Things Happening in September
- Theology for the Ordinary Book Club discussion is happening September 7th. Email email@example.com to RSVP.
- Banff Pastors Conference earlybird registration deadline is September 8th. To sign up click here!
- FREE Evangelism Masterclasses! CBWC has partnered with Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec and Salvation Army to share stories of everyday pastors and leaders engaging on mission in our complicated culture. The first installment, “Coffee and Culture” takes place Sept 20. More info and free sign up here.
- CBWC Board Members Meeting: Sept. 22-24
- CBM is hosting a national online service for Remembrance and Reflection for National Truth and Reconciliation Day – September 30. Sign up here!
Summer Camp Updates
It was a busy summer for our camps! Camp ministry is such an amazing outreach for kids and youth, and we were so excited that they were able to run at full capacity once more. Check out some of the awesome photos from all the fun and read a few of the highlights below.
Summer at the Quest has been full of fun, energy, and memories! We had 6 weeks of camping ministry to kids and youth ranging from ages 5-14, had a week of family camp, and hosted diabetes camp—which was run by the Diabetes Association of Canada—where we led skills and helped to serve them in whatever way we could. God has worked in wonderful ways throughout the summer, especially as this was the first summer since Covid that we could functionally run as camp used to. Our staff was mostly new, but they grew and served well as the summer went on. In spite of the variety of difficulties faced during camp like sickness, continually fixing equipment, and the tiredness the cabin leaders faced from service all summer, God has worked in amazing ways and kids have come to know Jesus as their Lord. We are thankful for all the amazing help and prayer we have received over the summer, and excited to see what the future brings for the Quest.
Gull Lake Centre:
Wow! At the time of writing this, summer isn’t even over yet, and I am already overjoyed and basking in God’s goodness for the amazing blessing that this season has been. We have bounced back after Covid and bounced back with fierce determination! The staff and LTDs (leadership students) arrived with their hearts set to learn and to create an amazing experience for campers and we have been doing that every single day. For the past 2 years, we have been carefully cultivating and supporting our young leaders, making sure to maintain connection and training, and that has paid off hugely. Our summer staff team led by Evangeline Hammond, our program manager, has been phenomenal. I have watched them arrive at leader’s meeting every single morning at 7:30 am with smiles on their face and a song in their heart. The staff go hard until 10 or 11pm each day as they love on these campers with kindness, gentleness, and care, creating a space that is 100% safe, relational, and fun. Everything that they do points to Jesus. It has been an absolute honour and joy serving with these young leaders. What a blessing it is to be here.
What a summer it’s been at Keats! As I write this, the sounds of music pumping from our Boardwalk, kids laughing during the game, and the staff cheering them on can be heard around the camp. Seatrades (our activity blocks) are going on with high ropes, climbing wall, tubing, blobbing, sailing and more. Camp is alive in a way it hasn’t been in a few years, and it brings so much joy. Staffing has been a major challenge for us this year, and some weeks we ran with just enough to get by—but each and every person who has come, whether it be for an afternoon, a week, or a full summer, has given everything they have and for that we are grateful. God has been faithful each day, and as we enter our last week of camp, we are celebrating another season with over 1200 campers, 60 LEAD students, more than 70 staff and volunteers and a huge community of support. Thanks to each of you for your continued prayers and support.
Mill Creek Camp:
What an amazing and refreshing summer! It felt so good to do camp, fully and unencumbered by Covid restrictions. We had a younger staff team than typical years, which gave us a chance to build up an amazing group of teens we hope will come back and serve as camp leaders for years to come. Our campers had a blast singing, swimming, crafting, dressing up, and learning. This year we had The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as our theme, which was such a rich well to draw themes from, such as lying, repentance, forgiveness, and salvation. One of my personal favourite moments was leading worship, and hearing a room full of kids shouting out, “I’m not cool but that’s okay, my God loves me anyway!” at the top of their lungs. It might not be deep, but being cool and accepted by their peers means a lot at that age. I got chills! We had one camper come back, not once or twice, but three times as a junior leader in our Trek program. She is from a non-religious home, so it meant a lot that she was connecting in some way to something this summer at camp. We had an amazing summer, and I’m looking forward to what it means for the future at Mill Creek Camp.
