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.

Taber: Dedications, Baptisms, VBS, and Landscaping

by Naomi Klassen

TABER, Alta.—Spring and summer have been busy and exciting here in Taber. In May we had baby dedication that included 12 families!

April and Andy Klasen dedicated their daughter Sydney and their son Zachery; Peter and Marianne Neufeld dedicated their son Donavon; John and Linnea Dyck dedicated their son Dominick; Jake and Susie Quiring dedicated their son Emmett; Rudy and Sandra Friesen dedicated their daughter Alysha and their son Colton; Lyndon and Naomi Klassen and their daughter Carmen; Jake and Eva Koethler and their son Lucas, Benny and Darlene Penner and their daughter Sofia, Abe and Eva Klassen and their son Ivan; Ike and Margaret WIebe and their son Caylan; Henry and Anna Klassen and their son Adam and Jaime and Susie Thiessen and their daughter Sophie.

It was a very busy baby dedication and although the babies didn’t always cooperate, it made for an entertaining dedication service for those watching. All the families were presented with a framed photograph and certificate of dedication for their child.

We also had the pleasure of having a large baptism class this spring with 10 new members and another two people transferring their membership. It is always encouraging to see these young people take this public step of declaration and dedication for their faith in God. The baptism candidates were John Zacharias, Martha Bueckert, Martha Friesen, Henry Zacharias, David Dyck, Cornelius Fehr, Verna Fehr, Mary Wiebe, Heinrich Peters and Susie Neustaeter. Membership transfers were Peter and Susanna Neufeld.

This summer we also held Cave Quest VBS at our church during August. We had the pleasure of teaching 116 children about God and the ways that Jesus helps us through giving us hope, courage, direction, love and power. The VBS committee did an amazing job decorating the church to look like a cave, complete with stalactites and all! There were many hard working volunteers that helped make our VBS a huge success again this year.

The other project that has been going on this summer is the landscaping around the church. In spring the church received a donation specifically to complete some much needed landscaping on the churchyard. The church voted to match the donation and a committee was created to take on the large task. They have put many hours into making the churchyard look beautiful.

Improvements include planting perennials around the outside of the church building, creating a lawn and seating area and also planting trees and new grass on the west side. The project also included adding an in-ground sprinkler system to keep all these beautiful new additions looking green.

The project is now complete and we are waiting for our new grass to grow. We are hopeful that by next summer we will be able to see the children outside playing on the lawn and maybe even add some picnic tables so we can use it for summer potlucks.

Straffordville: Baptisms, Picnic, and Ground-Breaking

by Kathy Klassen

STRAFFORDVILLE, Ont.—On June 19 we gathered at the Froese Vegetable Farm in the cold storage for the baptismal service of eight young people and the membership reception of one young man. The room was filled to capacity with about 250 people present.

For the service Pastor Abe had chosen to share from Romans 6:1-10. What a blessing to hear the testimonies of the struggles and victories of the young people. After the service, we all walked to the large pond and gathered around to watch each of the young people get baptized by Pastor Abe with each of their fathers assisting.

It was a beautiful warm and sunny day, and it made one think of the time when Jesus was baptized. We sang “To the River” as we were gathered around the pond. Then we had a disco lunch all together.

We had Vacation Bible School at the Straffordville Park on July 11 to 15; and on Sept. 4, we enjoyed our Sunday School picnic at the park in Brownsville. Some people played baseball while others sat under the pavilion visiting and eating sunflower seeds.

And then on Sept. 25, after the church service, we went to our church lot for the ground-breaking ceremony of our new church building! We are excited to finally see some progress made, and look forward to once again being able to have our own building.

Kleefeld: Six Baptized in Oct.

by Dennis and Louella Friesen

KLEEFELD, Man.—Six young people were baptized on the confession of their faith at the Kleefeld EMC on Oct. 2, 2016. The church was filled to capacity as family and friends came to witness and celebrate their desire to follow Christ and become official members of the congregation. The testimonies they shared before participating in baptism were unique and meaningful. After the service a large number of their family and friends gathered in the lower auditorium to share a lunch. As a church family we want to uphold them in prayer and wish them the Lord’s richest blessings as they grow and mature in their faith.

Charles Koop: C2C and God’s Call

by Charles Koop

The Vision Statement of the EMC specifically states that we want to focus on urban areas for church planting. That’s a bit of a departure from our usual way of doing things. To help us make it happen the Church Planting Task Force has been pursuing a relationship with C2C, and an official agreement has just been made.

