I am not really Ben Peterkins’ grandfather

My pastel portrait of Ben

We have spent so much time with Mark and Tracy Peterkins, they turn out to be like our adopted children. Hence, their three children, Stephen, Ben and Megan have wound up calling me “Grandpa Tony” and Jeanne, they call “Aunt Jeanne”. They love us both the same but have been taught to be rude to me by calling me an older title than my younger looking wife. It is a fond form of insult they learned from their father. We are neither. Officially, I am not their grandfather and Jeanne is not their aunt, but we are happy to be treated that way. For us, visiting the Peterkins’ would be like dropping in on any of our children and their families.

Two years ago I was here in Ottawa for the purpose of celebrating the older brother’s Christian  “bar mitzvah” (a small coming of age party).

Showing no preference, we timed our visit to coincide with this special event and set aside Monday, August twenty-second for this very purpose. The idea was quite similar to the earlier one. As he did for Stephen, Mark invited both Pastor Ken Roth and I to take part in and pray a blessing over young Ben. Additionally, we were joined by Ben’s real, flesh and blood grandfather, Ed Dooner.

It all started at four in the afternoon as I waited in my car along Riverside Drive. It was Mark’s idea to bring Ben out to the Dooner family cottage that has sat on the bank of the Rideau River for at least seventy years. This is all meant to be a surprise, so when Mark turned the corner and onto the side road where I sat waiting, young Ben seemed slightly mystified by this turn of events. He was especially puzzled when his dad instructed him to get out of the van and take a walk with me. Though he was a little apprehensive, I bought his courage by giving him a brand new, commemorative “Buck” knife (something he has always wanted) that I had bought for him a few days before. He suddenly liked the idea of walking down a bleak country road with an old man. I made certain we had the compulsory and rather serious advisory conversation on the way, and though I didn’t quote Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” I shared some of the contents along with a complete exegete of  1st Corinthians 11:6 (actually 13:11), including a precise Greek translation of each word : ). Frankly, it was a pretty simple talk that could be summed up by the phrase, “Don’t be stupid.” This concept, he thoroughly understood. The rest of what I said will likely fade from his memory in a very short time.

The Dooner Cottage

Ken would be waiting with a ready canoe, where he would take Ben on a similar tour. Please note that Ken was given the more dangerous of the two chat events. I am well-known to have virtually no center of gravity and both Mark and Ken intended for Ben’s first day of manhood to not be his last as well.

Art Shot, Mark Peterkins

While I am happy to take part in this special occasion, I have a  compelling end in view when Mark makes some colossal meal to punctuate the festivities. I was not disappointed, as he offered up shrimp and sauce, hummus, rice crackers, baguette,  grilled filet mignon wrapped in bacon, fried mushrooms, sauce, potatoes, fresh green beans, corn on the cob and more stuff that becomes a blur.

Art Shot, Ken Roth


After all of the eating we celebrated by various presentations, including a sword with a blade big enough to kill Goliath if necessary. As a last act we all gathered around Ben, laid hands on him and prayed for him that he will become a man of spiritual valor.

Ken and Ed deep in conversation

 Some might see this as a rather silly way to spend a day, but I think not. Almost all religions other than evangelical Christianity have what they might call “Rites of Passage.” I believe that symbols of this nature, especially where fathers pass a spiritual blessing on to their children, make unforgettable impressions that last for a life time. It is my guess that we don’t do enough of this sort of community event and leave our youngsters to pick their way through the faith on their own. I believe this almost picture perfect day will stick with Ben as long as he lives. 

A Lesson in Staying Power

Linda, Liz, Jeanne and me

On Monday evening we sat at the table of Liz Renaud and Linda Hache in Bridlewood. We simply don’t have enough energy to tell you about the journey we have shared together. The details could fill a book or make for an amazing soap opera series. Most of it you wouldn’t believe anyway.

Liz was first to come our way. I can’t exactly remember the exact details and even if I thought I had them right Jeanne and the other two would straighten me out. I’d get it wrong.

If my memory serves me correctly, Liz was already a Christian when we met her. She had been attending another Free Methodist church in the area but heard about us and decided to give us a look. This is back in the days when we had no “permanent dwelling place not so much as even a place to put the sole of our feet.” We were wandering from skating rink to library to a double-wide community center in a trailer park, to a house on Leacock Drive and then finally to the present location, a church building on Flewellyn Road. We picked up her sister Linda when we finally settled in our church building four years after Liz came on board.

These ladies became a reason for the growth in the early days as they turned out to be inviters as well as authentic, reliable deaconesses. Whatever needed to be done they did it.

Liz and Linda are our friends. They are also nothing alike. Liz calls herself a “Realist” which actually means, “blunt.” No one needs to wonder what she is thinking. The truth is, Liz gets it. She has stuff figured out way ahead of time and calls a spade a spade. I have rarely disagreed with her observation and perspective. She reads situations like a hawk. This being said, she is gracious and forgiving. She gives a “sucker an even break” and knows what it is to have walked in his or her shoes. She would be first to tell you all of the ways she has screwed up, so while she calls things the way they are, she doesn’t judge and gives lots of room for others to learn their own lessons without her help.

There were many times when Liz didn’t have it easy but she never gave up. Today, she makes frequent trips to England where she helps her daughter and son-in-law in their ministry with OM’s outreach to Muslims.

Her sister, Linda, (Well, what can I say?) she’s quite different. Linda is rather dreamy and mystical (in the good way). She loves to worship, read books and meditate. Again, like Liz, Linda exudes love.

Linda has had no easy time of it. She raised four children on her own. Jason, her youngest, is now working as Registrar at Bethany College of Missions in Minneapolis.

Linda was as tenacious as Liz and when the two got hold of the gospel they meant business. They were “steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” They did not faint in doing good but committed themselves first to the Lord and then to His people.

