Thoughts on the week

Winnipeg Summary by Sebastian Dykstra

The seven teachings of the Anishinabe hold many resemblances to the fruit of the Spirit, as outlined in Galatians 5:22/23. We find that love is the only virtue that is held by both. However upon further inspection, we find that each and every one of the seven teachings of the Anishinabe relates in some respect to the fruit of the spirit. That is a very neat thing to see, because no matter how different Christianity may be to Anishinabe beliefs, the same fundamental structure still remains the same. Most importantly, love is seen as the ultimate of the esteemed virtues. In Matthew 22, we are told that love is the greatest commandment of all. This becomes all the more apparent when we see that love is also a very much embraced aspect of other groups as well. It distinctly solidifies the teachings of Jesus in such a powerful way.
Learning about different cultures and beliefs and then finding tangible ways to relate them to your own beliefs, is an absolute necessity. When we learn more about other people, we come to realize how similar they are to us, even in their differences. By looking past the exterior of things and digging deeper, we see that there are so many profound things that we can use to better ourselves and through that better everything around us as well. Change can only be made, when it starts at the core of everything, namely “I”. I need to change myself, before I can change others.

This then leads me to my final thought, a quote from Theodore Giesel (Dr. Seuss). It goes as follows,
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot.
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

While this quote originally was used as a means for the “green movement” and environmentalism, I find that its implications stretch far beyond that. It is a call for us to be the change that we want to see. The “I” in each and every one of us has to care about the change we want to see. The “I” has to take that first step in order to be a change maker. That is what I learned this year.

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Day 6: A cool venu, a cool show, May 30

One88 by Beth McLean Wiest

You know what is ironic? Being a singing group on “tour” and having one planned performance- on the last night- and being totally cool with that.

Being a group that does a large amount of music a cappella, we can perform anywhere for anyone at anytime. It’s great! We are able to give a gift of music in appreciation and this often results in impromptu performances. Over the course of our week in Manitoba, we performed for audiences as small as two and as large as 100. We never tire of the looks on faces as we express our gratitude for their sharing of their time, their expertise, their resources with us. We bless them with a song. On this trip, more often than not, the first time someone heard us was when we sang for them – at the END of our time together.

Somehow it seemed totally fitting that we would have our biggest performance on the last night. It was a fundraiser for Forward House hosted by Eastview Community Church in lieu of their regular church service.

Eastview Community Church (www.one88.org) is a cool place. Every stereotype you have about church goes out the window. For one, it meets in a warehouse that has been converted into a coffee shop lay out. So everyone sits in comfy chairs around tables and there is a coffee bar where you get your drink etc. at any time prior, during or after the service. Secondly, it meets on Thursday nights- they don’t call it a church service, they call it a gathering. And thirdly, the congregation is an intentional community made of a mix of lifestyles.

The variety of people is astounding. There are core area visitors who happen to come across the building, there are men from Forward House who attend Thursdays and other functions, and there are Eastview community members. “Everyone from young and old, from rich to poor, from broken to unbroken.” There are business people, seniors, families, individuals on parole with their parole officers and people recently released from prison. Many of the men on parole or post parole have come to Eastview through Forward House.

When Forward House, and its director Peter Harzan, responded to Pat Nixon’s suggestion that they use us for a fundraiser event, they took a huge leap of faith … we were sight unseen, sound unheard.

Eastview Community Church, and specifically Greg Armstrong and Dave Ens, took a huge leap of faith by not only allowing us to use their very cool venue, One88, but giving us their entire weekly gathering time slot- and endorsing us to their community.

We were excited and honoured to be able to put on “Meant to be Unbroken” for this community. We also loved the opportunity to include Bryan from Forward House as he shared his faith story publicly for the first time. It was truly a moment in line with our mission statement to “build community, expand worldviews, develop leaders and fight for justice.”

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We were blown away by the response.

After the concert, Peter sent us the following feedback:

One more thank you for a blessed time with Harmony Through Harmony. Spiritually, emotionally and in every other way it was a special afternoon and evening (and all night actually). The script was wonderful, the voices beyond compare and the members are so committed to their ministry and the ministries they come in contact with. It has been a pleasure to meet such devoted people to such a worthwhile endeavor. Just this evening alone you have influenced people from such a variety of backgrounds. From non-believer to believer, from rich to poor, from broken to unbroken. Bravo to all.

I look forward to our next meeting and look forward to planning a more detailed and further reaching event.

