Greetings from Ukraine!

It was an adventure for some to get here, but we’re on our second full day at one of HART’s summer camps; it’s been full teambuilding and games and language learning. We lead English classes everyday, and today we have big plans with charades, 20 questions and XYO (a Pioneer camp favourite)

To read more about each day so far, and all the ones still to come, please click the link:

SK 2015 Learning and Serving Trip

Between March 7-14, 2015, 18 participants from Harmony through Harmony will be heading to Southern Saskatchewan for a Learning & Serving trip! The primary locations we will be traveling to include Fort Qu’Apelle, Regina and Caronport.

We will periodically post updates here on the blog. You can also follow our journey by liking our Harmony through Harmony Facebook page.

Traveling in a Learning & Serving Team is an important part of the HtH experience as it accomplishes our mission statement:
1. It builds community (internally and externally);
2. It expands world views (culturally, religiously, politically, economically etc.);
3. It develops the leadership of our participants;
4. It provides opportunities to promote justice (pre-trip, during and post-trip).

No two people experience the same travel experience – we see the world through our passions and strengths. Through the lenses of our upbringing, past experiences, and gifts, new experiences teach us about ourselves, how we can glorify God and our role in His Kingdom here on earth. In this way, travel is an opportunity to discover our uniqueness and why God has us alive at this time. A Learning & Serving Team creates this opportunity in the safety and transforming power of community.

Although we are performers, our performance is merely a reflection of the learning journey we are on. We seek to have attitudes of humility. We are not experts and we are inviting others to dare to learn and be stretched as we have. We hope our performance inspires others to take their “next step” of courage.

We invite God to increase our openness to the world around us in hopes that we will become more aware of the world that Jesus sees. Through prayer, guided reflection, and discussion, we discover how and when we are meant to respond.
Learning & Serving Trip Objectives:
• To develop relationships.
• To learn.
• To serve.
• To deepen faith / explore values

Day 2: A Day of Rest in Bayfield, Ontario

It seems appropriate that we are resuming our Blog posts with a blog on the day of rest on our trip. We have taken a rest from posts these last couple of weeks as we had our HtH Immeasurably More Fundraiser and then our 2013 Kick Off Workshop Weekend at Pioneer Ranch Camp near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. It has been a very full couple of weeks! Our year is now off and running… and wouldn’t you know, our next book study is Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. How perfect to think back to a day of rest in Beautiful Bayfield, Ontario…

Did you know cardinals mate for life?

Did you know cardinals mate for life?

Bayfield, ON – Jon Fish

Wow, what a wild and wonderful week in Winnipeg! The Manitoba leg of the trip had been an incredible experience for the group (as I’m sure the previous posts have shown), but our Canada trip was far from over. On Thursday, after an evening fundraising concert in downtown Winnipeg followed by a time to debriefing, reflecting, and saying goodbye to the team members headed back to Calgary, we had roughly 3 hours to catch some sleep in the church basement before starting yet another early and long day of travel to the lovely land of Ontario. It’s safe to say that we were all exhausted.

Even though this section of the trip had only begun, those who had carried through from Manitoba were in desperate need of rest and relaxation; a time to unwind, process the events of the previous week, and just have fun. And the blessing of beautiful Bayfield, Ontario was the perfect sanctuary. I am so thankful for the generosity and kindness of the Maclean family for allowing us to stay in their two gorgeous family cottages overlooking Bayfield River.

Beautiful Bayfield River, right on the coast of Lake Huron

Beautiful Bayfield River, right on the coast of Lake Huron

On Saturday, words could not describe my joy at the ability to sleep in until nearly noon! And I know I’m not alone in that! The group shared in a wonderful breakfast, and the majority of the day was left up to us. We were able to hang out at the cottage, hike in the forest, canoe down the Bayfield River into Lake Huron, go shopping/grab coffee in the town, or go to the beach!

Playing frisbee on the beach.

Playing frisbee on the beach.


We all gathered for a BBQ in the evening to share our stories of fun and adventure, then packed up in the vans once more to catch the sunset. Sitting on the beach, overlooking the Great Lake, the setting was serene and absolutely beautiful. Once the sun had set, the group got delicious ice cream graciously given to us by the owner of a small stand who stayed open late for us. In HtH fashion, we sang a few songs to thank him and bless his night.

Nothing like watching the sun set into the water!