I could say much more, and I suspect they are slightly nervous as they read this hoping that I keep a lot of things to myself. If I told you all of what they have faced you might wonder how they continued to go on. Others have faced nothing by comparison and yet they are off in a corner whining. What is the difference? The difference is simple and everyone needs to get this for themselves. They simply made up their minds where they would stand, come hell or high water.

I wish there were a thousand of these believers in Ottawa who would, after all, continue to “STAND.”

“As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?’”

Since 1512 people have lustily sung Martin Luther’s lyrics to “A Mighty Fortress” but perhaps only a remnant were sure of the truth of the words. Why don’t you read them again as a litmus test for yourself? Remember, the man who wrote them experienced betrayal on every hand.

  1.       A mighty fortress is our God,

            a bulwark never failing;

            our helper he amid the flood

            of mortal ills prevaling. 

            For still our ancient foe

            doth seek to work us woe;

            his craft and power are great,

            and armed with cruel hate,

            on earth is not his equal.

2.         Did we in our own strength confide,

            our striving would be losing,

            were not the right man on our side,

            the man of God’s own choosing.

            Dost ask who that may be? 

            Christ Jesus, it is he;

            Lord Sabaoth, his name,

            from age to age the same,

            and he must win the battle.

3.         And though this world, with devils filled,

            should threaten to undo us,

            we will not fear, for God hath willed

            his truth to triumph through us. 

            The Prince of Darkness grim,

            we tremble not for him;

            his rage we can endure,

            for lo, his doom is sure;

            one little word shall fell him.

4.         That word above all earthly powers,

            no thanks to them, abideth;

            the Spirit and the gifts are ours,

            thru him who with us sideth. 

            Let goods and kindred go,

            this mortal life also;

            the body they may kill;

            God’s truth abideth still;

            his kingdom is forever.

Small Burning Bushes on the Backside of the Desert

When I was called to preach I had this idea that I might (by God’s grace) be the next Billy Graham or Jimmy Swaggart (thankfully, not). Well, it hasn’t quite gone that way – at least, so far, it hasn’t gone that way. I normally (actually, I never) preach to conference halls or stadiums full of expectant and admiring mass gatherings. My work is ALWAYS in a basement, a home, a tiny, hard-to-find church in the country, café or hot, stuffy, upstairs rooms that sits atop something like an auto body shop.

Like anyone, I would love to preach to huge audiences but the Lord told me a long time ago that I am called to serve “the back side of the desert.” I suppose someone has to go there and most people won’t, preferring to be the key note speaker at major events. My rule has always been to take whatever invitation comes my way. This means small churches in places like Parham, Ontario to Svinvoll (Pigville to be precise), Norway; Wyoming, Minnesota; and a hundred other places that barely show up on a map.

Upon hearing that I would be available to preach the week of August 7th, my agent and good friend Pastor Ken Roth of Chapel Ridge Free Methodist Church, scheduled me to preach on Wednesday night at a Haitian church plant in the east side of Ottawa. When we arrived in front of a community center the parking lot was packed with cars. There happened to be a carnival on the same evening so I jumped out of the car and ran up the stairs to a small room where singing was already in progress. I entered the room where there were as many microphones as there were people. We were still in a David and Goliath situation with the neon lit rides having far more appeal than conga drums and synthesizers. Nevertheless, the Haitians went right ahead singing with all their might until about twenty or so people arrived. An hour and a half later, I rose to preach for about thirty minutes with translation.

I was surprised at how similar the Haitian meeting was when compared to the Congolese services I led in Charlotte some months before. Though continents apart they turn out to have a lot in common. The style of music and French language were almost identical. I doubt if they know this and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if they could have a shared experience of visiting each other’s churches.”

After the service we stayed for sandwiches and soft drinks and then made our way back home by 10:30.

Mission Commission at Chapel Ridge

Six Short-Term Missionaries are Commissioned

072 Regrettably, many churches have lost interest in fulfilling Jesus’ last command to, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.”  The good news is –  there are still a number of “Great Commission” congregations and Chapel Ridge is one of them. On this particular October Sunday six were sent out on assignments ranging from the Arab world to street people and local prison inmates.

Here in this picture Pastor Ken Roth hands the microphone to ACCI intercessor, Ray Borg who prays for Tony Hedrick , J and A who will be serving in Italy and Slovenia. Following, he commissioned Lauren Carrion and Leslie Brune (her mother, Debbie Narraway stood in for Leslie in her absence) who will be serving workers in Uganda, Zambia, Dubai, Turkey, Italy and England. Finally, he prayed for ACCI’s leadership, John and Amy Haley along with Eliane Guite an ACCI missionary who serves both locally and abroad. IMG_8108In the background we see the Chapel Ridge SAS  (Serving as Senders) Team laying hands on those going out. This is always an emotionally moving moment. “Those who wait also serve.” 

Preaching at Chapel Ridge’s 25th Anniversary

Sunday morning at Chapel Ridge.

“Like Jumping to Capri.”


Jeanne and I drove to Ottawa, Canada where we took part in the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Celebration of the church we began. It was wonderful seeing many old friends and partnering with Ken and Linda Roth, the present pastor and his wife. We took part in four meetings with Jeanne speaking to sixty women on Saturday morning.

On Saturday evening the church had a dessert fellowship with a audio-visual historical presentation and a time of sharing memories. I spoke on, “The Spirit of Caleb,” and how Chapel Ridge went up against the fortified cities – cities filled with giants. It was exciting to review the amazing world impact Chapel Ridge has had during it’s brief history. I know of no other church of its size that has launched as many churches, ministries, pastoral careers and missionaries as Chapel Ridge. Truly, CR has been and is apostolic Christianity.