NORTHERN FIRE RESOURCES


FORT SAINT JOHN STREETFIRE

Some of the local musicians from the first meetings in summer of 2000 at the Salvation Army Building.

BEGINNINGS

You learn skills and develop a value system based on childhood experiences. I was very close to my grandmother when I was young. She would often visit and in the summers I would travel with mom and dad to her house. After nana had a stroke I would visit her in the hospital and hold her hand. I learned how to comfort her and could feel her love for me even though she couldn't talk. When I was only 13 I was told that I would help hurting people when I grew up because I cared about people.

I had no idea what that was going to look like as I pursued my interest in heavy equipment and road building. Finally, after years in construction, oilfield and open pit mining, I decided that I needed more in life than just a regular job in heavy industry. I was also involved in a local church as worship director on my time off, building a worship ministry from scratch by teaching youth the basics in guitar, bass and drums. These youth became the core of the worship teams that I was putting together and it just grew. First a little sound system and then after two years later a full ministry with 5 worship leaders and 10 musicians and all the gear to go with it. It was very demanding at times along with my regular job so I had to spend time with my horse in the mountains to refresh myself and get away on my days off.

After this I formed a "GodRock" evangelism trio with a drummer from the Salvation Army and a bass player from my neighborhood and I was putting on outreaches to the town kids but wasn't seeing the results I desired. I was burdened for the hurting kids as I saw how they were medicating their pain with drugs and alcohol and living in hopeless despair. I wanted to help hurting youth more effectively so I left the coal mines and went to P.R.B.I. College in Sexsmith, Alberta, to study to become a youth worker to help at risk youth. While at college in my second semester I also started a worship/evangelism band called "Revival Fire" to reach the local youth with the Presence of God. That was a fun experience. I have to say that my time at P.R.B.I. was the best year of my life with the awesome staff and the whole campus/dorm environment. It was like a big family and a good place to learn and grow.

As I was starting my third semester at P.R.B.I. I suddenly had my plans changed. It's another story but I ended up in Fort St. John talking to a social worker at the Salvation Army about the needs of the youth in this city. Things can change and destiny spoke into my heart after this social worker told me that 3 teenagers had just committed suicide and that every two months another teen takes their own life. This just broke my heart. I could think of little else after that so I began Revival Fire Youth Meetings in Fort St. John in May of 2000 to try to make a difference.

Northernfire hosted this Fresh Fire conference at the Native Friendship Center in 2004.


The first meetings were held at the Salvation Army and this was a weekly Saturday night meeting. A safe place for young and old to hang out. We also had teams go out, we handed out sandwiches and hot coffee on the street and we welcomed the street people into the meetings. We averaged 40 to 50 people a night. This was very successful however this was not yet the right location for a fairly radical youth program.

Prairie Fire

I was then asked to lead youth out at Rose Prairie Country Church, in a farming community north of Fort St. John. This work was called "Prairie Fire" and we held weekly Saturday night meetings in the old church beside Rose Prairie Creek. I taught the kids how to play guitar and drums and how to speak words of encouragement, (prophecy), over each other. With a youth group of 11 local farm youth it was an important learning experience as well. After a year I knew it was time to move back to the city, as that is where the really hurting youth were. The Rose Prairie youth all came to the city to help with this new work. They drove in every Saturday night as the oldest had just gotten his full drivers license. I was kind of amazed at the dedication of this group of young people. Some of them now are pursuing their own careers in helping others.

FORT ST. JOHN STREETFIRE

The city meetings started up again at the Native Friendship Center. I have always had a strong identification with the First Nations Peoples as my grandmother was of Mohawk descent. This work started as a youth group for at risk youth and grew into being a street outreach. I learned how to grow a work that was reaching out to street youth and adults. It was an independent work, a street mission essentially, self financed from my oilfield work. I was recognized as the senior overseer of this ministry by a large international ministry that provided covering and accountability. I had apostolic covering under this international ministry and local pastoral covering and support from Pastors Colin and Geri Swan from the Rose Prairie Church.

We had free pizza and pop every Saturday to bring in the needy and hurting and hungry. The music was edgy, loud and driven by electric guitars, bass and pounding drums. It wasn't a place for regular church youth but for the hurting youth and adults of the city. Back then there were homeless youth camping in parks and in wooded areas on the edge of town. They are hidden outcasts from society. Who knows their pain and their stories?

The street people had a lot of issues and rough edges but we learned to accept and love them. I'm so proud of the Rose Prairie youth that helped out in this work. The Native Friendship Centre youth joined with us and as I trained up youth on drums and guitars, music became a great attraction for the young people. Some nights there were three different live bands along with the free pizza and pop.

I started doing this kind of work in Fort St. John because of the teen suicide issue and essentially that was the core value of this work, teen crisis intervention. We had occasions where individuals would come to us very despondent and by talking and counselling with them, we saw lives delivered from death. Sometimes medical science is the only answer but sometimes it's not enough. We saw things that couldn't be explained by modern science and could only be called miracles. They were definitely miracles in response to prayer.

Testimonies

One of my regular kids was from a painful home situation. I taught him how to play drums and guitar. He just loved music and he had such a soft heart. One night he was late getting home and his mom got upset and went out looking for him. When she went to the skateboard park at eleven o'clock at night a group of intoxicated youth swarmed her car and really scared her. She came home traumatized to find her son had gotten home already. There were strong emotions and my young friend felt so bad that he blamed himself for his mom's unfortunate experience and her reaction to it. He felt like he just couldn't live with himself anymore. He just couldn't live with himself anymore.

His mom called me at 2:30 am. from emergency. Could I please come into town and pick up granny from the seniors apartments and bring her to the hospital? She needed to say goodbye to my young friend as he was dying. He had drank a bottle of Drano. I came into town as quick as I could and brought granny to the hospital. It didn't look good. The doctors said there was nothing that could be done and that it was a painful way for the young fellow to die. He was hooked up to machines and had tubes going into him and had an oxygen mask on. His skin was a funny red colour and he could talk but not very well.

People just started to pray. Then he said it didn't hurt as much and something had changed. It must have been a miracle as in the morning the doctors put a scope into his stomach and they could not find anything wrong at all! They were baffled according to his mother. The following night he ate a full roast beef dinner that I brought for him. Then the doctors released him. He is a survivor.

Heartbreaking Childhood

Then there was a boy named N. His grandfather introduced him to me when he was 11 years old. Grandfather was concerned for him as there was such a history of substance abuse in the family and he was afraid young N. would fall into this pattern. I began to teach N. how to play drums and then guitar. He had such anger issues and I guess it is understandable. His mom worked the streets at night in a certain city and so he had lived with his grandma who was a crack user. One day mom came to visit. So mom and grandma shot up with crack in the living room. Grandma overdosed and died. Young N. told me how devastating this was for him as a 5 year old! When he was 7 he didn't want to live any longer and tried to end his life by jumping out of a tree onto boards with nails in them. There is so much pain for some of these young people. He is a survivor.

Then there was a young girl who came to one of the Saturday night meetings. I was in the middle of a song when she walked up in front of me. When I finished the song she pulled up her sleeves to reveal fresh, bloody, lacerations on her arms. She showed me the knife she had with her and handed me a note revealing the pain in her heart. I put my guitar down and talked with her. I had others help me as well and we spent the rest of the evening while the meeting continued, talking to this girl and letting her tell her story and getting the pain out. Listening is so important. She is a survivor.

What I noticed with these children and teens over the years was that even though they lived through some truly horrid experiences, with caring intervention they could get through the hard times. Music especially is helpful. Sadly, often their own homes were not safe places, their parent or parents having their own substance abuse problems. Everybody has pain, it is part of life and yet some people have resilience and others do not. There are so many ways people try to medicate their hurt. Not facing the pain, being stuck in negative behaviours and then affecting everyone around them. It is the children that suffer the most in a town like this.

I continued in this work for 6 years and then I knew it was time to take a sabbatical. The youth I worked with were now young adults and were going away for work and some even to college. My work was changing as I was re-assigned to being a field supervisor in a camp job 3 hours north of the city and it seemed like the right time to take a break. I continue to work with other groups by hosting conferences in the city every couple of years. I still enjoy teaching music to needy kids.

Some of the Streetfire youth who helped put on the Heart of David Conference at the Northern Grand.


OUR MESSAGE IS THIS:

GOD LOVES YOU

YOUR LIFE IS PRECIOUS AND YOU HAVE VALUE

LIFE IS WORTH LIVING IN SPITE OF THE PAIN

Link to Personal Bio