My prayers are with the group as some return back to Calgary for work etc. and some continue on to Ontario. Keep up the work the Lord has asked of you. No-one will forget the songs you sang tonight but if you think they will, then like the lyrics said “sing it anyways”.

We collected $1065 plus 4 bus tickets. I don’t know if you are familiar with the practice of a homeless person considering bus tickets the same as cash. They (bus tickets) are a valuable commodity. I found it interesting that a person was there that appreciated your performance and the evening enough to contribute that.” Peter Harzan, Director

A great way to wrap up a great week in Winnipeg.

Day 6: Jamming with Bryan, May 30

Jamming with Bryan by Peter Vooys

Our “Meant to be Unbroken” at One88 was a great show. Christina and Becky did a great job of filling in for Jen and Katie for their roles in our between songs drama, and a young aboriginal fellow from Forward House named Bryan shared his testimony. Bryan’s testimony was a powerful story that resonated with me. Bryan and his friend were both going to be baptized the weekend after we left Winnipeg. After the show, we went to grab coffee at the back of the room. One88 had quite a fancy little espresso/tea bar, it was quite a congenial atmosphere. Several of us HTH’ers sat down at a table, as I was feeling a little shy, but we saw Bryan and his friend come back inside after going for a walk, we invited them to join us. When I thanked him for sharing his testimony, Bryan complimented me on the show, and my guitar playing on “My Own Little World” specifically. I thanked him. I asked if he played, and he said yes, and he wanted to show me some of his songs, which I was glad to hear.

He played me several instrumental songs he’d written that bore a strong Metallica influence (acoustic arpeggios, a la “One”, etc). This resonated with me, as Metallica is one of the bands I was influenced by in my first few years of guitar. I listened, and gave him some encouragement. I played him a few bits of songs I knew, and then I asked him if he sang, too. He said he’d been thinking about joining the choir at his church. I encouraged him, and shared a few stories about my earlier forays into singing, how I stopped for years after a few bad shows, and how I am glad to be doing it again (and better). And I encouraged him to keep writing music.

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One of my Hopes for the trip was: “Jam with some locals”. This was a pretty loose definition of what I wanted. A jam I had with some of the high school boys at Seed of Hope in July 2011 was a highlight of that trip for me, and I’d hoped to maybe make some music with some locals. Thankfully, my chat and jam with Bryan was an opportunity to fulfill this hope, and I think it was a cool time for both of us, though we had to cut it a little short, as Bryan had to get back home.

I hope Bryan keeps writing! I think that everyone that sings or plays should do it. It helps to clear the mind of clutter. I feel it helps unburden the heart from emotional baggage. Anyhow, I’m hoping and praying that God will help Bryan and his bro in the coming days to grow in their faith and to be challenged and grow professionally, personally, and spiritually. And if Bryan wants to jam and I’m in the ‘Peg, I would be game, definitely.

Day 6: Forward House, May 30

Forward House- by Vicki Ross

There were so many positive learning experiences for me on the Winnipeg leg of the trip, but one of my favourites was our time spent at Forward House. Forward House was basically our last ‘stop’ on what had already been an incredibly busy and, at times, overwhelming week. From the time we arrived in Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon, God opened many doors for us to experience amazing things and hear from amazing people. My brain was having a hard time keeping up! Thursday was our last full day in Winnipeg. In the morning we heard from Ovide Mercredi, a prominent Aboriginal chief, and then went to the drop-in at the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church where we heard about their School of Justice. I knew that the plan for the afternoon was to head to Forward House, a ministry I knew very little about, and that our awareness concert was planned for that evening. To be perfectly honest, the last thing I wanted was to head to yet another organization. My brain just didn’t feel like it could handle any more information, no matter how great the ministry was. It was a bit of a rainy day, I was tired and verging on cranky. I honestly didn’t think there would be anything new or different that I would learn from this experience- I had seen enough already! I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I have never encountered a ministry quite like Forward House. I used to work at the Mustard Seed in Edmonton, so I had some knowledge of what residential programs are like, but had never visited any of them. As far as I know, one of the main purposes of residential programs is to give people who suffer from addictions or destructive lifestyles the opportunity to make change by first removing them from their environment. Recovering from an addiction requires a lot of work, effort, and motivation on the part of the individual. Usually the person needs to take part in some form of counselling and/or support group in order to look at the root of the addictive behaviour, and learn how to change his or her pattern of thinking. However, it is also recognized that one’s physical and emotional environment plays a huge role in addiction recovery. A person might have the best of intentions when it comes to their recovery, but that resolve can be chipped away when they are surrounded by friends who are still in that lifestyle. The website describes Forward House as a ‘home to men who want to start a new life’. Many of these men are enslaved by addictions, are dealing with legal issues, or struggle with mental illness. They have experienced things like broken homes, jail, detox centres, unhealthy or abusive relationships, lack of education and low self-esteem. They may feel as though they have hit rock bottom and have nowhere else to turn. Some men also choose Forward House as a place to complete their probationary sentences.

