Category Archives: A Reader’s Viewpoint

I am Ambivalent About the EMC

By Josh Friesen

Writing this article makes me torn. I can certainly agree with some of the things Mr. Brandt mentioned in his article [March 2019] about his joy of being an EMCer—the diversity of culture and language represented both at a congregational level and now more recently at a pastoral level. I do have a few thorns in my side that I’m trying to decide if they’re a good thing or a bad thing. Continue reading I am Ambivalent About the EMC

Adam Harris: Go And Do Likewise

by Adam Harris

Love one another. This is the command Jesus gave throughout the gospels. Jesus modeled how to love others and as followers of Christ. We should do the same. Jesus stated love for one another as a part of the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:39). Loving others is what marks the life of a true disciple of Christ.

Love For God, Love For Others

You will notice that I did not touch on the first part of the greatest commandment: To love God (Matt. 22:37-38). That is because I wanted to expand on that a bit more. Love for God is essential if we truly want to love others. God has loved us with an everlasting love. He sent His one and only Son to die for us (John 3:16). His one and only! If that doesn’t show the magnitude of God’s love for us I don’t know what else does.

If I had an only son and had to give him up for the lives of total strangers I don’t think I could do that. Because He loved us so much we should in turn love and devote ourselves to Him. Our devotion to God is evident in our love for others.

Both loving God and loving others are interchangeable. When we love God we will love others; and when we love others will love God because God loves people. God’s love for people was evident when He sent His Son to die for our sins, and He calls us to follow His example of love (1 John 4:9-11).

How Do We Love? Whom Do We Love?

Jesus’ command to love others means essentially that we should look out for the needs of others. Look out for their needs as we would look out for our own. We should love our neighbour as ourselves. Jesus was asked by an expert in religious law, “And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29). That’s a good question. How do we know whom we should love?

Jesus answers the man’s question in the following verses by telling The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). On his way from Jerusalem to Jericho a man was attacked by bandits. He was left for dead. People passed him by, a priest and a Levite, a temple assistant. None of them decided to help the man.

Only a “despised” Samaritan felt compassion for him enough to help him. The Scripture doesn’t say the injured man was Jewish. Perhaps that’s part of Jesus’ point: this man could be anyone and he should be helped.

If the injured man was Jewish, the same point is made. Samaritans and Jews in biblical times did not get along. They were at opposite ends of the spectrum and did not associate with one another. But this Samaritan did not think twice.

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Adam Harris

The Samaritan bandaged the man’s wounds, took the man to an inn on his own donkey, and offered to pay the bill for his stay. The one who was despised—the one from whom he would never imagined getting help—was the one who helped the man when no one else would.

When you wonder whom you should love and how we should love, look back on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. And go and do likewise.

Adam Harris, a certificate graduate of Steinbach Bible College, is connected with Braeside EMC. He lives in Winnipeg.

Dave Harms: A Story of Entering Pastoral Ministry

by Rev. Dave Harms

I attended Steinbach Bible Institute (now College) in the winters of 1956 to 1958. I graduated in 1958 with a three-year diploma.

In 1960 the Rosenort EMC ministerial needed one more minister to fill the pulpits on Sunday mornings since the group was already ministering in a number of locales. They decided to have a vote in February to elect a minister by ballot.

When the ballots were counted, it was nearly a tie. The brotherhood decided to accept two ministers. This was how I was elected to be a minister.

Not long after this election, the chairman of the Rosenort Missions Committee asked whether Katie and I would consider helping with the church plant in Roseisle. After praying about it and trying to determine God’s will, we said yes.

I, of course, had to be ordained to preach. The date of March 15, 1960, was set for the ordination. That was the first Sunday I was sent to Roseisle to teach the Sunday School class and preach my first message there. I hurried home to take in my ordination service.

After six years I resigned. Katie and I moved to Blumenort. I took two Grade 11 classes at Steinbach Christian High School in the morning; in the afternoons I was an orderly at the Rest Haven Nursing Home in Steinbach.

Before the year was up, leaders from the Roseisle EMC paid us a visit and asked us to come back to serve as pastor again. After praying about it, we decided to go back. We served there for eleven more years. Much credit must go to my brother Henry, who helped with work, a house, and meat in the freezer.

I don’t recall how much the Rosenort Missions Committee paid us for the first five months in 1960, but after a while the Roseisle people started giving me $25 per month for gas. Back then there was no Conference Pastor. There was no sabbatical. There was no salary schedule.

During my time, I was mostly or partly self-supporting. I worked four days a week in house moving with my brother Henry. A couple of years I drove a school bus, and I served as an orderly occasionally at a nursing home in Carmen and at the hospital in Morden. For the final two years of my service at Roseisle, I received $250 per month from the church.

How did I manage to do this? The Lord was with us, and we did with less than people do today. Times were not easy for many people back then, not just for a pastor and his family.

After I left, the position has been mostly full-time, a salary has been provided within the EMC scale, and a house has been provided as a manse.

Katie got sick and passed away before I resigned from the pastorate in 1978. I was burned out.

The Lord was good to me, and I met Fran. We were married seven months after.

