Terry Smith: A Clash With Christmas

by Terry M. Smith

While North Korea’s Sept. 9 test of a nuclear weapon was condemned around the world, the focus should be on opposing nuclear weapons, not on who can have them.

It’s curious logic for those countries possessing nuclear weapons to disallow them elsewhere. How likely is it that sanctions and other punishments will help North Korea to feel less isolated and give up a weapon that some others have?

Make no mistake. North Korea should not have, test, or use nuclear weapons; no country should under any circumstances. The use of such weapons involves indiscriminate, long-term harm. It is an offense against God and people made in his image. Nations need to protect themselves, but not in this way.

The use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrific acts. Yes, they shortened World War Two, freed many people in POW camps (including three of my relatives), and prevented more war crimes by Japanese forces. They also spared many Allied and Japanese soldiers who would have died in further ground fighting.

However, the basic purpose of having soldiers is to protect non-combatants.

Something is amiss when civilians are killed to protect soldiers. In this instance, soldiers killed non-combatants, elderly men, women and children, including some Catholics and Protestants.

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

No nuclear weapon is so precise that it will not kill civilians; even much smaller missiles, even used in drone strikes, cannot do so.

Nuclear weapons clash with the good news of Christmas.

Letters November/December 2016

God Himself Corrects Israel

I agree with Don Plett (An Ill-Advised Resolution Against Israel, October 2016) that Scripture tells us that Israel is a nation chosen and loved by God. I disagree with Don Plett about how to bless Israel. God has spent all of history loving and drawing unfaithful Israel back to Himself through correction and discipline, often getting very angry! I do not feel that blessing the nation of Israel means turning a blind eye to the atrocities taking place in Palestine.

Scripture is clear about how Israel is expected to behave toward the alien and stranger. Leviticus 19:34: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him….” Deut. 10:19: “So show your love for the alien….”

I don’t know if sanctions on Israel are the appropriate Mennonite response to the oppression being wrought on Palestine. But I certainly feel that Mennonites can despise the ungodly actions of the Israeli Defense Force and ought to support some form of non-violent response to illegal settlements and brutality.

– Jen Kornelsen, Winnipeg, Man.


Conflict and Friends

I appreciate the balanced approach featuring a column by Senator Don Plett and a response from Dan Dyck, representing Mennonite Church Canada.

I agree with brother Plett that as Christians we have a connection with the Jews and are called to seek the blessing of Israel and pray for her peace.  I certainly affirm her right to exist as a sovereign people in the land.  With brother Dyck, I deplore the violence that has been perpetrated against Israel by groups such as Hamas.

While brother Plett warns that the resolution affirmed by Mennonite Church Canada delegates is “an extreme position against Israel,” he offers no alternative solution to address the ongoing conflict. Granted, no simple solution exists.  But I believe that as Christians seeking to be peacemakers, we have an opportunity and an obligation to start somewhere.

The resolution in question may in the long run achieve very limited results. But it is a way of responding to the pleas of our Christian Palestinian brothers and sisters, and can raise awareness of the issues.  To do this does not mean that you are anti-Semitic or against Israel.

I would hope that to be a friend of Israel includes being willing to challenge her on current destructive policies, and encourage her to take steps that make for peace and dignity for all within her borders.  True friends tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.

The biblical record shows that Israel’s occupation of the land was always conditional on her faithfulness to God, including the treatment of the alien and stranger in her midst.

– Ward Parkinson, Morris, Man.


Restoration

The October 2016 issue hit on some important issues hopefully precipitating further discussion: forgiveness of sins (Harvey Plett), The Gospel defined (Darryl Klassen), and policing (Layton Friesen). Two of the articles touch on an issue needing further clarification—reconciliation.

Dr. Plett states at the end of his article that after forgiveness, “reconciliation and renewed relationship should happen” (my emphasis). Layton Friesen similarly states “we have to find more peaceful, humane and effective ways of resolving conflict. For example ‘restorative justice’….” Dr. Klassen also hints at “reconciliation” in his last paragraph.

