Heartland Regional Newsletter April 2022

The Human Condition

By Mark Doerksen

We are in the midst of Lent as I write, and one of the themes that I have always returned to during Lent is that of the human condition. When I was pastoring a local church, one fellow in that congregation, who loved movies, would arrange Friday night movies that were helpful in exploring the human condition. We were in the midst of our Lenten Movie Nights in 2020 when COVID hit, and we haven’t returned to this practice, but I am hopeful that we will.

We would watch, for example, Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese, a historical drama depicting the attempts to spread the Christianity in Japan, and then discuss our insights and reactions to the movie. In that movie, the question of renouncing one’s faith given the choice of continued life or immediate execution figures prominently.

Yet the human condition is not only to be explored in movies. I have been reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and the book has in mind the story of Cain and Abel, as it explores family life in the Salinas Valley of California. The main protagonist, Cathy Ames, is described by Steinbeck as having a “malformed soul,” and the novel goes on to explain what that looks like through various diabolical episodes in her life. I’m tempted to think, as I read, that I’m glad I’m not as malformed as Cathy.

The morning of writing this, I was reading Daniel 6, and Tremper Longman’s commentary on that passage. This is the chapter where Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den and survives. I was struck by the human condition of his accusers; they were expert manipulators, motivated by jealousy, who capitalized on Daniel’s faithfulness—a faithfulness that turned again to ingrained habits of prayer in the midst of increased persecution.

If only we could compartmentalize descriptions of poor behavior to movies and books and Bible stories. Unfortunately, we also witness poor behavior amongst nations, in our churches, in our families, in our own lives. This week, news came out about another influential pastor who committed clergy abuse with a congregant. It’s discouraging, to be sure, yet also a reminder of our own potential for behavior that is detrimental to our churches, others, and ourselves.

And yet, hidden in Lent, in this time of reflecting on our human condition, there remains the promise of Easter. Easter—the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, the story that Daniel’s experience foreshadowed—reminds us of the surest of remedies for our human condition. If you’re like me, sometimes you need reminding.

Meet Rev. Zabiak Cung Biaka

I strongly believe that God has had His high calling for everyone who accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. I am from a very remote area in Burma; even today there are no cars and electricity in the village. Everyone is still using wood and charcoal for cooking, and a candle, chimney, and pinewood at night to light up their home.

When I was 16, God called me to serve and follow Him. The road of His calling was fearful, painful, and at the same time, beautiful and meaningful, because I was just a teenager. I was enjoying my teenage life as much as I could, without knowing God before He called me. 

When I got to know more about the love of God and learnt that the Lord needs me and wants my youth for His kingdom, God wanted me to leave and give up the most worldly, pleasurable things that I used to enjoy and turn my life the other way around—to pick up my cross and follow Him.

I remember, just before I attended Bible college, that I visited our neighbouring village. We attended a Wednesday night church service. That night, the speaker was absent and one of the church elders came to me and asked me if I could preach. I was so nervous, “What do you want me to do?” I was not prepared for a message, because I was just there to join the service. But the elder was serious. He said because I was from another village, they would like to hear “how is God working in your life.” “Oh no, oh my God, what should I say and what Bible verses should I read? Thank you, God, I could share my testimony and the goodness of God in my life.”

That was the moment that I learned how important a minute is for Christ. I must be ready to preach the Gospel anytime, anywhere, within season and out of season. The Lord had trained me before I was in Bible college. As a teenager, the Lord gave me His good news to share as a Sunday school teacher, church elder, missions director and evangelist. The Lord trained me and prepared me as one of His servants to climb up, step by step, through these ministries. After I graduated from seminary, I received a call and was ordained as a pastor to look after churches and continue His calling of evangelism. I am working as a pastor at three different congregations.

I immigrated to Canada, Regina, in December 2006. It seemed like there was no way and no doors were open for me to continue my ministries for the Gospel. There were only three families and they spoke Karen. I had never met these three and had never heard this language in my life.

My wife asked me to move to another city where there were more people of my kind, but my prayers and the call of God were not in other cities or places. Just like Abraham when God calls him, “wherever you are, I will be with you,” I strongly believe that God had already planned something for me in Regina.

I live in North Central, Regina, which has one of the highest crime rates in Canada. I questioned God, “Why did you put me in this place where my family does not have a peaceful time and sleep soundly?” The answer of God is, “l chose you and put you here for a purpose. I will move you when it is needed. I said, “Thank you Lord for choosing me, let Your will be done.” My house door and car doors have been broken a few times. I’ve met many dangerous strangers, but I say to God, “This is Your will, let all these people accept You as their Lord and Saviour.” My prayer is to change North Central into a better, peaceful place in Regina, not only the place but also the people—to turn them Christ. I would like to close my story with these two Bible verses; Luke 18: 27- “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Philippians 4: 13- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Rev. Zabiak Cung Biaka
Pastor at Chin Christian Fellowship of Saskatchewan

Upcoming Events

Heartland Baptist Women | Spring Retreat

“Trusting in God’s Promises”

April 29-May 1, 2022.  Brochure.

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: jhanger@cbwc.ca

Heartland Regional Newsletter January 2022

Trusting God as We Look Ahead

By Mark Doerksen

We’ve just come through the Christmas season, a season that has a lot of spiritual significance, but also a lot of cultural significance. A book that I have returned to on occasion when considering Christmas is Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, as he examines the cultural realities of that time in history in that geography, and in so doing, exposes some current Christmas practices as less than accurate or ideal.

Bailey’s approach reminds me a little of someone I’ve discovered lately, a fellow by the name of Michael Heiser. He’s not for everyone, but I find his detailed study of the Scriptures to be quite interesting and thorough. He’s also been a contributor to the Bible Project, and the small group I am a part of are enjoying those resources. Heiser is quite interested in parts of the Bible that perhaps are not as well travelled as others; he covers themes like the heavenly council, Genesis 6, and Revelation. He works to remind Christians of the supernatural worldview of the Bible.

I am writing about Heiser because, as we begin a new year, I think about the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament, and specifically the book of Job—complete with its reference to the heavenly court in Job 1. It’s a fascinating passage to me, as the Accuser is allowed to come and interrupt the meeting of the heavenly court and suggest that the moral equation of the day was skewed; Job only followed God because he was prosperous. That equation needed testing, according to the Accuser, and twice an agreement is reached between the Accuser and the Lord to press the issue concerning Job. The Accuser says things like, “Take away the hedge, and Job’s blessing will turn to cursing. Job is put through unimaginable pain and loss as the Accuser animates the testing against him.

The Accuser turned out to be wrong. The end of chapter 1 tells us that Job did not turn to blame God for his misfortune. In chapter 2 we see another response from Job as he says, “Should we only accept good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” Turns out that Job trusted in God no matter the circumstances in life, no matter how difficult the testing he had to endure.

As we look ahead to 2022, we look forward with anticipation to the new year. There are delightful opportunities and experiences waiting for us, as individuals and families, within our workplaces and as churches. Yet there might also be experiences that will be serious enough to shake us to the core; job loss, a serious diagnosis, a shattered relationship. Is your faith ready for those times of adversity? Is mine? Can we, like Job, manage to trust God even when it feels like the adversity is too much, and that all that we have known unravels before us?

I hope so. I hope that our faith is rooted deeply enough that we can withstand the good and the bad, times of difficulty, times of excitement. And I hope that our churches, families, and friends, can be present with us in all that life brings as well. Most of all, may you sense God’s presence in all of life in this upcoming year.

Gratefully & hopefully,

Mark Doerksen

Scott Elger, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Moose Jaw, SK

I am finding this “bio” very difficult to write. My wife, Elsie, and I have been fellowshipping with First Baptist Church for five years. I served 8 years at Riverside Mission, an emergency men’s shelter and soup kitchen here in Moose Jaw, SK. I enjoyed my time with this ministry and could see how the Lord was working in my life as He taught me to serve others. After two years at FBC, I was asked to consider becoming the pastor.

Due to a change in direction and management at the Mission, my position was coming to an end. First Baptist’s invitation was the realization of a life-long desire and I accepted. I started on January 1, 2019. Needless to say, much of my service to First Baptist Church has been under COVID conditions. I had never been a pastor before and ponder at times what I might have to offer as a pastor. The following are some examples of how the Lord has been working in my life to equip me for His service.

