Missions: Local

As a child, my idea of a missionary was someone who traveled the world and spread the love of God wherever their travels took them! It was such an exciting concept, living in a strange land surrounded by people you couldn’t understand, and living in conditions that were very different than home. I aspired to do this, to travel the world and see what I could do for God. However, as I got older, it became clear that God had different plans, He started directing my heart towards various local children to teen aged programs. In a very short order my passion changed from travels to staying in Winkler and serving God in through local missions!

Local missions often don’t sound exciting to young people, they are too busy chasing after adventure to notice the adventure God might be calling them to right in their own backyard. Local missions can actually be just as exciting, and perhaps even more challenging than missions in some far off land.

What does local missions look like? It can be anything from helping a homeless person by giving them a couple of bucks, to large operations like Siloam Mission in Winnipeg, it can be as simple as saying a prayer for a strange or as complex as supporting a new family in your city, it can be seen or unseen.

This blog post is not to argue that people shouldn’t do missions far away, but that those that are called to local missions heed their calling, commit to their calling, and plant seeds in their local communities. So what I would like to look at is what does the Bible say about mission, what I see the local church doing correctly in regards to local missions, what I think our local church’s could perhaps improve/include in their local mission work.

I want to start with what the Bible says about missions, as I think the Bible is our ultimate guidance when it comes to living a life committed to God. Mark 16:15, Romans 10:13-15, 1 Chronicles 16:24, and Luke 24:47 are just a few verses where we are called to spread the Gospel and God’s love. They talk about the necessity of Christians spreading the word of God, to bring God’s love to all peoples in all locations across the globe, this means your neighbor and even those who would choose to harm you for your belief. We need to remember that in order to live a life devoted to God, we have to listen to his calling, and not our own selfish desires.

One thing I have always commended our local church’s (in Winkler) for is their ability to put aside their differences, and put on a joint worship service every year for the Harvest Festival. I absolutely love the fact that we are so community minded that we are willing to work together to further our brothers and sisters in their walks with Christ! Some things I admire my own church (Grace Mennonite Church) for is their devotion to our local youth, we put a lot of focus on our youth programs and I think it pays off, we have youth heading into all sorts of different mission fields, whether far away or close to home. I think that our church’s have a great awareness of the hurts in our local community and do a great job encouraging others to support local charities/organizations. I think our church’s as an organization is doing great work.

Where I see faults in the system, is with volunteers, I have found that over the last several years there has been a large decrease in volunteers, our church’s members, don’t seem to understand the value that their time adds, it is not all about money; money can keep a program funded, but without volunteers it won’t run. An example of this is my local church’s Sunday school program, every year we start late or just barely make it in time, because we do not have people volunteering as teachers/activity leaders. The tasks of being a Sunday school teacher are not complex, in fact they are very straight forward, everything is laid out for you and you basically have to show up and talk with the kids about Jesus! How hard is that? and guess what leading an activity station is even easier! This same rule applies to most organizations, the jobs of 90% of volunteers are easy and the only thing they require is time.

Basically, if you feel called to local ministry, don’t shy away from it because you think it won’t be an adventure or because you don’t think you will make a difference. Jump at the chance to serve your local community! God calls us to be a shining light on a hill, we live in a dark world that needs to see the light, and that applies to everyone. Live life as a servant because Matthew 20:26 says: “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”

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Homelessness, Refugees, and Homosexuality

Sometimes I feel that as a church we have this mentality that because someone comes from a different background than you or has different world views than you, we must put them in a different class of humanity and treat them differently than we would another human. I think this is wrong, God created all of us, and our job is to be God’s ambassadors! This means that we love those around us with God’s eternal love, whether or not they are making mistakes in their life, or going through a difficult time.We can show them God’s love and hopefully lead them to Christ who will then take over and start correcting their actions/or life experience.

My personal experience with Homeless people has varied, In grade 10 I took a trip with my senior youth group to Winnipeg, MB. One of the things we had to do was an urban plunge, and during this urban plunge one of our goals was to eat lunch with a homeless person whom we had packed a lunch for. My group wandered around the north end and eventually found someone to share a lunch with, I don’t remember everything that happened, but I remember that we got the chance to talk with this man and to learn about his life. The reason I like this memory is because I made it a point to treat this man as I would treat any other adult, with respect. This has not always been my experience, over the next 2 years of High School I became more shallow and started to judge the homeless people I would see, and if I thought they were too unclean, or not worthy of my time I would walk past them and treat them like garbage. Then we went on another trip, this time to Los Angeles, here I saw a whole new level of homelessness, there were people everywhere that were struggling, whether it was someone truly homeless or someone who struggled to make ends meet. It became clear to me after that trip that I could not continue to treat people like garbage, and that when someone needs my help it is my obligation as a Christian to help to the best of my ability. I try to treat every homeless person I see as an opportunity to show God’s love, and to bless someone, who deserves a blessing as much as the next person!

Recently, Canadians and others around the world have been given an amazing opportunity to bless men, women, and children from Syria with a new place to call home! I have heard many positive things about this, but I have also heard the negative. I would encourage those in the church that feel negatively about this opportunity to read Matthew 25:31-46. It is made very clear that when we help people in need that God is pleased with us! He has entrusted us with sharing his generosity that He has given us with the world.

Finally, our church has been in talks a lot recently about whether or not we will leave our church conference, and the reason we have been doing this is because the conference has been taking a very passive (aka not making a decision) on the subject of homosexuality. This confuses me because there are a number of verses that make it very clear that this is not something that God approves of. First it talks about it in the Old Testament with Leviticus 18:22 and then again in multiple places in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, etc. The New Testament also confirms that marriage is between a man and a woman with Mark 10:6-9. So my stance on this is clear that homosexuality is wrong, but God does not tell us to treat these people different. Yes, what they are doing is wrong, but as a Christian to a non-believer our objective is clear, to love them and lead them to Christ, once that is done Jesus will show himself to these men and women through the Bible and the way other Christians live their life, and hopefully they turn from their sin and repent and ask forgiveness, just like when we sin, we need to repent and allow God to take us back and commit ourselves to God. They are human and need to be treated like any other human being. God looks inside us at what we can be if we choose to follow Him.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. – Anne Frank

I know there will be people that disagree with me and I would love to go out for coffee with anyone to discuss these topics!

Saving A Christian Can Be Painful, But Rewarding!

God saved us from our sin, and to do so he had to give his one and only Son! (John 3:16) How painful it must have been for Jesus here on Earth, but He endured through the paid to bring us closer to Him! Sometimes, we must also endure pain and hardship in this world to bring someone back to salvation and eternal life. Not only can it be physically painful, but it can be spiritually and emotionally painful to walk with someone when they are so clearly walking away from you and God.

God is love, therefore love is what we need to do when we want to save someone from their sin. (1 Peter 4:8) This sounds easy enough, but how do you tell a fellow Christian that what they are doing is wrong in a loving way, well believe it or not the Bible has instructions on that too! Matthew 18:15-20 tells us that there is a way to tell a fellow Christian that what they are doing is wrong, and it is in love. I would always suggest approaching God first, for strength, endurance, wisdom, and courage. Often this process of helping someone back to God can be a long process, so make sure that you rely on God’s strength and not your own. After you have talked to God, take the person aside and point out their sin. This sounds rude, but as Christians we are called to sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17), this does not mean point out their every fault, but it means that we need to build each other up, if this includes fixing the foundation of their faith, then yes point out the sin.

I have often made the mistake of sending a Facebook message or text message, and this has always back fired on me, I believe that the process mentioned in Matthew 18 needs to be done in person, I believe that this allows God to be present to the both of you, and when is that ever a bad thing.

One thing I have learned over the years, is that God does not work on our schedule. Sometimes, there is a lesson that you or the person you are trying to help needs to learn before this sin can be resolved. God is not here to relieve us of the consequences of our sin, but to save us from the sin itself. Remember, God does not work on your schedule so do not expect.

“Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.’ It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.” —from The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

Mel, Walter, Jolee, and Kenna: Their story

My Earliest memory of the Friesen family is from the couple of times I went to Winkler Bible Camp. I only met Walter (according to my memory) and all I remember was that he was hilarious! Since that time they have added family members (Jolee and Kenna) and have continued to encourage and inspire me in my walk with God.

