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MBCM Town Hall for a Constitution Review

MBCM Town Hall for a Constitution Review

October 19, 2021

In April of this year the MBCM board approved a committee to begin a review and offer a revision of the MBCM constitution. This committee (details on this team are in the FAQ document below) has met regularly over the last 5 months in order to prepare a first draft of their proposed changes. 

We are hosting a Town Hall Meeting October 27 at 7 pm online to introduce and discuss the review teams recommended changes to the MBCM Constitution. 

Below, you will find four downloadable documents that have been prepared by the Constitution Committee to be reviewed beforehand.

The meeting will be facilitated by the review committee and will be 1 1/2 hours in length. We are hoping to have at least one representative from each MBCM church in attendance, however more are certainly welcome. If possible, come prepared to the Town Hall with any questions regarding the changes. 

If you are interested in attending, please connect with your church. Zoom link provided closer to the date.

The next opportunity to review and discuss will be at the Council of Representatives (aka Regional Meeting) on November 13.

In preparation for the Town Hall, the Constitution & Bylaw Review Team (details on this team in the FAQ document) has prepared and compiled a few documents for you to review.

 

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MB Graduate Studies: Andrew Dyck

MB Graduate Studies: Andrew Dyck

September 23, 2021

Andrew Dyck
Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality and Pastoral Ministry

Bomba: Andrew, I’ll start by asking if you could give us some insight into why you chose a path of education/teaching.

Andrew: Oh, wow. You know, this is my third career. I was a physiotherapist and then a pastor, and now a professor. I realized some years ago that it didn’t matter what work I was doing; I always shifted towards the education side of things. I think there’s something about my calling that always ends up having to do with teaching in one way or another. And so, as a physio, it meant I ended up doing lots of work with patient education. A teenager is not going to do their exercises unless they understand how their knee works. And as a pastor, I had the privilege of doing quite a lot of preaching and training in the church. And now this work at CMU. So, I think there’s something of my own sense of who I am that tilts towards teaching.

And then there’s the other side of it, which is that an opportunity came at just the right time. There are those things in timing that we can’t control. And when things line up, you say, “Wow God, this is a wonderful opportunity.” I was pastoring part-time and working on a doctoral degree when an opportunity arose with MB seminary at CMU. So I had a chance to draw on other things I’ve done in my life, not just my education but also my experience with people in the church. I had this opportunity, and I’ve been very grateful to be able to do this.

Bomba: What would you say is the most rewarding aspect?

Andrew: I teach a course every other year called Supervised Ministry Experience, but it’s essentially a practicum course where students do ongoing ministry work and meet with me every two weeks. We meet as a group, four to six students each time, and we’re processing, doing case studies, and paying attention to what the Holy Spirit is doing in people’s lives. They either do it for eight months or twelve. And somewhere around six-seven months, I often start hearing a shift in how students talk about their ministry. They start being calmer. They’re more patient. They rely more on God and not on accomplishing everything themselves. They ask better questions about their ministry and themselves. I’ve seen it happen repeatedly, and I’ve watched how most of those folks are now in some kind of ministry. That’s one of the highlights.

Bomba: What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced?

Andrew: Creating courses. I’ve created ten or a dozen courses since I’ve started here. Each time, I try to think carefully about what’s a good focus? What should people read? What kinds of assignments will be helpful? What am I going to talk to them about? How do I draw students in? Because one of the things I’m committed to is that I’m not just here to lecture to students. There are lots of places where they can get information. But how do I help them process what they’re learning? How do I hear from students? That’s the challenge of teaching. It’s a good challenge. When they get their course syllabus, I often tell my students that the hardest work for me was writing down the main objectives for this course.

Another challenge that’s come up a little more over the last few years is realizing that I need to expand the resources that I’m introducing in my courses so that students can engage a greater diversity of writers. So I need to make sure that they’re not just reading men but also women authors and listening to women’s voices. I’m also thinking about how to draw on Indigenous people as resources for my students. So this is part of my learning curve right now.

Bomba: Wow. That’s amazing. How would you describe the student experience during the pandemic?