In the fall of 1970, shortly before my 14th birthday, my brothers and I were placed in a children’s home run by a local Christian Church. Though some have passed away, I maintain a relationship with many of the staff to this day. For 51 years, I have not known what it is like not to be loved, not to be prayed for, not to be encouraged and not to be included. I have had a very clear example of Christian discipleship lived out before me.

In the fall of 2007, Elsie and I moved to Caronport, SK so that I might attend the seminary. Through my studies and interactions with other students I learned to hear and respect the positions of those who understood differently than I did. I also learned the value of intense study of the Word so that I might come to the clearest understanding of God’s Word that I can.

My experience at Riverside Mission taught me to serve without judgement, to love the people as they come to us and to give of myself without knowing what the return might be. My experience also taught me to be patient with people and to wait upon the Lord in prayer. Many a time we rejoiced at seeing how the Lord answered our prayers.

My service as pastor is simply living out what the Lord has taught me throughout my life. I strive to study well, that I may faithfully teach the Word of God. I aim to partake in an atmosphere of love and acceptance where all of us feel safe and included, where we can experience the Father’s love for us. I want people to experience what I experienced from my time in the children’s home, to know that they are always loved, prayed for, included and encouraged. This is not brought about just by me as pastor, but by each of us in our fellowship. My job is to continue modelling and encouraging it.

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: jhanger@cbwc.ca

Heartland Regional Newsletter September 2021

Summer is a great time to catch up on some reading, and during this season I try to read material that I might not normally get to in the course of a year. As I write, I’m in the middle of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is a bit pessimistic to say the least. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed a book by Gordon Goldsborough, entitled Abandoned Manitoba: From Residential Schools to Bank Vaults to Grain Elevators, 

mainly because of its historical pieces on various places in Manitoba. The province of Manitoba isn’t that old, but lots has happened here since its formal inception in 1870. As a bonus, the book has a lot of pictures to keep one interested. It’s a picture book for adults, if you will.

I’ve also got an odd habit of reading commentaries, and though I am currently reading one on Jeremiah, I worked through 1, 2, and 3 John earlier this summer. John has a lot of interesting things to say, and it’s interesting to me that even though he had lived experience with Jesus, he too would have trouble in his church. The development of the early church, especially in its infancy, was precarious, and John had to write letters to combat certain beliefs and heretics. He was pastoral in his writings—clearly caring for his flock—but also wrote firmly against those who sought to harm the church and to draw people away from its teachings. He certainly had some interesting things to say about hospitality, like when to rescind it, and continued to write harshly against his opponents.

In this midst of these themes, there are two more pieces from his letters that I find especially appropriate for our time. John talks specifically about God as love. This imagery should be first and foremost in our minds when we think about God. If you’re like me, you may well have suspicions that God isn’t always pleased with your behavior, that God might be hard to relate to because of some of the stories we see in the Old Testament. John reminds us that God is love, that we can know what God is like by looking to Jesus—the most profound and vulnerable expression of love imaginable. And knowing Jesus, we know that we are loved presently and in the age to come. It’s a very encouraging read.

But another theme is clear and repeated at the end of 2 and 3 John. In 2 John, he writes, “I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be made complete.” Similarly, in 3 John, he writes, “I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.” John was clear that he preferred face-to-face meetings, and I imagine that many of us can relate to those feelings as restrictions from COVID are lifted.

I know my calendar is starting to fill with some celebration events for churches. Commissioning services and ordination services will be held again, and I look forward to being a part of those. But I also look forward to the conversations over coffee—those times of connecting with folks to catch up on how things are going in ministry, how life is treating them, and how their souls are faring as more change is on the way. I also look forward to seeing my colleagues again, to catch up on our work together, but also be able to stay after a meeting for a bit to share a laugh with someone or to make sure they’ve been heard. The pandemic has been difficult, and it has

also given opportunities to cherish. Yet now, as hope builds that more and more we will be able to be with each other in person, I look forward to seeing folks I haven’t seen in quite a while. To paraphrase John, “I have more to say to you, but I don’t want to type it and I don’t want to do it via Zoom. I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.”

Peace,

-Mark.

Retired but not Tired!

Wendy Thom has been a part of Shoal Lake Baptist Church since 1988. In 2006, she became the pastor of the church, was ordained in 2011, and retired in 2020. Here are some reflections from her time in ministry.

Well, here I am, retired but not tired of serving my Lord and Saviour! I didn’t realize how hard it would be to retire; my emotions have been all over the map. At first, I was excited. I could see God’s answers to my prayers, but then I started to hyperventilate…lol! I kept saying, “How did I get this old, this fast?” No one seemed to be able to give me an answer!

I know it was time and I know it was God’s time—this is not the end. Rather than being dead and buried, God has planted me for a new beginning, a new season, stirring me up so I don’t get root bound, drawing me closer to His heart of love.

God is so amazing, and as I have often preached at the PCH’s, as long as you have breath. God has something for you to do! Don’t give up, look up and bloom/serve the Lord wherever He plants you.

The words in the book of Esther—“for such a time as this”— have always been very meaningful to me, and especially so as I served the Lord as pastor. I am still amazed at how the Lord led me into the ministry and I have always prayed that He would also show me clearly when it was time to step down.

Over the last two years, I have prayed specifically about when God would want me to retire as I zoomed past 65. I asked the Lord for clear direction; that I would KNOW when it was His time and that He would provide for the church as well as for me. As most of you know, it is very hard to find part time pastors for small country churches!

My personal concern was having to find a new church. Generally, when a pastor retires, they leave the church because it is easier for the incoming pastor. I have been a member of Shoal Lake Baptist since 1988. I used to joke that I had held every position except the pastor 🙂

God has answered all my concerns in amazing ways! I wanted to share part of that journey with you. In the last couple of years, God kept giving me a couple of verses. They showed up randomly in my devotional times. They even caused me to go gray! 🙂 The first one was Isaiah 46:4, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

God will sustain me, carry me and rescue me…and you too. Always, even to your old age and gray hairs!

The second scripture passage was Psalm 71:18, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, until I declare Your power to the next generation, Your mighty acts to all who are to come.”

I have always had a passion to tell the next generation about our God and how amazing He is— that His love and plans for each one of us are so awesome! He will never let you down. Everyone and everything else will, but God never will.

As I pondered the meaning of these verses and prayed about my life and ministry, I decided to stop dying my hair. The gray reminds me that God is in control and that He has a plan, even for old age. He will never abandon me. Ministry is not who I am; I am a child of God and deeply loved and protected by Him. And so are you!

Things really began to get crazy in my life around January 2020, and then COVID hit and the way of doing ministry changed drastically! I prayed for wisdom and direction—feeling that the time was coming for me to step aside but needing confirmation from God! Specifically, I prayed for the timing to retire, someone to take over, and a place to worship and serve in retirement.

About that time, God began to speak to a young couple that I know and love, Heidi and Joel Usick. They strongly felt God telling them that they were supposed to come and minister in Shoal Lake when I was ready to retire. Joel and Heidi came to talk to me about all that the Lord had been telling them, and it seemed so God-like. We took some time to pray about it, and God confirmed it. He specifically answered all that I had prayed concerning my retirement for the past couple of years.

Answer one—someone passionate to carry on the ministry. Answer two—I would get to stay in the church as a mentor. I joke that I go off the payroll and onto the pray roll. And answer three— I was able to finish well, exactly 15 years after I began my ministry as pastor!

Life is a journey. Years fly by, and sometimes we forget to savour the moments and enjoy the work God has created and called us to do. God is always with us and He has a plan and a purpose for us in every season. Our faithfulness to His calling on our lives will reap blessings for us for all eternity!

So here I am, retired but not tired! Hands up, palms open, eyes to the Lord, ready to serve Him in this season of life. God is so faithful! When we pray, He answers if we honestly seek His will.

If there is room to end this with another powerful, passage of promise, I would love to close with Psalm 92: 12-15 NIV, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.” Amen and keep serving, wherever God has placed you!

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: jhanger@cbwc.ca

Heartland Regional Newsletter June 2021

The Season of Seeding

I reside in Winnipeg, Manitoba, having grown up in southern Manitoba. Around here, May is the month when plenty of farmers get busy seeding their fields, and when many folks work on putting in their gardens.

Now, I’m not a farmer, but I often like to talk about the work of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) when I meet farmers. One of the reasons I do so is because the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada have been a part of a partnership of 15 church and church-based agencies working together to end global hunger through CFGB. We’ve been doing this since 1983, and Arnold Epp, long-time member of Argyle Road Baptist Church in Regina, was part of the initial organizing team.

