Category Archives: Canada

Brazil: We Need to Free Ourselves from Facades

By Dwayne Klassen

BRAZIL/CANADA–On a recent five-week trip to Brazil to assist our field missionaries with the construction of the first building on our camp, God spoke to me during one of our team’s weekly Bible study. As we sat in our rented office space we read through and discussed a chapter of Beth Moore’s study entitled A Wo(Man)’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place. We came across the following passage:

The scenario had changed significantly from the time of Adam and Eve. They had been surrounded by purity and splendor. They had been set for spiritual success and “equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). Yet, in the midst of all the right circumstances, they made the wrong choices.

Enter Noah who lived is a society of rampant wickedness. Sin ruled. Perversion prevailed. Righteousness was as rare as a perfect gem. People followed every evil inclination without restraint. The only absolute was absolute depravity.

In the midst of all the wrong circumstances, Noah made right choices. How? Noah walked with God. Surrounded by a perverse generation, Noah knew that righteousness could not be attained and could not persist on the basis of a one-time commitment. Scripture does not even say that Noah religiously renewed his commitment every Sunday. He walked with God. He was in a constant state of habitual fellowship—day by day, hour by hour (Italics added).

As I sat there listening to these words being read, I looked out of the front window and saw an image God burned into my mind. What I saw was a typical rough looking brick wall of which the portion visible to the street had been covered with concrete, smoothed out and painted to look appealing to passers-by.

What God showed me was how this is how many churchgoers present themselves. From the outside, they appear to be spiritually beautiful, saying the right things, singing the right songs and looking the right way. Their relationship with Jesus Christ appears to be on track, living out His commands and their obedience to His call on their lives all appear to be well.

However, the appearance they portray is only a thin layer of deceit, “smoothed out and painted,” covering up lives devoted to status and self. People create an appealing facade to hide their true selves and show a false reality they believe will be appealing to others.

Then God impressed this on my heart. To live free and as God created and desires us to, we must have a constant and continuous, living relationship with Him. It must be our life, not only a part of our lives. It must be decided concretely and not an option in life. It must be who we are and not something we do.

Just as Adam and Eve who were surrounded by purity and splendor and still made a choice to disobey or Noah living in a time or rampant wickedness and perversion made a choice to obey, our choices are our responsibility. We cannot put the blame of our choices and consequences of them, on our circumstances. Our choices are a direct reflection of our true heart and relationship with Jesus Christ. Our walk with God.

We need to free ourselves from the facades we hide behind and instead live out God’s vision for our lives.

Dwayne and Shannon Klassen (CBF, Swan River) serve in camp ministry in Brazil with Teach Beyond.

Andrew Reimer: Journeying in a Good Way

by Andrew Reimer

WINNIPEGCan a person be both fully Indigenous and fully Christian? What does that look like? Are there legitimate boundaries to contextualization? If so, who sets those boundaries? How can Christian ministries present Jesus in a good or better way?

The Ma’wa’chi’hi’to’tan: Journeying in a Good Way conference in Winnipeg this February was an opportunity to journey together with Indigenous leaders who have faced these and other questions. The event was geared for First Nations Christians and for non-Indigenous ministry practitioners among First Nations people.

Ma’wa’chi’hi’to’tan is Plains Cree for “let us gather together.” About 230 people, representing over 60 different organizations and including Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, spent two days together learning, sharing, crying and laughing. Several EMCers attended the conference and others volunteered in the kitchen.

Leaders from Indigenous Pathways were invited to present at this conference. It is an Indigenous-led community of ministries (NAIITS, iEmergence, My People, and Wiconi) supporting Indigenous people and raising awareness among non-Indigenous people (indigenouspathways.com). The presenters were Terry Leblanc (Mi’kmaq/Acadian), Ray Aldred (Cree), Cheryl Bear (Nadleh Whut’en), Wendy Beauchemin Peterson (Red River Métis), and Howard Jolly (James Bay Cree).

Plenary and workshop topics included Indigenous Values and Teachings, Contextualization: How Christianity Translates into Cultures, and Mentoring and Role Modelling Leadership while Respecting Indigenous Peoples. The weekend included a Blanket Exercise (an experiential learning activity about the history of colonization in Canada), times of storytelling, music, culturally contextual worship, and a feast.

The event was sponsored by Inner City Youth Alive and hosted at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church in Winnipeg’s North End. I had the honour of leading the planning and organizing of this gathering together with our executive director Kent Dueck, another teammate, and a partnership of leaders from First Nations Commnity Church, North End Family Centre, Winnipeg Centre Vineyard, and Indigenous Pathways.

As a planning committee we saw the need for Christian ministries to become more intentional about how we minister among Indigenous people and as we walk with friends who are wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus as an Indigenous person. Given Christian mission’s harmful legacy with Indigenous people, how can we engage in evangelism, pastoral care, worship, faith community, discipleship and nurturing leadership among Indigenous people in ways that are reconciling and liberating? How can Indigenous people find healing freedom to follow Jesus in culturally meaningful ways?