Partner Spotlight: Hopehill
Funny How Time Slips Away
Can I be truthful with you? I’ve never liked August. I still don’t.
When I was 8 years old, August seemed like it was 8 years long. As a small boy, I would get bored with long days of nothing. I actually looked forward to going back to school. I used to complain and my mother would say, “You are bored. Go outside and run around.” And I would. But it didn’t help. August dragged on insufferably.
Today, I still don’t like August but for diametrically different reasons. I hate the fact that it races by. The shortening of the days, the cooling of the breezes, the finishing of the flowers, and the harvesting of the garden tell me that summer is almost over. I don’t like that. I want summer to stay. I like sitting outside ‘til past 9pm in the evening. I don’t want to turn on my headlights as I drive home at 8pm.
Then, we hit September and my mood lifts. It always has! As a child (and even as a parent of children), I enjoyed the return to regularity that September brings. School books and syllabi brought focus to the days. Whether it was by semester or by grade year, you could look ahead to a predictable course of events. There were fall events that were so much fun and so many school friends to enjoy the events together.
Today, I still love September. Where I live, the days are shorter, but they are usually sunny and warm. The nights are refreshingly cool. Depending on where you live, mosquitoes don’t usually show up much in September. Vacation spots are emptier than they were the month previous. Road traffic in the large cities has increased, but on the highways it has decreased. Very few motorhomes and trailers and camper vehicles are on the road. Sometimes, the leaves start turning giving a burst of colour to the horizons.
It’s funny how your perspective changes as time slips away.
Here is another perspective change as I have aged through life. When I was a child, I didn’t think about dying. I only thought about living. I had no desire to die. Why would I? Life is to be lived! The operative question to an 8-year-old is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Your parents were old. Your grandparents were really old.
Now, as an adult that is entering into that 4th quarter of life, and working with many residents on the last laps of their earthly journey, my perspective is different. Recently, an aging friend finished his earthly journey. Sickness had taken its toll and his body was succumbing to a life-shortening disease. Over the last few weeks, he was sleeping longer and longer. A few days before his death, I visited him. He was weak and sleepy. We chatted, but not long. As he began to snooze, he opened his eyes wide and whispered, “Good night. When I wake up, I’ll see you. If I wake up here, I’ll see you here. But if I wake up on the other side, I’ll be looking for you.” He never woke up in this world. He’s on the other side waiting for me and so many others to join him. Mitch Albom writes in The Five People You Meet In Heaven— “Dying is not the end of everything. We think it is. But what happens on earth is only the beginning.
I am okay with that.
Jamey McDonald, Chief Executive Officer, Hopehill—Living in Community. Hopehill is an affordable housing society for seniors in Vancouver, BC. It has been a partner with the CBWC since it’s inception in 1951. Today, 400 folks call it “home.” Because of the demand for housing, especially affordable housing for seniors, the Board of Hopehill has committed to building 2 new residences for independent living seniors (adding 120 new units of housing to the campus) in the next 5 years. If you have interest in living at Hopehill, contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Rev. Jamey S. McDonald
Chief Executive Officer
Spiritual Care Series Workshop
Hopehill, in collaboration with CHAT Canada, is pleased to offer a series of training workshops designed to help those working with aging adults. The goal is to help caregivers be better equipped to face the challenges of their service with special attention paid to the spirituality of aging. It is especially helpful for professional care givers, dedicated volunteers, and family members trusted with the wellbeing of an aging relative.
Workshops will be offered live in Vancouver or via Zoom to your community.
The dates for the sessions are October 1, 15 and 29. Cost for sessions + materials is $150 per person or $120 per person in cohorts of 5 or more.
For further details contact Mary Dickau, chaplain at Hopehill, at Mary@Hopehill.ca.
See below for details!
