Category Archives: Canada

Being Christian in a Secular Society: Moving beyond culture wars and toward love

by Gordon T. Smith

When you take the CTrain from downtown Calgary to Ambrose University, the last building you see before the train heads to its underground stop is a mosque. When I was an undergraduate student in the 1970s, I knew there was a mosque somewhere in Canada, but I had no idea where. Now, many of us have a mosque in our neighbourhood. Continue reading Being Christian in a Secular Society: Moving beyond culture wars and toward love

Athletes in Action Camp 2019

by Albert Martens

POPLAR HILL, ONTARIO —Poplar Hill was our first camp of the summer, and it was the eighth time we were in this community. Team members were Chris Lerm, Muriel LeClerc, Katherine Enns, Don Wiebe, Albert Martens, Taylor Bergen and Jordyn Bergen. Joel Jolly joined us for the last two days of the camp. Continue reading Athletes in Action Camp 2019

Terry Smith: The Reformation: Over or to Continue?

by Terry M. Smith
In 1999 the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church signed a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Would Martin Luther have signed the statement?

An Anglican professor of mine thought so. Yet it’s said that “more than 45 percent of Lutheran church-bodies in the world did not support the declaration” (LCMS News, Dec. 8, 1999). I suspect Martin Luther would not sign it.

Is the need for the Protestant (Radical) Reformation over? The Roman Catholic Church is a diverse body and changes have happened since Vatican II and, now, with Francis I. What now?

Much can, for instance, be learned from Raymond E. Brown in New Testament study and on social justice from Walter J. Burghardt—both Jesuits. Such examples could be multiplied. Some works of Catholic scholars are within my library and I benefit from them. I am not alone in this among EMC ministers.

Around the world, priests, monks, nuns, and many other Catholics are involved in helpful ministries in ways almost beyond counting. Catholics have suffered and died in many settings because they have followed Jesus. It would be unfair to view their many efforts, motivations, personal theology, and discipleship in simple terms: since some of Roman Catholic teaching is wrong, they can’t really be following Jesus.

Is, then, the need for the Protestant Reformation over? My answer is no. Here’s why in part:

  • An EMC worker in northern Canada says a Bible Club team was “amazed and amused to see the people being pressured into buying their Indulgences now with quick and simple payments from their Visas and MasterCards.”
  • Our EMC cross-cultural workers in various countries encounter folk forms of Catholicism with mixtures of beliefs. A focus on Christ, his grace, and discipleship are key markers for our workers.
  • Indulgences are still being issued.
  • U.S. evangelical theologian Roger Olson recently wrote of participating in Protestant-Roman Catholic dialogues. At one, after suggesting that the Roman Catholic Church needed to become less exclusive and learn from Protestants, he found himself uninvited (see his blog, Is the Roman Catholic Church Catholic Enough? Oct. 27, 2017).

The settings and climate might have changed somewhat, but the theological concerns of 16th century Protestants in Europe remain relevant today.

Others, often Protestants, say, “The Reformation must continue.” How so? If it means that the Protestant Reformation’s concerns must be used today to examine our faith in life, yes, it should continue.

However, “The Reformation must continue” is a slogan that can be used to set aside key doctrines of our Christian faith. Used in this way, the slogan does not adequately respect or continue the earlier Protestant (Radical) Reformation’s focus on Christ, his grace, and discipleship.

Are Christians in Canada today as aware of doctrine as believers were in the 16th century in Europe? A blanket statement seems unhelpful. There are, though, some reasons for concern.

Terry M. Smith

We do well to consider carefully what we think and practice. For instance, some funerals seem to be services of celebration with a confidence that nearly everyone, if not everyone, goes to heaven. A common thought among Canadians seems to be: If there is a God and if there is a heaven, then good people go there and likely all people get there. In what way does this match or contradict biblical and classic Christian teaching?


Loreena Thiessen: Giving Thanks for History

Do you know that history can make you more thankful?

In 1620, almost 400 years ago, a group of 120 Pilgrims sailed from England across the ocean. They came looking for a new place to settle, a safe place where they could worship God and live in peace. They landed in America. They came for the same reasons people still come today.

Only 45 years earlier Martin Frobisher, another Englishman, also set out across the ocean. He was looking for a new passage to India for trade. Instead he found Labrador, the most eastern coast of Canada. It was a rough voyage and very cold. When he was finally able to land he made a feast to thank God for safety and for the abundance of food to share.

After the Pilgrims settled they needed a new leader. The people chose their new leader by voting, each person making a choice. The one with the most votes became the new leader. The people also solved other problems by voting. This is called a democracy.

And they wrote a set of rules called the constitution. The constitution is a set of rules the government must follow. These laws guide the government’s decisions and protect its people.

Today you benefit from both of these events. Since then many thousands of immigrants have come to Canada and the United States from many different countries. They are teachers and doctors, and your friends and neighbours. Some of them may be your family.

