Etobicoke, ON - St. James Food Basket

St. James Food Basket is a Food Bank supporting people in central Etobicoke which strives to provide a positive, relaxed environment where participants have the opportunity to sit, chat and share a cup of coffee, bowl of soup or whatever might be on hand. Click here to learn more about this vital ministry of St. James United Church in Etobicoke.

Luminous Lower BC...

Motorhome Meandering # 14

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She was home for six months. She became that place where we could let our hair down. We all need them. You know, those places where we can stumble around, bleary-eyed, foggy-minded, disheveled, literally-and-figuratively-semi-dressed. That’s what Mabel became for us. Returning to her at the end of an Evening Concert, tired-yet-wired-for-sound, meant that we could exhale and put our feet up. Once the couch was made into Kiara’s bed and the table and chairs converted into Isaiah’s sleep space and the kids were read to, sang to, wound down and tucked in, Jer and I retreated to our back room, sat down with what became our nearly-nightly snack of tortilla chips, sour cream (full fat, mais oui!) and salsa (perhaps a causal factor in our ten-plus-pound-tour-weight-gain), turned off our brains and turned on our bedroom TV to relax and escape for a wee bit.

We miss Mabel…Truly, we do. At the same time, we are definitely relieved/glad/ready-and-willing/thrilled beyond measure/ecstatic ;) to have returned her, safe and relatively sound, to her fine owner, Mr. Wayne Hiemstra of Hiemstra RV Sales. And to have landed in a home sans wheels.

I do not count myself an RV-living- expert by any means; however, I have learned a few things, and thought I would share my new-found-hard-won knowledge in the event that any of you decide to head out on the road in an RV for a semi-extended period of time with your own beloved children in tow:

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  1. Bring a portable BBQ. Cook as much as you can on that. Outside of your actual RV. Feign ignorance as to how to use said BBQ so that your husband ends up cooking the bulk of most of your meals.

  2. Allocate one drawer/cupboard for each of your children. They can then bring their precious things along with them and have a spot to call all their own. (You may find that these drawers become increasingly important in direct correlation to the length of time you stay in your RV.)

  3. Find a book that all of your children can enjoy and bring it along to read out loud to them at the end of your day, once their teeth are brushed, their face, hands and feet are washed and they are PJ’d up (or down, as per your personal family style: hey, what happens in Mabel stays in Mabel) and settled in their “beds.” I learned that the continuity and familiarity of this routine was really grounding for my kids. Thank you, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

  4. Wet Wipes and paper towels are your friends when you’re living on the road. I normally try to give a nod out to caring for Creation by not using these things in my home, but I gave myself permission to use them on our trip and did not regret it an iota. (Sometimes, sanity trumps stewardship. I made an, er, similarly principled decision when I discovered my firstborn woke up the instant he urinated in a cloth diaper, but slept through 2-3 pees in Pampers.)

  5. Playdough rocks! You can do a lot of things with playdough in a moving vehicle. Cut the front panel off of a big cereal box, re-enforce the sides with duct tape and, voila, a sturdy surface with sides that keep things contained. You can even draw scenes on the “bottom” of this case for kids to use with the playdogh, dinky cars, small dolls…or LEGO for those of you intrepid souls willing to risk LEGO in a moving vehicle. I did. And we only lost a few (dozen) pieces. But worth it to pass some time constructively and creatively on those ten-plus-hour travel days!

  6. Dry shampoo is also your friend. I actually bought a bottle for the trip and never used it because I was scared of what would happen if I did. (Ridiculous, Lara!) Then once the tour ended and I was living in the relative anonymity of our little Hobbit Hideaway here in Guelph, I tried it. And it works! (Sigh.) So this is great to have in your back pocket for those days when you don’t have time/running water/energy or the simple will to wash your hair. Spray, squash through your hair and go!