C2C is a church planting organization with extensive experience in urban church planting. It has staff in all the major Canadian cities who are available to support EMC church planters. They also work with prospective church planters to help them assess their abilities for church planting and to coach them in growing those abilities.

Another benefit of our association is the annual gatherings organized by C2C. These are a tremendous boost for church planters as they are able to network and learn from each other as well as enjoying the teaching provided. Our agreement with C2C has been in the works for a number of years so we are very excited about arriving at this point.

Along with that development we are also hearing God call us to join his work in a number of communities.

One of these is our growing association with a Chinese group meeting at Fort Garry EMC. Fort Garry is supporting and assisting this young church of approximately 20 believers and another 20 or so seekers. It is really exciting for us to think of having our first Chinese EMC church!

We are also thrilled that God has answered our prayer and brought a church planter couple to Two Hills, Alta. John and Helen Froese, who recently returned from ministry in Bolivia, have committed to a two-year term serving as pastoral couple to this young church group. There are six committed couples at Living Faith Fellowship with a lot of energy to grow this church and be involved in their community.

Another ministry opportunity has developed in Airdrie, Alta., where the Emanuel church family has been leading a Bible study. It has developed to the point that they are prepared to launch this church plant in fall of 2016. There are five committed families in Airdrie, including two leadership couples from Emanuel. This will be a real challenge for Emanuel both financially and in the “loss” of leadership.

There are additional possibilities developing in Winnipeg and communities around Winnipeg so stand by for more to follow.

Charlie Koop
Charles Koop

Seeing new church plants develop like this generates a lot of enthusiasm for us. If it draws you, why not go to c2cnetwork.ca and find out if you’re called to be part of church planting or call me for information specific to the EMC.

We’d also love to have you partner with us financially by contributing to the Church Planting Training and Support Fund through the EMC office; and always, of course, continue to pray that God will grow his church in Canada and the world, and that we can be a part of this.

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.

Tamera Peters: Congo, Taking Those Hurdles Straight On

by Tamera Peters

CONGO—I have never liked hurdles.

In the eighth grade I used to run track. Once during a hurdle race I had a bad fall that tore up one side of my face and knocked out two of my front teeth. I still have some scars from it. Not a good memory!

A hurdle race is tricky to run. I watched a couple of races during the Olympics, and cringed every time someone jumped, hoping no one would fall. You either confidently jump over them, or you hesitate and most likely will trip and fall. I usually just rather avoid them.

Coming to Congo this time has felt like a hurdle run. Hurdles are pretty much a norm for Africa. Some of them these past days were very concrete, like having no electricity last night or Internet when I wanted to connect with my family. To take my African colleague’s wife to the hospital to get a malaria treatment, it meant driving down the streets of Kinshasa dodging potholes, broken down cars, and piles of trash on the road.

Other hurdles are more mental and emotional. Mine these days were finding out that two of my colleagues were refused entry into Congo, and that I am now here alone and responsible for doing the teacher training. My initial reaction was to call Phil, cry a little, and tell him I want to come home.

That is what I felt like doing! But a strange thing is happening tonight and I can only explain it as “Christ living in me.” All of a sudden I have peace. Yes, the one that “passes all understanding” that we read about in the Bible (Phil. 4:7).

I read dozens of emails, What’sApp and Facebook messages that came in from friends encouraging me and praying for me. Tonight I don’t feel alone.

So I’ve decided and I am going to take those hurdles straight on with confidence and courage because “He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

While sitting in the Addis Ababa airport on my way to Congo, I read these verses. They came just at the right time. Maybe some of you are running a kind of hurdle race right now. Go for it!

“The Lord you God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing (Zeph. 3:17).

I wrote this over a month ago (it’s now October). It was an incredible week of experiencing not only the Lord’s strength in my weakness, but him using exactly what I was afraid of for good.

Because of being alone I was able to spend intensive time training not only the teachers of the FATEB Kinshasa Academy, but also spend time with teachers from war torn Central Africa Republic. They too hope to start a school with the help of TeachBeyond.

Not being able to depend on my human resources made me dependent on the Lord’s guidance and leading to equip these teachers who will mostly work with traumatized children.

So yes, jumping hurdles is scary, often difficult, and I still wouldn’t choose to do it; but when you have the Lord with you, He equips us with “Wings like Eagles” and that makes hurdle jumping amazing!

Tamera and Phil Peters (Steinbach EMC) live in Germany and serve with Teach Beyond.

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.

A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference