Homeward bound gerrit Verstraete homeward bound


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A legacy of pancakes

Although the trail of batter dates back to my childhood, it wasn't until our children were young when I began my own legacy of pancakes. But it warrants telling the story again from early beginnings on Abel Tasmas Straat in Zwolle, the Dutch city of my birth.

My grandmother was reputed to have made some of the best pancakes a person could ever eat. These were huge, inch-thick pancakes that filled the frying pan to the edge. Known affectionately as spekpannekoeken, her pancakes were a heavy recipe of thick batter with a large quantity of juicy chunks of bacon. Each pancake was a full-course meal in itself. Usually she made one pancake and divided it into two, three, or four, depending on who was over for dinner or lunch. Accompanied by milk, syrop and tea, the bacon pancake was a favourite of her hungry children and grandchildren. Over the years, my father and mother modified my grandmother's recipe. The pancakes became thinner only without the bacon, but still as large as a our frying pan.

When I was twelve years old, I began making pancakes over an open fire in a field across the street from our family home on Abel Tasman Straat. Somehow I believed these pancakes would become a source of ready income. Together with a friend, we dug a small hole in the ground in our vacant field and stoked a small fire. I borrowed my mother's frying pan and solicited the ingredients for the batter from her as well. Armed with a pail of thick and creamy batter, I began frying pancakes over the open fire. Soon a trail of smoke and a mouth-watering aroma spread throughout the street and hungry mouths responded. For the price of five cents anyone near our little "kitchen" could buy a hot pancake, roll it up, and enjoy the taste. My pancakes tasted very good as I remember. I was also aware that building an open fire was illegal, but I was too young to realize I needed a vending permit. I kept the fire small and well contained.

One day I saw the local policeman appear on his bicycle at the very end of the street. He was in no hurry. Slowly he rode his bike, sitting upright as behooves a member of the constabulary. A single bell on his handlebars was the only warning device he had. As he came closer to our little stand, my mind raced. What could I do? Would he arrest me?

A streak of marketing savy hit me as I watched the policeman come closer. It was a streak of genius that eleven years later became my career.

"Quick," I said to my friend. "Make me a big one!"

Within minutes the biggest and juiciest pancake lay splattering in hot oil. The policeman was almost at the intersection of our street and the corner on which stood our home. Quickly I flipped the pancake over. I could hear the bell ringing on his bike. He came to a gracious and slow halt and as he put his feet on the ground to balance his stationery bike, he looked down at the two boys, feverishly finishing a special pancake. He didn't say a thing. He always grinned. He knew the fire was small, contained, and no threat to the surroundings, or to the many children who played in the field. The air was filled with the aroma of homemade pancakes.

Carefully I rolled up his special piping-hot pancake. Gently I laid it on a piece of paper and handed the steaming delicacy to the policeman. He took it from my hand and said "thank you."

Then with great pomp and ceremony he began the slow task of eating our pancake one delicious bite after another. He seemed to take forever. When he was done, an apparent look of great satisfaction fell over his otherwise official face.

He put one foot on the bike's pedal and just before he lifted the other foot to resume his gracious patrol, he looked at both of us with a broad smile. After all, he was a policeman and policemen do smile, even when on duty.

"That was very delicious boys. Thanks again!"

"Be careful now, you hear!"

Thus he rode off to leave me free from fears of handcuffs and imprisonment.

It was that special moment in history that became my coronation to the prestigeous position of master pancake maker. I have worn that mantle with honour over some forty-five years since the early pannekoeken days on Abel Tasman Straat. When at last my own children were old enough to experience these pancakes for themselves, I began making them every Saturday morning. The pancake breakfast event soon grew into a tradition whose reputation spread far and wide. The sight remained etched in my memory as little children gathered around our kitchen table, their eyes fixed on a hot frying pan from which whisps of steam and smoke filled their little noses, one pancake at a time. The children had to be patient, because each pancake was a work of art, yet worth waiting for. The ceremony included weighty decisions as to what to put on the pancake before rolling it into a long steaming meal of epic proportions. Although the secret of my pancakes has been carefully guarded, the toppings were no secret then or today.

Favourite toppings included CheeseWhiz, or brown sugar with a dash of lemon juice. Some preferred peanut butter, others liked butter and brown sugar. Cheddar cheese became a later favourite. On special occasions we feasted on fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The alltime favourite, however, was butter and syrop.

