All posts by emcmessenger

Book Review: People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue

People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue, Preston Sprinkle (Zondervan, 2015). 224 pp. $19. ISBN 9780310519652. Reviewed by Jessica Wichers, BCM chair. 

The Bible is very clear.” When confronted with the hotly debated topic of the Church and homosexuality, evangelicals may be tempted to quote Bible verses and come to hasty conclusions. But do they really know what the Bible says? It’s too important an issue for quick answers.

Preston Sprinkle’s book People to Be Loved is an in-depth biblical analysis of homosexuality, which employs historical context to study scripture passages used to affirm or condemn homosexuality. Sprinkle demonstrates both affirming and non-affirming arguments, making the reader work for the conclusion that marriage was designed to be between a man and a woman.

He then discusses whether same-sex attracted individuals were “born this way” and the factors that contribute. Sprinkle gives stories of people who have gone through the struggles of same-sex attraction. He identifies ways that believers can show love to LGBT individuals, acknowledge their humanity, and make the church a safe place for them to experience the love of Christ. Sprinkle reminds pastors that their pews are filled with more same-sex attracted people than they realize, and they need to choose their words carefully when they teach.

Sprinkle suggests that evangelical believers may need to modify their attitudes about certain things. For instance, same-sex attracted individuals may choose to glorify God by remaining celibate., but the Church tends to overlook unmarried people. An environment that values singles will also be a place where same-sex attracted people may find a chance to thrive.

People to Be Loved is a helpful addition to the conversation about homosexuality and the Church. It is written by a person who upholds marriage to be between a man and a woman (as I do), and I believe the book is a well-balanced exploration of a most urgent and essential topic. It deals thoroughly with what the Bible says about same-sex attraction and marriage in a tone that is engaging, humble, and respectful. It is a recommended read for any believer.

Come Celebrate God’s Work in Nicaragua!

by Ken Zacharias

A total of 33 churches and outreaches—that’s only part of what a half-century of our EMC ministry in Nicaragua has contributed toward! And that’s why the EMC is planning to join the celebration and a learning tour (April 4 to 11, 2017).

EMC Missions began ministry in Nicaragua in 1966 with the efforts of Fred and Doris Friesen. Our sister FIEMN conference, which developed, celebrates its 50th anniversary on April 8, 2017.

Doris Friesen writes, “Can it be that it was 50 years ago that Fred and I did that long trek to Nicaragua, over 5,000 miles by land in our white camper truck, with our two little girls, to a land unknown with only a map and the Holy Spirit as our guide!”

There was “no one at the other end to meet us!” she says. “We were either courageous or fools! But we are never fools when we obey the Lord. And how the Lord blessed us so richly in spite of many difficulties!”

The FIEMN churches and EMC guests will hold a one-day celebration at Camp Maranatha with at least two services and additional prayer services through the night.  As part of the event, the FIEMN and the EMC Board of Missions have approved a special project for Camp Maranatha to help replace 80 bunk beds and 160 mattresses. (This will greatly assist the FIEMN and its retreat ministry.

You are invited to attend this anniversary! It will be inspirational and educational. You will be encouraged in your faith.

The story of the FIEMN is one of planting, political revolution, and growth within one of the poorest countries in Latin America—yet you will hear from believers how Christ has blessed them. 

Lester and Darlene Olfert, former missionaries to Nicaragua, will lead the Learning Tour as it visits FIEMN churches and ministries (April 4-11). You will meet FIEMN committee leaders and pastors, and appreciate the strong faith clearly evident in believers’ lives and in church life.

You will meet Pastor Gerardo Chavarría, FIEMN’s president, and be challenged by his faith story and ministry example. Gerardo pastors the Diriomito congregation. He is one of two Pastoral Supervisors who visits, every three months, the churches for which he is responsible. These churches are located in the mountaineous region east of Managua, Boaco province, where there are bad roads or no roads. No roads means walking or riding a mule. Ever ridden a mule?

