More than twenty years ago we lived in the small, historical village of Merrickville, Ontario on the banks of the Rideau Canal. In those days it was simply a quaint, little out-of-the-way place that people accidentally drove through, but today it is a popular tourist destination where on most summer weekends is packed with “day trippers.”
On Saturday, we had the idea to drive the forty or so miles down to pay a visit to our friends, Paul and Ann Laberge. I have remained friends with Paul longer than I have with any other person. I met him in 1969 when I was a graduate student at Sir George Williams University in Montreal. He was one of the first people who I met there and learned that he only lived five blocks from us in St. Lambert, P.Q.. We hung out together and when I finally moved to Ontario some two years later, he went off to teach high school art in New Foundland. We lost track of each other for a time until he came back around, moved with his wife Penny to a farm nearby us and we struck up the friendship again. Paul lived with us for a time and on weekends he was often at our place or we at his. To our children, he was a kind of Uncle Paul and still is. Later he separated from Penny and lived on his own for a time.
Paul worked for me when I started Adinfinitum ( a creative design house) in 1975. He was the first person I told after I had become a Christian and a week later, Paul also became a believer and he remains so even to this day. He subsequently married Ann, moved in to Merrickville had two children (now grown and married) and has lived in the same house along the canal for thirty years. He is a now a painter of landscapes so we also have this in common. We stopped in and spent a couple of hours.
Later we walked around the village and took photographs of the locks, the
upper Canada architecture and a few of the buildings that have special meaningto us. For instance, beyond taking photos of the busy streets, I took a shot of the house where we were saved, the small building we met in and our house on Colborne Street, now re-modeled and recently used as a Bed and Breakfast.
In this little town of 900 we saw a small group of nine grow into a large and dynamic congregation of almost two-hunndred in less than tree years. Several hundred people made commitments to Jesus Christ and the church became quite well-known for a period of time. Often sixty people would come out to Bible study and stay until 2 in the morning. Even thirty years later most folks from those Revival days remain in contact with each other.
While walking to my car, I had this inner compulsion to go into the Mainstreet Restaurant just to take a peek. There sitting in the corner was now, seventy year old, Denny Ayling. Denny was a fixture of Merrickville and for all of his life he has shuffled up and down the streets. Denny lives in a group home and he is what some might call “retarded” but don’t be fooled by his eyes that don’t quite track, or his shuffle and unusual posture. Denny is as sharp as a tack.
Surprised, I walked over to him and said, “Denitt, do you know who I am?” He finally set his right eye on me and replied, “Tony, Tony Hedrick, how are you?” Denny was in the room the day Jeanne and I became Christians, and though by some standards he might be considered the “town idiot,” Denny was our brother in Christ and dear friend. To this day he continues to be unwavering in his faith and life. He talked of the Lord and His coming. I love his steady uncompromised witness for all of these years. Truly, God “makes the simple to become wise.” By the way, give Denny any date in history and he will tell you what day of the week it fell on.