Heidi Dirks: Anxiety in Youth – Journeying Towards Freedom

by Heidi Dirks 

Note: This article is intended to provide general information and is not a substitute for professional assessment and interventions.

Picture This

You’ve spent the past two hours hiking and are almost at your destination, a high rock overlooking a gleaming, teal blue lake. As you approach the lake you see a large bear. You stop in your tracks, you feel your heart begin to pound, and you start to breathe quickly.

You’re sitting in class, listening to the teacher talk about Canada’s Confederation, when you hear the teacher say your name. Your mind goes blank and you feel like you can’t move or speak. You’re quickly able to focus, and you ask the teacher to repeat the question.

You feel a lot of fear at the thought of going on the city bus and being in a crowd. You do whatever you can to avoid leaving your house; and when you do go out, you take your sister with you. You feel nauseous and lightheaded the whole time, and you get back home as soon as possible. This has been going on for over six months now, and is making it nearly impossible to go to school.

About Anxiety

Everyone has experienced anxiety at some point in their life. Anxiety is a normal response to a situation that is dangerous, like exiting a burning building, or a situation where we need to be alert and prepared, such as an important presentation at work. But when someone experiences extreme anxiety about everyday situations that are not dangerous and this interferes with their life, they need additional supports to address the anxiety in their life.

In the three scenarios above it sounds like the person is experiencing some anxiety. When anxiety is in response to danger or an everyday situation that you are able to work through, like in the first two scenarios, the anxiety is a normal part of being human. But when the anxiety is not a response to danger, and it is interfering with your life, you likely need some more supports.

Anxiety as a Mental Illness

Anxiety can be experienced in different ways, and anxiety disorders all contain elements of disordered physical responses, thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Anxiety may be seen through fear, such as fear of an object or being in specific situations. Anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is used by medical professionals in North America to diagnose mental illnesses.

Some examples of anxiety disorders include Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Individuals with GAD experience excessive worry about life events that they cannot control. PTSD includes experiences of nightmares, flashbacks, and changes in their mood, among other symptoms. People with OCD will have obsessions that make them anxious which lead them to engage in behaviours (compulsions) to lower that anxiety.

Anxiety in Youth

Up to 25% of youth experience a mental health struggle or illness, with many of them not getting the help they need. The good news is that there are many resources that can help individuals to learn to cope with and lessen their anxiety. Professionals, including doctors and therapists, can help and be an important part of overcoming anxiety. A doctor may diagnose an anxiety disorder and prescribe medication. A therapist can help you learn to work through the anxiety you feel and develop healthy coping strategies. Self-help workbooks, such as those based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), can help you become aware of how your thoughts impact your feelings and behaviours. Faith communities can provide supports and help you remember God’s truth about your worth.

Coping Strategies

Being told to just stop feeling anxious isn’t going to help. Anxiety doesn’t go away instantly, but there are many strategies that you may find helpful if you are feeling anxious. Slow, calm breathing can help to calm your body and lower anxiety.

Anxiety is often based on the future or past, so strategies to be in the present moment can also help to lower anxiety. Become aware of your thoughts and self-talk, and challenge thoughts that aren’t true or are reinforcing your anxiety. People may find that music, art, animals, and being in nature can help when they’re feeling anxious.

It’s also important to eat and exercise in healthy ways and get enough sleep. Pay attention to any unhealthy ways you are coping with anxiety, such as using caffeine, non-prescription drugs, alcohol, food, tobacco, compulsive exercise or sleeping to escape anxiety. These may seem to provide immediate relief but they may contribute to long-term problems.

Anxiety in a Biblical Worldview

In both Scripture and our lived experiences we are reminded that the world is not how it was created to be. Sin has impacted all aspects of the world, and this is seen is in our disordered thoughts and behaviours. Christians struggle with mental illnesses, including anxiety. Anxiety is not a sin, nor is it a reflection of someone’s relationship with God. The good news of Jesus is that through his death and resurrection we are reconciled to God, and that God is working to redeem his creation.