We told our friends, if ever they showed up at our door on a Saturday morning, they were welcome to join in our family pancake feast, but they had to bring their own syrop as a token of friendship. Many friends showed up over the years, but usually it was just me and the kids. One Saturday morning the doorbell rang just as the first of many pancakes made it from the frying pan to the table. Alice opened the door to find Don Gees, a good friend, standing in the doorway holding a large can.

"May I come in," he said, "or is it too late for pancakes?"

"No, we've just started, c'mon in," said Alice.

"Here," said Don, " this is some syrop for your pancakes."

By "syrop" we only knew the store-bought extra sweet kind, which was usually a commercial and inexpensive blend of flavours with possibly a hint of maple syrop. Here stood Don, however, holding a two gallon tin of genuine maple syrop. He had purchased the container at a roadside stand belonging to Mennonite farmers some distance northwest of Toronto. It was pure maple syrop, "the genuine, real McCoy thing," and absolutely delicious. Don had paid over one-hundred dollars for the large tin. We feasted that special Saturday morning as we poured the syrop generously over plates of pancakes. The following Saturday, our children announced they preferred the "store-bought" kind. It took Alice and I along with a few friends, a long time to finish that large tin of real maple syrop.

When our family moved to Gabriola Island, I took the pancake tradition along.

Within days of our arrival, the Pacific northwest forest around our small house filled with the aroma of my special pancakes. Soon, others on the island heard about my pancakes and the legacy began to take root in British Columbia. However, by about the year 2000, some thirty years after I began our Saturday morning breakfast tradition, things slowed down. Matthew and Suzanne, the two children still left at home, either slept at friends or slept in. When they awoke they usually did not want breakfast.

For a moment it appeared as if my pancake legacy would die a quiet death, to be buried somewhere in the exotic history of British Columbia's gulf islands. But then I met a little girl named Ciaran.

Ciaran is the daughter of Alisha Bennett, a young mother who is not only part of our church fellowship but also part of our extended family, as have been so many become over years of ministry on this small island. During the summer of 2001, Alice and I became godparents to Ciaran as well as legal guardians. Ciaran was six years old when she first tasted my pancakes. Soon my reputation spread throughout Gabriola Island's elementary school. Whenever she was coming to visit me and pancakes were on the menu, which they usually were, she made sure everyone in her class knew about it.

When school began again in September of that year, I had offered to pick up Ciaran from school on Tuesdays to look after her until Alisha was finished work, sometime around six thirty. Alisha managed the after-school program for children at The Gathering Place, the island's youth drop-in centre. I will always remember the look on Ciaran's face, a treasured look every Tuesday afternoon, when I waited for her at school. I didn't make pancakes every Tuesday evening, because the alternative, a good old-fashioned home-cooked meal by Alice, was worth the wait as well.

A word about my secret recipe.

For those who wish to create their own legacy of pancakes, it is really a simple one. I mix flour, salt, eggs, milk, water and some cooking oil to the right consistency and that's all there is to it. An average batch of batter is three cups of white flour, a cup of milk, two cups of water, one egg, one teaspoon of salt, two tablespoons of vegetable cooking oil, and a generous portion of love. If the batter is too runny I add a bit more white flour. If it is too thick, I add more water, because the batter must be just right. When Ciaran watched me mix the batter, usually by climbing on the kitchen counter, I would lift a ladle full of batter high in the air over the mixing bowl. Then with great ceremony I poured a long stream down into the bowl of batter.

Then I spoke my famous words, words that remain the real secret to my pancake recipe.

"If it don't splatter it is good batter."

Alisha always appeared on time to pick up Ciaran, as well a heaping portion of my pancake legacy.

Ciaran followed in a long line of heirs to the pancake inheritance, heirs who include Jeff, Wendy, Angela, Karen, Suzanne, Matthew and a miriad of friends such as Bernice, Bruce, Martin and Anne and their children, Aliah, Katherine, Donna, Ryan, Trevor, and a host of others, from as far east as Ontario to the far west of Gabriola Island. Last but not least are the children who come to The Gathering Place on Gabriola for Alisha's daily after-school program. I began to spread the legacy of my pancakes among them as well, as they patiently waited for the next pancake to slip from the hot frying pan on to their waiting plates.

During our first years on Gabriola Island, when I was Executive Director of the Chemainus Theatre in Chemainus, "the little town that did," I introduced the entire staff and resident cast members to my pancakes. They too will never forget that breakfast morning. I won all their hearts. Maybe I should have marketed the event as some secret tool for successful management.