In 2014, I had the privilege of going to Africa, arranged by the CFGB and with a team comprised of 10 people from across Canada who were interested in the international work of CFGB. I was a Doctor of Ministry student at Carey Theological College at the time, and I was able to incorporate this trip into a guided study course, under the supervision of Dr. Gordon King. We went to two countries in Africa to visit villages that had benefited from an ongoing relationship with CFGB. We first visited some sites in Sierra Leone, considered at the time to be the second poorest country on the planet. Next, we headed to Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in western Africa which also struggles with food insecurity. We arrived in Burkina Faso not long after an intense struggle against drought. The sites we visited, however, were examples of how significant support from CFGB can be. The photo below illustrates some of the hard work by people living in Watinonma, who banded together to dig wells for consistent irrigation, establish composting techniques, and then plant a significant amount of vegetables.

Happily, there are examples of churches supporting CFGB across our association of churches, with Moosomin Baptist Church and Brownfield Baptist Church committed to doing good work in this way. There are various ways to support the work of the CFGB, as a church or individually, and you can even donate via Canadian Baptist Ministries here: https://foodgrainsbank.ca/cbm/. In my personal experience, I am glad to know that I, as an urban dweller, can support the CFGB via a local Grow Hope project, a project located near the town where I went to high school. The money donated goes to cover the cost of inputs for an acre, and I will be receiving updates on the field throughout the growing season. Once harvested, the Canadian government matches the profits 4:1. Indeed, when you support the CFGB, a little goes a long way.

On a smaller scale, my wife Mary and I are also interested in growing some food for ourselves. This spring we’re doing a lot of yard work, and this has included the replacement of our old garden boxes with new ones, and as I write they are nearly complete (see photo below). I already anticipate toasted tomato sandwiches with fresh tomatoes from our garden. But having a garden is more than that. It helps us remember, using Wendell Berry language, that beautiful cycle that revolves from soil to seed to flower to fruit to food to offal and decay, and around again. It helps us remember, using Biblical language, that we are creatures, and God our creator cares for us in such a way that He has spoken creation into functional order, both for our sustenance and stewardship.

Since this is the season where all sorts of seeding has begun on various scales for all sorts of folks, I thought I would draw your attention to the great work of CFGB and our partnership with them. With donations from all sorts of people, ranging from urbanites to agricultural companies to rural churches and farmers, resources are combined (no pun intended) to have a seriously positive impact on those suffering from food insecurity. I also think it is valuable to try and grow some food yourself, if possible. It’s great to be involved in these initiatives, and I’d encourage you to get involved if you haven’t already done so.

Peace,

Mark Doerksen

Ministry of Presence 

By Rev. Tim MacKinnon

I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to share something that has been close to my heart over the last decade. When I was quite new with my last church in Salisbury, NB, a young man in our congregation, who was a volunteer firefighter, asked me if I would consider being the Fire Department’s Chaplain, as the former one had left the province. My initial reaction, to be honest, caused me to pause and say, “Hmmm, I will pray about that.” The truth is, as much as I thought I understood about chaplaincy, I really didn’t. There are many forms of chaplaincy—such as emergency service chaplains, like police, fire and EMS, disaster relief chaplains, military chaplains, prison chaplains, hospital and nursing home chaplains—all with a similar set of gifts and responsibilities, but each very unique to the people they serve. After some time, I felt that God was plunging me into community mission in a way I had not been involved before. I fell in love with chaplaincy and the people I serve!

Being able to interact with people who, for the most part, don’t do church, being available for community people when they are afraid or hurting and being able to be involved in community concerns in a meaningful way, all made me realize what a wonderful opportunity the Church, pastors and leaders have to ‘love on’ their communities. Chaplains and Pastors played a very important role when the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash occurred. Recently, two SaskPower employees in Weyburn died in a tragic workplace accident and our Co-Police Chaplain and I were able to bring comfort and support to emergency workers involved.

Upon moving to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, I approached our Fire Chief, who paired me up with an already-serving chaplain who had been well-loved in the community for many years. He was a retired Presbyterian Church minister. Since I was sharing the fire chaplaincy, I had also been approached about being a co-Police Chaplain for our Weyburn Police Service. This was another new adventure for me. Though there are similarities between the emergency services, they are different ‘breeds’ of people with systems that work quite differently from one another. The former fire chaplain has since passed away, so I’m quite busy being available for both departments. Once again, I found myself falling in love with our police officers, staff and their families and love being involved in the community. As a Chaplain, one never knows the type of calls and needs that they could be involved with. I have filled in for other chaplains, such as our local Legion Chaplain, to hold Remembrance Day services, funerals, etc. I have received calls from our local Mayor, who may be trying to help a member of the community with something. Chaplaincy has also been a wonderful way to partner with the other churches and Pastors in our community, as requests often come in regarding practical needs of people, such as those who may be vulnerable in different ways.

I strongly encourage our Pastors to think about the possibility of being involved in some form of chaplaincy, if the situation arises and if God is nudging you. I have received valuable training that is also very useful in pastoral ministry. Crisis intervention, for example, is a set of skills that chaplains need to be trained in. I have done many courses about critical stress management, rapid response, group and individual counselling, suicide prevention, and have a greater understanding of abuse, etc. This training has helped me to be more prepared for the types of things that happen in church circles, as well. I am a member of the Canadian Police Chaplain Association, Federation of Fire Chaplains, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, and available to help with CISM for SK. All of these offer various training opportunities. I also had the opportunity to host a training event recently for general emergency chaplains. Twenty-seven chaplains from about 15 different provinces and states signed up for this virtual course. A facilitator with Chaplain Services Network led us in a three-day training on how to give death notifications to loved ones, being able to identify where someone is at emotionally, support for those suffering from PTSD, how to greater ‘get at’ struggles people may be dealing with but holding in, being involved in community crisis if it should arise, etc.

When we think of the ministry of Jesus, He conversed with many varied types of people who had many different physical, emotional and spiritual needs. He interacted with Centurions, who would have been an early version of our police and military officers. He ministered to families in need and crisis. Many of these people came to faith as a result of His involvement in their lives. The motto of one chaplain department is “With you in good times and bad.” What I have discovered the most about chaplaincy is that it’s not necessarily what I do or the ‘tasks’ I may perform for a department, it is ‘just being there.’ The presence of the Christ-follower brings with it the reminder to people (whether or not they are even looking for it) that God is present. We all represent someone or something else. A teacher represents the school system, a lawyer represents the system of law, the fire fighter represents the fire service and—the chaplain represents God.

A chaplain friend who serves as a police chaplain in Ontario sent me a copy of his book, “Community Policing: The Path to Healthier Relationships – A Police Chaplain’s Perspective” and in it, he wrote the following, “Chaplain Rev. Tim MacKinnon, you are a transformational leader with a passion to impact lives for God’s glory—strategically placed to expand His kingdom on this side of eternity. Your role as a chaplain is God-given…” I’m thankful for his encouraging words as I go on ‘ride-alongs’ with police officers, ‘check in’ on various firefighters and their families and bring words of encouragement and hope to our Police and Fire Chiefs, who are often expected to do much with limited resources. During times of uncertainty and crisis, we are called to draw people to “the God of hope” who can fill us “with joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). My guiding Scripture is 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 as we point others to the comfort and hope we have found in Jesus Christ, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” As Pastors and leaders in our churches, we all have a God-given call on our lives to love others and point others to the love of Jesus. We also all have a God-given call to share the Gospel in the community around us, even in some challenging situations that may not always be that easy. We can be a ‘ministry of presence’ to others, just as the Holy Spirit fills us with his power, love and grace (Acts 1:8). May all of us be in prayer about how God may want us to be involved in our communities. If anyone may be considering Chaplaincy, I would be available to chat with you: revtimmack@gmail.com

Rev. Tim MacKinnon, Pastor of Calvary Baptist Community Church & Chaplain for the Weyburn Police & Fire Services

Heartland Baptist Women Announcement 

On behalf of Manitoba Women in Focus, we are excited to announce our new name and Logo for the Baptist Women of Manitoba and the Prairies—HEARTLAND BAPTIST WOMEN.

The Women of the Canadian Baptist of Western Canada have been an important part of the denomination over the years with different titles as time has passed. Their focus has been on Missions and supporting women in the denomination. As was announced in a fall newsletter, Women in Focus has completed their term as of May 1st, 2021. It is time for a rebirth.