Ken Zacharias
Ken Zacharias

Local pastors, visited in different regions, will share how the Lord has blessed them. You will encounter cultural interests—perhaps the Masaya volcano or a coffee plantation. Do you prefer lava or caffeine?

The trip will cost about $1,800, including flights (more exact pricing will follow). For information on the celebration and tour, please contact Diana Peters (dpeters@emconf.ca) or myself (kzacharias@emconf.ca).

EMC Archives gains from partnership with MHC

by Terry M. Smith

Progress made in EMC collection, more needed

WINNIPEG/STEINBACH—New happenings with older items! These are the benefits of the EMC’s partnership with the Mennonite Heritage Centre (MHC) in Winnipeg, Man.

Two recent Plett Foundation grants have allowed work on EMC materials. One grant covered data entry for about half of the EMC materials; more work is needed. A second allowed printed photos to be transferred to a digital format; Emilie Bartel (Kleefeld) was involved with this project.

On Sept. 12, 2015, most of the EMC’s archival holdings were moved from the vault in the EMC’s national office in Steinbach to become part of the collection at MHC in Winnipeg. The EMC Archives Committee, which operates under the Board of Church Ministries, agreed to transfer the storage of the materials, not their ownership. The materials remain within the control of the EMC.

The EMC now has its archival holdings located in a suitable space, one shared with MC Manitoba, the EMMC, and MCC. This makes it easier for wider research purposes.

How has MHC helped the EMC? Director Korey Dyck and archivist Conrad Stoesz helped transfer EMC archives to MHC’s site. MHC has spent more than 300 hours working on EMC material, says Dyck.

The Archives Committee members are Don Kroeker, Loren Koehler, and Glen Klassen. Terry Smith is connected as BCM’s executive secretary. MHC’s key people are director Korey Dyck and curator Conrad Stoesz.

Drought in southern Africa continues to be severe

by CFGB

Has uneven impact on children, people with HIV/AIDS

SOUTHERN AFRICA—The impact of the El Nino-related drought on people living in southern Africa continues to be severe. That is the message being shared by Barbara Macdonald, who directs International Programs for Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB).

Poor harvests and crop failures that have come as a result of the drought have left many people dependent on buying food from their local markets, where high food prices have put pressure on family incomes.

Over half a million children are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition in seven countries in the region, and over three million have had their access to safe water reduced by the drought.

Also at high risk are people being treated for HIV/AIDS; southern Africa is home to one-third of all people living with HIV/AIDS in the world.

Meanwhile, a World Food Programme survey in the southern Africa country of Zimbabwe found that about 80 percent of households in some regions of the country had either reduced the number of meals they ate each day or the amount of food eaten. Around 6,000 children have dropped out of school due to hunger, or because they need to help their families either by working or by getting water.

The Foodgrains Bank is responding to needs in southern Africa through its member agencies. In Zambia, CFGB member World Renew is responding to the crisis by providing 4,500 families, with a total household population of 31,500, with seven months of emergency food in return for their labour on community projects. This emergency food is helping families survive until they can harvest a crop again. Households that depend on small-scale farming are also receiving seeds to help them re-start production.

Poetry: A Carpenter’s Son

by Eleanor Lee Gustaw

The wonder of Christmas came one eve,

the glory of love in a virgin conceived.

The gift of His coming, the blessing so true,

that came in a manger for me and for you.

The joy that He brings each day to my soul,

hold riches untold that makes my life whole.

A carpenter’s Son, and yet, He is God,

how can I not thank Him, in joy offer laud!

For He is the Saviour so precious to me,

Who taught in the temple and preached on the sea.

Who died on a cross and in victory rose,

a love so adorning it sets each heart free!

That night was the greatest when Christmas was born,

and God became man yet in man He was God.

For the glory He is shall ever live on

because Jesus is Lord and in Him lives this song.