When my journey as artist, teacher, poet, author, and pastor, ends on this mortal soil called earth, hopefully there will always be a frying pan somewhere, to guarantee that my secret recipe continues, trusting the legacy of my pancakes will always find a hungry young mouth to feed. But then I wonder, do angels and the saints in heaven expect the legacy to continue when I arrive?

Opa is cool

On the afternoon of Tuesday, October 2, 2001, Haley Joy Anne Jaggard was born to our daughter Angela and her husband Jeff. The bouncing eight pounds eight ounces little girl entered the world in a home birth attended by a professional midwife. Haley now enjoys dual citizenship as both mom and dad are Canadian citizens residing in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA, where Haley made her grand entrance. Her dad was so proud, he celebrated his blond little beauty in an impromptu email that said, "she's got a nice round head - no conehead!"

The birth of Haley Joy Anne marked the birth of our first grandchild. Alice and I are now officially oma and opa. Both words, oma and opa, are Dutch terms of endearment that date back a long time. Other cultures favour words such as grandfather, grandmother, grandpa, and grandma, but ours is exclusively oma and opa. Their meaning no doubt originated in the phrases olde pater, or oude vader which translated into "old father, old papa" or simply “opa.” I have not encountered these terms of endearment in any other culture. Therefore I am proud to perpetuate a true Dutch heritage by being opa to my first grandchild. Needless to say, some fathers take less kindly to being called opa, or grandfather, because it is an often painful reminder that they are getting old.

I became an opa at age fifty-six. Alice became oma at age fifty-three. Male and female mid-life crises have come and gone with lingering hot flashes still at inopportune times. Menopause ( a strange term for a woman's physiological transition at mid-life ) or should I say, womanopause, came knocking years ago and has since left. Whatever mid-life transitions I was supposed to have experienced have been somewhat nebulous with no clear manifestations of a beginning and end. My feet ached occasionally especially when I first get out of bed. I was a “few” pounds overweight and sitting and standing from a crouched position on the floor required a bit more effort. However, I still spent much time on my kneews on the floor of my studio creating mixed-media papers and stretching canvasses for my paintings. My mind was still sharp, which I demonstrated by completing twenty-one credits of university studies during the years 1999 to 2001. When I successfully completed my studies I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. The only thing "rusty" was my handwriting which I had abandoned long ago with the advent of typing and word processing. My hands are used exclusively for fine art drawing and no longer for long-hand writing. I do not contemplate "getting old," nor does the word "retirement" enter my vocabulary. Physically I am in good shape. I have taken an annual complete physical for each and every year after I turned fifty, and all systems have been fine, with no drugs, no alcohol, and no tobacco in my life. Later in 2003, my doctor informed me that my cholesterol was too high. It prompted a complete change in the way I think about and eat food, and with the healthy change came a drop of thirty pounds in weight. Needless to say, the sex drive isn't what it used to be, but perhaps after reaching quota there is no need for it anymore. Robertson Davies, a famous Canadian author, rejoiced over his old age when at age eighty he said that at last he was "free from the tyranny of sex."

Nevertheless, both Alice and I are still blissfully married, and still deeply in love. After thirty-five years of marriage, since the day we first said "I do" in 1967, we still hold hands as we go into town together, or go out for breakfast on Friday mornings.

For those reasons and more, the word "opa" does not cause alarm nor does it deal a decisive blow to my male ego. As a matter of fact, I have come to understand that my season of harvest has arrived. After some fifty years of sowing and cultivating, I am in the process of reaping a creative harvest I would not have thought possible decades ago. In other words, I am not only proud to be an opa, I am am ready.

In fact, I had a few months of "opa practise" with Ciaran our godchild before Haley was born. Every Tuesday at three in the afternoon, I watched her play in the school playground as she and her friends enjoyed a time of energetic outdoor activity. Then we slowly sauntered to our house just a block away. After a snack and drink we settled down for a wonderful time of playing with Suzanne's old collection of Barbie dolls, or we just snuggled with a video or watched a children's television program. At other times, while Alice prepared supper, we have also spent some time building castles and other things with Matthew's Lego blocks. Many Tuesdays I prepared Ciaran's favourite pancakes. And as I have mentioned before, Alisha dropped in after work to join us for a pancake dinner or help herself to steaming leftovers left on the table for her. Sometimes she stayed to visit a while longer. By around 8 pm it was time to get Ciaran off to bed. Opa gave hugs and kissed goodbye as Ciaran and Alisha left for home.

