How It All Began

This is the first entry of our website blog called ‘The Journey’. To help you understand how we got to where we are…we felt that it was important to give a condensed version of where this all began for us!! We will continue to update our blog, as our faith journey, and our journey on the road continues. We are excited to share our stories along the way and share with you how God is leading us, and where He is taking us! Most importantly we want to share the miracles that we experience as we go forth in His will! We have a very BIG God…and too often we forget just how BIG!! Come along and see…
Authored by Bonnie Rawling- July 2013


How we met:
This crazy journey of ours started about 8 years ago…

At that time, I(Bonnie), was a Seminary student at Briercrest Seminary in Caronport, Saskatchewan Canada.
Bruce was a touring musician, with his band, The Rawling Brothers.

But let me back up just a bit.

Bonnie’s story:
In the spring of 2004 I was in a very unhealthy place in my life. Although I was the mother of three beautiful girls, I was also in my third abusive marriage and I was a very angry person. I was studying to become a Primary Care Paramedic and my schooling took me away from my family every second weekend. A few of my classmates and I stayed together each weekend at the local convent because it was a reasonable price that we could afford, as opposed to staying in a hotel. I actually came to cherish these weekends away and found myself spending more and more time alone in the sanctuary in the evenings. It became my time of sanctuary, away from the constant fighting that was in our home.
One night, while I was staying in the convent, I had what some people call a ‘Holy Spirit’ experience. I had a vision where I met Jesus face to face. As I lay in my bed that night trying to get to sleep, I could feel and see a dark shadow near my bed. Then I saw two little boys, each in a separate corner of the room. They were huddled in the fetal position, and they were afraid of the dark shadow that I could see. I could feel my heart pounding as I lay there, unsure of what was happening, let alone what to do about it! Then all of a sudden, on the wall, at the foot of my bed, appeared Jesus. He was clothed in a long draping white robe, and he was sitting on a stump. He said to me, “Bonnie, you tell those two little boys to come and sit on my knee.” So the first little boy went, and as soon as he sat on Jesus knee, I could feel this breath of healing in the room. And I could visibly see the fear and pain leave that little boys being. It’s like he became new and he was jumping and skipping circles around Jesus. The second little boy needed a little more convincing to go, but I helped him up this little ladder and he timidly approached Jesus and sat on His knee. That same fresh breath of healing came over the room, and the dark shadow disappeared instantly. I laid there, in my bed and even though my eyes were closed, I had witnessed all of these things. I had tears streaming down my cheeks onto my pillow, as I lay there wondering what had just happened, and why. Then Jesus spoke to me again, and He said, “Ok Bonnie, it’s your turn.” Well, at that moment, something broke in my Spirit, and I just started weeping. I was 5 years old when my childhood sexual abuse started. And all in this same moment, I watched my 5 year old little girl come up out of my body and go and sit on Jesus knee. The healing in me was instant! It was whole, complete, and I was touched to the very core of my being! The angry, hurting young girl inside of me, was free. And I have not been the same woman since that night. I had finally found the HOPE that I had spent years, without success,  searching for, in self-help books, self-empowerment techniques, religion shopping, yoga/meditation, desperately searching for that something/someone who could help me find healing. I found it alright! In the loving arms of Jesus…who is the ONLY one who can bring true healing.

As it would happen, from that night on, I would find myself on a journey to completeness that I could have never even imagined in a million years! Though my healing was instant that night, it would only be the beginning a very LONG, and often painful, journey of God showing me that there were still A LOT of things in me that the He needed to ‘reign in’ and change in order to make me of any use for Him! And I have learned thus far, that this process will take the rest of my life, until I go home to be with Him.
For the many months after my experience in the convent, a ‘series of unfortunate events,’ would follow. Which would eventually lead me to being a single mom of three girls and enrolled in a Christian Seminary to become a Youth Pastor. It seemed that God had finally gotten a hold of my life and said, “Now I want you to be here.” I was so thankful for the gift of forgiveness and the overflowing love and joy that I had in my heart, that I decided I would follow Him anywhere. I vowed to spend the rest of my life helping hurting kids to believe in themselves and believe that there really is a God who loves and cares for them. Why? Because I was a hurting kid until I was 33 years old.

