Your 2019 A Tour Of Roses Team
(L-R, Front) Sunny Lehman, Stephanie Weaver, Yara Panther, Ammi Carranza, Sally O’Connor, Lura Olander (L-R, Back) Dave Panther, Jurgen Schmutz, Joan Appleton McBride, Christine Matchum
SALLY: Over the weekend as we were hastily cleaning, preparing, and carding the last thousand or so roses a random woman in the hotel knocked at our door asking if she could come in. Priscilla asked if we were the people handing out rose, which it became obvious we were. She said she had a song to sing and asked if it would be ok. I cautiously said yes. She sang over us in the most beautiful Hebrew the Aaronic Benediction (from Number 6–The Lord bless you). It’s on the back of our hoodies and t-shirts for ATOR.
SALLY: (cont.): So many things to say about the last couple days of our project. We gave out roses on Saturday at the Waterfront because they had their first big open air market under the Whitecap Pavilion by the water. I decided to hang back and distribute roses to everyone else to give out. Lynn Kowal was there and we had a very nice visit together despite the brisk wind and chill. As it got around closing time I wanted to see some of the vendors and what they were all about. I went in for a quick peek which ended up being a bit longer than intended as I got into a pretty deep philosophical conversation about God with one vendor selling honey who wanted to know exactly where we were coming from with the roses. And the next vendor over I ended up praying for as he was having some real struggles with his health.
It was pretty cold with a wind off the water. So the tent flaps were mostly down. Even so Lura was freezing. Catering arrived with coffee, tea, cookies, fruit and veggies. I hoped this would especially bless the homeless population by the waterfront.
The concert began with me blowing the shofar and singing the Sh’ma over Kenora, and then Stuart Dauermann’s Kaddish. I introduced all the team and each one shared something briefly about themselves and their feelings about being in Kenora. And then Dave, Ammi, Yara, and Christine led worship. It was beautiful, and especially powerful as Christine sang out “Raise a Hallelujah!” It seemed to cut through the atmosphere and ring out over Kenora. God was definitely doing something. Stephanie shared her poem about Hope. It was beautiful. And then Dave gave his testimony.
There were several First Nations people there and most of them stayed for the whole event. When it came time for me to share it had gotten pretty cold, but people were still listening. There was one First Nations man who kept encouraging me the entire time, agreeing with what I shared in his expressions and with his hands. I felt he really heard me. He came up after the concert to just show his appreciation and respect. It really spoke to me. At the end of the concert I invited people to lay down their unforgiveness and bitterness and open their hearts to the love of the Lord by taking a rose.
On Sunday there were still probably 800-1,000 roses left, mostly carded. We discussed the possibility of taking them to a Bingo Hall, but when I found out it was on a reserve I wasn’t so sure. So some of us prayed together about it, asking the Lord to show us what He wanted and it became clear that this was not where we were to take the last of the roses, though it would have been an easy answer for us. And this too, was a lesson, not to give the remaining roses out of desperation and anxiety that we might waste them, but to trust God that He actually had a plan for the roses. And He did!
The first places we went to give out roses on Sunday was the Waterfront and the other senior home in Kenora. As it turned out the Waterfront was pretty quiet on Sunday but the senior home turned out to be a very good place to give out the roses. We were even allowed into the locked ward section to give away the roses to the staff and then leave some for the patients. We gave out most of the last roses at McDonald’s in the restaurant and the drive-thru. It was a party!! I mean, it was SO much fun!! Most of our conversations were very quick transactions with people, but not without love and wit–and a pinch of fun!!
And people were wide open to the roses–surprised, delighted, amazed. I think most of the few that rejected the roses had no concept they were actually a free gift. In fact, several times when we said it was a free gift surprise flooded their faces. We hung out in the drive-through for a couple hours or so, and then went to A&W for lunch. Some of the group went over to Canadian Tire and Walmart afterward to give out a few more roses. The very last roses went without cards to Casey’s Restaurant to give out to their patrons and staff and also to the Super 8 staff and guests. Probably about 100 in all.
