Water and Washroom in Anzac

Thoughts about the Alberta Wildfires, Part 7.

I was interviewed by the CBC again on Thursday – a follow up to my earlier interview the day after I evacuated from Fort Mac. In that interview I said, “I’m just enjoying my time here… Probably the most therapeutic thing is to hold my newborn niece after this whole thing happened.” And it really has been. Even though All Kara Elise seems to want to do is sleep. Haha.

Just as therapeutic is finally purchasing a Kanile’a Tenor Ukulele, which I have been dreaming about for years. It is so nice and I am super excited about it.

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Anyway, I am only my last day here in Toronto, and I am feeling refreshed and ready to head back to Edmonton to continue on the ministry. As I keep mentioning, I’ve been working on and off. I have been maintaining our “virtual” presence – website, social media, etc. And have been working on getting the finances of the church up and running. I also have 2-3 families I am still working on placing into homes for the last 2 weeks or so of our evacuation.

On that note, we have found out that we are able to return on June 1. Not sure exactly what that means, but we’ll see if I will actually be sleeping in my own bed that night (I have a feeling I might be).

So, I left off the last part with Neil and I heading to our second church location, NorthLife Anzac, which is about 35km south-east of Fort McMurray. I was running out of gas and so I definitely needed a ride to get to Edmonton. And that was the most logical place for Neil and I to meet, and for me to leave my car for however long the evacuation might be.

We got to Anzac probably around 4:30 to 5pm or so. Which is crazy since it usually only takes 30 minutes to drive there from my place downtown. But understandably, with tens of thousands of people leaving it made some sense it would take longer.

I was immediately contacted by CBC, who saw the videos I had posted on Facebook. Apparently, they were even FB messaging my friends trying to get my cell phone number. But we were able to hook up and we set up an interview for 6am the next day (8am in Toronto) for Metro Morning with Matt Galloway. I also called in to the hotel we were staying in for the conference and asked to extend my stay by one night. It was a really good thing I did that so early, because hotel rooms were scarce the next morning.

By the time I had finished those arrangements, Neil had opened up the church for some people who were in the parking lot. Anzac was one of the alternate evacuation areas, and the church sits almost on the turn to get into town. But of course with the traffic, that turn had a pretty long line up, and so people were using our parking lot as kind of a staging ground, hooking up with friends, or just generally taking a little rest and breather. So Neil opened up the church building for people to use the washroom and get some water.

I got busy making further arrangements and keeping track of people, and Neil actually began talking to some people coming in. There were some incredible stories, like the guy who was still trying to track down 4 of his 7 kids! Neil was even able to pray with some folks – hopefully that will have a positive impact on the ministry in Anzac. As for me, I was able to track down Joseph, who was in the same situation as me – out of gas. I also got some of our church families to come to Anzac to spend the night as they waited to hear news about someone in their family who was still in one of the camps.

So the hours flew by as we had the church open. And finally, I had Joseph start to make his way to Anzac to leave his car at the church too. But apparently, everyone had the same idea the highway into Anzac was ridiculously clogged. I thought my 1.5 hours to get into Anzac was bad… Some people were taking that long just to drive 10km into the highway. So finally at 9pm, we decided that we couldn’t wait for Joseph to come to the church, and we were able to get some of Neil’s friends to let him drop his car off at their home in Gregoire Lake Estates, about 15km towards Highway 63 from Anzac. Neil wanted to go down 881 to get to Edmonton, but I was pretty convince it would be pretty bad.

So we went back towards Highway 63, picked Joseph up at Gregoire Lake Estates, and went on down. It was about 9pm at this point, and we were up for a drive all night. Most of the highway was clear, but a whole bunch of it was backed up because of traffic – like outside Wandering River, where the line to gas up was probably 5km long. Good thing we avoided that with our full tank of gas though.

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We finally made it to Edmonton at 4am. And we were happy to get a good night’s morning’s rest. Of course we were some of the fortunate ones who did not have to spend that night on the side of the road.

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