Lessons Learnt from Raising PKs
By Pastor Sara Westnedge, First Baptist Nelson
The other day when I was getting my son’s laundry out of the wasteland that he calls a bedroom, I found a hoarded stash of empty communion cups. For my 8-year-old, this was the equivalent of empty beer bottles—he knows he isn’t supposed to take the pre-sealed communion cups that we started ordering at church for the pandemic, but he just finds them irresistible. He seems to be sneaking them on the nights that I bring the kids to my office to hang out, while my husband attends and I lead a small group.
Because he wasn’t with me, I was able to have a chuckle and take a moment to reflect on my worries about raising children and pastoring at the same time. (When he realized his treasured stash was gone, he came downstairs and confessed. Of course, I had to pretend that I was VERY disappointed and that this behaviour will NOT be tolerated).
When I accepted my calling and role as the lead pastor of First Baptist Church Nelson, my first concern was raising pastor’s kids, or “PKs,” as they are sometimes known. Apparently, this type of upbringing can be difficult for children, and watching a few Tik-Tok videos by Abraham Piper confirmed for me that I may be ruining my kids’ lives. There was no denying that I was called to pastor, but I wrestled heavily with what this meant for my family, especially my daughter.
Our first child was born, and joined our family, after years of trying to have children. We had read all of the books, decorated his nursery, and were beyond prepared. We flew to Orlando to complete our adoption of him and began a parenting journey that has been beautiful, hard, nuanced, and a complete gift. We knew that he might be our only child, and so I wanted to wring out the experiences of every age with him; if I was only ever going to have one 18-month-old, I wanted to spend every minute of it with him.
Our second child was a shock and surprise; we missed her first trimester because we didn’t think that we would have biological children. Our daughter is a true second-born; she was hauled around by her three-year-old brother, she had no real schedule, and our ‘No sugar or screens before two!’ rule was out the window by the time she was six months old. I also went back to work when she was two, which was a major change from being home full-time with our son until he went to kindergarten.
It turns out that pastoring is a lot like mothering. You see, when I became a mom, I knew everything about parenting; that changed approximately five minutes after actually having a child. My son taught me that best practices usually aren’t practical, that social media is fake (you show me a mom who is home with toddlers all day wearing jeans and full makeup, I’ll show you a trickster), and that the long game is hard and grueling and requires faith and support. In the same way, a new pastor shows up to a church and has the perfect plan to bring glory to God and the church (hopefully in that order). As I was worn down by sermon writing, prayer, leading people and navigating all that life throws, I was reminded that this isn’t my church, it’s God’s church. My plans, as wonderful as they may seem, might not be quite what our Lord in this year of 2022 has for FBC Nelson. When something goes right, a sermon seems to land or growth in people is evident, I enter into that joy and excitement. But when the sermon won’t come or we have to discuss boundaries and extend grace to one another once again, I remember that pastoring is playing the long game, and that it can be hard and grueling and requires faith and support. I’m grateful for the years of training I had at home with my two children before I was unleashed on my unsuspecting congregation.
As for those two children, God is good and gracious, and it just so happens that our church runs an excellent preschool program. My daughter began attending four days a week and I hear her and her friends playing outside my office window. Most of the time it warms my heart and soothes my guilt—although a few times I have heard a distinctive voice assert forcefully, “There can only be ONE Elsa, and it’s ME!”
Our small church still does cake and coffee after church, and I have been admonished many times by the ‘church grandmas’ that I am being too harsh with my son when I tell him that four pieces of cake is too many. Our center aisle between the pews is perfect for power slides in socked feet, and there is nothing better to my daughter than standing on stage, holding a mic and singing her heart out. It doesn’t matter that she’s doing it while mom is working and the mic isn’t turned on; in her mind, she is the star of the show. My kids often come with me to visit some of our folks who don’t drive. One of my favourite memories was one woman, who anecdotally seems to have been quite strict with her own children, telling the kids that “If you don’t finish your ice cream, you can’t have a cookie.” All this to say that, at least, my own two PKs seem to be doing alright.
Partner Spotlight: Hopehill
By Rev. Jamey S. McDonald, Chief Executive Officer
Several times a month I will get a phone call or an email from someone looking for affordable housing in the Lower Mainland. I usually offer verbal support for their situation and refer them to our tenant office to get their name on the list. We have 300 units of affordable housing for seniors here at Hopehill. It is a 3-year waiting list to get to the front of the line. A person phoned last week. Here is an edited version of the email I received from them the next day.
