Reconciliation & Healing Across the World
By Laurie MacKay, Church Office Administrator/Retired Pastor, First Baptist Church, Vernon, BC
With Karen Forman, Media & Communications Manager, Editor/Journalist, The Pulse magazine, Presbyterian Church of Australia (NSW)
The phone rang, the caller ID showing, “Tennessee.” I was in the church office on a Saturday afternoon, normally one of my days off. Who would be calling our little church from Tennessee? Was it a scam? Little did I realize where that phone call would lead.
When I answered, a woman’s voice with a bit of a southern accent said, “I know this sounds like a lot to ask of a church on the other side of the continent, but we’re wondering if there is someone there who could visit and pray with some dear friends of ours from Australia who are in the Vernon hospital. They don’t know anyone there.”
I took down the details—the mother Karen and her daughter Gabi, who is in the same room with her—their phone number, and the room number, and assured her that someone would go to see them. Of course, that someone turned out to be me, as Randy was on vacation at the time.
I hadn’t visited anyone in the hospital since my wife passed away from two strokes last July. I was anxious, the memories still raw, compounded by older memories four years before but no less raw, of our daughter’s body, cold and lifeless, after a traffic accident. I was so worried that in my deep grief I may not actually be of any help to these people from across the globe.
Taking a deep breath, I knocked on the door to their room and was invited in. I had no idea how much opening the door to that room was going to change all our lives.
Update from FBC Vancouver
Due to our Heart for the City Project, our congregation has gathered, worshipped, prayed, and served in 27 locations for the past two years and three months—most of it during the global COVID-19 pandemic!
Despite the challenges associated with having to relocate, adjust, and readjust, God’s grace has been deeply evident in the resilience of our congregation. The stories of pillars of cloud by day, fire by night, manna, and quail have become our story. More than ever, we are learning to trust and keep our eyes on Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who is leading us and changing us.
Our summer has been full for us—the good kind of full.
We celebrated formative milestones like baptism, membership welcome, and graduation. We participated in the mission of God through meals with our street friends, hosting neighbourhood camps, BBQ gathering with internationals, facilitating a Sanctuary Mental Health course for young adults, and serving alongside our Log Church friends in Onion Lake Cree Nation Reserve. We rejoiced over our new partnership with Burnaby Counselling Group to continue our work of providing mental health support in the city, which has been a priority of ours for the past four decades.
Additionally, while the transition saddened us, we were given the gift of commissioning Filipe Balieiro, who has been with us for over six years, to serve at our sister church, West Point Grey Baptist Church, as their Lead Pastor.
As a church, our story started in 1886 at the back of a pub known as the Blair Saloon, located at the intersection of Abbott and Water. Leading up to the construction of our very first church building—a humble 24’ x 35’ frame building on 432 Main Street—by 1887, we had already moved twice due to a citywide fire. There was a time when we worshipped out in the open as we were without a building. Talk about displacement!
In 1911, after several building projects and displacements, God planted us at the heart of the city, at the intersection of Nelson and Burrard. And now, over 112 years later, in the middle of our extended displacement, we are reminded again of God’s intentionality in physically placing us here. More than ever, we sense that where we are situated here not as a byproduct of chance. Rather, it is integral to the raison d’être—the God-given purpose—of our church to reflect the Good News of Jesus Christ in our neighbourhood.
We anticipate more changes in the coming months! However, knowing that our Good Shepherd is leading us, we are resolved to lean further into the exhortation of Colossians 3:12-15.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
Keats Camp Update
It’s hard to believe we’re nearing the end of summer. At Keats Camps, we have welcomed over 1,000 campers thus far to have a memorable camping experience, rooted in the love of God. It has been incredible to see God moving in the lives of young people, many of whom were introduced to Jesus for the very first time. That really is the heart behind everything we do. Creating opportunities for memories and new relationships are absolutely a priority, but most importantly, sharing the good news of the Jesus Christ is what is truly going to change lives.
What are the campers saying?
“Wow, our kids came back raving about Keats today. They had the absolute BEST time and are missing it terribly already.”
“He had THE most AMAZING week (his words).”
“When I picked up my child, the first thing they said to me was, ‘I wish camp was longer!’”
“My son returned home from camp a tired but very happy kid. He had a great time and enjoyed all the fun activities and electronic-free environment! He’s already looking forward to next year :)”
These are just a few of many testimonials from camper parents this summer. Whether it be an exhilarating time on the waterfront, the ropes course, or the skate park, or whether it be relaxing and enjoying an ice cream from our store, or sitting on the front field with friends staring at the ocean, campers and staff have had a plethora of vessels available to them to have the time of their lives.
Seeing months and months of planning and preparation come to fruition over the last several weeks has been such a joy. Our year-round staff have continued to be a huge blessing to the ministry of Keats Camps, they are the true unsung heroes. Our summer staff, consisting of over 100 people, have brought energy, passion, and love to our community, and showered it onto every camper that comes into our care.
While the summer is coming to an end, we’re just getting started in this era of Keats. We look forward to finishing strong, getting some rest, and then buckling in to begin preparing to welcome even more campers next year.
Thank you to this wonderful community for all your prayer and support.
Jordan Chong, Executive Director
Comings and Goings in the BCY Region:
A warm welcome to Filipe Balieiro, the new Lead Pastor at West Point Grey Baptist Church.
Filipe graduated with a Master of Divinity from Regent College, and he also has an MBA from Fundacao Getulio Vargas (Brazil) with a decade of experience in the business sector. He has served in various ministry roles as an Associate Pastor, Youth Ministry/Adult Education, and Director of International Ministries. Filipe is an avid soccer player and foodie. He is married to Jozilda, and together, they have two children—Antonio and Eva.
Moving on: A heartfelt thank you for your ministry! Wishing you God’s richest blessing for the next chapter in your life.
Ben Ewert (First Baptist Church Vancouver)
Scott Hemenway (New Life Community Baptist Church)
Neil Jongbloed (Living Hope Fellowship)
Alvin Jordon (Trinity Baptist Church)
Bob Jones (West Point Grey Baptist Church)
Tom Mei (West Point Grey Baptist Church)