Category Archives: Features

Living on the Word of God Alone

A testimony to the effectiveness of fasting

By Darcy Sproule

Have you ever seen a vehicle where the dash in front of the driver is full of papers or books? It has scraps of notes, receipts, work sheets from a project or any other such thing cluttering up the top of the dash. While it doesn’t interfere with the driver’s line of sight, it does interfere with looking through the window. The reflection in the windshield distracts from seeing clearly ahead. Similarly, our lives can get cluttered—with things both good and bad. Continue reading Living on the Word of God Alone

Church Renewal: Can These Bones Live?

God calls for reform and renewal of churches in exile

By Terry Hiebert, Ph.D.

It started with a Bible study. Young families sensed God moving in revival. The good news of salvation in Jesus transformed their lives. Bible studies formed to discover the meaning of new life in Christ. Still, their church remained traditional and legalistic. Ministers resisted these new gospel songs and “born again” sermons. Eventually the young leaders started a church to proclaim Jesus for lost friends and family. Continue reading Church Renewal: Can These Bones Live?

Swords into Plowshares

By Peter Fehr

Reshaping My Thinking About the Pain of Indigenous People

He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore (Micah 4:3; Isaiah 2:4).

The prophets Micah and Isaiah share a vision. Isaiah’s vision was for Judah and Jerusalem; Micah’s was for the last days, where nations cultivated relationships and not strife. It was a God-given vision for his people. For two decades or so this vision has been part of my journey. It is a vision that reshaped my thinking. At times the reshaping was a slow process; in other times it was jolting and painful. Continue reading Swords into Plowshares

Hospitality: Listening and Loving in the Middle of Our Messy Lives

By Laurie Rempel

As we continue to search for ways to meet our deep longings for communion with God and others, let’s consider how the practice of hospitality might be just the thing we need as we ride out this pandemic. It may help us to enjoy and share the kind of connection and ongoing friendship we have missed not only at church, but also with our neighbours. Continue reading Hospitality: Listening and Loving in the Middle of Our Messy Lives

Afghanistan – Any Hope Left?

Our pain cannot fit in the heart of the sea. The ocean is too small to embrace our heartache!

By Pamir Ministries

We cannot believe it. Afghanistan is collapsing. Nothing has stopped the Taliban momentum and they have now entered Kabul. Will it be a transitional government or a total Taliban takeover? Afghans are deeply fearful. Panic, dismay and confusion are everywhere. Foreigners are leaving. What about the believers? Borders are closed.
Continue reading Afghanistan – Any Hope Left?

‘EMC Needs to Look in its Back Yard’

An Interview with Elvira Cote

With Jennifer Kronelsen and Elvira Cote

Jennifer Kornelsen
Elvira Cote

I (Jennifer Kornelsen) visited with Elvira Cote one rainy day this spring. Elvira is from Cote First Nation in Saskatchewan and she lives in Winnipeg. Elvira serves God with Healing Hearts Ministries, and has been an Evangelical Mennonite Conference missionary for 25 years. Her home church is Braeside EMC. Elvira and I are sharing our conversation with you so that you can hear my questions (I’m a white settler), and Elvira’s wisdom (Elvira is Saulteaux).

A note about terminology: language is always evolving, and the names used for ethnic categories can be delicate. The Messenger uses Indigenous Peoples to refer to the original inhabitants of Canada; First Nations is also common in usage. Elvira has a personal preference for the term Native, and she uses this term most of the time.

Jennifer Kornelsen (JK): The EMC has traditionally been made up mostly of people with European ethnic backgrounds. You are First Nations. Describe what your experience has been.

Elvira Cote (EC): Well first of all, I have belonged to a mostly white EMC church and many of my friends are white Mennonites. We are life-long friends. Throughout my years raising my salary as a missionary, non-Native people have been very generous. The majority of my financial support has come from my white Menn onite friends and connections.

Whenever I visit other EMC churches to speak I receive an abundance of warm welcomes and hugs and I am assured that lots of people are praying for me. I really feel the Holy Spirit through the genuine care and love that I receive from EMCers.

Like other Native people, I have had my share of negative experiences in the church, including in our denomination. Most often this has happened when non-Native people have asked me questions that are ignorant. When I’m asked ignorant questions I feel that I’m being looked down on and that non-Native people have not made the effort to learn about me and my people. This makes me feel that we are not valuable and that we are being overlooked.

In general, Mennonite people are such hard workers. They will work the land till they can work no more! Perhaps if they didn’t work quite as hard they might look up and look around and notice their Native neighbours more. But I have had good relationships with people who took the time to get to know me and just be my friend.

JK: What would you like EMC people to know about First Nations people in Canada?

EC: Non-Native people (like long-time EMC missionaries Frank and Mary Braun) were the first to share Jesus among Natives, but a lot of Native people have come to Christ and have taken up the task of spreading the gospel. My niece Venus Cote and myself became believers through the witness of Frank and Mary and we both now serve as Native missionaries. In this way I have seen how God has multiplied the good news. Native people are still coming to Christ!