Spiritual Care Series Workshop
Spiritual Care Series is an eight-part course designed to equip health professionals and volunteers with the skills necessary to help older people discover pathways to meaningful ageing.
Built upon the realization that while physical and mental health are essential to a person’s well-being, it is not enough. True, holistic care means understanding and supplying their spiritual needs as well.
Spiritual Care Series provides participants with everything from a realistic understanding of the ageing process, to practical techniques for re-connecting people with their pasts, and coping with the losses that come with the ageing journey.
*All participants will be provided a participant’s guide in digital format unless a physical one is requested (additional cost applies). Further instructions for purchasing your physical workbook will be provided after you have registered for the event.
How to Get the Most Out of BPC
The deadline for early bird registration is just around the bend for the 2022 Banff Pastor and Spouses Conference! Haven’t gone before and wondering how to get the most out of your time? We asked several pastors who attended in the past to share their experiences and top advice!
What have you loved most about attending Banff Pastor’s Conference?
Mostly, I love getting away with my wife to such a beautiful place! But we both love connecting with other pastors, being poured into, and the generous schedule to relax. — Pastor Randy Hamm, First Baptist Vernon
The setting is what I love most about Banff. Not just the breathtaking scenery or awe-inspiring architecture, it’s also the pace of the conference that allows for exploration or relaxation. — Pastor David Ohori, Kaleden Community Church
My favourite part about Banff is the freedom to choose what you want to participate in, along with the quality of what is available. Sometimes we just need to do our own thing for the day, while at other times we dive into as many of the meetings, workshops and activities as we can. —Pastor Jim Galbraith, First Baptist Church Prince Albert
Why do you think other Pastors and spouses should attend?
The rhythm and rigour of ministry is such that we are constantly giving and meeting demands made on our time and person, which consequently makes us susceptible to burnout, stress, and often a misplaced life and work balance. Going to the pastor’s conference offers an opportunity to reset, reconnect, and rediscover the passion and calling of ministry, and enjoy the company and encouragement of colleagues who understand the unique challenges of ministry. It’s always better to come with your spouse if you can, as the setting offers a very unique opportunity for spouses to reconnect and share in fellowship and friendship with other pastors and their spouses. Even when you have to pay out of pocket for your spouse to come, I have always found it to be worth it. — Pastor Tim Coleman, Westhill Park Baptist Church
I believe that having the opportunity to connect with other CBWC pastors and executive staff is an invaluable way to keep abreast of what is happening in the wider denomination, and to know that one is not alone in the ministry joys and challenges that one experiences. — Pastor Ryan Emmons, Argyle Road Baptist Church
What advice would you give to those attending to help them get the most out of their time there?
It can be hard to find the balance between connecting as a couple and connecting with others. So, take note of your energy levels, personal needs and do what you both need.
Insider scoops – Don’t need the crowd? Connect with one or two others or focus on each other. Need to relax? Enjoy the pool or the spa (the massage therapists at the Spa are RMTs, so some can be covered by benefits). Need to connect with others? Let your Regional Minister know and let them help you.
You’ve poured out so much, come and receive. — Pastor Randy Hamm, First Baptist Vernon
Try not to rush. Plan well, but be flexible. And even though you may want to keep to yourself, engage with other pastors and spouses because you will be glad you did. — Pastor David Ohori, Kaleden Community Church
Take time to explore the hotel and grounds, and take some more time to explore the surroundings. There are nature walks literally outside the front door of the hotel. — Pastor Jim Galbraith, First Baptist Church Prince Albert
One piece of advice I would give is to be honest with what you need. Do you need to rest? Do that. Do you need to worship and listen without being in charge? Then do that. Don’t feel pressured to have to attend every session or workshop at the expense of returning to your ministry context just as tired and worn as when you arrived at the conference. — Pastor Ryan Emmons, Argyle Road Baptist Church
First of all, if you can afford it, plan on coming early or even spend an extra couple of days so that you don’t feel rushed. Then, ask yourself, what do I need in this season of ministry? Sometimes, we come exhausted and just need to be refreshed, so you may find that hikes or extra sleep, or hanging out in the hot tub may be what your soul needs. Sometimes we come in need of encouragement or renewal, and in that case, you may find that the times of worship and fellowship with other pastors may be what you need. More often than not, we will need a balanced schedule between rest, adventure, fellowship, among other things. I would encourage you to plan ahead to experience something new every time that you go, like a new hiking trail or restaurant, etc. — Pastor Tim Coleman, Westhill Park Baptist Church
Confessions of a Caregiver
Written by Jenna Hanger
John Murray, 83, started writing in his early twenties, contributing articles to various Christian magazines, but it wasn’t until he retired in 2006 at the age of 67 that he finally pursued his dream of publishing a book. Sixteen years later, he has five books to his name.
