PulseTV — Update from Zimbabwe

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I was pleased to film this Q&A between Petros and Susan. (Fun fact: Susan wrote the info, and the questions! :-)   )

Please share this with your family, friends and church. Zimbabwe needs our prayers and our help in tangible ways. Some of these have been outline in the EFCCM’s World of Hope campaign. You can find more details about that by clicking here.

Additionally, Susan provided this video piece which features a song written and donated to Zimbabwe Gecko Society by local, BC artist Sanna Lavallee:

Defining the Success of a Fund-Raising Dinner

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We received this update from Jerome and Maureen concerning one night they recently shared with several of their MEMO (Medical Equipment Modernisation Opportunity) friends. The following is in their words:

How do you define success of a fund raising dinner?

By the fact that the food was excellent?
That you met some new friends at your table?
That you were reminded of God’s faithfulness and blessing to MEMO over the last seven years?
That people have been challenged to pray for the people of Cuba that they will realize God’s love for them as their physical needs are met by MEMO?
Or by the amount of money raised ($11,000 after expenses were paid)?
Or that a woman came up to me with tears in her eyes and said “I am a Cuban. Thank you.”

Well all of the above!

We praise God for moving the hearts of His people to give so generously.
We trust that though unseen you will continue praying for MEMO.
The money will pay for container #44 to be packed and shipped Saturday, November 26th with enough left over to pay for 3 months of mammography film which we sent in the last container.

Mini-Update from Thailand

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Pray for our church plant in Mae Wang, Thailand. We have a young leader named Suwat who is in leadership training. He is single and wants to be a pastor. Pray for older Christian men to be a balance to him and for strong Christian elders to be trained on how to share in the duties of running a church. Larry, our EFCCM missionary in Thailand, is emphasising fellowship and discipleship in is preaching and teaching that he is doing with the church.

Thank the Lord for one young man, Somchai, who chose to accept Christ as his saviour last Sunday in this church plant! We hope that Suwat and the community surrounding him will continue to nurture Somchai’s new faith and understanding of Jesus’ teaching, and that his testimony will influence many!

A(nother) Good Day to not Get Arrested

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A short-term team recently visited Japan from the USA. They wanted to be involved in homeless outreach, but had a scheduling conflict. To accommodate them, the day was temporarily shifted from Saturday to Thursday. What no-one was prepared for is that apparently the police monitoring that area are a different group of officers than the usual Saturday contingent. Being unfamiliar with it, about eight of them approached the ministry with questions, which they directed to Kurt, our missionary on the scene.

What are you doing here?
We’re handing out food to the homeless.

You don’t charge money for these meals?
They don’t have money! (Several homeless vocally affirmed that.)

But they are all holding tickets.

So you are charging them money!
No, the tickets are free too.

Where are the Japanese people involved in this?
They’re working.

Why aren’t you working?
I’m an English teacher, so I work at night.

They then started to try to figure out which organisation was in charge, and they were expecting a simple answer. Kurt informed them that he is the leader, but this is far from a one-man show. It involves two Americans, one of whom serves with a Canadian organisation (that’s us!), one Filipino, one Peruvian and sometimes there are Brazilians who assist as well. The more the men hunted for simplicity, the more humorously confusing it all became. Kurt could tell that they were baffled by the logistics he was presenting, and they couldn’t understand how this was working so well without formal organisation.

How long have you been doing this?
It’s been going on for several years. (No one on the scene knew exactly.)

Why are you doing this?
We’re Christians, this is what we do.

Some nodded their heads in response to that. Apparently Christians do have that reputation, even when they are in the vast minority. The policemen requested identification, and examined the leaders’ documents, but mostly it seemed that they were just expressing their professional curiosity about what they were seeing.

Kurt was especially grateful that, while they were clearly identified as police, they approached the ministry in basic white shirts as opposed to full uniform. The relationship between the homeless and police is understandably strained, and this was one factor that allowed the situation to be diffused rather than escalated.

The team explained that they do this the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month. And when they resumed that regular schedule, they did see an officer present and taking notes. He didn’t interfere, or even ask questions. He was just there to satisfy his professional curiosity about what’s going in his city.

And how about that short-term team that saw this potentially dangerous situation firsthand? Some have reported that this was their favourite part of the trip!

Association, Autonomy and Unity

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The preamble to the 2008 Ten Article Statement of Faith (SOF) reads: “The Evangelical Free Church of Canada is an association of autonomous churches united in a common commitment to God’s evangel – the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to give us eternal life. To God’s glory, the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.  Our essential theological convictions are vitally connected to this gospel.”

