In a couple of hours I will be packing my bags to play in a hockey tournament in Waterloo, Ontario. My friends are well aware of my passion for hockey. And yet, for me, as I head out to play in this tournament, hockey will be secondary. Our team has been entered in the ‘recreational’ division, which is code for ‘we’re not all that great, so nobody get too serious.’ The team I’m playing for is the Muskoka Woods Alumni. For me, this tourney is more about my reconnection with Muskoka Woods than it is about my playing hockey. You see, in 1985, a snotty, know-it-all, 12 year-old (me!) surrendered his life to Jesus Christ……at Muskoka Woods. For the next few years I struggled to appropriately live out this new found faith. Nonetheless, by God’s merciful providence, I was hired by Chris Little to work in the kitchen at Muskoka Woods in 1989. At this point, I was by no means a mature Christian, but I was feeling positively challenged and stretched in my faith. This continued in the summer of 1990, when one of my roommates was Brian K. Smith. If you know anything about ‘B.K.’ you know he relishes challenging himself and those around him. I needed that. I responded well to that.
In 1991, I was off to the University of Western Ontario, where I lived in the residence next to that same Brian K. Smith. In 1992, I rented a house in London with two other Muskoka Woods alumni, David Terry and Derek Herbert. That was a great year for me. By 1993, we were hosting a home group Bible study which attracted another Muskoka Woods alumnus, Bernie Skelding.
I give this background because today I’ll be reunited on the ice with David Terry, Derek Herbert, Bernie Skelding, and another good friend from Muskoka Woods, Iain Lovatt. You might say this will be a ‘blast from the past’, and I would say ‘Yes’ in the best sense of the phrase. These gentlemen remind me of my spiritual beginnings. These men knew the Bryn MacPhail who struggled in so many ways as an immature Christian. These men also had a hand in influencing who I am today. Muskoka Woods had a hand in influencing who I am today.
I’m not alone in this. Chris Little, who hired me to work at MW in 1989, is a highly regarded Presbyterian minister in Innerkip, Ontario. Brian K. Smith is a recent graduate of Masters Seminary in California and has been called to minister with Harvest Bible Fellowship. Bernie Skelding is a Presbyterian minister in Wingham, Ontario. David Terry is an elder where I minister (St. Giles Kingsway P.C.). Iain Lovatt works full-time for Muskoka Woods.
I’m so grateful for my spiritual roots. I’m so grateful for the friends who have shared the journey with me and who positively impacted my walk with Christ.
I love hockey. But today is not about hockey. Today is about celebrating what God has done in each of us through a place called Muskoka Woods.