These statements tantalizingly imply processes that are involved and far from automatic. My concern is that where there is offence, for example, in domestic abuse that there is also a justifiable loss of trust that is not easily repaired (Do we put a thief back in charge of accounts receivable?). The loss of trust often makes it pragmatically impossible for a relationship to be restored to where it once was.

The church has sometimes forced (coerced?) an abused and vulnerable spouse back to a partner who cannot be trusted, and it is predictable that the offence will recur. This puts a double onus on the person wronged—to forgive the abuser again and then to refrain from lawsuit against the church for foreseeable harm done. It is not enough merely to put the couple back together assuming that this is the biblical answer!

Some of us have also experienced cases where the church has intervened to protect the wronged spouse. These actions have at times lead to a healthy and happy remarriage or contented “singleness” opted for while the abuser usually finds little in the way of healing.

We are left with the question, then, “What is the church’s responsibility in bringing about reconciliation and healing?”

– Ray Hill, MacGregor, Man.

Dylan Barkman: As We Gather For Life-Changing Experiences

by Pastor Dylan Barkman

Convention 2016

Please open your Bible and refer to Rev. 3:14-22 to the Church in Laodicea. Notice that in verse 14, this “evaluation” or “report card” is not written to unbelievers; it is written to the Church, arguably a group of people that already ought to be “advancing Christ’s kingdom culture”!

In verses 15-16 Jesus judges their deeds as “lukewarm” and as a result is about to spit them out of His mouth!

Lukewarm

Consider what “lukewarm” refers to in terms of a hot tub. We naturally consider the water to be hot. However, hot water is 100oC and cold water is 1C.  We enjoy sitting in water around 38ƒ, which is “lukewarm” in comparison to hot or cold water. The effect of this “lukewarm” water puts us in a place where we are content, relaxed, exert little effort, want for nothing, and desire to stay that way forever, nearly asleep.

This attitude in the Church infuriates Jesus (the Ultimate Judge, 1 Tim. 4:1), who is about to “spit them out” as a result.

Jesus quotes them as saying, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” They were wealthy and tempted to look to their wealth as their source of strength.  Like them, we are likely the richest generation of Christians to date, proved by our abundance of “toys” and “wants.” And whether we admit it or not, we take pride in our wealth even as a conference.   

In verses 17-18 Jesus says, “You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

We will understand what “the gold refined in the fire” is once we see the five steps Jesus lays out for us.

Repent!

The first step is “be earnest and repent.” Because this letter is written to the gathered church it begs the question, “Does your church, or the conference, have something in place where people can intentionally repent and deal with sin?” 

Truthfully, many churches assume people deal with all their sin on their own, when what typically happens is that we get really good at sweeping certain sins under the rug and still present ourselves as “good Christians” on Sunday morning. The weight of unconfessed sin just feels normal. Yikes!

Then in verse 20 Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Remember Jesus is speaking to a movement of people that ought to be advancing His kingdom culture! However, the obvious question is, “What is Jesus doing outside of the door of the Church?”

To answer that question, consider the following diagram. The circle represents your life. In your life is a throne on which whatever is “Lord” or “King” of your life sits. Before receiving Christ, your life is ruled by “self” and Jesus is not part of your life. At the time when you accept Jesus as Lord of your life through faith, He becomes ruler of your life. He is truly Lord and King and you no longer are number one in your life. This is as it should be.

Frightfully, for the rest of our lives, unless we are intentional about keeping Jesus as Lord, our selfish tendencies kick in and we drift back onto the throne. Although Jesus is still in our lives, He no longer has true function as the actual Lord of our life. As Jesus’ own analogy goes, He is still nearby; however, He is on the wrong side of the door.

What is it that competes with Jesus as being the true Lord or King of our churches and our conference? It does not have to be obvious sins like pornography or alcoholism that replace Him as Lord. It can be subtle things like a focus on money, intellect, education or tradition. Ultimately anything at all, even good things, that replaces Him as the true King and Lord is rebellion against God and sinful.