In the evening I took the team out to a beautiful restaurant by the water where we could start the process of debriefing. It was a lovely evening with a gorgeous sunset as each person shared what they valued about each team member. God is so good!!!
Below are some last stories from Joan, Yara, Ammi, and Jurgen–not necessarily in that order…
AMMI: Well, as I started my day, I felt a sense of peace and change coming. I got to lead the team’s devotional for the day so I knew that the words God wanted me to speak were for whatever comes next for the team. We have been talking a lot about the city of Kenora being at a tipping scale—meaning, either leading to life or death. I felt it in my heart that God wanted us to know that he uses BOTH. It was through His death that He brought life.. He redeems all and redeemed the intention that the enemy had with death.
So, in the same way, I felt that this was the hope that we needed to see through for the people of Kenora. Their pain and suffering doesn’t have to be the end of their stories but a bridge to life, love, and well… GOD. Anyway, I got to be a part of a worship segment at the concert. To my surprise, not only did I play my guitar, but I sang with some of my team members. As we sang the song, “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel, I knew that God would do something special that night—and he did. I saw Jesus in our worship, in Stephanie’s poem, in Dave’s testimony, in Sally’s music and stories, Lura’s dancing, and the rest of the team’s abiding love for the Lord. It was a true blessing and fulfillment to see people from Kenora engage in the night of worship and learn about their Creator, Savior, and God.
It was a special treat to witness natives and non-natives to pick up a rose as a symbol of their decision to give their life to God either in a deeper way or for the first time. I was constantly in awe of the work that God allowed to in a sense be completed with yesterday’s night—although I know, his work is never complete. As I watched the beautiful sunset across the lake, I was truly reminded of the redemptive ways God uses all our stories and interweaves them into something beautiful because we are called to live as one just as He is one—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Hope is real for the city of Kenora and I was so grateful to God for letting me play a small part in fostering it.
My heart fell in love with their hungry, sincere hearts and the way they spoke so frankly of the faith God had given and words they had recieved. They gave me their contact info since they come to Emo sometimes and wanted to be in touch. I sense this couple is hungry for fellowship and nurturing connection in the Body. They spoke highly of Kenora and desire to see the churches unite to reach out to the lost. He is willing to trust God with this diagnosis and spend his energy seeking God and serving others.
2. The concert was fantastic. Everyone who took part did awesome. I was so proud of Amy to step up and sing with the worship team …even with a mic for her first time ever! Great job Amy supporting Dave , Yara and Christine with vocals.
Father sustained Lura and graced her beautifully in her weakness. Her faith really spoke to me and once she got all her coats off. Her dance was the best I’ve ever seen her do to the Potter song. Lura also shared some stories of faith in morning devos that really ministered to me.
To make a very long story short….I was not back at the hotel till late but it was such a blessing to share and pray with the people. God moved in big ways.
3. Sunday I was walking with Sunny around the waterfront handing out roses and we took a loop up to main street. We were being very aware and careful not to impede traffic flow and staying on the sidewalks and in shops for the most part. I had thought we would do a loop and return to the water front. I was already leading the way up to the next corner. Sunny had a strong sense we were to backtrack and take a shorter way back and she spoke up, loudly from a ways behind me.
I followed her lead. Within moments of turning back I was drawn to a vehicle at the red light with 4 ladies inside looking our way, seeing our arms full of roses. I could not pass by them so I quickly gave them 4 roses saying God loves you …. and receiving large smiles of surprise and laughter in return. Now I was on the road and the men in the next car were looking at me and I at them. So I quickly went with my remaining roses.