Good Morning, Jamey!
I will definitely call the office and get things started.
On a side note, ever since I was a young person, I’ve had a fear of being homeless. My Dad raised me (received custody over my mother in the 70s). We were always moving around from house to house (renting) and not stable for very long. As a young adult, I continued with unstable housing right up to 2007, where I stayed in one place for 9 years until the house that I was living in was sold in 2016, and I was thrust into a very different high rental market. I did find a place, but in 2018—after just 2 years—the house I moved into was also sold, and I was looking again. God found me a very nice duplex, which I rent with a friend. The landlady is a Christian, and she chose me out of 45 other people. Another “God” thing. Sometime in the not-so-distant future, my roommate will be moving out of the city, leaving me with the rental on my own. I will continue to stay here as long as I can and maybe get a temporary roommate (Christian) to cut costs.
The feeling of one day being homeless has never left me. It sits on my shoulders daily and invades my dreams. I know this is the enemy exploiting a fear I’ve had since childhood. And from this I have had a silent mini-ministry, where I go around to various homeless places and do what I can for people there (Downtown Eastside, under bridges, parks, etc). Sometimes I sit with them and have lunch (my treat of course!), or leave bedding in plastic bags for when they wake from their cardboard homes. I always remind myself, “There but for the grace of God go I.” I have asked God for a forever home (except under a bridge), and then I will once again feel safe. I should have applied for co-ops, but life pulled me in other directions. I think God placed you on my heart. I’m not sure why, but I will let Him lead me.
Thank you again for your help and suggestions.
These are the kinds of things that cause me to say “I love my job.”
Blessed to be a Blessing
By Jenna Hanger
When the war started, Kurt and Lynn Cole sat in their house on their ranch in Brownfield, AB watching the news in near disbelief. The footage and stories were like something out of the history books. Thousands of people were leaving everything they had, to flee to safer countries—most of them women and children, similar ages to the Cole’s own daughters and grandchildren.
Flash-forward to today, Kurt and Lynn have opened up their home as a refuge for families needing a safe place. Their first family of five arrived the day before Easter, followed by a couple who arrived a couple weeks later, with more connections being made as others reach out inquiring about a place to stay.
The process started by connecting with a group on Facebook called CANADA- Host Ukrainians.
“It was interesting to just read the stories. We basically just pushed message and said, ‘Hey if you guys need a place, we can figure something out,’” Kurt said.
The realistic options were quickly narrowed, as Brownfield is a very rural community that isn’t a realistic option for everyone. They connected with people who just needed a safe place to go temporarily while they figured out the next steps, and a few who wanted to live in the countryside. While they chat with many people wanting to come, they don’t know who is actually coming until visas and biometrics are completed. They had one week’s notice of the first family’s arrival.
They also don’t know much about the backgrounds of the people coming, or how much English they know. The Canadian government does vet everyone who enters the country, but the Coles do not know their story until they are actually sitting across the table from them.
“You take a risk—we won’t know everything about everyone who comes, only that they need a place of refuge, and we are willing to be that place. Every time you deal with people, you take a risk—that needs to be understood. We are in a stage of life where we can and are willing to accept that risk,” Kurt said.
The Facebook group also provides opportunity to connect with other Canadians who want to help. Through it, Kurt was able to work with a group in Montreal who paid for the five plane tickets. The family arrived with no luggage, save for a couple carry-on bags and the clothes on their backs.
The decision to take people in was a relatively simple one—they had the space in their home, and they wanted to share it, as well as the fact that they have a generous community surrounding them who are more than willing to help.
“They recognize this could be their family, this could be their kids, and it motivates people to dig in and do their best to help others. Generally speaking, I think people want to be generous and help. I’m so impressed by that in our community,” Lynn said.
Many people have donated various resources such as clothing and money, and have brainstormed different housing options and business opportunities for whoever might end up coming to the rural community. The school, too, openly embraced the three children who don’t speak English, and are working to teach them.
The goal is to support the people who come with whatever business and job ideas they have, and eventually find them a more permanent place to live—whether it be relocating to the city or finding a place to rent nearby. For now, they are open to taking in whoever is able to come.
“All we can do is offer what we have, and for now that has to be enough, and hopefully doors will open,” Lynn said. “We believe it will—we have seen it happen before. Often it seems like if you’re willing, God will honour that and there will be opportunity—that seems to be the way it works.”
