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About Me

I have always considered myself a revolutionary.  I believe Jesus called us to that.  He wants us to change the world, to move it closer to the kingdom of heaven.  We pray that all the time:  “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  I believe that the primary way Jesus wants us to move our world closer to the kingdom of heaven is to have real compassion for the poor.  If we believe what the Bible has to say about it, God is more concerned about the poor than any other topic except salvation.  For me the poor have come to include those who are marginalized, victimized, disenfranchised, ostracized and delegitimized.

I have been touched by the love and grace of God, and I have a heartfelt desire to extend that love and grace to others especially the poor, the neglected, the down trodden.  Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 25 that when we respond to human need with deeds of love and mercy, we are in fact serving Him. He says we are to see our Creator in hurting people all around us.  And that is what I try to do, to look past the external conditions of a person’s life, the things that the world sees, to recognize Christ in people and reach out to them for who is on the inside.

I have been asked many times just how I made  my decision to go to Haiti.  My answer is simple.  I didn’t decide.  Let me explain.  I had occasion to hear Chris Rolling, Director of Clean Water for Haiti talk about his work.   I had no idea what was to happen that day.  I never dreamed what was about to take place.  My attendance was unplanned (at least by me) and I was only politely interested.  But as Chris spoke, two things happened.  Firstly, I felt a deep connection with this man.  Secondly, I heard God’s call to Haiti.   As I saw it, God was offering an incredible opportunity to share in what He is doing there, and I surely was not going to refuse.  I didn’t decide; I just knew.  In an instant I experienced a shift in my thinking.  Things that tied me  to my home lost value.   Before Chris was finished his presentation, I knew I was going.

My journey with God has taken many turns.  As a child I attended church with my family from time to time, but the only impact I remember it having on my life was fear of God’s wrath.  In my late teens I was attracted back to church by a young clergyman whose very unorthodox style I found magnetic.  I developed a bit of a passion for God’s word and attended church regularly until cracks appeared in my mentor’s personal life and his entire life crumbled.  I felt at the time that if faith could not buttress a “man of God” in times of crisis, how could it ever sustain me.

Several years later my work brought me in close contact with a Christian family.  Initially I was wary of their faith, but as I observed the way they lived their day to day lives, I saw something that I recognized was missing in mine.  Reluctantly I accepted their invitation to visit their church.  From the moment I walked through the doors, however, I found something very attractive.

It was the custom of that church to have a few of its members visit the homes of those who showed interest to welcome them.  I was told some years later that when they left that evening the prevailing opinion was that I was perhaps the least likely person to make a commitment.   I was very knowledgeable but tended to intellectualize faith.

I have never been one to conform.  As anyone who takes this path in life can attest to, this inevitably ruffles some people’s feathers.  I make up my own mind about things.  I like to do things my own way in my own time.  But convinced of something, I will act decisively.  And despite their misgivings I was convinced about the Gospel.   I had become hungry for God and sought ways to serve Him.  I became very active in my church and sought out and pursued ministry opportunities.

At the same time as I came in contact with the above noted family my work also brought me inside the walls of a federal penitentiary.  What I experienced there changed me forever.  The misery, the despair, the loneliness, the boredom, the emptiness of the lives of the men there was staggering.   I was haunted with the feeling that I needed to do something, but I had no idea what that something was.  Over the next year I could not get those incarcerated men out of my head.  The excuse I used to not respond was that the penitentiary was too far away (laughable in hindsight).  Then, through what some would call “a twist of fate” I found myself living up against the prison fence.   I knew God was speaking very clearly to me.  I acquiesced.

Still not knowing what I was to do I decided to consult the co-ordinator of volunteer programs at the prison.  He put me in contact with a group who visited with inmates on a one-on-one basis.  That was my beginning.  My  involvement mushroomed;  I rapidly broadened my ministry,  recruited others to join me and partnered with other groups.  I worked extensively with a chaplain whose love for the men to whom he ministered was inspiring.

Early on I recognized that the chances of a man being able to stay out of prison after being released were greatly enhanced when he had community connections – a welcoming community, supportive friends, an engaged church, a meaningful job.  These relationships became my primary focus.

Somehow I had to bring people on the outside to recognize the humanity of those within the walls, and I had to convince those within the walls that not everyone on the outside wished they would remain there forever.  I had always been terrified of public speaking, but suddenly my passion found its voice.  I poured out my heart to anyone who would listen – churches, community groups, the prison administration.  Some responded and my vision came to be realized.  I also was busy inside telling all who would listen that there were people who cared.

After ten years I became convinced that my work there was done.  There were now hundreds involved and among those several very capable of taking over direction of what had been built.  It was time to move on.  I spent the next three years working in a Bible camp.  When that ended I moved into healthcare, working first with the elderly and then in a hospital.  When I was offered the opportunity to train in nursing I jumped at it.  A couple of years later I moved across the country and again became involved with those released from prison as well as street people.  For the past few years I have worked with people with developmental disabilities.

So now that God has asked me to enter into the pain of the poorest of the poor, “with the Holy Spirit as my walking stick and Jesus as my guide”*  I am setting out on another leg of my spiritual journey.  I know from experience that I can’t do it on my own.  But I know that God will go with me and provide all that I need.

* My thanks to Sylvia Tyson and Caitlin Hanford of Quartette, whom I met at a concert on October 18, 1996, in Pinawa, Manitoba, for this phrase from their song A Road Less Travelled On.

Music, once admitted to your soul, becomes a sort of spirit and never dies.


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