Update from a Century II Donor recipient


Century II is a fundraising program for church capital projects. It was started in 1980 by a men’s group, and has been raising money for much needed upgrades ever since. Four times a year, a particular CBWC church is chosen and a fundraising campaign is distributed to donors who have pledged regular support to Century II initiatives. This summer a camp was selected for the first time. Gull Lake Centre in Lacombe, Alberta is in need of upgrades, and received some of what they need through generous donations of Century II supporters.

Earlier this year, First Baptist Church in Ponoka, Alberta made an appeal to expand their sanctuary. The existing sanctuary seats about 260 people, but it’s too small to house their church family. While they offer audio and video links in the gym, it is not a long-term solution. “We miss being with each other. Our desire is to have all worshiping together.”


CBWC donors responded, and the crew has been busily working all summer. We received a progress report from someone on the construction team recently, with photos and thank you’s. Have a look at where they’re at! (Note the prayers included in the construction materials.)

The new multi-purpose sanctuary will seat up to 450 people, allowing the congregation to worship together. It will also provide additional ministry space throughout the week. The first service in the new sanctuary will be held September 10th. Visit and celebrate with them if you’re nearby!

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 8 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

A record year of refugee sponsorships is just the beginning

One hundred and ninety-three individuals, almost half of them children, arrived in Canada last year to the welcome arms of CBWC church communities. Fifty-one more were sponsored and are waiting for final approval to come. Most years we sponsor between 6 and 12 refugees, so last year was remarkable. The high number was possible because the government increased the quota, and because our churches generously committed to sponsor a record number of people.

Emile, Rita and baby Elias left Syria when their mostly Christian town was invaded by ISIS.

One young couple—with a baby born just 10 weeks before coming to Canada—was sponsored by Trinity Baptist Church in Sherwood Park. The refugee sponsorship committee met Emile, Rita and their newborn baby Elias at the Edmonton airport in April last year, and haven’t left their side since.

One church member shared her home for the first few weeks while others helped the couple shop for their own apartment. The committee helped Emile & Rita navigate English classes, apply for Social Insurance Numbers, open a bank account, and find the good grocery stores nearby.

Other young mothers came over to play with Elias, and one family took them all fishing. Eventually they found a good daycare so Rita could start applying for work. Emile had been an appliance repairman in Syria and is now an apprentice electrician.

Sponsored refugees get one year of financial assistance and support from their sponsor, whether it’s a private sponsor or government agency. Month 13 looms over them in that first year as they study English, find housing, and figure out what work skills are transferable.

Emile was an appliance repairman in Syria and found work as an apprentice electrician in Edmonton. His job started right after he finished the required English school, but his first paycheque wouldn’t come until three weeks into month 13. Trinity Baptist wasn’t about to abandon Emile & Rita.

“Some church members, above the church commitment, donated grocery gift cards and other things to get them through the month until Emile’s first paycheque,” Barb Borkent says. Barb’s been supporting the new family as part of the sponsorship committee.

“And of course, as an apprentice electrician, Emile needed to buy an inventory of tools, so someone paid for a work jacket, boots and the tools he needed to start.”

The transition period after the first year is important says Majd AlAjji, CBWC’s refugee sponsorship coordinator. “Number one is, we stay friends. They are part of the family. This wasn’t a business transaction. Just because the legal requirement is up, our friendship doesn’t stop. I encourage the churches to go over to visit, invite them over, stay friends.”

Strathcona Baptist Church in Edmonton sponsored a Syrian family of five who arrived in February 2016. It’s now well past the one-year mark, and the three couples who were primarily involved are still there, helping set up dentist appointments, picking the youngest daughter up from camp, helping the father and oldest sons jobs. “The honeymoon is over,” says Luella Currie, who initiated the sponsorship. “This is the time when they really need to be more independent, and they’re getting there. But it’s hard, learning a new language, and getting used to a new culture and everything.”

Last week the family invited Luella and the others who have been regularly helping out to a BBQ in the park. “They’re so fun to spend time with, we really enjoy being with them.”

This ministry is an opportunity to show love without asking for anything in return. “You can’t force Jesus Christ on anyone,” Majd says. “What I see is that people are coming to Christ because they see love. They see love and ask questions, and from there they learn about Jesus Christ.”