Canada, too, has a constitution. Canada’s constitution gives you the right to speak your language, get an education, visit the doctor, and choose your friends. You can also choose your Prime Minister by voting once you are an adult.

A hundred years ago if you got sick you had to pay to see a doctor. A stay in the hospital would cost even more. Not everyone could pay. People used many home remedies. For example, dry mustard was mixed to form a paste and would be placed on your chest if you had a cough. Epsom salts were put on cuts to clean them. Onion halves and garlic were placed on window sills to absorb viruses and bacteria.

Many people did not get well. A man called Tommy Douglas wanted to change that. He believed that every Canadian deserved the right to have good health care if he had money or not. He saw sick people suffer because they could not see a doctor. He wanted to help them.

To help them he joined the government. He made speeches to tell everyone his plan. In 1966 his plan came true. Today you and each Canadian can see a doctor if you are sick.

When early settlers first arrived in Canada there were no roads. People travelled by boat or over trails on horseback. Canada’s first cars were imported in 1898 from the United States. In 1904 the Ford Motor Company was the first factory to build Canadian cars. The factory was in Toronto.

Mr. Henry Ford tested his cars by first trying them out on the rooftop of his factory. He wanted them to be safe for every Canadian family. But roads were bad, full of deep holes, and, cars often had to drive through creeks to get to the other side. A long trip across Canada could take many months.

In 1949 the government first approved the TransCanada Highway. Construction began in 1950 and, although it was officially open by 1962, it was only completed in 1971. Did you know the TransCanada Highway is the longest highway in the world? It is 7,714 kilometers long from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.

Loreena Thiessen

Today this highway lets you travel from the east coast, across the prairies, and through the Rocky Mountains in about a week. Stopping along the way to enjoy all the beautiful places would take much longer.

Think about all the things you enjoy. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from God.” What are you thankful for?

Activity: Make a leaf garland.

Need: coloured craft paper, hole-punch, scissors, pencil or felt pen, string, straight twig.

Do: Draw, or trace, leaf shapes (you can use real leaves to trace around) on different colours of paper. Cut them out. Write one thing you are thankful for on each leaf. Punch a hole at the end of each leaf. Pull a short piece of string through each hole and hang the leaves on the twig. Display the twig on a shelf or in a window.




Loreena Thiessen: Celebrate Canada!

This year Canada is 150 years old. What does this mean?

In 1867 a group of men, the Fathers of Confederation, decided that Canada should have its own government and laws. Its name should be Canada. At the time there were only four provinces. It was July 1 and Canada was born.

How has Canada grown since 1867?

Canada is a country of immigrants. Most of the people living in Canada have come from other countries. First it was fishermen. They were Vikings from Iceland. They came to find more fish. The Atlantic Ocean around Newfoundland and Labrador was thick with codfish. That was 1,000 years ago, long before Canada was a country. The fishermen loaded their ships with the fish and returned home.

In time the King of England and the King of France sent men to explore new lands. The French wanted gold and riches. The English wanted to find a shorter trade route to Asia. Each king wanted the new land for himself.

Other explorers came. The land they found was Canada. They met Canada’s first people, the Indigenous people who were already here and who showed the new explorers how to hunt for fresh meat, how to travel by canoe, and traded furs for tools.

They trapped animals like beaver, muskrat, ermine, and mink. People in Europe wanted hats and coats made of these furs and Canada had plenty of them. The trappers travelled along rivers and streams and carried the furs with them. They unloaded them onto bigger ships in the Hudson Bay that sailed across the Atlantic and brought the furs to Europe.

The English and the French each built settlements to keep control over the land they wanted. They competed with each other and they fought each other. Each one wanted Canada and its riches for their king. Finally the British won and for a long time Canada belonged to England.

In 1812 the Americans invaded Canada. They had 4,000 men. They believed it would be easy to defeat the Canadians. The Canadians had only 400 men, but with the support of Native troops, together they defeated the Americans.

Now Canada needed a strong border, a line to mark Canada’s land. And so they built the railroad along the border. The railroad kept the border more secure. It sent a strong signal to the Americans not to attack again. The railroad connected the vast distances of Canada.

Towns and cities grew along the railroad. Now people and goods could travel from the east to the west, from Montreal to Vancouver. Today one half of Canada’s population lives in the big cities along the U.S.-Canada border. New people arrive every day who want to make Canada their home.

It was the Fathers of Confederation who built the country’s laws believing that God ruled over them and that he had “dominion from sea to sea.”

Read Psalm 72:8. This is what the Fathers of Confederation believed. It is the official motto of Canada.