Kurt and Lynn also added that they feel very blessed to have people of different backgrounds in their home—they both love traveling and experiencing different cultures. To meet new people and learn their stories is quite fun and something they appreciate, even as they understand the commitment that it is.
“We are blessed to be a blessing,” Lynn said. “I think that’s the basic principle of Christianity. If you have something, then you have something to give.”
If you are interested in learning more about helping families arriving in Canada, you can reach Kurt and Lynn by email at email@example.com or by cell, 403-575-5388.
Kurios: A Peek at the Last Week
Kurios wrapped our first, full year of discipling young adults on Easter Sunday. Each participant completed a “Capping Project”—reflecting on how they experienced Jesus during their time at Kurios—and we are delighted to share a peek at how wonderful God has been among us!
Alyssa reflects on who she was as she arrived at Kurios in September 2021.
One of the top 5 impactful experiences for Myra was the Banff Pastors conference.
Kia remembers a Lectio Divina we shared in Kananaskis, and how the Holy Spirit spoke to him through the story of the blind man whom Jesus healed (John 9).
Beulah Garden Homes welcomed us for 3 days, where we learned of God’s faithfulness, of the beauty of aging, and of practical tools like organizing ministry and considering careers in elder care. For Eva, it was one of her top 5 experiences!
Several participants recalled an afternoon spent in solo prayer early in our journey, high up in the Rocky Mountains of Kananaskis. It was a powerful time of hearing God speak and affirm!
Raquel is a super creative person who developed a board game reliving highlights from her Kurios experience! The two favorite squares were: “Van breaks down: return to Kamloops!” and “Steve finally answers your question: move ahead 4 spaces!
We had a very hard February, as our community contracted Covid, and we were in isolation for most of the month. Steve took this picture and wrote this poem during that challenging time.
Starry created a series of original paintings for her capping project. She titled this one “Shift” and included this description: “This resembles the transformation of my identity. How I have been reborn in Christ, and called to be a child of God.
We celebrated the completion of our year together with an intimate feast!
Our last weekend together was Easter. Beginning on Thursday evening, we followed Jesus using the text of John 12-20, walking, and dramatically reading the story all through the weekend. On Friday, we left some things nailed to the cross, and on Resurrection Sunday (around 6am) we rejoiced around the empty tomb as the sun rose, and then we walked in that freedom and power into all God has in store for the rest of our lives.
Jesus Gave His Church a Job
By Shannon Youell
…To “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything He had taught and] commanded.” This was the Risen King revealing God’s mission to the world, through the gathered disciples. In many Bible translations, we’ve aptly titled it the Great Commission, because of the clarity of vocation for the church, those gathered together under Christ.
On this blog we’ve often written about discipleship in connection with church planting, defining church planting as the fruit of disciples who make disciples who can also make disciples. Disciple-making is the call of the Great Commission. In other words, the mission of the church isn’t evangelism, it’s discipleship. Continue reading on the church planting blog …
Hank Dixon – Prison Chaplaincy from the Inside Out
By Jenna Hanger
Hank Dixon has lived through experiences few of us can fathom. He has accumulated over 45 years of Corrections and ministry experience, often working with people whom most of society has written off.
His book, A Lifer’s Journey: Prison Chaplaincy from the Inside Out, is a beautiful, poetic, heart-breaking narrative of his life—from when he became a Christian as an inmate to his work as a prison chaplain. This holds-no-punches book is a detailed account of a world most do not understand, and the lessons it teaches challenge some Christian ideology in the best of ways.
The catalyst for his life trajectory was when he experienced drugs for the first time at just 12 years old. Hank describes it as a light bulb going on; he was immediately addicted. After growing up in various places in Ontario, Hank dropped out of school at 16 and worked for the CN railroad for a year and a half, before he moved to Edmonton, AB. His drug use quickly escalated and soon he found himself, at just 19 years old, incarcerated for second-degree murder after a break and enter went wrong.
He spent 9 years in prison in which he experienced profound hopelessness, a miraculous conversion experience followed by disillusionment, relapse, near insanity and a slow pulling by the Lord back to the light. His experience in prison and afterwards, as he worked with many individuals with various issues, has shaped his theology into one of compassion and understanding.
“I encountered people who tried over and over to change, and failed and tried and failed. It opened up this whole world of understanding in terms of how we learn to engage with God in our lives,” Hanks said.
