O Canada! By Pastor Rev. Adrian Johnson, Ward Chapel AME Church

Under the dynamic leadership of Bishop John Franklin White and Episcopal Supervisor Penny Hartsfield White, members from all around the 4th Episcopal District embarked on an unprecedented Missions Trip to Nova Scotia, Canada May 23-26, 2018.

Ambassador Robin Holmes Tyson, wife of Presiding Elder Albert D. Tyson III and First lady of the North District of the Chicago Annual Conference organized this event securing air travel, hotel, and ground accommodations for over 70 delegates.

Early on the 23rd flights took off from Chicago and Detroit and travelled to Toronto where we met our Canadian delegation from Toronto and Windsor. As a group we flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia where the good people of Halifax enthusiastically and warmly greeted us!

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Reese Williams (far left) and her mother Cheryl Hayes (red coat) of the Illinois Annual Conference are greeted by Canadian Conference members: Mary Consentino (2nd from left) and Loy Brown (far right).

After our arrival, we boarded waiting coaches to travel to Dartmouth Nova Scotia to visit the Black Cultural Centre of Nova Scotia Museum. This museum was established in 1983, to protect, preserve and promote the history and culture of African Nova Scotians. We were able to view many historical artifacts and watched a video on the history of Africans in Nova Scotia.

Our very own Rev. Larry James Bell, Vernon Chapel, Detroit, Michigan was involved in the development of the Museum and served on the original Board of Directors. He also served as Pastor of Highland AME in Amherst, Nova Scotia – so this was a wonderful homecoming of sorts for he and his family.

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Pastor Larry J. Bell along with his wife, Rev. DaNita M. Bell, & their daughter Rev. Christal L. Bell.

We again boarded our buses and travelled to the North Preston Community Center in North Preston, Nova Scotia. This center provides space for various public events and recreational programs. We were able to meet many of the youth who are a part of their travelling basketball team, The Bulls. They were very appreciative of our presence and financial gift that the Bishop presented to them.

We then made our way to Amherst Nova Scotia. We were delighted to have dinner at Duncan’s Restaurant with a delicious seafood buffet featuring: seafood chowder with haddock, mussels, scallops, linguine with various seafood, Rice pilaf, Chicken Supreme, garden salad, sautéed vegetables, rolls, and LOBSTER!

Having dined sufficiently, we made our way to the hotel. Centrally located in Amherst, the Comfort Inn provided clean, spacious rooms, a free breakfast buffet, a well-lit common meeting area, and wi-fi.  Happy and well-fed, we settled in for the night knowing that a big day was scheduled for us beginning the next morning.

Early the next morning, we were shuttled to Highland African Methodist Episcopal Church who were celebrating 145 years of service in Amherst, Nova Scotia. Pastor Lawrence D. Hartley, First Lady Charlotte Hartley, and the members of Highland warmly received us. Our missionary donations from the Chicago, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan Conferences were carried in and stored.

Next, we heard presentations from local community representatives of Amherst including: Fire Chief Greg Jones, Police Chief Ian Naylor, Member of Parliament (MP) Bill Casey, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, and Councillar and member of Highland, Darrell Jones. They spoke of the hope they have for Amherst, their appreciation of Highland’s years of service in the community, and the importance of strong, positive relationships to keep the city of Amherst a safe and enjoyable place to live.

We then heard from our Episcopal leadership. Episcopal Supervisor Penny Hartsfield White thanked the congregation of Highland and spoke of her dedication to Missions and in providing much appreciated supplies to the people of Amherst.

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Episcopal Supervisor Penny Hartsfield White

The Rt. Reverend Bishop John White then addressed the waiting congregation and took us to even higher heights. Bishop White spoke of the importance of the AME Church in the city of Amherst and how our faith in God can encourage and empower both the members of Highland and the citizens of Amherst. Bishop White spoke life into the church ending with the phrase we in the 4th District have all come to truly believe, “The best is yet to come!”

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Rt. Reverend Bishop John Franklin White

After breaking out to a wonderful seafood chowder and chicken soup luncheon, Rev. Christal Bell, our 4th District Director of Christian Education preached a powerful sermon, “The Help – You Already Have It.” This was particularly touching as Rev. Christal, the daughter of Pastor Larry and Rev. Danita Bell of Vernon Chapel, Detroit was actually born in Amherst, Nova Scotia. We were extremely blessed and encouraged by The Word that was brought forth.

What followed were a series of meetings with Bishop White and the members of Highland in the sanctuary upstairs. Downstairs the Women’s Missionary Society, under the leadership of Episcopal Supervisor Penny White, divided the donations that were to be distributed to:

Viola’s Place Society –This shelter for the homeless is named after Viola Desmond the Canadian civil rights icon who refused to give up her seat in a whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre in 1946 and is now the new face of the Canadian $10 bill.

Autumn House The purpose of the Cumberland County Transition House Association (Autumn House) is to assist abused women and their families through the provision of counseling, support and shelter services, and through community education and awareness.

They then served us a wonderful baked macaroni and cheese supper and shuttled us back to the hotel.

The next morning we were able to visit the various shops, stores, and restaurants of Amherst, Nova Scotia. Canadians are known for their afternoon teas and biscuits but the Birkinshaw’s Tea Room is making waves with their famous Freakshakes.

Meeting back at Highland AME Church, Bishop White dedicated the newly restored Highland Marker. We were blessed to be joined by the oldest member of Highland AME, Mrs. Audrey Jones.

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Mrs. Audrey Jones, Highland’s oldest member, meets Bishop and Episcopal Supervisor White. Pictured with First Lady Charlotte Hardy.

In the sanctuary for closing remarks, Bishop John White acknowledged and thanked Sis. Robin Tyson and our Canadian Coordinator Sister Loy Brown for their tireless efforts in organizing this Missions trip. We feasted on a final meal of fried turkey and were shuttled back to our hotel.

The next morning we flew back to our respective airports tired but so very grateful for this time of ministry and missions. It is a wonderful testament of our Episcopal Leadership and our Connection that as AME’s, we can cross borders and be a blessing around the world. We pray this is the first of many missions trips to Canada and believe as we are encouraged by Bishop John Franklin White that, “The Best Is Yet to Come!”