My tour to all of our fall conferences always reminds me of the dynamic tension inherent in the Free Church.  We are an association of autonomous churches, united in a common commitment to the gospel  and the task of sharing it with a needy world. This is a classic both/and scenario that is so easy for us to turn into an either/or way of thinking. On the one hand, many of our churches (or individuals in our local churches) default to an almost exclusive emphasis on autonomy. “I am an autonomous individual” or “we are an autonomous church” we say, so “you cannot tell me/us what to do, no matter what the broader family has decided!” Others, reacting against this hyper individualism and aversion to collaboration/accountability reply “autonomy is just an excuse for someone/a church to sit and be grumpy and unproductive. Let’s centralize authority in the church/denomination and get moving forward in ministry!”

How does one embrace autonomy and association? I believe that the fact that we are “united in a common commitment to God’s evangel” is a key factor to consider and it was the key factor in the early church as well. Consider Acts 4. After Peter and John spent the night in prison, where is the first place they went?  They sought out their family, but not their biological, nuclear family.  No, they met with their supernatural family and they prayed for boldness to share the gospel – and the place was shaken (4:23-31)! Then we see the radical nature of this family – they did not consider their stuff to be their stuff and that freed them up to give it away to anyone who was in need (4:32-37).  This wasn’t communism; people still owned things; they were still autonomous. However, they were united in heart and mind. The phrase refers to a radical allegiance. They didn’t all think exactly the same, but they had the same allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ, to each other and the same commitment to spreading His good news.

It is difficult to find this common sense of allegiance and community today.  After all, the church/denomination runs programs to meet my needs and those programs take care of people so it really isn’t my job to be my brother’s keeper, is it? And so, our churches, and by extension our “association”, becomes a disconnected group of autonomous individuals/churches with a minimalist sense of calling. Collaboratively caring for each other and carrying out our Lord’s mission becomes quite secondary to looking out “for me and mine”. And we are poorer for this way of thinking. But it is changing. Our churches will always be autonomous in terms of who they hire, what roles they have them fill, what ministry they get involved in, etc. But many of our churches are now looking to collaborate, to grasp once again the benefits of being an association, a part of a supernatural family that unites around the Ten Article Statement of Faith and our EFCC Character and Calling, both of which are grounded in our Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel! We understand in a clearer way that “the district” or “the national” or “the Mission/EFCCM” are not some nebulous entities “out there” – no, we, the members of the association, are “the district”, the “national”, the “Mission”. Yes, those entities have staff that carry out some functions, but they are just that, staff, our staff, and they serve us.

At recent conferences I was reminded of how churches are working together overseas through the EFCCM; how churches collaborate to send medical supplies to Cuba through MEMO; how churches such as Winnipeg EFC have partnered to plant a church in Winkler and now in inner city Winnipeg; how Ottawa Chinese Bible Church partnered with Salmon Arm EFC on a youth cultural exchange; how McBride EFC is partnering with the Canadian Pacific District the EFCC and folks in Valemount to plant a church in that needy town; how people at a District conference can reach out with an offering to bless an Iranian brother planting a Farsi speaking church in Richmond Hill where former followers of Islam are becoming followers of Jesus Christ. I am reminded that there is much more we can do – that our brothers in Dawson City Yukon could only run one week of summer camp this year because they didn’t have enough staff (and how a few years ago Okotoks EFC sent a team all the way up there to help!); that Francois Bergeron, our chalk artist evangelist in Quebec ,will be initiating a massive campaign in theatres from January to the end of April 2012 and that he needs our prayer and financial support. But I must say this:  when I see our new EFCC Prayer Catalyst, Dave Holden, off in a corner praying with a pastor or missionary at a district conference, or EFCC Leadership Development Catalyst, Dave Acree, discussing possibilities for collaborative leadership training with pastors and area directors, or EFCC Church Planting Catalyst Charlie Worley, collaborating with pastors over church health and multiplication; or when a I get to join a group of young pastors after an evening session for wings because they just like hanging out and talking mission – I am blessed!

Yes, we are autonomous; we will never be a top down movement; the agendas will be set on the ground where they are carried out. But we are also an association, a family and the family rallies around a Statement of Faith and a Character and Calling that rallies us around our motto: “in essentials unity, in non-essentials charity, in all things, Jesus Christ”. My hope is that our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the task of spreading his good news will become so strong that we will become powerful allies — caring for each other and collaborating in the gospel. As we pray for boldness together, may we see “the place shaken” once again!

Serving with you,

Bill Taylor
EFCC Executive Director