I have written over 180 of these newsletters since July of 2005. The best one that ever leaped off these pages was an invitational series of columns, and in particular, the one Jan Paasuke wrote of her memories of her church. She took us on an imaginary journey, sitting in her church on a Sunday morning looking around at all those people, stories and the active presence of God that had taken place there. It was a wonderful piece and spoke volumes of Jan’s commitment to her Lord and her church family.
Jan become the President of the CBWC at our April Assembly, a post she held previously in 1993-1994. She is my new boss, as staff are responsible to our assembled churches through the Board that Jan chairs. Jan is married to Rein, who was also a CBWC President in 1989-1990. They have 3 children and live in Calgary attending Westview Baptist Church. Thanks so much for your time, prayer and service that you will share with us in these next 2 years Jan.
I sit alone in the pew, remembering all of the people I have sat beside in the long years leading up to this day, and I am amazed. There have been so many and their stories have all been so different. Some have become my close friends, some were people with whom I shared ministry tasks, some were people with whom I walked on a special journey but most remain memories of passing acquaintance and maybe only a few words of encouragement, a smile or some small gesture of connection.
There is _____, a street person from Vancouver who came to my city to die of a brain tumor. She shared her struggle to rise above her alcoholism, to be a person who loved Jesus but just couldn’t seem to rise above her past. We walked together along her final journey and she did not die alone.
There is _____, a young pregnant mom, bleeding and scared she is about to lose her baby. I arrange for babysitting and we hurry to the hospital for help. A few months later we hurry to the hospital again for the safe delivery of her son. She did not cry, wait or celebrate alone.
There are the _____, a Nicaraguan refugee family, newly arrived in Canada. As they struggle to adjust to everything new, they join my family for their first Christmas dinner in their new home and the food is all strange and our ability to talk together difficult but the friendship started then has lasted for twenty years. They did not struggle alone.
There is ____, a mentally handicapped middle aged man, crying, feeling lonely who wanted to share the joys and pains of his week with someone who would care. He needed a hug, a listening ear, a ride home after church, an invitation to lunch and the chance to read the Bible lesson for the Sunday School class. He did not ride, read or eat alone.
There is _____, a young woman wanting to grow in her faith. We shipped her to Belgium to a Canadian Baptist Ministries ministry team in a church plant in Liege. We prayed for her, financially supported her, visited her and she became a woman of God, grounded in her faith who had the opportunity to practice her leadership skills which she uses today to teach young kids about Jesus and the ABC’s of life. She did not grow alone.
There are hundreds of stories that I alone can tell and they have all been made possible as I have connected with people in several of our CBWC churches. As a denomination, I have seen the development and encouragement of many different types of ministries within our churches. Almost all do not look the same as they did forty years ago and some have disappeared altogether. Yet, in many ways the underlying reason for their existence, their change, their death has remained the same. The people of our churches want to be involved in relevant ministry and the denomination has wanted to continuously find ways to facilitate that desire. We celebrate today the fantastic institutions that our camps, our Canadian Baptist Ministries, our Carey Centre and most of our churches have become. We celebrate the significant leadership skills of our people and we stand at the threshold of an even brighter future. However, what I think we celebrate most effectively continues to be the encouragement of ministries that are the result of two or three people getting together under the direction of the Holy Spirit to discover where the Lord is working in their midst and their willingness to step out in faith and make things happen for God. It is following in the footsteps of Jesus, going where only people matter. It is to introduce people to Jesus so that they are never alone. Where will it continue? It will continue where it started – with you and me, IN THE PEW.
Written by: Jan Paasuke, CBWC Board President
Isn’t that an amazing story.
I am personally delighted at Jan’s decision to take on this new post.