Amethyst-ical Thunder Bay

Motorhome Meandering # 6: I am ever so grateful that we live in an age where experts have figured out how to add a distinct sewage-and-rotten-eggs-smell to propane gas in order to alert those who are in the vicinity of said propane gas to its presence.  You know, in order to vacate the premises and safeguard their lives.


There is also a really important reason for the little knobby thingy on the propane gas fill gauge.  Expert propane dealers pay attention to this knobby thingy and know to not fill past this point. Not so expert propane dealers do not pay attention to this knobby thingy and fill far past this point, at their peril.  Or, to be more specific, at our peril.


Yup. We nearly lost it all, folks.  Saturday night found Jeremy and Isaiah at The Urban Abbey in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where Jer was doing a concert and Isaiah was, as always, fulfilling the dual role of Roadie and Merchandise Manager.  I had decided to stay back at camp with Kiara as she was in desperate need of some mommy-daughter and early-to-bed-time.  It was about 7 pm and we were side by side on the mat outside of Mabel's front door.  I was folding laundry and Kiara was playing house with her Littlest Pet Shop toys.  It wasn't long before I caught a whiff of sewage.  I chalked it up to the fact that it was ridiculously hot and humid out and RVs were lined up like cigars.   At about 8 pm I put Kiara to bed and lay down beside her to help her settle.  By now the smell of sewage had seeped into Mabel and was stronger than the hour previous.  I didn't think too much beyond "This is disgusting," and within a few moments, Kiara was asleep.  However, so was I (which never happens.) I woke up with a start about an hour and fifteen minutes later, completely disoriented.  I opened my eyes to my daughter's sweet sleeping face just a few inches from my own, and had no idea how I got there.  It took a few moments to get my brain back on track, and was then distracted by my stomach, which felt unexpectedly queasy.


I puttered around for a bit, and at about 11 pm the boys came home.  By the time Jer and I got Isaiah settled and lay down to sleep for the night ourselves, it was about 11:30 pm.  The smell had intensified and my last waking thought was that it was as if the scent of sewage had become a living entity and was kind of endoplasmically wrapping itself around my face and snaking its way into my mouth and up my nostrils.  (Okay, so my last waking thought wasn't quite this, er, wordy, but I did feel as though I was literally eating the nauseating scent...)

I awoke what felt like literally two seconds later to the sound of a screaming alarm.  In reality, two hours had passed.  And the alarm was inside Mabel.  And it was warning us of a propane leak (Read: carbonmonoxide alert.)   Suddenly that relentless smell of rotten sewage took on a whole new meaning.   We grabbed the kids, threw them in our vehicle and drove to safety, where we then phoned 911 to ensure the safety of all those RV dwellers surrounding our own beloved-turned-deadly Motorhome.  Four fire trucks, ten firefighters and two hours later found us safely esconsed in a sweet smelling(ish) back-road hotel where we spent four hours in safe-sleep before heading off to First CRC where Jer led worship for the combined First CRC and Bethlehem CRC congregations gathered there that morning.


Turns out that the attendant who had last filled up our propane tank had disregarded the aforementioned knobby thingy on the fill gauge and over-filled our tank.  The extreme heat had caused the gas to expand, and it had been leaking.  For hours.  (The knobby thingy apparently denotes the 80% fill zone, which is the fill limit, the other 20% allowing for the whole gas-expands-when-heated reality.)

Dear God in Heaven.  Thank you for preserving us.  Aiy yaiy yaiy.  (And don't worry - we got Mabel checked for leaks and she's all good.)



Thunder Bay is beautiful.  Amethyst-ically so. 


Isaiah coined this phrase after we visited an amethyst mine, where we were given buckets and shovels and "free" rein to explore and keep whatever we found (for a surprisingly nominal fee.)  Our dear friend (and Prayer Partner) Heather Fieten foraged for the purple beauties along with us, as she had come up to Thunder Bay to join our family--and her own--for a time.  We once again rested in the presence of the familiar and enjoyed laughter and tears and a special meal with our dear friend. (Editor's Note: Heather was staying with her sister, Nancy, and her brother-in-law, Kevin, while she was in Thunder Bay to support us.  While she was there, Kevin passed away suddenly of a heart attack.  Heather, we are so very sorry.  Please know we have been and will continue to pray for you and Nancy and all who loved Kevin and were blessed by his generosity and exuberant spirit.)