Native people in Canada are your neighbour. God calls us to love our neighbours. The EMC has invested a lot in overseas missions over the years, and this is great. But the EMC needs to keep looking in its own back yard and invest in Canadian Native people. One thing that would really help would be to support Native missionaries financially.

JK: How could non-Indigenous people become better at developing friendships with Indigenous People?

EC: Mennonites are naturally quite passive and they often stay in their little groups and comfortable settings. Its important to be willing to leave your setting to get to know your Native neighbours. The most important thing non-Native people can do is learn directly from Native people themselves, through relationships. It isn’t okay to just learn about Native people by reading about them in the news or learning from white experts and academics. Instead, take the time to be a friend to one Native person. This includes listening well, visiting, having tea and laughing together.

Don’t think of your Native friend as a project, and never be forceful with sharing the gospel. Instead, come alongside your Native friend. Invest your life by being a true friend to that one person. It doesn’t sound like much, but it would make a big difference. Friendship is the most important thing, not charity. In fact, charity is more often hurtful than it is helpful, if there is no genuine friendship.

JK: How do you suggest a white person could become friends with an Indigenous person? Give us some advice!

EC: Always say “hi.” Smile and connect casually with a Native person that you see on the street.

Remember that person, and recognize them when you see them more than once.

Ask a simple, friendly question like, “hey, you must live around here, I’ve seen you before.” Start some small talk and offer your name.
If you’ve begun to have some small talk, take the time to ask the Native person where they are from. Ask which reserve they are connected to. Native people appreciate being known in relation to their home communities.

Don’t be fearful. Native people are very perceptive and they won’t find it easy to relate to you if they feel you are afraid of them.
Be genuine.

Follow up, and mean what you say.

Superficial relationships are a good start. Superficial relationships can deepen, especially if you learn where the other person lives.

Find ways to share. Native people appreciate giving and receiving gifts. I’ve had really good experiences sharing cartons of eggs with a woman I happened to meet, and a box of chocolates with a frazzled young mother. These were opportunities to build further connection.

JK: What are some of the gifts that Indigenous people have for the church, the natural strengths in First Nations cultures?

EC: There are so many natural strengths in Native people. These are of course generalizations, but Native people are very genuine. They are humble, putting others first and not needing to be in the spotlight. Many Native people have great discernment. They love to laugh and they have a great sense of humour. This includes being silly and teasing, but isn’t usually hurtful teasing because Native people don’t take things very personally.

The way they look at things is unique. They have a great gift for story telling. Jesus’ life demonstrates that story-telling can be a very good way of gently teaching truth and Native people are good at this.
And of course, just like other cultural groups, Native people love their traditional foods, like bannock, and they love to share food.

JK: What is God doing among First Nations people and how can the EMC support this and pray?

EC: There have been many great Christian Native leaders, but these are getting older and we need to raise up a younger generation of leaders and missionaries who are Native. We need to invest in the youth and help them to grow by supporting them to attend Bible school and especially to be taught by older Native Christians. Northern Canada Evangelical Mission (NCEM) is training Native missionaries and we need to support this. There should be a Bible school especially for Native people.

Inviting Native people to be speakers in EMC churches would really open eyes and would help non-Natives to learn about what God is doing among Native people.

It would be great it the EMC could maintain a faithful presence in the Native communities where there was ministry in the past, places like Sioux Valley, Manitoba and Kamsack, Saskatchewan.

I find it a privilege to serve in missions under the EMC. EMC has encouraged me from the beginning and has walked with me consistently. Please continue to support me and pray for me!

From Languishing to Looking Toward the Eternal

A Plan for Post-Pandemic Spiritual Recovery

By Arlene Friesen

Looking back at March 2020, the coming pandemic had just shut things down in Manitoba, as in many other places. All of us were grappling with our new reality—loss of work or working remotely, virtual schooling, online church, physical contact with very limited individuals, a relentless news cycle and the accompanying anxiety. Continue reading From Languishing to Looking Toward the Eternal

‘I Have Decided to Follow Jesus!’

Rosenort Revival Celebrates 70 Years

By Leona (Plett) Friesen

On July 8, 2001, a group of us celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1951 revival in the Rosenort (Man.) EMC. Now, 20 years later, those of us who have not been promoted to glory celebrate 70 years since our dear Saviour sent a revival into our midst. Through the revival, we saw church members reconciled and many, many young people (as well as some parents) come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour!

What led up to that revival? Years of earnest praying by many deeply concerned parents; then a sad event hit our community when one of our own tragically died. Rev. Ben D. Reimer from Steinbach, Man., was invited to speak at the funeral. Rev. Reimer returned shortly after the funeral for two weeks of special meetings in our church.

He preached a week and a half with no visible results. It seemed no one was willing to confess “I’m at fault.” On the second Wednesday, Mom Plett said, “This very night I ask your forgiveness for the misunderstandings and fights.” After that Wednesday service, many came to our car to ask my mom for forgiveness. We got home way past midnight! (Mother’s German-Lutheran upbringing made it hard to fit into our community.)

The very next night, on July 5, blessings started to flow. Two of my sisters and a few others came to know the Saviour. Then on Friday night, 50-plus more youth surrendered to Jesus! (My late husband Edward and I were included in this Friday group.) By Sunday night, more than 70 in all had come to know the Lord! Our youth, homes, church and community were completely changed that weekend.

