St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, Kamloops

Greetings to all of God’s people

            To begin, let me extend my heartfelt greetings to all of you that have chosen to spend some of your valuable time to read this testimonial. I will endeavor to reward you with a personal story that I hope gives you insight and understanding in to the wonderful and mysterious ways God has worked in my life, and perhaps in yours.

            Testimonials are not an easy thing to relate being both extremely personal and revealing which is an unnatural act for most people including myself. My story is by no means that unusual, however what has happened since I walked in to St. Andrews most certainly is and I firmly believe that none of this is by chance.

            The story begins in a small town in Northern BC. I had lived a largely successful life having a good career at a local industry, my own house which I had built myself in a peaceful valley known for its visual beauty and outdoors lifestyle. My wife and I had six beautiful children, we lived a good middle class living free of wants. It was a peaceful time of growth and prosperity.

            In late 2009, the company that owned the industry I worked at made a fateful announcement that the mill was no longer viable and would be permanently shut down within a matter of months. The area was remote with few employers so it was clear to me with the size of my family and the fact that my wife really could not contribute enough economically for us to survive it was time to go.

            This was especially concerning for our children being well established in a fine Christian school and the fact that we had family and long time friends there. Any of you reading this also knows leaving immediately trying to sell a house in that environment is nearly impossible unless you can afford to accept fire sale prices. There was only one solution in that I had to leave town alone and find employment elsewhere, and sooner rather than later.

            God took care of me in my hour of need and I found employment in the oilfields north of Alberta. The odds of landing a staff job there are extremely low and the skill and experience requirements for that very high. I was also blessed in the fact that after some time it became a fly in and fly out job, which meant I did not have to live in nearby Ft. MacMurray which we really could not afford.

            I discussed various places with my wife to live in the south of BC as our children were older and would need post secondary education soon. The idea was to locate in southern BC and provide housing and support for them while they attended University or College with the added bonus of a larger and diverse job market after graduation. She agreed to this strategy however she wanted our oldest daughter to graduate first before moving. I remained in Alberta to support our family being briefly joined by our oldest son who came up to enjoy the prosperity there for a time before leaving again.

            This is where the story really begins. My wife announced she wished a separation in the fall of 2011. As is with so many of us that have been forced economically to look north to provide for our families, another man had come in to the picture and we are abandoned except for the money we can provide. This came as a complete surprise to me as I knew my wife was not happy with the situation at all but I didn’t know how unhappy. In the space of two years I had lost my long time job, my wife and family, and also my father that had passed away in 2008. My old life was completely gone.

            I won’t elaborate further on my former wife as I find it best to let God judge this, as my own judgment would be flawed. I will say one final thing, my God defends me and defends me well. I have a complete trust with God recognizing my own flawed and incorrect judgments of the past and rely on God to judge for me. I am most certainly not perfect and I find that often I really don’t have all the facts anyway.

           I can’t remember much of the next few years. I was abandoned without my family, my friends, and had no real home in Alberta. Each and every day the pain would find me and then worse, the anger. I experienced wide ranging emotions at any one time, all of them – shame, guilt, rage, hopelessness, longing, depression. What I did not know at the time is that I was being changed from within, reforged in to something completely different from what I once was for a purpose of which I still do not know.

            The turning point came as all good things do, in a whisper. I believe the evil things that happen to a person in life are immediate; the perceived intent is to shock and destroy with a direct and forceful impact. It could be the sudden death of a close family member; the diagnosis of a small pain as terminal cancer; the sudden job loss threatening the well being of an entire family.

The good things, the turning of the tide, often start with the smallest things and are usually unnoticed. Think of the birth of a small baby boy in a small village of no importance located in a poor desert province within the mightiest empire the world had ever known.

While nothing can compare to the birth of Christ the point was to illustrate how the smallest event can translate in to great and wonderful things. In my case it was a phone call from my oldest son who had relocated to Kamloops in search of his own future. He was lonely for a member of his family and suggested that I join him there. It was time to come home to the mountains.

In August of 2014 I moved to Kamloops, in a small apartment here on the North Shore. This really would be a non event but to me it was the first home I had on my own since 2010. I had been renting rooms in various houses and condos to keep costs low all that time. I remember the warm feeling I had living there finally finding a place that I considered safe and welcoming. When you are broken, battered, lonely, and abandoned the smallest kindnesses take on new meaning. As an example, my first friend was a local chipmunk that I would breakfast with on my small veranda by feeding him with peanuts while I had eggs. I miss that chipmunk to this day!

 It was also time to find the local church to attend every second Sunday. I had attended church regularly in the various places I lived in Alberta. It was the one lasting thing from my old life that had not changed; that had not rejected me; that had remained a rock in a hostile world.

The choice of a church is an important one for me and should be for anyone. The word of God is welcome to me in any place but the right church with the right people is where I needed to be. I found mine the first step I took in to St. Andrews.

I walked in unsure of what I would find there but not intimidated. I was not there for any purpose but to worship my God, to confess my wrongs and to send my thanks to the one person left I could confide in and would not throw me aside, Jesus Christ. When I left that morning I knew I had found what I sought.

I was greeted by the congregation and made to feel welcome. What impressed me was the sincerity of that welcome as I would have known if it had not been. What I saw and felt in the people around me was nothing short of something that I had not experienced in a very long time, the radiant beauty of trust and understanding. I am a man who sees things in a very different way than most people and trust me when I tell you the Holy Spirit is alive and well at St. Andrews Church in its people.

I came back every second Sunday as my work schedule prevents me from attending every week being in northern Alberta at a camp for a week at a time. As time went on I had a daughter and son come to live with me, and even a beautiful grandson. My daughter has joined us here at St. Andrews and she is precious. I found someone very special, an angel in the choir whom I am so very happy to have in my life. She has her own story to tell someday and the odds of us finding each other in this world are nothing short of miraculous. This is not chance. What was once lost is now returned.

I am still changing every day on this journey. I have to concern myself with worldly things to provide for my family but it grows harder all the time only really caring for all the people around me especially my loved ones. There is so much more to learn.

There is something anyone who may happen to read this should know about finding God and Jesus. This may not be an easy thing to recognize your own faults and illusions about yourself and even the people around you.  

Realize you may have to recognize some ugly truths about yourself; that you may have to admit you were terribly wrong about a lot of things; that you will indeed be humbled and laid bare. Realize that God’s laws do not change, they apply to us all and they need to be followed seriously. In accepting Christ you really need to believe who he is, that the events and miracles of the New Testament really did happen. I have my own reason for being convinced of this written right in the testimony of one of His disciples and a passage in Genesis the first chapter of the Bible; you need to find your own. Read and understand the events of Christ’s life with the unchanging laws of God and I’m sure you will find it.

If you can do these things then through personal experience I guarantee you will find a vision that goes far beyond this unforgiving and hostile world with its random acts of evil and unfairness. You won’t see things as others do. You will know love and acceptance and a deep appreciation of every minute of your life. You will know and love others as yourself. You will know a strength that flows forever and will never cease.

This question is for anyone who reads this and does not know Christ and the undying love for you He has or has chosen to dismiss that love. I follow a man that even hell could not defeat, who do you follow and what has been promised to you for your service?

I can only offer my own humble experience as I am sure there are millions more much worse than my own. As a man, I am limited and imperfect in my judgment and sometimes blind to my own faults. I do know that now I once again walk with purpose and my mind is clear. It’s like being 18 again and I have Dad to rely on if I stumble.

In closing this message is meant for anyone out there who is suffering, who may be alone and abandoned without hope. There are thousands of ways in this life a person can be crushed, betrayed, rejected and abandoned left to die in an uncaring world. There are many of you out there as I meet you every day in my extensive travels. You can’t hide that pain in your eyes like you may think.

Come to us at St. Andrews and we will know, but much better we will understand. Jesus will come for you as he promised all those years ago. Learn new things, grow in the love of Christ with us and rise above the very things that sought to destroy you. There is a world of friendship and care here among us. I should mention that there is over 5000 years of human experience with us at St. Andrews.

 If you have children bring them too because it is so very important that they have all the love in the world and to know God and Jesus. It has been often said it takes a village to raise a child. This village is a good one.

Walter Behnke