It means so much when someone shows up and sees you at just the right time. That’s why we sent out the red and white, Son City bus.
Son City was a program of Central Tabernacle that reached children in the inner city of Edmonton between 1990 and 1997. It grew from 3 to over 500 children and 32 volunteers working on 13 bus routes and two services on Sundays and one mid-week. We often wonder how God worked long-term in the lives through Son City. Penny was one of our Son City kids. Over two decades after attending Son City she showed up with her husband and daughter Ophelia at our church. Penny has a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and is a mental health practioner. This is her story.
A Child’s Heart
Someone told me about the red and white bus that picked kids up and took them to a church. It was a year after I had been sexually assaulted. I had prayed for God to kill me because I could not manage the torment of the trauma that followed.
I knew my parents loved me – in theory. My mom had taught me to pray, so I imagined Jesus loved me – in theory. But, my brother and I were somewhat forgotten in my parents’ dysfunction.
Mom suffered abuse trauma and was severely mentally ill. Her relationship with my father was tumultuous – he was dealing with war trauma resulting in depression and anxiety.
Hard To Feel God
My parents attended All Saints Cathedral or the United Church. Any church outing as a family resulted in arguments and often violence, so it was hard to feel God on those days. I needed Him to take away my pain, emptiness, self-loathing, and anxiety.
I felt forgotten, failed, and doomed. My parents had always said I was a mistake and my brother was an accident.
They meant well over all, and they weren’t all bad. But, growing up was enormously painful.
I Put Up My Hand
And so, the bus.
I can’t remember who suggested it. It may have been someone at Alex Taylor School where I was a student for six years, but I did get on the bus. I was younger than the others, not sure I would be okay, and wondering if I would be singled out or dismissed.
We were dropped off from the bus at a pyramid-shaped building. The program leader that morning talked about prayer, how to pray, and that a person could pray alone or with others and they could pray directly to God, to Jesus. At the end of the message we were asked to look under our chairs. Under mine was a sticker that identified me as the winner of a prize. I had never felt so lucky!
Then, we were asked if anyone wanted to ask Jesus into their life. I was shaking and felt so nervous, but I knew this was for me – this was what I needed. So, I put up my hand.
I Would Be OK
A kind leader listened as I shared parts of my story. She said she did not want to leave me but that she had to talk to another leader. So, I waited, wondering if I had said too much or if she wasn’t serious about what was happening. I started to feel a bit foolish, but she came back, warm, sincere, and sweet. She prayed with me. And I knew that was the end of my torment. At that time.
Arriving home, I was so excited, telling my parents everything. It scared them and I recall they didn’t want me to become a “fanatic.” They wouldn’t let me return.
I was heartbroken, but I knew the truth and that would not change. I had been claimed, forgiven and loved and that I would be okay.
Grateful For A Bus
A lot has happened since, but Jesus has been my cornerstone.
It means so much when someone shows up and sees you, the heart and soul of you, unconditionally, and offers you a light, a mustard seed, a promise, a path to salvation.
That day when I got on the bus has never left me. So, I thank God.
And thank you for sending the bus.
Were you a part of the Son City Team? Did you attend Son City? We wrote this for everyone involved in planting seeds in the hearts of children. Be encouraged. Please share a comment about your involvement in Son City or programs with children. Thank you.
Hope grows here. We share stories that inspire people, build faith, and offer lasting purpose.
We’d love to have you Subscribe to REVwords. We’ll put helpful content into your inbox early Mondays to get your week off to a good start.
Thank you Pastor Bob.
This was an encouragement for us as we pastor an inner city church in Saskatoon and too, run a bus ministry.
As we prepare to take kids out in our buses snd vans to camp this summer it is a comfort to be reminded of the ONE. To influence one child and introduce them to Christ, what a JOY!!
PS, I also was a teenager that benefited from your pastoral heart at Central Pentecostal Church in the 90’s. It is where I received Gods call to ministry!
Keep blessing people with these blogs! Thank you and blessings to you and your family!!
So good to hear from you Leah. Awesome memories of how you and Dallas helped Jocelyn and I and our son Cory as your neighbour in Saskatoon when he played football for the UoS. YOU inspire me with your grace, compassion and perseverance in your ministry. You and Dallas took us for a tour of your church and shared your vision for kids. We always loved it when you came to St Albert for a holiday and Dallas updated me on all that was happening. You made my day with this comment. Love to you and Dallas the your fam.
If you were a Son City worker at some time, please leave a comment. I often think about Laura Sutherland, Laura Bradley, Rob and Mitch, Rob and Carol-Anne, Jen, Sherry Lynn, Joanna, Louis, Naomi, Christine Kalke, Nadine Makarus, Jason and Janet Saunders, Norm Saunders, Seg Schoenleber, Adel and Wolfgang Otto, Tony, Brent Hamrell, Dean Shelvey, Jim McQuinn, Paulette Steen, Diane Roed, Barb Dalley-Symrozum. Dan Alfieri, Travis Holownia, Melissa Benson, and so many more junior helpers and Vanguard students and bus drivers, and muffin bakers and people who prayed and donated money.
Do you have a Son City t-shirt? Do you remember Cody’s Phone Club? Were you at Son City at Keenashayo School? Did you go to Day Camp at Birch Bay Ranch on the red and white bus? Did you go to Yogi Bear Sunday School in New York with us to meet Bill Wilson and learn from his bus ministry?
I’m not from Edmonton, but from GT Burlington, ON – where we’ve also had a great ministry to children for about 70 years – for some years including bus ministry. Since then I’ve realized that the city is honey-combed with our “bus kids”. But it was SO ENCOURAGING to read this story – how God was SO FAITHFUL to this little girl, after only one day at SS. Thank God that that worker not only listened with kindness to her, but also invited her to receive Jesus into her heart! The faithfulness and love of our God is amazing!
Hi Pat. So good to hear from you. High regard for GT and Kevin Shepherd’s work when he was there. I was ordained at GT in 1982. Like I say, very fond memories.
THANKS for Sharing this LIFE Changing Ministry from Central PENTECOSTAL Church ( Edmonton , Alberta ) !!
A wonderful, inspiring story Pastor Bob. Thank you for sharing it with us. I look forward to your blog every week.
Tears of compassion came to my eyes reading through this story. So happy for Penny that the Lord used Son City and the Bus to reach her, that Jesus is her cornerstone <3 I took over as bus captain from one of the Lauras, doing the Commonwealth Stadium route for two years. Occasionally I think about the children I got to know and wonder how they're doing today and pray the Lord' hand on them. Really enjoyed knowing the Lauras, Nadine, Brent, Bonnie and Peter, Pastor Bob and the others through Son City. I volunteered because I wanted to give back the caring and kindness and generosity our family received through the local church after my father passed away when I was 10. So grateful to the Lord 🙂
Good to hear from you, Carol. So many good memories of the Son City team. Some of the best years of our pastoral ministry. You were a major part of that outreach. We were motivated to provide a rich memory of church and God for each child so that when they grew up they would remember that God loved them and God is good.