There were two First Nation men in the front seat who gladly received and one man in the back seat who was hanging his arms and head out the window. He was tearful and began saying to me ‘ I’m so sad …. so sad today. I was going to kill myself today’ He looked so desperate for ANYONE to notice him and unbelieving that I would speak to him and offer him a rose and a loving smile. Of course Father’s love oozed and words of life and prayers were spoken and a rose given. He was so touched and seemed shocked that God stepped out of eternity to love him. He said ‘We are holding up traffic’ I said ‘ You are worth holding up traffic for. God loves you. ‘ Pray with me that Will reaches for faith to call out to Jesus and finds life.
JURGEN: This was our last day to give away roses. We had two groups. One group went to the the nursing home which received us really well.The other group went to the harbor. Then we went with the rest of the roses to McDonalds, A&W and KFC.
Lura and I walked over to KFC and I gave a rose to a first nations man sitting outside on a bench. I told him that God loves him and he seemed not sure about this. I asked him for his name but he did not want to tell me….He was open for prayer….then he cried…he said he lost his wife and children….he lived on the street since then…I asked him if he is hungry….he asked me if I come along with him…to be with him.
We got food and he started eating. I got some juice and two cups and I asked him if we can have communion together and drink this in remembrance of him…yes we both drank and by that time he has told me his name..He told me about one criminal who was hanging on the cross….Jesus said today you will be in paradise. He told me that he was drinking rubbing alcohol and he passed out….was actually gone for 10 seconds what he was told. Those 10 seconds were like hours for him having this dream…about reality of hell…saw all these famous musicians…a big gate….
I told him the story about Jesus and being the great shepherd. He left the 99 to look for the one lost one. I told him that he is the lost one. He took my hands and prayed to return to the Lord and that he wants to follow him… he prayed a most beautiful prayer…. and of course of course of course the shepherd has heard… He always hears… especially the ones who are sick and in despair… Thank you Father for…… thank you Jesus that your mercy and kindness never stops as long as we have breath even for this man…
YARA: Today we gave out Roses at the market place place by the water front. It was a good time of giving a free gift to the people. It was especially fun to see people’s faces when they found out that the rose was completely free. People were so happy.
There was a Filipino family there on vacation and they saw the roses and we’re curious to see what they were about. We explained to them that it was a free gift to say that God loves you and they were very happy to receive a rose. So much so, that they wanted a picture with the roses and us. That day, there was a lot of people asking about the roses, what they were for, and the meaning behind it. I was able to explain it to them and they seemed really touched by the message of what the gift of the rose represented.
Later that night was the concert at the white cap pavilion. About 26 people, not including ourselves came out and braved the elements that night, it was about 42 degrees and windy, but they stayed for the whole concert. We had worship, Stephanie shared a poem l, Dave gave his Testimony, Lura danced as Sally shared through song. God blended it all together and people were ministered to and prayed for. I don’t remember the details he shared but it deeply impacted him.
A FINAL WORD FROM SALLY
We are all so very grateful for your prayers!! I think I say this a lot, but I really mean it every time. We could not do this kind of thing without a lot of prayer. All of us are way too human to not be affected in a variety of ways on a project like this, not to mention there is an enemy who does not appreciate any aspect of this project. So–as some of you continue to pray for the next week and a half, please know we are very grateful!!
The impact of a project like this is always amazing to me. It is not just watching the town come alive with roses. Or watching a row of children following their teacher as they cross the street, each holding a rose in their hand. The pastors and leaders also had need of something beautiful happening in their town, something hopeful and real that spoke God’s love to their hearts as well and encouraged them. And their feedback was exactly that. This is not to mention singing over the town in worship or the countless moments of prayer and comfort because each of us chose to be present in the moment to the people before us, so that we were able to offer–whether in word or action or both–the goodness and mercy of the Lord. And the timing of the project is always amazing to me. We came right on the heels of the “Hearts of Hope” display which read:
In honor of children lost to the Indian Residential School System. Hearts of hope. We have been journeying in hope and reconciliation for the past 8 weeks, learning about the residential school history. This heart garden is our symbolic way of standing in solidarity with all whose lives have been impacted by residential schools – Kenora Catholic District School Board – May 2019.
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