Over the past 4 years I have had the amazing opportunity to get to know their family, and they have become like family to me. We joined the Jr. Youth program at Grace Mennonite Church in the same year, and have been working together to inspire youth ever since. Some of my favourite things about this family is that they are honest, loving, crafty, handy and all around awesome people.

Earlier this month I asked Mel and Walter if I could do a blog post about them and they agreed! I created some questions to ask them, and my goal with these questions were to challenge them to think, but also to use the answers to help teach, encourage and inspire the people who read them. See the “interview” below:

Me: What is one word that describes your family?
Family: Crazy, Artistic, Creative, Loving, Special. We couldn’t narrow it down to one.

Me: What is something crazy/funny that has happened to your family?
Family: Trying to have a sleepover in a snow fort in the coldest part of winter, with a windchill between -45 and -50. Mel didn’t try, she just prayed hard. The girls and Walter lasted an hour or two.

The next set of questions are directed towards Mel and Walter.

Me: What was the best and the hardest part of being newlyweds?
Mel: That was 14 years ago so it’s so hard to remember what being a newlywed felt like… I think the best part of being newlyweds was starting our own unit, our own home, meshing our similarities and differences into our home. The hardest part of being a newlywed is we each brought our own baggage/background to the home and had different thoughts on what marriage was, or completely different expectations and selfish motives on what we would “get” out of it.
Walter: The adventure and excitement of a new life together!

Me: What was the best and the hardest part of being new parents:
Mel: The best part of being new parents happened for us 11 years ago. Jolee brought a whole new dynamic to our lives – a family instead of a couple. We were completely scared and excited that we were parents – in charge of this tiny human!! The responsibility made us mature and think beyond ourselves, so that was awesome. The hardest part was feeling so inadequate and finding that others around us place so much pressure in parenting to their expectations and standards. We need to find our own path in the chaos of being new at the whole parenting thing.
Walter: The best part was having a beautiful little baby that you could snuggle with and the excitement of being a family, not just a couple. The hardest part was the scariness of the small life you hold in your hands and the weight of responsibility of bringing up a child.

Me: What was the best and hardest part of the girls starting school?
Mel: Each girl was different. So here goes: THe best part of sending Jolee off to school in Kindergarten was seeing her socialize with other kids her age. We had lived a somewhat sheltered life before that as we were at camp and didn’t join in on the usual parent/child things like soccer/baseball/dance/gymnastics. So seeing her interact with kids was great. The hardest part? Letting go. Walking away from the school, we were both feeling pretty close to tears. Our little girl was growing up! It was hard to trust people other than us to take care of her needs. With Kenna, it was completely different. She is a social bug. She loves doing interactive stuff, she craves it. So the best part of sending her off to school was seeing her become a leader in her class, someone who thrived in the environment and excelled. The hardest part of sending her was it was our last child, the house was empty. No crazy Kenna schemes for a few hours each day.
Walter: The best part would be the girls’ excitement for learning, and the prospect of Mel having a little less stress in her life. The hardest part was trusting others with our precious children, where there’s lots of opportunity to make life difficult for our kids (from teachers/students). teachers may be influencing our kids in areas we don’t want them to be influenced.

Extra note from Mel: When Walter mentioned the stress in my life, I had completely forgotten how stressed out I was with two young and ver different daughters in the house at the same time. They fought a lot back then. I was definitely pulling hairs out, and found myself angry a lot in their earlier years. I’m So glad that God has chiseled some of that away.

Me: What would be one piece of advice you would give a couple about to be married?
Mel: Marriage right now for you is a destination. It’s what you want, crave, and think will be so much easier than dating, but it’s not a destination – it’s a journey. It isn’t temporary, it’s not always awesome (hate to break it to you). Some days you will feel like throwing in the towel, but don’t ever let yourself think it’s even possible. The days that are rough – when they come – will make you a stronger couple if you stand together in the thick of it. When the days of joy come, it will be even sweeter. Love each other through it all.
Walter: Jesus first. When you are first married, it’s easy to be less selfish, but it won’t take long before selfishness wants to creep in. Give selfishness the boot.