His first was published in 2006 and mainly focused on the many amazing stories from his extensive travel during his twenty years as Executive Director for a mission called Eurovangelism Canada.
He travelled many times through Russia, down the former East Bloc countries, all the way to Albania with the aim of practically supporting the churches.
Three books quickly followed, Real Faith- What’s at the Heart of the Gospel, Discover Your Hidden Self- Opening the Door to who You Really Are! and Body Parts and the Invisible You.
It’s his newest book, however, that was the hardest to write because it is, by far, the most personal. In 2020, John published a book called It’s All About Love- Confessions of a Caregiver, which intimately details his wife Rita’s life with Parkinson’s disease and John’s role as her caregiver.
John and Rita, both originally from England, met in their teens. Rita joined a youth choir for which John was the conductor. He was 18 and she was 14 at the time. At first, she was not too impressed with what she saw. A year later, she changed her mind, and they started going out. Four years later, they were married.
This year, John and Rita celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Throughout the years, they had been through a lot together. From moving from England to Canada, raising children (one who needed heart surgery at just 13 weeks old), breast cancer, colon cancer, and a mower accident that severed half of John’s thumb. Their current situation, however, has been the most challenging thing they have experienced yet.
Fourteen years ago, at 65 years old, Rita was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. At that time, her symptoms were fairly mild. Over the course of the years, the disease has progressively worsened and eight years ago John became her full-time caregiver.
“It’s got to the point where she cannot do anything herself. She has no balance, cannot walk, and cannot stand. I lift her about 25-30 times a day,” John shared.
“It’s very hard to share with the world the actual struggle that goes on inside. I’m honest enough to say that there are times that I hit the wall with exhaustion,” John said, adding that God gives him daily strength to do what he does.
John had no intention of writing a book about their personal journey, but many people encouraged him to share their story, and it has proven to be a powerful testimony and a great encouragement to many. For other caregivers, it has been a source of comfort to know they aren’t alone. To others, it has been an eye-opener about what caregiving actually entails.
John wrote about the book: All I want to do here is to relate how life is and how it has been for us. I plan to share the things that have occurred and affected us on our journey with Parkinson’s disease. All illnesses are different, which create different scenarios. Caregiving is not an easy road to travel. In fact, it can be quite difficult at times and often uphill. It is a permanent learning experience. However, certain principles remain the same and interpersonal relationships are similar in these different scenarios. Those who are caregiving will see themselves reflected in our situation and will identify with some of the issues we have faced.
Throughout writing it, John was very conscious of getting Rita’s opinion on everything.
“In writing the book, I was concerned about maintaining Rita’s dignity and privacy. So, I read the manuscript to her as I went along. When it was finished, we went over the manuscript and made sure she was quite happy with it being published. She agreed, for the benefit of others, that we go ahead [and publish],” John said.
John also made it very clear throughout his book what a privilege it is to care for his wife and be able to show her love in this way. The book explores many areas of their life—such as how their new reality is a big change for the both of them. Rita has had to accept she cannot do the things she once did, such as cooking, laundry, walking and reading. As things have progressed, she has become dependent for everything. Dressing, washing and eating are now activities that take great effort and support. John has had to learn new household skills and also how to care for someone who completely depends on him.
