A few days ago we were ‘waxing’ nostalgic over vacations on Deer Island with our friends. The whole concept was based on a passage from Romans chapter 1, where we read that there is enough evidence in nature to tell us that God exists and that he has divine power. I thought “When the sunsets behind the tenement across the street and the only rainbow you see is in an oil slick on a mud puddle, how do people experience this divine revelation?” I determined to take people on a seaside vacation. I found financial backing and through contacts discovered a Christian Camp which was only used in June and July and was available to us for an August holiday.
I thought people would jump at the chance to take a free vacation away from the inner-city but only 4 brave souls joined us for that holiday. Three of these folks have since passed away and the fourth is incapacitated with Parkinson’s disease.
We first met Ron at our initial stab at inner-city mission. We offered a Prayer Clinic” and invited folks to come for healing prayer. Ron was among our first ‘customers’. He desperately needed a new kidney. We prayed for him and had a lovely visit afterwards. We learned that he and Linda had attended the same one room school house outside Sussex New Brunswick. After that Ron disappeared for some time and I was beginning to worry about him. When weeks later I met him I asked where he had been. He was quite surprised that I would ask. He had been to Halifax to get his new kidney. Wasn’t that what we had prayed for? He was amazed that I didn’t connect his absence with our prayers! Ron was a man full of good humour despite a number of health problems. Each Christmas he hosted a Christmas party and told and retold his corny jokes. He could be difficult but also a lot of fun. I miss him most keenly around this time as I recall his parties.
Doug was one of our first friends as we began our ministry in Saint John’s Uptown. He was a fastidious dresser. He was always arrayed in sartorial splendor. His hair was combed ‘just so’. Doug suffered from Bi-polar disorder. In his manic phases he spoke so quickly you could hardly keep up and his lows were exceedingly low. No matter what he was always dressed to the ‘nines’ and he faithfully attended all our programs. In fact Doug was our best evangelist. He was like Andrew who brought his brother Simon Peter. Doug was always bringing people to our evenings. Many of our current friends are folks that Doug brought. Doug did not enjoy nature. Deer Island was not a highlight for him. Nature was a bit to dirt filled and insect abounding for Doug. That first trip was his last. He was too dapper for ‘roughing it’. Doug passed away from cancer a little over a year ago. We miss him and remember him fondly.
George came that first year and returned for many more. George had worked for many years with the Coast Guard and was now off on long term disability. George was loud and he was often hilarious. He did nothing by half measures. One year we had a lovely couple from the Deep South join us for our Deer Island Vacation. George grew to love them and wanted to honour them with a song. He belted out in his loudest voice “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah” Our Georgian friends politely pointed out that this was “a damn Yankee song”. We had a tremendous laugh. I can still hear George’s hearty laugh! He decided he wanted to make a replica of Stone Church. He made a scale replica out of cardboard. It was an amazing work right down to little fire extinguishers. The roof came off so that you could see the intricate details. George died several weeks ago and we remember him so fondly. After I had my fall that first vacation George was so proud that he got to drive my van home after they finished the holiday. It was sometime before I got home.
Janet came that first time. She was to come to the next nine as well. She found her way into our community in those early days and has seldom been absent until these recent times. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and it has gradually got worse and worse. Some days are better than others but often she is confined to a wheel chair and unable to care for herself.
All these folks are much younger than I am. I realise how blessed I have been with general health over these years. People in the inner-city have a much shorter life expectancy than do those of us who are more advantaged. This saddens and angers me but it also motivates me to take care of my own health and to encourage my friends to do the same.