrella outside and then I went for a walk in the badlands, eye out for the next colossal Dino find, but content to get some exercise. Hey, longboarders, there is a brand new paved trail winding down through the badlands. You should check it out, Selena! It crosses the road a bit before the museum.

On the drive to Calgary, we glimpsed the most amazing thing: Mountains! So good to see them again, and a reminder that we are nearing the end of this journey. We arrived and found Laura, who married Ty W (K1&2) a couple years ago and had just arrived home from work. Ty arrived as we were getting to know Laura better, and we went out for burgers at a local grill.

We enjoyed a lazy start the next day. All slept in, except Ty who had a morning event at the boys and girls club. When he got home we took a picnic to Prince's Island Park and tweaked out enough sunshine to make it very pleasant, even at the end of September.


That evening, Phil B (K2) and his wife Nicole came down for dinner - so good to see Phil (who was also a K3 intern) after so many years and to meet the girl who married him in spite of the time he nearly dropped a boulder on her while they were climbing together. We all talked and caught up, late into the evening.

After going to Ty & Nicole's church in the morning, and giving them a fond farewell, we located the Starbucks where we expected to meet a couple of students, and found four! Jahnaya (K5) arrived first, then Kendall (K3) and then Dan & Katie (K5), who we thought we had missed!


Jahnaya, Kendall and Katie are all studying at Ambrose, and both Kendall and Katie & Dan got married this summer! Time flew as we heard their stories and plans and dreams and ministries. All too soon it was time for hugs and prayers, and the road west to Banff, where Michelle (K1) was to meet us at her church.

We were afraid that the weather would be too unsettled for us to see the mountains, but as the sun poked through the clouds it set them in sharp contrast. We arrived at Banff Park Church, where the believers were wrapping up a day of fasting and prayer with worship and more prayer. Michelle and her husband Michael have been married five years and both work (as many Banff citizens do) in the hospitality industry, he as a chef and she at the front desk of the fabulous Banff Springs Hotel. God has blessed them recently with a baby girl named Avery, who is now two months old. Man, I want to be a grandpa! Go find a wife, guys! We went to their condo and made a start at catching up, with Michelle dropping hints of a marvelous day on the morrow. We stayed in the camper on the street, which was okay to do, but the night life of the mini-city of Banff convinced us that we should go find a campground for the next night.

A marvelous day needs to start lazy, and this one did. While the rest got their day started, I went for a walk and found myself crossing the Bow River bridge and along the river to Bow Falls, with the Banff Springs "Castle" towering above. Michelle barbecued steaks for lunch, which was another good start, and told us that she had arranged complimentary tickets through Aussie Matt, who served at Qwanoes back in 2003, and that we were going on a boat tour and gondola ride! We wanted to take Michelle out for dinner later (Michael was working), and Michelle suggested choosing one of the 11 eating establishments at Banff Springs to finish the day, which would give her the opportunity to show us around. Since she gets meals at half price, it was an easy sell.

The boat tour was on Lake Minnewanka under blue skies and no wind. The reflections, especially the fall colors, were perfect. Little Avery seemed mostly content swaddled up with mom, though by the end of the day she began to tell us that she was having too much fun. We couldn't get enough of mountains - it was like we had run dry of them in our travels and needed to soak up every drop.


From there, after a quick feeding stop, we picked up Matt and went to the famous Sulphur Mountain Gondola, where he works as a manager. Michelle can hardly believe that I remember going to the hot springs right in town as a child, as the closing of those springs to save an endangered snail seems like ancient history to her, but I do. I guess I am ancient as well! The gondola reminded me of a memorable story from my youth pastoring days, but no lightning storm and power outage beset us, so it was all good. Fantastic views and good conversation with Matt as we hiked to the lookout at the top.


Whew! Another feeding break for Avery and then to the Banff Springs Hotel. I didn't get a photo, so here's one from the web, and it didn't look like this when we were there but I bet it will in a few weeks. I just like this picture.


Michelle showed us places we would never have seen on our own, like the view from a bridge built between two towers so high-end guests would no longer have to go up three fights of stairs, or the place in the hallway where the room numbers skip one, and where there was clearly (as she pointed out) once the door to a room, now boarded up because of a ghastly murder (well, that's what visitors think, but is was just a renovation to make a larger room), and the huge ballrooms where the minimum food and beverage bill is $20-30,000. We decided on the Rundle Lounge, featuring relaxing sofas and small tables and pub fare. The food was great, but I mostly enjoyed lulling Avery to sleep. Wonderful day, and we felt very pampered. Thank you, Michelle and Matt!

We said our hard farewells that evening, and found a site in the dark in the national campground. Upon waking we found ourselves still surrounded by mountains on every side, despite the promise of rain developing. In fact, the clouds rolled back regularly all day, until we reached our well-researched campground in Glacier National Park and found it closed. A parks staff guy happened to pull up in his truck, and he was surprised too, as the website said it would be open until Thanksgiving. He told us of another one a few kilometers down that we could stay at overnight. When we got there, a tiny sign said it was closed too, but we are going with the parks guy's word and here we are, smack in the middle of the park and mountains towering all around. If you are a National Parks official reading this tonight, please don't come here and kick us out. We are tired and going to bed! Good night!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Orangeville, ON to Drumheller, AB

First of all, I want to say to the many students we missed connecting with, from Ontario to Alberta, we are very sorry and sad that we missed you! For some, our schedules didn't merge, others we didn't know where you were, and for others, the geography was hard to manage. But we are still sorry, and hope our paths cross again soon.

Secondly, for those who have been following this blog and wonder if we dropped off the edge of the earth, we haven't, though Drumheller where I am writing this is right next door to the edge. It's just that ever since Ontario, we have been either driving or talking with students or sleeping. Nothing else. It has been marvelous, and I will tell you briefly about it.

After a needed day's break in Orangeville, we moved on to Kitchner/Waterloo. People say it that way because there is no space or barbed wire to tell you when you have passed from one town to the other. There are three Kaleo students there who didn't know one another, so we arranged to have breakfast with them at Cora's, a place that only does breakfast. It was so fun chatting with them all: Catherine (K5), Deborah (K6) and Emma (K7), and I hope they will stay in touch.


We then went to St. Jacobs, a little town Catherine had introduced us to the day before, which has the most amazing Farmer's Market. We went a little nuts buying cheap and very fresh fruit and veggies, forgetting that we would be crossing the border the next day and would have to leave them behind!

