They call her Mabel. This is the name the Zeyl family has given to the 30-foot motorhome that is their home while travelling across Canada. The RV is a gift from a local supporter. Because while Jeremy Benjamin puts his singing and song-writing gifts to good use, his family is along for the ride – his wife Lara and their two children, Isaiah (9) and Kiara (5). Their trip is exciting, even awe-inspiring. But the experience is a story of contrasts.
Yes, they get to travel across Canada in a Winnebago. But that means four people in one RV for five months. It’s an incredible opportunity for the children. Lara, a trained educator, is homeschooling them as they travel. The family gets to lead worship in a variety of church communities across the country, which means weekly negotiations and planning details.
As Lara’s brother, I have an insider’s view to this project. I have so much appreciation for the work that Jer is doing and the ministry call that the whole family has heard and responded to.
At every stop along the way so far, they’ve met new people who have embraced and welcomed them, demonstrating authentic hospitality and community. When I asked Kiara for some highlights, she said “I love going to all kinds of new places.” Lara added, “One of the things that have impacted me the most is the incredible generosity of spirit of people we meet at every stop on this tour. It is simultaneously humbling and uplifting to be at the receiving end of such support and thoughtfulness and care.”
Both Jeremy and Lara also value prayer and prayer support. Before the tour plans were even formalized, one of their close friends initiated a prayer ministry, surrounding the entire process in prayer. She also prayed that people of prayer would be located in each province along the way. Lara told me that “in two provinces we had specific people come forward to say that God had placed on their heart to pray for us.” CC readers with a heart for prayer are encouraged to pray for continued travelling mercies for Jeremy, Lara, Isaiah and Kiara and for their ministry (see iamnotmyown.org for updates).
The Nitty gritty
The family timed their tour stops to include a week spent camping with Lara’s extended family in early July. We sat on lawn chairs under Mabel’s awning, watching a World Cup playoff game on one of Mabel’s TV sets.
“This [trip] is really weird,” Isaiah said. “Living in this small, cramped-up place with no basement. But we are actually allowed to sit on a couch when we drive and I get my own bed.” Lara added that “his own bed is actually our ‘kitchen’ table and benches that get converted into a bed every night.”
“I have to dry dishes and do a lot of work,” Kiera said. Isaiah serves as Jer’s roadie and Director of Merchandise, and is busy at each show selling merchandise. Trip highlights for the kids include flying in a float plane, riding a horse for the first time, fishing in a motorized canoe, living on a farm for a week and visiting an amethyst mine. Jeremy and Lara have appreciated opportunities to interact with leaders at places like the Montreal Seafarer’s Centre, Winnipeg’s Indigenous Family Centre, the Canadian Foodgrains head office, Fredericton’s Community Kitchen and Brinston’s House of Lazarus, just outside Ottawa. The important Kingdom work quietly being done in these places and others like them is a testimony to God’s call and the response of his faithful and obedient children.
There have also been harrowing experiences. Not every twist and turn of the roads across the country was designed for a 30-foot vehicle. Once Jer had to override the RV’s brake system in order to back up the tow dolly carrying their car after it jackknifed on a hair-pin turn. When we camped together, Mabel’s minor plumbing issue resulted in both rapid motion and a two-day decline in air quality. Most frighteningly, in late July a poorly-trained fuel attendant overfilled Mabel’s propane tank. As the gas heated and expanded, it began to leak inside the motorhome, where it set off the carbon dioxide detector. The subsequent 911 call resulted in the arrival of four fire trucks and 10 fire fighters.
“I am ever so grateful that we live in an age where experts have figured out how to add a distinct sewage-and-rotten-eggs-smell to propane gas,” Lara said, “in order to alert those who are in the vicinity of said propane gas to its presence. You know, in order to vacate the premises and safeguard their lives. . . . . There is also a really important reason for the little knobby thingy on the propane gas fill gauge.” Fortunately, no one was harmed.
Despite the busyness and the challenges, it is clear that the Zeyls are embracing and enjoying the experience. As Lara says, “It really is a privilege to get to do this. To see this vision grow and become a reality. To get to see so much of God’s gorgeous creation! To get to travel and experience all of this together as a family. It is not always easy. It is not always pretty. But it is a gift and we are so very grateful.”
“It is amazing to see the impact that the Heidelberg Catechism has had on so many people’s walks of faith,” Jer adds. “Wherever I go I hear a story about how the Catechism has strengthened and comforted people, particularly through times of difficulty. Secondly, I’m encouraged to see that Jesus is building his church through the Christian Reformed denomination in a meaningful way at a local level. I have an image of every stop that we make on the map, like a stone dropping into a lake, and the ripples flow out and run into each other. Christ is working in an amazing inter-connected way across the country.”
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