We stayed in Roseisle one more year, but not as pastor. I worked again for my brother Henry for that year. We then decided that I would take a two-year refresher course at SBC. Fran got a job as the Dean of Women. She had good experience for it, having served as Dean of Women at Bethany Bible Institute. In 1982 I graduated with a Bachelor of Religious Studies.

When the two years of studies were up, we went to Camp Arnes for four years. Then I came to Rest Haven Nursing Home in Steinbach, for the first five years as a chaplain/maintenance person and then eight years as a chaplain only. Fran went back to serve as a librarian and a secretary at Steinbach Christian High School.

Fran and I were part of committee that started Stony Brook Fellowship. I have been recognized as a minister in SBF, but am now retired.

 

Irene Kroeker: Let’s Be Careful What We Teach Children!

At age seven I went to school every day, hoping my teacher would tell us how to get to heaven. I was obsessed with my need of forgiveness. I got some help at age 13. When I was 14, my uncle explained John 1:12. That was my turning point.

I have struggled with salvation and its teachings to children for almost a lifetime. I don’t want others to go through this the hard way or be oblivious to it altogether.

In 1972 I taught Religion Class in a school where I was teaching south of Winkler, Man. I remember the day I agonized before God, asking Him, “How can I get to the level of my Grade 2 to 4 students in order for them to understand my faith?”

The next morning I opened my Bible Story Book for our daily reading. It was the story of Jesus blessing the children and saying unless we have the faith of a little child, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God. I was hit so hard I could hardly read.

That left a permanent mark on my heart. I revised the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) content of what I was using in Religion Class. But I was still very oblivious to the “eternal security” position in it right till last year (2016) when I read Dr. Harvey Plett’s article on Children in the Church, which he sent me when I asked for help.

That is when my eyes were really opened. I agree that little children are in the Kingdom and should not be talked or scared into it. They are not lost, but safe in Jesus till the age of accountability, which differs from child to child.

I talked to a Grandma whose four-year-old grandson asked Jesus into his heart.  Because of my new understanding, I could rejoice with her and warn her of the need for many commitments and re-commitments ahead.

From Oct. 19 to Dec. 8, 2016, I taught little children, mostly ages four to six, in a new outreach area of our church. Again, I needed the truths of that article in my lesson prep and teaching. I had a CEF flannelgraph that I used carefully.

I checked up in my home church as to what material the Sunday School teachers are using with the young children. I found out they use the CEF flannelgraph, much to my delight. I think it is important, though, for teachers to be informed of our theology on children and salvation. If they are not, is this not cause for deep concern?

Irene-Kroeker
Irene Kroeker

A good teacher will repeat an important teaching and come at it from various angles and perspectives. I requested that Dr. Harvey Plett’s article on the spiritual status of children be reprinted. We need to hear it again.

Irene Kroeker (Rosenort EMC) has served as a missionary in Mexico and serves in various ways within her local church.

Note: Dr. Harvey Plett’s two-part series on the spiritual status of children appears in March and April.

Lil Goertzen: When Caring For Elderly Family Members, Give Up on Some Things!

by Lil Goertzen

All of us come into the world and start off the same way. When we are born we immediately begin to “give up.” When we enter this world, we give up the comfort and safety of the womb. As we move to the teenage years, we give up the days of childhood. We give up childish ways as we mature.

As we approach a certain stage in life, we give up our larger homes and downsize to smaller accommodations. We give up positions of responsibility and leadership. We give up our driver’s license and look for alternate means of transportation. We give up our independence when others need to come in and tend to our personal needs.

As we walk alongside those who are adapting to the rapid changes around them as they age, we, too, as the caregivers need to give up on some things. Here is what I have learned as we walk this road with my parents and other elderly loved ones.

Give up being in control of everything. As a caregiver, it is wise to encourage the elder person to maintain as much control of their surroundings as possible. When safety for them and others becomes a concern, then a different approach needs to be taken. Assist them with decision making and help guide the process.

Give up correcting their stories. Facts may not be clear and story lines may be drawn from several different situations. As much as possible, help steer the story without correcting. Do not argue about the details or that the story is wrong. At that moment, the elder person is likely not able to distinguish accurately what they desire to convey. Be gentle. Next time, the same story may be told accurately!

Give up being frustrated with their habits. Many elders grew up in a time where everything was saved and reused. That mentality of “it will come in handy sometime” continues on through their life. Rather than throwing out their beloved stuff, find ways of recycling or reusing these items. Sometimes local community centres can put those tin cans, hand tools, margarine containers and string collections to very good use during their craft and activity time. It may help the elder to let go of some of those items when they see someone else can benefit from their collection.

Give up trying to do the caregiving on your own. Looking after an elder can be time consuming depending on their required level of care. Providing good care may also require the assistance of trained personnel like home care workers, medical professionals and companions who then become the support team. Establish good communication with the support team and keep them informed of changes and concerns.

When possible, have two or three family members or friends be the primary contact persons when concerns from the support team are raised. Have those same people attend medical appointments so that the information communicated is consistent and in context.

