His Grace, the Right Reverend Irénée, Bishop of Ottawa and Canada Visits

We were honored to welcome His Grace, the Right Reverend Irénée, Bishop of Ottawa and Canada to St John in the Wilderness this December. His Grace stayed overnight with Jeremy and Sheree in Kaslo and came to Birchdale during the day. Vladyka saw what we are trying to accomplish here and encouraged us and the young people who have joined us to move forward with our vision.

This altar was temporarily set up at our icon corner.

This altar was temporarily set up at our icon corner.

On Tuesday, Vladyka served Divine Liturgy at St. John in the Wilderness, which was followed by a simple Lenten meal.

On Wednesday, he, Nil, and Tim took a ride up the lake and visited some old growth trees, a waterfall, and some other local landmarks.

Group photo minus Stephen Innocent, who clicked the shutter.

Group photo minus Stephen Innocent, who clicked the shutter.

Vladyka has suggested that on the first day of each month we should bless one of the water sources that flows into the lake so that eventually all the water coming into the lake will be blessed. We are delighted with this idea!

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New Life for Our Community

Fr. Gregory Horton from Holy Myrrh Bearer’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, came up to Kaslo to perform a naming ceremony for Baby Anna in November.


Fr. Gregory at the naming service for Anna.

The next week we all went down to Idaho where Anna was Baptized and Chrismated. Holy Myrrh Bearer’s Antiochian Orthodox Church is currently the closest Orthodox church to where we live. Stephen Innocent and I were the godparents for this sweet little one.

I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Around the Font

Around the Font

Anna's Family

Anna’s Family

Godparents Stephen Innocent and Sheila Marie with Anna

Godparents Stephen Innocent and Sheila Marie with Anna

A week later, on November 22, 2014, we had our first liturgy in Kaslo when Fr. Gregory came for a visit and celebrated Divine Liturgy with us. We have also started serving a Reader’s Vespers on Saturday evenings at St. Mark’s, the little Anglican Church in town.  So far, it has been only ourselves who have attended, but several people in town have expressed interest in coming to see what we are doing. We shall see what happens.

Next post: We had the great blessing of a visit from Bishop Irenee this December!

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We Are Growing!

This morning I watched the pink clouds drifting above the glowing snow on the mountain peaks. So much can be shifted by a simple change of perspective, a little twist that can make sense of what seemed nothing but a struggle. We labour in darkness, then in an instant, a glow breaches the horizon and stark rock softens into a rosy beauty.

In the seven years since we have lived at St. John in the Wilderness, we have received many visitors, but most of the time we have laboured alone. Two years ago when we were at our darkest point, I felt the arms of Christ surround me with the reassurance that all would be well, that His will was unfolding. I needed to be positive and to keep following Him, and everything would be as it should.

Now, two years later, I look back and see how much has happened and continues to unfold. Yes, we have sometimes been consumed with our own personal struggles, but that is not the full story.

We are no longer alone in this wilderness project. One son has moved nearby to practice his acupuncture and has both healed and been a comfort to many, many people.

We have poured the foundation for the chapel, and we continue to have numerous visitors, especially during the summer.

New Baptisms

In April, I had the joy of becoming a godmother to Timothy, a man who had visited us here shortly before his Baptism and Chrismation. Another one of our visitors decided to move here with his family. So now Jeremy, Sheree, and their three children have become like members of our own family. We shared the last few months with Doris, Sheree’s mother, and experienced the sorrow of her passing. Two weeks later, we welcomed the birth of Anna Rose Doris, Jeremy and Sheree’s third child.

Newborn Anna Rose Doris' Foot.

Newborn Anna Rose Doris’ Foot.

I was given the honour of being godmother to little Anna (photos to come), who along with siblings Henry and Lucia, now has a special place in my heart.

Praying on the Mountain Top

This autumn we were blessed with the presence of Stephen Innocent and Robyn, both of whom are studying in Nelson at the School of the Arts. They have spent almost every weekend with us since September. We had some beautiful moments together, camping in the high country, where we chanted the akathist “Glory to God for All Things” and cooked our meals over an open fire.

Robyn, Nil, and Stephen on the Schroeder Creek Logging Road.

Robyn, Nil, and Stephen on the Schroeder Creek Logging Road.