A wholistic and multi-faceted approach to dealing with anxiety is important, and Christians may want to intentionally include spiritual practices in their lives as part of coping with anxiety. Christians can be intentional to focus their thoughts about themselves on the truth of who we are in Jesus, and that we have inherent worth and dignity as image bearers of God. We can spend time in nature, meditate on scripture and though prayer, listen to uplifting music, and spend time with supportive friends and family. Parents can connect their children to needed supports, and help them to discover what strategies help them cope with and lower their anxiety.

Scripture and Anxiety

When quoting Scripture to comfort or instruct people struggling with anxiety, be cautious to use Scripture in context to bring freedom, rather than to condemn or give overly simplistic answers. Philippians 4:6-7 may be one of the more frequently quoted verses about anxiety. When it is used to tell someone to stop what they are feeling it may cause increased anxiety for not being able to stop feeling anxious, or it may lead to strained interpersonal relationships if scripture is seen as a simplistic or judgmental answer to a difficult and complex experience. When read in context scripture can be an important resource to people struggling with anxiety, but it is not enough to relieve an anxiety disorder. People struggling with anxiety disorders also needs the support of mental health professionals, and possibly medication, to address their anxiety.

In verses like Philippians 4:6 we see the contrast between prayer and anxiety. We are invited to focus on God and his truth rather than focusing on our problems. This focus does not negate the seriousness or real pain of our problems, nor does it necessarily solve those problems. When we focus on God we are reminded that the Gospel is good news for all people, that we are set apart for a special purpose (1 Cor. 6:11), our sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9), and through Jesus we have eternal life (John 3:16). We see that there is truth beyond ourselves, that God is at work in the world, and we look forward to Jesus’ return.

If you want to read more about anxiety, and how to support youth who are struggling, check out the following websites:


Heidi Dirks


www.cmha.ca (Canadian Mental Health Association)

Heidi Dirks, BEd, MA (counselling), is a member of the EMC’s Mental Health Initiative committee and the Board of Church Ministries. She is part of Aberdeen EMC.

Two Hills: LFF Serves Low German-Speaking Mennonites

by Ron Wiebe

TWO HILLS, Alta.—As drug violence in Mexico was increasing, many Mennonites were concerned for the safety of their families. There were already quite a few Mennonites living in southern Alberta, and they had heard that land was relatively inexpensive in the Two Hills area.

In the early 2000’s Mennonites started moving to the Two Hills area, most of them being employed in the manufacturing and farming industries. At that time, the only Mennonite church in the area was the Old Colony Church. The local school board was willing to accommodate their desire to have some German programming in the public school, which continues to draw Mennonites from Mexico to the Two Hills area.

As more Mennonites moved into the area, different church groups started forming. Our church group had been meeting for a while and felt the need to join a larger conference, as we were struggling to move forward on our own.

In 2015 we decided on a name for our fellowship, and Living Faith Fellowship was born. Shortly thereafter, we started a conversation with Charlie Koop, and decided to pursue affiliation with the EMC. We have appreciated the support that Charlie and the Church Planting Task Force have provided, and hope to officially join the EMC during summer convention in 2019.

Since the start of our relationship with the EMC, we have desired and prayed for a pastoral couple. We felt that we needed leadership, and Charlie helped us to find a pastoral couple. In the fall of 2016 John and Helen Froese felt the call to come to Two Hills to pastor the church and committed to serving a two-year term with the Living Faith Fellowship.

It is our desire at Living Faith Fellowship to be an evangelical ministry in the community of Two Hills. We desire to keep some of the Mennonite ordinances and desire to be available to serve Low German-speaking Mennonites. We will often have people come through our doors who do not speak a lot of English, so it is important for us to have a Low German-speaking pastor. This will continue to be important as we move forward.

Another key need in our area is the need for a counsellor. Some of the people that come to our church have had bad church experiences in the past; and, although they desire to grow spiritually, they need some guidance in order to move forward.

We appreciate the support that the EMC has provided to Living Faith Fellowship, and look forward to continuing to build God’s kingdom with them. Please stop by for a visit if you are in our area.

Obituary: George F. Wanderingspirit

1935 – 2018

George F. Wanderingspirit

George F. Wanderingspirit was born on the shores of Demma Lake near the NWT-Alberta border around Aug. 13, 1935, to Joseph and Maryann Wanderingspirit. He was later christened in Fort Chipewyan.

