There is so much good going on in our church and so much that God is doing among us. We need to take the time, regularly, to celebrate what HE is doing and the ways in which HE involves HIS servants.
I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know a little bit of what a “typical” week looks like at our church building and share some of the ways in which God is working.
Dreaming and Praying
The staff regularly meets, formally and informally, sometimes with other church members, sometimes on our own, to discuss plans for ministry, to consult on different needs of people walking through our door, to study God’s word and to discuss books that we are reading together.
The Elders, Operations Committee, and Worship Planning Committee also regularly meet to make plans for ministry and to pray together. I know that there are many of you who are regularly praying for our congregation, particular members and their needs and particular ministries.
We have a ladies’ group that meets every other week and spends three hours together, encouraging each other, caring for one another and sharing life’s load. I know that they have a wonderful time together and that there is always laughter and smiles when they meet.
Last week, Shane and Sigang came to see us and share the news that Shane’s father had passed away. We all dropped what we were doing and went for lunch with them and shared their sorrow as well as stories and laughter. They were grateful that they have Canadian family to count on and we were grateful to have the opportunity to share in that time with them.
A lady, from Nigeria, who attended our congregation for only two months, emailed me to say that she has recently had a baby boy and would appreciate visitors. I emailed about twelve ladies to ask if they would contribute gifts to her and her baby and would two of them be willing to deliver the gifts? I had a wonderful response with everyone saying that they would like to contribute and people clamouring over themselves to be the ones picked to visit this lady. I know that this is not unusual for our congregation and that whenever there is a need and a chance to show love that we will go above and beyond to do it.
Kevin Knutson, who has been with us for a year, has been driving us to connect better with people who are coming in our doors. He has encouraged us with his passion for people and for getting them in relationships that matter and will disciple them.
Our Wednesday night meetings, of which we have only had one – at the time of this writing, have already been an encouragement to so many. We are excited that we will be able to continue with them throughout the summer and look forward to the growth and encouragement that they will bring.
Meeting the Needs of Others
This is likely the biggest thing our church does each week. From opening up our building to many new immigrant women, and their children, who are learning English, both with our Friendspeak program and with the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA) who rents our building, to hosting a meal for homeless (or near homeless) people each week, to engaging with those whom God brings to our door for hampers or lunches or conversation. There is a lot that goes on each week and we never know whom God will bring to our door next and what need they will have that we can meet.
One day, a young lady, who was in distress, came in and talked to Dustin and me. Once she was able to tell us what she really wanted/needed, we realized that we needed to give her a quiet place to pray. She stayed for a few minutes and when I went to check on her, she exclaimed that she had heard God’s voice for the first time and He had given her an answer to her questions and she felt peace. She said that she was convinced that this church building was special and I’m convinced she is right – not because of the building but because of the God we serve in and through this building. I’m not sure what God told her, but I do believe that He spoke to her and calmed her down. I do believe that God is alive and active and willing to hear our prayers and respond when we reach out to Him. We can pray that God will continue to speak to her and draw her to Him.
There are a few ladies who regularly come by for help with food from our pantry. One lady has been in Canada for a long time and, for reasons unknown to me, has not progressed very far in her English. I am sure that it is isolating for her. I get the sense that she wants company, she wants to be known and she wants to be heard. She repeatedly speaks to us in her language even though she knows that we don’t understand her. I hope that we have been a bit of light for her as she struggles in her way to become a part of her new country.
For a long time now we have had ladies come, without fail, every Sunday and Tuesday to make lunches for hungry kids at two nearby schools. This takes an hour each time, not counting a bit of prep at home beforehand. But they enjoy their hour spent together visiting and catching up while working together at something meaningful. Nora Frank has been in charge of scheduling and training for this ministry and will leave behind a gap when she moves away this summer. I am confident, though, that God will bring someone forward to continue with this work that HE has prepared us to do.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
These few glimpses of our week don’t even begin to touch on all of the work that God is doing among us, from meals delivered, to hospital visits, to listening to each other’s troubles, to praying for one another, to studying in small groups, to helping each other move, to welcoming new babies, to grieving with friends over the loss of loved ones, to ministering to our children. We are called to love one another and I see it happening. Could we do it better? Always. Have we got it all figured out? Not yet. But we should be encouraged by what we can do and how we are loving each other.
