Part 1/2; Suddenly, Nathan arrives at Canaan Land

“Hey, do you guys know Nathan Schultz?”

It was autumn, 1998. Sunday morning church service had just finished at Saskatoon Christian Centre and the two of us Canaan Land program participants were ready to take the hours-long trip back to Big River. My roommate and I were sitting in the back of the transport van waiting for Jim. A few minutes later, he emerged from the church and climbed into the driver’s seat then turned to us. “Hey, do you guys know Nathan Schultz?” Jim asked.

My roommate got the strangest look on his face, and I answered “yup”. Of course, we were both very familiar with the church-elders’ son; we were all classmates not so long ago. He was now an adult. “Well, he’s joining you guys right now as a new participant in Canaan Land” Jim explained. “Seriously?!” my roommate blurted with a panic in his voice. As soon as Jim confirmed it, the next words out of my roommate’s mouth were no-nonsense. “Sorry Jim, but in that case I gotta leave the Canaan Land program right now. I’m taking my suitcase and I’ll just go live with my relatives in the city here.”

This was such a sudden surprise since my roommate had already stuck it out for almost a year in the program, but I pretty much knew why he wanted nothing to do with Nathan. We were all in the church-school for years, and I remember Nathan was often pestering him. Nathan tended to act like he was fully aware of his status at the top-end of the pecking order in our church and school. When your aggressor’s dad is the director of your school and elder of your church, you don’t exactly have anyone to really complain to. Frankly, I didn’t blame my roommate for bolting and I probably would have done the same if I were him. Just like that, he grabbed his luggage from the back of the van and walked away to meet his family in the parking lot to explain what was going on. He hopped in their car and that was the end of his time in Canaan Land.

A few minutes later, Jim and I pulled up in the Canaan Land van to Nathan’s home. His parent Ken helped him load his packed luggage into the van. Jim had a brief private word with Ken, and in no time at all Nathan was making small talk on our hours-long drive to Big River. I scratched my head wondering what on earth he did to end up in Canaan Land. It was unheard of for the adult son of church elders to be sent to this program. There was no doubt in my mind that Nathan was nowhere near being a drug/alcohol addict or a criminal bike-gang member. Instead, he was a person who was a long-time volunteer in our church’s children’s programs. He and his entire family were front-row royalty at our church and “examples of a Christian family”, so none of what was just happening made any sense to me. Why was Nathan Schultz abruptly coming to Canaan Land now?

Why was Nathan Schultz suddenly coming to Canaan Land now?

When we arrived, Nathan went through the usual Canaan Land intake process and his belongings were checked for contraband. Jim opened the luggage and started examining the contents. Clothing, toiletries, and the such were normal and quickly checked over. But when Jim opened the last bag, I was as surprised as he was to see the unexpected contents. It was packed with a collection of electronics, gadgets, portable CD players, radio transmitters, and all the other neat gizmos you could find in your local Radio Shack at that time. Jim scolded Nathan for bringing ‘toys’ and assured him he would be kept too busy focusing on the program to play with them.

After the personal search was over, a bizarre twist happened. Jim set down the last of Nathan’s bags, then took a few moments before he turned and looked at him. “Where’s the money? You were told you can’t have money with you here and you brought money. Where is it?” Jim grilled Nathan. He denied he had any such thing, but Jim stood unconvinced. “I already know you have it because the Lord showed me you have it. Go through your bags and bring it to me right now or I’ll go find it and kick you out of this program” he directed Nathan. Nathan walked back into the room that his luggage was in, and two minutes later he returned with $65 that he handed to Jim. “I’m sorry Mr. Lee” Nathan apologized, “I didn’t even know I had this money left over in my bag’s zipper pocket from my last trip with this luggage…” he attempted to explain. Jim didn’t buy it, but left the matter as-is after confiscating the ‘contraband’ money.

“Where’s the money? You were told you can’t have money with you here and you brought money. Where is it?” Jim grilled Nathan.

Just like that, Nathan was my new Canaan Land roommate of our two-bed room. The morning after his arrival, Jim asked for my help tending to the wood-burning furnace outside. While I was handing him an armful of logs, he unexpectedly asked me “have you heard anything about Nathan doing something heroic in his home recently”? At this point I had been in Canaan Land for well over a year, so I knew nothing about what was being talked about in the church. Jim then went on to explain the reason why Nathan was sent to the program by his parents. And it sounded very much like a cover-up. He apparently spun a tale about chasing off some armed robber out of his parent’s home, dodging the bullets the intruder fired at him. Except Nathan was apparently the only one there, and blasted away at the household stereo equipment himself. It was a wild claim! I didn’t know if I was being bullshitted with a “canary trap” or being asked a legitimate question, but the story was too bizarre to stifle my laughter in that moment. I don’t know if Jim believed that story himself, but until now he had never talked about a participant’s past or asked me to validate rumors from our church. Little did I know, things would get more weird.

Jim then went on to explain the reason why Nathan was sent to the program by his parents. And it sounded very much like a cover-up

Soon after, a most unusual incident happened the next Sunday as we all attended church at Saskatoon Christian Centre. In hindsight, it all makes sense now. But in that moment of time, I had no idea about the nefarious nature of my new Canaan Land roommate. It makes the cover-story they used seem trivial compared to the pattern of harm we later learn of…

Part 2: Nathan slips away >