The spirit of community in Thunder Bay is beautiful.  This is apparent from the beginning of the story of The Gathering Place - our local cause for the week.  3 CRC churches joined forces over 30 years ago to provide a social service (food pantry, bible study, children's and adult ministries and more) and it is still going strong today.  What a testament to community.

Heather's sister Nancy was immediately surrounded by friends and support from her community, and inundated with meals.  We ourselves were blessed once again by the generosity of strangers we call brothers and sisters in Christ.


We met a woman named Angela at First CRC, and swiftly discovered how much she had done as the main contact person for Thunder Bay's participation in the I Am Not My Own Tour.  (Angela, thank you!  It was wonderful to have met you, and we deeply appreciate all you did, and the grace and joy with which you did it all.)  And as soon as Angela found out about our, er, propane scare and resulting lack of home until we ensured Mabel was no longer a ticking time bomb, she was offering her house as a place to stay.  And she was not alone in the offering! 

Herb and Janette Bax are members of Talbot CRC in our home city of London, ON.  They have a beautiful camp on Island Lake just outside of Thunder Bay where they stay every summer.  (Editor's Note: For Non-Northern-Ontarians, "camp" in this context refers to what some may call a "cabin.")


We had already been booked to stay at their place for a night or two after we were done our stint  in Thunder Bay and when they heard what happened, they were swift to offer their summer home as a safe haven for us.  And what a haven it was!  Janette and Herb's graciousness, warmth and generosity are unmatched and we were blessed-to-the-bones during our three-night stay with them.  Guys, thank you so utterly much.  We will be forever grateful...and we look forward to a Double-Euchre reprisal when we return to London in the Fall! (You know, if the boys think they can handle it, right, Janette?)

We had a beautiful time in Thunder Bay, in spite of the shadow of death that became a little more corporeal this past week.  God continues to deepen our understanding of what it means to live as the Body of Christ: To shoulder burdens and share joys, to give and to receive, to hurt and to heal, to break down and build up, to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with our God in the beautiful mess that is life on this side of Jordan. It's humbling and it's hard and it's holy. 



These Are a Few of Our Favourite Things...About Thunder Bay

Jer:  Witnessing the down to earth, on the ground, Christ-like ministries with the disenfranchised happening at Urban Abbey and The Gathering Place in Thunder Bay.

Isaiah: Fishing (out of Mr. Herb's motorized canoe) and the amethyst mine.

Kiara: Boat riding with my brother in the bike-boat and my swimming lessons with Aunt Janette.

Lara: Beating (and trash-talking) our wonderful husbands in Double -Euchre (with Janette as my indomitable partner);  a precious bike-boat ride with each of my kids out on the oasis of calm and natural beauty that is Island Lake; watching my children picking blueberries together  at Herb and Janette's place; a sauna and swim with my husband, also at Herb and Janette's place...and laughing (and crying) with Heather.



Context:     Kiara and Isaiah are wading in the shallows of Island Lake, goggles on face and fishing nets in hand.

Me:         What are you guys looking for?

Kiara:      MINERALS!

Isaiah:     What? No!  MINNOWS!

Kiara:       Well, I'm looking for minerals.

Isaiah:       Slight eye roll; accompanied by the long suffering sigh of the elder brother.


"Come away with Me for a while.  The world, with its nonstop demands, can be put on hold...You live among people who glorify busyness;   they have made time a tyrant that controls their lives.  Even those who know me as Saviour  tend to march to the tempo of the world.   They have bought into the illusion that more is always better:  more meetings, more programs, more activity. I have called you to follow Me on a solitary path, making time alone with Me your highest priority and deepest Joy. It is a pathway largely unappreciated and often despised.  However, you have chosen the better thing, which will never be taken away from you.    Moreover, as you walk close to Me,  I can bless others through you."                                             From Jesus Calling, Sarah Young.     





The firefighters were so great and gave the kids a hat!


We love it when we see signs like this!


Jeremy prepping everyone to record I Am Not My Own.