Friday, July 01, 2016

A Place of Healing - Eleanor Shepherd

           Last Saturday, I was privileged to perform a wedding ceremony in Kingston, Ontario, about a three-hour drive from Montreal.  The couple had been transferred to Kingston by the military. We came to know them in Montreal, where they became a part of our lives.
Their wedding included Ukrainian traditions, honouring the Ukrainian roots of the groom’s family. However, a contrasting tradition was provided by the presence of The Salvation Army Band from Montreal Citadel.
Michael and Wendy met in Kandahar, Afghanistan when both were there with the Canadian military during difficulties in that part of the world. Mike did three tours of duty in Afghanistan and met Wendy during his second tour, through a mutual friend.
           Like so many people who serve in battle zones in the armed forces, on his return to Canada, Mike struggled to adapt to noncombat life, trying to learn again to keep his body and mind from moving into high alert at the slightest provocation
           A person of deep faith, Mike was suffering with some disillusionment about the lack of grace he found in the church.  One consolation he found was in playing a trumpet. He had received a trumpet for his 25th birthday, while studying in Leeds, England. It just so happened that the cornet was manufactured in the instrument factory that was run by The Salvation Army, so these words were emblazoned upon it.
          Every time Mike picked up the cornet he read The Salvation Army. He describes his experience this way, ‘‘God wanted this blessed instrument to return home and I was to follow. It was the carrot that led the horse to water, and when I arrived I chose to drink the fountain of God’s love to find full healing.’’

          Michael made contact The Salvation Army locally and met my husband, Glen who leads the band. When Mike joined the band, both Michael and Wendy began attending the services on Sunday mornings. They made friends of people in the congregation. 
          Meanwhile, Wendy was learning how to be an instructor for an exercise and fitness program aimed at addressing the problems of aging. We were looking for someone to lead an exercise program at the church, and Wendy was willing. Tuesday evenings, while Mike was practicing with The Salvation Army band, Wendy was in the basement of The Salvation Army Church helping some of the folks who came to learn a healthy exercise routine.
          Beyond the band and exercise group something more profound was happening.  During worship services, sometimes after I deliver the sermon, I invite people to interact with the Biblical message. One morning, after sharing a message about grace, Mike spoke up and shared most eloquently of the way that he had experienced grace, since he and Wendy linked up with our congregation. It is hard to imagine anything more rewarding for a pastor to hear. That  day I knew, that for Michael and Wendy our church had become a place of healing.

          That healing was a determining element of their journey – a journey in which God led them from war to love; through music and worship to healing and a wedding that included Ukrainian polkas and a Salvation Army Band.   

Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award


Janis Cox said...

Lovely story. Warmed my heart.

Peter Black said...

Wonderful! Eleanor, thank you for sharing Mike and Wendy's experience of finding God's love and grace among your people and finding each other, too. Beautiful!
I hadn't realised that Glen was the band leader -- that's great. RMC and CFB Kingston . . . memories. I had several members of from the forces in my congregation when ministering in Kingston in the early 80s. They were terrific fellows and had lovely families. ~~+~~

Glynis said...

I love reading stories like this because I sure do see God's orchestration. What a wonderful (and mighty) God we serve. And I lived in Leeds for a little while so that caught my eye. And such a blessing that Michael and Wendy were able to find healing at your church and then you have the honour of marrying them. Sweet joy.

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