Stephen and Robyn with Nil

View with the mountainous backdrop.

Stephen on Schroeder

Stephen Innocent preparing supper.











We went to a different place each weekend until the snow blanketed the high peaks, making our passage up the mountain impossible until next summer.

After setting up our icon and candles, we were ready to chant the akathist.

Schroeder Creek: After setting up our icon and candles, we were ready to chant the akathist.

The first place we took them is the logging road up Schroeder Creek. From this perspective you can see Birchdale and the mountains behind it.

Our second trek was to Meadow Mountain. It was a bit further up the lake, but we were able to set up tents and to spend the night.

Nil hiking on Meadow Mountain

Nil hiking on Meadow Mountain

Icon on Tree - Meadow Mountain

Icon on the tree on Meadow Mountain.

Meadow Mountain with tents

Our campsite (look closely).

Nil on the Mountain

Nil looking over the landscape.

Stephen Innocent On the Mountain

Stephen Innocent On the Mountain.

Robyn and Nil on Mt

Robyn and Nil on Meadow Mountain

These are some of the highlights since my last posting until the snow came to the mountain peaks in early October.  But so much has happened since then as well!

Tomorrow’s post will include those happenings. God’s love continues to be poured out on us despite our fumbling.

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Last Autumn’s Accomplishments

Here comes the cement for the foundation crossing the lake!

These photos show last autumn’s process of bringing the cement bags across the lake on a neighbour’s barge, pouring the cement into the prepared forms, and the finished foundation for the chapel.

As we look back on the work of this past autumn, we feel inspired to plan our next steps on building this chapel. We’ve been able to finish the foundations for the columns and the walls. Next we will lay pipes for the radiant floor heating and then pour a thin layer for the floor.

We had a crew of five mixing cement and pouring it into the foundation forms that were earlier prepared and ready to go.

Meanwhile we are planning where we will get the stone for the walls. When we purchased this space, we were gifted not only with the location for the chapel but with most of the building materials as well. The sand and gravel for the footings and foundation were here, and the stone will be dug from the surface of the back slope — scree that has tumbled down from the mountain.

Here is the finished foundation with Robert (Nil) admiring his work.



We need to make a small road to bring down the stone. After gathering next year’s firewood in the early spring, we will work on bringing down the stone. Our yard will begin to look like a quarry. I wonder what the animals will think.

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Animal Visitors in the Snow

Snow is heavy on the tree branches that bow in the silence.

In the still of winter, with a dusting of fresh snow that brings a sense of peace to the countryside, we go out walking along the paths through the woods and discover which animal neighbours have been visiting.

This winter we have seen the tracks of wolves and of bobcats and of elk. We have the daily passing of deer and tiny trails of mice and squirrels.

Fewer small mammals have been around than usual because of the resident bobcat who has become a regular part of the neighbourhood. Although he is a gorgeous animal, he has made a meal of our pet cats, so seeing him gives us mixed feelings. We are having a hiatus of welcoming new pets into our household for obvious reasons.

Still we marveled at the way the bobcat came straight up to our house on Christmas morning, stopping to let us look at his speckled coat. After visiting with neighbours for Christmas dinner, we came home to see him curled up by the toolshed. We caught the shine of his eyes in our flashlight. Since then we have only seen his tracks here and there when we are out walking.

I live here, too!

We are surrounded by God’s creatures with whom we share this sanctuary. On a warm day last week, two bald eagles, fighting over a fish, dropped it on the dock.

Here is a photo I took of the bobcat when he passed through our yard last fall.

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We’ve Poured Our Cement Footings for the Chapel!

We are pleased to report that the footings for the chapel have been poured before the cold weather set in. We hired three local young men and had a marathon few days mixing and pouring cement after first spending a few weeks between hospital shifts preparing the ground and tying rebar.

All now is finished, at least for this first pour. The next two pours will go much more quickly now that the base has been set and now that we know what our equipment can do. We will complete the cement base for the columns and the floor as early next spring as we can. Then the walls can begin to rise and we will see the progress before us.

Here are some photos of the footings in the ground. We were pleased at the smoothness and quality of the finished cement.

