Stories Of Transformation

Brian Galka

1.  When did Jesus first get my attention?  

I would have to say that was back in about grade four or five when I was at McCannel School in Regina.  We were all give small New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs books by the Gideons.  I kept mine and put it away for a couple of years, and started reading it when I was in grade seven.  I didn’t get any encouragement from my family to do this, it was just something that I picked up on my own.  I got into the habit of doing some reading every night before bed, and eventually finished the whole book.  I read it again in its entirety some years later.  

My family was not a church-going family.  My father’s background was Roman Catholic.  He was the youngest of his family and  attended church until his mid teens, then he drifted away from the church.  He passed away on January 01, 2014 believing in Jesus Christ and God, but really didn’t have much use for institutionalized religion.  My mother’s background was Protestant likely from Methodist or Anglican denomination.  I’m not sure how much she attended church with her parents.  Her mother and father both died when my mother was quite young and she was raised by her grandmother after that until she left home.  She did practice a quiet faith but never attended church regularly until many years later.

2.  What is a faith marker in your life?

The biggest faith marker, which put me on a firm track as a Christian, was having met someone who was already a strong Christian.  When we started dating she told firstly about the small group that she met with in North Battleford, and asked if I would be interested in sitting in just to see what it was like.  I was a bit hesitant as I was not a church goer at the time, and I thought I would be out of place, and likely judged by some of the people there.  There were a super nice group of people.  Very understanding, non-judgemental people.  I then went to a service at my girlfriend’s church.  There too I was hesitant to go, because I didn’t know the formalities or traditions in that church.  We tend to fear what we do not know.  I became a regular in attending church at Territiorial Drive Alliance Church and made some good friends there.  I ended up helping with projection, a simple PowerPoint slide show, and decided to become baptized.  I was baptized by Pastor Keith Klippenstein on Sunday, April 04, 2004. An easy date to remember …04/04/04.  My life did change after that, but not instantly.

Another faith marker was when my parents were separating back in March of 2012.  Things were not going well for my mother.  My brother and I had sided with our father on most of the issues and my mother had attempted suicide by taking a massive amount of atavan.  I was flying to Winnipeg that day, and Mom and I were arguing over the phone prior to the flight.  I arrived in Winnipeg and met up with my Dad the next morning.  I asked where Mom was.  He didn’t know.  I phoned the police.  They were no help. I thought to phone around to the hospitals.  She was in emergency, having had her stomach pumped after a massive overdose.  I met her in emergency at the Victoria Hospital.  I got called every bad name under the sun; ‘traitor, never want to see or speak to you again’, etc.    I knew Mom needed some spiritual help in a big way.  I had been attending FGCC for about three or four years at that point and I looked up to those people as strong role models….something which pulled me through a tough time while I was being bullied at AAFC.  I contacted Pastor Unger at Fort Garry Mennonite Church in Winnipeg and told him who I was and what had happened and asked if he could pay a visit to my mother at the hospital.  He did.   My mom became a well-liked member of that congregation soon after that, and attended church as often as she could given her declining state of health.  I made some good friends too at that church.  Some of my best memories of my mother were she and I attending Christmas Eve candle light services at Fort Garry MB Church.  That reconnection with Christianity made her a much happier woman in her last years, even though her health was failing.

3. What is Jesus doing in my life right now?

He is sustaining me.  I’ve been retired from AAFC for about 4.5 years.  I spent almost 30 years of my life there wishing my life away day by day, week by week.  My Dad had passed away and I was assisting in looking after my Mom to the degree that I could.  I also began to travel by car to go on vacations across Canada, I enrolled in classes at university for seniors and sat on the board for that organization. I was regularly involved in curling with federal retirees. I volunteered to sit on the board with the U of S Biomedical Research Ethic Board. I was helping more at FGCC with Alpha Course, food drives, and projection.  Most of all I was doing a lot of reading.  One of my favourite and regular activities was going to Tim Hortons or McDonalds, getting a coffee and reading for hours on end.  I have read a lot of Christian based material, but a lot of science as well.  Cosmology is my favourite.  I make notes on the books I read, and have some ideas for a sci-fi book which might get some of the physicists and cosmologists thinking if it ever gets written. Some of these projects passed by the wayside.  