Your Own Involvement
If you are reading this and thinking, “I wish there was a way that I could get more involved, I wish that I could start this ministry…., I wish God would use me to do this…., I wish God would plant a dream and a passion in my heart…”, this next part is for you.
“If we truly believe that the kingdom has come, and is now present in our midst, and is made manifest in the work and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, our lives must conform to that new reality.
If the gospel be true, then, the most important characters in the unfolding human drama are those faithful witnesses to the truth, those witnesses often deemed to be irrelevant, lacking common sense, unable to see “reality.” Moreover, if the gospel be true, then our fundamental identity will be wrapped up in the new kingdom. Full allegiance must be given, shared with no other. There is no dual citizenship, but only complete commitment and obedience. “Let the dead bury their dead,” and “those who have put their hand to the plow and look back are not fit for the kingdom,” and “no one can serve two masters.” Indeed, it is as if we have been called to a holy war. Everything must now be set aside for this one calling. But the war is a war quite unexpected, for it is a war fought for the God who commonly surprises, and does the unthinkable: it is the war of the Lamb in which we are called to participate, bearing faithful witness to the God who conquers through suffering love.”
Lee C. Camp in Mere Discipleship, Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World, p. 65
Last year, when we were studying the Kingdom and we all put leaves up on the castle wall of dreams that we have for Kingdom work, I put up a leaf that said that I wanted to host meals for the homeless that were coming to our door for food. I had discussions with people who said, “Are we ready for that? What will happen if this happens? Or that happens? How will we handle that?” I had my own questions of “Who will help me?” “What will I make?” and self-doubts of, “I’m not that good of a cook, I really only know about three dishes that I can make.” But, finally, AFTER A YEAR, I set those questions and doubts aside and said, “Next week we are going to do this! We need to start inviting people.” We did – we invited about 8-10 people to join us on the following Wednesday. On the Sunday before our first meal I was talking to Salvador who was visiting our church for the first time and he was telling me his story of leaving Costa Rica, coming to Canada as a refugee, being here for a while and not having work or anything to do. “Well, tell me, Salvador, what do you do?” “I’m a chef!” After the stunned silence, I said, “Salvador, I have a job for you!” He came that first Wednesday in February and has only missed one or two weeks since. Not only did God provide the answer to my need, He is ministering to Salvador who has never been part of a church and whose heart is bursting with gratitude to have the chance to help people less fortunate than him. What an encouragement to take the first step in confidence that God will be with you and will provide! After nearly 4 months of serving meals, I’ve only had to make 2 meals, so I still have one in my pocket, but I have had 2-3 women step forward and say, when Salvador gets a job and can’t make meals (which should happen very soon), we would love to come and help with making meals. God is still providing!
Rhandi Tyssen shared with me that her Kingdom leaf said that she would walk through any doors that God opened for her! She is now going to school at Alberta Bible College and eager to walk through the doors that God will open once she is done. She is excited and energized by the way God is working in her life.
This summer, while we rest and take a break from the busyness of life, I would like to challenge you to do a few things. These are easy to do when you are driving, camping, relaxing, or taking a few quiet moments by a lake or river.
- Invite God to speak to you and place HIS dream for your life on your heart.
- Be conscious and aware of how God speaks to you – don’t disregard that quiet whisper.
- Let that dream grow and blossom over the summer.
- Tell someone about the desire for ministry on your heart, seek encouragement to take the next steps forward.
- Dive deep into God’s living word and let His voice bring passion into your soul.
- Read a book that is challenging and encouraging and radical. I’d like to recommend Lee Camp’s book, from my excerpt above. The staff is currently reading it as we make plans for our fall theme of discipleship.
- Let God revive and refresh your spirit for the work that HE has made you to do in HIS Kingdom. In the end, it is the only thing that is worthwhile and the only thing that will matter to us.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 29:11-14