Hear His Voice!

Jesus is the one who knows the correct answer to this question, which is why we need to listen to Him in prayer. In other words, we need to “hear His voice,” which according to verse 20 is step two.

If we do not follow through with step one “earnest repentance,” we will not make it to step two “hear His voice” (see Ezekiel 12:1-2). Rebellion against God (unconfessed sin) is the reason for not being able to hear even though we have ears to hear!

It should also be noted that just because Jesus is omnipresent, it doesn’t mean that hearing His voice is inescapable. Consider Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19:11-12. The Lord was not in inescapable things like the wind, earthquake or fire. Rather, the Lord came as a gentle whisper, which is easy to escape. In fact, one has to be intentional in order to hear it.

Open the Door

This leads us to the third step: “Open the door.” Like the Laodiceans, it is alarming that a barrier (the closed door) has come between us and Jesus. Something we have control over, like resistance to His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10, Acts 7:51, Eph. 4:30, 1 Thess. 5:19) prevents us from experiencing the presence of Jesus.

We Open the Door

The Holy Spirit is God and convicts us of sin. He is gentle, good, gives good gifts, and is a deposit guaranteeing what is yet to come (2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5; Eph. 1:14). If we justify resisting the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us, we believe a lie. The truth is that everything that the Holy Spirit has for us is for our benefit, and, therefore, we should welcome Him with open arms.

Or as in the analogy of Jesus outside the door, in order for the fourth step (Jesus’ “coming in”) to occur, the responsibility lies with us to “open the door”! Jesus doesn’t force his way in.

Experience Intimacy

The fifth step is to experience a personal, intimate, two way communicative relationship with Jesus, as though you were sitting down to a meal of your choice with Him in person.  This is what it means to truly know Jesus, which is very different than just knowing about Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23)!

The presence of Jesus is the “gold refined in the fire” (v. 18) because it is the presence of Jesus that:

• We can only get from Jesus.

• Cannot be purchased with money, but will make us truly rich.

• When we experience it, it will take away our shame unlike clothes that only mask our shame.

• Will be far more satisfying than anything our fat bank accounts can ever buy because it will open our eyes to His truth.

• Is something that we can expect to be in Heaven! (And is actually what makes Heaven great anyway!)

The communication (prayer) that our churches and conference have with Jesus should reflect this kind of personal and real relationship with Him.

When we take these five steps, our conference will be victorious (vv. 21-22).

Dylan Barkman
Dylan Barkman

Dylan Barkman is the teaching pastor of Pansy Chapel in S.E. Manitoba. This article is adapted from his Convention 2016 message shared on Sunday morning, July 3.

David Thiessen: The Apostles’ Creed, Life Everlasting

by David Thiessen

The Apostles’ Creed Through 2016

I believe . . . in life everlasting.” The present Christian Church is waiting for the realization of our future hope, or are we?

The book of Habakkuk in the Old Testament Scriptures encourages us to be a people who wait. In Hab. 2:3 it says, “For the revelation waits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”

I believe the Lord is speaking to Habakkuk about “life everlasting.” It is arriving, but it has not arrived yet! So we wait.

How do we speak of something that is not here yet? Perhaps little, and certainly not in terms of rigid dogma. We should think and speak with some caution, seeking to keep an open mind. We need to continue a careful reading of Scripture and not jump to quick conclusions—especially since the conclusion is not here yet!

But “life everlasting” has begun. We speak of it in the words of George Eldon Ladd as “inaugurated eschatology.” However, what we have so far is only the beginning, as important as that is (Luke 4:16-21).

I want to write about this eternal life in terms of New Testament teaching on a new heaven and a new earth. I will make reference to a number of texts and make comments on each one.

I also want to acknowledge the writings of N. T. Wright and J. Richard Middleton. They have been instrumental in awaking in me the anticipation of “life everlasting.”

