Early last August when five young men pulled their RV into Brightwood Ranch in rural Alberta, they exchanged the adventure of ziplines and horseback riding for the opportunity to help set up a campsite and assist an elderly man move house. That’s only one example of the good deeds done this summer by Jeremy Enns, Adam Epp, Jamie Grantis, Charles Neufeld and Josh Willms as they drove their 1979 GMC Vanguard across the continent.
The idea for the five-week odyssey started with plans for a fun trip to B.C., but soon developed into a mission to spread love and random acts of kindness across the country.
“A passion for travel with a greater purpose is something we share,” says 20-year-old Enns, a member of Niagara United Mennonite Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. “When we thought about how blessed we all are, we realized that we couldn’t go out and not spread the love that God has shown to each of us.”
Before embarking, the five friends organized a garage sale, which raked in $1,500 for their “blessing pot,” a fund they used solely for good deeds. Food and gas money came out of their own pockets. The five also compiled a list of services they hoped to do for others, including buying groceries for a single mother, purchasing Tim Hortons coffee for everyone in a restaurant, and helping out with construction projects.
After five weeks, the group managed to complete almost everything on the list, often with assistance from family or friends they knew in the area.
Three days from the end of their trip, the group still hadn’t managed to find a family to buy groceries for. When they pulled into Iowa, however, they asked a friend’s mom for any service ideas, “and the one thing she said, without us even asking, is that there was a mother who was coming from a tough situation who could use some help,” recounts Enns. They managed to talk their way into her empty apartment, leaving groceries, school supplies and a note explaining what they had done. They never met the woman or her children, “but that almost made it all the better,” they wrote on their blog.
Some of the other random acts of kindness included distributing snacks outside the Vancouver (B.C.) Aquarium, chopping wood for a wood-furnace-heated home, running games at a Vacation Bible School, buying movie tickets for 20 people in Winnipeg, Man., and gardening in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Of course, the young men also managed to have some fun. In their travels they had the opportunity to climb a mountain in Jasper, Alta.; take in a baseball game in Seattle, Wash.; and pose with Canada’s many roadside attractions. The highlight, however, was the “running of the bulls” in Strathmore, Alta.
“We learned upon arrival that the running with the bulls was not, in fact, limited to trained professionals, but rather open to the public,” says Grantis, 19. “We had almost no choice but to sign up.” In a moment of bravery—or foolishness—Grantis attempted to mount a running bull, which set him apart from the crowd and won him the $1,000 prize.
This proved to be a happy coincidence, as the day before their RV, dubbed Lily, had required a new transmission costing more than $1,500. “This was possibly one of the strangest answers to prayer, and demonstrations of how God can sometimes show his provision in some very interesting ways,” Grantis acknowledges.
The five also encountered challenges along the way, including other mechanical troubles and tensions that arose among five people living in a small space for five weeks.
“We were thankful for God’s provision of patience and understanding,” says Grantis. “We all had a common goal in mind, which helped a lot.”
This fall, all are heading back to university or pursuing a career, but the trip has left them with a treasure trove of positive memories.
“It was really cool to see how God had his hand helping us do his work across this continent,” says Enns.
For pictures and stories, visit their blog at www.justwonlife.blogspot.com/.