Briercrest education a last-minute surprise for Quebec student

Julie Cole | Aug 24, 2000
Marie-Helene Caron and Briercrest recruiter Ken Pike Marie-Helene Caron and Briercrest recruiter Ken PikeMarie-Helene Caron and Briercrest recruiter Ken Pike

Marie-Helene Caron thought she was in tune with God’s plan for her future. Then He changed the song.

The Quebec resident is in her first semester at Briercrest College and Seminary, which is something that wasn’t in her plans. Up until last spring she had hoped to attend Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

Over a year ago Caron had completed an impressive audition at Liberty for a spot on one of their worship teams, and she was waiting to see if she had been chosen for this year’s team. A placement on the primary team would mean a full-ride scholarship of $25,000 a year. Such an award would be one of the only ways the oldest daughter of five children could receive a college education.

“My Dad is a pastor,” she said. “There is no way they could provide for me for school.”

After graduating from high school in 2007, Caron  attended Capernwray Quebec, a short-term English Bible school in Quebec.

“That’s how I learned my English,” she said. “It was like total immersion for me. It was a big challenge.”

While at Capernwray, Caron met Briercrest recruiter Ken Pike when she and a friend went to Missions Globales, a large missions conference in Montreal.

“We talked with Ken. He was really nice,” she said. “He asked me questions (like) ‘What about you? Would you consider coming (to Briercrest)?’ It was a good talk but nothing more.”

Little did she know that Pike would play a key role in her future.

Caron filed away her conversation with Pike and went on a short-term ministry trip to Senegal. The director for her mission trip encouraged her to attend Liberty University. He felt so strongly about her music ability that he booked a flight and arranged for her to audition for their worship teams.

The judges were impressed at Caron’s ability to play whatever piano piece they asked.

“(They said), ‘Oh, I wish we’d met you two months ago,’” she recounted.

Caron had shown up too late to make the worship teams for that year, but she was given preferred status for tryouts for the next year.

 “I needed to send more stuff for the second (round) of the auditions,” she said. “I needed to send my testimony and my musical resume, two reference letters and two more videos of myself singing . . . I didn’t really know if I was selected or if they would do a second selection . . . I was really hoping.”

After sending everything in before Christmas, Caron settled in for the long wait. She knew she wouldn’t hear anything from Liberty until March. During her time off she decided to visit some of her Capernwray friends who were in Edmonton.

“I didn’t know when I booked my trip that there was this big event in Edmonton called Breakforth,” she said. “My friend said we should go there.”

Caron ended up seeing another friend at the event who was hosting the booth for Capernwray. She helped out at the booth and relieved her friend for his lunch break.

She heard someone come up to the booth and greet her in French. It was Pike.

“I’m like, ‘What’s going on? I’m in Alberta. I don’t know anyone,’” she said as she recalled the scene. “Then I looked, and it was Ken Pike . . . and (he said) ‘Remember four years ago? Missions Globales in Montreal – We talked about Briercrest and you being interested in the music program?’”

The two enjoyed catching up and Caron shared with Pike her plans to attend Liberty.

“He was really wise,” Caron stated. “He said, ‘What if Liberty decides to not pick you for a team? Is there a way for you to attend?’”

Pike encouraged Caron to make sure she had a backup plan if her hopes of getting chosen for a worship team at Liberty fell through.

“He respected my choice,” Caron said. “He really wanted to know if I made the team or not. He was like, ‘Can you let me know if you get accepted?’ . . . and he said, ‘Would you let me pray for you too?’”

Pike prayed for Caron and she went home to wait.

“I was waiting for the 23rd of March,” she said. “The big day – I waited all year.”

The email Caron received on the 23rd asked her to wait one more week for a decision.

“I was disappointed because I was really waiting for that and I needed to wait another week. It seemed so long to me.”

That evening Caron received a phone call. It was Ken Pike letting her know he was thinking about her and wondering if she had been accepted to Liberty.

“Ken had no clue that the 23rd of March was the day I would find out,” she said.

Pike encouraged Caron to apply to Briercrest. He pointed out that if she waited to apply until she got an answer from Liberty it would be too late.

“He said, ‘If you want to apply for a scholarship (at Briercrest), you have to be accepted first. The deadline for scholarships is next Thursday.”

Pike shared with Caron that Briercrest probably wouldn’t have the promise of a full-ride scholarship.

“It’s not even worth it,” Caron said as she described her thoughts. “But on Wednesday I started to be stressed so I applied really quickly. I sent it in just to say I applied to the school. That’s it, you know?”

The next day, Caron received an email from Liberty.

“When I opened my email it said that they had a really incredible year of ministry teams – so many auditioned. If they had one more team they would consider me. It said, ‘You have not been selected.’ I couldn’t believe it. Everything was falling apart.”

Fifteen minutes later she got another email from Briercrest confirming her acceptance to the school.

Later that night Caron got another phone call – from Pike.

“(He was) calling me on the same exact day for the second time,” she exclaimed. “That’s crazy!”

Pike remembers that he was spending that evening at work calling through a list of students.

“It was one of these nights where I stay until 8:00 or 8:30,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘I wonder how she’s doing?’ so I called her up. I think it was within the space of an hour that she had received an email from Liberty saying she didn’t receive the scholarship.”

Pike could sense Caron had had an emotional day by her wavering voice on the phone.

“(He said), ‘You can call me back whenever you want tonight,’” Caron said. “’I just want to say that the deadline for scholarship (applications) at Briercrest is midnight.’”

In the moments that followed, Caron made a split-second decision to apply for a scholarship to Briercrest. As she looked through the information about the different scholarships she could apply for, she saw one Pike hadn’t told her about. It was a scholarship called Managing God’s Money. The recipient would receive a full-ride scholarship – the only one Briercrest had.

“I asked (Pike) if he thought I could apply,” Caron recounted. “(He) looked up the different criteria. He said, ‘I think you would be a really great candidate to apply.’”

Applicants to the scholarship had to write an essay explaining why they felt called to come to Briercrest. Caron knew that she honestly hadn’t seriously considered Briercrest until that day. She didn’t want to be dishonest on the application. She called Pike.

“(He said), ‘You know that God is calling you for a ministry and a mission. Share your heart. Be honest and authentic and I think God will honour that.’”

Caron followed Pike’s advice and wrote out her story and sent it in by the midnight cut-off time. When she hit the send button on her email it was 11:55 p.m.

“I felt at peace,” she said. “(I thought), ‘Now I surrender.’”

Caron was now waiting again. But this time it felt different.

“I started praying, ‘God give me a heart for Briercrest,’” she said. “He put a desire and peace in my heart.”

Two months later, on May 5th, Caron got an email notification on her phone when she was driving to Montreal to record a worship song that she had written.

“The email said I was selected for one of (Briercrest’s) scholarships,” she said.

There was an attachment on the email. Caron fought back her fear and forced herself to open it. The attachment announced that she was the recipient of the Managing God’s Money scholarship.

“I saw my name and this scholarship,” Caron said with a big smile. “I was the one, you know?”

Although the path to Briercrest was a surprising one, Caron feels confident that it is exactly where she’s supposed to be.

She says even her own worship song has more meaning now.

“Now when I sing it, it has a completely different meaning to me!” she exclaimed. “I know what the words truly mean now.”

She recited the words to the song’s chorus.

“If I come, you receive me. If I ask, you answer me Lord. If I fall, you pick me up and help me to stand ... to stand for you!"

“(That’s) exactly what He did!” she exclaimed. “I'm just so amazed of how God was working in details.”