County Mayor John Whaley welcomed the full house to the 10th Annual County Prayer Breakfast at the Nisku Inn on Saturday September 29th. It proved to be a very popular event this year, drawing representatives from seventeen different municipalities to attend the event.
Mayor Whaley opened the breakfast by thanking everyone for getting up so early on a Saturday, and then continued with an interesting explanation of the Anglo-Saxon root of the word "harvest", which derives from the word meaning "autumn". Next there was some scripture reading, followed by Edmonton gospel trio Renewed coming forward to lead the crowd in O' Canada, as well as entertaining with several classic gospel favourites.
Then the much awaited guest speaker was introduced and a spontaneous standing ovation occurred as the former Premier of Alberta, Mr. Ed Stelmach stepped onto the podium.
Mr. Stelmach began his presentation by stating that by watching the happenings in the world today, how it further reinforces the need for prayer. He spoke of how his grandparents emigrated from the Ukraine in 1898, where they had been serfs. It was a terrible way of life over there, where your hard won possessions, including your home and lands, could be taken away from you by the authorities at any time, for almost any reason. He continued on to say that his grandparents persevered due to their tremendous faith in God, and how a common goal that all the early pioneers shared was a desire to strive towards establishing a better way of life for future generations. So with God's help they knew they could overcome all of the challenges they would face.
Just seventeen years later his grandparents had established their farm in Alberta and built a large house on the property. However, he stated, they did not turn their backs on God because they were now affluent. Mr. Stelmach said that in his observation, as people today become more affluent, they tend to forget what got them there because life is good, and they don't feel the need to say thanks.
He then spoke of how "Faith in God gives you strength; strength gives you endurance; endurance gives you stamina, which in turn gives you confidence. Confidence that can overcome, with God's help, all of the challenges that you face."
Mr. Stelmach then shared that his parents had faced a lot of challenges in their lives. They were married in 1930, in the heart of the depression, and raised five children, the youngest of which was himself. He stated that he felt very lucky to be here as his dad was 48 years old when he was born, and his mother was just a few years younger. He joked that they always used to say that it must have been a poor band that played that night as mom and dad came home early.
Aside from the normal challenges and difficulties that can face a farm family, such as early frosts and hail that destroys crops, his parents also dealt with the loss of his sister in law at a very young age, leaving behind her two children who were four years old and 18 months at the time. Then shortly after that her husband, Mr. Stelmach's brother, also died, leaving his parents, who were in their 70's, to raise another two children.
"My parents made sure that these children had a good upbringing, a good education, and turned those children into healthy, productive adults. How did they do it?" He questioned, "Again, by their very strong faith that gave them the strength."
He went on to say that he also learned from his parents that Sunday was a day of worship, and a day of rest. "So often in today's world we don't get a chance to rest." said Mr. Stelmach. "But I was raised in a community where heaven help you if the pigs broke out of their pen on Sunday morning, because then you had to use the hammer ever so lightly so the neighbours wouldn't hear you and say 'What are those Stelmachs doing working on a Sunday?"
He shared that it was all a part of life as he was growing up, and it left him with wonderful memories of his parents working together, and not being afraid to pray. Or afraid of talking about the fact that you prayed first thing in the morning, in the afternoon, or when something bad happened and you joined others in prayer.
He then commented that few people need more prayer than our elected officials in the Legislature. "For some people today having faith in a political setting may not make sense to them," said Mr. Stelmach, "but for us it did. Sometimes you have to go against great odds and this is where the endurance comes from."
As he drew his speech to a close, Mr. Stelmach said that he felt very fortunate to be there that morning sharing in a prayer breakfast, and he felt in his heart that this morning will help people, as other prayer breakfasts are held across the nation, to slow down, reflect and pray, and seek divine guidance for our elected officials. He stated, "We are so fortunate to be living in Canada. And even more fortunate to be living in this island of prosperity called Alberta. This gives us time to say thank you to God for living here. We are so Blessed."
Mr. Stelmach thanked the County for the donation to his Foundation, as well as all the sponsors that helped to put the breakfast together. Breakfast then came to a close as he returned to his seat in the midst of another standing ovation.
In lieu of payment, the County made a donation to the Ed Stelmach Community Foundation. This foundation supports charities that do not receive direct funding from the government and are focused on helping children. Information about this Foundation can be found at www.edstelmachfoundation.com