12 Canadian Words: which ones do you know? Write another word beside each one that tells what it is.

Toque        ____________________

Parka        _____________________

Toboggan  ______________________

Canoe        _______________________

Loonie       ________________________

Toonie       ________________________

Timbits     _________________________

Butter tart   __________________________

Nanaimo bars    _______________________

Canuck      ___________________________

Beaver tail    ___________________________

Poutine      ___________________________

Andrew Reimer, Winnipeg: Changing My Mind

by Andrew Reimer

Winnipeg—Like many of you, I grew up not knowing many Indigenous people, having absorbed the stereotypes and superior attitudes most settler Canadians consciously or unconsciously hold towards our Indigenous neighbours.

However, over the past 15 years living and serving in Winnipeg’s North End, a predominantly Aboriginal inner city neighbourhood, my wife Amie and I have been blessed by wonderful friendships with our neighbours who have entrusted us with their life experiences, hopes, joys and sorrows.

When we begin to see our First Nations neighbours as friends and family, it becomes much more difficult to distance ourselves from their grief and pain.

I have been invited to sit and pray at the hospital bedsides of friends in their times of vulnerability.  I have grieved with families at wakes and funerals, sometimes of beloved elders or of loved ones who died too young.  Teen gang members in jail—guys judged, condemned and written off by pretty much everyone—have entrusted us with their stories and their longings for God to help them change.

Residential school survivors have shared with me experiences that they have only begun to talk about after 50 years. Meanwhile, most of the youth and young adults I know are experiencing the intergenerational effects of the trauma their grandparents suffered.

Some of our friends have expressed disconnection, confusion and even shame about their Aboriginal identities, while some are holding onto and reclaiming their cultural identities, values and traditions.  I have listened as friends have voiced sadness anger about the injustices and continued oppression and suffering of their people.

Questions come up about where God is in all this.  I have talked with people who are struggling to reconcile faith in Jesus with their Indigenous identity.

I have had the privilege of learning from First Nations leaders what the Good News of Jesus sounds like from an Indigenous perspective. I have discovered the good news of a colonized, rejected and suffering Jesus who identifies with the experience of Aboriginal people.

Friends of mine have modelled trust in God and love for Jesus and have made courageous, against-the-flow choices because of their commitment to Christ. Indigenous youth have been amazing examples of compassion and generosity.

God has been changing my mind about First Nations people. Changing my mind means taking a posture of humility and prioritizing relationship, facing my paternalistic impulses to see people as problems that I need to fix, asking uncomfortable questions about who has the power in our relationships.

It means listening in order to understand and to value a different way of life, to laugh at myself, to not excuse the fact that my people thrive while my Aboriginal friends struggle.

I am saddened by the great rift of pain, mistrust, and misunderstanding that still exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Settler people tend to value “solutions” and “results” but too often rush towards our idea of solutions to First Nations issues when what we really need to do is take time to develop relationships and build trust with First Nations people. For me, this has meant humbly coming near to Indigenous neighbours listening, grieving, learning and relating on the level of our common humanity.

Andrew Reimer (Steinbach EMC) serves as a community minister in Winnipeg’s North End with Inner City Youth Alive.

Northern Canada: ‘Camps’ were a joy and a win

by Albert Martens

NORTHERN CANADA—“How happy are those who fear the Lord—all who follow his ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labour. How happy you will be! How rich your life!” (Psalm 128:1-2).

Our Athletes in Action Baseball “camps” in the three First Nation communities of Tadoule Lake (July 1-8), Pauingassi  (July 29-Aug. 4), both in Man., and Poplar Hill, Ont. (Aug. 14-20), were such a joy and “win” for everyone involved.

We did experience some very encouraging, happy and sad moments in our ministry in these communities. We enjoyed several moments of “fruit of your labour.”

A few fantastic highlights were:

To be called upon to do a double baby dedication for a young couple.

To hear the youth and children call upon us: “When are we playing baseball again?”

For the children to listen so attentively to Bible lessons and learn new songs from our workers.

To speak to several men individually at the men’s breakfast.

To pray with a young mother who had just lost her son in a traffic accident. She looked for us, and asked, “Where is Albert?” She wanted prayer and comfort in a very sad time of sorrow and loss.

To be able to encourage young runners in the community of Tadoule Lake to train for the upcoming Polar Bear Marathon. To connect Tadoule Lake Dene runners to Churchill using the avenue of the sport of running.  The Tadoule Lake/Dene has experienced a sad history with Churchill.  Just this summer an apology came from the Manitoba government in respect to the forced relocation of the community.

To continue to encourage men and women in these communities, building more personal and deeper relationships each year.

To be invited into private homes to discuss difficult questions about the gospel, about Christianity, and about the personal faith in Jesus.

To help out and assist in their community church services.

To give them some gifts, love and care for them, listen to their questions and try to help.

Albert Martens

During the past 12 years of ministry, there have been tremendous changes in lives. More and deeper relationships have developed. Continual communications throughout the year having an impact on the many lives of these communities. As well, volunteer lives have changed and grown in deeper relationships in the Lord Jesus.

Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) serves with Athletes in Action.