Revelation 21:1-5

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

This passage speaks about what is known as the final state. The disappearance of the sea suggests the removal of evil and its influence. The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, is the post-resurrection Church, the bride of Christ, coming down out of heaven to the earth.

God himself will be with the people. Death, mourning, tears, and pain have passed away, along with the old order of things. Everything is being made new.

Acts 3:19-21

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

Here is Peter, shortly after Pentecost, preaching the good news of Jesus. The recently ascended Christ must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything. Here, “life everlasting” is about the restoration of “everything.”

Ephesians 1:9-10

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Here in this amazing salvation text, beginning in verse three, Paul says some of the most startling words in the New Testament. God will bring all things in heaven and on earth together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ! Salvation involves the task of unifying everything that has been fragmented or alienated, thereby bringing oneness and wholeness and healing! How comprehensive is that?!

This is the nature of “life everlasting.”

Colossians 1:19-20

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Paul does not limit the efficacy of Christ’s atonement to humanity. It speaks of peacemaking and reconciliation as all inclusive as possible in heaven and on earth!

2 Peter 3:10-13

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The text has the language of judgment and fire. But notice “the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” It seems the fire will have a cleansing or purifying purpose. This suggests that the new heaven and new earth refer to renewal and restoration, rather than replacement and starting again from scratch. I think the language of destruction does not apply to the creation, but to the judgment of sin.

Romans 8:19-23

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Here we have the imagery of labour pains in childbirth and the imagery of the Israelites groaning in the slavery under Pharaoh. These images are applied to the human condition, but moving well beyond that to the entire created order.

This is creation itself experiencing the liberation and freedom from the bondage brought on by the sin and rebellion of sinful humanity. It’s another salvation story of God, repairing what was broken in all creation, along with the redemption of the children of God.

Since the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2, followed by the heartbreaking results of human sin and autonomy in chapters 3 and following, it has always been God’s intention, motivated by His matchless love and mercy, to see heaven and earth come together, so that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven!  This is the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced at His first coming and it will be fulfilled and completed when He returns!

Then we can joyfully and gratefully repeat the words spoken at creation: “It is good; it is very good!”

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

David Thiessen
David Thiessen

David Thiessen (BA, BTh, MCS) has done a lifetime of pastoral ministry together with his wife Merna. He served as the EMC Conference Pastor from 2000 to 2011. While he is toying with retirement, he is currently the part-time interim pastor at Mennville EMC in Manitoba’s Interlake.

Paul Walker: Resurrecting Our Belief in the Resurrection of the Body

By Pastor Paul Walker

The Apostles’ Creed Through 2016

What happens after you die? We might say, “You go to heaven when you die.” But that leads to other questions.

What is heaven like? There is no shortage of speculations. Some people imagine the Pearly Gates of heaven suspended high in the clouds. Those who are welcomed past the Pearly Gates are treated to bright lights, smooth Jazz, halos, and harps.

Others think of the lyrics of vacating this earth: “To that home on God’s celestial shore. I’ll fly away.” And still others struggle with any sort of vision of life after death.

How will we ever find clarity and understanding? As a starting point, we should resist the urge to say too little and too much about life after death. If we say too little, we risk missing out on the truth; if we say too much, we risk distorting the message of hope.

This is why we need to recapture a fresh vision of what both the Creeds and Scriptures teach us on life after death, and life after life after death. Faithfulness to Scripture and Creed can help us navigate the rough waters of confusion and caricature.

What Do Scripture and Creed Teach Us?

For starters, they teach the resurrection of the dead as the ultimate hope of the Redeemed. Our bodies will be glorified and recreated in the same manner that Jesus’ crucified body rose from the grave on Easter morning. This is not a disembodied soul going to heaven when you die. The resurrection of the body is properly not about life after death, but life after life after death. It is the promise of New Creation.

Now you might think, “How does that fit in with going to heaven when you die?” Well, while heaven may be a temporary place for the soul, heaven is not the ultimate destiny of the redeemed. As N. T. Wright notes, “Heaven is important, but it is not the end of the world.” Let’s explore this further.