George was raised on the Barren Grounds, in Fort Fitzgerald, and around George’s Creek, Alta., in tents and cabins throughout his Dad’s and his cousin’s traplines. He became a skilled bushman—even developing the skill to kill grouse and rabbits with a throwing knife.

George’s favourite childhood treasures were his orphaned twin wolf pups. A favourite memory was of effortlessly running several miles down the Slave River shore to trade his muskrats, minks, and weasels with the Norwegian homesteader Jonsson for homemade butter.

He eventually inherited old Joe’s line and used it the rest of his life, often along with stepson Ernie and with his sister Chigoo next door. In addition to being an Alberta trapper, George was a Wood Buffalo National Park hunter.

He developed a relaxed and pleasant pace to life, learning to enjoy every hour and day as they came. Every meal—rabbit, beaver, bison, or bird—was something to enjoy and for which to be audibly thankful.

Known for honesty and reliability, George easily found seasonal employments: a carpenter’s-mate in Fort Chipewyan, a sawmiller in Fitzgerald, or a faller in the park. He fought fire one summer with his Ft. Chipewyan mates in Ontario.

When Fort Smith was still the capital of NWT, many celebrities visited there. George saw Queen Elisabeth, Canadian heavyweight boxing champion George Chuvalo, and European heavyweight champ Max Schmelling.

In January 1988 George was married to the love of his life, Mary Nanooch, originally of Garden Creek, Wood Buffalo Park. Together they raised their cherished Tammy. Their great-grandson Carson and others valued their caring too.

In the cold waters of Lake Athabasca, on June 19, 1988, George was baptized into the Body of Christ on the basis of his faith in the cleansing blood of the crucified Creator alone. He was empowered never to return to the destructive forces that had caused him and others grief.

He deeply loved listening to God’s Words especially when read by the youth. His favourite verse, which he recently quoted a couple of times in Cree, is John 14.6.

In George’s last little speech to his grandchildren, for whom he never ceased praying, he described the many annual spiritual camps he enjoyed with other believers until bush camping became too difficult for him and Mary.

On Tuesday, May 22, George and Mary were in their home with their children and several grandchildren. As birds loudly began announcing the dawn that George Wanderingspirit was accepted into the light-filled Presence of his Master and Saviour.

George was preceded by his parents Joseph-Oldman and Maryann; grandparents Pamahcaahkoo and Charlotte and Tofild Gibot; uncles Amaap, Sammy, Salawi, Pat, Felice; aunts Skwiisis, Madeleine; brothers Alphose, Napoleo, Charlie-Skillet; and sister Albina.

He is succeeded by his wife Mary; daughter Tammy Ladouceur (Wayne); stepdaughter Gladys Ladouceur; stepson Ernie Ladouceur; grandchildren Owen Ladouceur; Ross (Christy), Byron, and Shannon Gibot; great-grandchildren Carson, Austin, and Sarah Ladouceur, Brody Whiteknife, Sean and Maddy Vermilion, Eldon Broussie; step great-grandchildren Austin, Tinesha, Brooklyn and Rose Twin; sisters Mabel Cardinal, Louise Castor (Billy), Norma Kaskamin (Kevin), Frances Paquette (Larry), Helen Wanderingspirit; and stepsisters Jean and Sara Desjarlais.

George was buried in the Fort Chipewyan Cemetery on May 26, 2018, next to his brothers Telephone and Nap and sister Chigoo. The officiant was Arlyn van Enns, the minister whom he had mentored in the cultural ways of bush life.

“The time of my departure has come. I have finished the course. I have kept the Faith!

In the future there is laid up for me the crown of Righteousness which our Lord the

Righteous Judge will award to me on that Day—and not only to me, but also to all who are looking forward to his appearing!” (2 Tim. 4.6-8).

Bishop Heinrich Enns: A Rose By Any Other Name

by Terry M. Smith

When is a bishop not a bishop? First, within Anabaptist-Mennonite circles in Poland-Prussia when the Roman Catholic Church did not allow the Mennonite Church to have leaders called bishops (Darryl Klassen).

The church chose Elder (Aeltester) as an alternate title, yet much of the authority and functions of a bishop remained: to oversee churches, ministers, and deacons; to baptize and serve communion; and to ordain. Unlike a Catholic bishop, though, whether a Mennonite bishop had individual authority to excommunicate seems to have varied in history (Henry Fast).

