Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Have you heard of the BCOQ?

Sorry for the long delay in writing. I hope it doesn't become a pattern.

So, who can tell me what BCOQ stands for? . . . waiting . . . waiting. Okay, if you are from our pre-Emo days most likely you won't know. Those here will know, because it has to do with our church. BCOQ stands for Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec. I am currently blogging from Jackson's Point Retreat Center near Toronto where I am attending a New Pastor's Orientation for the BCOQ. I left on Sunday, and as one person said "so you are going to go become a Baptist now, eh?" Well, since we became members a few months back already, and had my Induction/Commissioning service a few weeks ago already, I guess I am already "technically" a Baptist, but there is lots to learn.

Surprisingly, I am enjoying learning about BCOQ life, history, and meeting the leaders of the Convention (it is NOT a denomination - I have been informed that Baptists are very, very proud of the fact that each church is autonomous!). I have had to homework for this event, and in the process I learned that the BCOQ formed in 1888, that McMaster Divinity School (our Baptist Seminary) is named after William McMaster who was a wealthy Toronto entrepreneur in the later part of the 18th century and a Canadian Senator, that every Sunday people in BCOQ worship in over 20 languages, that the statement of faith borrows heavily from the Mennonite Brethren Church and that the largest church in our denomination is Chinese. The 29 of us who are here this week are from all walks of life, and God has been glorifying himself in many ways as we have learned and talked together.

As a pastor, there are times when I can think that I have heavy burdens to carry. God used two conversations I have had in the last week to remind me how good I have it, even as I have to prepare sermons, meet people, do homework, and take care of the family. First, I was talking with a friend and he shared how his business is at its worst point in 8 years. It is a large operation, with employees to be cared for (who he had to lay off) and bills to pay (which he can't, because he can't move any product currently). We prayed for him, and I realize that my (in my mind anyways) big struggles aren't nearly providing me with the pressure that he has to deal with.

The second conversation happened yesterday with a fellow minister here. He is from Haiti, and had to leave the country a few years ago because he was almost killed. Travelling home one day on his motorbike, three guys pulled a rope over the road and knocked him off his bike. They got him down on the ground, hands behind his back, and put a gun to his head saying they would kill him. They asked if he had money, and took that, his briefcase, motorbike, etc. They were going to kill him but "just then" someone walked by and, though he was by himself, made it sound like he had a big group with him by shouting "Here he is, over there." The attackers got scared, took all the stuff, but let him live.

This man has a wife and six kids, and he knows God spared his life. He said "I have a new life verse now, it is Psalm 102:18-20" As he read those verses, I was reminded of how good and gracious God has been to me, and how much I have to be thankful for.
Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord;
that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die.
My new friend was doomed to die physically, yet God intervened. All of us were once doomed to die spiritually and eternally, until God, in his mercy and grace, saved us from sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross. If you have experienced that miracle of salvation, may you, as I seek to do, record it, tell it, and shout it out to the next generation that the Lord has saved us.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Balance 101

Over the past few weeks we have continued to pray for wisdom on how to balance out life. There are lots of people to get to know in church, lots of places we could serve, friends and family who want to visit, and kids who need our attention, love, and time. I am still adjusting to preaching every week, and while I enjoy the opportunity to study God's word, I need much wisdom to know how much time to spend reading the Word, and how much time to spend getting out there and sharing the Word with others.

We do thank God for the blessings of a gracious church, and the support and love from our families back in Winnipeg. Easter weekend was a highlight, as I had the chance to study and preach on the question "Why do we need the resurrection?," and Lois's Mom, her aunt, her sister Elaine, and her boarder from Germany came to visit. We also accepted an invitation to have an Easter Feast at a hunting lodge owned by some good friends at church. It was a memorable time as our extended family of 9 joined their extended family of 12 for a great meal and a walk in the beautiful outdoors.

Stephen and Lois made Paska for the family the week prior to Easter, and we used some of this yummy Easter bread as little "we are your new neighbours" gifts to the people on the street. If you are ever looking for a non-threatening way to meet people, just bring food to their door! One couple on the street even returned the favor, and gave us some lake trout fillets before we left. Amazing - you seek to bless others, and get blessed in return!

After church on Good Friday, we headed to the bush just by the school to hide the kids Easter eggs. As Lois and I think back about our prayers for a home, we realize that we had prayed that we would either have a large yard, or be near a park or school. Well, the school yard is half a block away, and it even has a creek and a bush for the kids to play in. God truly is gracious.

Easter Sunday also happened to be Caleb's 9th Birthday (so this year we have Christmas, Easter, and St Patrick's Day covered!), and we celebrated it on Saturday by doing what we have thought of doing almost every morning since arriving - buy fresh baked donuts from Cloverleaf Grocery! We go for walks with Kelly behind the story in the mornings, and the smell is very tempting. Since all the rest of kids celebrated their birthdays on our trip and couldn't have a friends party, we decided to be consistent and just keep the party for us as a family, though we did do Pizza Hut in Fort Francis on Sunday with Grandma and Auntie Elaine.

Caleb's collection of Star Wars LEGO continues to grow, and we were able to finally get him a "big" set this year, because we had the means, and more importantly the space to display it. It is encouraging to see Caleb grow up: he is responsible with his dog, willing to do the chores that are needed, spends time each night on his own reading a chapter of the Bible, has accepted the job of folding bulletins for church, and prays with a deeper understanding of God's Word and his working in people's lives. He also still loves goofing off and is a huge fan of watching Christian Comedy.

This past weekend my brother and his family were over, and got introduced to our small town life. They enjoyed the quiet (minus the train of course), and were blessed by the people in church. Ellen joined Lois at the Ladies bowling night, and was educated on the fact that going bowling means driving 20 minutes to the Fort for 5-pin, and going over the border to International Falls for 10 pin (the closest movie theater is in the Falls as well). They were really happy for us that our new house has more space than our last house, and agreed with us that if God takes his time in finding us a place in the country that is okay, because we are very comfortable where we are.

We also had some brother bonding and cousin bonding over two important activities: playing Wii (which we borrowed from some friends in church) and shooting pellet guns! We have purchased two guns for our family, and drive about 5 miles out of Emo to shoot them off at a friends place. There was some serious fun happening as pop cans and juice cartons were flying off our homemade target stand. Joseph is an especially good shot, and might need to take the hunter safety course with me so we can feed the family come deer hunting season in the fall!

So, as you can see, we have been having fun, and ministering to others, with often the two activities going together. Ultimately, the best balance is to seek to live for Christ in everything we do, for then we can't fail: life will be purposeful, God will be glorified, and death with be something "far better," because we are entering into a fuller relationship with our Savior who loves us. I pray that our family, and those we minister to here in Emo will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, "To live is Christ, to die is gain."