My Mom passed away about 18 months ago.  Then COVID-19 came.  No more classes, no church in the traditional sense, no curling, etc. I was beginning to feel like St. John on Patmos (i.e. isolated).  Until churches were allowed to partially open, my social life consisted of having coffee with two or three guys from AAFC once a week.  Even Search and Rescue has been cut way back in terms of activity.  They are still doing training but I am opting out of that due to the pandemic.  If those people get sick while training or on an activation they have someone to go home to who will look after them or look out for them.  I do not.  My brother, who is in Scarborough,  is the same.  He is pretty much a solitary individual, and is probably drawing on two inheritances right now to pay rent and maintain the necessities of life.

And so I had fallen away from daily prayers for a while.  I do know that prayer works.  I have seen it answered time and time again.  My frame of mind, and heart, however was just ’not there’.  But it is back again! I  say something like the Prayer of Examen, where I review the highlights of the day and thank God for each one of those things where He got me through the day by providing heat, shelter, food, friendship, health, getting me safely to and from my home, and watching over my friends and family (my brother Mark).  

And so Jesus is sustaining me.

4. What is a favourite scripture and why?

I was asked this question some years ago by a friend, and I had a hard time coming up with a favourite primarily because there is so much good scripture in the Bible that is in the everyday language, and we don’t even realize that it comes from the Bible.  At one time I would quote John 3:16, but the one which I think I can most identify with is, “Remember, if the world hates you, it hated me first.”(John 15:18 Good News translation).  Why this verse?  Well at AAFC I got the impression from a lot of people that I was the cause for all of the problems and turmoil that the department was in.  I was the cause of all of their troubles according to a few people.  I still know people who think that way.  What happens though is these people will end up ‘pouring hot coals’ over their own heads….if not in this life, then the next one for sure.  

If there is to be only one take away lesson in this life, I am positive it is ‘what goes around, comes around.’  I have seen it in action literally hundreds if not thousands of time over the course of many years, and it does not discriminate.  God works the timeline of when that retribution will be.  Do I take any satisfaction in this? No.  My first thought is usually one of sadness, because the person either has no idea of how deeply they have hurt or offended me AND they have no idea that they have brought judgement on themselves.  One of the greatest ways of ensuring that people respect one another is that, I believe when we die, each one of us will feel the pain that we have inflicted on others in this life.  Christ will be by our sides when this happens, so there will be no denying it.  And no one, including those in the church, will be above reproach.  Heavy stuff, but if people carried this foremost in their thoughts, they would be a lot more considerate of others.

5.  Why do I love FGCC?

Lots of reasons.  It is an anabaptist church.  I believe that baptism should be taken when the subject knows who Christ is, what He has done for you, and how He will change your life if you let Him.  The people in the congregation are excellent role models.  They ‘walk the walk and ’talk the talk’ seven days a week, 365 days a year.  They live the life of Christian ethics.  They aren’t judgemental (at least the more mature Christians aren’t).  They know it is God’s place to judge, not theirs, and that their business is to help others (this is a community church).  The people in the congregation are living examples of what we should aspire to be.  Are they perfect? No. I sometimes wonder about some of the discernment on a few things but maybe I am more of a ‘prophet’ as opposed to an apostle, evangelist, or teacher.  Then again, we all have different gifts.  The people are humble and the presentation is humble.  For me, the meaning is in the message; not how it is presented.  The people at FGCC take their faith seriously.  They don’t just show up for special occasions, but attendance and involvement are an integral part of their lives, and they study Scripture, and apply it.  Something I wish I was better at.