Jeremy (Benjamin) Zeyl is crossing Canada with his family, raising money for World Renew’s work in Nigeria, local ministries chosen by the churches at each stop, and his I Am Not My Own Worship Ministries. He has played concerts in cities and towns from Charlottetown, P.E.I., to Smithers, B.C., and from Emo, Ont., to Edmonton, Alta., helping to raise more than $100,000 for ministry, a good start on the way toward a goal of $500,000.
VIDEO TOP: To add another voice to Jeremy’s tour of congregations, World Renew commissioned a cover of the song in Nigeria. It is performed by Nigerian Terver Marc Akindigh. Filmed and edited by Charles Ude.
The Benjamin family has had some adventures — and misadventures — along the way, including cracked bike frames, broken glass, and the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. They’ve also praised God with seafarers in Montreal, participated in a drumming circle in Edmonton, and worshiped with more than 5,000 people.
Jeremy’s wife, Lara, is keeping a blog, sharing the journey with supporters and loved ones as the family tours Canada in a donated motorhome they’ve named “Mabel.”
In addition to raising funds, a goal of the tour is to help build community and connection among Christian Reformed congregations. Pastor Kasey Vander Veen, a specialized transitional minister serving Emo Christian Reformed Church, said, “The local community I currently serve is one of the more remote CRC communities in Ontario. . . . Jeremy’s tour provided an opportunity for this community of faith to refresh their feeling of connectedness to the CRCNA.”
In each community, the family has found hospitality, kindness, and new friends. Depending on scheduling, each stop usually includes a time of worship at a regular Sunday-morning service with a local Christian Reformed church, as well as an evening concert on the weekend.
Through these congregational connections, the Zeyl family has met brothers and sisters in Christ from coast to coast. Some have hosted the family on their farms or in their homes, providing fun experiences such as fishing, driving a ‘Gator,’ kayaking, horseback riding, a bushplane flight, and foraging for amethysts.
On the road since mid-June, they have learned a lot — about practical things like emptying the motorhome’s gray water regularly and making sure the propane tech fills the tank only to the fill line, and also about bigger life things.
Lara noted early on in the blog that they have had to learn to accept help, to be flexible when things don’t go as unexpected, and to appreciate little things like laundry facilities and dining room tables.
At Naicatchewenin First Nation near Emo, Ont., the family was able to experience a powwow. “It was pretty powerful to witness Indigenous peoples celebrating and sharing their culture with such joy and depth and richness, to hear the drums and voices raised in sound, to watch the glorious cacophony of colour and motion as dancers of all ages whirled by,” described Lara. “We ended up sitting beside an elderly man whose grandson, about the same age as my Isaiah, was one of the dancers decked out in full regalia.”
Jeremy and Lara’s son, Isaiah, has an important role as “road crew” on the tour. As the tour progresses, Jeremy has been making recordings of his song “I Am Not My Own” with worshipers at each stop, building a 10,000-voice choir for the song he plans to share at the Canadian National Gathering in May 2019. At each stop, Isaiah helps to count and record the number of participants and keep a tally of the total voice count. He also tends the ministry information and CD table.
When possible, Jeremy and his family visit local ministries supported by the tour. In Montreal, the visit included a concert for seafarers at the Ministry to Seafarers, which ended with an impromptu karaoke evening. The concert had been informal, creating space for a seafarer from China to request time on the stage, and others followed. The evening closed with an encore and an unplanned recording of “Not My Own” including seafarers’ voices.
In Edmonton, the family visited the Edmonton Native Healing Centre, where they joined a drumming circle and heard stories, songs, and reflections, learning from staff about Alberta’s Plains Cree people.
Harold Rosscher, director and chaplain of the Edmonton Native Healing Centre, noted, “We have sought to find common ground upon which to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love for us. As we have experienced again together, music has a profound storytelling quality that washes over everyone and plants seeds of hope and change.”
In Calgary, over 500 congregants from five Christian Reformed churches in the area came together for a combined worship service, raising the count for the recording as well as nearly $16,000 in funds, in just one stop.
The funds are being shared, with 45 percent going toward World Renew’s ministry in Nigeria (and further matched 3 to 1 by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank), 45 percent going toward local causes selected by host churches, and 10 percent going toward Jeremy’s worship ministry.
For the whole family, this is a trip they will never forget. For the Christian Reformed Church across Canada, and the ministries supported by it, we hope the tour is a blessing that will have a long reach and lasting impact. Find out more at iamnotmyown.org.