Heartland Regional Newsletter June 2024

A Wider Family

Mark Doerksen, Heartland Regional Minister 

During the week of May 12, I will have the privilege of being a part of both the Ordination Examining Council, and the New Minister’s Orientation and the CBWC Assembly. It is always good to hear of how God is working in our midst, how God continues to call people to ministry, and how God calls people to ministry within the CBWC. Sometimes we get to hear of God working for a long period of time in a person’s life on the other side of the globe, and somehow, they end up landing in one of our churches. There is lots of good in these stories.

At the New Minister’s Orientation, we further get to hear about people new to the denomination, and get to talk about denominational life. There’s lots of good about this denomination and I, for one, really appreciate the pastoral care offered by our association of churches. Another area that we will talk about is that of Baptist history and distinctives. We will undoubtedly speak about the autonomy of the local church, and also hear about associational life—messages best heard at the very same time, I’d say.

The ideas of autonomy and the association of churches was brought home to me, yet again, a couple of weeks ago. Our son, Micah, and I were on a road trip through Alberta. We ended up visiting some folks who attend Brownfield Baptist Church, a rural church in central/eastern Alberta. That church does a bunch of great stuff, and they have a great group of people. Yet when I thought of that church in its context, it was clear to me that they were similar yet different than some of the rural churches in the Heartland region. I’m sure there are plenty of similarities amongst our rural churches, such as great people and great initiatives, but I’m also quite certain that Brownfield Baptist Church in Alberta is not like Shoal Lake Baptist Church in Manitoba. Each church has unique challenges and opportunities. This leads me to think that perhaps autonomy might be something that churches embrace more readily because they can see that they aren’t exactly like other churches. Why bother connecting if we’re not the same—or so the logic goes.

Yet, I also think that if we are part of an association of churches, we should be interested in the churches around us. We ought to be checking over our shoulders to see how the other churches are doing, praying for them, encouraging them, sharing best practices, and so forth. It’s not an easy time to be the church, and any encouragement that we can receive or offer is, in my opinion, very worthwhile.

This notion of checking over our shoulders to see how other congregations are doing is not new. When we see the New Testament model of Paul visiting churches, and taking up an offering for the church in Jerusalem, we can see the concern that Paul modelled and nurtured between churches (2 Corinthians 8). Certainly, our churches are all unique, and there’s much to celebrate in that. The harder part is for our congregations to look out for the other. I want to encourage yours to give it a try if you haven’t already done so. I am always encouraged, for example, to hear of a congregation praying for another congregation because contact has been made and requests have been offered. Perhaps that’s a great place to start.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 2 Cor 15:58.


Prasanth Jonathan

Lead Pastor at Thompson First Baptist Church

I was born and raised in a traditional Christian family. While I had been active in church activities since a young age, I lacked a personal connection with Christ. The famous philosopher Pascal once said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God Himself.” This truth resonated with me. In 1992, through the ministry of Campus Crusade, I finally filled this vacuum by accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

From that moment, God instilled in me a burning desire to share His truth with the world. In 1999, God spoke to me through the scripture, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few… Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” I knew I had to respond. Accepting His call, I began my journey as the campus ministry director for Youth for Truth.

My mission has since taken me across various parts of India and the UK, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. One of my guiding scriptures has been 1 John 2:6, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” It is my deepest desire to reflect Christ’s character in my life so that He may be glorified. God gave me a clear vision to make disciples, encouraging and supporting them to grow in Christlikeness and bear much fruit. Over the last nine years as a pastor, I have dedicated myself to supporting disciples transform to conform to Christ-likeness.

After my ministry in the UK, we returned to India, serving in the state of Tamil Nadu. Our mission was to train pastors, elders, and laymen in discipleship, and God enabled us to plant a church there. When the church matured, God directed us to move. We prayed for guidance on our next steps. During this time, my wife, Michelle, applied for a position at the University of Manitoba. She was selected for Thompson, a place we had never heard of until the interview.

Our initial research on Thompson revealed many negative news stories, leaving us uncertain about God’s will for us. Moving from a busy city of 2.9 million to a small town of 14,000 was daunting. Yet, God’s call was persistent. We entered a season of discernment and felt a strong conviction to follow His lead to Thompson. Coincidentally, I came across an advertisement for a senior pastor position at Thompson First Baptist Church, which seemed to align perfectly with God’s plan for us.

Now, over a year later, we have witnessed God’s faithfulness. We have been blessed with a loving and caring community here in Thompson. Michelle, who works as an Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba Northern Social Work Program, and our two children, Joanne and Jeremy, have all settled in well. We are excited about how God is using us in His service at Thompson.

Reflecting on this journey, I am reminded of the faithfulness of God and the importance of obedience to His call. Our story is one of transformation and trust—a testament to the power of

answering God’s call wherever it may lead. We look forward to continuing our ministry and witnessing the incredible ways God will work through us in this new chapter of our lives.

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