Worship By The Lake: A Celebration of God’s Faithfulness – A Reflection by Pastor Kevin Klassen

I first came to Whyte Ridge Baptist Church 21 years ago.  Not really because I wanted to.  And certainly not because I was very interested in finding a church home.  I recall that I visited this church reluctantly, coming here together with someone who had other friends who attended here.  And then I basically never left.

WRBC very quickly became my church family and, ever since then, God has used my time at this church to change my life in some very significant ways.  First of all, it is here that I met my beautiful wife (on the worship team, no less).  And it is also here that I have found and enjoyed many life-giving friendships.  And even deeper than that, God has used the teachings, the relationships, the joys, the challenges and the experiences that I have had in the context of this church family to change me on the inside.  He has used my time in this church to mercifully convict me and lovingly shape me, teaching me about His Word, His grace and His sufficiency.

And in recent years, God has granted me the profound joy of serving as a pastor of worship and care – ministering within the very family that has loved me and walked with me throughout almost all of my adult life.  God is so very, very good!

Because of this history, there are plenty of personal stories that I could tell about God’s faithfulness to us and through us as a church family.  And I know that there are many others who could do the same, whether they have attended for a long time or a short time.

And this coming weekend, September 10th and 11th, we are going to be gathering at our church property on McGillivray Boulevard to Celebrate the Faithfulness of God!  It will be a fun weekend of worship, fellowship and prayer – remembering the stories of God’s faithfulness in the past and asking and thanking Him for His continued faithfulness in the future.

We will be especially be remembering the gift and the purpose of the land that God has given us on McGillivray.  In fact, this weekend will serve as a celebratory kickoff to a Capital Funds Campaign that we expect will move us forward toward the construction of a new church building that God will use to continue to faithfully build His kingdom in and through us.

Worship By The Lake:

On Saturday evening at 7 pm, we’ll have an outdoor celebration that will include much praise and prayer as well as stories that celebrate the Lord and His loving kindness.   Following that will be a bonfire and fireworks.  A few of us are also camping there overnight and you’re welcome to join us (and there are portapotties there, in case that’s a deal-breaker).

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Sunday morning we’ll continue our celebration with an outdoor worship service at 10 am, followed by a BBQ lunch.

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Everyone is welcome!!!  Bring your friends, bring your lawn chairs, bring your mosquito repellent and bring hearts that are ready to worship the Lord.   Prepare your own heart by reflecting upon your own story of how you have seen God’s faithfulness to you and to this church family.  And let us come before Him with thanksgiving and also with anticipation of how He may use this land and building in the discipleship, worship and witness of His church.

For just as we each have personal stories to tell of God’s work in and around us during our time at WRBC, I believe His faithfulness is most greatly reflected in the way that He chooses to include us in the Great Story that He is writing in the building of His Kingdom for His glory.  God is so very, very good!

– Written by Pastor Kevin Klassen, Associate Pastor – Worship and Care

 

Worship By The Lake

Pathway Camp Ministries Update: Garden Hill First Nation

An excerpt from a recent Pathway Camp Ministries Update:

Our week in Garden Hill First Nation has come and gone and we were happy to serve an average of 75 children/day (even with the holiday Monday factored in). It is hard to believe that 2016 was our 10th summer of ministry in Garden Hill.

Pathway
The logistics for the week went really smoothly – thank you for your prayers. We were able to fly and also cross the lake in good weather on both weekends.

The majority of our team was from Whyte Ridge Baptist Church and we are grateful for their energy and passion. So many of the children were happy to see familiar faces again. Even though the weather was a little unsettled, the team was able to mix indoor and outdoor activities and everyone had a great time. The children in this community are also amazing at Chapel time and they love singing! It’s great to see their enthusiasm.

One of the councilors brought thanks from Chief and Council for coming to teach their children and it was hard for everyone to say good-bye.

We praise God for the opportunities of the week.

 

For additional information on Pathway Camp Ministries, visit pathwaycampministries.com

My God Story – Katy Hollander

291573_10150801668450346_1780175920_oHi, my name is Katy and I’m a missionary with Youth for Christ Winnipeg. I work as a counsellor at Turning Point Youth and Family Counselling Services. YFC is a non-profit organization that exists to help young people reach their full potential by combining healthy relationships and faith-based programs and services. As an extension of YFC’s mission, Turning Point offers professional and affordable counselling to teens and their families.

I have always been interested in connecting with people, hearing their stories, and walking alongside those who find themselves in difficult times. I have had a long time interest and involvement working with youth in ministry settings. It is as a youth leader in the church that God lead me into counselling several years ago.