So Ally (K3) benefitted as we met her at Starbucks in London - so good to see her and hear her side of her wedding story after hearing her husband Tim's. Also happy to reap our harvest were the girls at Erin's house (K5), who topped their yogurt with the blueberries and blackberries we missed picking at home this year. What a wonderful crew Erin has gathered around her as she studies there! So good to hear her story and her heart.

It was a tough decision: should we go north or south around the Great Lakes? Either direction there were students to visit, and either way there were students we would miss. Sorry, Daniel and Nick and Jenny - we would have loved to see you as well, but we chose the southern route. Another day, we hope!

We were kinda nervous about this route, all Interstate highways and skirting the edge of Chicago. It was not as bad as we thought, though not especially scenic. We ran into more tolls, and were ready for the bridge at Sarnia (where on earth are you, Mike?), but not the tollway past Chicago. The matronly woman at the booth said, "Sixty cents, nope, American only," which we didn't have, so she wrote up a pink slip for us instead. Really. No credit cards?? It was a very long day, the farthest we had traveled in a day, and we were so glad to find Eric (K6) and Ellie (K7) at the end of it.

Ellie is working at the Discovery Centre at the local museum, and she took us for a tour of cool stuff to do, like make tornados and do tricks with mirrors and (the best) a thing that makes a bubble all around you. So fun. We chatted lazily at a local lake that had more boats per square 100 yards than I have ever seen. Eric has the unique opportunity to serve at a church plant, and on Sunday we got to see him in action leading worship, and that evening teaching his very precocious youth group.


Both their sets of parents spoiled us rotten, and it was cool to have dinner with everyone at Ellie's house, plus Shawn and Danielle who used to serve at Qwanoes. It was hard to leave.

Minniapolis is home to a family that sent to Kaleo both John (K2) and Ben (K7), renowned for their love of Ultimate Frisbee and Jesus, not in that order. A very fun household! Dad Steve is very excited about a TV show about motorbikes and stuff he is working on. We greatly appreciated the electric heater he gave us, which is currently warming my toes (pun, if you didn't notice), since the nights are getting chilly.

A bit stormy the next day, and the waves were getting bigger on Lake Superior as we finally found it on the other side of the grotesquely fantastic overpass maze of Duluth. We decided it was best to strike directly north to International Falls and Fort Frances, where Sarah has relatives. And, where we had more toll trouble! No signs told us about the $7 toll to cross the bridge into Canada until we had pulled up to the rickety shack where a young lady told us we could turn around in the narrow lane ahead and find cash. That prompted some interesting response, first from a friendly customs officer who wondered what the heck we were doing, and then from an even friendlier citizen, who stopped to offer to go and pay our toll with his pass. We spent an interesting evening with several cousins of Sarah who came over to check out the spectacle of Western relatives, and whose conversation - for lack of sleep or perhaps translation - I could not follow.

The road from the border to Kenora, winding between the many, many waterways of the Lake of the Woods, is very beautiful. Sarah told me a story of her mom working at a cookhouse for a logging camp here decades ago, and how she would paddle herself out on the weekends and then hitch a ride home. To our delight, we finally saw some red on many of the trees, though we will miss seeing the full splendor of the autumn colors.

A. (K3) and her husband R. have had doors opened to them to teach in a closed country I can't name here. They amazed us with their stories and photos and videos, which you may not see until heaven, if you can see videos there. It was a rare privilege. They return soon, and will love your prayers, which God will understand even if you don't know who and where they are.

Okay, don't hate me, Prairie-ites, but I felt my heart drop as we left the trees and rolling hills to enter the lands where (as Marv Penner puts it) God sat while he was making the rest of Canada. The first five minutes were lovely.

Holly (K2) wanted to meet us at The Forks in Winnipeg, which is a market kind of place by the river. She brought with her the first Kaleo baby we have seen on this trip (besides Brie's photos), and little Carley was very cute, though a little too fascinated with goose poo. So fun to see Holly, a student just a few years ago, enjoy being a mom. Haley (K7) joined us later, and led us on an exciting follow-the-leader-through-rush-hour-traffic ride to the home of James and Julia (K1), where we would have dinner and stay the night. Steve (K5) also came up from Winkler to share the pizza and conversation. I marveled at the competency and achievements of these students, and conversation continued late into the evening. Not so good, since some had a long way to go, and we hoped to reach Caronport in one shot the next day. But oh so good to see these people we love that we haven't seen in so long. Never enough time!

The trek to Briercrest College and Seminary didn't really seem that long. Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on the iPhone helped. Good thing, because our time there was a marathon! Here was our schedule, quickly established:

Saturday
9:00 - Ben (K7)
10:00 - Lynnea (K8)
11:00 - Erik (K8)
Noon - Heidi (K8)
1:00 - Kaitlyn (K7)
2:30 - Jim & Anne (Prof & wife)
3:30 - Jade (K7)
4:30 - Logan (K7)
Pray for Jordana (K6 - brother passed away)
6:00 - Mark (K7)
7:00 - Claire (K7)
8:30 - BP's with everyone

Sunday
9:30 - SS with Wes and Carl (Profs)
10:30 - The Gathering
12:00 - House Church at Taylors (Prof & wife)
2:00 - Alivia (K6)
3:00 - James (K7)
4:00 - Michael (K8)
5:30 - dinner at Alivia & Jayme's (K6)
7:30 - Josh (K6)
8:30 - Meghan (K8)
9:30 - Sam & Jeri (K5), Ben (K6)
11:00 - Matthew (K7)

Monday
8:00 - Wes (Prof)
10:45 - Chapel
11:30 - Nick and Leeann (K7 & fiancé)
12:30 - Kurtis (K5 - lunch)


Whew! So encouraging, almost overwhelming, and we were grateful that the school put us up in the hotel and gave us a meal pass. More and more, this trip is becoming all about ministry - both given and received by us.

I am almost caught up. Monday afternoon we made the short trip to Saskatoon, and I have to admit it was quite beautiful with the deep blue lakes and ponds contrasting with the burning gold of freshly harvested fields. Why I didn't stop for photos I don't know, but the colors are firmly etched on my brain. Sarah (K2) met us at the end of the road and caught us up on several years of her life that we had only heard long-distance before. But she also practically refitted our aging computer: memory upgrade, hard drive clean-up, and a good scrub. If you want someone who is good at everything she attempts, call up Sarah.

The road to Edmonton gave us our first truck trouble. We were getting low on fuel as we approached Lloydminster, so I pulled into a little town that had two pumps, one for gas and one for diesel. Bad idea. The garage guys in Lloyd told me that some of those small towns get so little business that the fuel sits for ages. It made the truck quite unhappy, but a fuel additive seemed to solve the problem.

