A wedding in the Great White North

August 4, 2011

Faith Outdoors


I just got back from Canada, where I had the privilege of photographing the wedding of Rachele Akerman and Clement Ng on Saturday. The three of us all belong to an ecumenical charismatic community called the People of Praise. When Rachele contacted me back in October to ask if I would be interested in shooting her wedding, I jumped at the chance. Joining me on the journey were my wife, Julie, and our two younger children, William and Claire.

I will admit, I knew very little about Saskatoon before we made the visit. It’s located in the south central part of the province, and features flat, mostly grassy terrain with lots of grain crops spread across the vast landscape.

Although it wouldn’t be considered nearly as majestic as the Canadian rockies farther west, the region has its own, subtle charm. The wide open spaces offer a peaceful beauty that I found very enjoyable. Because we spent extra time there after the wedding, I was able to take in the scenic landscape a little more.

An outburst of joy

The Saskatoon branch of POP is one of several branches located throughout North America — and the only one in Canada. Though small (about 30 adults), it’s a very vibrant group bursting with love. The outpouring of affection and support given by branch members to Rachele and Clement was deeply touching. It left a great impression on me and is one thing I will cherish about my visit.

The last POP wedding in Saskatoon was several decades ago, and the folks there were thrilled to celebrate another one after all this time had passed. Their enthusiasm ran strong and lasted well into the evening. In fact, I spent 12 hours taking pictures — the longest amount of time I have ever spent shooting a wedding. But, it was all pure joy! Things went so well, and Clement and Rachele were so wonderful to work with, that the hours just flew by. My time behind the camera was as refreshing as the cool, summer breezes of Saskatchewan.

Answered prayer

I give credit for our smooth and trouble-free experience to our hosts for the trip — Glenn and Judy Hilton. Not only did they make us welcome in their home and help us get ready for the wedding day, they prayed over us before we left for the church. That meant more to us than words can express. Julie and I felt peaceful all day, despite the stress that often comes with the responsibility of shooting the photos. And, God granted us the energy to stay at it all day — and throughout the evening.

The only thing that went wrong all day was we got lost trying to follow the wedding party to an outdoor location to shoot more pictures after the ceremony. But, we merely went back to Glenn and Judy’s to regain our bearings and get directions to a nearby university for more pictures. We had plenty of time to shoot, so there was no problem with the delay. And, Rachele’s sister was late in arriving to the campus because she was attending to her newborn baby, so we had to wait for her anyway.

That’s just one example of the many ways God cared for us throughout our time in Saskatoon. The day after the wedding, Rachele’s parents, Morris and Janice Akerman, hosted a get-together at their place. It was there that Julie and I were able to sit down and talk with members of the Saskatoon branch. And, they were truly delightful to get to know.

Return trip?

I hope to make a return visit to Saskatoon. Not only would I like to see folks in the branch again, but I’d also like to go to Glenn and Judy’s cabin on a lake about 2 1/2 hours north of Saskatoon. It’s located on a beautiful lake in what they refer to as the Canadian shield. Think northwoods like Minnesota’s Rainy Lake and Lake Vermillion regions.

Their lake features two of the same gamefish found here — walleyes and northerns, which they call pickerel and jacks. Glenn’s son-in-law grew up fishing the lake and says it would be no problem catching the provincial limit of three walleyes per person. Glenn fishes from a canoe and says he generally has little difficulty catching enough fish for dinner. As for catching a limit, he’s not sure about that because he generally stops once he has caught enough for he and Judy to eat.

Hunting is king

As good as the fishing can be, however, the real allure of this area is the hunting. Saskatchewan is known for producing trophy whitetail deer, and I saw some evidence of that during our trip. Two of the men in the branch hunt, along with Glenn’s son-in-law and his three children. They showed me sets of antlers from whitetails and mule deer that they had taken. Most impressive! One of the racks had brow tines (the ones located closest to the base of the antlers) that had to be at least eight inches long — and thick. Usually, brow tines are only three or four inches long and noticeably skinnier than the other ones. Not these!

And, get this –Glenn’s son-in-law who shot this buck said he and his son saw a much bigger one last fall. But, as whitetails often do, this monster gave them the slip after they spotted it from the truck while driving a gravel road and got out to put on a stalk. Needless to say, they’re already talking about the upcoming season, which gets underway in September.

But, they have other options beside whitetails. There also are mule deer, elk, moose and antelope — all located within an hour of Saskatoon! Not only that, hunters can encounter trophies in each of the five species.

The bad news

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for nonresidents like me to hunt in Saskatchewan. If I want to go, provincial law requires the hiring of an outfitter, which would costs thousands of dollars. That’s way more than I can afford. Plus, the guys I talked to said you are not allowed to take the meat back across the border to the U.S. So, what hunters do is get their heads mounted and shipped back to them, which is legal, and give the meat to the outfitters who, in turn, donate it to a local food shelf.

I don’t mind giving meat away, but if I’m going to spend that kind of money to hunt, I want to take home at least some of it. The guys say the meat tastes good because most of the wild animals eat the abundant crops (wheat, hay, etc.) that grow in the region. So, leaving the meat behind is a huge negative for me.

I continue to marvel at how states and provinces really sock it to nonresidents. I’m so glad the POP members in Saskatoon don’t have this attitude when it comes to visitors. Quite the opposite is true. They welcomed Julie and I like we were family.

In fact, we were. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and in the People of Praise. Thus, we truly can say that we enjoyed time together with family.

And, we can’t wait ’til our next visit to Saskatoon!

About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek