Summer Wrap-Up Report!
This summer has looked very different than what it would have normally, but God has been so faithful. He has been moving and challenging and using all things for good. So many churches and camps were still able to innovate and run programs, or use this time to rest and focus on what God has to teach them. Below is just a snapshot of some of the great things that happened this summer in our CBWC family:
During the day on August 16, well over one hundred youth and youth leaders served in local communities across Western Canada. Groups painted, washed cars, walked/ran 10K, landscaped and more, demonstrating the transformational love of Jesus in their hometown. In the evening, everyone joined together online for a Live Stream Celebration proving that unity and fellowship in Christ can happen no matter how far apart we are. Thank you to everyone who participated in SERVE at Home this year. You can go to www.cbwc.ca/serve to view the Live Stream recording.
Mill Creek Camp
We ran online camps throughout July. They went really well, but they did have low registration numbers. Although camp online didn’t feel very “campy,” it was easier to form relationships, teach, worship, and have fun together than we expected. We sent packages to our campers so that we could do activities with them in the mornings, and that made it so easy to engage in an activity together online. Overall, we were very happy with how online camp went, and although we hope to be able to do in person camp next year, if we had to do online camp again, we would definitely consider it.
We also used our site as a campground for families throughout the summer. That went really well—we are booked up solid till mid-September. It does cost camp a lot just to maintain the facilities each year, so having a bit of extra income via rentals was helpful.
We also ran a leadership development program in person for 10 straight days. We had three lovely “trekkers” and had a blast. It was the most “campy” thing we did all summer, and it was great to do some of the typical summer activities like backpacking and work projects with them.
We had a very successful July. We had 28 staff participate during our staff development weeks, where we focused on spiritual and leadership development. This was a two-week event. We hosted 25 LITs in late July. We graduated 8 students out of 2nd year and discipled 17 very hard-working and enthusiastic 1st years. All in all, we feel we have had a very productive summer investing in our leaders and property. We believe we are well-positioned to have a very successful 2021!
White Rock Baptist Church:
White Rock Baptist Church had two weeks of amazing Bible teaching and tons of fun! 91 kids learned that Jesus’ power helps us do hard things, gives us hope, helps us be bold, lets us live forever and helps us be good friends! They memorized scripture, heard Bible stories, made crafts, danced to great worship music and even watched two baptisms.
At least one child gave their life to Jesus as Lord and Savior! A majority of the kids had never been to church or heard about Jesus before. The kids had so much fun. They didn’t want it to end and are looking forward to next year.
P.S. We also raised over $1000 for the Food Bank!
Gull Lake Centre:
This summer we wanted to do something. We knew it wouldn’t be like our regular camps, but we wanted to create a space for campers nonetheless that was safe, relational, and fun like we do every summer. The COVID rules allowed for us to run day camps – that that is what we did. Day camps with a max of 48 campers, all distanced and often wearing masks. It wasn’t perfect, but it was something. It was a break from the norm where kids could come to camp for a day and interact with old and new friends, be cared for by the summer staff, have some silly fun with dinosaurs, and aliens, relax at the beach, and spend some time in the Bible. I am so proud of our summer staff team for putting this on and adapting to all of the different rules and regulations. We ended up serving over 300 individuals this summer, far less than the expected 1200, but I am thankful for the opportunity to bring a little bit of camp into the world this summer.
Spotlight on Beulah Garden Homes
Beulah Board Members *picture taken pre-covid
Beulah Garden Homes is a caring community that provides affordable housing and assisted living for maturing adults. We strive to build a safe, healthy neighbourhood for all residents to call home.
Have you ever come away from a conversation surprised by how different it was from what you had anticipated? That happened to me on a gentle, summer afternoon when colleagues from Beulah and Kinbrace met with Fayaz and Maryam, along with Ibrahim and Shukreyah—two couples that had both recently arrived at Beulah. These four first found a home at Kinbrace in Vancouver, a home that welcomes refugee claimants, before they later moved to Beulah Garden Homes. It is a beautiful thing to see how the partnership of CBWC, Kinbrace and Beulah Gardens facilitated the welcome which led to this gathering.