In contrary to the “get fixed quick” theme that can often be preached to new Christians, Hank’s experienced taught him that there is actually a lifelong journey that occurs—full of difficulties and failures. This view has helped him to understand grace and be able to extend that grace to others repeatedly.
After being released in 1985, Hank married his wonderful wife Linda, and they had two children together. Hank pursued a calling to enter ministry. He was eventually ordained by the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada and pastored a church for 6 years.
Contrary to what the prison guard thought who had snarled “You’ll be back” as Hank left, he had no intention of ever stepping foot in a prison again. However, the Lord had other plans for him, and in the late 90s, Hank felt the Holy Spirit urging him into prison ministry. He initially wrestled with it, likening himself to Jonah as he struggled to come to terms with what the Lord was asking. In the end, Hank decided he had to trust in the Lord.
Hank wrote in his book, “What held me—what compelled me—to work in this environment turned out to be something that overpowered all the fears and concerns I had walking in. What developed was a deep well of compassion and care for inmates and staff that has never left me…”
He spent the next four years at the Atlantic Institution and then eleven years at Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba, where he became affiliated with CBWC.
During his time as a prison chaplain, he dealt with prison riots, disturbances, murders and suicides. Prison chaplaincy is a hard job—filled with personal sacrifices, and a lot of time and energy that yields very little obvious reward.
Hank wrote, “Most times, a chaplain is merely a channel through which help can be provided. You are faced with the harsh reality there is nothing you can do except pray and walk in the dust of the road with the one who is suffering, remembering that ‘invoked or not, God is present.’”
After Stony Mountain Institute, Hank spent two years mentoring prison chaplains until he eventually moved into the program manager position at Open Circle, a prison visitation program based in Manitoba. In 2020, he moved into the Executive Director position.
For many years, Hank wrote various snippets of his story whenever he needed to process something. It wasn’t until there were some significant changes happening within chaplaincy across Canada that he felt maybe he should write a book. He wanted to provide something to future chaplains that could act as a sort of guide.
As he began writing, though, the book proved to be much more than that. It became a book not just relevant to prison chaplains, but to any Christians anywhere who want to live an authentic life following Christ and loving people. His book challenges views of the prison system, inmates, ideas about self-forgiveness, conversion and what walking alongside fellow Christians really means.
It was a deeply personal project, one that felt almost therapeutic as he recounted his story. He gave up a few times, feeling it was far too private to put out in the world. After several friends read what he had started, they urged him it needed to be published, so he continued. The entire process took about four years to complete. His friend published it through his company, Prairie Heart Press, and Hank’s daughter’s painting became the cover.
Hank said if there was one thing he hopes people would take away from the book, it would be that they truly see how it is to engage the world as a Christian.
To check out Hank’s book, click here.
Below is a brief excerpt:
Perhaps one of the most striking facets of walking my own hidden journey has been how I can relate to other men going through the same. One such event is etched in my memory, a heartfelt discussion with an inmate named Harvey.
It had been a tough conversation as we sat in the visiting area of the institution. He was back inside for a revocation after doing so well. He was staying clean, studying at university, reconnecting with friends and family. Then it all fell apart. The loneliness started to build. It was too much. Next came a friendly welcoming group, a beer, and then the downward slide began.
As we sat looking at each other, talking about his attempts to somehow give back, make atonement for the horrible things he had done, we talked about the burden we both carried, the reality that nothing brings back the dead. There is no way to fix it. We just need to learn to live with it.
I looked at him and just made a statement of fact. I didn’t know it would hit so deep. “Harvey, you’re a good man. Your heart longs to make amends. You are a good man.” The tears slowly slid down his face, a face etched with years of journeying through gangs and death.
We sat in quietness. My heart ached to give a magic moment of healing. I had none. All I had to offer was to be present, encouraging him as he wrestled to find the path that would help him heal, and learn to live with the reality of the void he had left in the lives of others.
Assembly is only 25 days away! Registrations are at full capacity, and we look forward with great anticipation to worshipping and learning together as well as doing the business portions of Assembly. Event details and the Assembly docket will be distributed by email to all registered delegates on May 5, 2022. If you do not receive it, please connect with your church administrator or CBWC Regional office. Please click HERE for general information and the Assembly schedule.
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Making Connections is the monthly newsletter of the CBWC.