The Nature of Heaven

Heaven was created alongside earth in the beginning (Gen. 1:1) and will be “recreated” alongside the earth for union at the end of the age (Rev. 21-22). An ancient Jewish thinking saw Heaven as a physical place above the earth, and the abode of God. It’s perhaps best to view Heaven as not so much a physical location, but a realm and a dimension that exists both alongside and separate from ours in a mysterious interlocking relationship.

Heaven is a place where believers go in death. The Apostle Paul reminds us of this when he writes “to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8), or speaks of his desire to “be with Christ” upon death (Phil. 1:23).

While heaven is the dwelling place for the soul, the weight of Scripture points to an eventual future embodied resurrection of the dead, and not a disembodied existence apart from the earth. Heaven is a temporary resting place for the souls of the saints. Heaven and Earth will one day be joined as one in the culmination of the New Creation. John, the writer of Revelation, describes such a union with his description of the new Jerusalem descending from heaven to launch the new age (Rev. 21-22).

The Biblical Hope of Resurrection

The resurrection of body does not imply a disembodied soul escaping to heaven for eternity. As N.T. Wright puts it, “Resurrection isn’t a fancy way of saying, ‘going to heaven when you die’. It is not about the ‘life after death’ as such. Rather, it’s way of talking about being bodily alive again after a period of being bodily dead. Resurrection is a second-stage postmortem life: ‘life after life after death’.”

The Creed says that our bodies will become like Christ’s resurrected body. It is a bold reminder that the New Creation that was launched on Easter morning, as Jesus burst forth from the tomb, will no longer be the “not yet” for those who wait upon the Lord. As the Apostle Paul makes clear, Christ “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:21).

The resurrection of the body is God creating for us physical, glorified, and immortal bodies that can participate in the New Creation in which there is no longer any death or decay. This is why the Apostle Paul writes, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). This will take place when Jesus comes again to judge the living and the dead at the end of this age (Is. 65-66, 1 Thess. 4:16-17, Rev. 20-22).

Does the Resurrection of the Body Matter?

Firstly, it teaches us that God has not given up on the mission of rescue and renewal. The biblical hope boldly proclaims God has been in the process of putting the world to rights, bringing order to chaos, and establishing shalom to our violent disordered world. The resurrection of the body is God’s supreme act of rescue from the curse of death.

Christmas reminds us of this! We are reminded that, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) to rescue and renew us. God assumed the likeness of sinful human nature (Rom. 8:3) in the person of Jesus Christ to heal us of the curse.

As the Christmas carol Joy to the World declares, “He comes to make His blessings flow, Far as the curse is found!” Christmas reminds us that Christ came to overthrow the curse of death by entering our cursedness

and overcoming it in the power of resurrection. We who are united with Christ, our rescuer, now await our final rescue through the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

Secondly, it reminds that this world matters. Unlike the Gnostic inclination to devalue the material world around us, Christians confess that this is our Father’s world. A belief in the resurrection of the body is also a belief in our restored relationship to rightly rule and reign with Christ over God’s good creation.

This is why the Apostle Paul so closely connects the liberation of creation to the redemption of the children of God in Romans 8. When humans are put right, all of creation will be put right. God’s rescue project is more than just for individuals, but for all of creation.

This has huge implications for how we treat our Father’s world today. God’s work of New Creation has already been inaugurated in the resurrection of Christ, and in us through our baptisms. We as Christians ought to begin to live now in this age, the “not yet” promise of the age to come. This should challenge us to adjust our actions and attitudes towards the material world.

Lastly, it is a blessed hope for those whose are grieving the loss of their health. Our current bodies are wasting away, corruptible, and susceptible to disease and destruction. As a pastor I’ve sat with many people whose bodies were in various stages of giving out on them. The resurrection of the body reminds us that though we may grieve our current bodily failings, our future resurrected bodies will not fail us nor hinder us. Instead, let us look forward to the day where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev 21:4).