When we met, I wanted to learn from these couples what it was like to leave their country, to make such a long journey and to arrive here. I was also curious to hear how it felt for them now that they were settling into a new land, culture and home. I came with some questions. What was it like to arrive in Canada? How would you describe your experience of finding housing at Kinbrace and then at Beulah Gardens? Because I have heard stories of refugees before, I anticipated hearing how their journey was both instigated by and suffused with losses, pain and suffering.
Here’s where the surprises began. The two couples set a table outside under the shade of a tree, brought food and tea, (homemade borak is delicious!) and created a generous welcome, far more than I expected. Where I thought I was the one to offer welcome, they welcomed us and offered what they had with delight and abandon.
When I asked them about their experience upon arriving in Canada, Fayaz + Maryam were keen to tell me how the authorities that they encountered were “white-hearted and full of generosity.” They commented about the easy access they had to all that they needed, something which they did not expect. Ibrahim and Shukreyah were also eager to tell me how they were surprised to be met with kindness and respect from the moment of their arrival to Canada.
Fayaz and Maryam told of how surprised they were that, when they arrived at Kinbrace, the first person to meet them even carried their suitcase into their new home (!) and then brought them to the market to help them get food. Ibrahim and Shukreyah described Kinbrace as a place of family where they found brothers, sisters, hugs and much warmth. All four spoke only briefly about the deep pain of leaving their first home, but described Kinbrace as a place of healing where their feelings of loss began to dissipate. The family connection that they received at Kinbrace is a strong thread of grace which has continued for them, even as they moved into Beulah Gardens.
When they described their experience of moving into Beulah Gardens, both couples focused on the great joy that they have received by having their own place, their own house, their own garden. What’s more, they have found openness, kindness and support at Beulah as they continue to settle more deeply into life in Canada.
Fayaz and Maryam told us that they have had many experiences of encountering people with power and authority, and from this, they understand the nature of goodness. I learned from them that this goodness is an element of our common humanity that strangers can give to each other, no matter the limitations of language, faith, culture, or loss. I also sensed from their story that their experience of needing the kindness of people—stranger or neighbour—has, at times, been much less than good. But they didn’t tell us more about those experiences. Instead, they told us that “the people they met at Kinbrace and Beulah seek what is true.” They spoke of “finding ambassadors of good, ambassadors of hope” to help them when they arrived into their new life.
I listened to them while being served a feast out of their generosity and thought. These are people who, even in their respective journeys of suffering, have chosen still, to search for and trust what makes us all truly human and made in God’s image. Both couples told me how fervently they pray for Canada, Kinbrace and Beulah, every day, with gratitude and hope. Fayaz said, “The kind human being never walks the wrong path.” Both couples encouraged us “to keep in mind love, respect and kindness,” for their experiences had taught them that these things were true. I recognized that I was hearing words of life and felt the blessing of their faith, even as it is different to mine. The afternoon got me thinking about the story of Elijah the prophet and the widow of Zerapheth.
When Elijah showed up at the widow’s house, he was a stranger of a different faith who was in great need of bread, water and a place to call home. What he offered was confidence that the God of Israel would continue to provide for the widow, along with her son and family, and multiply it towards the coming days of need. The widow had limited resources, and was not sure how they would be enough for her and her son, let alone for Elijah, but she offered a home, what food she had and the choice to trust Elijah’s words. With what they each had as well as what they both needed, they stepped together into a relationship of mutual care and kinship. It became a stabilizing and continuing lifeline for each of them. What grace, what goodness.
In Christ, we are always called into mutual relationships that characterize His grace and goodness, to be found in what we offer AND what we receive. Canada, Kinbrace, Beulah Gardens have offered Fayaz, Maryam, Ibrahim and Shukreyah a safe place to call home. In return, they have offered the blessings of their generous hospitality, their hope for our future together and faithful prayers for our well-being.
I want to continue to look for, find, and be surprised by this shared grace and goodness that reaches past boundaries. I pray that Beulah Gardens will continue to be a place for these relationships of goodness to bless all; that these characteristics of Christ’s love will fuel Beulah’s mission of building home and well-being, to become like the light of God set on a hill for many years to come.