Majd works with churches and sponsored refugees through all stages of the process. He’s an invaluable resource for the sponsoring churches, Barb says.

“For us, the process is going as well as it is because of Majd. Answering all our questions multiple times—committee members ask the same questions separately, and he patiently answers all of us—and he tells us what things we need to think about ahead of time and prepare for,” she said. “And then there’s the help with translating. Emile & Rita have pretty good English, but sometimes we had trouble understanding each other, so Majd would help translate. I’m sure he’s working three times as many hours as he’s getting paid for. We’d love to see that ministry get more funding and resources.”

Since Majd started working with CBWC in 2015, his prayer has been that refugee sponsorship would become a regular part of church life, not just a crisis response. “I want it to be part of their regular budget. That has been my prayer from the beginning,” he says. It’s why he puts so much focus on following up with the sponsoring churches, to help them through the struggles and support them through the whole process, so they build the resources and experience to do it again.

So far it seems to be working. This year, CBWC was allocated 22 spots (less than the 61 spots we applied for, and far less than the need, but still higher than the previous years’ average) and they’re already spoken for. Most churches sponsoring families this year, Majd says, also sponsored a family last year, including Trinity Baptist.

“It’s something our church is planning to do every year,” Barb says. “The oil downturn has really affected our church, so giving is down. But we’re still committed to making this a regular part of our ministry.”

Before Emile & Rita arrived, the church had already applied to sponsor another family. It’s an Iraqi mother and son who fled to Syria as refugees before the Syrian civil war spread throughout the country. Now they are refugees twice over, and are still waiting for Canada to process their application to be sponsored by Trinity Baptist. Barb expects it could take another 5 years.

Not content to wait, Trinity Baptist has also applied to sponsor Rita’s mother, sister, brother in law and niece who are in a Lebanese refugee camp. They’re expected to arrive next summer.

Last week, Barb took Rita and the family go karting. “They think it’s really cool that I have a car and that I drive, and I offered to teach Rita how to drive. She got her learner’s license and we went out, but I found out she had no idea how a car works,” Barb laughs. “It was too much, so I decided to take them go-karting. Simple go, stop, steer! We had a great time, and it was a good chance for Rita to get familiar with driving something simple.”

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 6 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here


CBWC votes to adopt UNDRIP, signalling commitment to participate in the (re)conciliation with Indigenous people

Shamen Worshipping Jesus by Ovide Bighetty, 2007; (c) Indian Metis Christian Fellowship

Last week almost 300 pastors and delegates from CBWC churches gathered in Calgary for a biannual assembly. Among the shared meals, times of worship and preaching, some significant business was conducted. As is custom, CBWC Board and partners brought reports to the assembled delegates, and various motions were presented for a vote. One motion in particular is historic.

In 2015 Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission released 94 calls to action to various stakeholders. The specific actions are meant to continue the process of healing and reconciliation, which the truth telling at the TRC began.

Faith groups were requested to “formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.” On Saturday, May 27, 2017, the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada voted to do just that.

(If you’re not familiar, see below for an overview of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.)

What does this mean for CBWC churches?

UNDRIP is a document that lays out what the rights of Indigenous peoples worldwide ought to be. The rights are things like: the right to liberty and security of person (7.1); the right to not be subjected to genocide or other violence, including the forcible removal of their children (7.2); the right to not be subjected to forced assimilation (8.1); the right not to be forcibly removed from their land, but to have free, prior and informed consent (10); and, the right to practice their spirituality with the full protection of freedom of religion (12.1).

For CBWC churches to adopt these rights as a framework for reconciliation means that we agree these rights ought to be realized by the Indigenous peoples in our regions. As CBWC churches throughout western Canada engage with our Indigenous neighbours, we commit to acknowledge and support these rights.

The UNDRIP framework guides us to respect inherent rights that have heretofore been denied. It encourages us to subvert and reverse the suppression of Indigenous culture (that’s been Canada’s strategy for so long) by supporting Indigenous communities’ efforts to be strengthened and healed.

