Toronto Update 6 (Colin Whalen)
First off, thank y’all so much for your prayers and donations for my trip. The Lord worked mightily in Toronto, both in the community, and among the team. Many memories were made, jokes born, friendships strengthened and some forged. The majestic country up north is odd and wonderful, and home to the 40 awesome kids who attended the Starting Point Church camp.
This paper will share some of those memories, as well as giving an idea of how the Lord worked. So during the early, early hours of July 13th, we departed from RDU and began the trek north. We arrived in Canada around two or three, wondering if this new world was really all that different from America. We arrived at the first hotel (that’s right, there was more than one) and hung around until dinner. This is where we started seeing the difference between our two countries. We ate a place called “Swiss Chalet” (think a Canadian Ruby Tuesday) with Mike Hauser, the lead pastor of Starting Point, and his wife. Here I discovered the rather interesting dish called poutine. Oh my. But the pastor and his wife were wonderful people, full of interesting stories about how weird Canada is and the best way to fit in and not seem like total American rednecks (we didn’t do too well at the whole “blending in” thing in the end). Getting to know them and share life in that week was an unforgettable experience. After wiping the poutine off my twoonie (that’s a serious sentence up there, even though it seems completely silly), we headed to sleep after a long day.
Sunday, we went to Starting Point and got to worship alongside Mike. He runs a very casual church, for people, as he puts it, who don’t go to church. And it was just that. Very strong musical performance and a sermon was all it had to it. It was very effective in fulfilling its role as a starting point for unbelievers and new Christians alike.
After that Mike and Tanya invited us over to their house and we had a barbeque (Canadian for hamburgers and hotdogs) with the church leaders and Mike’s four kids. Mike briefed us on what this camp was, what to expect and how to handle whatever situation arises. We departed, ready to start staffing this camp, and getting to sit front row to watch God work.
Monday morning after our devotional and breakfast (provided by the newer, fancier and cheaper hotel) we met Mike at a local park and hung around until the kids started showing up. We freaked a few of them out by being too American, and so our spirit tunnel had to be dispersed. Kickball, Frisbee and Baseball were played until everyone showed up. We divided into out groups, and I chose to take a group of five 7-11 year old boys, and led them all week with my buddy Drew. It was a unique and quite diversified group of young’uns, ranging from Ian the Quiet, to Anson the Self-Proclaimed “Mr. Popular” (he really was a good kid though).
We all loaded onto a school bus, where Drew and I conducted the “rollercoaster” to pump the kids up. Once again, our “American” was showing, and most of the kids had no idea what was going on, but they caught on soon enough. We went to an African Safari that day, and herded our kids through this park until they decided to splish and splash in the water section of it for four hours. That was the easy part, as we just had to make sure they didn’t make a break for it. The process repeated daily, park, bus, rollercoaster cheer (we also eventually added a song called the “Morning Song” to our routine which grew too be more popular than the rollercoaster).
After Monday at the African Safari, we went to the Canadian version of Wet’n’Wild (where a good ole sunburn was had by all) which tired everyone, even the elementary school boys, to the point where the bus ride back was nap central.
Wednesday we ventured into Canada’s Wonderland (think Carowinds) where, being placed with the moderate rollercoaster enthusiasts, I rode the swings about 27 times. But that day was one of my favorites, because I was able to form a deep bond with Caleb Hauser, one of Mike’s kids. He is a timid fellow, who after much coaxing finally tried one of the easier rollercoasters, which he loved to death.
Thursday had to be the most interesting day in the trip. I could probably write a whole separate book about the horrors and thrills of this day. It was on this day we visited the Ontario Science Centre. Now, my group being made of, once again, boys ranging from 7-12 (we gained another) they, to quote Anson, “didn’t want to see any of that science and nature crap.” All they wanted to do was go to the arcade. It just so happened, an exhibit called “The History of Video Games” was being displayed, and it allowed people to play games, ranging from “Pong” to new-age fancy malarkey. So in this dimly lit room, packed to the brim with 156,451,155,987,184,156 other kids, who just so happened to be wearing the same color shirt all of our campers were wearing, we made camp for the three hours until lunch. Oh my.
After lunch, Drew and I were able to persuade half our group to see the space exhibit and the nature one that were in the Science Centre (which was much more interesting) while the other half went with two other Staffers back again to the Arcade. It was on this day I really got to know Hayden, a tough kid on the outside, who reminded me a lot of me. I got to see behind the mask, which really just touched my heart. He is by far the camper I miss the most.
On the last day of our Canadian adventure, we just took the kids to the pool, to see the movie “Monster’s University” and to the mall. Then we said farewell to our new found friends, and watched as they left, wondering if we will ever see them again, and if they will remember us after a week. A great end to a great week.
The Lord moved in several kids’ hearts this week and they were saved, and not by us pushing it onto them. They asked us about the subjects, and the Spirit guided our answers and lead new hearts to Christ. Many questions were asked, some even already showed faith, which was awesome. On top of that, even the ones that didn’t ask questions, we were able to love and serve, giving them an awesome week to enjoy and romp around Canada.
Along with the kids, we were able to bless a hotel employee by the name of Kim, who we sang to, gave flowers to, and prayed over. Her coworkers described us as her family coming home from a long day, as we would give her a good ole American sized greeting every time we entered the hotel. Thanks again so much for supporting my venture to Canada, it was blessing beyond belief, and each of you played a part in what happened there.