Thanks be to God! Maranatha!

Paul Walker
Paul Walker
Resources Consulted
Justin S. Holcomb, Know the Creeds and Councils, 2014
Michael F. Bird, What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine through the Apostles’ Creed, 2016
N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, 2008; Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, 2006; Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues, 2014

Loreena Thiessen: Ten Things for Which to be Thankful

By Loreena Thiessen

It’s October and time for Thanksgiving. You regularly give thanks before each meal. It has become a habit. But you have much more to be thankful for.

Like shelter, a house that keeps you dry and warm when it rains or when temperatures drop. It’s a safe place to eat, sleep, hang up your clothes, and store your collections. It’s peaceful. You’re in charge. You can lock the door, or open it.

Millions of people around the world do not have a home, they are homeless because of floods, or war, or because they lost their jobs. Be thankful for your house.

What about clean drinking water? You’re thirsty. You go to the fridge, open a bottle and take a sip. You expect it to be clean and safe. Millions of people do not have clean water to drink. They collect water from puddles or streams. Dirty water makes them sick.

When you’re hungry you get a snack or a sandwich. At supper you have a good dinner. You eat as much as you want. Food is fuel for the energy you need each day. Millions of people all over the world do not have enough food to eat. Constant hunger causes pain. They become weak and fall ill.

Are you healthy? To keep healthy you must eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise. Being healthy you are able to listen and think better, you enjoy playing and working. Be thankful for your health.

Do you have good friends who share your fun, feel your sadness or excitement, spend time with you, are fair and kind? And don’t forget your family. They love and support you no matter what. You can depend on them. Be thankful for them.

At times you meet someone new who becomes a friend. Now you have another person to share and have fun with. You learn new things. Be thankful for that new person.

Are you thankful for technology? Do you have a PlayStation, Nintendo, Game Boy, or a phone? These are luxuries you may think of as necessities. You learn skills and have fun. Your phone keeps you connected. Remember to be thankful for these.

There are many ordinary things you enjoy. Sunrise and sunset give colour and light to your day. The sun warms you and makes things grow. Trees give you clean air. The ocean cools and provides you with salmon, tuna and lobster. Rivers and streams give you opportunity to go fishing with your Dad or Grandpa. Flowers make parks beautiful. Don’t forget to give thanks for these.

loreena-thiessen
Loreena Thiessen

What happens when you face a difficulty? Overcoming a difficulty you may learn something new or grow stronger. Be thankful. Every morning when you wake up, be thankful for another new day to enjoy all that you have.

Read Psalm 104:1, 10–25. See how God provides for the earth and all its inhabitants.

Heartland: Two Amazing Stories

by Brigitte Toews

LANDMARK, Man.—In May we had the pleasure of listening to Tim Hague’s amazing story. He was born of a white mother and black father during a time when racial tensions in the USA were at their peak and where inter-racial children were neither black enough nor white enough to be wanted for adoption.

He was placed in an orphanage with little hope of ever finding a family. After he was shuffled around from church to church in the southern states, a white Christian couple heard the call and took to heart James’ definition of pure religion: “to look after the orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27) and so took action.

Tim’s distress, however, continued while growing up. Once the family adopted him, their own church disowned them. He was then bullied as a child and ultimately rejected by the parents of potential girlfriends. Tim persevered in his trials; and he eventually met and a married a blond, blue-eyed woman named Sheryl and moved to Winnipeg where they raised four children and he became a registered nurse.

In early 2011, Tim was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Instead of accepting the disease as a curse, he said he decided to embrace the next stage of his journey with joy and expectancy. After starting treatment, Tim trained and ran his first triathlon and continued to be open to whatever God planned for the rest of his life.

Through the encouragement of Sheryl, Tim and his son Tim Jr. auditioned for the Amazing Race Canada. Underdogs from the beginning, the pair pulled off a miraculous win on the very first season of the show.