Me: What would be one piece of advice you would give a couple soon to be parents?
Mel: Parenting can seem scary. The responsibility towards a little baby to keep them healthy… it can rock your world when you finally hold him/her. First off, enjoy the moments you have now as you wait for your baby to arrive. Sweet moments together as a couple, planning, dreaming, and waiting. When baby arrives, know that things will change and you may be tired in all of the transition, but it’s worth it. Take time for each other as well in the chaos of parenting. Your child will crave seeing his/her parents love each other.
Walter: Don’t be afraid. It’s not as scary as it seems. Pray lots.

Me: Are there a couple of verses that have pulled you through hard times?
Mel: It’s weird to think back on what verses have impacted us in hard times. I can’t remember some of them, but in the moment when we need clarity for a decision or just encouragement to keep going, God has a way of bringing the right verse to mind. Right now with all that has transpired over the last few months (Jolee’s lyme disease and subsequent medical issues), James 1:2-6 has been playing in my head. Pure joy never made sense to me until we went through this trial. Also, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 has been a favourite of mine for several years, reminding me to keep on, know that all that is happening is temporary.
Walter: Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Corinthians 9:24, and Ephesians 4:29.

Me: What is one way you can currently see God moving in your family?
Mel: Right now? I see God changing us, making us more joyful and present in the moment. More compassionate towards those hurting or needing help.
Walter: He’s building our trust in Him, and teaching us to dig deeper in a relationship with Him. Giving us the opportunity for hospitality towards others, and being faithful where He has put us.

The next set of questions are for Jolee and Kenna.

Me: What is one thing you appreciate about each of your family members?
Kenna: I like that Daddy is good at biking, I like that Mommy is good at washing dishes, I like that Jolee draws good.Jolee: I like that Daddy fixes computers, I like that Mommy is crafty, I like that Kenna is funny.

Me: What is one of your favourite things to do with your parents?
Kenna: Go on tripsJolee: I like to walk or ride bike to school with Mommy.

Me: What is your favourite Bible verse?
Kenna: John 3:16
Jolee: 1 Corinthians 13:13

Me: What would you tell someone who is nervous about starting school?
Kenna: You’ll get better at it when you practice it more.Jolee: I’d tell them that they will get used to it and they will have lots of fun.

I love this family and their story. They are always willing to be open with me and have so much more wisdom than can be shared in a blog post. Please take a little time to pray encouraging things for them.

I hope and pray that these answers help someone who is going through a difficult or a new journey in life. As an added bonus, Alyson and Tim Neufeld will be next months focus family!

Jordan Lee Froese

Humans, what is seen from above.

Sometimes I wonder about what we look like to God. Would we look like a bunch of ants crawling around the surface of Earth? Would we even be noticed, because we are on only one planet out of millions in the known universe? Maybe some of you can relate to these feelings.

The answer is that God does notice us! Someone who created and rules over the whole universe sees us for who we truly are. He knows all about you and me, he loves each one of us and has chosen us for special tasks in life.

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written
in your book before one of them came to be
Psalm 139:16

God loves us and has been thinking about us since before we were born. How cool is that! There has been so many times in my life where I have wondered if there was anyone who really loved me. This would happen when I would argue with my parents, get in fights with friends and especially when I moved from Gnadenthal to Reinfeld and had to change schools. I wish I would have truly known how much God loves me, then I would have realized all the people close to me that he had placed there.

God is greater than anyone can imagine, but I often try to imagine what he would be like. I really want to know what he is thinking of us when we act like our crazy human selves down here on Earth. I remember times when I would be sitting at home and it was dark outside and I would see shadows from trees. I would get so scared, but now I look back and I imagine God saying in those moments words from the book of Isaiah.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Isaiah 43:1b

I don’t know about you but the thought that I am God’s son is so crazy. I find it so relieving that someone like me a sinner who does not deserve eternal life gets it! God promises us life (eternal life) and all we have to do is accept Jesus! Once you truly accept Jesus you will realize all that you have been missing in life. Jesus brings us hope and unbelievable joy! We don’t get a free pass through hard times, but we get an amazing God to lean on and he provides amazing people to build into our lives.

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:10-11

I want to encourage everyone to build up the people around you. I will be trying my hardest to make this a focus in my life, because I know I have failed at it in the past.