Voyage à Montréal, by Stephen Bick.
One mild Friday lunchtime in October, a group of five young men and women set out from Lansing to visit and build up our fellow UCO chapter in Montreal. We were a strange group: Greg, staff worker for UCO Lansing, committed, driven and (very) Lebanese; Stephanie, UofM nursing student, excited, smiley, French-American; Rachel, UCO Ann Arbor staff worker, amicable, perseverant, Scottish, often seen with camera; Clare, UCO Ann Arbor staff worker, sensible, joyful, leading the group, the only American-born member; Stephen (myself), 19, gapper from London.
We drove from Lansing to Toronto that afternoon, a pleasant journey full of great conversation and views out of the window. We stayed in Toronto with the Barakats, a Lebanese family who Greg knew very well. Leaving early the next morning, I had a long car journey to reflect on why I was asked to come on the trip. What could I, a non-French speaker, offer? I prayed that God would use me in spite of all this, knowing him to be much greater than I am. We arrived in Montreal at the Dahan’s, another Lebanese family who, like the Barakats, were members of the community in Lebanon before moving to Canada. We celebrated the Lord’s Day with the entire UCO chapter. Stephanie and I gave our testimonies in French (mine was pre-translated). Sunday, after attending church services, was almost entirely spent eating, at a brunch that led into dinner, all wonderful Lebanese food and fellowship. This was a great time to get to know the folks in the chapter, and talk about their UCO and the challenges they were facing, and to offer encouragement and advice.
Michel Dahan, who returned from his gap year in Lansing (one alarmingly similar to mine!) to found UCO Montreal, showed us around Montreal with his fiancée, Katia. In the evening we went to the UCO men’s sharing group, where Greg and I gave our testimonies, this time, thankfully in English. The guys were very inspired by this, and all spoke promisingly about their dreams for the chapter and where they wanted it to go in the future.
Leaving very early Tuesday morning, we travelled the entire distance back to Lansing in one day, about 14 hours of driving. Stopping for lunch at Niagara falls, I was reminded of my reaction to the falls aged 3: I apparently walked around for 40 minutes repeatedly saying “It’s amazing. It’s amazing”. Now, thinking on how God used me throughout the trip, breaking language barriers, giving me words to speak and ears to listen and keeping bonds of fellowship intact in confined vehicles, I have a very similar response to His work in me today as I did to that staggering waterfall sixteen years ago.