When I moved to Caronport, Saskatchewan, as busy as I was, taking my Masters Degree and being a single mom of 3, I couldn’t quite get the MEDIC bug out of me…kind of an adrenaline junky! So I volunteered on the local Fire Department as they needed medics desperately! One weekend I was doing standby first aid services for a local Gospel Jamboree at Sandy Creek. I was quite content in my life, in fact happier than I had ever been since childhood, and I was not in the least interested in getting involved with another man EVER again. However, God had a little surprise for me that weekend. There was this one band…the Rawling Brothers. Bruce, the younger brother, touched something inside of me when he sang. It was like he was singing right to Jesus himself and was unaware that anyone else was even around him. It was beautiful. And I was intrigued, though we didn’t speak a word all weekend, until he said “goodbye” as he headed towards his bus at the close of the weekend. And life went on.

About 5 months later, the Rawling Brothers happened to be playing a ‘gig’ close to Caronport. So I took my two youngest girls to the concert. Once again, I had such a sense that Jesus was just right there in the room when he would sing. It was amazing. While everyone was enjoying coffee and dessert after the show, I wondered if we would get a chance to introduce ourselves, though I was not sure if he would even remember who I was. As I was talking to a friend, I accidentally backed into someone who was in line for coffee. I turned to apologize and he said, “Hi, my name is Bruce. I remember you from Sandy Creek. You were the first aid lady.” I smiled and introduced myself, and we talked briefly. He was such a genuine person, and I wondered what his story was.

When I was leaving that evening, I didn’t want to make a scene so I slipped quietly out the door with my two little girls and as I was leaving, I was thanking God for this night and the blessing that it was. All of a sudden from around the corner of the building, he came. My heart stopped, which was to me, a sure sign that I had to be careful. For some reason, everything in my life always has to be ‘big’! There is no doing small for me. My achievements are ‘big’. My experiences are ‘big’. My love is ‘big’. My anger is ‘big’. My faith is ‘big’! And…I ‘fall big’! So when my heart stopped when Bruce came around the corner, I had to check myself. I thought possibly he was walking up the sidewalk to come up the front door. So I kept walking along and said a friendly ‘Hi’ as he approached. He said ‘Hi’ and stopped when he met me. He handed me an empty package of guitar strings and said, “Here is my email address if you ever get the chance to email me.” Stunned as I was, I replied with the most controlled “Um, yes, that would be very nice, thank you,” that I could muster, even though my emotions were wanting to scream like a young teenager!

Bruce’s story:
Within the next few days we started emailing each other. I didn’t waste any time asking him what his story was. I was curious to know, how a man of such seeming integrity and genuineness could be alone, without a family. All sorts of scenarios had gone through my mind. The one that I had settled myself on was that ‘perhaps he had been widowed?’ As we started conversing by email, his story became clear. And it became clear that we had more in common than we probably had ever imagined. He too, had three little girls, and he was in the very painful process of walking with them through separation and the brokenness of his family. His hurts were very deep and he was very lonely but being the man of integrity that he was, he was still hoping for any spark of reconciliation if it were at all possible. We talked at length about this over the next few days, and we both decided at that point that if there was a way for him to reconcile his marriage, he should do that. We decided at that point, to say goodbye because we didn’t want anything to interfere with the possibility of his reconciliation, and even a friendship for us would not be appropriate. I actually thought I would never hear from him again. But I was happy with the decision that we made together. And I was thankful for the experience of hearing him sing to Jesus.

About 6 months later, I got a random email from Bruce. It was a general email that went out to every one of his contacts. It said something like this: ‘Just wanted to let all of you know that this is my new address, phone number, and email address for those of you who need to get a hold of me.’ That is all that it said. I wondered if that meant that he had got his answer and that it didn’t go the way he wanted. I prayed about it for days to ask God if I could answer his email. God’s answer was ‘yes.’ So I emailed a response. Bruce had gotten his answer, though it was not the one he had hoped for. His wounds were deep, and he was forced to let go of any hope of reconciliation.

We began a friendship, which developed into a deepening of our faith together…and the rest is history!

Bruce and I first met at Sandy Creek Gospel Jamboree in July 2006. In August 2008 we were married in a private ceremony at Sandy Creek with all six of our girls in our wedding party!

Since that day, our life has been one ‘big’ faith journey with God at the helm!

Our story:
Once we were married we moved to Taber, Alberta. God had been speaking to me for a long time about Taber and we felt His overwhelming leading and confirmation to make it our home.