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Form Building Photos

Gravel Screener Borrowed from a Neighbour

Getting all the equipment ready in order to build the chapel was a chore in itself. This is the gravel screener a neighbour down the lake lent us for preparing the gravel for laying cement for the foundation.

Mini Excavator

This mini-excavator will come in handy for preparing the site and for lifting stone.

Nil on Tractor Digging Out the Chapel Site

You’ve got to admit — he sure looks as if he’s having fun!

Mark and Andy Making Forms

Mark and Andy worked hard constructing forms for the foundation.

Hammering Away: Andy and Mark Making Forms

We’re grateful for the help of Andy and Mark who put in a good work day nailing together the forms that will contain the cement we pour for the chapel’s foundation.

The day after the sweat, we all hiked up to Monica Meadows to enjoy the high country. Amazing beauty!

Hiking in Monica Meadows

What a beautiful day hiking in the mountains with our friends! The sparkling quality of the sunlight in the clear mountain air refreshed us.

This is the same hike we had taken a few weeks before with Ron Dart.

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Wonderful Visits from Friends to St. John in the Wilderness, Summer 2011

We have been blessed with the visits of some wonderful friends here at St. John in the Wilderness. In June, Fr Richard and Presbytera Jamie Rene and their family arrived for an overnight visit. We were happy to have our house and cabins blessed, especially at the beginning of the summer season when we welcome visitors.

Next our dear friends Marla Riehl and Sam, along with Marla’s father, brother, and sister-in-law came for a couple of days. We enjoyed a walk with them to our water source at Small Fry Creek where the huge cedar trees give us the feeling we are entering another world.

Later in July, friends from the lower mainland — Ron Dart, Wayne Northey, Brad Jersack, and Dennis  came for a weekend. Besides their wonderful conversations, there was a hike up Jumbo Pass that was short-circuited because of snow. Ron came back on his own a few weeks later and the three of us hiked up Monica Meadows — an amazing alpine meadow.

Then to our surprise, we received a phone call from Fr. Cyprian Hutchinson, our dear friend from our Montreal days. He was visiting his two sisters and was en route halfway between their Kelowna and Calgary homes. Lucky for us, he had time to visit us overnight. We had a wonderful visit with him and his dog.

While Fr. Cyprian was still here, our friends Mark Northey and Andy arrived. Mark has spent months with us in the past and graces us with his visits as he is able, for which we are grateful. Andy has been here once before when we were building our garden fence not long after we had moved here. The four of us were able to make it up to Monica Meadows once again.

Within the next few days, I will be posting photos from a few of these visits. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of them all, but I do have some work photos from when Mark and Andy were here, and I have some great Monica Meadows photos, too.

Check back!

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More Photos







A Glacial Creek Tumbling Down the Mount

Road in late spring.

A visitor came by canoe.

Our dock: no boats moored when this photo was taken.

Two posts in the same day after a few months of silence!

I wanted to show some photos that didn’t have snow, but that turned out to be a challenge.

I’m including some photos taken on our hike up to Monica Meadows last week. Even though it is now July, the heavy snow is still melting from the peaks. Some places have glaciers which stay all year round. People tell us that in early August the wildflowers on Monica Meadows are exquisite. We hope to make it up there again to see them.

Glacier near Monica Meadows

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Summer 2011: We’ve Finally Begun!

Standing by the Excavator

Official Groundbreaking: Nil and Sheila with Icons of Christ and St John the Baptist.

Breaking Ground Summer 2010

Nil and Stephen pose with the first shovelful of soil from the chapel site.

At the end of last summer, with the assistance of our visiting friend Stephen Ulstrom, we celebrated a groundbreaking prayer service to start work on the chapel building site. Here are some pictures from that day.

We were able to do all the measuring before the winter set in, but needed to break because of cold weather.

This June we began in earnest, between Nil’s full time job and family commitments, to excavate the building site. We still need to screen the gravel to make concrete, and then the building of forms can begin. Everything takes time because our main builder remains busy with his twelve hour hospital shifts. I hope to be more helpful as the jobs become more manageable.

As far as building goes, I am the “point me to it and give me all the baby steps” kind of helper. I’m guessing I’ll be pretty good at sorting through stones and maybe at placing one on top of another. I stink at driving large machinery, but maybe before the end of this project, I will have learned a thing or two.

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