Suzanne and Matthew were getting too old for snuggles and kisses.

Just when I thought I would have no one left to snuggle with, along came Ciaran and now a grandchild named Haley Joy Anne. Matthew asked me a couple of years ago not to call him "little big guy" anymore as he entered his teens and therefore no longer required dad's snuggles in front of a favourite video or Star Trek movie Were my snuggling days about to expire the same way my pancake legacy threatened earlier? Fortunately, no! Hopefully there will me many more grandchildren to come, for my snuggling days are not over yet.

Yet, here I am, a real opa and enjoying the prospect of holding Haley in my arms, fussing over her and making pancakes for her, as well as for any other grandchildren we may be blessed with. Friends and their children have always been welcome too.

But there is another aspect of being opa that can be quickly overlooked. That aspect is that I have lived through a journey of some of the greatest technological achievements the world has ever seen. My world in 1945, started and black and white and only years later turned to colour. I am speaking of course metaphorically about television. Not until I was about ten years olf did I ever see a television. As a child I peered through the bushes of a neighbour, the first ones in the entire neighbourhood to have a television. I grew up with “distribution radio,” an early form of cable radio, which amounted to two state-controlled radio signals, Hilversum I and II, which we accessed with a dial on our livingroom wall and a single speaker. Those who could afford it had radio receivers, the old glow vacuum-tube kind. When we moved to Canada in 1958, most homes had black & white television sets. We had to wait another two years before we could afford a small set. When I began my artistic career in 1968, as a businessman and owner of an advertising agency, I wrote all my copy on an Underwood manual typewriter. It was a challenge years later to switch to an electric typewriter. I listened to music on vinyl LP’s ( which means Long Play ). Tapes in the forms of reel-to-reel, 8-track cassettes, and the smaller audio cassettes followed. My favourite camera is still the ol’ Pentax Spotmatic with an assortment of high-quality lenses that all date back to the nineteen- seventies, and can still outperform digital any day. My first computer was a small 264 kb ( that’s one-quarter of a megabite ) with an amber monochrome monitor. But times have changed. Opa has learned to work with Pentium computers and gigabytes, high-speed internet, information technology, digital imaging, CD’s, HDTV, DVD’s, Global Positioning, and yet none can match, mimic, or reproduce, the awesome beauty of a delicate pencil line or the texture and tone of a classical fine art drawing. Technology to accomplish such a masterful feat does as yet not exist.

It’s cool to always be one step ahead of modern technology.

After all, opa is cool!

Church On The Rock

It seemed as if our first six months on Gabriola Island would last forever. We were all caught in some sort of time wharp, soaking in the joy of relaxation and a considerably slower pace of life each day of the week on this northernmost of the gulf islands. The only moments of more frenzied activity were the prayer meetings we had begun in our little cottage on North Road. We gathered to pray as family and friends every Wednesday evening. We were joined by Alice's sister Irene. On Sundays all nine of us got together as a house fellowship in Irene's home at the southern tip of the island, overlooking the Georgia Strait and with the skyline of Vancouver visible on the distant horizon. Irene's husband Bill usually found time to sneak away before we arrived. He disappeared to Windecker's Restaurant at the other end of the island to have coffee with friends. In October of 1993, we were joined by the Vyn family with Martin, Anne and four children, who were also immigrants from Ontario. They parked their huge fifth-wheel trailer and pickup truck in our driveway, hooked an electrical wire and water hose to our cottage, and stayed there until they could find a rental home. Martin and Anne were planning to build their family home on the island, But I have told that story already. Not long after the arrival of Martin and Anne, a few other families joined us for Sunday mornings at Irene's place and not before long, seeds were sown of what would be called Church On The Rock. Alice chose the name. We began our little fellowship as four adults with Alice, Irene, Bernice, and I, and five children including Jeff, Angela, Karen, Suzanne, and Matthew. Along with the Vyn's and other families we soon became a group of eleven adults and sixteen children. I had been ordained since 1991, with the Evangelical Church Alliance, and therefore served as pastor of our small Church On The Rock. It needs to be understood, however, that I never considered myself a "lone ranger" in ministry, nor did I ever think I was "lone pastor" of our small island fellowship. From the day Alice and I founded and opened the doors of our teaching ministry, inaugurated in 1982, as the Christian Communications Centre, I always believed and practised my belief that Alice and I were a team ministry. That did not mean, however, that we did everything together, but a team we were nevertheless. Our respective giftings were in different areas but with plenty of overlap. As a result, in 1995, Alice was also ordained with the Evangelical Church Alliance, during a wonderful ordination ceremony and church service at the community hall on Gabriola. The service was officiated by Rev. Madge Bowes, who along with her husband Norm, had become close friends. They have lived in Victoria and as often as we traveled to BC's capital, we have enjoyed wonderful times of fellowship and comradery.