Nothing like watching the sun set into the water!


The team went back to the cottage to hang out, prepare for the next day, and play games full of the usual and beloved HtH silliness (creative minds thrive during “Things in a Box”). That day spent in Bayfield was just what we needed. It was a perfect way to bring our group even closer together. At the end of the day I felt rested, recharged, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle another crazy and life changing week!

Give your all for an audience of 100 or an audience of one...

Give your all for an audience of 100 or an audience of one…

Day 1: “Tommy” Stratford Ontario, May 31st

“Tommy” – by Reid McLean Wiest

One of the ‘tourism’ stops we planned during the Ontario leg of the Canada trip was the Stratford Festival to see the musical “Tommy”. If you’ve never been, Stratford is a picturesque town of 30000, whose claim to fame (apart from Justin Bieber) is its renowned professional theatre, featuring the works of Shakespeare. They boast a dozen plays every year running May through October, and usually two are musicals. We were fortunate to secure a batch of tickets to “Tommy” at a reduced rate for HtH travelers to attend.

The production was outstanding, complete with The Who’s virtuoso rock soundtrack, top drawer performers, rapid-fire set changes, and technical wizardry, including a huge LCD screen covering the backdrop of the stage, reportedly at a whopping $1 million price tag. It blew me away!

However, beyond the production itself, what strikes me now months after we saw the show is the story of “Tommy”, and several of the themes it explores. Of all the musicals we could have seen with HtH, it was interesting that our group would see a story featuring several types of injustice against children.

If you’ve never seen the musical, I’ll summarize the plot here. The story begins during the second World War, with the meeting and marriage of a military Captain Walker and his wife. Soon Mrs. Walker is pregnant, but before the delivery, Captain Walker is called away from home to serve in the war in Germany. Unfortunately, he is captured by the Germans, and held as a POW for the remainder of the war. However, he is classified and missing and presumed dead by the army, and Mrs. Walker is informed she is now a widow, just before she gives birth to her son, Tommy.

Here is the first injustice against children we see, that of children with no fathers. Did you know that fatherlessness is epidemic in our culture today? Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, has stated that somewhere between half and two-thirds of kids in the U.S. go to bed without being tucked in by a dad. In most cases, however, their dads haven’t been killed in war. The biological fathers are simply absent, not involved in raising their kids, leaving the job to single moms. It is well-documented that kids who grow up without a significant father influence are at increased risk of all kinds of personal and social problems.

The widow Mrs. Walker soon moves on, starting a relationship with another man, who is in essence, Tommy’s stepdad. But the war ends, Captain Walker is rescued and returns home to find his wife in the arms of the other man. Mrs. Walker is surprised and pleased to see her husband didn’t die after all, but the other man picks a fight with Captain Walker over ‘his woman’. In the fight, Captain Walker pulls out his gun and kills the other man, while their young son Tommy witnesses the murder while looking through a mirror.

The next injustice against Tommy plays out at this point. Rather than accept responsibility for murdering the other man, Captain Walker and his wife try to cover it up. They insist to Tommy that he not tell anyone what happened, that if anyone asks he didn’t hear or see anything. Captain Walker is arrested, but the deception pays off as he is eventually exonerated of the murder charge. However, Tommy has suffered a deep psychic blow, and enters into a state where he does not appear to see, hear or speak, frequently staring into the mirror. He remains in this state of unresponsiveness until he is a teenager, much later in the play.

However, during his many years unable to communicate, Tommy suffers multiple others forms of abuse, including bullying by peers, invasive medical investigations, and sexual abuse at the hands of a drunk uncle. Tommy’s father even takes him to a heroin-addicted prostitute to see if she might be able to wake Tommy up from his trance. So much of the injustice against this child was at the hands of caregivers, behind closed doors. There were many reminders and parallels of what we had been learning in HtH about the history of aboriginal people in Canada, as well as the Little Warriors training our group did earlier in the year.

Tommy gains some renown as a prodigy playing pinball (the ‘Pinball Wizard’), but he still remains deaf, dumb and blind, trapped in his own mind, until his mother in desperation breaks the mirror. This act brings Tommy back to reality, he starts to communicate normally again, and his cure is widely hailed as a miracle. But then the plot gets a bit weird and Tommy becomes a famous rock star, and the world looks to him as something of a messiah-character with secret knowledge and access to a higher place within oneself. However, Tommy wishes only to be normal like everyone else, and ultimately his fans reject him for it.

But Tommy finds some peace in the process, and he even displays some forgiveness to his parents and uncle for the trauma and abuse he suffered. This theme of forgiveness in spite of the depth of injustice is inspiring, and illustrates a key point in the Christian worldview. Forgiveness leads to freedom and life, whereas bitterness leads to bondage, where you become like those who sinned against you, and the cycle of injustice continues. That being said, the ending of the musical is somewhat muddled, the forgiveness is not complete, and like real life, it’s all quite a bit messy.

But it was a great night out and a memorable event during our HtH travels.

Our crazy crew outside the theatre

Our crazy crew outside the theatre

Southern Ontario Day 1: IJM May 31

Southern Ontario Begins! by Beth McLean Wiest

Our blogs left off at the end of the Winnipeg leg of our trip. At this point, five of our original travelers left us and a new group of five joined us. Our group of 16 would spend many hours over the next 9 days bonding in vehicles as we took in London, Ottawa, Toronto and St. Catharines. The trip began with a stop at the Canadian head office for an organization we love to promote: International Justice Mission.

International Justice Mission (IJM) is a Christian human rights agency. IJM seeks to make public justice systems work for victims of abuse and oppression. These victims urgently need the protection of the law.

IJM investigators, lawyers and social workers intervene in individual cases of abuse. They work in partnership with state and local authorities
… to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare
… to prosecute perpetrators and
… to ensure that public justice systems – police, courts and laws – effectively protect the poor.

IJM pushes individual cases of abuse through the justice system from the investigative stage to the prosecutorial stage. IJM determines the specific source of corruption, lack of resources, or lack of good will in the system denying victims the protection of their legal systems. In collaboration with local authorities, IJM addresses these specific points of brokenness to meet the urgent needs of victims of injustice.

IJM has 16 projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These 16 projects focus on cases of slavery, sex trafficking, sexual violence, theft of property from widows and orphans, illegal detention, and citizenship rights. About 90% of the staff in the field are nationals.

That’s right! 90%! That’s a commitment to a country and belief in its ability to create sustainable change. Change in a country requires its people owning the problems and being a part of the solutions.

An organization’s greatest asset is its people. Its people will determine its capacity- its capacity to deliver, its capacity for growth, its capacity for sustainability. So often we hire based on competency, the essential skills needed to accomplish the tasks of a job. We forget that it is a person’s character that ultimately determines his or her capacity. Character is the foundation of relationships that build a community. Strong positive character and you have healthy community. Weak character and eventually community is eroded and ethical issues arise. It is character that ultimately changes a culture.

We had the privilege of encouraging the IJM Canada staff with three of our songs. One song, “Seek Justice” was composed by Reid McLean Wiest in response to the book Just Courage written by IJM Founder Gary Haugen. The text of “Seek Justice” is Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

Performing for IJM Canada Staff

Performing for IJM Canada Staff

In our opinion, IJM staff worldwide are doing a great job of living out this verse… They seem to seek justice at every opportunity. They rescue the oppressed. They defend the fatherless. They plead for the case of the widow. They are people of character and it was such a privilege for our team to spend time with IJM Canada, to offer them some encouragement through our music, and to be inspired by our time together to keep on advocating for them.

Visiting IJM headquarters
By Alanna Watton

Visiting IJM Canada headquarters was nothing short of a gift. We were welcomed with open arms by all the staff and we were treated to a marvelous lunch of donairs. Yum! Talk about hospitality. One of my highlights of our time with the IJM staff was the feeling of being united with family. Sometimes it feels like we are all fighting our own battles against the injustices of the world and we get overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all and the impossibility of our tiny actions and efforts ever having an effect. As we chatted with the staff and heard more about their work and the work of IJM, I felt like we were co-laborers and that the message of Christ’s love was indeed being spread throughout the nations. After a time of listening and learning about various staff’s roles and the work that is done out of the head office, we were able to gift the staff with singing 3 songs. It seems like a really small gift, but the staff were so appreciative and blessed. I think being able to sing to them blessed me most! We parted ways knowing that this was not our last time to see or hear from one another. “Until we meet again” ran through my mind as we walked to our cars, “this is just the beginning”.

I look forward to continuing to support and promote the work of International Justice Mission.

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.

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 ( 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.”


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.


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.

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:
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.