  7. Sometimes Fruit Chews (the ones with 100% of your daily Vitamin C intake) will be the only Fruits/Veggies your kids get on days when you are out in the boonies, your fridge/cooler has been depleted and/or you can’t find an open store or a parking lot large enough to accommodate your rig. Thanks to these snacks, you will all survive. No scurvy for your clan! Full disclosure: I discovered that these ridiculous chock-full of corn syrup treats are actually kind of tasty. Umm, Mott’s Fruit-Flavoured Snacks: Berry are my favourite. I’m just saying.

  8. If you don’t have an oven, it is really nice every now and again to simply purchase an-already cooked chicken to use for fajitas, salads, casseroles, etc. Fairly healthy, fairly quick and depending on the size of your clan and what you use it for, it can provide the protein for a good half week of meals.

  9. Sparkling water can also be your friend. When potable water is scarce, or when the taste of the water running out of your taps at a particular site just gives you the willies, simply grab one of these. Plus, mix it with some juice and give that to your kids instead of pop. It’s still delightfully “prickly” (thanks, Kiara ;) ) but has way less sugar. Everyone’s happy!

  10. Always make sure that the attendant filling your propane tank knows what s/he is doing. Be as obnoxious/blunt/whiny as you need to be until you are completely confident of this. Each and every time.

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The worshipers at Duncan CRC with guest pastor Dena Nicolai and the IANMO tour.

The worshipers at Duncan CRC with guest pastor Dena Nicolai and the IANMO tour.

When I made the decision to write my blog about our time in Lower BC after we returned to Ontario (rather than attempting write it on the at times treacherous-wintry-way home) I truly believed I could and would remember all of my feelings and the names of all the people we met and how blessed we felt and keep it all straight in my heart and in my mind and then communicate it clearly.

Unity Christian School in Chiliwack, BC

Unity Christian School in Chiliwack, BC

You would think at my forty-ssschma age I would be a bit more in tune with reality and with my own brain. (“You live, you learn.” Thanks, Allanis.) Ah, well. My intent and hope and prayer is still to somehow do justice to our time in Luminous Lower BC. Because it was an amazing time and so deserving of this. However. Time has passed and the holidays happened and my kids started at a new school and I began a new job and now here we are in the middle of April. We got home at the end of November. And I’ve not written a blessed thing about the final leg of our Cross-Canada Tour. How did that happen? Eep! Please forgive.

Maple Ridge. Burnaby. New Westminster. Abbotsford. Victoria. Duncan. Nanaimo. Chilliwack. Langley. So many wonderful communities, beautiful people, overwhelming generosity and incredible God-stories. And while our time was once again characterized by having the opportunity to meet so many new brothers-and-sisters-in Christ who (once again) blessed with their thoughtfulness and generosity and care, it was unique in that we reconnected with familiar and dear people from our past as well.

The Zeyls and Gibbons together at Harrison Mills.

The Zeyls and Gibbons together at Harrison Mills.

Isaiah was able to spend time with his good friend, Kyle Gibbons, who moved out to Chilliwack from London, ON with his brothers and his parents, Darren and Shari Gibbons, a couple of years ago. Isaiah and Kiara went Trick-or-Treating with the Gibbons and some friends, and Isaiah also had a sleepover at their place, which was a really special time for our boy. In addition to having us in to enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal, the Gibbons also took us on one of their family hikes. We went to the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel to experience the tail end of the salmon running there, as well as to Harrison Mills where we saw so many bald eagles that we eventually stopped counting them. Both things utterly amazing to behold! Truly, words fail. God is amazing. His creatures are amazing! And getting to see them in the presence of people familiar and dear, an abiding blessing that stays with us still. Thank you so much, Darren and Shari and boys! We thoroughly enjoyed our time with you all.

British Columbia is a province that is especially dear to me. I worked as a Grade 6 classroom teacher at Pacific Christian School in Victoria for two years way back when… I can’t believe it’s been 15 years. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday. And sometimes (like when my baby boy turned double digits) it feels like it’s been decades. While I was only in Victoria for two years, I met a treasure-trove of beautiful people and made memories for which I will be forever grateful.