Bob Swann – A Story of Missional Living
In 1976, a young Bob Swann embarked on his first overseas mission trip to Kenya. Now, just over forty-four years later, Pastor Bob Swann marks another milestone; his retirement from being the Minister of Mission at First Baptist Church Vancouver.
Over the years, Pastor Bob and his wife, Anne, have lived in Liberia, Kenya, Toronto and Vancouver. They’ve worked with different churches and schools, with refugees and the homeless; building, teaching and serving in many different capacities.
Their journey began when they were high school sweethearts in Penticton, BC. Bob is the middle child of three, with an older brother and a younger sister. His father was a hard-working man who worked as a contractor, and his mother was a registered nurse.
While his parents were not Christians during his formative years, Bob says that the idea of missional living and learning how to listen to others’ stories was engrained in him because of the way his parents lived.
“My mother taught us to speak truth and to work hard. My father knew how to be a neighbour to the neighbours. He taught us a lot of amazing things, like endurance and how to innovate when you don’t have the right things to make something work,” said Bob. These skills, and his time around construction sites, helped him to be comfortable around all types of people and gifted him in building and mechanics, which helped prepare him for his life in missions.
A life defining moment in his high school years was when Bob came to know the Lord through his high school football coach, as well as a friend of his girlfriend, Anne. Both he and Anne gave their lives to the Lord and were baptized in their grade 12 year at First Baptist Penticton.
That fall, they both attended UBC. Anne studied nutrition and food science, and Bob ended up studying Biology and Forestry. During their time there, they both got heavily involved with the Navigator organization. This was where Bob learned a lot about the scriptures and built a firm foundation for his faith.
After Bob finished his B.Sc. degree, he applied to Africa Inland Mission. With financial support from First Baptist Penticton, he ended up teaching biology and chemistry at a boys’ school for three months in Kenya, as well as fixing up some houses. Meanwhile, Anne had started her Master’s degree in Nutrition.
When he got back, he finished his thesis in 1977. At this point, both he and Anne felt a strong pull towards missions, but CBM required one official year of Bible school. One of the pastors at First Baptist Church Penticton was the well-known author, W. Phillip Keller. Phillip Keller was raised in Kenya and told Bob that since he couldn’t go back to Africa because of how many times he contracted malaria, he needed Bob to do what he couldn’t. Keller’s connection to Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, AB, prompted Bob to go and do his year of Bible school there. While he was there, Anne was in Brazil doing research for her Master’s thesis.
Just before Anne was to return to Canada, Bob’s mother passed away in a car accident on her way to work, just six weeks before Bob and Anne were to be married. She had just turned fifty. Five years before, Bob had had the profound experience of praying with his mom at the end of a
church service when she walked forward and gave her life to the Lord. That moment was a tremendous comfort as they came to terms with her loss.
“I was so thankful, so thankful that she knew Jesus,” said Bob. “When I got the phone call that she died in a car accident, the first words out of my mouth were, ‘That’s why there’s a heaven.’ That’s all I said. ‘That’s why there’s a heaven.’”
In January 1980, Bob and Anne left for their first assignment with CBM, a two-year posting in Liberia, West Africa. They were to be working with the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention school and were told everyone spoke English so language would not be a problem, and that Liberia was the most peaceful country in Africa.
Their first few days were an adventure. They couldn’t understand the English being spoken because it was pidgin English. No one was at the airport to pick them up so they spent three days wandering around trying to find their contacts, and within two hours of finally tracking down the Baptist leader, (who nearly fainted when he found out they had been wandering around Liberia for three days) they were sitting in the presidential mansion chatting with President William Tolbert, the president of Liberia and the Baptist World Alliance.
The school they would work with was a special project of President Tolbert. It was way out in the bush and he was very thankful to have them there helping. But just three and a half months later, on April 12th, the president was assassinated and Liberia was thrown into chaos.
Just thirty hours after the assassination, the rebels came out to the school. At four in the morning, the sound of horns honking woke Bob and Anne as the rebels drove up. Bob could see them getting out of their cars in front of his house. One of them shot his machine gun over the roof of their house, and Bob thought, Wow, we are in serious business now.