Over the past few months, through prayer, conversation and connections, the executive of Manitoba Women in Focus felt it was time for a change and a new start.  We want to include all women of the prairie region. Something new! Having “Heartland Baptist Women” as our new name will serve all women in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and beyond. We hope to connect and reach out to more women across the prairie provinces to encourage and pray for one another and to be the salt and light that God calls us to be in our Homes, Communities and local Churches. This is open to all women who love Jesus and to those searching for Him.

We are excited and we look forward to what God will do through Heartland Baptist Women.

We are so thankful for all the Women who paved the way for us to continue, even through the seed that was planted years ago from Women in Focus. There was fruit! We Praise God for all He’s done over the years. Faye Reynolds mentioned that something had to die for something to be born, and we believe it is Heartland Baptist Women. We Pray for the Harvest!

Your executive for Heartland Baptist Women includes:

Carol Parsons, Peggi Talbot, Colleen Allan, Charlene McAlpin, Rerie Resendes, Lesia Andrushyshen. We will be looking for volunteers from other areas and provinces. Through our newsletter, KEEPING CONNECTIONS, we hope to reach out to many.  Please visit our “Heartland Baptist Women” Facebook page to connect, share and watch for upcoming events.

As your first President of Heartland Baptist Women, let us pray and dedicate Heartland Baptist Women for the glory of God.

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: jhanger@cbwc.ca

Heartland Regional Newsletter December 2020

Thoughts from Heartland Regional Minister Mark Doerksen

In my line of work, it seems inevitable that one should think about church quite a bit. Here are a few questions I’ve been thinking about lately, and then I want to follow up on one specific idea that’s been festering for a bit.

Why do a lot of pastors want to pastor a big church? Why are some bigger churches considered healthy, when some health indicators I personally value are not in plain view when you visit said church?  Why does it seem that pastors typically want to pastor an urban church?

When is the last time you’ve heard a speaker at a conference who pastors a church of less than 50 people? Why do many Christians look for “Christian heroes or celebrities?”

Perhaps I’ve been thinking about these things because I’ve read and had discussions with folks about two of Scot McKnight’s books recently. The first is called Pastor Paul, and the second, A Church Called Tov. Actually, Scot’s daughter, Laura Barringer, helped write A Church called Tov, and the book is about toxic and goodness cultures in churches. Scot and Laura write about the abuses of power at Willowcreek in Chicago, as Laura was a member there. It discusses the power that Bill Hybels had, the way he abused it, and how the church leadership struggled to navigate serious allegations against him by more than a few prominent and faithful women. After discussing the toxicity of the church culture, Scot and Laura turn their sights towards developing a goodness culture in churches, so that churches are characterized by things such as empathy, grace, truth, justice, service, Christlikeness, and by putting people first.

I think the book is hard to read, not in an Oliver O’Donovan kind of way, but in that it was tough to read about a pastor whose work has influenced so many, and yet has clearly behaved poorly for quite a long time. It was tough to read about Bill’s treatment of women. It was tough to read because of the steps and missteps that the leadership of Willowcreek took. It was also tough to read because it reiterates that numerical size may be a metric that North Americans value, but that metric might actually say very little about the spiritual health of a church. It’s tough to read because it seemed that so many were enamored with that church model and with the Global Leadership Summit, and now disappointment abounds. I’m not saying that smaller churches are void of issues and toxicity; I am saying that I do hope we can sort through misinformation we’ve been handed and have believed, and finally realize that faithfulness and treating people properly is a very important part of church work, no matter if you’re a pastor or serving as a volunteer in the church. The book reminds me to care for the people in front of me with integrity, goodness, and other characteristics as described by the Apostle Paul’s fruit of the Spirit. It reminds me to minister as John the Baptist did, declaring always that Jesus must increase, and I must decrease. And it reminds me to be vigilant about developing goodness cultures in our churches.

The Sunday after I had finished reading the book, I was at church describing the book to a friend. I mentioned how grateful I am for pastors who serve with egos in check. I had in mind a lot of pastors I know of through our association of churches, and I’m grateful for your faithful ministry, with and to the people in front of you.

Nearing Advent,

Mark

God Makes a Way – Even in a Lockdown

By Jon Shierman – Lead Pastor at Moosomin Baptist Church

“Is that even a real place or are you joking?” That was the most common response my wife, Kate, and I got when we told people that we had answered a call from Moosomin Baptist Church in Saskatchewan and would be leaving Calgary. Our response? Usually some variation of, “Oh, it’s real. And it’s amazing.” That was in February when news stations were just starting to report on a mysterious new virus with a science fiction sounding name. Surely that wouldn’t affect us in any way…

The process by which Kate and I discerned our call from a large centre to small town Saskatchewan is one of those stories that best told over a cup of coffee, or four.

The kind of story that takes many diversions from the main narrative in order to understand properly the myriad of heartbreaks and false starts and a few too many “coincidences” to not have been ordained by God.

And so, Kate and I, along with Abigail and Charlotte (then ages four and one) felt confident that this was where God was clearly calling us. As we packed up our house, the news stations had started to mention this new virus more and more. Soon it seemed like something we might need to pay attention to.

By mid-March, the world had changed. Now the most common question we heard was, “So are you still moving?” After discerning the clear call and already having purchased a home in Moosomin, we knew that yes, one way or another, we would still move before I started at MBC on May 1. To say that the whole packing and moving process was difficult would be a massive understatement. But as we have found at every turn since we first engaged with this church, God has been clear in His direction and has provided a way even when things looked impossible.

We arrived in Moosomin in mid-April, and I began serving as a new pastor in a new community during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown. Not exactly ideal circumstances to meet a congregation and community. I began preaching remotely by recorded video while trying to recall the seminary classes that teach how to connect with people when a pastor has never actually met them. Spoiler alert: those classes don’t exist.

Through all of this, somehow, real ministry started to happen. We found new and creative ways to provide digital content. I preached to an empty room for the first three months but found that people were not only taking time to watch, but they were also actively engaging in discussion around the messages.

After coming through a long period of transition, the lockdown afforded us the time to focus on the many important things that are so often crowded out by the urgent. We started to look to the future and began preparing for what the next new thing might be.

We still don’t know when we will emerge from this situation. We still don’t know what the next few months hold. But this church and my family are proof that the kingdom of God has not

stopped advancing simply because we are asked to stay home or wear a mask or do church in new ways. God makes a way – even in a lockdown.

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: jhanger@cbwc.ca

Heartland Regional Newsletter July 2020

The Potential of Professional Development

By Mark Doerksen

Professional Development seems to one of those job perks that is nice to consider, but probably under-utilized. Typically, the CBWC will send a sample job description template to new pastors, and one of the categories in the sample is that of Professional Development. The category is described as follows in that sample:

Professional development is essential to the well-being of the individual, the denomination, and the congregational life of the church. It includes annual study leave which will benefit both the individual and the church goals. Professional Development is then mapped out according to yearly expectations, as well as expectations for sabbatical. While a sabbatical was very refreshing for me and allowed our family to go to Kenya to see some of the projects that Canadian Baptist Ministries are involved in, I write currently about my most recent Professional Development experience.

I have just completed a significant goal in my professional development, and I include it here as a reminder or impetus for you to consider personally, or to have a conversation with your pastor about her or his goals for professional development. In 2010, I was pastoring Willowlake Baptist Church, and decided it was time to test the waters a bit for a Doctor of Ministry degree. In January of 2011, I enrolled to audit a D. Min. course at Carey Theological College entitled, “Preaching as Theatre” with guest lecturer Jana Childers. She was outstanding, and I decided that I could in fact proceed at the D. Min. level. I then enrolled in the program at Carey.

Of course, life moves in mysterious ways, and I had no idea that I would come to accept the role of Heartland Regional Minister in August of 2014. I took some time off from studies, but eventually got back to it. My studies have afforded me tremendous privilege and customization of learning. I have taken courses from the local faculty at Carey, and have also had the privilege of learning from visiting lecturers, such as missiologist Darrell Guder. I have had the chance to go to Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone with Canadian Foodgrains Bank for a guided studies course, supervised by Gordon King. I’ve been able to engage with Canadian Baptists of Western Canada churches as I wrote a final project, with William Brackney as a guide. It’s been a long experience, but a deeply meaningful one that has helped shaped me into who I am today.