On March 19 of this year, I listened to “Back to the Bible.” The speaker asked, “Are you…am I…plugging the ‘flow’ of revival?” Thank you, Mom Plett, for removing the “plug” in our church on July 4, 1951.

My prayer, “Dear Lord, am I a plug that is blocking the channel of blessing of revival to my family, my church, my country and the world? “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23–24).

As a result of that revival, a burning flame for missions was kindled. The revival rippled on to our neighbours, friends, other towns, provinces and countries in the following years. And it still ripples on! (Revelation 7:9, 12)

Encouragement to those still around:

So, let us keep travelling, tho’ at times
     we stumble and fall
Till through death, or at the sound
     of the last trumpet call
We will be swept through that beautiful
    heavenly gate
Where we’ll forever and forever
     this Revival celebrate!

“No turning back, no turning back!”

Leona (Plett) Friesen with her late husband Edward is one of several missionaries (Frank and Marge Kroeker, Fred and Doris Friesen, among others) who ministered cross-culturally after committing their lives to Christ during the Rosenort revival of 1951.

You can listen to Leona reading her poem below.

 

I wrote the following poem and presented it on July 8, 2001, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1951 Revival at the Rosenort EMC Church.

We Decided to Follow Jesus

This celebration began at the cross of Mount Calvary
When our precious Saviour died for you and me.
For years we had spent in sinning and pride
Ignoring the fact that the Lord Jesus had died.

Concerning this date; well, some fifteen years prior
There were earnest prayers for a revival fire.
Also, a foursome of brethren who in spite of foul weather
For soul-searching prayer, would gather together.

But all of you present here I am sure will know
That in 1951, exactly half a century ago,
Our dear Lord did not leave us in a lurch
But wonderfully touched our own home church.

Numerous young people on sinning were bent
Then into our midst an awful tragedy was sent.
Our whole community with deep sorrow was filled
As one of our own was tragically killed.

To speak at the funeral, an evangelist came
After that, our community has not been the same.
Tho’ of the speaker’s intentions, many were not sure
Mr. Ben D Reimer preached God’s Word, clear and pure.
(Mr. Reimer returned shortly after the funeral for two weeks of special meetings.)

A whole week and a half, with no seeming result
Nobody was willing to confess, “I am at fault”
Till the second Wednesday, Mom Plett said, “This very night
I ask your forgiveness for misunderstanding and fight.”
(Mother’s Lutheran upbringing made it hard to fit in.)

The very next night, on July 5, blessings started to flow…
Two of my sisters and others, the Saviour came to know,
Then on Friday night, fifty more youth and then some!
By Sunday night, seventy in all to the Saviour had come.

Friday night a certain girl in the church foyer did wait
Against whom in my heart there had been a deep, deep hate.
In grade school us Plett kids were often called ‘half-price’
We did not accept this term as very flattering or nice.

That evening I was changed, my heart filled with love.
For me, this was an extra special gift from above.
I found that forever was gone, that feeling of ill;
Heavenly love took care of it and always will!

Our youth, homes and church were SO changed that week.
Forgiveness for sinning toward others, we all did seek.
We went to friends and neighbours to confess our wrong
‘Cause we were forgiven and our hearts filled with song.

Edward’s sister Bertha, also one who came to the Lord.
Nine years later, her tombstone read these words,
“Where I am now, there must you be
Prepare my friend to follow me.”

Others did follow: George Kornelsen, the husband of Rosie,
She’d still want him with her, in her home so cozy.
Our dear brother, Melvin Dueck, and there are several more
Who are not here with us; they’ve gone on before.

Some others could not be at this celebration today
‘Cause of other obligations; or simply lived too far away.
Then, there are those absent, because they are sick;
One that comes to my mind is, dear Ralph Dueck.

Also missing is Fred, always ready with his wit and a joke
Now being in public is difficult, due to a stroke.
Then, there is Tina Reimer, she was Tina Friesen
She is absent as you know… cancer is the reason.

Even though since that blessed and unforgettable day,
Most of us have turned either bald, wrinkled or gray…
Let’s still be faithful, sharing the redemptive work of God’s Son
So that many others, like us, to the Saviour will be won!

Anyone who wants a copy of this simple rhyme
Can come to me, it’s yours for a quarter or a dime!
Come soon … “Cause in another fifty years from now
I won’t write a very much better one anyhow!

… Or I’ll do it perfectly!

‘Cause our next celebration probably will be in glory
And there we will witness the whole perfect story!

So, let us keep travelling, tho’ at times we stumble and fall
Till through death, or at the sound of the last trumpet call
We will be swept through that beautiful, heavenly gate…
Where we’ll forever and forever, this REVIVAL celebrate!

My late husband, Edward Friesen, and I, and countless others, will forever be grateful for deciding to follow Jesus! Our theme song was “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” Only Heaven will reveal what the blessed results were of that Revival. There we will all know “the whole perfect Revival story”!!

God bless you all!

Leona (Plett) Friesen