De Ruiter, a former shoemaker from Stettler with a Lutheran upbringing, did a couple stints at Bible college in the 1980s before starting his own ministry in 1986. He began it on a shoestring budget, preaching out of the home he shared with his wife and kids, before renting out spaces in Edmonton as his movement grew. By the end of the 1990s, he was travelling the world to speak and attracting devotees who would follow him back to Edmonton.
His flock hail from all over, including Canada, the United States, Australia, Europe, and India. He attracted Sannyasins from an Osho/Rashneesh ashram in the late 1990s. His devotees have included everyone from mental-health professionals to media workers, business owners to tradespeople, students to nomads.
They helped build Oasis Centre, where they attended de Ruiter’s spiritual meetings and events. They helped run the conference centre and college, often as volunteers. They ran Oasis’s Jewel Cafe and held roles in the administration. “People love doing it,” said one former member.
For years, Oasis Centre was a popular venue. It was Blush magazine’s Venue of the Year in 2014 and hosted Avenue Edmonton magazine’s (now Edify magazine) Best Restaurants event in 2016. But, like other hospitality businesses, it limped through COVID-19, before closing its doors on May 31, 2021. “Unfortunately, the circumstances have not changed for the better as fast as we’d all hoped,” reads a portion of a farewell message on its website. A few days before this, the building sold for $6.65 million.