Today, John still does a bit of writing, usually short thoughtful, blog type posts he shares on his website and Facebook page. The possibility of another book is in the back of his mind, but as of now Rita is his sole priority.
John shared that he and Rita had discussed the big “why” question relating to Rita’s illness, especially as she was miraculously healed of breast cancer in 1986. However, they concluded that they should simply lean on the Lord and trust Him for the future.
John stated, “It is a challenge for both of us, but Rita has never asked ‘Why me?’ The most negative comment she has ever said was ‘Why is life so difficult?’ We resigned ourselves to the fact that God is sovereign. We know He understands and is in control from the beginning to the end. And now, when we hear of the many people who have reported being helped by reading the book, we can see God’s hand in using Rita’s illness for the encouragement and blessing of many others.”
To learn more about John, or to purchase a copy of his book, check out his website: https://jmurray.ca
Thoughts on the Pope’s Penitential Pilgrimage
By Jodi Spargur on behalf of The Justice and Mercy Network
“Was the Pope’s visit a success?” This question has been on the lips of many with whom I have spoken over the last couple of weeks. At the end of the Pope’s visit, a CBC interviewer asked the same question of an Indigenous leader (whose name I missed as I tuned in). His response, “I don’t think we can know the answer to that for a long time yet.” The implication being, we can only measure words by corresponding actions in matters like this.
It is important to note that people most impacted by the Pope’s visit had a wide range of responses, each one legitimate.
Here, I would like to reflect on how the Pope’s visit might be instructive to those of us who have also committed ourselves to a journey of healing and justice in the way of Jesus.
1. Healing and humility:
True confessions, throughout the Pope’s visit—as reference has been made to his penitential pilgrimage—I have had a scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade running through my head. I hear Harrison Ford’s voice puzzling over the phrase, “Only the penitent man shall pass.” At the last moment, Indiana Jones realizes that the penitent man is “humble and kneels before God.” This realization gets him through the first booby trap protecting the Holy Grail, which Jones pursues in the hope that it could bring healing to his dying father. I could preach a whole sermon on the parallels between the Pope’s visit and this movie scene. However, suffice it to say that Indiana Jones survives this challenge because he bends low enough to escape the blade that has destroyed those who came before him.
In my own life, healing has often only come as deep as my repentance. When I have been shallow and self-protective in my repentance, the healing I have received has been equally shallow. Many had hoped for a deeper repentance to come from the Pope’s visit; for fuller responsibility to be taken, for greater humility to be demonstrated as signs that there might be deeper healing possible.
What path of deeper humility and deeper repentance might we embark upon?
2. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8)
Repentance without action is meaningless. Much has been said about this already, but it is perhaps the greatest miss. There are specific things the Pope was asked to do by the contingent who went to Rome this spring; repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, make good on the payments required of the Catholic Church through the court decision on residential schools, repatriate Indigenous ceremonial objects from the Vatican. None of these were articulated by the Pope. There may still be action that could be taken, but one wonders why those commitments were not articulated.
Before we cast stones without considering our own actions or inactions, we are reminded that there are many Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action that have still not been realized. Last year after the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation event, some asked what the CBWC had done about the Doctrine of Discovery, a document much discussed during the Pope’s visit. Is now the time for us to pursue this?
How might followers of Jesus in the CBWC produce fruit in keeping with repentance? How might our commitments to honouring the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation bear fruit in keeping with repentance and not simply be a bunch of words we assent to with our lips but not our actions?
3. How will we respond to extravagant gifts extended?
No doubt you have heard opinions and speculations on Wilton Littlechild’s gift of a headdress to the Pope. I want to suggest that this is not a matter for non-Indigenous folks to worry ourselves with. I want to look at the giving of that gift and many others from a different perspective. I want to invite us to put ourselves in the shoes of the Pope.
At every stop, Indigenous People gave extravagant gifts and extended generous welcome to the person who represents deep hurt, betrayal and even genocidal acts. Yet he was received with welcome and was honoured with precious gifts—gifts he did not seem to recognize the significance of. Still, the gifts were given.
Indigenous Peoples throughout this land, elders and residential school survivors especially, continue to demonstrate a grace and an invitation to relationship to settlers even as we fail to properly honour that gift.
During the Pope’s visit, I saw Jesus and the message of the gospel enacted over and over again. It wasn’t from the officials of the church; it was from Indigenous members of Christ’s Body. May we have ears to hear and eyes to see.
Implementing New Faith Communities in Rural Canada: Hubert’s Story
This article is part of a series. Read the introduction “Same but Different: Implementing New Faith Communities in Rural Canada” here.
Hubert Barton attends Grandview Church in Vancouver, BC, and has been serving as the coordinator for the Indigenous Studies Program at the Vancouver School of Theology, after graduating from the program himself in 2019. We had the opportunity to connect with Hubert, hear his story and get his perspective on rural church planting in western Canada. You won’t be able to miss his pastoral heart and huge love for Jesus and for his community in this interview!
It’s great to meet you, Hubert. Tell us a bit about where you came from.
I’m from the North Coast of British Columbia, from a community called Ging̱olx, BC, right at the mouth of the Nass River. There are four communities that make up the Nisga’a nation. The furthest inland is Gitlaxt’aamiks, with 2000 people in that community. If you drive about 15 minutes down the highway, you get to the smallest community, called Gitwinksihlkw: roughly 150 to 200 people. Drive a little bit more towards the coast. You will travel along a lava bed, you will travel along the river and through the mountains, past hot springs and waterfalls and you get the community called Laxgalts’ap. It’s similar in size to my community: roughly 250 or 300 people.
Drive another 30 minutes to the end of the road, and you’ll get to Ging̱olx, where the river meets the coast. We’re surrounded by mountains and wildlife; still very, very untouched by the outside world. We have a few mom-and-pop type corner stores, but up until a few years ago, we didn’t have cell service or paved roads.
It’s so peaceful. It’s absolutely beautiful and very pristine. That’s probably my favorite thing about it. If you stop and listen you could hear two rivers flowing by. You can hear the birds, the eagles in the air.
And what was life like for you growing up?
I’m the youngest of four brothers and one sister. They’re all really close together in age, and there’s a seven-year gap. And then there’s me. I just remember being surrounded by family, all the time.
When I was 13, I had two options because there was no high school in my community: I could either move to Prince Rupert or to Gitlaxt’aamiks. I chose initially to go to Prince Rupert because that’s where a lot of my brothers had gone, but I only lasted for a couple months because I just couldn’t stand being away from my community, staying at some strangers’ place. It was pretty tough. So I ended up doing high school at Gitlaxt’aamiks.
At that school I stayed in a student residence with all the other students from the Valley. So even moving away for high school, I was surrounded by my people.
I’ve actually been really homesick lately. That’s the thing about being an urban indigenous person. Growing up in Gingolx and in my culture, I was always surrounded by family. Living in Vancouver, that’s not the case anymore. I appreciate the opportunities of city life, but I really miss home—even something as simple as meals. These days I usually eat alone. I’m used to eating with my whole family, or my 17 closest friends at high school! Totally different.
Share a bit of your own faith journey?
I grew up in a Christian family. My parents are Christian. My grandparents were Christian, so I was the kid playing in the pews. I grew up in that environment, but it didn’t actually become real until 2010. That’s the year that I lost my mother. We were finally approaching that point in our relationship where we could become friends. We were getting close. But she just left, and my world kind of fell apart at that point.
I remember very clearly: I was sleeping downstairs in my bedroom and my dad came running downstairs. He said, “Son, come upstairs. Your mom’s not doing well.”
She was in a lot of pain and she couldn’t say a single word. We rushed her to the hospital in Terrace, which is about a two-hour drive. She was only in the emergency room for about 15 minutes, and I was rubbing her back and trying to comfort her. In true mother fashion, she was more worried about us than anything. She was telling us to get food and check into a hotel. And then, just like that, she took her last breath while I was literally rubbing her back.
My world fell apart. In the weeks and months that followed, my family would have family dinners to encourage each other, to bring a laugh and lift each other up. It worked for a while—sitting in my living room being surrounded by 30 or 40 brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins and friends of the family. But two or three months into this, I remember being surrounded by my loved ones, but feeling really, incredibly alone.
It was during one of these dinners that I felt something inside me kind of stir up. And it told me to get up and move. So I grabbed my sweater and I just walked out the door. I went for a walk and I had no idea where I was going. But I eventually found myself outside my home church, Gingolx Church Army.
I snuck up the stairs, opened the door as quietly as I could and peeked inside. I could see everybody inside peeking back at me. About a dozen of them, having a Bible study. But their faces lit up when they saw me and they immediately welcomed me in. They asked me if I wanted to have tea and to hang out with them. I remember stepping inside that church and feeling this Presence. I remember feeling this calm, this peace and this love that I didn’t quite fully understand at that moment. So, I kept going back for a couple of weeks after that to the regular church services.
A lot of my aunties and uncles, especially on my mom’s side, were part of the church, and I just remember learning from them about the love of God and Jesus. During one of these services, I recognized who that Presence was. That Presence that I could sense continued to go with me after that moment. And I remember just bawling my eyeballs out, just saying, “God, I can’t do this anymore. Here: You take complete control. Just take over because I can’t do this anymore.”
I poured out all my garbage, and in return I felt Jesus’ peace, and this love. From that moment, He kind of just put the pieces of my heart back together. Losing my mother was one of the biggest challenges in my life, but that’s also when everything became real for me—when my relationship with God, Christ, Holy Spirit came, one-on-one, and I realized what this was all about.
And that kind of started the path I’m on right now to be living in Vancouver.
So how did you end up in Vancouver?
One of my aunties invited me along to summer school here at the Vancouver School of Theology Indigenous Studies program. I happily said, “yes!” and I came down to audit some courses. I got to meet so many people from different cultures and backgrounds and different places across Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand. It was so encouraging to hear everyone’s stories, I kept coming back to audit courses and eventually was encouraged to work towards the Masters degree. Through a lot of hesitancy, I said yes.
I studied at a distance for the first few years, but in 2016 something stirred up inside me again. I needed to stretch and to grow. So in 2016 I left my home and moved down here to study through the VST Indigenous Studies Program full time. I graduated 2019 and I’m very blessed in the fact that I’m now coordinating the program that I graduated from.
Tell us more about your work?
The Teaching House that Moves Around is a smaller part of the Indigenous Studies Program. My favorite thing about it is it’s all Indigenous-led. Typically, Ray Aldred or myself will visit a community and will have a meal or coffee with either the community or the leaders. And we’ll see what they need and we’ll do our best to help them now. Then we go through the planning, we secure appropriate faculty members—qualified facilitators, and we do our best to keep it Indigenous.
We do our best to help strengthen their strengths versus trying to build something new. We do our best to help them with what they’re good at already so that they can do it better and help people more. The two most popular courses that we offer are “Ministry in the Midst of Trauma” and “Indigenous Christology.”
One of the biggest things for Indigenous communities is trying to wrestle with your Christian identity and your Indigenous identity. But also there’s a lot of trauma in communities and it’s not uncommon to experience so much loss and death in a short period of time. And that tends to compound on each other. And so that’s probably the most popular one: “Ministry in the Midst of Trauma.” Especially with the recent discoveries in Kamloops and other places of the unmarked graves at Residential School sites. There has been a lot of grief in our communities and so training on trauma has become even more important. Grief is hard to process—especially to do it in a good, healthy way, to know that it is okay to feel like that. So we aim to help equip people with these types of tools and skills that they can help themselves and use to help others.
Each course goes anywhere from three days to five days at the most. In the morning there are teachings and then in the afternoon, we try to do the fun activity or a land-based activity. This structure helps balance the intellectual side and the grounded and connected, relational side.
Sometime later we’ll do a follow up and just go for coffee, have a meal and check in to see how everyone’s doing.
