Monday, February 28, 2022

God Winks in Slave Lake - Part 1

After Ewa and I got married, we lived in Warsaw, Poland.  After almost a year, we went to the Canadian embassy to ask them if, in the event we had children, they could obtain dual citizenship.  We got that answer, but at the same time the embassy told us that immigration law in Canada had changed and if we ever wanted to move back to Canada the ONLY way they would allow Ewa into the country was if she officially immigrated.  

We didn't want to be in a situation where Ewa was not free to travel to Canada, so we decided to change our plans.  We quit our work contract in Warsaw and I went to Canada alone so I could find a job and sponsor Ewa's immigration.  I left Poland in Sept. 1994 and God provided immediate employment for me in Slave Lake, Alberta.

Working at the OSB Plant

While in Slave Lake, I worked at an Oriented Strand-board Plant that made plywood from wood wafers.  I worked 4 12-hour days, had 3 and a half days off and then worked 4 12-hour nights followed by 4 days off.  Some of those shift transitions could be brutal - particularly the first night shift.  

Oriented Strand Board

My initial responsibility there was clean up.  Conveyers carrying bark and other wood waste to the burner never caught everything, or sometimes got plugged or overflowed.  I got to cleanup the messes.  It was heavy, hard work shovelling wet wood waste back into the convey which was sometimes higher than my head.  Late one dark, very cold evening I was taking a short break from this labour when I noticed some very large icicles hanging down the side of the structure.  Considering their size (over 3 feet long) I thought they could be a danger to someone, so I decided to knock them down.  In my tired state, I didn't properly factor how they might fall once I broke them with my shovel.  When they fell, a large piece hit my hardhat, knocked it off and then hit my face.  I needed stitches, but I was told that I was fortunate the injury wasn't worse given the size and weight of the icicle.  God's Protection!

After a couple months doing cleanup, I got informally moved up to the 'Green-End' crew. We were responsible for ensuring the mill had a consistent flow of wood wafers to make the boards.  This involved running machines that debarked the logs coming into the mill, trimming these logs into 2 foot lengths and ensuring those 2 foot lengths were oriented correctly as they were fed into 'waferizers' which turned the logs into wafers.  The debarking and log trimming was mostly an automated process, but making sure the log sections were oriented properly going into the waferizers was manually done, and these logs could be heavy.  We used tools called pickaroons to help move these logs into position.


Food processors are loud.  Waferizers scream past them in decibels.  One could get very mentally and physically exhausted from the noise and the work in the wee hours of the morning.  I had to be very conscious of the moves, pulls, and yanks I made orienting the wood so I didn't hurt myself.  

One evening I pulled a muscle in my back, but convinced myself I could work through it.  By the time the shift was over, I was hurting in a big way.  This was concerning because the mill tried very hard to avoid lost time injuries and my back felt like it was going to require some time off to heal.  

After arriving home, I was getting ready for bed and found my back pain was so overwhelming that I was struggling to breathe!  I called my Mom for help.  She came and I told her my back was hurting and I couldn't breathe.  She prayed for me right there, and within 30 seconds the pain was entirely gone.  It was amazing!  God healed me!

"The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all"  Psalm 34:19
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  Psalm 46:1

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