Andrew: I tried to create more forums where a student posts a case study on Saturday. On Monday, the others in the class ask questions of clarification. The student responds Wednesday. Then the class starts analyzing and offering proposals and affirmations. By Friday, the student says, here’s what I’ve learned from your feedback, which creates a week-long process. And then the next week, it’s someone else’s turn. Some of those conversations went to deep places and significant conflicts that students had in their ministry, or to challenges they were facing. Maybe it’s because students had more time to reflect. They were in their own space, in their own context. They didn’t have to rush with an opinion. So I watched and guided. There have been upsides in the pandemic.

Bomba: Right. What are the demographics of the majority of the students that you end up teaching?

Andrew: Late twenties, early thirties into early-mid 40s, that’s probably the bulk of students, age-wise. They’ve nearly all got a bachelor’s degree when they come into the seminary programs. The majority are already doing some kind of Christian ministry, so they’re mostly studying part-time. Whereas when I went to seminary, I moved with my family, and we went for two years, I did a two-year degree, and we moved on. But my students—whether they’re single, married, sometimes with young children or even teenagers—are fitting their studies into their life and work.

Bomba: What makes the Mennonite Brethren track (MB) unique? If someone is thinking of taking some courses, or maybe they’re just getting started with exploring those options, what would you say to them?

Andrew: Three things. First, we’re a very flexible program. In seminaries that are bigger, they’re able to say: you have to take this course, this course and this course. These courses are offered every year to fit into the stream. Whereas we’re a smaller school. So we say: you can choose which courses you take as long as they meet specific categories. You need a certain number of Bible courses. You need a certain number of theology and history courses and a certain number of ministry courses, but you’ve got a lot more flex. So we’ve developed that into a strength: students can customize their program to match the needs of their calling.

A second benefit is that we’re really affordable. We’re half the price of many seminaries (not all). And the third advantage of this MB track is that every student who wants to do a full program with us will be required to take a certain number of courses with MB profs. In that way, if they sign up in the MB track, we’ll make sure that there’s mentoring or engagement with the conference or church events outside of school. We’re interested in the non-formal or non-academic parts of ministry formation, not simply that you did all your degrees and got your credit. So you’re going to get some MB profs, you’re going to take courses where you’re studying about Mennonite Brethren. You’re going to have engagement with profs by way of your advising, and you’re going to be invited into non-academic ways of getting familiar with the Mennonite Brethren Church in Manitoba. So those would be three key features of this MB track for students.

Bomba: Is there anything else that you’d love to share with anybody that’s reading this right now.

Andrew: Well, if I were doing a commercial, I’d add that students can do this in several different ways. Some students just want to pick up a course here and there, kind of like continuing professional development. Others want to take a program, so they want to get either a certificate or a degree out of it. That’s a different way of studying where the student then fits into a program. Still, others students just want to audit. For example, some students want to improve their preaching. They don’t want to do it for credit, but they want to come to all the classes as a kind of enrichment. So there are a variety of ways they can engage with us.

Bomba: Ok, I have one more question as we close off. I’m aware that you are a phenomenal musician, so I assume you listen to a lot of music. Is that accurate?

Andrew: I have music in my office, probably three-quarters of the time.

Bomba: Ok, what song would you say is the best soundtrack for this season of your life right now?

Andrew: Wow, it’s funny you ask. I’m giving my faith story in chapel on Thursday. I actually chose three songs, so I’m just going to name them. One is “This I Believe (The Creed)”. So that would be a praise and worship song. Then I chose a more meditative, contemplative song from the Taizé Christian Community in France. It’s “Christ the light of the world”. It’s repetitive. It’s prayerful. You can get past the words and offer your prayer while you’re singing. And the third one is a slightly older hymn, “How can I keep from singing?” Through all the stuff in life that’s difficult, how can I keep from singing? It’s like Peter said to Jesus, ”You have the words of eternal life. Where else are we going to go?”

Bomba: That’s incredible. Well, this is great Andrew. Thanks for taking the time to chat. I appreciate this.

Andrew: Thanks for your interest, and I appreciate that we’re doing this for the MB Church of Manitoba.

