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  • Writer's pictureLil Goertzen

The Gathering 2023 Recap

Having specific times of learning at Gathering has become an important part of this event. The plans for selecting the theme for the overall event, the right speakers to address specific topics and then coordinating all those logistics starts many months in advance.

“The Great Exchange” was the overall theme for the weekend, based on Mark 8:34-37

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

To introduce the theme, a series of articles relating to the topic were written by Lyn Dyck, Executive Director and Kelly Lesser, Pastor of Care and Mission and were published in The Recorder leading up to Gathering. The articles can be found on-line in these issues:

  • November/December 2022 – “Deny Self”

  • January/February 2023 – “Pick Up Your Cross”

  • March/April 2023 – “Follow Me”

  • May/June 2023 – “Lose It to Save It”

The nine workshops and presenters were scheduled throughout the day on Saturday June 10. Attendees could choose from the selection in each time slot.

Track 1 – Relevant Church

Building a Culture of Worship – Jonathon & Julie Wiebe

Practicing Presence – Caring for Each Other Well – Wayne Friesen

Cultivating a Culture of Discipleship – EMMC resources – Darrell Kehler, Lyn Dyck, Henry Redekopp

Track 2 – Our Culture Today

Supporting a Culture of Life – Susan Penner

Church and Indigenous History – Dr. Jamie Robertson

Loving the ‘Stranger’ Among Us – Wendi Park

Track 3 – Missions

Antioch Ministries, Warman SK – Ryan & Lindi Davidson

Church Ministry in Slovenia – Kristen Penner

Open Arms Bible Fellowship, Nipawin SK – Marsden Giesbrecht, Jonah Sawatzky

MEM Bolivia – Low German Ministries – Abe & Margaretha Harder

Youth Event – Antioch Skate Event at Winkler Skate Park with Ryan Davidson

Providing resources and creating opportunities for dialogue and further learning is part of the objective when planning Gathering events. Encouraging our faith walk and deepening our commitment to Christ is first and foremost.

The Gathering 2023 Main Worship Celebrations

“The Great Exchange”

Gathering 2023 speakers were pastors from EMMC congregations. For many people, it was the first time hearing these preachers and receive the blessing of their insight and challenge.

Friday evening, Blaine Dueck pastor of the Spanish Lookout EMMC, Belize addressed the audience with reflections on the life of the apostle Peter. Peter was someone who was very relatable.

David Friesen, lead pastor at Altona EMMC Manitoba presented the message on Saturday evening. His emphasis was on the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the Good News. Jesus presented people with the decision to make changes; to repent and make a change, or stay in our ways. We need to pick up our cross of Good News and make the decision to follow Jesus every day.

Claude Lainey, lead pastor of Gospel Mission Church, Winkler Manitoba addressed the outdoor crowd on Sunday morning at the Winkler Park Bowl. The Son of God humbled himself to come to this earth, die on Calvary for each one of us. The Christian life starts with the surrender to the Son of God. Our primary calling as a believer is to be surrendered to Christ and for that to be a way of life.

These messages are all available on the EMMC website at

Ministry Leader’s Day

By Kelly Lesser, Pastor of Care and Mission

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)

On Friday, June 9, 2023, EMMC church leaders and missionaries gathered together at the 2023 EMMC Gathering for the Ministry Leader’s Day. Pastors, deacons, elders, board members, committee members missionaries and other leaders from our family of churches gathered together for a day of equipping, worship and connecting together.

The main theme of the day was “Healthy Conversations.” We spent time looking at how having healthy, helpful and edifying conversations within our ministry often lead to healthier people and healthier churches.

During the morning session, Dr. Tim Geddert (Professor of New Testament at Fresno Pacific University) focused on how we approach Biblical study and theological conversations with others. Dr. Geddert shared about how Jesus challenged his followers to move beyond just pursuit of knowledge and to truly live out what the scriptures taught in their lives. We were challenged to consider this in our approach to healthy conversations within our own life, leadership and ministry. He challenged us to remember that our knowledge and understanding of God must lead and guide, not only our own lives, but also how we disciple others in their walk with the Lord.

During the first afternoon session, Kelly Lesser (EMMC Pastor of Care and Mission) shared some thoughts on the role we play as leaders in leading and teaching others within our ministry circles to have healthy conversations. We focused on four things we should consider modeling as we engage in conversations with others. First, being people of integrity is essential to maintaining healthy dialogue with others. Second, careful consideration of the words we use in conversation and their impact on others is important. Third, we were reminded of the importance of not only listening to others, but seeking to really hear and understand them in our conversations. And fourth, truth must never be compromised, yet how we bring that truth across to others must be done with grace and consideration.

We concluded the second session with a short panel discussion exploring the thoughts and ideas presented during our first two sessions.

For our final session of the day, we participated in a Concert of Prayer together. We spent time worshipping together and were led through several guided prayer times. These prayer times focused on our relationship with God, including prayers of thankfulness and confession; prayer for God’s work in our world, emphasizing prayer for missions and our missionaries; and finally, we spent time in prayer for our family of churches and the work we are all involved with on a daily basis.

The Ministry Leaders Day was a wonderful opportunity to gather together as EMMC leaders, to worship together, to learn together, to pray together and just reconnect with one another. Many conversations and much laughter occurred in the hallways and around the table with a good cup of coffee.

We asked a couple pastors to share their thoughts about the Ministry Leader’s Day -

Pastor Henry Janzen (Blue Creek EMMC, Belize):

“Some things that stood out to me were: First, within the church there needs to be open and honest conversation that needs to be done in a loving and respectful manner.

Secondly, to have healthy conversations in the churches within the conference. And with that, also realizing that we are different cultures, at least in some churches the cultures are different, and to be OK if the churches do things a little different one from another.

With that in mind, having some things that we agree upon, the core beliefs need to be the same. But what are our core beliefs? Where do they end, how many core beliefs do we set? That is something that gave me a lot of thought as to where do we stand and what are our core beliefs.”

Pastor James Peters (Winkler EMMC, Manitoba):

“One thing I always appreciate about Gatherings is the opportunity to reconnect with other ministry leaders and pastors, even though it seems I do not get around to everyone. For me it is encouraging to meet and share about how life and ministry is going.

I really enjoyed the sessions, I left feeling encouraged, better equipped, and challenged to continually be a learner. The encouragement to continue learning and then to share that new knowledge with others was well timed for me. Sometime I feel like I’m in a rut and don’t know how to get out. As I was reminded to keep on learning and to apply that learning, and as this reminder took root, it dawned on me that learning is my way out. When I feel stuck it is because I have stopped learning and the way to being unstuck is too lean even deeper into God’s Word and allow His truth to set me free.

I was also reminded that integrity matters in ministry as in all of life. I knew this of course, but it seems all too easy to say things out of turn or to say things with a negative spin, and as a result the truth sounds different and can compromise integrity. So, for me it was a reminder to listen really well when in conversation and to think before I speak.

These may sound simple but they were timely reminders for me.”

Saturday Morning Pancake breakfast

By Lil Goertzen, Editor

Pancake breakfasts have a way of bringing people together. EMMC General Council members were busy in the early morning of June 10, hovering over the burners set up on the parking lot at Gospel Mission Church. All the work of prepping the pancakes and sausage, setting up the tables in the Gospel Mission Church dining hall paid off. At 8am, food was ready for the hungry guests who were ready to enjoy the spread and spend time with friends over an extra cup of coffee.


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