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Lil Goertzen

In the midst of all these changes and challenges, God is there. He knows the pain and struggle of facing another “golden” day of increased age. As much as possible, encourage the elder to continue attending worship times. Engage them in Bible reading and prayer time, reminding them that God continues to be their Heavenly Father and loves them deeply. He has not given up.

Many blessings are received in exchange for giving up!

Lil Goertzen is the Communications Coordinator for EMMC/Go Mission!

Diana Peters: Normal Time Is Not Wasted Time

by Diana Peters

Sometimes I begin to panic. Why? I have no idea what I’m going to be when I grow up. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with my life, what my purpose is.

My remaining years stretch out before me, a blank canvas with the pools of paint on the palette beginning to dry. Life is passing me by. I’m already twenty-seven years old.

You may laugh. I know it seems ridiculous, as I’m still young. But if you think about it, society seems to indicate that a person should know what his or her life is going to look like, especially in regards to career, by the time he or she graduates from grade 12. Tell me, how many of you knew exactly where your life was going when you were 18?

Oh, I thought I knew what some of my future would look like. And I did some of that. And I most definitely had dreams. I still do. But things change.

So here I am, 30 on the horizon, and I sometimes feel like I have nothing to show for it. I’m not in an established career. I am not married with two children and another one on the way. I do not own my own house with enough yard space to have a few cats and a dog. Though I am happy with where I am, I don’t feel like I am truly adult-ing yet.

My thoughts turn to Jesus. What was he doing at my age? We don’t know exactly. Our guess is that He was probably working in carpentry and helping his Mom with raising his younger siblings.

He was still three years away from when He actively started His ministry. If this is so, it means He was a single young adult, living at home, working in His Dad’s (earthly) business.

I don’t think that these years, years that made up the majority of Jesus’ time on earth, were wasted years. He was still doing His Father’s heavenly business.

He was living in the normal day-to-day portion of life, as we all do. He calmly bided His time, a time of purpose and preparation. And when it was time, He was ready. Ready for the glorious and the terrible.

If I put myself in my complete humanness and with no divineness into Jesus’ shoes, I think I would panic even more than I do now, especially knowing I only had six more years and three of those were already mapped out to an extent (not all pleasant). All of a sudden, my panic in my own reality seems unfounded.

I do not know how much time I have left. It might be six years. It might be more. It might be less.

I do not know what my remaining years will look like, what I will all accomplish, what dreams I will fulfill. But here’s what I’m learning as I look to Jesus: I am about my Father’s business in the here and now, the normal.

Every day is a completion of God’s purpose for my life for that day and a preparation for God’s purpose for my life for the coming days.

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Diana Peters

And because I know all this I can live trusting in the Lord to guide my path, as He has guided me here. In Him I have peace.

Diana Peters (EFC Steinbach) serves as an administrative assistant in the EMC national office.

Don Plett: An Ill-Advised Resolution Against Israel

By Don Plett

At its recent Assembly, the Mennonite Church Canada passed a resolution calling for boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) measures against Israelis.

Specifically, the resolution called on Church bodies and members “to avoid investing in or supporting companies that do business with Israeli settlements and the Israel Defense Forces, and companies that are profiting from the occupation of the Palestinian territories,” and called on the Government of Canada “to support measures that put pressure on Israel (including through economic sanctions).”

As a Mennonite, I am extremely discouraged to see any Mennonite conference in Canada take this stance.

Ever since scripture was translated into common language, over 500 years ago, it has been explicitly clear that the nation of Israel was given a land known as Canaan and that the gift came directly from God himself.

As Christians, we know that biblical text is the written word of God. The message of God when it comes to support for Israel and the Jewish people is abundantly clear, and is illustrated in several examples of scripture.

In Genesis 12:3 (NIV), God is speaking to Abraham as he says: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Many Christians believe that history has shown that those nations who have blessed the Jewish people have received the blessing of God; while the nations who have cursed the Jewish people have experienced the curse of God.

Likewise, scripture tell us that Christians are indebted to Jews, as their contributions gave birth to the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul recorded in Romans 15:27 (NIV), “They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.”

And, of course, the Bible confirms that the Lord Jesus Christ was a practicing Orthodox Jew.

However, most Christians’ support for Israel goes well beyond scripture. The historical legitimacy of Israel, in all of its territory, as a nation is indisputable. And, as it stands today, Israel is a nation of democratic choice, individual freedom and modern thought standing alone in the middle of backwards, regressive dictatorships.

It goes without saying that there will be times when we, as Christians and as individuals, will have ideological differences with the political leaders of Israel, as we will with any nation’s government. However, Mennonite Church Canada has taken an extreme position against Israel, which I maintain is in direct contradiction to the written word of God.

We need to remember that, with the exception of Israel, all nations were created by mankind. Israel was created by an act of God. This is something that needs to remain sacred, and on our support for Israel, Christians need to remain consistent.

Senator Don Plett
Don Plett, member at Prairie Rose EMC

As a Mennonite and as a Christian, I would like to make it explicitly clear that, despite the name of the conference, Mennonite Church Canada does not speak for all Mennonites in adopting this ill-advised resolution.

Editor’s Note: A reply was issued by Dan Dyck, Director of  Church Engagement Communications, Mennonite Church Canada. It can be found here