‘Digging for Treasure’ in Jesus’ parables

by MennoMedia

MennoMedia 2017 Bible school curriculum ready for orders

KITCHENER, Ont.—The parables of Jesus contain rich hidden gems. With the theme Digging for Treasure: Parables Revealed, the 2017 Vacation Bible School series from MennoMedia gives children tools to find treasures of God’s kingdom.

“This year’s theme responds to a survey in which people said they would like to study parables during VBS,” writes project director Mary Ann Weber. “The parables reveal things about the kingdom of heaven, about God, and about how much God loves us.”

The five-day curriculum brings children both stories and activities about the sower and the seed, the lost sheep and lost coin, the mustard seed, and others. Through drama, worship, creative activities, and song, children will find the spiritual wealth in these ever-new stories from Jesus.

Children’s booklets, Treasure Map and My Book of Stories, and a CD of energetic worship songs help draw children into exploring the world of Jesus’ stories and teachings. Leader’s guides help teachers lead VBS for children from age 4 through grade 5. Adaptations for grades 6–8 are offered on a resource CD, a new feature in this year’s curriculum.

The CD provides additional helpful tools to publicize VBS, a Bible memory slide show, name tags, and other resources designed to equip leaders in implementing an effective, dynamic VBS program.  Digging for Treasure includes leader’s guides for active response, Bible response, creative response, and worship and drama.

Digging for Treasure may be ordered in an all-in-one boxed set including everything needed for planning and preparation. All items are also available separately. More information is at: http://www.mennomedia.org/vbs.

IMC’s 50th anniversary shows faith living still

by Ron and Judy Plett

MORWEENA, Man.— Many former students of the Interlake Mennonite Collegiate (IMC) gathered at Morweena, Man., on Aug.  21, 2016, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its founding.

Former students, and their spouses, came from throughout western Canada to celebrate and re-establish friendships. What a time of visiting and celebration it was! Some people had not seen each other in 40 to 50 years.

Mrs. Levina Friesen, widow of IMC’s teacher, Mr. Harry Friesen, also came and shared memories as well as encouraged all of us as we continue onward in faith. The event hosted a wonderful banquet and closed with a Southern Gospel and Country concert by Wilmer Reimer, the husband of Pearl, a former IMC student now living in Strathmore, Alta.

The school was established in 1966 during an era when the province had increased the mandatory age of education to age 16 and the country schools were being consolidated. IMC was started in response to parents in Riverton, Morweena, and Fisher Branch desiring to send their youth to a Christian high school.

In 1970 Christian schools covering Grades one to 10 were established in Mennville/Riverton and in Morweena/Arborg, absorbing the students who would have attended IMC; and, thus, IMC was closed.

Ralph Unger appointed interim Conference Pastor

by Peter Doerksen, BLO chair

STEINBACH, Man.—Ralph Unger is serving as EMC Conference Pastor on an interim basis. The Board of Leadership and Outreach appointed him on Sept. 23, 2016, to serve four days a week. Ralph is willing to continue in this role until June 2017 or until a full-time Conference Pastor is appointed.

Ralph is well known within the EMC, having served as a pastor in Winnipeg (Crestview), Birch River, Ridgewood, and most recently as an interim pastor at Rosenort EMC. He has also been the EMC moderator for four years in the mid-nineties. Ralph and his wife Mary Lynn currently attend the St. Vital EMC. We are delighted that Ralph has agreed to serve as Conference Pastor and believe that he will be an encouragement to EMC churches.

The Search Committee is continuing its search for a full-time Conference Pastor. The committee is still receiving applications for this position. Anyone interested is encouraged to submit a resume to Erica Fehr.

National office staff fan out in Region 3

SASK. AND MAN.—Ken Zacharias, foreign secretary, arrived in Region Three first on Sept. 13, meeting jointly with Community Bible Fellowship leaders and Guadalajara workers John and Connie Reimer in Swan River. (On Sunday, Sept. 18, people from Christian Fellowship Church, in nearby Birch River, came to hear the Reimers, CBF’s former pastoral couple.)

Gerald Reimer, conference youth minister and missions mobilizer, and Terry Smith, executive secretary, arrived in Region Three on Sept. 17.