It was not long after our early beginnings as a church fellowship, when it became very obvious that Irene's place was not only too small, it did not serve a sizeable group of adults and children very well. Not all children sat quietly on chairs, especially when there were vases, plants, curtains, and other vulnerable household and furniture items throughout the home. Therefore, we made plans to find a more suitable facility. A better place was the community centre which had a large auditorium upstairs and a less imposing, smaller meeting room downstairs, complete with kitchens and washrooms. However, the space was being used on Sundays by Jehovah's Witnesses. Instead, we settled for the gymnasium at Gabriola's Elementary School. If the upstairs hall at the community centre was imposing, the gymnasium at the school was cavernous. We managed, however, to set up our chairs and pulpit in a corner of the gym and for about a year the place was our church's home. We had no musicians and no instruments. Our worship time was a cappella, with only our voices as instruments, reminding us very much of what it must have been like in the early church, somewhere around AD 60.

One Sunday morning during the service, while the children played outside, the fire alarm went off. The alarm was so loud in the huge gym, we had to plug our ears. Within minutes the sirens of Gabriola's Emergency Response Unit and the Volunteer Fire Department wailed across the island. We all went outside not quite knowing what to do. As a typical example of bureaucratic red tape, no one could turn the alarm off except official school personel, who of course were not around on Sundays. There was no smoke and no fire. The alarm had been tripped by Matthew who was seven years old at the time. But it was not an act of mischief. In fact, the reason was quite amusing. Matthew was being homeschooled at the time, as were his sisters. He was learning to read and write. That Sunday morning he noticed a big red thing on the wall of the gymnasium and he read the word "Pull."

So he did!

Amidst a screetch of engines and wailing sirens, a huge yellow firetruck arrived, carrying a crew in full battle gear. The truck was followed by the Fire Chief in his truck, and other response vehicles made up the lively procession. I found Matthew trembling in holy terror while hiding in the bushes beside the school. No doubt he thought he had committed the unforgiveable sin as well as a serious crime, punishable by a long prison sentence. I knew he was not to blame, and I felt for him as terror shook his young body. Determined to quickly turn this whole episode into a positive event, I picked Matthew up and held him tightly in my arms as I explained to him what had happened. When I took him to the front of the school he continued to shake with fear as he saw the firefighters' entourage. No doubt he felt some comfort that his dad was not about to let him go to some musty, dusty jail with spiders and bars of soap for food. Bars of soap were a childhood nightmare of mine as some relative once told me that soap was the official food of Dutch prisons. The Fire Chief, however, was very kind and reassuring as he calmed Matthew down. It turned out to be a good experience after all. It cost us one hundred dollars to turn the alarm off. Love that bureaucracy.

After a year in the school gymnasium, we got word that the Jehovah's Witnesses had shut down their island gathering and the community centre's board were pleased to offer us the space. During a warm autumn Sunday in 1994, we held our first service in the upstairs hall of the community centre. By this time we had one guitar player. Gary was originally from Prince George, who along with his wife Colleen had moved to Gabriola. He played a kinda "down home country" guitar. Yet, upstairs at the community centre was as cold and cavernous as the school gymnasium, so we decided to move downstairs. Dowstairs is not a basement, but more like a ground floor as the community centre is built on a sloping property. Access to downstairs is through large convenient doors along Garland Road where we park our cars on Sunday. We have plenty of windows and the centre's piano was located there. That turned into a real blessing as we soon discovered that our daughter Angela had begun to blossom as a piano player. The space also featured a small kitchen, two large public washrooms, a large pre-school room which we used on Sundays for the children, and last-but-not-least, a state-of-the-art outdoor playground. It was a great arrangement at a price our little fellowship could manage, and at a price infinitely below the cost of owning our own church building. Downstairs at the community hall has been home of Gabriola's Church On The Rock ever since.

