One year ago wildfires reached the northern Alberta city of Fort McMurray. Winnipegger Andrew Benson was there.
Andrew Benson had been living and working in Fort McMurray, Alberta, for a few years when the wildfires reached the city. He was among the 90,000 people who evacuated the city.
Benson describes the scene of fleeing the city as "like being in a movie. It was just surreal because you're driving away from the city, traffic is crawling, you know. And you're looking back and all you can see is just the fiery glow of where the city is. You really have no idea what's going on. An entire city is getting evacuated. Is there going to be anything to go back to? Did all my friends get out ok? Where am I going to go now?"
"I hear a lot of testimonies from people, [when] they accept God's call on their life, how doors open and things fall into place. But for me, it was like . . . everything was going wild and out of control"
For Benson, he got back to Fort Mac as soon as he could. He spent 10 days volunteering in the aftermath - the maximum time you can volunteer before you're asked to leave for mental health reasons. When his 10 days came to a close somebody gifted him with a plane ticket to Halifax, where his sister lives.
It was at his sister's home in Halifax, while he was evacuated from one of the biggest natural disasters in Canadian history, that he launched his new ministry.
"I hear a lot of testimonies from people, [when] they accept God's call on their life, how doors open and things fall into place. But for me, it was like . . . everything was going wild and out of control," he says on launching his ministry, the Joyful Project.
The idea came to him around 2014 during his prayer time. "I had this name, 'the Joyful Project,' but I didn't really know what it was or what that meant."
What the Joyful Project became is a fair trade clothing brand which supports women in India rescued from the sex trade. The Joyful Project says about their clothes, "This is more than simply a fabric. All our products are made by women who are living new and empowered lives. It is a bridge that connects you with the women rescued from India's sex trade."
Benson will be at the Glow Festival on Friday, May 5, in Winnipeg, sharing his story and selling merchandise.