These opportunities for further study and growth require much, and I, for one, am grateful for the congregation at Willowlake Baptist Church who allowed me to embark on this professional development trajectory. I am grateful to Carey Theological College for their patience with me, and for the funding I was able to receive through the CBWC Foundation. I’m glad that the CBWC believes in Professional Development and furthering education, and for things like a yearly study week allotted to staff. I’m especially mindful of my generous wife, Mary, who agreed to set aside funds for me to attain this goal. I may be the one completing the degree, but I know full well that there were a lot of moving parts that made this possible, and I know I could not have completed this without the contributions of many.

I hope my bearing witness has encouraged you to proceed with your own professional development, or to be renewed in being intentional about caring for your church pastor in this way. As mentioned above, Professional Development is essential to the well-being of the individual, the denomination, and the congregational life of the church. I believe this to be true, and I hope you do, too.

Once a Pastor, Always a Pastor

A reflection on a 29-year pastoral journey  |  By Pastor Peter Elias

The year 2020 means that, for me, the number of years as a Pastor has reached 29 years. However, not all of these 29 years would be considered full-time ministry. There were a couple of breaks taken throughout this time. But God has a way of keeping someone in service; once a pastor always a pastor. There was always something going on that kept the ‘pastor senses’ working.

I look back on this now and I wonder, how did any of this come about? As a young man, if anyone had suggested that I would become a pastor and a preacher, I would have thought they must have lost all sense of reasonable thinking. One of the scariest things for me to consider doing was public speaking—no matter the size of the gathering. Yet, somewhere in the early 1990s I found myself agreeing to fill the pulpit while our small church looked for a new pastor.

 This agreement grew into six years of serving as the pastor in that church. After six years, I felt I was becoming rather weary and needed to make some changes, knowing full well that I would be returning to the pulpit. It was only a matter of time and rest. During this break I continued to fill the pulpit from time to time and, just short of four years later, I returned to school as a mature student. It was while in school that I started to teach an adult Sunday school class at the church where my family and I attended. It was here that I was introduced to the CBWC which was the BUWC (Baptist Union of Western Canada) at the time.

As it turned out, the pastor at the time retired and I was hired on a part-time basis, which became full-time quite quickly. The people were great, and the better I got to know them the more wonderful they became. However, due to some family issues, we needed to leave after only three years. It was not easy to leave, but this is how we ended up in Northern Manitoba for the next eight years. It seemed that after these eight years I once again reached a point that I found myself in need of a break. The difference this time was that I felt, and thought, that I was indeed finished. It was not an easy decision but I thought that I was used up as a pastor. I went to work as a Resident Manager at a high-rise building in Winnipeg. Again, God has a way of keeping the ‘pastor senses’ working. It is amazing how many of the skills learned as a pastor came into play while working with the tenants in my

position at this occupation. And though I enjoyed this position, it seemed it was not where God wanted me. I reluctantly started to think more seriously about returning to pulpit ministry.

As certain as I was that my pastor days were done, there were those who claimed that they knew that I was not as finished as I thought I was. I half-heartedly started to put out feelers as to which churches were looking for a pastor because I knew that, just like before, I would give all of myself once again to wherever I was. It seems that God has led me to Strathclair Baptist Church and with no amount of regret on my part. I do have to admit that it did take a bit to get “back into gear” so to speak. However, the people are what the ministry is all about, and God has a way of placing one where one needs to be.

The Baptist Church in Strathclair Manitoba is exactly where I am supposed to be.

-Peter Elias, Pastor of Strathclair Baptist Church.

A Summer Reading Suggestion

By Mark Doerksen

Many pastors within the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada churches will be familiar with Stanley Grenz’ books and theology. I have often referred to his short book entitled, The Baptist Congregation, and have attempted to get a copy into the hands of CBWC ministers within the Heartland Region. It is especially helpful in articulating the Baptist convictions that form an acrostic for the word BAPTIST: Believer’s baptism, Autonomy of the local congregation within the associational framework, Primacy of Scripture, True believers only in the church, Individual competency and believer priesthood, Separation of church and State, and Two ordinances.

I have, however, recently come across William H. Brackney’s book entitled, A Capsule History of Baptist Principles. This book was published on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Baptists in 2009. Brackney has global influence as a Baptist historian, and is well-suited to write this book because of his familiarity with so many different types of Baptist groups. Brackney writes of themes similar to Grenz, only he addresses each topic in a brief chapter.  Topics include The Lordship of Christ, The Authority of Scripture, The Importance of Religious Experience, The Associational Principle, and others.

One of the main highlights of Brackney’s book is the historical scope that he brings to each topic. As you read this book, and each theological emphasis, you also learn more about the historical context of the development of each emphasis. Some important emphases in this book include his chapter on The Importance of Religious Experience, The Associational Principle, and the Principles of Human Rights. Though the insights are not particularly from a Canadian perspective, they are global, and that helps one gain a wider appreciation for Baptists around the globe.

I think this book is worth the read. Its content is important, offered in short doses from a wide perspective historically, but it also gives the differentiating Baptist perspective in the midst of other faith traditions. It also introduces its readers to some important Baptist theologians, as well as introducing historical events, such as the abolition of slavery and how Baptists have played a significant role in such events. If the scope of the book is of interest to you, you’ll appreciate that its topics are published in such a way that reading a chapter at a time is entirely doable, but you’ll want to return to it soon thereafter.

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: jhanger@cbwc.ca

Heartland Regional Newsletter April 2020

Seeing God’s Faithfulness through Big Life Changes

A note from Pastor Garth Plamping, from Asquith Baptist Church

What a great God we serve! 

My wife, Cara and I are thrilled to have joined the CBWC last March, to serve at Asquith Baptist Church. We have been married for 18 years. Our boys, Hezekiah (12) and Amos (10), are homeschooled.

Over the last decade, I have been privileged to serve as an associate Pastor and as a bi-vocational Pastor in Calgary and the surrounding area.

I have to admit, we were a little nervous when we received the call to come to Asquith. This would be the largest move since Cara and I married, leaving all our social networks behind.

As we dialogued with the church, prayed with our family, and sought advice, Cara and I believed the Lord was calling us to make the move. We said yes to my first full time Pastorate.

I am happy to say that God is faithful. Yes, change brought stress, as change always does. But God has brought us into a province with wonderful people who have a heart to serve the Lord and each other.

Through the Lord’s faithfulness, we have grown through the many challenges and joyous events that have happened over the last year, both personally and with the church.

Our family has spent a huge amount of time in the mountains. Like most people in Alberta, we had heard all kinds of stereotypes regarding the land in Saskatchewan. Yet we were determined to discover the jewels of Saskatchewan. So far, we have not been disappointed. Our family has had a number of wonderful experiences, both in nature, and at a number of museums and parks.

For those of you who are in their first year with the CBWC, I encourage you to connect with Mark Doerksen, and to take advantage of the mentorship that is offered. I have found both Mark and my mentor, Ron Phillips from Regina, to be valuable, not just in acclimating me to the CBWC, but they have helped me process my ministry and helped me serve my people better.

As Asquith Baptist Church looks forward to the excitement of spring and summer, can I ask you to pray for us?

Pray that I would continue to learn from my people, to grow in my faith, and to lead people through faithfully teaching God’s word. Like many of you, we have many ministry events that the people of Asquith Baptist will pour their time and energy into. Pray that we will minister in love, and with a boldness that will reach the community of Asquith and the surrounding RMs.

Garth Plamping, Pastor at Asquith Baptist Church

The Appeal of the Heartland Retreat

By Mark Doerksen 

Superbowl Sunday is an important day for plenty of people, especially as folks host viewing parties and cheer on their teams.  Yet Superbowl Sunday also typically signals an important event in the Heartland Region. There’s a 24-year tradition in the Heartland, and it’s called the Heartland Pastor and Spouse Retreat at Russell, Manitoba.  It happens every February at the Russell Inn, the Monday after Superbowl Sunday. The retreat has been happening longer than this, but we’ve had the retreat at this location since Wayne Larson was Heartland Regional Minister.  It’s been great to see the relationships that have developed between the hotel staff and the Heartland Regional Office, and we are so pleased to enjoy their hospitality each year. 

The retreat is made up of scheduled activities, free time, and worship sessions, and we try to instill relationship-building as one of our main emphases at the retreat. We try to have at least one event where we pit our Saskatchewan contingent against our Manitoba contingent.  In previous years, we’ve curled against each other; the last two years, we’ve played crokicurl.  Team Saskatchewan is deceptively good, and have been crokicurl champions for the last 2 years. Team Manitoba has proven to be reluctant losers at such events.

