Hard to believe it’s been a year since I first made my way to this bustling city in the sub-arctic of northern Alberta! It’s -20 and sunny as I write, and I must have acclimatized because it feels downright balmy! And hey, each day is getting brighter and soon the amazing summer sun will give us some of the most spectacular experiences of summer you’ll find in the country. I may have been ambushed by my first experience of Fort McMurray and it’s people a year ago, but now a year later, I’m hooked. So this is part two of a two part post as I reflect on my first experience of Fort Mac and share a little bit of where I’m at a year later. Simply put, I am more jazzed now then I was when I “got ambushed” by this place and it’s people a year ago.
Let me just list a few of the things that have grabbed me over this past year that have made me proud and excited to call Fort McMurray home:
- Being young with an average age of 31, the city is predominately postmodern in values. This place is a wonderful experiment in postmodernity, and the picture it paints is sweet. Diversity is embraced. Relationships are deeply valued. Families and children are a priority. And we don’t have to see eye to eye on politics, religion, or a whole pile of other stuff to walk closely together. The environment is not only deeply valued, it’s fully entered into, even at -20!
- It might be the wonderful Newfie influence, but it’s found among most who call this city home, courtesy and respect flows without a second thought. The traffic could be hades but someone will let you in. The lines up at Extra Foods might be long, but the person behind you will engage you in talk, like you’re a long lost buddy. The infrastructure challenges that come with rapid growth are made more bearable by the people who you live and work with. Sure there are few jerks out there. They exist everywhere. But I’m convinced there are less here! Hey my neighbours have blown out my driveway a couple of times now. Never had that happen before.
- The city is mostly new. Buildings are new. Houses are new. And the plans for the future are mesmerizing. This is a city with a vision, “a global model for sustainable living in the north.” I think they’re going to do it. We’ve got a young vibrant mayor who must have been a kid when first elected to council – she’s got the right stuff to bring us together for an amazing future. Check out the video below where they superimpose urban images from the biggest cities across Canada and paint a picture of the future of Fort McMurray. That’s vision.
- And yes it is a city full of opportunity. Sure the cost of living is really high, but average salaries are even higher. The end result is there is no city in Canada where folk have more disposable income than here. Check out the chart below, it’s incredible. All you really need is a commitment to work hard with integrity, and this place will give you a chance. More than a chance.
- And the church family I get to serve with are incredibly loving and flexible. There is little interest in status quo church here. There’s a huge passion to live out our faith authentically without pretense. This is a church family who love to hang out and do life with their neigbours and work associates irrespective of their backgrounds or faith or lack of faith. This is a church family with an amazing capacity to care for those with less, whether here in the city or in a remote part of the world.
- And for those of you who know me, this is a place to play. I won’t forget taking the ATV’s behind a local housing complex, crossing a river into another world, and then being there as we harvested a deer with the lights of the city below us. The fishing is spectacular. And the trails for hiking, ATV’s, snowmachines are endless. There are recreation facilities here including MacDonald Island that are to die for in the rest of the country.
Very quickly I have become proud to call Fort McMurray home. A year ago I had absolutely no idea. Now I want the world to know the truth about this amazing family friendly place full of opportunity. And as I said in the previous post, I truly thank God for that consulting weekend a year ago that introduced me to this great city. And I’m convinced that God’s passion for Fort McMurray is far far beyond mine. I can’t wait to see what He plans to do in and through this region. Greater things have yet to come to this city!