When Bruce and I got married, we decided the best thing that we could do for our faith, for our marriage, and our family, was to spend the first two hours of each day in devotions with God. So without compromise, we would get our kids on the school bus in the morning, and then spend the next two hours having coffee together with Oswald Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham, and God.

During our 5 years in Taber, Bruce had built up a teaching business where he has over 50 music students each week. He is an incredible teacher and has the patience of a caterpillar waiting to leave the cocoon! I started out as a Youth Pastor and then pioneered a new ‘AREA’ for Young Life of Canada. I was successfully fulfilling the position of Area Director and our 5 year vision was to have Young Life areas start up right across Southern Alberta, so that was the goal I was reaching for.

Bruce and I were both very successful in our jobs, and really beginning to build up a security net around our family. Then slowly, little by little, God started tearing down the plans that we were making.
“Man makes his plans but God directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

To begin with, it was just little defeats that we persevered through and kept fighting. We started experiencing struggles with Young Life. Things that didn’t even really make sense why they were happening. It was like Satan was trying to get his grubby hands on the good things that we were accomplishing in Taber through Young Life. And one could easily blame the enemy for the crumbling of it, if weren’t for the fact that we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was allowing it. One thing I have learned over the years is that the enemy will come in to try and wreak havoc, but nothing happens without Gods consent!! He is still sovereign…even over the schemes of the enemy! So…what up God?

Through all this, and over the next number of months, God would lead us down a path that we never, in a million years expected to be on!!

God began to speak to my heart and challenge Bruce and I to begin to let go of things that we once placed value in. He asked us to trust Him with things, with everything. The work of the Holy Spirit in a persons life, it is really beautiful thing… such a transformational process, if you are willing to be led, molded, and shaped by Him. There is a gentle nudging, a gentle conviction, a gentle whisper. He never demands…it is always loving and gentle. Then the transformation of character, of the mind, of a persons’ desires, the complete transformation from being self-sufficient to God-sufficient slowly takes over. It takes willingness and discipline to hear, to trust, and to follow. This is what happened for us. This is our journey.

At first, God started laying on my heart to take a salary cut from Young Life, and to trust Him to provide. We prayed for many months as to what percentage of a cut that should be. After many months He made it very clear that I was to take a 100% pay cut. And even though it didn’t make any sense to us, we were obedient, trusting Him to provide for our family. So I continued to do Young Life in Taber fulltime, as a volunteer; and God did as He promised by providing for us in AMAZING ways! In the past year and half, He has never forgotten ONE of our needs! Oh sure there were times when we were very panicked because there was NO money and seemingly NO way to get through…and then all of a sudden there was a little money here, or a miracle there! Occasionally we would be given an envelope by someone who said, God has asked me to give this to you. Or when we would need groceries, we would find an anonymous envelope with a gift in our mailbox at church. It was always just enough! Isn’t that just like God!

Over the course of the next year and a half, occasionally during our morning devotion time with God, He would ask us to make lists of our immediate needs and pray over those lists. I look back in my journals now, and there is a check mark beside EVERY NEED THAT WE LIFTED TO HIM!!
“This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that He as promised.” Isaiah 38:7

In all this, God has been teaching us and training us for a number of things. Firstly, He has been training our ears to hear Him. He has been teaching us to follow His direction, seek confirmations from His word, and to be confident in His guiding hand. He has also been teaching us to increase our faith; to have abandoned faith, and to let Him lead the direction and desires for our lives. He has taught us that our abandonment is the only way that we can truly fulfill the purpose that He has for our lives. It has to be His will, His purpose, His direction, His timing. He has also been teaching us obedience. Not only to actually truly know what He wants from us…BUT to have the courage to follow through and do it. It has been hard training ground. But we are so thankful for it.

As we journeyed, God made it apparent that He still had more in mind! After God showed us that He wanted us to let go of our very successful 2 income lifestyle, He had this in mind for us: April 12, 2012, I went for a walk near our acreage and He said this to me: “I am going to ask you to let go of this house.” Remember the ‘big’ anger that I talked about? Over the next few days, God got a good taste of my ‘big’ anger. I yelled at Him, vowed that I would NEVER let go of this house that we had FINALLY settled our family into! I was so angry! “I will fight to stay in this house! I will not let go of this house even if I have to get another job! I will fight this!” were my very words…yes…I am ashamed to say, they were my very words to God himself!

