Bethel currently has a team of four serving on a short-term mission in El Salvador. During the trip I have been fortunate to be in touch with them to get updates and find out items for prayer. I thought for this week’s Pastor’s Corner I would pass on an update.
The work that the team has been primarily focused on has been working with CRWM on a community playground project in Tierra Blanca through “Seeds of New Creation,” and continuing to build “Home of Blessings.” In Tierra Blanca the playground is nearly completely finished! It has been such a success, and created so much community spirit, that the national media has noticed the story. The new community park, which is a hub for all ages, has been reported about on El Salvadoran TV and social media!
The “Home of Blessings” which will be a training and resource center for Christian leaders now has the foundation laid. Bethel has been raising money for this new CRWM project the last two years. The hope is that this new building will serve a similar function to the “Nehemiah Center” we are involved in in Nicaragua.
As for the team they are all doing well. They are sensing God’s presence in their midst. For the most part the team has been healthy with only a few minor stomach aches. They have always felt safe and secure. All in all they are happy, encouraged and seeing the fruit of their work. Praise God!
Lets continue lift up prayers for Josh Mackintosh, Kevin Verveda, Carson Visscher and Correan Parriseau as they finish up a successful trip representing Bethel abroad.
- Pastor Ryan
A WONDERFUL CHALLENGE
Something unprecedented has been happening in the last weeks. Since Easter, five people have filled out Connect Cards indicating that they have made a renewed commitment to Christ. I have personally met three other people who are new Christians or who are exploring the faith. The staff was able to tell me about several others they know of in this category, bringing the total up to thirteen or fourteen. This “survey sample” suggests there are many people at Bethel right now who are considering the claims of Christ.
My first reaction to this news is to say: “Thank you, Lord.” Jesus wants His Gospel to go forth and for the lost to be found. We are told that one sign of the early church’s vibrancy was that “…the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). May we see many added to His Church through Bethel!
My second reaction to this news is to recognize that we have a challenge on our hands. The presence of so many people who are new or not-yet Christians is a big responsibility. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” That means we need to support those who are looking to Bethel to help them drawn near to God.
I remember something Jim Kennedy, the author of Evangelism Explosion, once wrote. He said that a church that is vibrant with outreach faces the same challenge as a church whose baby nursery is bursting at the seams. It is an exciting time in the church’s life, but it will take a lot of people to care for those little ones.
New Christians similarly need lots of care, because they are at a fragile place in their spiritual lives. They will need the support of a lot of people.
So we have a challenge. But it is a wonderful challenge. If I had pick a problem to have in the church, I would choose this one. The Church Renewal Labs Team is actively exploring ways to address our wonderful problem. We will all have to pull together to make it work.--Pastor Tom
The Road to Reconciliation
Several years ago, Bethel was visited by Sam Cooper, a Christian Reformed pastor who was in town to attend a Truth and Reconciliation event designed to foster healing between native and non-native Canadians. During his visit he told me he had a prophetic word for our church. Part of it read like this:
"… I [Jesus] have placed before you an open door that no one can shut' (Revelation 3:8b). The door of reconciliation has been thrown wide open to this city and to the church of this city: Reconciliation of neighbor to neighbor, reconciliation between the past and the present….”
I have always understood Sam’s words to speak especially about how Bethel (along with other churches) would play a role in the ongoing work of reconciliation between the First Nations peoples of Canada and the rest of the country. That reconciliation process is what brought Sam to Edmonton, and it was the context of his discussion with me.
The best way to tell if a “word” like this is from God is to see if it actually comes true. I think what happened last Sunday, when we held our own “Truth and Reconciliation” event, was in partial fulfilment of this word.
The evening began with a meal. Five members of the Saddle Lake band joined representatives of our church for a supper prepared by Jenny Hofstede with the help of some of her family members. Afterward Alsena White shared with the congregation her experience as a residential school survivor.
The evening was well attended (even though the Oilers were playing game six of their playoff series at the same time!). Many commented on the sweet spirit that prevailed during the event. Alsena made it clear that she was not sharing her story in order to “make people feel bad.” She was just contributing to our understanding of the situation. Questions from the floor after the presentation evidenced the same kind of humility, gentleness, and sympathy.
The event was part of a series of things that have marked Bethel’s road to reconciliation. We have had a couple of groups visit the Saddle Lake Reserve, and we support Philip Lee who runs youth programs there.
Where will this road to reconciliation take us next? We are not completely sure but I do believe the Lord will show us in time. For now we can all pray and keep an open heart. Reconciliation is what Jesus died to bring about, and he has made us ambassadors of reconciliation. We are called to share His love and good news with those we encounter and with all who will attend Bethel Church - native and non-native alike. - Pastor Tom
WHAT DID REVEAL REVEAL?
Recently we urged everyone in the church to take an online survey called Reveal. It was designed to measure:
We went over the results of the survey in great detail at a recent Leadership Retreat. Here are some highlights:
On the negative side:
Receiving these Reveal survey results is like getting a checkup with the doctor. It is a prescription for improvement. Since the Christian life is all about growing, the results are welcome.
The Church Renewal Labs Team has already begun to discuss ways of building on our strengths and shoring up our weakness. These results will guide us for many years to come. Thank you, to everyone who took the survey.–Pastor Tom
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