One year, we organized a special committee representing the island's five churches. Our task was to organize the design and building of a large sign welcoming residents and visitors to the island's churches. We were given permission to put the sign right along "the big hill" coming from the ferry up North Road. It was one of the first signs visitors and residents saw when they traveled up the big hill towards Gabriola's village centre. The signs suffered occasional vandalism, especially during Halloween. One dark night someone backed a vehicle up to the sign, wrapped a rope or chain around the large sign and toppled the whole thing to the ground. Remarkably, all the island's churches remained standing.

Over the years some one hundred and fifty adults and children have "come through" the Church On The Rock. "Coming through," is in keeping with the island's reputation as a very transient place. Hundreds arrived each year to hide on Gabriola. They hoped to escape whatever physical or emotional peril that threatened them. Many were on welfare. When they realized that after about six months their troubles soon caught up with them, they moved on. This has been our experience in the church as well, except for a core group that remained at about twenty-five people.

Nevertheless, it has been Alice and my belief that our ministry as a church has been to serve the community at large and not just a handful who attended Sunday services or who came to prayer meetings. For that reason, we have remained deeply involved as volunteers in the affairs of the island. Some of our church family still are employed in the community's social services organizations as well. Not only have we served those who attended our fellowship when we gathered for worship, for encouragement and teaching, or when we prayed together and loved one another, we have also served in the community as counselors, youth administrators, volunteers and directors, in areas that involved the needs of many adults and youth in the the arts, business, and community services. In all our public service we have remained strong advocates of the family and sound family values.

Even though Alice assumed the lion's share of pastoral duties in the church, a task to which she has risen with zeal, excellence, and authority, I still enjoy my "co-pastor" status, especially when I teach about the Kingdom of God, and what it means to be led by the Spirit of God. Seeing Alice shine in her giftings as pastor never was a sore point to my male ego, although it took a lot of adjusting particularly in the area of public perceptions. It took a while for people, especially male pastors on Vancouver Island, to stop calling Alice a "pastor's wife," and start calling me a "pastor's husband," a term which still is foreign to the church at large. In a relatively conservative church landscape here on British Columbia's west coast, the church scene is still ruled by a male hierarchy. When Alice attends the annual prayer retreats for Vancouver Island pastors, held at Capernwray Retreat Centre on Thetis Island, she is still one of only two or three women in a male gathering of many pastors. Needless to say, it took the men a long time to quit asking where I was. I believe that finally, after some eight years of retreats, they have accepted Alice as a pastor. Of course, it helps that Alice has always been accompanied by our friend Madge Bowes, who ordained Alice in 1995. Madge continues to be a strong supporter of Alice's ministry.

As I write this account we are just three weeks away from entering our tenth year as Gabriola's Church On The Rock. We also recognized 2002, as the year we celebrated twenty years in ministry. It seems so long ago when we first began teaching God's word and when we opened the doors to our first teaching centre in Mississauga, upstairs in an industrial unit with a food laboratory next door, who on more than one occasions filled our centre with terrible putrid odours of cheese they were "putting through the tests," for various clients. Cheese was the worst of foods they processed.

It made for some very unusual prayers.

I will never forget walking through the centre before people arrived, rebuking everything I knew how, just to minimize the pungent odours of cheese-gone-bad.

The Church On the Rock on Gabriola Island suffered no such calamity.

The only unusual prayers we have had to offer were prayers to rid the hall of partygoers who had bunked down in our fellowship hall, hung-over from the night before as they celebrated upstairs in the community centre. One Sunday we arrived at church to find bikers and their motorcycles downstairs in our space. The bikers were asleep on some couches. I woke them up and invited them to come to church, which I said, "is about to start in ten minutes."

They left as fast as they could push their motorbikes outside.

One Sunday a young girl came to church on her horse, and on another Sunday, Jessica’s dog Toby joined us. Toby once managed to make it to the front, where a few cups of grape juice and some pieces of white bread left over from communion, tempted Toby. He gave in to the temptation but no curse or bolt from heaven struck him down. Some Sundays, Lorraine or John and Jane brought their smaller dogs as well. On other Sundays we have been visited by wasps, crickets, spiders, and other strangers who stumbled into our service thinking it was another community event. Occasionally summer cottagers and visitors have joined us for Sunday services.

But, other than heaters that didn't work at times, or a mess from other activities that never got cleaned up, tapwater that had gone bad and needed to be boiled, and even stranger visitors, we have been a happy lot in our church home.

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