Our niece Charis (K3) and her husband Josh are both attending the U of Alberta, she for English and he for a masters in philosophy. Their bookshelves contain the kind of books you wish you dared to read. They are very fun people and we enjoyed our trip to Red Robin's with them. It is good to have so much stimulating conversation with people who understand how high the stakes are in this world, who know that what we think and do matters. The next day we connected with Selena (K5), a glider pilot and also a student at the U of A, who showed us the most beautiful photo of our old, beloved house in Crofton that we have ever seen, and gave us a frame to put it in when we get it printed. We then spent a good part of the afternoon in a coffee shop with Jordan C (K1) and his wife. He is the junior high youth pastor at a large church, an amazing opportunity for a guy with loads of experience but just two years of Bible college. They are mentoring and training him, seeing the vast potential. They filled us in on the wonderful story of how they came together, and Danielle is no doubt a match for this energetic guy. We finished off the evening with Brandon (K3) and Little Kim and Ashlee dropping over, my mind swimming with conversation but so glad to see them.

We decided it was time for a breather. So, after seeing Josh and Charis off to school, which was a little weird since it is their house, and Andrew (K3) coming over to fill us in on his ministry also as a youth pastor in the city, and connecting with Krista (staff), and her two marvels of babyhood, after far too many years, and a quick visit with Kelsey (K6) who we saw in Victoria just before we left on this adventure, we headed for Drumheller, the site of the world-class Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum, which we will visit tomorrow, panting to catch up with these past number of days... And now to sleep.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Montreal to Niagara Falls

Day 11
As much as we looked forward to seeing our nephew Nathan, we were not looking forward to the craziness of driving in Montreal. We meandered a bit on the back roads, had lunch beside the St. Laurence and then launched onto the freeway. Lanes became narrower, construction was everywhere and the lack of signs in English was frustrating. As we entered the city, Sarah became more and more exasperated with the GPS on the iPhone and I eventually pulled over to realize that it was set on Transit Mode and was trying to find us bus routes into the city. That corrected, we soon found Nathan's street - one-way traffic streaming past row houses built right up to the sidewalk. We were a little early, so we parked in a Home Hardware parking lot and waited for Nathan to get back from his work at a video game-making place.

It was nice to see him ride up on his bike, a familiar face in this crazy busy town. By that time, he told us, it was now okay to park on his street, except for two days a month when I guess they clean it. Not being one of those days, we parked and went to his ground-level suite, which was dominated by a baby grand piano he had picked up and repaired for $250. He also has an organ he is working on and a clavichord. We combined resources for dinner and then enjoyed conversation and listening to him play Beethoven and Brahms. He also sings in a local church choir, in which half are believers and others are paid professionals and students. Nathan seems to fit in here, though he grew up on the west coast, but he is not convinced he will stay here to complete his Ph.D. in computer sciences. Wonderful to see him and catch up.








Day 12
We left late enough to miss the worst of the morning traffic that roared past the house all night, thankfully muffled by the brick construction. We found it somewhat easier to navigate without rain falling and a GPS not set to "transit" and were soon on open freeway bound for Ottawa.

We have friends who live a half hour south of Ottawa, Phil and Gwen, who used to serve at Camp Qwanoes with us. They live in a quiet town in a wonderful brick home, built in 1897 and a pretty constant work in progress. It was nice to slow down after the freeway and enjoy lunch and conversation with Gwen, and Phil's 91-year-old mom who is a delightful old soul in more ways than one. We would stay there that night and catch up with Phil too, but first we had a dinner date with a K6 student, Jesse, in Ottawa.

Our drive into the city was quite amazing, especially in comparison to Montreal. Sarah wanted to drive by the Parliament buildings and the Rideau Canal, which neither of us had seen since we were teenagers. I wasn't sure how to do that, and was still a bit nervous from our last big-city experience. When I saw a exit that said, "Scenic Tourist Route to Ottawa," I spontaneously took it, in spite of Sarah's misgivings. She resigned herself to my let's-see-what-happens mood, and except for one slowdown the route took us serenely into the city, right along the canal and past the parliament buildings. We didn't stop, as it would have been too much for Sarah's knees, but traffic was slow enough to get off a few photos with the iPhone, probably a federal offense.








Ottawa is a beautiful city for the most part, and does our country proud. Jesse lives on a quiet and tree-lined street, and she had just arrived home when we got there. She is studying journalism at Carleton, and we hope someday to see her "reporting on location from Armpit, SK." We opted for dinner out, and the simplest was the famous "Hintenburgers" at the end of the street. True, it's tiny and the floor has a distinct northern tilt, but the burgers were marvelously tasty and the conversation with Jesse very encouraging.








We of course didn't want to leave, and consequently got a little lost finding our way back to Phil and Gwen's in the dark, and then kept them up far too late with catching up on their story. But we love these two and are happy to witness their quiet and satisfied life in this small town.

Day 13
Tough choice: More freeway or the quieter route? An invitation from a cousin of Sarah's back to Ottawa for lunch decided it, and we would take the Number 7 instead of the busy 401. Sarah's cousin is deaf, and it was interesting to hear of the issues her community deals with, especially in her church for the deaf. Salmon sandwiches and back on the road again.

The Number 7 is all rolling hills and thick forest and farms and lakes and small towns. It was a pleasant drive but long, and we didn't roll into Orangeville until about 7:30. Phil (K6) and his dad were there to meet us and Ryan (also K7) dropped in soon after from helping a friend move. Between this wonderful family, two dogs (yellow and black labs) and two cats, we were made to feel at home. Justin dropped in too, and proposed a trip to Muskoka Woods Sports Resort the next day, which sounded great to us, pooped as we were.








Day 14
Justin picked us up, and we were happy to learn that we would also pick up Bo (K7) and Jordan (K5). Jordan lives on a farm near Beeton, and it is the first time in a long time that he has lived there into the fall. I have noticed that there are several here in that situation - Bo, Jordan, Justin, Phil - and it is interesting to hear how that is going for them. Tough when you are used to doing your own thing without reference to mom and dad, and harder to be the person you have become while you were away.

