This morning I headed to Agassiz, BC to visit at Mountain Institution (Medium) and Kent Institution (Maximum). It was raining. So, off I go in full rain gear with a change of clothes (just in case). It was wet. Very wet.
I had a full morning at Mountain connecting again with an inmate who had been at Springhill for a number of years. It was so good to see him adjusting well and having such a positive attitude toward his case plan and the staff that were working with him. Sometimes a physical change in surroundings is needed in order for change to begin within. In addition I had time to visit with the two Chaplains there, Kevin and Angus and hear some of their stories of ministry.
Lunch (a buffalo burger and salad for me) was a grand affair at the Horn of Plenty, a little cafe attached to an Esso gas station not far from the institutions. Kevin (Mountain), Pam (Kent), Dennis (Kent) and Harkie (Sikh Chaplain for the Region) were present and over lunch there was much sharing about the vocation we share and the demands, challenges and joys of the work we do. Unfortunately Angus (Mountain) had a wee sore throat and needed to absent himself so as to perserve his voice for a funeral on the morrow (he's just a wee bit scottish and talks kinda funny). We missed you Angus!
Drives were arranged and I got to drive with Pam back to Mountain, pick up all my gear from the entry point there and put it in Pam's car while were went to Kent.
During my time the inmate a Mountain I learned that another inmate with whom I had worked closely had come on the same flight and went to Kent. I asked Pam and Kevin about visiting with him as well and they informed me that he would be coming to a program in the chapel soon after we arrived. It was so delightful to watch his face fill with surprise at seeing me... and so humbling to hear of him speak in my presence to the other men about how I had been a support to him. A huge hug (from a man who is three inches taller than I and sixty pounds heavier me) reinforced the depth of his appreciation and with tears streaming down his cheeks he said simply, "Thank you for caring."
Dennis and I left Pam to lead a program and went a tour of the institution. Watching Dennis connect with staff was like watching an artist at work. He knew people names and when he didn't he found a way to make a connection and invite conversation. Kent is a large institution and seems to function very efficiently. It is extremely clean and well ordered and staff were respectful and always ready to answer questions. Thanks so much. Thanks as well to the Deputy Warden who gave us twenty minutes of time to talk of some our experiences and challenges. By the time the tour was over it was almost 3:30 PM.
Returning to the chapel we spent some time in conversation even as Pam and Dennis worked through a few pastoral and logistic items. It is clear that the Chapel at Kent is a busy place! In addition to hosting me today they had a volunteer in assisting in leading a program, the Jewish Chaplain and the Sikh Chaplain. Thanks so much for allowing me to be with you. I wish we had had more time to just sit and chat - but such is the life of ministry.
On about 4PM we left the institution. Pam drove me back across the way to Mountain Institution where I took all my gear, packed the rain gear in the saddle bags and began the seventy minute drive back to Langley under a sky that looked like it could open at any minute - depending on where you went!
On about six, I headed back to the house and Dwight and Faith had arrived. Unbeknownst to me, Dwight had left the door open when he had gone to the ferry to pick up Faith. I saw the door closed and assumed it was locked. Guess I have been spending too much time in prisons of late!
With a few little tasks done, it was time to head to Bedford House for supper. What a delicious meal we had as we continued to talk about some of the agenda items for the IPCA Steering Committee meeting in London scheduled for October. It was helpful to have some idea of their expectations of me as I prepare to be present with them.
Dwight and Faith, thanks so much for your hospitality! Your gracious welcome, engaging conversation, patience with the stuff that explodes from the saddle bags and willingness to share of your questions, knowledge and passion for the vocation that is ours together has been such an important part of this Sabbath journey.
Tomorrow will see me head to Vancouver Island where I will visit with Paul and Jan Addison, former member of John Wesley United Church. On Saturday I will take the MV Coho from Victoria to Port Angeles, WA on the Olympic Peninsula where I will continue my journey south to Oregon.
...on the Sabbath Road...