In the months leading up to the event the response was overwhelming. Clearly, these questions and issues have struck a chord among evangelical Christians serving among First Nations people as well as First Nations Christians themselves.

The presenters tackled difficult issues with both heart and skill, drawing from their extensive ministry and theological experience. They incorporated their personal stories as well as key missiological principles and deep theological engagement. The teaching was stretching for many attendees and uncomfortable for some. Attendees came away from the conference encouraged and equipped with new insights as well as with some unanswered questions that require further reflection and dialogue.

Many attendees felt that this was a conversation long overdue. There was a strong desire to continue the conversation and spread these insights to others in the Church. An Indigenous woman who attended the conference said, “For the first time, I see a stream in the church where First Nations people can walk.”

Andrew Reimer (Steinbach EMC) is a community minister with Inner City Youth Alive.

Albert Martens in Churchill: The ministry of the Polar Bear Marathon

by Albert Martens

CHURCHILL, MAN.–The fifth annual Polar Bear Marathon in Churchill, Man., was once again an exciting experience.

Twenty-four runners were trying to figure out how they would manage in the cold. The atmosphere was full of suspense. It was hard to get their attention and communicate the importance of staying in a group of two or three runners near the accompanying vehicle. The excitement mounted. Will there be bears? The road was sleek with ice.

The Duke of Marlborough students came out to sing O Canada, and, after a prayer, one of the Rangers started us with a shot from his bear gun. Off we went, each runner with their escort vehicle. We were running east into the most beautiful red sunrise with a light wind on our backs and a mild temperature of -15C.

Two highlights for me were the awards dinner and the race’s documentary. It is always great to see runners share about their experiences at the dinner table. To introduce 24 runners and present them with awards, medals, and gifts (T-shirts, a soapstone bear carving, books and certificates) is a great pleasure. The Run the North documentary captures stories of runners, especially those of Tadoule Lake as it relates to their history with Churchill. At a premiere screening in the Churchill school, with about 110 viewers, the feedback was positive. One lady remarked to me, “The marathon is way more than just a marathon.”

What is the purpose of this crazy Polar Bear Marathon? It is a charity marathon in support of the Athletes in Action (AIA) work done in the Sayisi Dene First Nations community of Tadoule Lake, 250 kms west of Churchill. This work is dependent on volunteers and donations.

The Marathon has other “spin-off” effects like the networking of international runners and attracting many media producers. The real purpose is that of a Christian ministry. As an AIA/Power to Change staff member I am conscious of my calling to help other runners spiritually. Our mission statement reads, “Helping people know Jesus and experience His Power to Change the world.” Our faith statement includes, “The Lord Jesus Christ commanded all believers to proclaim the gospel throughout the world and to disciple men and women of every nation.”

How do we as Christians live out that directive? I found myself standing in the midst of 45 running crew and runners at the dinner table. I had prayed about this opportunity and prepared my notes. The Lord granted me peace and calm because I was obeying His voice and I sensed a lot of people were praying for me.

I shared what Jesus means to me and how my faith helps me and directs my life. I handed out my Christian book about running—Sand in my Shoes.

I want to speak up for Jesus at the opportune time and love, care, and pray for people. The Lord will take it from there. He is the One who gives life, who came to seek and save that which is lost.

 

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

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.

Harvey Thiessen: Moving beyond near-sightedness

by Harvey J. Thiessen

ONTARIODuring the recent Olympics, I watched with interest the women’s 100-metre freestyle swim. History was about to be made; there was excitement in the air. The commentators were hyping the athletes and setting the stage for viewers.

As the racers neared the finish, the excitement increased. Then our athlete won and history was made to exclamations of “never before,” “incredible,” and visions of a bright future for swimming.

Glancing at Facebook, I was confused. Posts of victory and history-making about the race appeared, but a different athlete was celebrated. I had cheered Canadian 16-year-old swimmer Penny Oleksiak. Others cheered American Simone Manuel, the first black female swimmer to win an Olympic gold.

It was the same race, but different athletes were being celebrated. They had tied for the gold medal, and yet Canadian commentators barely mentioned Simone and Penny was an afterthought for the Americans.

Neither country was wrong for celebrating different athletes, but they missed what else was going on. What we value and celebrate is greatly determined by our identity, who we are.

Whether by nationality, tribe, gender, sports team, profession, ethics, religion, political party or endless other ways, we separate and define ourselves as much by what we are not as by what we are. We complain when others (especially superiors) don’t acknowledge what is clearly important for us. We are all subject to this short-sightedness in our interactions.

In our delivery of the gospel message, for example, do we really understand what others are hearing and seeing? In the ethnically, culturally, denominationally, linguistically diverse community in OM where I serve, we have an advantage in seeing things from the vantage point of others. It is, however, not a natural tendency.

