My office looks out on a small creek that today is covered in a blanket of white. On the banks, hoarfrost grips the tree limbs and snowflakes gently fall. Peaceful. Believe it or not, I do see beauty in a Manitoba winter – a LONG Manitoba winter!
At this time of year, like a child waiting for Christmas, I look forward to Spring. The time when snow melts, seasons change, the trees bud, fresh smell of black soil and green grass pokes through that blanket of white… Oh and the rumble of a motorcycle that needs to be unleashed! Seasons change, and seasons brings renewal and growth.
Last Spring our 6 year-old foster daughter got more involved in gardening. Having spent her first 4 years in the city, country life was new to her. She took note of the tilling of the garden, the preparation for planting seeds and then the waiting. Within days after some sunshine, rain, some watering by us, we would see plants begin to sprout out of the ground. Together, we would look with wonder as those seeds popped through the soil. We helped her make sure the seed had room to grow, pulling the weeds to make sure they didn’t choke the plants and slow their growth. In time the plants would grow big and strong and produce fruit. To see this miracle through her eyes was very rewarding. Prepare the soil, plant the seed, wait in wonder, tend to it to ensure it is well rooted, unencumbered, and then harvest the fruit.
For us as the EMMC, we enter 2020 with a theme of “ROOTS TO FRUIT”; being intentional about tending to the roots in our ministries to see the expectant fruit we desire. Often we focus on and admire the fruit with little recognition of the time and effort needed to get there.
In this Recorder, there are stories about Treasured Foundation 2019. Jennifer and I were able to be there and see and hear firsthand the “fruit” of that event. TF started 30 years ago with a purpose to “motive the youth to develop the qualities of Christian life by equipping them with tools enabling them to live a life dedicated to Christ”.
TF 2019 was the first time the event had been UPROOTED from its location in Minneapolis and TRANSPLANTED to Steinbach, Manitoba. The soil had been tilled for years previous; the change in location was risky. But the vision was to provide an event that would nurture the root of our mission, to MAKE DISICPLES…Followers of Christ. The theme for TF 2019 was “Embrace the Mission”. Professor Gord Penner from Steinbach Bible College challenged us with “Who do you follow? How do we live? What do we say? Where do we go?” using:
1 Peter 3:13-17 (NIV)
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[a]; do not be frightened.”[b] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Our next leaders are in these youth and we need to invest in them. In February 2020 Peter Serger will add to his work assignment the title of Director of Youth Ministries. He will be providing resource and support to youth leaders and youth pastors throughout our family of churches. He will be looking to create a Youth Ministries Council with youth leaders and pastors. Leaders, who are interested in nurturing the growing faith of our young people … people who will be our next missionaries, pastors and church planters.
The EMMC has a long history of men and women who have gone before us, preparing the soil, planting seeds, nurturing our roots to see fruit produced in those ministries. Local churches are at the heart of this. From our very first EMMC missionaries, to the pioneers of our churches planted across Canada, Belize, Mexico and Bolivia to the tireless work of Abe Giesbrecht our last Mission Director and Allen Kehler our Conference Pastor. We are all beneficiaries; fruit of their efforts, those ministries and the mission to make disciples. But resting on the fruit and neglecting the tending of our roots will diminish the harvest.
At a recent staff meeting Conference Pastor Al Kehler threw us a beautiful nugget of a quote
“There is no mission without discipleship”.
We have a bold vision for 2020, to see a new church plant, campus or service in each of our five regions. We desire to develop our own leaders with 25 leaders and internship opportunities within the next 5 years. This kind of thing doesn’t happen overnight, but we do have fertile ground.
The Vauxhall Mennonite Gospel Church in Alberta was down to about 70 people in September 2018. With support of the EMMC both financially and with personnel this church is bearing fruit. In December 2019, Al Kehler and I were there to see a church ALIVE. Now at dual services they have grown to over 230 people. Meeting together with their treasurer Peter Peters we developed a budget for a growing church that will see this congregation reach out in mission to plant other churches in the area and to assist the EMMC with efforts in other regions.
Pastor Henry Redekopp is ensuring that this fruit is being reinvested by discipling a congregation to be on mission to extend the Gospel to others.
Take a look at the update from the Blenheim EMMC Church (page 21) in Ontario. The EMMC, Deer Run Church and Aylmer EMMC have been supporting the church with a provisional council. In September 2019, Aron and Annie Wiebe became the full-time pastors of this church. Attendance has doubled during this past year and they have 6 people getting baptised with another 7 transferring their memberships to the congregation. Awesome! The vision for this congregation is to disciple its people to reach into the community of Blenheim with the love of Jesus Christ. With the roots being tended to, intentional discipleship and pastoral care provided, this once-struggling body also is bearing fruit.
At the end of February, Darrell Kehler will be leading an Exposure and Prayer Team to Bolivia. They will see, encourage and pray for the fruit bearing ministries of our Low German and Spanish ministries. Ministries where churches are being planted and local people are being discipled to plant more churches and spread the Gospel to the lost. A number of the people going are pastors, possible church planters and leaders from our family of churches … “Without discipleship there is no mission.”
As this vision grows and expands we plan to hire a full-time Pastor of Care and Mission, who will be a pastor to our pastors and missionaries with a mandate to cultivate hearts that embrace our mission at the root. This will mean change, a new season and new people who will help along the way. But in the process we must not forget those who have tilled, and planted, tended and harvested before us.
Seasons. We go through them – at times they are peaceful, like a white blanket of snow. At times they are hopeful as we enter a time of planting and preparing. At times they are a season of hard work, nurturing and caring, weeding and pruning. Eventually there is a harvest.
God has called each of us to respond to His calling for us. His primary calling is summed up in Matthew 28:18-20. Let’s get ready to plant, work and see the harvest.
And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Luke 10:2