Can anything good come out of Gretna?

“Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” – Mark 5:19

With a population of 574, Gretna Manitoba is not a large town. Nor is it deemed the most spectacular destination in the province. As a border town it plays an important role in transportation and economy. Yet it is safe to say Gretna’s acclaim is modest, and its international renown somewhat understated.

Some time ago, MB Mission Short-term Mission Mobilizer, Carol Letkeman, sensed God promising Gretna would be a place of dispatching to the nations. Today, Gretna hosts MB Mission’s ACTION orientation and debrief. During orientation, teams are prepared in this quiet nook of the world to serve the global church. After spending a month serving in an international setting, the teams return to Gretna again to debrief. They take time to understand and share their stories with one another, and from there they return to their homes across the country to reintegrate into everyday life. Removed from the bustle of ordinary affairs, Gretna is able to offer rest, quiet, and breathtaking Prairie sunsets – exactly what is needed for weary world travellers.

In this way, the small community of Gretna makes a significant impact on the global community. How unexpected. Yet then again, is it really a surprise?

The scriptures reveal to us a God who is quite interested in using the unheard of, the underdog, the modest, for grand and unexpected things. Remember Moses was a murderer with a stutter; Peter was a overzealous fisherman. And who have thought anything good could come out of Nazareth? (John 1:45, New King James Version)

During a celebration service in Gretna, ACTION participants share their stories. They tell of Bonface in Malawi, Pastor Isaiah in Thailand, Persio in Brazil. Stories of their sacrifice, dedication, creativity, and resolve. The crowd of perhaps a hundred are inspired and challenged by the witness of these distant and otherwise unheard-of saints. Their acclaim is modest, their international renown understated. Yet amazingly, their witness is affecting this collection of people in Gretna, Manitoba. This group will disperse across the country as they return home, bringing the stories of these witnesses with them.

And in a surprising way, these small groups in Lilongwe, Chachoengsao, and Ribeirao Preto play a significant role in the global community, too. In Ephesians, Paul gives glory to God “who is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” Reflecting on the ways God has stitched together communities from such disparate contexts, we are awestruck by God’s imagination. We are inspired by the faith of distant people, and we marvel at how God conducts these unexpected beautiful harmonies. Thanks be to God.