As we drove north, the countryside became more rocks and lakes and few towns and many cottages. I was surprised as we pulled into Muskoka Woods that it was not the usual narrow lane through trees, but wide open space and buildings and a glimpse of lake through maples. A beautiful spot. Everything is on large scale here: multiple skate parks (outdoor and indoor), Olympic-style tramps, gorgeous waterfront. The guys tried their hand at the driving range, motivated by a gaggle of wild turkeys roaming the field, which were perfectly safe from their flying golf balls. I offered to stand out there myself! Justin took us to the new leadership centre, a carefully-crafted building with a suspension bridge entrance, astounding design and stunning view of the water. Everything in it has been designed to encourage the metaphor of leadership. It was easy to see why Justin and others we have known love this place. We finished our time with the guys taking a dip in the lake, which of course involved handstands and photo ops.








We wanted to do dinner together on the way back, and the first place we stopped had a great view of the water. We should have taken cue from the question of whether we had reservations, and the first glance at the menu told us that this was no burger joint. We sipped our water, hummed and hawed, and then apologized our way out. An hour later we stopped at Kelseys in Barrie, and enjoyed big burgers for the price of not much more than one meal at the place with the view. This being my 53rd birthday, they had the waitresses sing for me and I blew out the candle on a ice cream cookie thing that I managed to find a corner for. I told them that this had been a great way to spend a birthday, both for the road trip and especially for the company.

Day 15
Orangeville Baptist Church is evidently the place to be on a Sunday morning. We have had so many students from this place - Ally, Viktor, Justin, Jessica, Phil, Ryan, Jeremy, Erik. We surprised Ally and Jeremy's parents by our being there, and they invited us to dinner. So it was lunch and a relaxing afternoon with Justin and his parents, then an energized dinner with the Derksen's. It was great to see Tim, Ally's husband, though both Ally and Jeremy are away at school. Jon (K5) came up from Toronto, where he is interning at an inner-city church, and Jordan came by too, and it was a great evening. We can't get enough of hearing the stories and thoughts and dreams of these students! Very encouraging, often moving, always worth this trip in itself.

Day 16
We realized, as we got home late and left for the day after everyone had left for work, that we were not being the best of guests at the Karklins! They are very gracious, though, and we appreciate the bits of time we have had with them.

Today's destination was Niagara Falls, with visits with four students on the way. Justin lent us his car for the day, as he was leaving for a spiritual retreat at a monastery in New York. We were grateful, as it was hard to imagine driving the truck through even the outskirts of Toronto on our way to Hamilton. I don't know why speed limits are even posted. Even at 10 over, we were clearly the slowest vehicle on the road. It should have been a simple route, according to Google Maps, but a couple wrong turns meant the exploration of some of the more industrial parts of Toronto and Hamilton. But we reached Kylie's house (K6) before she did, so it was all good. We ate our lunch with Kylie and her mom and friend in the house that she shares with four other girls. She is studying nursing at McMaster University, which she finds a motivating and challenging environment with its open learning style. She is quite involved with Navigators there. We are encouraged with how many Kaleo students are in leadership with a Christian group at their secular school, making a difference there.

We next scooted off to St. Catharines to find Caroline (K7), who is attending Brock U in medical sciences but who is more interested in the administrative side of things in that field. Texting enabled us to locate her at a park downtown, as she was just biking home from her job at a golf course and had a meeting with her Campus Crusade group coming up. So it was a short visit but so good. We could see in her face the maturity and grace that others saw in her when they asked her to take a leadership role in the group, which surprised her as they usually ask third and fourth year students. We sat on a bench in the park, enjoying the sun and the breeze as we relived memories, gossiped (politely) about Kaleo and heard her story. It was hard to let her go.








By now we were realizing that we didn't have much time for the Falls, but they were so close! Traffic was building too. The last time I was in the Niagara Falls area was 35 years ago, and it has certainly changed. Wow, has it changed! I certainly don't remember streets that look like Las Vegas. The Falls themselves are buried behind a huge tourist sieve to strain out their money. Without losing any of ours, we eventually stumbled upon the road along the Falls, and even at this time of year and at this hour there were throngs of people. Parking was a problem, and rather than pay "$18 per entry," I dropped Sarah off as close as I could and went on a hunt for the cheap parking spot. Take note: On Portage Road just above the power plant by the falls is a small parking lot that doesn't cost anything. There is a fence that says not to cross it, but if you walk a hundred meters back toward the city, there is an easy pathway down to the $18 parking lot. That's my kind of deal. I found Sarah, who had not seen the Falls before, and we enjoyed a half hour of oohing and aahing with the tourists. Niagara Falls are truly spectacular and worth seeing. But I could do without the trappings. Sarah's mom has a very old photo of the Falls, with buggies going by and without the bells and whistles, and I think I would like that better.








We were going to get to Redeemer College later than expected, but it worked out fine. There was Anna (the first K8 we have seen) walking across the grass, and it was so good to see her - a miracle, really, considering all that God has done to bring her to this place. We picked up a bite to eat, and Jessica (K7) skipped out of her accounting class for a minute to say hello, and we assured her we would stay until she got back. So good to see these girls doing so well, and their hopes in spite of the challenges. It was great to tell our stories and pray for one another, and once again the time went too quickly and it was so hard to leave. But wonderful to leave them in God's powerful hands.








The trip "home" to Orangeville was much easier than the trip there, following the same road most of the way, and hoping the iPhone wouldn't die and leave us GPS-less before we got there, as the plug in Justin's car wasn't working. Great day, but we decided the next one would be a day off for us, hiding out at Justin's for the day like he was hiding out in New York.


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Bay of Fundy to Quebec City

Day Ten
After an astounding breakfast that would last us all day, Katie took us to the Bay of Fundy, famous for its big tides. Our first stop was for almost-as-famous cinnamon buns at the little town of Alma, followed by a walk on the beach and rocks, mostly to catch up on the life of Katie, who we haven't seen since the end of Kaleo Seven.





On the way back we ventured up and down some very steep roads to places named Cape Enrage and Hopewell Hill. This is lobster country, though somehow we missed eating any. Everyone has lobster for sale, even Mickey D's:





Saying a fond farewell to Katie, we literally set off into the sunset in search of the town of Minto and our good buddy and student, Robbie. It was a little further, and further, and further into the bush than we thought, and we expected to make mooseburgers any moment, though we didn't see any, in spite of the many signposts that promised we would, so slow down. At the end of it all, up a dark driveway, was Rob.





Rob works nights at the Atlantic Superstore (same as the "Canadian" version), plus ten hours a week at his church. So he was pretty sleepy when we arrived. We all decided to crash and catch up the next day.

Day Eleven
Trouble was, the next day we were all sleepy, Rob from work and us from too much fun. So we went out to Robbie's family cabin on Great Lake, which his grandma picked up for a song back in the fifties. Thanks, Rob, for a lazy day, which was just what we needed! Rob and I walked down the beach and I got to hear his hopes and fears and dreams. Love that guy. Finished the day with another meal with his wonderful, interesting and funny mom and dad, and another chat at Timmy Ho's. Another full day.

Day Twelve
We got to go to Rob's church! He warned us that it might be an unusual experience, and it was different. Definitely a joyful noise to the Lord. But I appreciated the depth of these folk who at first glance may seem simple. Rob's dad, Doug, shared a "Godstory" about the time he threw a boomerang in church (during a skit) in obedience to God, and how it "missed 100 people, a dozen stained glass windows and all the light fixtures," and landed in the coat rack. I wish someone had written it down - it could have been published in the next edition of Reader's Digest. Very neatly told.

Rob is trying to get his church to buy into the idea of "house church" like The Gathering does at Briercrest. About 20 people gathered at his house for carrot soup that we made the night before, a time of prayer and let's-share-life-together conversation. I admire Rob's willingness to take home and use what he has gained these past four years in Bible college.

Should we stay or should we go? And if we go, what direction? There are so many options for getting to Quebec from Robbie's place that we were quite at a loss.

In the end we decided to take a secondary road through the bush to New Brunswick's east coast, a road no one seemed to know much about. Stopping for diesel (a good idea when bushwhacking), a fellow who laughed when I asked him if he was from these parts said he had just come down that road and it was great. "Just set yer cruise to 90 and giv'r." It turned out to be just that, and before we knew it we were at the coast. It was a little alarming to look at the map and realize that since we landed in Halifax nearly two weeks ago, we have progressed west nearly nil. It's okay - we will get to it soon.

The place where we were headed for the night was one that we could only point to on the map, since neither of us could pronounce it: Kouchibouguac National Park. Oh for a sunny day to spend there! Sarah was not up to navigating the boardwalk to the beach, but I could not help myself. How I love long sandy beaches and waves! Even though we are just across from PEI here, the beach was not red, but similar to the beaches near Tofino.





It was weird, though, to have the sun setting behind me instead of in front. The mosquitos were so bad here that we made an early night of it. On to Quebec tomorrow, though somehow I'm not looking forward to it.

Day Thirteen
We woke up to grey skies threatening rain, and a forecast for lots of it for northern NB, so we decided to hoof it for the Gaspe Peninsula and maybe miss the worst of it. We got a bit pounded before we started up into the Appalachian Mountains where it resolved into misty valleys that reminded us of BC.





We are sure it is a very scenic route, but much of it we simply couldn't see. But we enjoyed what we could, which included more massive cathedrals in every tiny town, and the river that winds between them.

We found in the mist the campground we were aiming for, Parc national du Bic. A little steep, since we had to pay an additional fee just to be in the park. So, to get my money's worth, I went for a hike to Cap a l'Original. Beautiful, even in the mist and rain, and I should have taken at least the little camera, because now I have no photos. Though it is on the St Laurence Seaway, it reminded me a lot of the west coast of Vancouver Island. You can check it out by clicking here. Rained all night.

Day Fourteen
Oh, lots of driving today! We alternated between boring and foggy freeway and bumpy but wonderful secondary road along the St Laurence Seaway. I admit that I was a little freaked out about the idea of navigating Quebec City in our big rig, especially since we had no idea where to go. We were praying for an Info Centre, which appeared immediately after we crossed the bridge into the city. There is an analogy there someplace. It turned out to be really easy: one road to the other Info Centre just outside the Old City, and then a $1 bus that took you well into the maze of ancient buildings that is the original Quebec.





We had tea (to the consternation of our French waitress) and a wonderful maple cake at the above bistro on the sidewalk. Sarah's knees were not up to much today, but we got a good taste of the city and the people and art and music and shops. You could spend a week here quite easily, which would be the better (and expensive) way to go. Very, very unique.





Being late, we planned to stay overnight in a Wal-Mart parking lot, but upon asking we were told that it wasn't done here. Shouldn't be surprising in a place that has its own way of doing everything. So now we are in a very boring and expensive city of camp trailers, and can't wait to move on tomorrow. Quebec has been interesting, but I will be glad to cross the bridge into Ottawa in a couple days.

And now I am caught up. Good night!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Cavendish, PEI to Dieppe, NB

Day Eight
After a week with no set schedule, it felt strange to have an Appointment to get to: the Anne of Green Gables play in Charlottetown. We set off early and explored a few more northern beaches of red sand and dunes before approaching the city. We found ourselves there quite early, so we parked ourselves beside the water in Victoria Park downtown and had lunch. We should have started to the play sooner, because after I dropped Sarah off at the Theatre I discovered that there is no place to park in Downtown Charlottetown. As the minutes ticked down I finally went back to the park, parked as close to the theatre as I could, and ran! I got there just a few minutes before the play began, warm and sweaty. I hope the man sitting beside me has forgiven me!

The play was excellent. I had been pretty impressed with the version produced by Chemainus Theatre last year, but this was so much more. Big and complicated sets that moved like clockwork, a huge cast and the polish achieved by 40 or so showings every season since 1965. This was the last day of the season, and it was practically flawless.

By the time the play was done and we had picked up some groceries, we realized that the only campsite we really wanted was the one we were in the night before. Good thing PEI is so small! We went back to the beach, just a little down from where we were before, and enjoyed another brilliant sunset. God is very good at those on PEI.

Day Nine
It was hard to leave that spot. I think there is nothing much nicer in this world than walking barefoot on a beach of soft sand with warm waves running up over your feet as the sun rises. But we packed up again and took another route to see what we could see. Green, rolling hills punctuated with blue coves and inlets, tall and ancient houses in all colors, very little traffic. This took us to the artsy town of Summerside, where we dropped in to the College of Piping just to see their Celtic giftshop, to discover that a mini-concert of highland pipes, drums and dance was being offered in just a few minutes. To our surprise we turned out to be an audience of two, but they performed just the same as if we were two hundred. Two girls about 8 and 10 years of age danced, and some of their instructors gave professional performances of bagpipe jigs and reels, incredible drum solos and tap and highland dances, all for us! We thanked them profusely.





Driving west from there in search of more scenery, we were traveling along a narrow road and hadn't seen any houses for some time when we suddenly came upon a handful of them and - one enormous cathedral! It was open so we went inside. I am sure it would seat nearly a thousand people, and its pillars were marble. It sat right beside the water with an incredible view. What on earth was it doing there? And do a handful of Francophones fill the first few pews for mass on a Sunday?

A little further on, down a dirt road and after the directions of a young man on the side of the road whose accent I could hardly understand, we found a lighthouse for sale! It was at the tip of the southwest cape of the Island above red cliffs carved in amazing shapes by the waves. We didn't buy it, even though it was only $110,000 and included a beach and three acres of land.





It was finally time to leave this bizarre and wonderful Island, this time by bridge. The Confederation Bridge is 12.9 km long and is the longest bridge over ice-covered water. No ice today, though. Because we are in a big Ford truck, we can actually see over the concrete barrier on either side, and because the bridge curves like a snake you can actually see it as you drive over. But we stopped on the New Brunswick side anyway to do the tourist thing and take pictures.





Our destination for the day was Katie's house (K7) in Dieppe near Moncton. Katie says everyone in Dieppe is French, and I think it is true. In fact it has been tough for her to find a job because in spite of her last name she doesn't speak French. She had a marvelous dinner waiting for us, soup and haddock and salmon and rice and veggies, plus chocolate pastries from a local German bakery. Her mom, a wonderfully funny person and by her admission terrible driver, gave us an adventure to be remembered by taking us to beach to catch the last moments of a brilliant deep red sunset. It was wonderful to begin catching up with Katie, who gave up her room for us.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cape Breton to PEI

Day Six
Well, I spoke/wrote too soon. Though the locals say we "lucked out" on the weather, since we missed the rain and the worst of the winds, it was blowing hard enough last night that at 4:30 am I got up and moved the truck so that it pointed more into the wind. I am sure I didn't disturb anyone, as we were almost the only ones in the campground. It was still blowing and amazingly still foggy in the morning, but by the time we got back to the Fortress of Louisburg the sun was breaking through for another perfect yet still windy day. We were given permission to drive up close to the site of the town because it would be easier for Sarah, which required driving for a kilometer or so along the open coast. The waves being tossed up by the hurricane were not huge by West Coast standards but still impressive and brilliant in the sunlight.

The Fortress is also impressive, considering it is entirely reconstructed from the extensive plans and books left behind by the French in the 18th century, because the British destroyed the Fortress and the town entirely. We enjoyed watching the children dance, and decided to splurge a bit with some "fine dining" at one of the eating establishments. We used old silverware and dishes (it was the only place in town with the luxury of knives and forks) and though I would never do to salmon what they did, it was very good. Doing the tourist thing is tiring, and we still needed to drive a couple hours and find a campsite, but we once again found a spot with a magnificent ocean view near the south end of Cape Breton. By evening the wind was dying, which is good because we are taking the ferry to PEI tomorrow. Hey, you are thinking, isn't there a bridge now? Why yes, but the ferry is free on the way there (you only pay to leave the Island), so we are taking the ferry to the east end and the bridge back from the west end.

Day Seven
Calm and gorgeous today. We completed our circuit of Cape Breton and pushed on to the ferry to PEI, since we are now backtracking a bit and because we were not sure how busy the ferry would be. We arrived at 11:10 am and found out the ferry was leaving at 11:15. This is obviously not BC, because we made it on that ferry! The boat seemed small and crowded compared to what we are used to, but hey - neither do we usually have live music on the deck! It was a fiddler (and guitar) from PEI who is apparently quite famous, Richard Wood. This is what we have been hoping to hear, some Celtic music, and it was very good. As I was talking with them while buying their CD I found out that they were headed for a concert and asked if they could have free passage on the ferry if they played! Oh, the life of the starving musician! We still have Celtic music in our heads from listening to it as we traveled across PEI this afternoon.

Something Sarah really wanted to do was to see the Anne of Green Gables house in Cavendish. We got there mid-afternoon, unsure if that would be enough time to see it all, but it turned out to be small compared to the other historic site we just visited. It was hard to remember that it was just a fictional story, and you could imagine red-haired Anne showing up at any moment (which would have greatly added to the experience). Tomorrow we have tickets to the Anne play in Charlottetown, so we haven't had our fill of Anne yet.





Somehow, we are again camped within spitting distance of the ocean, and we will hear the gentle surf all night. What a gorgeous spot. We have decided to stay one more night here. We are in no rush. Gorgeous sunset.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Jim & Sarah Road Trip: Victoria to Cape Breton

Day One

The day we left Victoria was such an ordinary day that it was very hard to believe we were flying to Halifax that night. But we did. Ben picked us up and dropped us off, and we checked in, got on the plane and took off with a brilliant red sunset over Georgia Strait out our window. It was followed just a few hours later with an equally brilliant sunrise over the Bay of Fundy. The only things that punctuated that long sentence on the plane was a fast trot to make our connection in Calgary, and a wonderful thunderstorm over - what else - Thunder Bay. Flashes of light in the dark sky and occasionally one that lit up the whole thing. We were glad we weren't down there, but i guess we soon will be. At the Halifax Airport we made a brief search for Janice and Terry, whose truck we were to pick up at their hotel, and though we thought we had missed them, they were there to greet us as we got off the shuttle van at the hotel. They switched to a later and more reasonable flight. We exchanged stories, got a few reminders about the camper on the truck and said our goodbyes.



And there we were, with a Ford 350 truck and a camper on the back of it, with some 10,000 km to get back to Vancouver Island.



It was a little intimidating to drive that rig first thing on a freeway, and even more so that we were headed for the big city of Halifax, but it turned out to be fine. We took basically one road all the way to within a block of our destination, over a bridge that turned out to have a toll. Oops! Thank you, nice toll person who let us through without paying! Our "payment" was Sarah giving him her middle name.



Halifax is like a smaller version of Victoria, with the harbor and university. But the houses - the houses are very different. Pam was a Kaleo 1 student and she has been studying fabric design and living in Halifax for six years now. She lives in the lower floor of a typical downtown Halifax house - tall, boxy and painted a brilliant shade of color among the many bright colors on the street. She introduced us to Rufus, who would spend the day with us, and who is from the Ivory Coast and is studying toward becoming a doctor. She gave us a marvelous breakfast at what was to us only 5:00 am, but there already 9:00 am. Home-made granola, hard-boiled brown speckled eggs, berries and fruit, yoghurt and blueberry green jasmine tea. After a too-brief nap for Sarah and I, the four of us loaded into the truck and headed for the famous Peggy's Cove under gorgeous blue skies.