After getting dressed in the dark, Bob and Anne went out to greet them, thinking this would be better than waiting for them to kick the door down. Their leader, Harrison Dahn, was thankfully sober and asked Bob how things were going. Bob answered, “Well they were going okay, but things look a little shaky right now.” This made Harrison laugh a little. He said he had attended the school and had great respect for it. They then all went over to the principal’s house, where the rebels tore the picture of President Tolbert down, after which the soldiers went back to Bob and Anne’s and placed their machine guns on the table and ate fried eggs, coffee and fresh bread that Anne served. The rebels left without harming them.
Just a week after that, Bob had his vehicle stolen at gun point by another group of rebels. He was told he wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone for a month–none of the phones were working—and that they would be fine as long as they did nothing stupid. Without many options left, Bob loaded up the chickens he had been raising, and using the tractor and trailer that First Baptist Calgary had bought for the school, drove to the next town to sell the chickens on the street. He was able to get enough money to pay for fuel for a small plane owned by Mid-Baptist Missions. Their pilot offered to fly him to Monrovia, while Anne stayed with the pilot’s family. They flew at treetop level to avoid early detection. Once there, he lined up at one of a few working government phones. Bob got hold of Michael Lang by phone with CBM and asked him to Telex two air tickets on Pan Am. Three days later, by God’s grace, a driver from the school, named Sam Yarkpah, saw Bob and offered to drive him back to Anne. They weren’t supposed to drive after the 9 pm curfew, but Sam knew a back road through the rainforest and got him back to Anne by 6 am.
After they got their affairs in order, the small plane flew them both out and they were able to make it to the Liberia International Airport and fly to New York. There was a three-week period where no one had heard from them and did not know if they were alive or dead. When Anne finally reached her mother, by phone from New York, it was a very emotional call, to say the least.
They were back in Canada by May 1980. By July, CBM contacted them and asked them to be interviewed, by Ron and Joan Ward, to see if they would be suitable to team up with them for their work in NE Kenya, near the Somali border. Anne’s father was less than impressed.
He said, “You just took my daughter to Africa, almost got her killed, God got you out, and now you are going to go back?” Bob said, “I think he thought we had flipped a lid at that point, but we said ‘Yes, we are willing to go.’”
So, after some training at the World School of Missions in Pasadena, they flew to Kenya in October 1981. By that time, they had a three-and-a-half-month-old son named, David. They ended up staying until 1992, and had their other two kids in Kenya, a girl named Sarah and another boy, named Michael. They developed many relationships with Kenyan Somalis and gained a “street level” language ability over years.
At the beginning of 1991, the Somali Civil War began and CBM asked Anne and Bob to go to the Somali Border where refugees were arriving. Their knowledge of the Somali language and culture positioned them uniquely to serve in this crisis. They were based in Liboi, and five-hundred refugees were arriving daily. Many mothers had walked for ten days or more, arriving with their children on the brink of starvation. They did all they could, but they were still losing six to ten kids a day.
By August 1991, Bob was asked by the UNHCR to build more permanent hospitals and feeding centres in three camps surround Dadaab, which is located 80 kilometers away from the Somali border in Kenya. Anne took responsibility in two of the camps, Ifo and Dhagahaley, through CBM and the UNHCR, to help 16,000 children get emergency rations and escape starvation.
“I cannot say that my ‘soul’ has healed from seeing this catastrophe unfold. But I have experienced some peace and healing when I read Isaiah 40:26 and realize God knows all of these children by name and He does not lose any of them,” Bob said. To this day there are now almost 400,000 people still living in these camps.
In 1992, Bob and his family returned to Canada so the kids could have some experience in Canadian schools. During 1993-1994 they both took a study leave in Vancouver. Bob finished a one-year diploma at Regent College and Anne did a Dietetic Internship at Vancouver General Hospital. In August 1994, CBM asked them to move to Toronto to help the churches with their outreach to the 100,000 Somali refugees who recently arrived there.
During their time in Toronto their eldest son, David, got very sick in February 1998 with viral encephalitis, a severe brain infection. The doctors told them he had a 50/50 chance of surviving. He did survive, but had some permanent brain injury and had to spend six months in the acquired brain injury unit at Bloorview MacMillan. He was seventeen at the time. Bob said, “The next year-and-a-half was so hard on us all, but boy did people pray!”