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The Mind and Attitude of Jesus

The Mind and Attitude of Jesus

September 23, 2021

Cam Priebe
MBCM Provincial Director

Lately, I’ve been focused on John 13 and finding encouragement and hope in the way Jesus loves his disciples. First, even in the midst of a chaotic feeling of knowing that death and suffering are imminent, he chooses to sit and have dinner with those he loves, even those who he knows will betray him. He then decides to serve them by washing their feet.

That image of Jesus washing feet has been present with me recently. I think of it often during meetings or while listening to people. Jesus’ posture would be to pay attention to their needs, and he seeks to love and serve them well. When things feel just beyond my control, or when I wish circumstances were different, I’m reminded that Jesus is sitting with us. Jesus is fully present with those he loves, those that will ultimately betray him and those that will deny him. He chooses to kneel and minister to the needs of the moment. I’m comforted by that image.

I’m praying for you as church leaders and MBCM churches that you would experience the love of Jesus in practical ways. In the unknown, constant change and questions of the next best step – Jesus is sitting in with us. I’m praying that as we interact with others, we would have the love of Jesus to sit with people and make every effort to truly understand others. I’m praying for patience, grace, and understanding and that we would have the mind and attitude of Jesus.

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Fourth Avenue Church

Fourth Avenue Church

September 21, 2021

Abe Klassen
Lead Pastor

Encouragement and hope during the pandemic.

During this COVID reality, we have experienced differences in opinions and perspectives around the pandemic, but overall, people have been respectful. We continue to find ways to engage in relevant conversations. In our adult Bible School, we are unpacking the book of Revelation with an approach of “let’s be ready” but not getting consumed by all the conspiracy theories.

There have been some challenges in people’s lives around marriages and financial circumstances, followed by some incredible miracles where folks have seen significant help in economic and relational situations even over a short period. While this can be a lonely and depressing time for some, we’ve continued to make efforts to connect with people even through doorstep visits. 

In the midst of challenges, we are constantly reminded that God is still working by providing strength and courage. Some people were struggling with their spiritual lives and have now come back to the faith!  There are stories of healing that can only be attributed to God’s divine intervention. Lives are being changed. God is at work. We are grateful for how He provides guidance and direction during these times.

Our programming opens up this Sunday, and we are excited to see full engagement from the congregation already. Pray that we would be unified with a Christ-centered focus. Pray that we would honour God with our lives and foster a desire to worship and praise Jesus. Pray that our leaders would be caring, loving and respectful, despite various opinions.

 
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Elmwood MB Church

Elmwood MB Church

August 17, 2021

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Ken Stoesz (Lead Pastor) from Elmwood Mennonite Brethren Church about the ways God has been working at Elmwood and the community. We hope that you feel as encouraged as we did by this conversation!

The Church

Revitalize – that probably articulates best what we have been trying to do at Elmwood. Though the theme of ‘Revitalize’ was present to Elmwood before the pandemic hit in early 2020, it still continues through to today.

Elmwood MB Church is over 100 years old, but one is never too old to hear the gospel. Elmwood needed to hear the gospel. We needed to repent collectively, and more than that, to be, as Paul says in Ephesians, to pray that God would supernaturally help us understand His great love for us. We needed transformation by His grace, love & mercy. Elmwood didn’t need a hug; we needed to come face to face with hard truths.”

Covid-19

When Covid hit, we decided early on to commit to three things:

    • To be consistent
    • To be accessible
    • And to be “us.”

We realized that what our congregation needed was a sense of normalcy. Everything was changing. Nothing was normal. Can we just provide normal? Can Elmwood be the one thing that remains stable? The answer was yes, and after trying a few things, we landed on the simplicity of an iPhone and a mic for streaming our services.

We also realized early that we needed to be transparent with the church as much as possible in our writing and our speaking. Transparency meaning that no one is promising that they know exactly what to do and that they won’t be able to get covid ‘right.’ 

There have been struggles dealing with covid itself, specifically how the church would handle the health orders. There are a portion of people who support the health orders, a portion of people who do not support the health orders and a portion of people who might be found more in the middle. I found myself having to navigate these conversations. Back in May, we had a 3-hour zoom call and walked through: 

    • What does scripture say about medicine?
    • What does scripture say about the government?
    • What does scripture say about how we relate to one another? 