Birthday Cake at Goldstream Provincial Park after working hard that morning leading a chapel in Victoria at Pacific Christian School.

Birthday Cake at Goldstream Provincial Park after working hard that morning leading a chapel in Victoria at Pacific Christian School.

I celebrated my birthday while we were in Victoria. Jer and the kids spoiled me: First, we went for a big family hike at Goldstream Provincial Park, where we ate pizza and lemon cream birthday cake (yes, the whole cake in one sitting) and then watched the start of the salmon run there (so elemental, so powerful to behold!) I also got to go out for supper with friends not just once, but twice. (My husband is a good, good man.) To get to see the women who meant the most to me while I lived in Victoria means more than I can say. From laughing so hard with Beth Anne-my-soul-sister that I cried (something I have not done since I was a teenager) to weeping along in solidarity with Leslie-my-West-Coast-Mama-Mentor to having the chance to introduce our daughters to each other and sing in harmony with Kim-my-roommate-confidante-heart-filler-upper, well, I was overwhelmed with the goodness of God and the precious gift of friendship. Thank you for making time for me, you dear, precious friends!

The great crew from Maple Ridge CRC. (Awesome harmonies!)

The great crew from Maple Ridge CRC. (Awesome harmonies!)

Thank you to all of the Lower BC communities who hosted us. Thank you to all of you who were members of the various Praise Teams Jeremy worked with, for sharing your gifts and time and energy. Thank you for investing in us and for the meals shared, the places to stay, the children who played with my kids (and sometime still text them with emojis I didn’t know existed ;) ), the laundry facilities offered, the farm tours and the waterfront walks… the list goes on and on. We are so grateful. And we wish all of you God’s Abiding Presence and Peace.

These Are a Few of Our Favourite Things…About Lower BC

Jeremy: Eagle sighting with the Gibbons, and the salmon run at Goldstream Provincial Park on Lara’s birthday.

Isaiah: Having a sleepover at Kyle’s house.

Kiara: Staying at the home with the outdoor trampoline and the Dora playground set and the girl who played with me and did crafts. (Ah, Maple Ridge! :) )

Lara: Reconnecting with old friends who felt like home, so dear to me even after all these years. Beth Anne, Leslie, Kim: I love you guys, still and forever.

Quote-to-Note:

Worship team at Gateway CRC in Abbotsford, BC.

Worship team at Gateway CRC in Abbotsford, BC.

So, I “home-schooled” while we were on the road. These “air quotes” are not indicative of false modesty in the least; I truly did not home-school in any educationally-justifiable way. It was more of the live-life-and-learn-loosey-goosey-approach. But once in a while I tried a more conventional approach, much to my children’s chagrin and recalcitrance each and every time. When we were in Abbotsford, we stayed in a larger-sized 3-bedroom AirBnB that lent itself to such home-schooling friendly things as sanity and the possibility of co-operation. So that, coupled with a longer stay, led me to attempt a few somewhat more formal home schooling moments. On one such occasion, I decided to incorporate some actual lessons on Aesop’s Fables from a unit I developed way back in 1995 when I started my career as a Grade 5 teacher in London, ON. Part of this included reading fables out loud to Isaiah and Kiara and asking them to predict what they thought the morals of these fables would be. As you can imagine, this led to some absolutely delightful answers…and to one that was unexpectedly profound:

I had read a fable entitled The Crow and the Swan. In this story, a crow becomes envious of a swan’s elegant white-feathered beauty and tries to mimic the swan’s habits in the hopes that its black feathers will be transformed into glorious white plumage. Of course, this transformation does not occur and the crow is harmed in the attempt. The moral: “Some things cannot be changed.”

Heartland CRC in Chiliwack were great hosts! We worshiped in the gym of Unity Christian School.

Heartland CRC in Chiliwack were great hosts! We worshiped in the gym of Unity Christian School.

But when I asked Kiara what she thought the moral was, she got really quiet. And then she said: “Don’t be mad at what God created you to do.”