The first thing that struck me about Forward House was the peace I felt when I entered the building. Despite being disgruntled prior to going in, we were so warmly welcomed and instantly fed that I soon felt my demeanour changing, almost in spite of myself! It’s not something that I can explain, but I honestly felt God’s presence in that house, and it gave me comfort and even anticipation for what was to come. I couldn’t help but notice the various displays of Christian faith on the walls…whether quotes of Scripture or pictures or notices on the bulletin boards. The house itself was very simply furnished, which might be why these stuck out more- it was not at all hard to tell that Christ was fully welcomed into that place. It was also cool to see toys and other evidences of children that had lived there- Forward House has the ability to house men who have custody of their children.

When Peter spoke with us about the ministry at Forward House I could sense that God was with him, from his humble attitude, to the words that he spoke, and the answers that he gave. It was very cool to hear him share about the work that is being done- starting with his own testimony! He himself went through the program, was able to overcome addictions in his own life, and is now serving God by inviting others into the path of freedom. It always gives me shivers of hope and wonder to hear how God has worked in someone’s life. I was also very intrigued to learn about the approach that is used for recovery- Peter went through the house rules that they have in place. It was a long, long list that outlined the expectations for each person living at Forward House (there are actually 5 separate buildings but they are all run the same way). There are rules regarding behaviour (no violence, no inappropriate language, no movies unless they are approved, no pornography, maintaining curfew, coming to meals, expectations for cleaning), and the houses are carefully monitored with security cameras 24 hours a day. I was surprised to hear that they haven’t really had too many issues with people breaking rules!

The men are also encouraged to attend a Bible Study at least once a day and are given the opportunity to attend church on Sundays. Men who choose to live at Forward House are aware that it is a Christian program, so it should not come as a surprise to them that there is such a strong emphasis on the Christian faith. It is exciting for me to think of the work that Christ is able to do when the gospel is being preached as consistently as it is at Forward House. It reminds me of the parable of the seed- when it falls on ready soil, it will take root, and will flourish. Sometimes the most ready soil is the kind that has tried to live life according to the sinful nature, but has begun to feel the devastating effects of those choices. For those who feel like they have hit rock bottom the truth of the gospel can often become words of life, hope, meaning, and joy. Especially when it comes to addiction recovery- without Christ I think that road would be a lot more challenging, if not impossible. It was exciting to hear of some of the stories of these changed lives.

On the Forward House website are these verses: to loose the chains of injustice… set the oppressed free… share your food with the hungry… provide the poor wanderer with shelter. Isaiah 58:6&7. These are familiar verses for Harmony through Harmony as this is what is at the heart of what we seek to do. I was greatly blessed by the opportunity to learn about Forward House, as well as the ability to raise some funds to support their ministry through our concert later that evening. As usual, God knew what I really needed that afternoon- He lifted my spirits with stories of changed lives, and in witnessing the humble spirit of a man who wanted nothing more than to share with others the joy and freedom he had found in Christ.

Day 6: Back at the Drop In, May 30

Meeting Cliff, one cool dude. By Peter Vooys

We’d already seen and learned a lot at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard. On Sunday we’d attended their morning service, and I really dug their style of worship (very cool use of guitars. Great soundman. Music levels not too high. Appropriate use of instrumental breaks, that were sometimes long but always fit the song well, etc.) We came back on Tuesday, May 28 for their drop-in program, which was a challenge. I get shy about meeting people sometimes, especially if I’m on their turf. If it’s my turf, and /or I know a lot of people around, I’m quite good at meeting new people, but Tuesday was challenging. On Tuesday, Shaun Paulson and I met a few nice gents, one was from Quebec, we spoke a little bit of French, and I was glad to have made the effort, even though it took a few minutes to get the nerve up after Beth’s nudge to “go introduce yourselves”. After we chatted and sang several songs for the people at Vineyard’s Tuesday drop-in, we went to a meeting room and a few of their pastors talked with us about what they do. One of their pastors, John, pointed to the corner across Main Street (Main and Sutherland) and talked a little about some of the violence that happens on that corner. He pointed out several police cameras covering different angles of that corner.