As Tim Hague’s race continues, he shares his story and inspires others to “live their best.” He has become an advocate for Parkinson’s and an ambassador for Compassion Canada, continuing the legacy of his parents.

Early this year Gary and Mavis Unger (Heartland) also heard the call to look after the orphans in their distress. They went to Haiti on a short-term mission trip four years ago and carried back with them a burden for the orphans at the Maison Orphanage in Port Au Prince.

With much prayer, the couple quit their jobs and left their home and family for a time to pursue what God had planned for them. In the short term, they have taken on the role of working directors for the Orphanage.

Under their guidance, many projects have been planned and funded by their supporters back home. I look forward to their future reports to hear the rest of the story.

In the meantime, we are in this amazing race. Like a winning marathoner we must train and cast off everything that hinders us. And we must fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, enduring patiently so we too will finish well and receive the prize and give God the glory.

Mennville: Seven baptized in August

By Luella Brandt

Mennville, Man.—Seven young people were baptized on the confession of their faith and to publicly show their desire to follow Christ on Aug. 21. The church was packed with supporters as we heard their touching testimonies, witnessed them get baptized, prayed with them as they were surrounded by people whom they chose to pray for them, and later greeted them as brothers and sisters in the Lord. We want to continue to uphold them in prayer as Mitch gets married and the rest of them start Grade 10 this month.

Crestview: Ribbon-Cutting, VBS Held

By Sharron Straub

Winnipeg, Man.—There’s been a lot happening around here this summer.

Melvin and Kari Peters, who serve with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Africa, were with us on July 10 to report on the work they are doing in starting up and developing the new sub-base in Marsabit; they bring the love of Christ to those living in isolation in northern Kenya.

Darrell Thiessen from Jesus People USA joined us on July 17 to share about his work in the Uptown neighbourhood on the north side of Chicago, Illinois.

A huge praise item: a long-term project has finally been completed. Our church building has been equipped with an elevator so now those who have been finding the stairs a bit difficult will be able to get to the basement easily and with dignity. Hallalujah! A ribbon-cutting and dedication was held on Sunday, July 24. Thanks to the men who devoted a lot of time to seeing this project through to completion.

Kingdom Rock: Where Kids Stand Strong For God was the theme for VBS week August 7—11. It was an amazing five days with about 20 children attending. Each evening started with a barbecue supper that was a great way to connect with both the parents and the children. The children learned that prayer, family and friends, God’s love, the Bible and trusting God help us to stand strong.

Youth Pastor Kevin and Lee Pauls welcomed a daughter, Lucy Devona, on Aug. 24, a sister for Desmond. Congratulations!

A potluck breakfast was held on Sunday, Sept. 11, to start the fall season. Sunday School resumes on Sept. 18.

Vanderhoof: VCF Reaches Out to Community Through VBS

by Krista Giesbrecht and Shannon Hall

VANDERHOOF, B.C.—Following Jesus, The Light of the World, was our theme for this year’s Vacation Bible School held at our church on July 11-15. We were blessed by 100 kids, ages four to 11, who attended.

Cave Quest was the program we used; it was a great deal of fun for kids and adults alike. Throughout the week we learned how God’s love takes us through dark times in our lives. Thanks to a lot of hard work, our church was amazingly decorated with caves all throughout to have a fun experience.

There were different stations to rotate through daily: singing time, Bible quests, cinema, games, imagination station (always a favourite), and, of course, snack time. Throughout the week lessons taught that Jesus gives us hope, courage, direction, love, and his power.

By the end of the week kids had brought in 500-plus items of non-perishable food items to donate to out local Neighbor Link, which helps those in community who need it.

None of this could have happened without all of the hard work and dedication of 49 volunteers, 13 of which were our youth, who had a heart to serve. “Praise God for volunteers and for the opportunity to reach out into the community to churched and non-churched kids,” said Kim Giesbrecht, VBS committee leader.

Kim works hard year after year to bring this to our community and her effort doesn’t go unnoticed. We are very thankful for a leader with such a big heart for serving God.

A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference