Celebrating Mr. Jeff and Mr. Paul

We’re immensely thankful for everyone who gives their time and talent to help make the many ministries of FAC happen. And if you’ve had children who’ve grown up in DiscoveryLand Grade School over the last 20+ years, chances are, Mr. Jeff and Mr. Paul have taught them!

Jeff Sklar

“In 1996, a new chapter began in our lives. My wife, Anne Marie, found solace and community in the welcoming arms of FAC. As a man rooted in Jewish traditions, I was initially hesitant to follow her path. Yet, her persistent invitations and the strategically placed books around our home began to pique my curiosity.

Titles like “More than a Carpenter” and “He Still Moves Stones” served as catalysts, nudging me towards a spiritual journey of my own.

During this time, I was grappling with a professional setback. A significant real estate deal, one I had banked on, fell through. The disappointment cast a shadow over my usually upbeat demeanour. In my moment of despair, I found myself challenging the divine, “Jesus, if you are real, grant me a deal. Not one I’m already pursuing, but a fresh opportunity. If you do, I’ll step into your house of worship.” I eagerly shared this pact with Anne Marie, who gently reminded me, “God doesn’t make deals.” To which I retorted, “Well, I’m Jewish, and we do.”

As if on cue, that Friday afternoon, a call from a potential client breathed life into my challenge. Seeing it as a divine sign, I honoured my promise and attended the Sunday service. To my surprise, I found solace in the sermon. The new deal did materialize, albeit its worth was equivalent to a tank of gas. This incident made me realize that God indeed has a sense of humor!

Embracing this newfound faith, I started attending church regularly with Anne Marie and our children. I enrolled in an Alpha course to unearth my spiritual gifts, which led me to discover my calling – working with children. This revelation steered me towards volunteering at DiscoveryLand. Fast forward 28 years, and I’m still there, showing up every Saturday with the same enthusiasm.

I’ve had the privilege of watching my children grow, and now, I’m witnessing the growth of my 3, soon-to-be 4, grandchildren. The years have taught me that while each child is unique, their essence remains unchanged. Their childlike faith is a constant source of joy, allowing me to see life through their innocent eyes at DiscoveryLand. I get to watch them learn about Jesus, some for the first time, while others deepen their relationship with Him as they grow older.

It’s akin to being Peter Pan, remaining constant while children bring fresh insights and excitement each year. The thought that the children from the early years are now starting families of their own fills me with anticipation. I get to continue sharing the love of Jesus. There’s nothing more heartwarming than seeing a child’s eyes light up, knowing they are loved by Jesus, and realizing that DiscoveryLand is there to guide them in inviting Him into their lives as their forever friend.

This journey has been a testament to the power of faith and the beauty of spiritual growth. It has taught me the value of patience, the joy of service, and the profound impact of a simple act of kindness. It has shown me that no matter how big or small our actions are, they can make a difference in someone’s life. And most importantly, it has reaffirmed my belief in the power of love – the love of a family, the love of a community, and above all, the love of God. My journey continues, and I am grateful for every step along the way.”

Paul Gifford

“I was raised by Christian parents in Red Deer, Alberta, the youngest of 4 children. I was led to the Lord as my Saviour by my mother at the age of 5 and I have been a Christ-follower for 65 years. Growing up, my primary love was music and I remember singing hymns and Christmas carols around the old pump organ (played by my mother). I cried when they took the old organ away and replaced it with an electric organ. Sigh…

I first taught in children’s ministry at the Red Deer Alliance Tabernacle (now called Deer Park Alliance Church). My mother, who was the grades 1-6 Sunday School Superintendent, asked me to teach a group of 4 or 5 boys in Grade 5. I recall this as a challenging but rewarding assignment…my first teaching adventure at age 13 or 14!

Throughout my youth, I was involved in many church club meetings and often attended Tuesday night bible study with my dad. These club organizations included the Christian Service Brigade (CSB) – Battalion, where I was made a Corporal in charge of one of the boys’ groups. My future wife, Rebecca, and I got to know each other in a church musical folk group where we both sang and played clarinets (I occasionally squeaked and my future wife, Becky, as she was known at the time, would blush on my behalf). I also attended AYF (Alliance Youth Fellowship) regularly in high school and was a leader in that organization.

Shortly after we were married in 1975, we moved to Calgary to start my IT career. Shortly after our relocation, we auditioned for the Berg Chorale, which we sang with and travelled with for over 10 years. We attended FAC, Foothills Alliance, and Strathcona Heights Alliance for a few years before settling back into FAC when our daughter was about 3 years old so we could get her enrolled in GCA (Glenmore Christian Academy).

Upon returning to FAC, I also got involved in the CSB Stockade program where Grant Weber and Matt Wilks were attendees – they are now both in full-time Christan ministry with their families. Then for a couple of years, I led a new program that CSB was offering called Tree Climbers for boys ages 5-7. It was attended by both the boys and their dads. I still hear from dads about how great that was for their relationships with their sons.

I clearly recall going through a spiritual gifts class at FAC when it was still on Glenmore Trail and sitting beside Pastor Terry. During one session, I told him I loved music and kids, and he said, “Why don’t you get involved with our new Sunday School Program?” and so I did. I led worship. As time passed, I began focusing on the storytelling of the Bible. This has become a real passion of mine, and [42 years later] I still teach in DiscoveryLand —now once a month at the Deerfoot Campus and once a month at the Southwest Campus. And I love it (and I get to sing with the rest of the kids)!

In teaching Bible stories and applications thereof, there’s hardly a teaching week that goes by that God does not have a special message of challenge or encouragement for me. I’m not afraid to tell the kids that I sometimes struggle…sometimes the walk with the Lord can be HARD! I’m far from perfect, but I’m still highly motivated to share Christ’s love and His Word in my current helping role as a storyteller.

I especially celebrate when we explain salvation to the kids and the hands go up to say ‘yes!’ to Jesus. This is really what it’s all about – to help grow the kids to love the Lord and serve Him with passion.

All in all, I have significantly felt God’s leading through the years that I have found my sweet spot in Discoveryland. I love your kids and grandkids, (including my students who are now grown up and married!)

God bless you all (and of course your kids)!”

Thank you, Jeff and Paul, for helping share the love of Jesus with the kids in DiscoveryLand so faithfully all these years! April 13-21 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we want to say a huge ‘thank you!’ to everyone who helps in and around FAC! We celebrate you! Curious about how you can help? Explore ways to help

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