Second, when a bishop resigns. The fourth KG bishop Heinrich Enns (1807-1881) began serving a “reform” group in Russia in 1866 and then, only two years later, resigned amid a lack of confidence by others. There was no indication or allegation of any immorality by Enns. Historian Delbert Plett says that Enns remained respected until he died.

Enns moved to Canada in 1875. Two years later he wrote two letters from Kansas while visiting a son. Plett says, “These writings provide an appropriate farewell to a man who had served his God and [Community] with great fervour.”

Perhaps they were, but what might Delbert have thought of a third letter that Enns wrote from Kansas? Plett seemed unaware of it. It seems to have gone untranslated until recent work within the EMC Archives, and more of its significance was realized when I worked with it on June 27, 2018.

Earlier this year historian Henry Fast had turned over to the EMC Archives a collection of about 80 letters sent to minister Peter B. Kroeker (1873-1955), some dating back to the 1890s. They were given with the support of Kroeker’s family, and are valuable. Lee Toews, a relative of Kroeker’s, had earlier rewritten some letters into modern German. Harvey K. Plett and Esther Wiebe, and more recently Ellen Stoesz, Ann Fehr, and Sara Peters have been translating the collection into English.

Yet one item dated April 30, 1877, didn’t fit into Kroeker’s period of correspondence, and a note, likely by Toews, said it appeared to be a letter to a church community. It was the letter by Enns, and an extraordinary acquisition. He wrote it shortly after the KG moved to Canada in 1874-75 and just four years before his death.

Enns, according to Plett, was “a strong willed man whose determination and one-mindedness sometimes hindered his effectiveness.” In a writing attributed by Plett to him, the former bishop held that the baptism of an adult “in an unconverted condition” and without “the right understanding” has “no more value than an infant baptism” and “can even be dangerous” for its misleading consolation. Was Enns wrong or right on this?

In his letter of April 30, 1877, Enns was highly conscious of his weaknesses: “A martyr worries as he is in prison and thinks about his former life and things come to mind of his former life and how he always had failed and it even saddened him in prison. Yes, I, miserable person, I have and still have lots of responsibility and have to be careful how I handle them.”

Terry M. Smith

Enns struggled in leadership, felt keenly his weaknesses, had strong convictions, sought to be conciliatory, and looked to God’s grace. Would we expect less of any bishop?

Sources: Plett, Pioneers and Pilgrims, 1990, 533-540; Plett, Leaders, 1993, 379-400.

MacGregor EMC: A Day Well Spent

by Menno Hamm

MacGREGOR, Man. – Several factors led to a workshop on mental health taking place at MacGregor EMC on April 28. Pastor Russell Doerksen is a member of the EMC Board of Church Ministries (BCM), which decided to provide a focus on mental health during 2018. Consequently recent issues of The Messenger featured articles on the theme.

At a ministerial meeting the pastor introduced the idea of sponsoring such a workshop in our church. The ministerial readily approved, as did the church board. Contact with the BCM resulted in their offering to provide workshop leaders for the event.

Pastor Russell opened the workshop, welcoming the 41 persons present, almost half of whom were from outside our church. Daniel Dacombe, the first of four presenters, led an informative session relating the ABC’s of mental health issues. He noted a rather alarming trend among Canadian youth, stating that an increasing number of Canadian teens are experiencing symptoms of mental illness.

Peter and Irene Ascough followed with a helpful session focusing on tips and activities to maintain one’s mental health. Their comments, based on their training and experience, demonstrated that preventing an illness is preferable to trying to cure one.

Following a lunch break of pizza, salad, and fruit, Heidi Dirks’ session for adults only dealt with mental imbalance among youth that can lead to incidences of self-harm. The day closed with group discussions, using case studies to develop strategies to talk to troubled youth and seek help for them.

Those participating in the workshop agreed it was a day well spent. Already there is talk of holding more such workshops elsewhere in the community.


Peter Doerksen: Rooted in the Gospel —Rooted, Certified, Bearing Fruit

2018 Convention

by Peter Doerksen  

Session One: Is Your Faith Rooted in the Gospel? (Matt. 13:1-9)

We want to use roots and plant life as a word picture and explanation of what it means to be “rooted in the gospel.” We begin with the parable Jesus told of the “four soils” as found in Matthew 13:1-9. In Luke 8:11 Jesus clarifies that “the seed is the word of God.”

How does this parable relate to our question, “Is my faith rooted in the gospel?” Farmers, even gardeners, know that something can be done with nearly every type of soil. Hard soil can be softened by working it, especially after a rain. Fields that have rocks may still have good soil; obviously the rocks need to be picked in order to raise a crop. Thorns grow in rich soil, choking the seed that germinated just fine.

​ The gospel’s transforming impact on our lives may vary from instantaneous to years. I clearly remember the day I knelt in repentance and asked Jesus to be my Saviour at age 12, but the next significant step in my spiritual journey only happened at age 19.

Two significant struggles in my life were my anger and an addiction to pornography. I would hear testimonies of how people would come to Christ and were immediately released from their addictions. For me, it took approximately 10 years before I could say that my anger was under control and I was walking in victory with my addictions.

Growth Isn’t a Formula

The story of the Chinese bamboo tree illustrates for me that we cannot put growth in our faith into a formula. There are times growth happens overnight; at times it can take years.

The Chinese bamboo tree starts with a little seed. You plant it, water it, and fertilize it for a whole year, and nothing happens. The second year you water it, and fertilize it, and nothing happens. The third year you water it and fertilize it, and nothing happens. How discouraging this becomes!

The fifth year you continue to water and fertilize the seed. And then take note. Sometime during the fifth year, the Chinese bamboo tree sprouts and grows 90 feet in six weeks! Did the tree grow 90 feet in just six weeks? No, it grew 90 feet in five years. The gospel of Jesus Christ does change my life!

Session Two: Is Your Gospel Contaminated? (Matt. 13:24-30)

In the June 22 edition of the Edmonton Journal Paula Simons writes an article entitled: Bad seed: The mystery of Alberta’s rogue GMO wheat puts our reputation at risk. The article outlines how seven stalks of GMO wheat were discovered that were herbicide-resistant.

She noted, “GMO wheat isn’t dangerous to human health. It isn’t ‘banned’ in Canada because it’s risky to eat it. This isn’t like finding mad cows. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is fatal to humans. GMO wheat can’t hurt people. The threat it poses is economic.”

What is the problem? It was not registered/certified. The parable Jesus told in Matthew 13:24-30 illustrates that we have an enemy who will do anything he can to keep the gospel from bearing fruit.

Therefore, Paul’s words to the Galatians are still relevant today: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel —which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7 NIV).

The Centrality of Christ

Notice the words “deserting” and “turning” from the person and centrality of Christ, which results in confusion and perversion. The prophet Jeremiah describes the opposite: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:7-8).

Here we have words like “trust” and “confidence” both rooted in the Lord. The result is a faith that has no fear of the heat of adversity; it does not worry when drought comes. What a difference from the “different gospel ” to which Paul refers.

So, what is it that threatens to contaminate our gospel? One is that of taking God’s Word out of context. Paul reminds Timothy of how important context is. He says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Another is anything that threatens the centrality of Jesus. “Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2) and “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached” (2 Cor. 11:4) are good reminders that it is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is a telltale sign that someone’s gospel might be contaminated? Possibly it’s like the problem with the seven stalks of GMO wheat. It was unregistered. No one knows where it came from.

Which leads us to ask, “Does the gospel we preach have connections with the rest of the body of Christ? Is it ‘registered’?” The gospel of Jesus Christ is certified seed!

Session Three: Is Your Gospel Bearing Fruit? (Col. 1:3-14)

Why does the farmer sow seed? Why do we plant gardens? To harvest more than we planted! How disappointing to have a crop failure or like Emily said in the Convention promo: to pick what appears to be a delicious tomato only to realize it is rotten. Plants, fruit trees, crops need to do more than just look good. They need to bear fruit.

Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).

The Gospel Produces Fruit

Faith rooted in the gospel will bear fruit! Colossians 1:6 says, “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing.” We are saved by responding to the call of the gospel, and then by responding to its call daily we will continue to grow and bear fruit.

