A Tribute to Alice-Ann Cantelow
Today I found out that one of my lifetime mentors had died.
It wasn’t new news—Alice Ann had gone home in August. But we had lost touch when she moved, and it had been a couple of years since I had seen her.
Alice-Ann Cantelow was a trailblazer. She never accepted things as they were, and she paid no attention to the naysayers who said there was nothing she could do about it. And she changed her part of the world.
I first met Alice Ann when she lived in a little mobile home back in the woods of a tiny Bay Area community. She was a naturalist for the East Bay Regional Parks, president of the local Audubon Society, and, as our mutual friend warned me, ‘A bit of a nut on environmental issues.’
As I soon found out, once Alice-Ann became convinced of something, she plowed forward on the solution. In her fifties, recently divorced, she read the Gospels for the first time as a believer. And right then, she declared: “We are supposed to be taking care of the poor.”
Everybody said, ‘What poor? They’re in San Francisco, or Oakland, or third-world countries. We’ll send them money.’
But Alice Ann looked around and discovered that ‘the poor’ in our affluent area are women and children. So she started taking them into her little mobile home in the woods.
It was too small. So she sold that and her other assets to buy a house big enough for a shelter. I remember going house-hunting with her (at the time I was attempting an architecture degree) and thinking, ‘not this old farmhouse—it hasn’t been updated since the 1920s!’
But that’s what she bought. It became Shepherd’s Gate. And she actually got the local churches to work together—you couldn’t say ‘no’ to that level of personal commitment. There was a steering Committee, and board meetings (at one point, much later, Jay was vice-president) and no salaries or staff except the cook. If you were even remotely acquainted, Alice-Ann persuaded you to get involved.
Then before the thing even opened, our own house burned down. So the first residents of Shepherd’s Gate were—you guessed it—US! Within a week or so our insurance company had us in a rental –and of course, they would have covered a motel until then. But I was in shock, and it was good to have a friend.
I think of the mentoring by example Alice-Ann gave me over the years: the building of Shepherd’s Gate into what it is today, all the miracles we watched, hands-on, while that ministry grew, and backed us into a corner to start Disciples’ House, and the donkey she wished on us, and all the pack trips in the Sierra, and getting that book of hers written and published—so much to be grateful for.
Alice-Ann could be pig-headed and stubborn, and so am I. We were known to lock horns on occasion. But when the chips were down, she was the woman you wanted to have with you. And most important, she passionately and without reservation loved her Lord Jesus Christ.
She’s with Him now, as she always has been. And I have more than memories—I’m a changed person because I knew her. Not a little—a lot. Alice-Ann Cantelow was one of the major forces in shaping my adult life.
Thanks, Alice-Ann. See you soon.