Terry was dropped off in Endeavour where he visited with Pastor Brad Steppan. (Carol was at a Beth Moore simulcast in Swan River, arriving home in late evening.) In the morning Terry joined the Endeavour Fellowship Chapel in its kick-off event, a pancake breakfast; during the worship service he gave the children’s lesson and sermon.

Gerald Reimer travelled to Hudson Bay; during part of the way two vehicles ahead of him flushed deer off the road. He visited with Kelvin and Jessica Young, Pineridge Fellowship Chapel’s youth leaders, and then stayed with pastoral couple Fred and Irene Buhler. The next morning he led a Sunday School discussion on the conference’s work and gave the sermon.

By Sunday evening Gerald and Terry were in Swan River for supper with CBF’s youth leadership team. Doris Reimer and Fred and Charlotte Evans then hosted them overnight.

On Monday morning Terry and Gerald joined the Region Three Pastors’ Meeting held at CBF. Fred Buhler asked what it was like for Terry to be back in the region. Terry, a pastor in Creighton for 11 years, said Gerald might have to tie him to the vehicle to get him to leave.

After discussing connections, resources, and challenges, the leaders met for lunch, enjoying food remaining from the Beth Moore event. Pastor Hyoungjin (Frankie) Kim, from Pelly Fellowship Chapel, then arranged people and a camera. He’s a techie!

Layton Friesen: Distracted in Two Directions

by Layton Friesen

Christmas is upon us and with it all the distractions that so quickly encumber and the busyness that so thoroughly wears. That’s a bleak midwinter way of starting off, but here we go a drearily. I have noticed two ways the Devil diverts our attention from the birth of Jesus. The first distraction is familiar to us: all the parties, the decorations, the family kerfluffles, and the ho, ho, ho that gobble our time and drain the bank, leaving little of our lives as gifts for the Saviour.

But the second distraction is trickier simply because it comes more sanctified. It’s the December-long war against distractions, which has now become its own cottage industry. We can spend the entire Christmas season scolding the world about how they are abusing Christmas. We preach sermons against the busyness of Christmas, or against the evils of Santa. We write blogs against the consumerism of Christmas, haranguing shoppers for being in malls. We put on Sunday School musicals in which distracted, annoyed revelers have last-minute conversion experiences and finally realize “the reason for the season.”

We get involved in political campaigns to “save” Christmas, tallying references to Christmas at our public school “holiday concert,” relieved that once again our secularist world has given us something to be angry about. We stage “buy nothing” Christmases and make sure everyone knows.

I don’t think the Devil cares much whether we forget Jesus via the first distraction or the second. He might even prefer the second one since the more holy he can make people feel in their neglect of Jesus the better for him. The devil has always had to rely on the imitation of holiness since naked evil is pretty hard to swallow even for the worst of us.

The point is, whether we forget Jesus because we are so wrapped in tinsel, or because we spend our time condemning people for being wrapped in tinsel, either way we forget Jesus.

Remember the parable about fitting rocks and sand into a jar? He puts the sand in first and now he can’t fit the rocks. Then he starts with the rocks and all the sand fits in fine.

Take some time to read the story of the birth of Jesus. “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Attend church and sing aloud with the carols of the season. Give a gift you can’t afford to a local charity that helps the poor in the name of the homeless Christ. Say a prayer of thanks to God “that those who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa. 9:2).

Thank God for not forgetting us in this dark, cold world, for loving us so much as to send his only begotten Son. In short, worship Jesus with your heart, voice, mind, and bank account.

Layton Friesen
Layton Friesen

And then party like it’s AD 1. Cook good food. Surprise your uncle with a gift too late in the season for him to return the favour. Go to the mall and be amazed that all these thousands of harried, tired people are buying expensive gifts for other people! It’s all a vast expensive, convulsion of love that’s good news for the economy. Go carolling at your neighbours in the hope that they invite you in for drinks.

Get the main thing right, and then relax and enjoy the lights.