We have done them as far as Ontario, Alberta, we’ve even done them in Hawaii.
Is there a place for Settlers to be the ones bringing the Gospel into Indigenous communities, especially in light of Canada’s history?
Most Indigenous peoples really love the Gospel. They love Jesus, but when it comes to the institution of the church, that’s when it gets quite challenging.
It would depend on the community honestly. I can’t foresee it being an overall positive thing—unless you go with the Anglican approach back home, where it’s a very long vision: kind of just show that here you want to be a part of the community and you genuinely care for the people.
Yes—tell us about the history of Christianity in the area you grew up?
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out so well with the first missionaries to arrive in in our area. They came to our communities and basically were very, I guess, stereotypical when it comes to the history. They looked at us as evil or devil worshippers. They made us scrap all of our traditions. They did their best to make us get rid of all of our traditional ways of knowing and being. It went so far as, in the community of Laxgalts’ap, they made them gather all their regalia, traditional drums and totems and they put them in the center of the community and they burned them. They just made a big bonfire of everything we were as Indigenous peoples.
And then they ditched us. They left.
However, after that the Anglicans arrived, and they did things very differently. They didn’t try to change us completely. Yes, they shared with us the Gospel and shared with us the love of God, but they also lived with us. And what I mean by that is right beside my house growing up was a big Christ Church that was built in early 1900s. Right in front of it was a place called the Mission House, and that’s where they stayed. And so they literally came to live with us. They stayed with us. They learned our culture, they went as far as to learn our language.
They journeyed alongside us. They became so close to us that the Bishop of our diocese was adopted into the Wolf clan. He was so welcome and loved, they gave him a Nisg̱a’a name, loosely translated in English as “Wolf Shepherd,” because he came in and just cared for the people.
I remember church services being packed out as a kid. We had two churches in my community. One is Christ Church, which is the typical Anglican church. Services are very liturgy-filled and the space is very sacred. But then afterward they would make us breakfast and we’d all eat together. Even something as simple as boiled egg, toast and jam, and coffee. This is truly why I believe that Anglicanism is strong as it is in my area when it comes to denominations.
We got excited about the stories, and can easily get with Jesus’ ways of knowing and being. We wanted an opportunity to celebrate. So, in the afternoons we’d gather at the second church: Church Army. That was more expressive, more Anglican-Evangelical, with guitars, drums and bass guitars.
People would be standing, singing, clapping, raising their hands and praying. And to be honest I think we kind of drove the regular Anglican church nuts at times because we would take the Gospel and make it our own. We started preaching ourselves and we started reading and learning ourselves, and we started sharing testimonies. It was our way of living out the good news they had brought.
But in terms of bringing the Gospel, they did it in a really good way in the sense that they actually came and journeyed alongside us. They lived, celebrated, cried with us. They genuinely care about us and basically lived the Gospel to us. In essence, they embodied God’s love when they came versus trying to completely change us.
What advice would you give for those considering rural church planting?
Your question reminds me of when I did chaplaincy training in the Downtown Eastside. And I remember arriving there for my first day, and I just reminded myself over and over and over and over again: “God, I know you are already here, so I’m not gonna be bringing You anywhere. You already exist everywhere and in all things. You created all things, you are already here. So just give me the eyes to see You. Just help me to stay grounded in love through the process.”
One of the questions I would get asked about the most is “Why? Why are you a Christian? Why did you go to VST?”
I would tell them, for me personally, it’s never been about a denomination. It’s never been about a building or worship space or about a Bishop, priest or anything like that. It’s about when my story of brokenness collided with the gospel and the story of Jesus. He got broken. And beautiful love was displayed in that moment.
One piece of advice that I tend to give the most is don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I notice a lot of people, especially non-Indigenous people, often get afraid to take a chance because they’re afraid they’re going to do something wrong. They might offend someone, so they end up being paralyzed in that fear, and they don’t do nothing at all, right? But mistakes are kind of expected from us, you know, Creator expects some mistakes from us. There is forgiveness. Do it in a good way, from a genuine place, and especially grounded in love.
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