One of the highlights of the retreat each year is the food that is served.  Cindy works with the staff in coming up with a menu each year, and the hotel catering staff always does exceptional work for us. The helpings are generous, and the food is terrific, and we always feel well cared for.

Of course, we also have significant times of worship and teaching as well.  Chris Neudorf led us again in terms of our singing together.  This year we had Brendon and Karen facilitate conversations on Paying Attention to God, to self, and to others. It was a time where they each brought their strengths to the conversation, and we were reminded of how important attentiveness is in all areas of life.  Brendon described their presentations as bearing witness, speaking of how these themes work themselves out in their lives. I was deeply encouraged by these sessions, and challenged as well. 

We do allow for significant free time, and people enjoy this—though being in Manitoba in February usually means that this free time is spent indoors.  Our evenings are spent together playing games; sometimes we have crokinole tournaments, others play Wizard, and so forth.  It’s fun to watch our retreaters display their competitiveness.  I, for one, know that there are some people that I will no longer play Dutch Blitz with, as I get tired of losing time after time.

One of the pieces of this retreat that I’ve appreciated is that of building relationships.  It’s fun to see pastors and non-pastors connect with each other, and these relationships spill out beyond

the confines of the retreat.  The connections continue to happen afterwards, and it’s great to see the support that is fostered in our all-too-brief time together.

All of this is to say that now, when a new pastor comes to the Heartland, I really encourage them to come to this retreat. Banff is a spectacular conference, of course, but this retreat has a different feel altogether, obviously, with important opportunities for relationship building.  I’m grateful for this tradition in the Heartland, and I hope it continues for a long time.

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: jhanger@cbwc.ca

Heartland Regional Newsletter January 2020

Sam Breakey was the former CBWC guru on Church Health, and I had the privilege of working alongside Sam as he walked through some feedback with each congregation. I was always impressed with various aspects about this process; first, the church was willing to have a discussion about the future and put some work into it, and second, Sam’s love for Christ’s church and the work he put into his consultations. Sam has retired and is now the chair of the CBWC board.

Of course, some of the discussions around church health are somewhat difficult because churches usually end up looking at the life-cycle of institutions as they do their own introspective work. Churches go through various aspects of life, and sometimes this includes bringing the ministry of a local congregation to a close. We’ve had that happen in one of our churches in the Heartland recently, as the congregation at Roseau River voted to close in September of 2019. I am always amazed to look back on the history of churches at times such as these and am grateful to God for the ministry of the congregation and the commitment of its volunteers. 

But the life cycle of a congregation doesn’t always have to end, at least not at this point in history. I visit lots of churches, lots of smaller churches, churches that have been around for a long time and continue to minister in their context in spite of changing demographics. They have experienced different aspects of the life cycle of institutions. Recently I was at a church that held a Christmas children’s program, something that hadn’t been experienced there for various years because no children were part of the congregation. As I watched the program, I was grateful to God for a new season in the life of that particular congregation.

We find ourselves at the beginning of a new year, a new decade, one which sounds kind of futuristic. Often times at the beginning of the year we examine our lives and talk about things we want to do differently this year. I do this for my work each year, thinking about goals to achieve and activities to emphasize. I do this with our family, as we talk about weddings to attend in the summer, and how to spend our holidays for the year. I do this personally too, thinking about what sorts of books I should be reading, what sort of exercise to participate in, and what kind of conversations I need to have to help me grow in my spiritual maturity. All this introspection got me wondering if we think the same thing about our experiences in our congregations. Is it high time we take some time to evaluate where we are, and where we hope to go, paying attention to where God is already working in our midst?

In my estimation, the world needs the church to be the church, participating in the mission of God, perhaps now more than ever. This, I think, includes two broad categories. First, if the New Testament is our guide, we need to be loving those in our congregations with depth and sincerity. We need to be the kind of people Christ calls us to be. I have in mind here passages like Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4. Second, are we responding to those around us? Matthew 25 comes to mind here. How are we responding to people’s needs in our towns, our cities, our provinces, our nation? This is far too simplistic and non-contextual, but my hope is that we embrace this evaluative time of year and take “church” seriously enough that we evaluate what we’re doing and make necessary adjustments to live more fully into what God has for our communities of faith. This is not a “one size fits all” exercise, but an encouragement to keep being the church where God has established you. My prayer for your church as we begin 2020 is that you would flourish where you’re planted.

All the best in 2020, and God bless you.

Mark Doerksen

Finding What You Weren’t Looking For

How the seemingly random can shape your journey. By Mat Lortie, lead pastor at Willowlake Baptist Church.

I remember sitting in orientation at Regent College when John Stackhouse said, tongue in cheek, that his time in Winnipeg was living outside the will of God, or something like that. I have no idea why I remember that, as I lived just outside of Vancouver and had no desire to move to Winnipeg. Yet a dozen years later, my wife, Alyssa, and I made the eastward trek to Manitoba in the middle of winter to offer pastoral leadership at Willowlake Baptist Church. Looking back on journeys can be interesting, as we ask ourselves: How did we get here? What stops did we make along the way? How did this journey even come together? So how did we end up at Willowlake? It all starts with a detour.

I have long found it fascinating that Paul wrote to the church in Rome in hopes that they would help get him to Spain. His desire to continue in the mission of God shaped his writing. It is doubtful that he ever made it there, yet because of this desire and hope we have the book of Romans. This seems to make sense of our lives—my life at least. We see good, often better by-products from other goals. The occasional, the seemingly random, shaping our lives for the better. For me, I enrolled in a Th.M. program, found a new job to help pay for it and ended up in a new city. I never ended up taking a single course towards that degree but met my wife and had a door open for me for vocational ministry with a full-year internship.

I wish I could say that the journey from that point to Willowlake was straight forward, but sadly that was not the case. After the internship, I took a solo pastorate at a smaller, aged church in the lower mainland. It was a gruelling and painful experience as the church was unhealthy and dying, even with some wonderful people. After 16 months of no traction and dwindling funds, we made an agreement with another church to sell them our building. Two months following the sale, the stress and burden of the years became too much for the church to bear and the decision was made to let the church end. It was a sad day- a frustrating day- but also a good day. Somehow in the midst of what I was experiencing on the west coast, God was at work in the prairies.

You see, at that moment my brother was about to transition from a pastoral role to an academic one at Providence. As he reached out to his regional minister, Mark Doerksen, to chat about the landscape in Manitoba, Mark informed him that his own church, Willowlake, was looking for a new pastor. He didn’t need a second job, but I was suddenly available and an introduction was made. Suddenly there was hope, at this point just glimmer but it was enough. And all of this happened before my wife returned home from work that day. A phone call, an application, some patience, a conversation, some more patience, another conversation, accidentally offending a search committee member’s favourite song, some more patience and then Alyssa and I were arriving in Winnipeg for a candidating weekend—then not even two months later, for good. 

I marvel at how this journey unfolded, how we connected and ended up here. It is amazing how much God was doing on that fateful August day. To be honest though, there were many painful experiences and the scars to go with them in the months that followed as that little church came to an end. There is a time for those stories, but this is not it. This is about God’s covenant faithfulness in the midst of this journey we call life. Few would be bold enough to claim that what God was up to in the by-products of their life will have as much impact as Romans, and I certainly am not.  However, God is just as much at work in Winnipeg, at Willowlake, as in Rome almost 2000 years ago.

Matthew Lortie

Lead Pastor, Willowlake Baptist Church 

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: jhanger@cbwc.ca

Heartland Regional Newsletter May 2019

Generosity

What builds your faith? Personally, I find that stories of abundance and generosity build my faith rather quickly, and encourage me to act accordingly. A few examples will help build my case, I’m hoping. 

 My wife Mary and I were custodians at an apartment complex in Winnipeg shortly after we were married. We were both students, and we put up with a lot, all so that our monthly rental arrangements could be

taken care of. We were driving a 1986 VW Golf; 2-door, 5-speed, blue. It was a great car—that is, until the transmission failed. Back then, in the early 90s, the repair bill was going to be significant. Mary and I were perplexed. Where would the money come from? 

At the time, I was the part-time youth worker at Broadway-First Baptist Church. One evening, a couple from the church showed up at our apartment unannounced, and handed us an envelope. In the envelope was a significant amount of cash to help us with the bill. I’m telling a now-old story of generosity because it really helped Mary and I in a time when we didn’t know what was going to happen financially.