We have to try hard to think outside of our experience and understanding. While in the context of the gospel these divisions don’t apply (Gal. 3:28), they are still barriers to understanding. The best antidote is to develop the posture of Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served (Mark 10:45). It takes time to understand others.

In our modern world we have a greater challenge as we often live in different worlds in our home, work place and that new realm called the cyber world. Our little communities are no longer isolated, and the words and terms that we understand are often misconstrued by others.

There is even greater diversity of positions, histories, and experiences to understand in the new world the Internet has opened up. We can either run from it or find it as an opportunity to grow and be present as a witness in this world.

What happens when you continually feel marginalized, unimportant, or misunderstood? The best answer I have found is not to talk louder and more often to make sure I am noticed and understood, but to spend time understanding others. This is especially important in today’s new missions era.

More than ever, we have the opportunity to learn from the rich experiences of the global church, to understand the vast variety of God’s creation, and learn to work with it.

Harvey J. Thiessen (Wymark) serves as the North American Area Leader of Operation Mobilization.

Albert Martens: Activities, relationships continue

by Albert Martens

POPLAR HILL, Ontario—It was with great enthusiasm and excitement that the seven of us boarded the WINGS King Air 100 in St. Andrews, Man. The volunteer staff who came with me were Don and Ev Wiebe, John and Marlene Friesen, Mona Soucy and her daughter McKenzie.

Chris Lerm from Lorette, Man., was not able to come with us this time due to a recent health issue; however, he was there to see us off and pray for the staff.

The pilot had to remove some fuel to make the plane a bit lighter because we came with lots of supplies (about 360 kgs). After a 45-minute flight we landed on the gravel runway located about four kms north of Poplar Hill.

Charlie Moose, administrative director of the band, had reserved four nice suites for us in the hotel. Chief Jacob Strang and council member Bobby Moose came to the airstrip to pick us up.

I had asked Chief Strang what he would like me to bring along for him, and he asked for chicken. So I had brought along a box of 75 pieces of chicken for him. He was happy to serve this at a birthday celebration that afternoon.

Our pre-planned activities for Aug. 14 to 20 all worked out very well, even though we did not know how it would. Our basic activities were daily children’s Bible lessons, crafts, and games.

Baseball was a good part of each afternoon. Because the old school was being demolished, we had access to a community hall only for three to four days.

Some of the children’s activities were held outside under the trees. The men’s breakfast was held outside our hotel in the shade at 10 a.m. Forty-five men came to enjoy the pancakes, ham, and coffee.

The ladies tea was new for us to prepare in Poplar Hill, and 23 ladies came to the community hall for this event. Each lady received a prepared gift bag. Our group also presented two 20 to 30 minute radio broadcasts. The hotdogs and ice cream served at the community hall were a lot of fun as about 100 people came to eat.

Most of our days it was very warm, so we did take the children for some swimming.

We received a tour of the new and beautiful school (grades one to eight) that was going to be finished in two weeks.

martens-albert
Albert Martens

A highlight for me was to join Gary Owens for his church service one evening. Our group did some singing, and I shared some personal stories and testimonies about my gift of running. I was enriched and encouraged by the speaking of Albert, Arnold, and Gary from their church.

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

Heidi Plett: Mon Cours de Français (My French lessons)

By Heidi Plett

Canada—News from July: My French studies are going well. I have learned a lot of vocabulary and grammar over the past six months and look forward to internalizing and using these concepts and much more in the months ahead.

I thought a year of language study would be sufficient but I’m realizing that it is really too short a time for absorbing so much information. It is just the beginning, providing a foundation on which to build.

I am very happy to inform you that God has provided me with a host family to live with and learn from during my last term of studies in fall. I am very thankful for this opportunity to not only improve my French skills, but to strengthen my bond of friendship with them. Thank you very much for your prayers regarding finding a suitable host family. Maybe now my stuttering French will become a little more fluent.

Student numbers have dwindled as several couples have completed their language studies and are about to embark on their journeys to new places of work and ministry. It is an exciting time for them but also a stressful time of transition. Three of us, however, are carrying on with our studies until the end of July at which time we will have completed the intermediate level.

The school will be closed for August so I look forward to returning to Manitoba for that month to spend time with my family, reconnect with my church and friends, and work at raising my financial support level. Then I will return to Sherbrooke for my final term of study in fall.

Heidi Plett (Prairie Rose), formerly of Namibia, is studying French in Quebec prior to serving in Chad with Africa Inland Mission.

Verna Doerksen, Fred and Stella Neff: They Served by Grace Despite Weakness

by Terry M. Smith

BLUMENORT, Man.—An once exuberant child along with a pastor having roots in Germany and his wife were the centres of attention on Sept. 8, 2016, at Blumenort EMC as friends and family, and Board of Missions and national office staff gathered to honour Verna Doerksen and Manfred (Fred) and Stella Neff. Continue reading Verna Doerksen, Fred and Stella Neff: They Served by Grace Despite Weakness

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.

martens-albert
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.