2 Peter 1:5-8 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What is our part? Jesus said in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Peter Doerksen

The gospel of Jesus Christ produces fruit! My prayer for us is that we will “bear much fruit, showing ourselves to be his disciples” (John 15:8 paraphrased).

Peter Doerksen is the senior pastor of Vanderhoof Christian Fellowship in the central interior of B.C. He and his wife Martha have served in pastoral ministry since 1986. Peter was our 2018 convention speaker in London, Ont. This article is his condensing of his three messages.

Pansy Chapel: Picnic, Baptisms, Dedication, Adoption, and Pavement

by Betty Barkman

PANSY, Man.—Many things happen in a church. Sometimes God surprises us by adding to the mix even more then for which we might have bargained. On Sunday morning, July 1, a beloved daughter of the church suffered a heart attack in the middle of our prayer time.

Amid qualified attendees quickly applying resuscitation, and countless tears and prayers all over the sanctuary, suddenly she started breathing again. By the time the professional emergency people arrived she was doing better, and, at the time of this writing, much better. Thank you, church. We don’t know why this happened, but we choose to thank God regardless. He is amazing.

The Sunday before, on June 24, we were blessed by the baptism of five candidates. There is a wonderful spirit of joy watching the couple of hundred guests at the river site cheering on their loved ones who were taking this vital stand for their faith in Jesus Christ. May God give each of you his guidance, courage and joy in the days ahead!

On June 17 we held our annual picnic. When you get to have perfect weather, no bugs, a best-all-around park, food and well-planned activities together in a happy crowd—can you think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

To commemorate the re-paving of Pansy Road—something that was worked hard for and is much appreciated—we held a prayer walk early Sunday morning on the July 10. Each mile was walked along, in groups, as we prayed for the people travelling this road, for its longevity and special thanks to God Who alone made this possible.

May highlights included a parent-child dedication service on June 13. Involved were Dorian and Chantelle Friesen with Hailey, Daniel and Kayla Goertzen with David, Jason and Brianne Preteau with Hazel, and Arvid and Manuella Zacharias with Gabriel. We pray for you all. May you have joy and wisdom for the parenting journey.

On May 11 we hosted “Solitary Refinement,” the Voice of Martyrs Canada presenting incredible true stories from the persecuted church. It was eye opening to say the least.

Before that we had had Compassion Canada, with a special speaker, Kiwi, telling her story. She had been a sponsored child and was now in a position to help us help others. A few weeks earlier we’d heard the story from Rob and Sharon Steeves about their amazing journey toward finding their three Ukrainian orphans who are orphans no more. Surely there are few things more worth talking about then our learning to hear and obey the voice of our Lord, whatever shape that takes.

Terry Smith: 98 Faces Looking Back At Us

by Terry M. Smith

Charitable giving patterns have changed, we’re sometimes told. People now want to give to specific projects they support or to Christian workers whom they know. To want to be involved is positive.

We have every right to know where our money is going, how it is used, and by whom. To know the people, their work, and the differences made are all important. It makes good sense.

But then, for some people, a strange act occurs: they shy away from giving to EMC Missions. They think that giving to EMC Missions is similar to tossing coins into a deep, dark well; the money goes in, but it seems a bit murky and uncertain.

Is this image fair to EMC Missions, its national staff, missionaries from our churches, and our commitment to work together? EMC Missions regularly informs donors, churches, and individuals of its workers, ministries, and finances. You likely know of its many ways:

  • Missions Alerts placed into church bulletins
  • The EMC Day of Prayer
  • EMC Missionary Prayer Calendars
  • Missionary Prayer Corps letters
  • Missions displays and reports at convention and council meetings
  • Reporting in churches by national staff and missionaries
  • Prayer Teams visit missionaries on the field
  • A missions Prayer Ministry led by Beth Koehler
  • Missions reports and staff columns in The Messenger
  • Financial reports in The Messenger, at conference council, at board meetings, in our convention insert, and sent upon request

The EMC has 98 cross-cultural workers in 24 countries serving 115 people groups, according to info provided to Diana Peters. This workforce, serving on our behalf, takes most of our $1.9 million EMC budget. It’s worth it.

