Alberta couple hopes to help people heal in Prince Albert

Jason Kerr
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For Bruce and Bonnie Rawling, life has turned into a real whirlwind since they left their home in Tabor, Alberta at the beginning of January.

Bonnie (left) and Bruce (right) Rawling pose with their daughter Rylee (centre) while in Prince Albert on Monday. 

The couple left the safety of their home and their jobs to take to the road and help people dealing with trauma in their lives.

“It’s more of a conversation than a concert,” Bruce says.  “Our desire is to just be honest.  We just see that our world is starving for honesty.”

“We want to leave kids with a message of hope and forgiveness,” Bonnie says.

Prior to starting their new life, Bruce worked as a music teacher and professional songwriter, while Bonnie was the area director for the Christian youth organization Young Life Canada.  While they both are happy and successful, it wasn’t always that way -- particularity for Bonnie.

“I have a history of childhood sexual abuse,” she explains.  “When I share my story I talk about that.  I talk about when I was raped, suicide attempts, depression and just what I went through as a child trying to process those feelings.”

Bonnie says she always intended to tell her story.  She even started writing a book about her experiences, but never thought she’d speak in front of large audiences.

The couple says they’ve noticed a real demand for authenticity.  They say people are looking for ways to understand and overcome what they’ve been through, and that’s where they try to help.

“Our world is starving, and not just kids are starving for this, but adults and families and marriages are starving for people just to take the masks off and just be real with each other,” she says.  “People are so starved for honesty we have a captive audience every time.”

Bonnie, who has a Masters Degree from Briercrest College and Seminary, says her story of recovery can’t be separated from her religious experiences.  She says she wouldn’t be where she is today without her faith.

“I had what you call a Paul experience, where (God) just plucked me from this life that I was living,” she explains.  “I can’t tell my story without Jesus.”

Bruce, who provides a musical backdrop for his wife’s story, says they aren’t simply about making converts.  They want to help people deal with their grief any way they can.

“We just want people to feel like, hey we can come and talk to these people,” he explains.  “We also would desire to connect people with other people in the community who are already there, whether it be councilors, pastors, teachers, youth workers, different things like that.”

Since leaving their home, the couple has travelled through BC and Alberta with their youngest daughter, Rylee, and it hasn’t been an easy trip.  They’ve had to rely on help from church groups, donations, and in some cases complete strangers.

“The day we’d have to leave from one place to another, with no money and no diesel, some person that we didn’t know would come knock on our bus,” Bruce explains with a chuckle.  “We’d say thank you and it’d be just enough to put diesel in.”

Bruce says the music he provides in meant to be though provoking, not entertaining.  His father was a high school music teacher, and his mother a vocal coach, and he’s toured for almost 30 years, but he emphasizes that entertainment is not their goal.

“That was just something that became very evident to us when we were trying to figure out what this was going to look like, just that it needed to be very intimate,” he says.  “Even musically it’s that way.”

The couple has already made several presentations in Prince Albert, including one at the Prince Albert Correctional Centre, but their main one is scheduled for April 4 at Carlton Comprehensive High School.  There is no charge for the event, which starts at 7:30 p.m., but offerings will be accepted.

The Rawling’s say they’re always surprised to see who shows up, and it’s taught them never to assume they know everyone’s story.

“Maybe I’m talking to somebody who’s 50 years old and has their life together, but they have a relative who is struggling with drugs and they’ve given up on them,” Bonnie says.  “This story can relate in so many ways to so many people.”

Organizations: Briercrest College, Prince Albert Correctional Centre, Carlton Comprehensive High School

Geographic location: Alberta

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