In the midst of all that, they received an offer from First Baptist Vancouver to fill their Minister of Mission position. They decided it was God’s plan to return to BC and to give their kids time with their extended family, and accepted the job starting January 1,1999. One of Bob’s first key projects upon arrival in Vancouver was to start a Shelter Program to serve the marginalized street population that the church was keen to reach out to. The first homeless people slept in the church in March of 1999 and still runs to this day.
Until modified because of COVID-19 hit, they had fifty to sixty volunteers every Tuesday night cooking a big meal feeding 120-150 people. They also have 27 beds in the church for people to spend the night and a crew of ten volunteers that would come every Wednesday morning at 5 am to cook and serve breakfast and put away the bedding.
Bob also facilitated many 5-week medical/teaching mission trips to Africa, having gone fourteen times over the 21 years while at FBC.
In 2008, Bob had the privilege to go back to Liberia to see who survived at the school. It was the first time there had been peace in Liberia in 25 years. He went to the school and saw the man, who had driven him all night 28 years earlier, Sam Yarkpah, standing by the school. When Bob left, the people said, “Do not forget us.” No agency had been to help them in 31 years. In 2011, Bob and his friend, Dr. John Potts, got a medical team together and they went to Liberia. They have gone eight times in the last 10 years, the last one ending on March 18, 2020 right before COVID-19 shut everything down. They got the second last flight out of Liberia and were able to make it home.
Currently, Anne is still working as a public health Dietitian in Richmond, B.C. David lives with them, having completed his grade 12 equivalency by age 20, and a two-year job skills training course for adults. He has had steady part-time job which he enjoys, and is on disability.
As for Bob, though he has officially retired this year on August 31, he said, “I never truly will be done; you never retire from serving in the Kingdom of God.”
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m just going to become the most obnoxious volunteer they have ever had and act like I know it all when I don’t,” Bob laughed.
He said one of the greatest pieces of advice he can give is to be open to learning from the people you least expect to teach you.
“When you show them you are willing to learn from them, they become willing to learn from you,” Bob said. “The act of putting yourself in other people’s worlds gives them the willingness to listen to the truth of Jesus.” If they ask, why are you here?” You just say, “Jesus sent me.”
Note to all pastoral ministry leaders
Those in pastoral leadership know that restful rhythms don’t just happen—space must be created for rest and renewal. It has been a privilege to provide such a space to our pastors and spouses for the past 44 years in one of the most picturesque locales in the world!
Due to the exceptional and unforeseen global pandemic crisis, and out of care for the well-being and health of our CBWC family, we are unable to hold a viable Pastors and Spouses Conference in November 2020. In a year where so much has been cancelled and people have been “distanced” from one another, Banff would have been a wonderful place to, once again, connect face to face. While we cannot enjoy all that Banff has to offer this year, see https://cbwc.ca/bpc/ for three pieces of good news moving forward including a chance for those in pastoral leadership to stay at Banff Springs! The last day to book rooms at a discount is October 19, 2020.
We look forward to gathering again in 2021 for a chance to rest, connect, and grow in our relationship with God, self and others.
Other resources: We are working on other regionally based options and creative ways to nurture, encourage and support you through Fall 2020. Watch for details via the Events page in the coming weeks and months!
Welcome to the Team!
The CBWC is excited to welcome Joyce Rebman, as the new administrator for the Mountain Standard Region. Joyce and her husband, Gord, have two grown, married children—one living in Vernon, BC and the other in Edmonton, AB. Her family has a generational connection to a church camp at Lac St. Anne, which is where Joyce and Gord have a privileged spot in the summer to view the lake, when time allows. Joyce worked as a preschool administrator for a number of years and also has volunteered in many different church ministries. She enjoys being active within her home church, teaching in children’s Christian education, being involved with women’s ministries, and is willing to lend a hand wherever needed. She loves being outdoors, walking, reading and spending time with friends and family. Welcome, Joyce!
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Making Connections is the monthly newsletter of the CBWC.