Within a couple of days, it was with a humbled heart that I knelt before Him, no longer angry but asking forgiveness and now pleading with Him to let us stay in this house. Pleading for His mercy. And just as many times before, His gentle Holy Spirit once again transformed my heart, and the very next day, I was bridled in, and He had gotten me to a place where I was ready to let it go and blindly trust wherever He was leading us.

When I had been on my walk, a few days earlier, not only had He said that He was going to ask us to let go of our home, He also said “But you are not to worry about a thing. I will bring a buyer.” So once, both Bruce and I had our hearts ready to let our house go, we knew that we were to just wait on His timing. We were not go ahead of Him, but be listening very carefully. God had given both Bruce and I, separately, a figure for the price that we were to sell the house at. And when we discussed it, we realized it was the same figure. So we knew that that was the figure we were to ask. We spoke to only a select few people regarding all of this, and we made no arrangements to sell, we simply waited. On May 17, we got a phone call from a man in British Columbia. He said, “I heard that you may be selling your house and my wife and I are interested in buying it.” We didn’t have ask how they knew, we already knew the answer.

We agreed to meet with the couple, but it soon became apparent that things were not going to work. So we let things go, and continued to trust the Lord for His will and His timing. In late August, the same couple approached us again and said that God was still asking them to purchase our home, and they would agree to our terms. Sept. 15, 2012, became the official sale date of our home! They only had one term that they hoped we would agree to. They needed a year to close out their business in BC and they hoped that we would agree to having the closing date/date of possession for Sept. 15, 2013!! Which meant for us that we would be able to enjoy our dream home for one more year. And it would allow our 17 year old daughter to graduate High School with her friends before we moved, to wherever God was leading us! God is so cool!!!!

Though we didn’t have a complete picture of where God was leading us, we had come home from Young Life camp that summer with high expectations to continue Young Life fulltime, even if it meant I continued as a fulltime volunteer. But yet again, God would re-direct our plans. As I started to make connections with our committee, and team of leaders, it became apparent that due to changes in each of their lives, or inability to commit the time it required, NOT ONE of our committee or leaders would be able to continue with Young Life this year. You have to understand that it takes years to build up these resources for a Young Life area. And in a matter of two weeks everything that we had worked so hard to pioneer and build in the past 3 years was gone. As difficult as it was for all of us involved, on Sept. 15, 2012, Young Life National made the obvious decision and officially closed the doors on Young Life in Taber. This left us with more questions for God. Where are you leading God? Are you not wanting us to even stay in Taber?

When I prayed for direction as to employment for myself, God kept saying “I just want you to pray and listen to me. I will direct you when the time is right.” (Easy for you to say!) So I spent from Sept. to December praying through the day, seeking direction in His Word, and training my ear to listen to His leading. Those were difficult months. Our need was great and our income little. People close to us couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t go and get a job if we were struggling so much. How do you explain the process that God was taking us through? We endured the criticism and God provided the ‘manna’ that we needed. His blessings came from all around. One day, out of the blue, a friend of ours phoned and asked if our vehicle was in good shape. It needed some work but it certainly wasn’t anything we could afford right now. He told us to take it in to the shop, get whatever needed to be done and he would come in and pay the bill!! At Christmas, we received enough money in our mailbox at church to buy a Christmas dress for each of our girls and a few gifts for under the tree; a close friend of ours bought us a Christmas tree; and even though we had spoken to no one outside of our family, about our financial weight, the teachers at the school where we had done Young Life, gathered money together to give to us for a Christmas gift! Humbling…yes but it was exactly what we needed for groceries through Christmas and gas money to go see our family! It was always just enough! Like the manna that God fed to the Israelites in the desert, He was providing our manna!! And learning from our ancestor’s mistakes, we dared NOT complain about the ‘manna’! God was teaching us to be content with the ‘manna’. People that gave to us probably had no idea the impact and the blessing that their gifts were to us. God was using them to give us the ‘manna’ that we needed to get through this time.

In mid December 2012, all the waiting finally began to make sense!! In the weeks previous to this, in my prayer time, God had been speaking to me that He was sending us out. I was to speak and Bruce was to sing. Though we still didn’t really know what that was to look like, the confirmations that he was giving us in His Word, and in our circumstances and experiences, confirmed more and more clearly that this is what He was calling us to. On Dec. 18, 2012, four days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting, God woke me up early in the morning and laid these things on my heart: We were to go out and share my story combined with Bruce’s songs, and we were to share it with youth and adults across North America! We were to give a message of HOPE and share how I had found the healing HOPE in Jesus after so many years of being a ‘hurting kid’! We were being ‘sent out’ to share His message in His schools, His communities, in His Canada, in His America, and with His children.