First impressions of Halifax were that it is very flat, though really it is quite rolly, and that the trees are very short and densely packed together. As we neared Peggy's Cove the trees disappeared almost entirely, and we drove around ponds and lakes surrounded by bedrock outcroppings with huge boulders strewn randomly on top.



Peggy's Cove is... I don't know... Picturesque. I sure took a lot of pictures, and it is considered to be the most photographed lighthouse in Canada. It is surrounded by bare granite bedrock, which was covered with people. All of our photos have strangers in them, and by their voices they are from all over the world. The town was a scattering of more tall, brightly painted boxes and many art galleries, gift shops and a place that had nothing but fishing floats. We are tourists. Pam, Rufus and I clambered all over the rocks, which were too much for Sarah's knees. But she did get around to some of the shops okay. This is Pam:





We went back to the Halifax waterfront to meet Autumn (Kaleo 4) for dinner at an Italian restaurant, which was very good. Had my first Atlantic seafood in a pasta, and it tasted just like Pacific seafood. Except the scallops, which were amazing melt-in-your-mouth good. Autumn invited us back to her suite, downstairs in an up-scale part of town lined with mansions on tiny lots. She thought we might be able to park our rig nearby at a park for the night, but that proved to be against some long-numbered bylaw. Since it was late, we said farewell and sought out the nearest Wal-Mart to spend our first night in their ever-welcoming parking lot.



Day Two

So you can see why Wal-Mart lets people park overnight in their parking lot. For one thing, it fits their theme of "Save Money - Live Better," but they also know that people who are traveling buy food and stuff nearly every day. Even people who hate Wal-Mart, like us.



Another beautiful day. We love driving along the coastline, but we took a short cut, since our destination was past Peggy's Cove and we had already been there. But we were glad to get back off the freeway and wind our way along the coast again. They call this the "West Shore" even though it is decidedly facing South, to distinguish it from the "East Shore" which is everything east of Halifax. We came to Mahone Bay, which is set off by three tall church spires rising just across the road from the waterfront. Anglican, Lutheran and Baptist. We are amazed at the number of churches here - every tiny village has one or more, always with tall steeples, sometimes big enough for not much more than a dozen people. Only the Lutheran one was open, and as we entered the organist was just closing up shop. She asked us if we would like to hear the organ - a beautifully ornate pipe organ - and she played two wonderful pieces for us as an audience of two. Gorgeous stained glass all round the sanctuary, and a hardwood ceiling a good fifty feet above our heads.





Sarah spotted a quilt shop, and we did a quick U-y so we could check it out. Amazing. They are very good with color here - bright but not tacky. The best was a huge king-size quilt with the words, "He is the Rose of Sharon, The Lily of the Valley." $650 beautiful.





My turn next. We were a little bewildered with the next town, Lunenburg, with its 18th century buildings leaning over the narrow streets, crowded with tourists. But we ended up on a side street where we discovered the parking for "Visitors of the Bluenose II." Very cool. It turns out that the Bluenose replica they have been using for years was taken out of the water and stripped down, and now they were building a new one that would use everything from the deck up of the old one. And the shipyard was open for viewing! I took many photos, which I think will be of interest to our friends at SALTS, since they too are getting ready to build a new schooner. The workers were on a break and I got to talk with one of the builders. I gave him my camera so he could take a few photos in places I couldn't go. Sadly, as with its predecessor, the boat will be only used for tourists, not sail training. She will be 178 feet sparred length, about 40 feet longer than the Pacific Grace, and will cost $14.5 million dollars, in spite of the spare parts!





It was time to find a campsite. I had spotted Ressers Beach Provincial Park. At first we were dismayed to see the typical wall-to-wall open RV site, but then found unserviced sites in the trees. We found a spot with an amazing sheltered view of the wide Atlantic. First order of business: down to the beach to plunk our feet in the Other Ocean. To our amazement, it's warm - much warmer than the Pacific. People were actually swimming in it without wetsuits, and we could stroll in the water and never feel like our feet were about to fall off. I'm guessing 18 degrees or better. Like I said, a great campsite, but we forgot that without electricity we can't use the microwave to cook the food we had picked up. So salad for dinner.





Day Three

We woke up the next morning to the booms and crashes of a thunderstorm, but it subsided by the time we ate breakfast. We drove to the area of the campsite that had showers, and it felt good to be clean again. Today was to be a travel day: we headed north (or is it east?), bypassed Halifax and journeyed through unending rolling hills covered in thick, short forest. It was a relief to see the North Shore and blue waters again - Northumberland Strait and our first glimpse of PEI. We were amazed that all that separates Cape Breton "Island" from the rest of the continent is a short bridge at the end of a long causeway. My dog could swim across.



The nice lady at the Info place told us that it is best to go clockwise around the Island, as then the view is always in front of you. So we headed up the west coast, the Ceilidh Trail. It reminded us often of the far north of New Zealand, with rolling hills and narrow, windy roads, except many of these were paved in red! We were not too sure of finding a campground here, and took a chance on one that was several kilometers off the beaten track. It was nice, but like camping in someone's backyard, as many of these sites are. A girl who could not have been more than 14 signed us in. The same girl later made us a couple of hamburgers at their take-out, since we still had no electrical hook-up for the microwave. And later I saw the same girl waiting to clean the washrooms. I trust she washes her hands, but she seemed like a very competent 14-year-old who I would refer to any major corporation. Needing a walk, I discovered that there was a nice beach not far away, so I came back and collected Sarah, and we walked the soft, red sands and watched the sun set into the water. Hard to imagine that it is the same sun we have often watched set into the water in Ucluelet.





Day 4

This was to prove to be one of our favorite scenery days so far. We got up early, picked up a few groceries along the way and headed past tiny coastal villages for Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I wish we had roads like this in BC - the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Squamish is a little like it, but fails to have the breathtaking, edge-of-the-cliff feeling of the Cabot Trail. We climbed up, then down, then up the steep slopes of the highlands, which plunge into a deep blue sea. You would hardly think Nova Scotia to be a place with steeper roads than any I have seen in BC - 10-12% grades were common, and some were more than that. The Park is beautiful, and there were ridges and escarpments I would have loved to hike.







We decided to leave the park and go up to the villages at the very north tip of Cape Breton. We had no intention of staying there overnight. In fact, Sarah saw a sign advertising the "Jumping Mouse" campground and commented that she would not want to stay there. Curious names up here. You are either driving in Scotland (Dunvegan, Inverness, Creignish) or France (St. Joseph du Moine, Grand √Čtang) or Hicksville (Meat Cove). Anyway, we came to beautiful little Bay St. Lawrence, and I saw the rough little road to the Jumping Mouse Campground and said, let's take a look. So glad we did. We came up over the hill, and there was the broad Atlantic spread out below high, grassy bluffs, and we could camp nearly on the edge with an unobstructed view.