People, I was speechless. Especially because round ‘bout that time, both Jer and I were nearing burn-out and I, frankly, was veering close to that ugly pit of self-pity and the morass of ills that sucks you in when you stray that way. Wondering what we were doing and why we were doing it. Struggling with whether it was worth it. Feeling tired and worn down and so incredibly lonely in the midst of the busyness. Perhaps you can relate to this kind of fatigue and questioning…

And then these words, from the sweet mouth of my earnest five-year old: “Don’t be mad at what God created you to do.”

Needless to say, I was brought to my knees. Ach, Jesus and the let the little children come to me and do not hinder them-ness of that moment!

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The Bosmans in Regina, SK. Our last lunch of the Cross-Canada tour. We started with snow in PEI and ended with snow in Saskatchewan ….and met with Schippers in both locations :)

The Bosmans in Regina, SK. Our last lunch of the Cross-Canada tour. We started with snow in PEI and ended with snow in Saskatchewan ….and met with Schippers in both locations :)

On our way back home to Ontario, we made a wee detour to Regina, Saskatchewan for one last stop: Sonlight CRC. Here we were graciously hosted by Sean and Melanie Bosman. (Small world smile: We discovered I was Sean’s baby brother Terry’s Grade 5 Teacher “Ms. Schat” some, umm, number of years ago…I wonder if he remembers any of the morals from Aesop’s Fables.) They had us over for lunch after Sunday’s worship service, where Melanie gifted us with her incomparable home-made Butter Chicken and hand-crafted naan bread. Although we did not spend more than a few hours together, it was precious time. Isaiah and Kiara were blessed in connecting with their sweet kids and Jer and I were blessed by Melanie and her realness and generosity and by Sean and his bone-deep kindness. Thank you for breaking bread with us, Bosman family, for sharing your generosity and your family time…and thank you for that red-hot-chili-spice-bag that I continue to delightedly incorporate into many of my meals to this day.

Here with Pastor Charles Kooger (Sonlight CRC, Regina) and Bert Adema (Indigenous Christian Fellowship)

Here with Pastor Charles Kooger (Sonlight CRC, Regina) and Bert Adema (Indigenous Christian Fellowship)

Thank you to Pastor Charles Kooger for hosting Jeremy and to all of the musicians and Sound/AV technicians who helped out at the Evening Concert as well as Sunday’s Worship Service. Being hosted by Sonlight CRC was a wonderful way to end off the “active travel” portion of the I Am Not My Own Tour.

These Are a Few of Our Favourite Things….About Regina

Lara: Talking with Melanie while we prepped lunch. Such a real and candid and compassionate woman! I loved talking with her, and wished we could have had more time together.

Isaiah: Watching the first Harry Potter movie in the giant house (Editor’s Note: We were staying in an attractive and spacious AirBnB at that time; three feet of snow and sub-zero temperatures having prevented us from residing in Mabel. And the AirBnB had a significantly larger-screen TV than we had ever seen before, which left a definite impression on my boy!)

Kiara: Playing dress-up with “that girl.” (Melanie and Sean’s daughter, who also sent Kiara home with one of her princess dresses that day, sweet soul that she is!)

Jeremy: Knowing that this was the last stop. Gone since May 30th. November 11th and full-on snow storm in -14 degree weather. Ready to be done. ;)

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Jeremy recently gifted me with another of Sarah Young’s devotionals, this one entitled Jesus Always: Embracing Joy in His Presence. I will end with an excerpt I find fitting as I look back on our Cross-Canada Tour and at the same time wonder what is ahead as we reside here in our Hobbit Hideaway, seeking God’s direction for the Post-Tour Future:

“Your times are in My Hands. My holy hands are absolutely capable of caring for you and meeting your needs. I want you to relax in My sovereign watchcare, trusting Me to do what is best. Because I am totally trustworthy, it’s safe to commit both the “whats” and the “whens” of your life into My care…I live above the tyranny of time; I am its Master. If you’re struggling with having to wait for something, turn to Me in trusting acceptance. Don’t fight against what you cannot change. Instead, rejoice in the knowledge that the Master of time understands your struggles and loves you with an everlasting Love.”

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A special friend helped out in Maple Ridge!

Thanks….

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Duncan CRC Worship Team

Thanks guys!

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Finally made it to Victoria!

Here on the water at Clover Point, a favourite place of Lara’s just down the road from where she used to live when she taught at Pacific Christian School.

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Lara and Beth-Anne

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Lara and Kim and Shawn

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Lara and Leslie

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Getting some shut-eye on the long drive home.

Somewhere in Montana…

Wallaceburg, ON-James Street Ministry

James Street Ministry non-for-profit organization that seeks to assess gaps in services in Wallaceburg and Area and promote/enhance health and well-being through the provision of physical, emotional, mental and social services consistent with the scope and available services of this ministry. Click here for more information about this grassroots outreach initiative.


Guelph, ON-The Life Centre

The Life Centre is a downtown mission in Guelph, Ontario whose purpose is to provide a safe and loving environment for anyone who is in need. The Centre offers a variety of programs free of charge in addition to providing meals for many. The workers and volunteers at the Centre believe that sitting across the table from someone is a great way to build community and to create an authentic connection point for them to build on the Centre’s three values:  Relationship, Justice and Beauty. To learn more about these values and how they are affecting change in the Guelph community, click here.

Collingwood, ON-True North Christian Academy

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True North Christian Academy is an independent Elementary School for Grades JK to 8 located in Stayner, ON. True North Christian Academy bases its direction for educating students on God's principles. Its purpose is to provide opportunities for excellence in academic, spiritual, social and physical development to enable students to fulfil God's purpose in their life. To learn more about this mission and how it is worked out in the daily experiences of students, click here.

Barrie, ON-The Busby Centre

Driven by a philosophy of empowerment, Barrie’s David Busby Centre is a community not-for-profit organization working to advocate for and improve the life and living conditions of individuals and families within the County of Simcoe who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness. To learn more about their respectful, non-judgemental and holistic care and advocacy, click here.

Brantford, ON-Why Not City Missions

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Why Not City Missions Brantford has a dream to reach poor, homeless and at-risk youth in Brantford with powerful programs that impact their world. They seek to dream big and focus on hope and potential solutions that are positive and possible by working together in community. Their programs for youth are broad and wide-reaching, covering everything from life skills to creative expression through the arts. To learn more about their array of programs and their exciting vision, click here.


Orangeville, ON-The Lighthouse

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The Lighthouse is a local organization sponsored by Good Friends Fellowship whose goal is to meet the needs of those in the Orangeville community who are less fortunate. These days with our economy the way it is, there are many local people who need a helping hand during hard times. As Jesus said, true religion is found in taking care of those in need. The Lighthouse also provides a safe place for those who are lonely or struggling to come and find friends and support for whatever they are going through. The Lighthouse not only feeds and cares for the physical needs it also tries to meet the spiritual needs of those who come.

To find out more, click here.

Whitby, ON-Local Christian Schools

Immanuel Christian School in Whitby, ON, Pickering Christian School in Ajax, ON and Durham Christian High School in Bowmanville, ON were the schools supported together under the heading of “Local Christian Education” through Jeremy’s stop in Whitby, ON.

To learn more, click  here.

To learn more, click here.

To learn more, click  here .

To learn more, click here.

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To learn more, click here.

Lindsay, ON-Kawartha Lakes Pregnancy Centre

Kawartha Lakes Pregnancy Centre is a Christian Ministry committed to protecting life, supporting families and serving their community by offering help and support to anyone involved in an unplanned pregnancy. They provide a safe place for non-judgmental support, care, information and practical help. KLPC assists any pregnant woman regardless of marital status, national origin, age, race or religion. Services are also available to her family and the father of the baby. To learn more, click here.

Holland Marsh, ON-CrossTrainers Ministries

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CrossTrainers Canada works together with local Christian churches to provide their community with practical help and programs at little to no cost to participants.   What began as a public high-school lunch drop-in ministry has grown to include programs that reach people of all ages within the community, as well as provide opportunities to go beyond the immediate community to serve and share the love of Jesus.

