It was an emotional gathering for everyone Friday morning during the 10th annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast at the Sylvan Lake Community and Family Centre.
From the stirring remarks of the guest of honour, Mayor Sean McIntyre, to the uplifting speech from Onsy Tawadrous and the emotional words of the guest speaker Deborah Carpenter.
Each speaker from the event touched on the morning’s main theme, “stronger together.”
“We have so much to be thankful for, being alive and living in a wonderful place like this,” said an emotional Mayor McIntyre. “That’s another reason why I don’t wipe away my tears, I’m not afraid of them.”
The annual breakfast, which is arranged by members of the Sylvan Lake Ministerial, brings together the faith community to prayer for the town and its leadership, while showing the gratefulness and thankfulness.
Mayor McIntyre shared his thanks to those he called brave for praying, not only in their homes but in public as well.
“We’re all just people, and it’s very cool to see what God can do with that,” said McIntyre.
McIntyre said the theme for the morning breakfast was very appropriate and something he believes in very deeply.
He has been heard and quoted many times as saying “we are in this together,” and says it is something he believes everyday.
“I am really excited that today’s message is stronger together, because we are,” McIntyre said.
“It is true in good times, and in hard times, and in preparation and in survival, you are stronger together.”
Tawadrous gave an example to the gathered community about how strong Sylvan Lake can be when they come together.
As Chair of the Sylvan Lake Refugee Project, Tawadrous has worked with many facets of the town and it’s communities to bring four refugee families home to Sylvan Lake.
He said seeing people work together for those they don’t know, and have never met gave him an unbelievable feeling.
“Seeing 78 people from all ages, walking for five kilometres to raise money to sponsor the families they have never met, was unforgettable,” said Tawadrous.
Tawadrous, an immigrant himself, said though when he first moved to Sylvan Lake and began attending church, he never felt like an outsider. Instead he felt like family.
That is the strength of Sylvan Lake, Tawadrous says, the ability to make anyone and every feel like they are family.
“What a wonderful picture, that when my good friend John River greet the latest family to come to Sylvan Lake in Calgary last week, when he didn’t say welcome to Canada. He said welcome home,” Tawadrous said.
Working together and supporting each other through the good and the bad, makes the individual stronger and the community stronger.
An example of that is shown through the words and experiences of Carpenter, who shared her story about her life and the lose of her brother in the Humboldt Broncos.
Carpenter lived through one of the toughest experiences a wife and mother can; he husband was in a devastating car accident, one where his life hung in the balance, and her daughter was hours away from death with acute appendicitis.
She travelled between Red Deer and Calgary to be at the bedside of both her family members while also dealing with the lose of financial support.
“In the midst of this, Darcy had sent a gift. It was a cross with the words ‘Look to the cross, Deb’,” said Carpenter. “He knew nothing he could say would help as much as the comfort I would get from our Father.”
During the difficult time in her and her family’s life, Carpenter found support in her friends and community.
A stranger had given her two $10 bills for coffee while travelling between hospitals. At Christmas time following her husband and daughter’s release from hospital, a gift appeared on her doorstep.
“There was a gift basket full on my doorstep, and no way of knowing who had dropped it off. Inside there was an envelope filled with $2,500 cash for Christmas,” she said.
On April 6, her life changed once again with a phone call telling her about the bus crash, and later the loss of her little brother Darcy Haugan.
“At 10:30 p.m. on April 6 the call came… My baby, little brother Darcy was just, gone.”
“I can’t reconcile why my husband lived and my brother died, I don’t have those answers,” she said.
Carpenter told the audience accidents like what occurred on April 6, and to her husband years before, are an everyday occurrence.
Everyday people are faced with heartbreak and tragedies, and everyday worlds are turned upside-down, she says.
“Our lives are tossed and scattered into the air like a pack of cards in the wind and we are left to pick up the pieces in the mud and dirt and ashes of the wreckage.”
Carpenter said the tragedies she has experienced has helped her shift her perspective in life, and she has learned people are stronger together.
“Take heart dear friends. We are not alone, we are not without hope. We are stronger together,” said Carpenter.