The U.N. Declaration is a state to state document; it was not written with churches in mind. Yet the Indigenous peoples of Canada have asked, through representatives, that the church participate in its implementation.

Jodi Spargur, a CBWC pastor who led the motion to adopt UNDRIP, has focused her ministry on listening to Indigenous people and asking how the church can participate in conciliation. She recounted a conversation with Chief Robert Joseph:

“He asked me, ‘Jodi, how is the Baptist church going to respond? Government knows they need to come to the table. Education knows. All these sectors know, but I want to know if the church knows? If the church doesn’t show up, I have no hope for this process of reconciliation. Because it is primarily a spiritual task.’”

The particular details of what this adoption means for CBWC churches will be worked out as each church goes forward with the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as their guide.

Mike Deihl, the delegate from Willowlake Baptist Church in Winnipeg addressed the Assembly as the motion was deliberated. He said:

“I am part of the privileged. One of the privileges I have is that I am unaware of the extent of my privilege: the system is set up to work for me, for my success, for my comfort. The principles in the UN Declaration already apply to us, the privileged. Yet I sense fear, uncertainty, and doubt from many about what this motion means to the CBWC, to our member churches, and to us personally.

“If you feel uncomfortable about this motion, it probably means you are part of the privileged, that our society is set up for your comfort and success. So think about people who try to live in a society that marginalizes and devalues, and dehumanizes them—now, and for many generations past.

“Yet, Indigenous peoples are reaching out to us, and inviting us to participate in this conciliation process. We have a long history of telling indigenous people what they should do, what is good for them. … Let’s break that and let them guide us.

“In two years at the next Gathering, I hope and pray that we will hear many stories of God’s work that arises out of this commitment we make today.”

What does compliance with UNDRIP look like?
Here are some examples where churches have respected rights of Indigenous peoples in the going about of church activities and ministry:

  • A new church plant on the Musqueam reserve was initiated by asking permission from the Musqueam band leaders. “Is it okay that we’re here?” If support was not given, the church plant would not go ahead.
  • Pastors Erwin and Coral Buchholz in Battle Lake, AB were invited to bring communion to an elderly woman who could not travel to church. Each month they bring communion and sing hymns, she sings in Cree, they in English. In this way and others, they affirm and support Indigenous culture and practices.
  • New Life Community Church in Duncan, BC have a ministry with children that came out of a consulative process with the neighbouring reserve where the church asked how they could serve the community.
  • A number of other denominations have already adopted UNDRIP as a framework for reconciliation, so watch what they do for some positive examples. (The Canadian chapters of: Anglicans, Catholics, Quakers, Christian Reformed, Evangelical Lutherans, Presbyterians, The Salvation Army, the United Church and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.)

What can I and my church do to learn more?

  • For more information about how your church can healthily approach conciliation, Healing at the Wounded Placeis a ministry out of Grandview Calvary Baptist Church in Vancouver that seeks to equip and help churches in this task. They host conferences on exactly this topic, and have helpful resources in their website. Get in touch with Jodi Spargur for opportunties to learn at Jodi@redclover.ca.
  • If you haven’t already done so, read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to actionand the 46 articles in the UN Declaration.
  • There’s also a project underway to translate the state-to-state language of the Declaration into statements more relevant for churches. Have a look at that project at Healing at the Wounded Place resources pagewhere it will be posted as it becomes available.
  • Study groups are a great way to talk through issues and learn more. The magazine Wrongs to Rightsis a recommended guide. If you want to be connected to others who are interested in learning, contact Jodi Spargur  at Jodi@redclover.ca


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2008 with a mandate to hear the stories of Indigenous people affected by the Indian Residential School program. The Commission was an opportunity for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to share and hear each other’s stories.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (often referred to as UNDRIP) is a document detailing specific rights Indigenous people worldwide should have. The declaration was written by Indigenous delegates over 30+ years of discussion and negotiation. It represents a major achievement in Indigenous global politics. It was presented to and ratified by the United Nations member countries in 2007 with the exception of Canada, United States, Australia, and New Zealand—each of which, not incidentally, were settler colonial states. Canada has since ratified, but has made clear that UNDRIP does not have legal power in Canada.