To learn more about this ministry, click here.

World Renew Nigeria - Update

Hello everyone,

As you all know, 45% of the fundraising we have done thus far is directed to the work of World Renew in Nigeria. The assistance we are providing through this tour funnels into two programs: A Cash Distribution Program for food as well as Trauma Healing Initiatives. However, World Renew works on a myriad of other projects in Nigeria as well.

Please click here for a general update on what World Renew is doing in Nigeria.

An Update at (Long) Last...

Our kitchen, dining room, laundry room, pantry and main thoroughfare in the Hobbit-Hideaway.

Our kitchen, dining room, laundry room, pantry and main thoroughfare in the Hobbit-Hideaway.

Dear friends, please forgive the, umm, extended pause since my last blog post. I believe we were in the upper part of British Columbia when I last blogged… and we are now back in Ontario, although we have left London and relocated to Guelph. And what a Gift-Guelph-Has-Been!! We are currently living in a basement apartment that is at least three times larger than Mabel; I’ve named it our Hobbit-Hideaway. Truth be told, I have always wanted to live in Guelph. Ever since a dear friend of mine invited me to attend her Hillside Music Festival way back in the day, and in addition to being blown away by the live music (Arcade Fire just before they hit it HUGE, Martyn Joseph and Luke Doucet to name but a few…) I found out that they had volunteers 24 hrs a day, washing the dishes used by festival attendees enjoying the scrumptious food-fare from a myriad of vendors. No foam or plastic here! We are loving Guelph for her medium size city sensibility, her social consciousness, her laid-back vibe and progressive soul…

But I digress… I have much to update y’all on. I promise a longer blog with “regulars” such as a final Motorhome Meandering, These Are a Few of Our Favourite Things, and a Quote-to-Note from my girl that rendered me (nearly) speechless. However, that particular blog will be a bit in coming yet, as it requires me to have some somewhat extended time, head and heart space with which to craft. Which I don’t currently have as I’ve started a new part-time job: I am now the Communications Director for the I Am Not My Own Tour. Yup, folks, I work for my husband now in addition to with my husband. Umm, yes. You read that correctly. And we are still happily married. (And I’m not just saying that because my dad reads my blogs faithfully. Really.)

So, yes, change is in the air, but the tour remains the same in many ways. Jeremy is currently touring on weekends mainly, travelling to different cities throughout Ontario, preaching, leading worship and telling his story in concerts. As Mabel has been returned to her rightful owner (see picture below), and we have found a place to lay our heads here in Guelph, and because our children started school again after Christmas holidays, Jeremy is often traveling to these places on his own. After a wonderful time of outside-of-the-proverbial-box-free-wheelingness and going-with-the-flowness that defined much of our time on the tour, our kiddies need some more structure and stability and security, so this means I generally stay back at home with them while Jeremy troubadours around. (After all, a 7:30-8:00 pm bedtime is much healthier for children rather than midnight-if-we’re-lucky...)

Speaking of my intrepid husband, Jeremy is excited to announce that this past weekend the tour reached its 100th event milestone as well as $200 000.00 in fundraising, with the last two events not yet recorded. Hallelujah for this!

Check out the Tour Dates if you are interested and able to come out to one here in Ontario…and look for another blog post from me to come out soon…

In the meanwhile, let me leave you with these words from Sarah Young, this time from her Jesus Always book: “It is vital to set aside time for your heart. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. A wellspring is a source of abundant supply. Since you belong to Me, My Own Life flows through you! However, to keep this Life flowing abundantly, you must protect your heart from evil influences and nourish it with Bible study and prayer. Aligning your priorities with My teaching can be very freeing. When you don’t like the way things look in your world, close your eyes and gaze at who I am. Remember that I am Immanuel—God with you.” (p. 59.)

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Thank you Hiemstra Trailer Sales

For your generous donation of Mabel for the use of the tour!