 In my role as Regional Minister, I have come across two stories of abundance lately that have also encouraged me. I was in Hyas last summer, and heard a pastor speak of his training at Acadia. In the front row that summer’s day, was an older pastor, and the speaker relayed the story of how he and his wife had two weeks to go till pay day, and they were completely out of money. He went to the mailbox, and in the mail was a cheque from the pastor who sat in the front row in Hyas. It was just enough money to cover their costs for the two weeks that they were missing. This now-old story of generosity still caused the speaker to break up in its telling. 

I was also in Flin Flon, celebrating the 80th anniversary of that church. There I heard one of the long-time congregants talk a bit about ministry over the last while in that town. The speaker was of a humble sort, and wouldn’t have said much about his own generosity, but the person sitting beside me knew how generous this fellow had been. My seatmate stood and informed those in attendance of how the speaker had gone to significant financial lengths and sacrifice to help a fellow who was in serious trouble with the law. That act of generosity helped forge the faith of the young man who desperately needed a gut check on the trajectory of his life. This now-old story of generosity, too, caused the speaker to break up as he tried to wrap up his report. 

When’s the last time someone was kind and generous towards you in this way? Perhaps you, like me, don’t necessarily need the cash so much anymore. But perhaps, these now-old stories might help you find someone to bless in this way. Only the Lord knows how much you may encourage someone who could really use such a gift, an extension of our Lord’s generosity and abundance towards us. 

 The generous will prosper; 
    those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. 

-Proverbs 11:25 

Mark Doerksen 

Finally, a book for the rural church

Reading Resources by Mark Doerksen

I confess to being suspicious of church growth literature. I always have been. In fact, I’ve attended some Willowcreek Leadership Conferences via simulcast, and have found myself more agitated than inspired at some of these presentations, mainly because a presenter makes promises of how you can grow your church by X number of people over the next year, guaranteed. It’s poor of me, I know, but I have a hard time listening to the good stuff when this sort of message is blatantly in the mix. The assumptions behind these growth presentations are often of no help to my experiences and context. 

 My context includes churches in smaller towns, in rural places. It includes urban churches that are limited to one campus and are not experiencing exponential growth. Honestly, I sometimes find the church growth material to be discouraging for many church settings. 

 I am, however, more inclined to read books where the author understands places like the one I’m describing. A title like The Imperfect Pastor appeals to me.  Zack Eswine, the author of that book, makes a great point in stating that obscurity and greatness are not opposites. I resonate with those sorts of observations. 

You can imagine my sense of anticipation, then, when I came across a book by Brad Roth entitled, God’s Country: Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church. Brad works hard to reclaim a Kingdom Vision for the rural church, whereby we practice disciplines that help us approach rural ministry with curiosity rather than disdain for the established practices, structures, and traditions of the rural church. Each chapter is a description of one of the disciplines he finds helpful for rural ministry. He challenges readers to meet congregations where they are at while still dreaming of where God is calling them (p.18). 

He also suggests that the main difference between urban and rural communities is that rural communities are marked by knowing and being known (p.27). You wave to your neighbour because, after all, you actually know them. And importantly, Roth makes the point that churches need each other. Any vision that disparages country or city or anywhere in between is an inadequate vision (p.35). In my experience, as I visit urban churches, I often encounter folks who have ties to smaller, rural churches, places where leadership skills have been forged. 

Roth continues to make important points as the book progresses. In Chapter 2, for instance, he writes of the dangers of acedia, spiritual despair, which results in a lack of care for life, others, God, and sometimes even ourselves. It has the potential to make us believe that God is not present or at work in places or life situations where we find ourselves (p. 41). Instead, Roth suggests that we learn to abide in such places, and invokes Eugene Peterson’s observation that “pastoral work is geographical as much as theological.” When we understand this, we begin to understand that often rural places are haunted by a profound sense of loss. People, including children, turn away from rural spots and go find something in the big city, and often the city is seen as a sign of success for those who leave their small town origins. 

 About half way through the book Roth suggests that prayer is a fundamental piece of thriving churches, no matter their location. He nicely describes rural congregations as places of secret fire, places where the sustaining power of prayer is always at work and attended to. In rural congregations, people need to do less and be more. Roth also comes at the topic of growth subversively. Citing Peterson again, he suggests that the significance of the church has never been in “King Number” which is an emphasis on numerical stats. Instead, we ought to be concerned about the ways that congregations love God and neighbour and inhabit their communities. 

Roth is not afraid to speak of churches closing. This is a reality that many rural communities face, and it is certainly necessary from time to time. At times of closing, however, God can still be glorified by how people are treated and what is done with the assets of a congregation. Sometimes these can be used for church planting in other contexts, as an example. The important thing is to name reality, and to love into the situation, no matter what the future holds. 

 Of course, it helps in rural congregations to have somewhat of an agrarian vision. It’s important to think about one’s relationship with the land, mainly because they’re not making any more of it. Roth suggests we learn to befriend the place to which we’re called in such a way that attends to the land and to the people. 

I think this book is helpful for folks in rural places. As Roth relies on the Scriptures and friends like Eugene Peterson, Walter Brueggemann, Wendell Berry, Kathleen Norris, and Norman Wirzba, he describes disciplines that I think are valuable for pastors in rural places, but also for pastors in most every context. I appreciate how he interconnects rural churches with urban churches, and how he genuinely longs to see the good and the potential in each place, all while understanding that sometimes churches need to reach the end of their ministry. He is realistic, thoughtful, and theologically reflective as he encourages churches in their rural settings, without romanticizing their existence. It’s well worth the read. 

A message from Tabernacle Baptist Church, Winnipeg

Allow me to update you on Tabernacle Baptist Church, which has served God in the north end of Winnipeg for well over 100 years. My name is Dave Heinrichs and I am Pastor of this amazing little congregation. 

I arrived on the scene in the Fall of 2010 to a group dedicated to seeing God’s work being accomplished in an area of the city that desperately needed to hear of God’s grace and forgiveness. We soon adopted a theme for our church, A Church of Second Chances, a slogan that speaks to God’s amazing love and forgiveness (grace), freely given to those who believe in Christ.

In a bit of a “rougher” area of the city, we began to connect to a population that would normally never enter the doors of a church building. Without compromising the truths of Scripture, we adapted our efforts to activities the neighbourhood might attend, hoping they might hear and see and taste that the Lord is good. 

During summer months we hold weekly BBQs on our parking lot, passing out free hot dogs, hamburgers and soft drinks to passing-by neighbours. We also run a children’s day camp in July. In spring we host a community yard sale and more recently during the Christmas season we present an evening of Christmas carols getting many people coming out. All these events aim to create relationships with our neighbours and, as a result, open opportunities to share the gospel. 

The strength of Tabernacle Baptist is the people who make it up. We may be few in numbers but strong in love. We are diverse in backgrounds, but unified in the Lord. 

-Pastor Dave Heinrichs

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our editor Zoë: zducklow@cbwc.ca or the Heartland office: heartland@cbwc.ca

Heartland Regional Newsletter February 2019

From Mark

One of the pieces of my work that I share with others is that of helping churches in their pastoral searches. There have been quite a few churches in the Heartland that have been looking for pastors recently, and I am happy to report that several of those vacant pastorates have now been filled. 

When a church goes into search mode, a committee is struck, and there are plenty of meetings and decisions that need to be made until a church finds a suitable pastor.Although this can be a long process at times, with an average of an 18 months these days, I remain convinced of the need for churches and pastors to work hard at being a suitable match for the other.This means that sometimes a committee will say no to a candidate, or a congregation will.This also means that sometimes a pastor will say no to a committee or a congregation, if things proceed that far.In the end, however, it’s important to find suitable matches in this important phase of a church’s life.

The main point that I am trying to make is that I am grateful to those who are involved in such processes. I am grateful for each search committee, as they volunteer plenty of time to discern and wrestle with issues of suitability, theology, and so forth I am grateful for the work of Dennis Stone and the Mountain Standard Region as they lead the way in collecting information on pastors willing to serve and also converse with various search committees. I am grateful to pastors and their families, who also discern, and often move quite a distance to serve a new group of people.Make no mistake- even though our vacancies are dwindling at the moment, our denomination, and others too, are facing significant leadership challenges, one of which is the need for current and future pastoral leadership.