We found that the bible says less about medicine, a little more about government, but a ton about how we should relate to one another. And really specific things. So the meeting ended with realizing that we all have different opinions about these things. You’re going to pull a verse out of here to defend, that’s fine, but you actually don’t have a lot on either side, but you have a ton of direct commands like ‘you cannot slander each other.’  So we unpacked those texts and tried to do it with a ton of grace, realizing that we are all in this together.

Leadership

Elmwood has a leadership council consisting of about 11 people, and we have been training towards this council being the spiritual leaders of the church and co-pastoring alongside the pastors. This has been one of the highlights during covid – watching the council step up and say “yes” to the care of the people in Elmwood. Practically, that has looked like a lot of phone calls and intentional conversations with members. It’s been awkward and hard. To pray with people and ask them how they are doing and what God has been teaching them, not just Netflix shows and lamenting about the jets, but saying – the reason I am calling you is because I have a mandate before God and before the church that I would give an account for your soul one day.

The council has really stepped up during this season.

Another leadership gift came when we hired a new pastor, Conrad Dueck, three months before Covid hit. I can’t even underestimate what he’s brought to the table this last year. I don’t know where I’d be.

Missions

Elmwood is an incredibly generous church, and we found ourselves in a place where we collectively felt that it was time to do something with the gospel we’d been learning about. People were ready. Together we have:

    • Began a partnership in NorthEast India and have sent three teams out to assist new pastors in training. 
    • Sponsored a family living in a Ugandan refugee camp through MCC that is in the final stages of moving to Canada. 
    • Begun to build relationships with some people living in a camp along the Red River. 

The Future

Although it isn’t known what church will look like in the fall when people start to trickle back in, we are sure about one thing: The goal isn’t a fixed building or a new awesome program, but it is people who know God and are growing in maturity and love and affection for Him. That’s the goal. That’s what we are trying to do here.

Praying for Elmwood

Pray that we are steadfast in our love for one another. Pray that we would be steadfast in God’s word. Pray that we would be instilled with a  desire to reach the unreached with the gospel. Pray that God leads around this corner and that we would become a great commission church. A church that is actively faithfully reaching out to share Christ. Pray for perseverance in ministry, healthy marriages and joy in the ministry even in the midst of opposition, rejection and confusion.

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Pastoral Transitions

Pastoral Transitions

August 17, 2021

A note about transitions. 

We need pastors. Pastors are our teachers, our leaders, the ones who carry our burdens in ways that others can’t or won’t. They won’t reject us in our most revealing moments. They are endlessly hopeful, to the point that we tend to believe it must be the Holy Spirit, ‘cause ‘ain’t no one that optimistic in real life! They guide us to Jesus and inspire confidence that God is trustworthy and holy, worthy of all honor and glory.

Pastors aren’t forever. It’s a mantra that I’ve repeated for decades now. After almost 20 years of pastoral ministry, am I allowed to say decades? Probably not, but there you go. Pastors aren’t forever. However you might think about that statement, I’m sure we can agree that churches tend to live longer than the tenures of their pastors. And thus, transitions are a necessary part of church life. Pastoral transitions are a mixed bag, and if you’ve been around church for a little while, you know what I mean. Seeing a beloved figure leave can be heartbreaking; it can even feel like a betrayal. Many of us are profoundly affected by our pastors. Even when a transition is healthy, it’s tough. And then there are the times that healthy isn’t the word you would choose. The difficulty only ramps up.

The family of churches that make up the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba have experienced many excellent and gifted pastors, and that continues to be the case. Below you will see a list of recent transitions and pastoral vacancies. That’s a list that represents a lot. There are churches, pastors and families on the move. A host of stories. All of us at the MBCM office appreciate the many ways that churches have invited us into their transitions. Connecting with staff and lead teams as they navigate transition is a privilege. Whether sitting with a search team as they navigate the next steps or visiting with a pastor contemplating retirement from ministry, these are precious and holy moments.

There are many stories, and I’d like to tell them all. But here are two.

Some stories about transitions 

Discerning and equipping pastors is a tough errand. We’ve been trying many approaches over the decades with varying degrees of success. Success is measured in terms of new pastors working in our churches. I admit that’s a limited scope of what success looks like, but that’s what we’re talking about today. Multiply Central Canada has implemented TREK to be one such lane of equipping and discerning. Kevin Dyck stepped away from his work as a chiropractor and stepped into TREK as a move of discernment. He also served as worship coordinator at Fort Garry MB. Through this discernment journey, Kevin heard God’s call to pastoral ministry grow. In July 2021, Kevin started as the lead pastor at La Salle Community Fellowship. What a great story of success! No pressure Kevin.

How would you feel if the pastor you loved went to a church up the road a ways? I don’t know about you, but I can see that being kinda tough. For the elder team at  The Meeting Place, this was a question they faced when John Neufeld accepted the role of lead pastor at Eastview Community Church. How were the people of TMP to think about this? TMP’s elder team sent Eastview’s leaders a letter. Don’t worry; it’s a good story! It was a letter of blessing. A communication of sisterly and brotherly love. A note that said John was a blessing to us, and we pray that he will be a blessing for you. I don’t know about you, but I get that warm and fuzzy Holy Spirit feeling inside when I see this kind of story.

Prayer

Would you please pray for our pastors? The ones that serve today. The ones that have departed and even the ones to come.

Pray also for our churches in transition. That God would grant wisdom and favor as they search for the next pastor.

*A special note of thank you to our retiring pastors. Gerry Harms, Bob Enns and Terry Sawatsky have lived full ministry lives. They have poured out for the sake of the church. As any pastor knows, it’s not always easy and fun. But, it’s always worth it. These three have served a worthy King. Thank you for spending so much of your lives for the benefit of the bride of Christ. May you each experience the words of Jesus, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Departures

    • December 31, 2020 – Gerry Harms retired from pastoral ministry. Gerry served at Justice MB for 28? years.
    • June 30, 2021 – Bob Enns retired from pastoral ministry. Bob served at Community Fellowship Church at Newton for 7 Years.
    • June 30, 2021 – Terry Sawatsky retired from pastoral ministry. Terry served at Friends Community Church in Carman for 5 years.
    • June 30, 2021 – David Gibson resigned as lead pastor of Lakeview Community Church in Killarney. David has moved to B.C. to continue in pastoral ministry.
    • June 15, 2021 – John Neufeld resigned as lead pastor of The Meeting Place in Winnipeg. 

Arrivals

    • June 2021 – Joe Welty is the new pastor at Crossroads.
    • Rick Hill transitional pastor at Friends Community Church 
    • August 2021 – John Neufeld is the new lead pastor at Eastview Community Church in Winnipeg.
    • July 2021 – Kevin Dyck is the new lead pastor at La Salle Community Fellowship in La Salle.

Vacancies

    • Lead Pastor – Manitou Christian Fellowship in Manitou.
    • Lead Pastor – Lakeview Community Church in Killarney.
    • Lead Pastor – Justice Mennonite Brethren Church in Justice.
    • Lead Pastor – Community Fellowship Church in Newton.
    • Lead Pastor – The Meeting Place in Winnipeg.
    • Associate Pastor (Mandarin) – Winnipeg Chinese Church in Winnipeg
    • Associate Pastor (Youth and Family) – Community Fellowship Church in Newton.
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Say Hello to Liam!

Say Hello to Liam!

July 15, 2021

 

My name is Liam Bull. I’m a 23-year-old college student studying at Steinbach Bible College enrolled in the bachelor’s of Marketplace Ministry program. My home church is The Meeting Place, located in Winnipeg’s downtown core area. 

For the summer, I will be working with MBCM as a temporary hire, sorting through old files at the old office at 83 Henderson, moving said files to the current office at 1310 Taylor, and working with Jon Isaak to catalogue them and put them in the archives.

I have a big heart and passion for cross-cultural missions.  The majority of my missional experience was spent in Japan, serving with Multiply’s ACTION and TREK programs. I have an enormous passion for sharing the gospel with the Japanese people.  More recently, I have been experimenting with cross-cultural missions in the workplace at my part-time job at Superstore. I try to be intentional about showing and sharing the love of Christ to my colleagues, many of whom are or were newcomers to Canada.

Some of my other interests include reading and creative writing, studying the Japanese language and culture (as well as studying Mandarin and Punjabi languages), playing a board game or video game to relax, and spending time with friends and family as often as possible.