Giving to 98 missionaries in 24 countries isn’t tossing coins into a dark well—not when their faces and ministries are shared in EMC circles. Pastors, delegates, and church secretaries are key local sources of information, and even more information is available.

Also, the idea of a well isn’t fair to donors. Some people might glance into a well and see only their image reflected on the water’s surface. No, we want to look deeper.

We want what’s good for others. That’s why we give. And, yes, at times we need help to decide which is a sound ministry and which people are worth supporting.

Terry M. Smith

Isn’t this why 65 years ago EMC churches together formed a mission board with representatives from various regions? It works to discern and decide about people, places, and ministries. Our fields, workers, and impact have multiplied, and your giving has permitted this. Thank you.

Let’s look again at the EM Conference line in our local church’s budget and at the EMC’s annual budget. Do we see 98 faces of missionaries looking back at us, all of whom serve on our behalf and depend on our support?

Patience in the Early Church and Patience Today

by a Christian

In the book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church (Baker Academic, 2016) the author, Alan Kreider, asks how the Early Church grew in the face of disgrace and death, without any coordinated program for mission or effort to attract outsiders. In short, the Church Fathers insisted that believers make their faith visible, specifically through patience, which they considered the highest of virtues. I found it intriguing that three early church fathers wrote treatises on this patience. Why was “patience” so extolled in this era?

In his defense of Christianity, Justin (2nd c.) said, “When Christians live with integrity and visibility ‘by our patience … and meekness [Christians will] draw all men from shame and evil desires.’”[1]

Pagan writers considered patience to be a characteristic of lowly people. Tertullian (4th c.), however, said patience is rooted in God Himself. The incarnation is the ultimate act of patience, as Christ bore the reproaches and shame of humankind. Christ rejected the sword. Believers must continue the same path.

This patience, which reflected a totally new way of life, along with the hidden power or yeast (ferment) within the Church, drew people towards the Kingdom who were dissatisfied with their old cultural habits and religious practices. Kreider talks about a push out from people’s social group and a pull towards the Church

While the Early Church world is vastly different from the 21st century, this reading has led me to reflect in the following ways.

Patience and Sacrifice

In Middle Eastern-South Asian cultures, the virtue of jawanmardi (young manliness, hero) is extolled as the greatest virtue of the “good man.” Difficult to translate the full meaning, it embodies all the public qualities of a true hero—courage, hospitality, large-heartedness, generosity, revenge as well as sacrifice). The ultimate hero lives without reference to himself and willingly sacrifices his life for the benefit of others instead of enacting revenge. Persians have told me they see Jesus as the greatest hero of all. He gave His life away, poured it out for others (kenosis—emptying of Philippians 2:6).

Indeed, the Christ-like patience which the church fathers extolled is much deeper than waiting quietly for a bus. Rather, it is a sacrificial and enduring compassion for others, carrying the pain and burdens of our world, which our Lord embodied in His life and ultimately on the cross. As His people, we are to have that same attitude (patience).

Patience and Christian Witness Today

Secondly, we are witnessing unprecedented growth of the Christian faith among Muslims in recent years that in some ways reflects the growth in the Early Church. We observe a push from within the Muslim world, a deep dismay at the present state in the Middle East (complicated as it is, with many dynamics at play) which compels people to search for answers beyond their world. We also see a pull towards the Church, the witness of compassion demonstrated by Jesus followers as they care for refugees and others. I have heard many migrants in Europe testify of the overwhelming love they’ve experienced from Christians. It is not doctrine or theology that draws them to Jesus, but the simple caring life of believers. Tertullian said, “Christians teach by deeds.”[2]

Yes, we must talk the gospel and explain the person of Jesus, but as Origen (d. 256) believed, “Patience—Christians treating their neighbors well and behaving courageously in the [public] arena—is at the core of the church’s witness.”[3]

Patience, Presence and Church Planting

Thirdly, our EM Conference is excited about church-planting and spreading the gospel beyond our own culture. As we seek to implement this vision, let us put on the garment of patience. We must become visible among the people we serve. It is this that encourages me about the new Ste. Agathe initiative as well as the efforts in southern Mexico—even though we don’t witness numerical success.

One of my team members, working among refugees in the Middle East, wrote recently,

One man wanted to come to the fellowship, but he had heard Christians get drunk, turn off lights in the service and grab someone’s wife. We assured him that this was all lies. He dared to come a few times, but became too busy with work. We trust he will bring his wife soon.

Another man who claimed faith was jailed for stealing. He was finally released. He acknowledged his sin and is experiencing real change. Our team member spends regular time with him and his wife.

Would these people be experiencing the new way of life if we were not patiently present among them? The believing community itself must be visible—tangible, accessible for true witness to take place. Christina Cook, in her article “Holy Inefficiency in a Digital Age,” bemoans our modern obsession with efficiency and productivity over presence and carrying burdens of people around us, “The living, breathing body of Christ … is uniquely poised to offer what the world is desperately searching for: embodied presence, true vulnerability […] the world is looking for the inefficient way to love.”[4]

Cyprian, a church leader, wrote in AD 256, “We are philosophers not in words but in deeds; we exhibit our wisdom not by our dress, but by truth; we know virtues by their practice rather than through boasting of them; we do not speak great things but we live them.”[5]

I see in myself the tendency to boast about impact and numbers. Can we relax from pushing or tracking statistics and overly coordinating efforts that easily run afoul? I want to believe in the divine ferment of God’s Spirit who draws people to the Kingdom and transforms them into a new way of living.

The writer has lived and worked among Persian peoples for more than 35 years. For security reasons, the writer is not identified here. 

[1] Quoted in The Patient Ferment, 16.
[2] Ibid., 56.
[3] Ibid., 20.
[4] Christina Cook, “Holy Inefficiency in a Digital Age” in Christianity Today, July/August 2018, 46.
[5] Kreider, 13.

Enjoy August!

by Loreena Thiessen

August is soon here. A few more weeks and you’ll be back in school.

For now it’s still summer and there are many things you can do. You can have picnics in your backyard or in a park. You can make your own trail mix, s’mores, or sundaes. You can have a water balloon competition—see who can break the most balloons, or who will be the best target. You can blow bubbles: who will blow the most, or the longest lasting bubble, whose will go the highest. You can play bocce ball, badminton, or Frisbee golf.

You can make handprints using tempera paints, cut the shapes out and hang them on the low branches of a tree or on bushes in your backyard. You can read a new book, read it out loud with a friend while sitting on a blanket under a tree or at a picnic table. You can organize a fancy tea party, bake cookies, visit the zoo, ride your bike or go on a hike. You can decorate the sidewalk with chalk art or make one more trip to the beach.

How can you make the summer last? You can record your activities as you go along. Later you can look back and review them. Did you see something special, the ocean, a lake, mountains, a museum, a fun beach or a playground? Did you make a new friend, or visit an old friend, or a cousin? Did you learn something new? Maybe you learned how to swim or ride a two-wheeler or play a new game.

Take photos of your activities. Keep a record in a journal of all the things you do. Mark on a calendar what you do each day and who shared the fun with you. Draw pictures to show your summer. Then you can look back and remember and continue to enjoy it all again in the coming months.

Make sure to review how to be safe. Go to a playground or a park only if your parents say that you may. Go with a friend or an adult only if your parents say it’s okay. Don’t talk to strangers or go anywhere with them. If you feel unsure or afraid, find your parents or another adult you can trust and tell them about it.

Don’t run into the street to get a ball or near the edge of a cliff, a river or creek on a dare or to show off. Only swim where it’s safe and always with a buddy. Let your parents know where you are and listen to their instructions. They will say where and how far you can go. They want to know that you are safe.

Soon September will be here and you’ll be ready for it.

Loreena Thiessen

You are important to God. Jesus says it is good to be a child. A child enjoys play for the fun that it is. A child trusts that life is good, that people are good. A child accepts others the way they are. A child learns easily and forgives quickly. Jesus says adults too must be like this.

Read Matthew 18:1-5.

Activity: Make a photo journal

Need: camera, time for a walk

Do: choose words like:

play                               happy

shadow                         dance

hop                               peek-a-boo

laugh                             jump

share                             friend

silly face                       yellow

Take a walk in your backyard, a playground or a park, or in your house. With your camera take a photo of an object, a person, or a scene, that shows the word you have in mind. Turn the activity into a guessing game with your family or a friend. Show the photo and have them guess which word it is.