We set our chairs very near the edge and heard the waves breaking on the beach far below. I saw the back of a whale rise out of the water through my binoculars, and we both saw several spouting far off. We ate dinner with the same view from our picnic table, and watched the sun set and sky turn darker and darker red for almost an hour. When we went up to the very quaint and very clean outhouses, we saw the space station pass overhead among limitless and brilliant constellations. A great day.





Day 5

The morning broke warm and nearly clear, in spite of news of a hurricane headed our way. We showered in a very unique shower house attached to a large wooden boathouse, and got ready to go. We were sad and reluctant to leave our beautiful campsite and the top of Cape Breton. Listening to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the way down helped. We stopped at Ingonish Beach for lunch, which is like French Beach near Sooke but red, red sand and two lifeguards, including one on a surfboard. There was surf, and I could imagine riding it, though they broke fairly close to shore. Again, people were swimming in the warm waves without wetsuits and I thought again of our frigid waves on the west coast.





We somehow ended up on the wrong road that turned out to be right, cutting off a big chunk of driving with a 200 meter ferry ride that cost $5.25, no matter how big your vehicle or how many were in it. We bypassed the city of Sydney and went straight to the Fortress of Louisburg, a Parks Canada Heritage Site. Really, we got in there much to late in the day to take in a lot, but we did get to see some Pride-and-Predjudice style dances, catch some tunes in a local pub and watch the flames spouting out the barrel of a huge cannon they set off. We will go back again tomorrow (yeah National Park Pass!).





We had done nothing about figuring out a campsite, turned into the first one we saw a few minutes after leaving the Fort, and found ourselves again on the oceanfront, which we could see if it wasn't for the fog that rolled in. But we can hear the waves on the beach, and bigger waves on some sandbar further out as Hurricane Irene makes herself known from several hundred kilometers south of us. All calm here, so far.


Monday, July 25, 2011

On Pain and Loss

I have lived a comfortable life. Some people who have lived a more comfortable life than mine would disagree with me, but there are many, many more who would say that up to this minute my life has been and continues to be pretty cushy compared to theirs. These might question my ability to comment on Pain and Loss. Nonetheless, this past year I have experienced more pain and more loss than I ever have before, and I have to wonder about it. So this is me, wondering out loud.

Very clearly, the hand of God is in this pain and loss. I'm not blaming him, as he is not the source, but I do wonder about him, because he is letting it get past him and into my world. In my head I know he has his reasons, and in my head I trust him. But my heart is having trouble with pain and loss.

How long?

It has been about a year now of one thing after another, after another. I have stopped expecting that nothing more can surely happen, because so far it surely does. It's like having a whole tree-full of snow dump down your neck, and you are standing there in shock thinking, is it done? And no, another lot comes tumbling down on you. You get numbed pretty quickly, and wonder if you will ever thaw out.

You may think I have read every C.S. Lewis book written, but I haven't, and I just finished for the first time The Problem of Pain. It isn't what I expected, and it is a little strange with its theistic evolution and animal heaven. But I liked this:
    My own experience is something like this: I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends for the morrow or a bit of work that tickles my vanity today, a holiday or a new book, when suddenly a stab of abdominal pain that threatens serious disease, or a headline in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction, sends this whole pack of cards tumbling down. At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ. And perhaps, by God's grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength from the right sources. But the moment the threat is withdrawn, my whole nature leaps back to the toys: I am even anxious, God forgive me, to banish from my mind the only thing that supported me under the threat because it is now associated with the misery of those few days. Thus the terrible necessity of tribulation is only too clear. God has had me for but forty-eight hours and then only by dint of taking everything else away from me. Let Him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over – I shake myself dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness, if not in the nearest manure heap, at least in the nearest flower bed. And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.
The fact that pain and loss have been for me an anomaly up until a year ago is not a normal state of being for mankind in this fallen world. This is. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. Treasure is destroyed by moth and rust. People we love die, or worse, betray us. Mosquitoes bite, climate change happens. Temptations are relentless in their pursuit. There is always one more demon to wrest from our soul.

It is not because God enjoys this game like some sadistic child, or that he is powerless to stop it. He could stop it, and now. But he loves us too much to leave us comfortable with our complacency, our pride, our lust, our self-focus. And so he lets things slip by him that he could arrest with no effort, to keep us needful, watchful, diligent, attentive to him.

Is this effort at too high a cost? A few days ago, a madman in Norway shot and killed more than 60 young adults at a political summer camp, many of whom would have become leaders in their nation. Why did God not stop him? Allow a traffic accident on the way or make a tree fall on him? It seems like such a high physical and social cost for the sake of the possible spiritual redemption of some of the survivors. How can God justify this kind of price?

I have no idea.

But I can return to what I do know, about his nature and character, about what he has clearly revealed to us about himself. All of it tells me that I can trust him. Even when I wonder about him, plead with him, scream at him, down deep I know that he is utterly reliable, fair to the point of fearful, unfathomably holy and righteous. Despite my fears that nothing will ever change, that trouble will be unrelenting, part of me continues to hope in his lovingkindness, the truth that he does not treat me as my sins deserve, that he is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." According to many places in the Scriptures, I have access to everything necessary to navigate rough waters and make it to the end of life full of joy and contentment.

But God has not included happiness in the tool kit. The American Dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not only overrated; it has robbed us of the ability to cope with death, limitations and the certainty of loss. In our expensive and wasteful attempts at comfort and ease, we make things much harder for the rest of the world, but we ultimately make it harder on ourselves. Our ways of dealing with pain and loss are often thoroughly messed up.

Here is what God offers us. The same God who allows pain and loss to slip by him to reach us has suffered more than any of us could ever imagine. That act, fixed in time, in which his Son obediently hung on a cross and bore our guilt and shame and his Father's wrath, has reached down into the chaos of our world, and has rescued, redeemed, forgiven, filled and gifted us. Paul puts it best:
    And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

    “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Keep this in mind: When he says that nothing can separate us from his love, he does not mean simply how God feels about us; it is about his constant and tenacious activity to ensure what is best for us and his kingdom, his glory. Trouble is like snow falling from a tree down our neck; the love of God is an avalanche, irresistible and unrelenting.

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed." Thank you, Peter. May our hearts be surprised at nothing, and trust him in everything.