After his talk, I realized that I wanted a picture on that street corner. It was maybe Canada’s most violent corner? Yep, that would be worth a photo. I mentioned this out loud, and Shaun agreed that he too would like a picture there. We asked Christina if she’d take a picture of us, and we went outside.

The violent corner

The violent corner

It was raining outside, and on the corner we met a fellow who’d been at the drop-in, and he started chatting with us. He told us he used to do security for rock concerts, and shared a few anecdotes. I was really interested, and I asked if he’d be coming back to the drop-in on Thursday, so he could tell us some more stories about being a security guard and bouncer. We asked him to take a photo of us on the corner, he did. And he said he might be coming on Thursday. I hoped so.

Come Thursday, a much more tired, much more mentally taxed Peter showed up at drop-in. We had just had a great learning session with former Assembly of First Nations chief Ovide Mercredi, and we were late for drop-in. I think my brain was starting to hurt by this point. Not from Mr.Mercredi’s chat, which was really cool, but the previous night I’d had my first “I think we’re pushing too hard” experience of the tour, and cumulatively, I was a little worn out. I didn’t see Cliff, but sat down at a table with a few empty chairs, and showed enough interest in a conversation being had by other drop-in folks and HTH members to be polite (one conversation, specifically, which I can’t remember to save my life), but I was not really an active participant.

Then Cliff came up and sat down, and asked if I was still interested in hearing those stories. Absolutely I was! This was, I think, just what I needed. Someone telling interesting, fun stories. Not sad stories, not stories that would expand my worldview, I’d heard plenty of these already. Just fun stories about brawls and the seedy side of town in days past. For the record, I’ve never been in a bar-room brawl. But I was a rather scrappy lad, and I enjoy stories about fights and punching people.

Cliff had been quite the bouncer, I could tell. He started telling me about a group of bouncers that he was part of, a clean-up patrol of sorts. He said that hotel and bar managers would call them when things were getting out of hand, and they wanted to clear some riff-raff from their establishment. He said that for a while in their career doing this, the police would follow behind them with a paddy wagon, and fill it with the fellows the patrol tossed out of bars. He told a lot of stories of specific instances in his life doing this, and later, doing security jobs, and I was impressed.

Cliff showed me a few ways to handle a drunk person who is out of control. He showed me the power of using pressure points to bring a belligerent where you need them to be. I asked him to demonstrate on me. My upper lip still remembers the effectiveness of his lip-twist manoeuvre. It was deadly! I really enjoyed hearing Cliff’s stories. I was riveted by his tales of the group of bouncers. I feel like this would be an interesting book to write. Winnipeg is not Calgary, and it was really interesting to be around this area, which was like multiple Cecil Hotels mixed with the pawn shops of Seventh Avenue. Sad stories there were aplenty. But also some cool people. Like Cliff.

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After my chat with Cliff, Suhail, an intern on the pastoral team, gave us a rundown on Winnipeg Vineyard Centre’s School of Justice. This is a program that runs starting in October of this year. If you’re interested in this, you can find the link at:
http://winnipegcentrevineyard.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=708:vineyard-school-of-justice&catid=15:news&Itemid=66
All of our experiences at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Christian Fellowship were valuable, and I highly suggest checking them out if you’re looking for a church in Winnipeg. And I suggest reading up on their website, and praying for their ministry, which has touched a lot of lives.

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Bonding in Vehicles

Bonding in Vehicles by Torri Airhart

During our Winnipeg week there was a lot of driving from point A to point B. I was using my uncle’s CRV for the week and if I remember correctly we put over 900 kms on the vehicle over the course of that week. The necessity of all this time on the road created a lot of time spent together in the vehicles.

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In the HtH schedule we spend many hours together over a year – that time is mostly spent in rehearsing, performing, and discussions. Within that context relationships are developed over time, but they mostly remain professional, with the director-chorister-leader dynamics and boundaries in place. What’s interesting is how quickly those dynamics change within the confines of a vehicle and how much other “learning” takes place. Suddenly the discussions are no longer about vocal technique, dynamics and phrasing but rather about families, childhood memories of schools and pastimes, favourite tv shows, food and endless other topics. It’s these discussions, this bonding, which provides a new context for relationships and friendships. Moving forward we have new relational currency and trust with each other. I was amazed in these travels at how little I actually knew of some of these singers, and how much there was to know. From late night gas stops (and impromptu performances for gas jockeys), to getting lost on reserves, to side of the road bathroom breaks in bogs – it all added to the shared experiences that created new context for doing music and life together.

And all of which goes to prove T S Eliot who mused “The journey not the arrival matters.”

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