Turnaround: Airdrie youth pastor’s life transformed as a CHS/Briercrest student

Kayla Malanka | Oct 7, 2013
Grover Bradford and his wife Keri and sons Mitchell (standing) and Jayden. Grover Bradford and his wife Keri and sons Mitchell (standing) and Jayden.Grover Bradford and his wife Keri and sons Mitchell (standing) and Jayden.

Dropped off in the Caronport High School parking lot, Grover Bradford was unaware that his teenage rebellious lifestyle was about to be changed by the love and support he would find.

 “I had a bit of a tendency to be a wild child growing up, so it was either Caronport High School or juvie.  My parents figured Caronport would be better than juvie and ultimately it was,” Bradford explained.

“Right from the beginning there were some guys who took an interest in me and invested into my life, which would eventually help me turn my life around. If I didn’t have this place (Caronport) I do not know where I would have ended up at.”

Bradford said it was the continuous investment made by both his mentors and his teachers that would eventually help him begin turning his life around.  

“The teachers were phenomenal for setting that foundation of Bible knowledge that I would need for later years. They were incredibly personable and cared about each student individually whether you had grown up in the institution of the church or you were just starting out,” he said.

“As for the guys who invested in my life it was everything I needed, but didn’t want at the time. I didn’t have a father figure during those years (at CHS) so they ended up becoming my father figures.”

Bradford said he is beyond blessed to now be the youth, family and community pastor at the Airdrie regional campus for Calgary’s Centre Street Church. It is an opportunity he likely would not have if his parents had not decided to enrol him in the high school.

“I have the best gig in the world as I get to walk alongside others. But I am certainly not your typical pastor” he laughed.

“I am more like a family counsellor/life coach for families today. I actually spend a lot of time at Starbucks with families, just asking them questions about family values and where they want to be as a family and what steps it is going to take as a family to get there.”

By journeying alongside families he hopes to help them discover who God truly intends for them to be.

“Families who want to change the world and tap into their gifts and passions and to chase after those things rather than chasing after the things the world says you are to chase after, which are just so temporary and empty,” he explained.

“I am not going to give them all the answers they want to hear. I am going to resource them and push them and challenge them. They have to be the ones out on the floor doing all the hard work, but I will be there cheering them on.”

Bradford said his journey into pastoring began in November of 1986 in his Grade 12 year at Caronport High School after the death of a fellow student.

“His death really woke me up to mortality — to life. He was the big man on the campus, well known and a nice guy. He was the guy who was going to go on to do great things and then was diagnosed with a really rare form of leukemia and within months he was gone,” Bradford explained.

“It really spoke to me. That was the initial crisis experience to accept to Christ. It was more of a fear of hell than anything. I was definitely looking for someone to save me from the fires but wasn’t totally sold on the whole lordship thing yet.”

Accepting God’s lordship would not be something that Bradford would be able to do until several years later.

“After graduation I received a scholarship to SAIT, of all places, to play ball,” he said.

“But, it wasn’t too long after there I started falling back into old patterns and knew my faith obviously wasn’t strong enough to withhold the things the world had to offer so I packed up my car and headed east back to Briercrest.”

Once again, Bradford would begin finding his way through the love and support Caronport had to offer, this time while attending the college.

“My first year of college I had no clue what I was doing, I was trying to figure out my faith, playing ball and really enjoying the community,” he explained.    

“I was like a sponge and taking it all in because it was all so new to me because my faith was so new.”

As different teachers and mentors continued investing in his life, Bradford found his calling while attending a mission conference at the school.

“I was walking out of Hildebrand (chapel) and a guy was packing up his missions booth when I saw a picture of basketball with a little kid on it. Basketball was a passion of mine and I asked him what he was all about.”

It turned out to be an internship in Chicago where he could spend the summer sharing Christ with others through different basketball camp ministries.

“I was like ‘are you kidding me,’” he laughed. “It was pretty much a no-brainer. That summer I went to Chicago and worked in the inner city. That was absolutely the catalyst for my career in youth ministry. It was brilliant. A lot of great memories.”

Bradford said he is excited to be reconnecting with Briercrest once again through the Clipper basketball camps that are held on campus, but is even more excited that his boys are now considering Briercrest as a college they want to attend.  

“I had never thought in my wildest dreams when my kids were growing up thinking they would come here. I always thought it was my story at Briercrest,” he said.  

“I didn’t have a choice to come here, but my kids are choosing to and that’s cool. (They) see a community they want to be a part of and identified with. I think Briercrest provides something that most institutions in Canada may not.