Over the next number of weeks and months, God would, in His time, unfold exactly what this was to look like. He would show me how I was to tell my story in a way that helped me best to relate to people rather than ‘be the hero’ of my own story. I was to tell my story from the perspective of the ‘Woman at the Well’ (John 4)…in complete humility, that is. In this time, God would also inspire Bruce with songs that perfectly complimented my story. Our message was to be about having an honest conversation with our audience, and it was carefully intermingled with songs of HOPE. God also inspired us to create mini-workshops that deal with relevant youth issues that we could present in schools or in classrooms. Issues such as bullying, teen emotions, self-esteem issues, teen suicide, just to name a few. As we moved forward figuring out the details, God directed us to meet with certain people whom we respected and who would give us sound and valuable advice. He has guided our steps and unfolded the details of what our mission is to look like.

God has also given us a vision for fostering unity in the communities in which He would send us to. We believe that creating a sense of unity and ‘networking’ for schools, businesses, resources, organizations and churches that are already in place in a particular community will help foster healing and HOPE for all people.

In this time, God also gave us the name for our new mission. TREE OF LIFE-HOPE FOUNDATION; based on the Scripture in Revelations 22:2 where it talks about the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the Nations. And as always, God continually sent people along the way to encourage us, bless us, and spur us on. Our Pastor continually encouraging us to keep our ship “steady as she goes.” A publishing company from Calgary, HEN Publishing learning of our faith journey, offered to provide us with our logo and corporate identity package AND offered to create our website as their gift to us. Our logo design is very intentional and we are so impressed with the results! The leaves of the tree are for the ‘healing of the nations,’ as quoted in Revelations 22:2. There are 12 fruit in the tree, and it is rooted with three strong roots representing the trinity. The word HOPE is found nestled in the healing leaves, and the word LIFE is in red to symbolize the blood of Jesus. Then, in January, 2013, a friend of ours who also heard of our new calling, out of the blue, wrote us a sizeable cheque and encouraged us with these words, “Now you can get to work.” This money literally sustained us through the winter and spring months, allowed us to purchase some of the necessary gear for our mission and has allowed us to go forth in what God has called us to do.

We are in the process of creating our own non-profit organization. In God’s time, plans are in place for us to partner with another non-profit organization in order that we can eventually issue tax receipts for donations. Until that time, we continue to go boldly as He leads. In May, 2013, we did our first presentation in our own town of Taber, AB. with incredible support and encouragement for where God is taking us! And we are in the process of confirming bookings in other communities across Canada and the US. We are thankful for the gift of the time that God allowed us to be in this beautiful home, and in this community, but we have realized that all that we have is rightfully His anyways, none of it is ours, and ultimately it is not our decision what happens to any of it. So along with our home, we have either sold or given away many of our possessions in order that we can be free to go out for His purposes.

“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go sell everything that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

In faith, we are waiting for God to provide a bus for us to have as a home and a means of touring, and we are waiting for His provision for the needs of our stage gear, and travelling needs. We are to go out! And we are ready!! God is teaching us to let go of worldly desires and worldly troubles for our lives, to be simply focused on Him, trusting Him for everything, not to stray to the left or the right, and to keep our sandals firmly in line with His steps.

While we wait for His perfect time to go, I am diligently working on finishing my book and Bruce is diligently working on finishing his CD.

Living out our faith this way has been a whole new schooling in itself! Even with all the blessings, there has been times when it has felt more like boot camp! Many people around us have criticized us because of course, it’s NOT COMMON SENSE to live this way. We have been called foolish, crazy, and irresponsible, we have even lost friends because they don’t ‘agree’ with the way we live our faith. Some of those have been hurts along the way, others, we realize its more about their own issues than ours. Nevertheless, it comes down to this for us, if we can’t trust God, who loves us and created us…to also care for, and provide for us, when we are living in HIS will…then who really can we trust!? HE IS A BIG GOD! AND HE WILL DO IT!

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Matt 7: 9-11

God has called us to live out our faith in this way.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

So we go boldly. We go in His confidence, in His direction, in His timing, and in ‘BIG’ faith.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid, nor be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9