The Truth and Reconciliation Commission made a powerful impact on our nation over a four-year period by bringing to public attention the stories of thousands of Native Canadians who suffered in the nation’s residential schools. When the Commission wrapped up two years ago, they urged Canadians to continue the healing work they had begun.
A committee of our church has been meeting to discuss how we at Bethel can build on the good work of this commission. Our classis (regional body) would like us to host an evening to hear the story of someone personally impacted by the residential school system. We think this is a good idea, but we believe some work needs to be done to set the stage for such an evening.
We are a church with very few Native Canadian members. It is possible that many Bethel members do not have a close relationship with someone of aboriginal descent. Many Canadians have heard about the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but haven’t personally explored the important issues that gave rise to it.
The plan of our team is to share information over the course of the next several months. We want to create the context that will make sense of an evening for “Truth and Reconciliation.” Our hope is that the congregation will be able to approach the evening with understanding and with the conviction that we are responding to God’s Spirit. We want the meeting to be as effective as possible in building relationships, bringing healing where there is hurt and in making Bethel a place of welcome for all nations—including First Nations.
Did you know that there are more people of aboriginal origin living within five kilometers of our church than anywhere else in the city? Did you know there is a significantly higher number of Metis in Bannerman than in most other parts of the city? Maybe God is opening a door for more significant ministry and greater impact than we can now imagine.
A highlight for me each week is the hour and a half or so I spend with Bethel’s Wednesday morning prayer group. I wake each Wednesday with a keen sense of anticipation, eager to get to church. (Considering my alarm rings at 5:00 a.m. so that I can make the meeting’s 6:30 a.m. start, we are talking about something near-miraculous here.)
Why am I so excited about these Wednesday mornings? Because, at these meetings we hear good news about answered prayers--neighbours awakening to their need for God, people being delivered from addictions, doors opening for ministry, and ministry successes that signal the advance of God’s Kingdom. We also hear about deep needs—loved ones who have strayed from God, people who need deliverance from their enslavement to alcohol or drugs, missionaries who are under pressure, and people’s anticipated big leaps of faith for Jesus’ sake.
In short, in these meetings there is a real sense of engagement in the spiritual warfare that rages around us. Maybe you have heard of the movie War Room. Well, these Wednesday morning gatherings are war room exercises.
I am reminded of the familiar story of Charles Spurgeon who received some visitors before the church service was to begin one Sunday morning. He asked if he could show them the boiler room where the church’s heat was generated. He escorted them down a hall, then opened a door to reveal hundreds of people gathered in prayer. That is how I feel about these Wednesday morning meetings.
In our church’s vision document, A Dream for Bethel, we express the hope that one day “weekday morning prayer meetings will be attended by dozens of people who are earnestly crying out to God for Bethel’s members, ministry, and mission.” Here it seems that God is going before us. This vision, which seemed impossible when it was penned three years ago, is near to being realized now. The numbers at prayer meetings have steadily risen as people have answered God’s nudge to gather for prayer. This is exciting to me, because usually before God moves in any great way on earth, He first moves the hearts of his people to pray.
If God is calling you, know that you are welcome to come out Wednesday mornings. If that is not your calling for now, that is okay. We can join our hearts in unity with our fellow Bethelites anytime and anywhere. Let’s look for opportunities to pray alone, and with our families, and together with other Bethelites when we gather for meetings or programs. Whatever we do, let’s just keep praying!
This Sunday we will take an offering that I hope will be just the first step toward an exciting future. This week’s second offering will go toward supporting mosaicHouse Church in their plan to launch a new church plant.
If mosaicHouse can come up with the money for a down payment, they will purchase the Ottewell CRC Church building at a generously low price. mosaicHouse will then have to provide a core group of members and a church planter in order to start a church with a brand new flavor and missional outlook. (Sneak preview: Their plans include engaging the gifts of Kings University students in the endeavor.)
I say this could be just the start of something bigger, because just last week I sent a ten-page report to the Clerk of our regional body (Classis) for distribution to all the Christian Reformed churches of our area. The report calls for all of our churches to unite in prayer around the goal of pursuing the Great Commission. It also calls for our Classis to plant five churches in our region in the next 15 years, in addition to the Ottewell plant, and for existing churches to take an educational journey to learn how to become more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission.
On March 9-10 the other members of the Home Missions Team and I will formally present this proposal to Classis for discussion. Hopefully we will gain their approval.
Could you pray with us as we approach the day of voting on the proposal? I am excited. I am nervous. I am eager to see what God will do. I really do believe that mosaicHouse’s plans are just the start of something big. I believe God wants to include us in things that are bigger than we ever thought possible.
Last night I spent time eating pizza and meeting with Bethel’s young adult leaders. We thanked God for His many blessings this year. Since September, Bethel’s Young Adult ministries have undergone a few key changes. I am happy to report that they have paid dividends. The ministry has grown and seen new fruit! Bethel’s young adults are growing in the “grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
One of those key changes was that the leadership team was expanded to include Meghan Clarke, Alan Wedman, Kristy Bootsma, and Helen Krol. I want to briefly tell you about their work.
Helen and Kristy have been targeting students at King’s University. Kristy has been leading a Bible Study there monthly, while Helen has been facilitating transportation between Kings and Bethel. As a result of these consistent options for students, the number of King’s students at Bethel on a Sunday has increased. This relationship between King’s and Bethel will continue to blossom as we become a sustained presence there.
As many churches can attest, at times it can be a challenge to help students transition from youth group to young adult’s ministry. To help smooth this significant life change, Alan Wedman, (after serving 22 years in youth ministries) has made the transition to young adult leader. He has been hosting socials for the purpose of helping these students move into a new stage in their life. The last one was especially encouraging.
You will often see Meghan Clarke making an announcement at church on Sundays. God has given her a passion for people and an innovative mind to solve problems. This year she leads a monthly Bible study, and just last Sunday led the first “Café Time” for young adults. This was a spontaneous idea, that we believe was inspired by the Holy Spirit, as we pondered “How can we connect the different groups of young adult’s all together on a Sunday?” What a blessing it was to see King’s students connect with our grade 12-ers, and our youth leaders with those who drive a long way to church!
What else is coming down the pipe this year? How can you pray for us? There is a young adult Holy-Spirit-encounter-retreat in the mountains in June! We expect big things from God!
If you are a young adult looking to get better connected in Bethel, or you know a twenty-something who needs Christian community, talk to one of these fine volunteer leaders. There are lots of opportunities and places to find a fit in Bethel’s young adult’s ministries!
- Pastor Ryan
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