So I thank all those who are part of a search committee, those pastors who are willing to move to pastor some folks, those congregations which call a pastor and then welcome that person and their family and help them in their work. I am grateful, too, for interim pastors and preachers who fill the gaps that are left when a church has no pastor.I’m grateful for denominational resources in these matters.And of course, I’m grateful for the ability we all have to pray for such situations, and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in these critical times for congregations. 

Grace and Peace,

Mark.

Meet Pastor Calvin Nickel of Nipawin First Baptist

I will have been pastoring at Nipawin First Baptist Church for six years as of this spring, and was moved to full time employment last summer.

Growing up, I had no intention of being a pastor. (When I encounter 17 year olds who are planning to be pastors, I find myself freaked right out! Not that it’s a bad thing at all, I just don’t get it ).

I was going to go to Bible College for a year as a tangible way to put God first in my life before pursuing other studies. One year turned into four, and in my fourth year, Nipawin FBC didn’t have a pastor, so they quite frequently found “pulpit supply” in the professors and older students at the college.I was invited to speak there several times. When they asked me to consider coming on as their pastor, I wasn’t surprised. The foresight didn’t help me.You know in those cheesy old western movies, when someone’s tied to a railroad track? Seeing the train coming doesn’t help them either!

I had no idea what to do. I was 21 and thought I had no business taking on such a job.I talked to a bunch a people. I prayed a lot.My fiancé, Keshia, had no interest in ever living in Nipawin.But when she came to me a week later and said she would not feel peace in her heart if I said no, it was all the sign I needed.This, coupled with the realization that God could say “no”—like what happened when Paul got redirected to Macedonia—and God most certainly was not saying “no”, and His people (both the church and those in my personal life) were all affirming that the answer was “yes.” So I graduated from college on April 21st and started preaching as the pastor of Nipawin First Baptist on April 28th, 2013.

That summer was the first summer truly living in my own house, having a job with no plans to go to school in the fall, and learning to be a husband. Keshia and I got married August 17 of that summer— I have the date tattooed on my left wrist so I won’t forget it. (However, if I do forget it I’m really in trouble now). Speaking of tattoos, Keshia had a moment of panic once everything was in place for me to come on board as the pastor here, saying “Calvin, I can’t be a pastor’s wife. I have tattoos and don’t play the piano!”By and large, this has not proven to be a problem, and the people here have welcomed us without too much expectation of what a pastoral couple is supposed to be like. For example, I used to have crazy long hair like a stereotypical, white Jesus. When I donated it, the ponytail they cut off was 12 inches long.Our oldest congregant, who is still with us- and will be 100 years old on Valentine’s Day this year- was the saddest to see it go!

The denomination has been wonderful to work with. I didn’t start out with my particular church because of any affiliations, I didn’t have any denominational preferences or affiliations beforehand, having attending Baptist, Pentecostal, and Mennonite churches throughout my life, and finding all to be beneficial. I’m really thankful that I ended up where I did. You people are great and this feels like home.I’ve often said that it’s nice to know you have people watching your back without looking over your shoulder.

I’ve worked for almost 9 years, part time at the Dairy Queen in Nipawin as well; less so now that I’m full time at the church, but I do still work the odd shift there and quite enjoy it. It’s where I make connections with many people outside of our church.This is a small town so, of course, when I work there, I end up seeing and talking to a significant portion of my own congregation as well. I suppose whether it’s at NFBC or DQ, my objective and livelihood is seeing to it that people are fed.Sorry, I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a lame dad joke! Speaking of that, I’m a dad. Keshia and I have two sons: Parker, 18 months and Nathaniel, 3 months, who bring to us great joy and exhaustion and are very well-loved by our church, as we have been.

Last August our church celebrated its 90th anniversary.

As a kid in church (not this church), I remember that if a baby started crying you’d quickly see people glaring at the offending infant until their parent removed them from the sanctuary. That feeling of annoyance is a luxury that a congregation blessed with numerous children can afford. Ours has not been such a congregation for the majority of my time here. We’re in the same boat as many other small-town churches, attended primarily by older people with numbers nothing like what they were decades ago.We’re not alone; this is, from what I understand, typical and indicative of the plight of the Church in Canada in general. In our congregation, I see how this has caused people to appreciate the unchurched, newcomers and young children more than I remember experiencing as a child.My congregation is very welcoming. The report we consistently hear from people who have visited is that ours is a warm church, and while I do often find it to be very warm in there, they’re not talking about temperature. A few years ago, some friends of ours visited from out of town with their new baby. Predictably, the child was not silent for the whole one-hour service. It was both amusing and encouraging for me to see people’s faces from the pulpit; every time the baby shrieked, a significant percentage of my church smiled. It was the first time in a long time that such young baby had been in there, and the sound was welcomed. The change in how we value and welcome children is welcome too.

For nearly five years of ministry we haven’t had children consistently. But that’s changed recently. A lady in our church took it upon herself to ensure that if kids came on Sunday, there would be something prepared just for them. I confess, at first this seemed odd to me as the only kids coming were her own grandchildren.I had to open my mind and humble my heart, initially having thought, “Why wouldn’t you just talk to them about this stuff at home later?” There is an expression, ‘If you build it, they will come.’Since then, what started out as the most informal and spontaneous Sunday School, we’ve seen two other families, each with three children, start attending. The families were invited by people from our church, but their children provided the enthusiasm to keep coming back for Sunday School (they get excited about potluck lunches, too).Our average attendance has hovered between 25 and 40 since I’ve been here. With our two sons, plus another new baby in our congregation (whose parents just recently become members), and this “Sunday School Squad” as I think of them, we consistently have between 3 and 12 young children here now. It has been most encouraging to me and perhaps even more to my people. In a small church that’s quite a group! I had very little to do with this new life here- besides sounding like a broken record for years about the importance of simply inviting people to church, and keeping myself from resisting a new development which at first seemed almost disruptive- to just let things happen and trust.  

In fact, I’ve come to see and believe that the most important thing I’ve done here is simply to stay. More than any specific work I’ve accomplished, I chose to stay when I felt like leaving. Over the last 30 years, there have been quite a few pastors here who have not stayed more than 4 years. I don’t say that judgementally towards those who served here for a time. For all I know that was what God had planned for their lives and this church. But it does seem that a fast turnover rate is harmful to churches, and growth becomes harder and slower. I’ve felt my fair share of discouragement, exhaustion, adversity, frustration, and good old-fashioned, small-town boredom doing this work, exacerbated by the fact that I grew up around here. This is my hometown; I’ve never really left. The biggest discouragement comes in feeling that what you do is not worth doing, that your work makes no difference, that nothing has changed, is changing or is going to change, that you are so very replaceable. I’ve been tempted to leave many times because of such feelings. I’m glad I stayed. If I had left, I never would have got to see how things have indeed changed, are changing, and appear to be set to change. I want to encourage those who, like me, are in ministry and who, like me, are prone to discouragement. I’ve come to realize that if God is not calling me to something else; discouragement with where he has currently placed me is not a good reason to leave. While, of course, God doesn’t need us or anything from anyone, you’re not replaceable. You invest in people’s lives and get to know them and help them see things differently, and share in their sufferings and celebrations and be there for the big moments of life. There are many others who indeed could have done all that, but they didn’t, you did. You have something together with your people beyond providing a service of some kind. You’re with them. If God is not calling you elsewhere, stay with them. Stay the course, see it through. I’ll conclude with Paul’s words to the Galatians (6:9): “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Summer Camp Dates

For more information, please visit The Quest’s website here.

Settlement Report

Settled in the Heartland Region:
Scott Elger, Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church, Moose Jaw, SK
Tim Challen, Pastor at Virden Baptist Church, Virden, MB
Garth Plamping, Senior Pastor at Asquith Baptist Church, Asquith, SK

Settled in the Mountain Standard Region:
Sebastian Dykstra, Associate – Christian Education at Altadore Baptist Church, Calgary, AB
Susan Hunter, Chaplain at Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton, AB
Michael Penner, Youth Pastor at Zion Baptist Church, Edmonton, AB
Kent Dixon, Lead Pastor at Braemar Baptist Church, Edmonton, AB

Settled in the BC & Yukon Region:
Stephen Philips, Associate Pastor at FBC Nanaimo, BC
Greg Pearson, Lead Pastor at First Baptist Church, Victoria, BC
John Tsang, Minister of Congregational Care at First Baptist Church, Vancouver, BC

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our editor Zoë: zducklow@cbwc.ca or the Heartland office: heartland@cbwc.ca