There is no rain, only the memory of rain in the wind and sunshine as we drive into the city; meet Andrea, Deanna and Vika for fresh rolls and coconut curie; drive back to Glen Elm, the school converted to a church.
Fifty or so folks have gathered, are visiting. Kids run around in the gym-converted-auditorium. Some sit down in the chairs, facing the giant tub of water lined in red plumb cloth. A young man begins singing and others join in: light the fire, in my weary soul, fan the flame, make my spirit whole, Lord you know, where I've been, so light the fire in my heart again. I join the women as they echo each line in accapella harmony. Our friends from Fort Qu'Appelle have also driven in to support their daughter -- our oldest girl's best friend -- as she makes a commitment tonight.
There are more songs, then Michael stands up. He is wearing a black Superman shirt, with a red Canadian flag in the design. He holds a bible in a leather-patched book cover. He tells the gathering that Ciara is part of our family, just as our girl is part of the Crowe family. He invites Ciara to share what has brought her to this day.
Ciara is a sunny girl, petite, dark hair, big smile. She hops up on the make-shift stage to talk a little about growing up in a family where she was encouraged to live a good life and find her own way to God. She says that going to school at Western Christian is where she learned more about Jesus and the friends and staff she met there really made a difference in her life. Now she wants to give her life to following Jesus.
Ciara walks up the stairs and then down into the pool of water. Michael follows. They turn to face their friends and family. Michael explains that baptism is a symbol of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. He asks Ciara if she believes in God, the father; Jesus, the son who died to save her; and that she will be given his Holy Spirit. She says yes.
Ciara rises out of the water and she gives Michael a great, big hug. There is clapping, smiles and tears. They walk up the stairs and down onto the gym floor, water dripping everywhere. Victoria helps with towels and I jump up to take Michael his shoes.
There is more singing. Ron, Ciara's dad, turns around and whispers, "Would it be appropriate for me to say a few words."
"Of course, that would be wonderful," I say.
Michael appears at the doorway of the classroom where he has changed. He's wearing a red Spiderman shirt. Bev, Ciara's mom, turns around giggling, catching me and Andrea giggling, too.
The gathering is still singing. Michael sits down on the other side of the audience as we wait for Ciara and Victoria to come out of the changing room. Ron crosses to Michael to let him know he'd like to say a few words.
Once Ciara is dried and dressed, Ron joins her at the front, arm around his girl. He thanks those who have gathered, most of whom he doesn't know. He thanks our family. He shares how they have chosen to raise their children, teaching values, but encouraging them to also find their own way. He explains the difficulty he and their people -- he is Cree and Bev is Saulteaux -- have had with religion and church being regimented and forced. He gives us his words and I find them comforting.I don't want to be another white-know-it-all-here-to-save-the-natives. That feels harsh as I say it, but it's the fear of my heart.
Later, Ron and I are visiting. "I know you and Michael are fairly involved in your faith, and something I've really appreciated is that you've never tried to save me," Ron says. "Usually, that's where religious people go."
"We're pretty busy trying to save ourselves," I say, and I laugh, but maybe that's the truth I needed to hear myself say out loud. Maybe what I'm trying to say is that the saving comes from the Creator, not us.
I tell Bev that Michael and I used to attend this church when Victoria was a baby. The elders had asked if we wanted to present our newborn in a dedication service. I'll never forget when Ray McMillan, our old minister, asked Michael, "What do you want for your daughter?"
"I want the world," Michael had said. "I want the sun and the stars and the sky and the moon."
Here Victoria stands with Ciara, her bosom buddy, in grade eleven; their school, Western Christian College and High School closing forever in two weeks. Victoria will come back to Fort Qu'Appelle. Ciara will stay in the city. Here they stand, together, ready to take on the world, sisters in water and Word.