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MB GTE Affiliation Update

MB GTE Affiliation Update

July 15, 2021

We are very grateful to have established a new 3-year affiliation with MB Seminary, CCMBC and CMU to continue offering a Manitoba Mennonite Brethren pathway in graduate-level training. Andrew Dyck and Pierre Gilbert remain on faculty at CMU. As in the past, they will be involved in our Mennonite Brethren Conference Faith and Life Teams, preaching and teaching in our churches and mentoring graduate students.

For students, the course requirements are very similar to the previous years, with no significant changes to their graduation requirements. Students will continue to have a Mennonite Brethren faculty advisor and are still eligible for CMU GSTM scholarships and bursaries.

Our goal is to continue finding the best ways to train leaders and build on our Mennonite Brethren theological convictions. The plan includes greater involvement by MBCM and provides a 3-year window to discern the future of graduate-level theological training in Manitoba. We look forward to how this affiliation will continue to equip our MBCM churches and leaders! Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this process. 

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We have found harmony!

We have found harmony!

July 13, 2021

Interview with Pastor Habtemicael Beraki (Philadaelpia Multicultural Church)

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Pastor Habtemicael. What are some of the ways you have seen God at work? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a church?

The name of our Church has been Philadelphia Eritrean church in Winnipeg under the MB Conference. We’ve carried this name for the last 15 years. The name Philadelphia comes from the seven churches of Revelation. We have liked this name until now! But! We are growing!

About three years ago, we started an English program – a new multi-cultural ministry. So when this ministry began, our English ministers of this multicultural ministry presented their vision and a new name to the church leadership. It was very exciting! Very exciting! We blessed them and trusted them to lead as they have for the last 12 years. 

But after we announced the vision and ministry to the congregation and the multicultural ministry printed its new logo – Life Giving Multicultural Ministries – some from the church asked, “Why do we need to have two names? Why don’t we just say Philadelphia Eritrean Church Youth Ministry?” 

The discussion was not easy. 

The Philadelphia Eritrean Church’s main service was mostly Eritrean and Ethiopian…99% Tigrinya speaking. But, the main focus of Life Giving Multicultural Ministries has been the big picture – multinational – Filipino, Canadians, other African Canadians, etc. So the name ‘Eritrean’ doesn’t include other nations, and we need to carry this. The church was almost divided into two. 

Almost. 

What happened – after the issue had grown – was the multi-cultural leaders took their stand. They had already presented and shown the church leaders their vision, so why were they being asked to change now? But that caused the church leadership to stand firmer as well, saying that the multi-cultural leaders weren’t submitting to the church!

The conflict grew into a big clash.

After a LOT of discussions, we agreed that it is not about the name; it is about the vision. In the end, we changed our name to Philadelphia Multicultural Church. 

It was not easy. Many MB Canadian churches have experienced this kind of challenge, and now we repeated it! (referring to early immigration German-speaking churches). But now everything is good. We have 7 – 8 Sunday school classes. Every Friday and a weekly young adults service in Tigrinya, we have a multinational English service because some young adults want to serve in their mother language – Tigrinya. And the main church service is still running. We have an evangelism group that goes out outside and evangelizes. Last year we baptized eight people. This year, we baptized 5. But more than anything, we have seen growth in our Sunday school programs. We have 11 Sunday school teachers, and as I’ve told you, we have very spiritually mature youth in our English programs. Many have been transformed. We have found harmony.

Thanks for sharing! That’s an incredible journey. What are some of the best ways we can be praying for you as a church?

As an Eritrean church, our parents and families are often back home. We are here in Canada but our hearts are in Africa with our brothers and sisters and family. Eritrea is an unsettled country, so our families are always running away from Eritrea to Kenya and Sudan.  We, here in Canada, are constantly sending money back home to help our families. 

My prayer request is for peace in the whole of Africa so that our people can rest in their county and not run away. More than anything, pray for peace in Eritrea and Ethiopia. 

If there is peace, there will be no need to run. And if they rest, then we can rest too. 

Thanks again for your time. Any final words?

On behalf of my church, I would like to say thank you to the Mennonite Brethren Conference. For many years they have stood with our church and we are here now because of the MB Conference, I will never forget them. We are now a self-supported church, but for a few years, we relied quite a bit on the support of the MB Family. We are the fruit of the Conference and now we are also planning on planting other English churches, so thank you!

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Boats, Booths and the Body

Boats, Booths and the Body

June 10, 2021

Written by Robbie Friesen – Youth Pastor @ La Salle Community Fellowship

In the book of Leviticus, God introduced something called the festival of booths, a yearly festival that continues to this day. The festival begins with everyone building an outdoor tent and then living in it for seven days. It was instituted to remember the 40 years the Israelites lived in tents under God’s protection. Recently, it was stated that this festival was also a great equalizer of the people. No matter your occupation, income or age, you were to live outside in a tent with all of God’s people. It would seem as though this festival may be an excellent lens through which to view our pandemic. No matter one’s occupation, income, age, or anything else, everyone has been faced with living in the midst of this together.

We start to see the differences in the different ways people react today, to this great equalizer. Some choose to ignore this festival and go on living as if nothing in the world has changed. Others take great caution to make sure their tents are precisely in accordance with the law. Finally, the third and largest camp accepts the reality of this time and looks for ways to acknowledge the festival and find unique ways of continuing their lives.

Our church has found itself living in the third camp for the past 15 months. There is an acceptance that COVID is among us and a desire to find ways to live well through it. A recent example of this was the SOAR program run by Multiply at the end of March. SOAR is a regular on the church’s calendar year and a time of unparalleled growth for many young people. As SOAR approached, our church had two main questions to wrestle through. What does success look like this year, and how might God use our circumstances to reveal himself to us?

The first question was tough to work through. In a typical year, it is easy to see what a successful SOAR looks like. Large gatherings of countless youth on fire for Jesus, people choosing to give up vacations and holidays to serve the inner city of Winnipeg and finally, the sights of Jesus overtaking their lives as they surrender their hearts to God. This was a hard vision to give up. However, with our numbers dwindling and restrictions making it impossible for churches to gather together, we needed a new vision of success. Our church decided to make the event open to all ages and encouraged church members to attend sessions over the five days. 

It was in this place that God met our church. Not in a room bustling with young energy as the songs of praise rose to God, but in a small circle with one youth and nine devoted pillars of the church. 

Along with members from the Multiply team, we sat in silence and listened for the voice of God together. It did not take long for a particular image to rise to the forefront of our time together. A simple image of a shipwrecked boat with a broken mast filled with sailors trying to get the ship to work again. For those unfamiliar with the church in La Salle, this boat represented an accurate depiction of the state of our church family. Shipwrecked, a broken mast, and a group of people looking to make it go again.

As we continued listening, God placed our members on the boat itself. We laughed, cried and rejoiced as we understood the vital role that each person in the circle had in repairing, organizing and encouraging the restoration of our church body. At the end of our time together, it was evident that God used our circumstances to show up to our larger church body in a way we were not expecting.

But this is not where the story ends for our church. A few weeks later, the Leadership Team met and wrestled with this same image. As we spoke together, we once again noticed new things, we reshaped our idea of what God wanted from our church, and we prayed for guidance and discernment as we moved after God’s heart.

Finally, this image emerged one final time in the course of our church life. In a conversation with a pastoral candidate, the Leadership Team asked Kevin Dyck where he saw himself in this image. His answer was a true testament to God’s direction to our church. It would seem as if his role filled the very gap that would aid our church in unifying itself once again. This is just one reason why our church is so excited to welcome him onto our Pastoral Staff this summer!

So what have we learned from all of this? It seems as though there was something divine about the origins of this year’s SOAR program. God challenged our church to leave our comfort and predictable models of success for something new. To live outdoors as an equalized people to make space for God to work. He brought together a group of devoted parishioners to share a vision of where the church was now; as well as where the church is going. We are moving after this mission with the help of everyone in the room and the future help that he would send.

I’m not sure what the context of your church’s ship is. It could be broken. It could be a well-oiled machine. It could be that you’re overflowing and ready to put another ship in the water! In any event, God is calling you to find yourself on the waters with a gift and a task. Will you choose to enter into this to bring about God’s glory here on earth?