Photo Collage Spring 2016I started my ministry at Turning Point YFC as a student intern in the spring of 2012, while working on my Masters in Counselling degree at Providence Theological Seminary. In addition to the counselling ministry, I also help run after-school and evening clubs for teen girls; a sewing club and an art club. Both clubs emphasize building relationships with peers and mentors and developing a positive sense of self through activities and meaningful conversations on influential topics relevant to the girls’ age and development.

As a missionary with YFC and as a counsellor at Turning Point, I have a unique opportunity to minister to teens and
families through counselling as well as through our girls’ club programs. I have a passion for connecting with young people and seeing lives changed and restored by the power of Christ. I consider it a privilege and an honour to journey with teens and their families on the road towards hope and healing.

Check out Turning Point’s website at www.turningpoint-yfc.com to learn more about this ministry.

Update from Seră Project (Romania) – Christina Cooper

Sera Project

Dear friends,

Thank you so much for your financial and prayer support for my service trip to Romania with Segue and Reaching Out Romania. This trip was an amazing opportunity to serve and learn from others whose experiences and lives are very different from our own.

Sera Photo 1While we were in Romania, we were working with a shelter for girls who have been rescued from the sex trade. Our task while we were there was to prepare the site for a greenhouse we had bought for them through fundraising efforts throughout the school year, and to help put up the greenhouse. This greenhouse will be used to provide food for the shelter, increasing food sustainability and food security, as well as providing a source of income as any excess can be sold, and an opportunity for the girls to be a part of the process of growing and caring for something. This task was a little more complicated, and more involved, than we had anticipated. The site that we had to work with was on the side of a hill, and the area that had been previously flattened was not big enough for the greenhouse. In addition to this, the greenhouse did not arrive while we were there, and is scheduled to arrive shortly after we came back to Canada. So instead of simply putting up the greenhouse, we had to hire an excavator do dig out and level a significant portion of the hill, while our team worked to build two retaining walls to keep the large amounts of disturbed soil from falling onto the house. It was a lot of hard work, but we had an amazing team, and the girls from the shelter were also very excited to help us in whatever way they could. These girls did not cease to amaze and impress us with their determination, strength, and desire to help. As a result, over the course of the week, we were able to not only build both retaining walls, but also to buy the supplies and show them how to build garden boxes for the plants in the greenhouse, as well as spend some time doing teaching on effective planting in a greenhouse.

Sera Photo 2Although we spent most of our time on the work site, we were blessed to also have some time to spend with the girls at the shelter, either eating together or just simply hanging out. In meeting these girls, who were all between the ages of 14 and 21,  we were struck by the fact that they were just that – girls.  These were not abstract ideas, nor simply victims or projects, but girls – who lived and teased and cried and laughed and loved Justin Bieber, who asked if we would sing Hillsong worship songs with them – girls who have seen and experienced many terrible things, things that defy even imagination, but who are still living and in and through whom God is working. In spending time with these girls, God reminded me of his heart for them and for others who society has abused or forgotten – the truth that these are His beloved children. My heart was broken for these girls again and again, and God showed me even more clearly His heart for restoration -bringing each of these girls back to Himself and showing them that they are loved and worth fighting for, and for bringing healing. He showed me the beauty in each of these girls, and the transformation that has been taking place especially in the lives of the ones who have chosen to trust in Him and put their faith in Him.

During our time in Romania, we had the opportunity to bless this organization and these girls with a greenhouse-to-come, with all the preparations taken care of in advance. But our time spent with these girls has also been a huge blessing and a learning experience for me, one that I will not forget and, I believe, one that will play a part in shaping who God is making me into as a person. Again, thank you so much for your prayers and support – without you this trip would not have been possible.

– Christina Cooper

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Our God Story – The Oeste Family

Hi, my name is Marsha Oeste, and this is a story about how my life got turned upside down, and inside out – and how God has used this to grow and challenge me AND make me more dependent on Him.

On September 3rd 2003, my husband Andrew and I welcomed our first daughter, Jenna Elizabeth, into the world. We were very excited to be first time parents and had many dreams and wishes for our daughter. Much to our surprise, Jenna was diagnosed with Spina Bifida. Her spine had not developed normally in utero, and she had a big opening in her back. The Neurosurgeon closed her back the day after she was born, and put in a shunt in her brain to manage Hydrocephalus.

We were told that our daughter would likely not walk, and that we would have other health issues in our future with her. Jenna spent a month in the hospital, and then we finally got to bring her home and have a more typical day to day life with her.

During that first day, and the month following, we relied on God in a way that we never had to before. He was our strength and our shield. We had so many people from our church and my home community loving us and encouraging us and helping us. That support has continued through Jenna’s 12 years, and there have been easy years and hard years when it comes to Jenna’s health and our care of her. She has had many hospital stays, doctor appointments, and surgeries, and through it all, God has provided and carried us through.

Jenna and Marsha Oeste

Right now, we are at another point in life where we are being stretched in our faith, and where our needs are pretty significant in taking care of Jenna. As Jenna grows, we are struggling with transporting her in our current van. We have been physically lifting her in and out of the van, but it is becoming dangerous to Andrew and I to continue doing this. We are in need to a wheelchair lift van, which are very expensive to buy. We have applied for funding from the government and from two other charities, but this means waiting and also no guarantee of funding.  Time is not on our side in this situation, so we have started doing our own fundraising.

Please keep us in your prayers for safety and physical strength, to keep going until God blesses us with enough money to cover the van modification for a lift.  Thank you and God bless.

For the CTV interview featuring the Oeste family, click here.

Breast Cancer – a Transforming Experience

Breast Cancerby Irene Toews

I have attended Whyte Ridge Baptist Church for about 7 years. I was originally asked to share my story at the 2014 Ladies Retreat. The theme for our weekend was Transforming Encounters with Jesus. 

Well, for the last 14 months I have been experiencing a transformation in my life, also known as breast cancer. When asked if I would consider allowing my story to be put on the website, I had to take a deep breath. Once its “online” it’s out there. When I got home I remembered I had promised God I would share whenever and with whoever asked. 

When I think of the word “transforming” I am grateful that it is not Transformed. I believe no matter where we are in our life, we are in a perpetual process of being transformed. There are some days I say to God, “really, we are still working on that area of my life.”  I picture God and its like he rolls his eyes and says back to me: “Yes Irene, we are STILL working on that area of your life.” 

The Day My Life Changed

On Wednesday, July 24, 2013, my life changed. I thought “I haven’t done a breast check for a while.” So as I sat on my couch, I did a quick check. First the right, and wait…, what was that? Quickly I checked the left, no lumps. Again I checked the right. My heart sank and my mind raced with questions. Maybe it’s the way I’m sitting, or I know, I’ve gained weight. However, I knew what it was by the size of the lump. When I pressed on it, it didn’t hurt. I tried to push the all the crazy thoughts out of my head trying deny what I already knew. That didn’t work well so the next day I called my doctor for an appointment. I was scheduled for a mammogram and the following week a biopsy.

During this time I was in a bit of a fog. I can’t remember who I told about the lump or if I asked for prayer. I know I was praying.  On September 11, 2013, during the biopsy, I was told I would be immediately referred to a surgeon. I asked if it could be removed with a lumpectomy. The doc said “not with this type of malignancy”.

It was strange hearing the word malignancy, aka CANCER, spoken and it was referring to me and my body. How could this be? I have worked in Medical Administration for 20+ years and have had to call people in for appointments so the doctor could tell them they have cancer, but ME! Again the fog and survival mode kicked in. I got dressed and walked out of the clinic. A friend had driven me to the appointment, and as we walked down the street to the car I said “I have Breast Cancer.” I said it so casual it was like I just asked, “so you want to go for coffee.” I was trying to be normal, not fall apart right there on Tache. But then it would be normal to fall apart after being told you have cancer, right?

Independence is a Hard Thing to Give Up

Be normal. Be Strong. Be Independent. I was thinking how do I tell my family? What will happen to my job? Is this a hereditary thing—do the women in my family have the gene? I was glad my parents were not around anymore to see me go through this. And yet, I needed them at this time, …and will I die? My independence and life were being threatened. I was scared and lonely, more now than ever. I am a 54 year old single woman. What will I do? Where will I go? Who will be there for me?

The next hard step was to call my family to let them know. I had told my oldest brother about the biopsy. Now I had to confirm the diagnosis — I have breast cancer. I also called a few friends and cousins and the word spread quickly. Every time I say the words breast cancer, even to this day, it did not and does not feel real. I am still processing so much. 

Oh yes by this time there were many tears. Yet there were things that had to get done before life was no longer normal. I wanted someone to hold me while I cried into my pillow in the middle of the night. One of my nieces said to my brother will she never catch a break. My family and friends were sad, angry, and concerned. This cancer didn’t just affect me.

I’ve use the analogy of a freight train to describe how I felt about this cancer thing. Remember in cartoons the damsel in distress tied to the train tracks waiting for her rescuer to come and save her from getting run over by the train. Well, that’s what I pictured. Me, standing on the tracks, tied tightly by cancer. All the while my friends and family were standing beside the tracks yelling, trying to get the train to stop. Yet it still came barreling down the tracks towards me. 

When it hit me, amazingly, it didn’t knock me down. Yes, I may have swayed with each car hitting me, but to me, each car was a phase or step in the process. It was hard to watch those on the side of the tracks being concerned for me, worrying, praying, and watching me go through all the surgery, the treatments. I felt sometimes I needed to be the strong one in this and not let them know how scared I really was. Being independent is a hard thing to give up.

During this time I prayed or inwardly pleaded—some may have called it yelling—with God to give me strength to do what I had to do and get me through this and, oh, by the way, WHY ME? I never liked when I asked my parents “why” and they came back with “because I said so.” I had to trust God, my Father, in this and everything, because HE SAID SO.

Fast forward through medical tests, appointments, and decisions. The big one, do I have one mastectomy or two? 

Surgery

October 29, 2013, at 5:45 in the morning, my brother and sister drove me to the hospital. I walked in knowing within a few short hours I was going to have my double mastectomy and reconstruction. This was a very surreal moment. Yet as I walked in I wondered how am I walking without grabbing on to the exit doors to avoid going into the hospital.

I know there were many people praying for me at this time. I remember praying just as they were putting me to sleep, asking God to guide the hands of the surgeons and to keep the cancer cells out of the lymph nodes. The cancer they did find in the first lymph node was so small it was not measurable. Praise God, I was released from the Health Sciences Center after a few days. 

During all of this, somewhere in my mind, I knew chemotherapy and radiation were in my future. This scared me. 

Home

Once I got home it was nice to be in my own safe place. My cousin had sent over a Tempur-Pedic bed and this allowed me to sleep in a sitting position with my knees bent. Due to the surgery this is how I had sleep for 2 months. My Christmas present to myself last year was to sleep in my own bed on Christmas Eve. It felt great — it felt normal.

After 8-10 weeks of recovery I started getting ready for my next step in treatments. Chemotherapy, losing my hair and toenails, feeling sick, and food tasting like sand for 4+months. I joked, at least my taste buds got to go to the beach last winter. I needed 24/7 care for 4-5 days after each treatment.

Cared For

I’m a little independent in case you haven’t noticed a theme here. However, being dependent rather than independent was a pleasure and a challenge for me. My caregivers made my meals, cleaned my house, sat with me. They distracted me with humour and what was going on in their lives. I was learning to be dependent on others. 

When we are independent we do not ask for help quickly or easily. I had learned from a young age to fix it, figure it out for myself, put myself last. Now this may be a bit of a Mennonite thing — help others, fix others, do for others first. My mom’s test to see if we were really sick was if you’re staying home from school, then you can do the dishes or vacuum, or clean the bathrooms. We went to school a lot.☺ It was hard to feel helpless. I had people say they were surprised at how healthy I looked and sounded during this time. Yet trying to do things that would normally take a short time was a daunting task for me.

After my first treatment of chemo I did okay for the first few days. Slight flu-like symptoms. Days 3-5 kicked in and I had already sent my “care-giver” home. Why keep her here when I can do this myself. Bad decision. Again I was fighting with my independence. 

I was so sick. The anti-nausea drugs kept the nausea away but the side effects were awful. I was weak. I was able to get my coffee, water or a piece of toast. I didn’t eat much those days and I was so doped up I couldn’t talk much. I remember a friend called to see how I was and all I said was too tired to talk and hung up. During that week I prayed to die! Really I did. I pleaded with God to take me home. I did not think I had the strength or ability to do another day, never mind five more rounds of chemotherapy. He obviously did not answer that prayer. 

I started losing my hair on day 12 after my first treatment. My friend Sue is a former hairdresser so she came over and shaved my head for me. We both cried that night. 

Rounds 2-6 were better. I stopped one of the anti-nausea drugs. I was able to arrange for people to stay with me till day 5. They tagged teamed a lot. Some of my neighbours mentioned that I must be popular; they had never seen so many people going in and out of my house. I did assure them I was not popular, just well cared for.

I am still amazed at the many people that came to take care of me. I felt I didn’t deserve it. I’ve not done enough for these people for them to care so much. I know I am loved by God, not by how much I do, He just loves me. Again, at times it’s hard to get my brain/heart around this concept. Satan loves to tell me I’m not good enough to be loved. I’m learning to take a deep breath and a brave step forward out of my comfort zone to ask for help. I can testify to the fact that the blessings I have received in allowing people to care out-weigh the fears of asking for help or being thought of a burden to others.

During my treatments and recovery there were so many friends from church, my Life Group, and my family that were there in body and prayers, phone calls, emails, food, snow shoveling, and so much more. I missed going to church on a regular basis; when I did go I was amazed and so blessed at the many different people that came up to me and said we pray for you every day. I wanted to say who are you people to care so much. I sometimes wanted to ask who are you because I didn’t know their names or couldn’t remember. 

God’s Plans

Through all of this, I sometimes found it hard to pray, read my Bible, focus on God and His will. I knew God had a plan. I knew this from verses like Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you, DECLARES the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. 

And Hebrews 13:5: 

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.

Back when I first knew I had cancer, I drove to a quiet spot and opened my Mom’s bible. Now my parent’s had passed way 1 1/2 years earlier and I had been the main go-to child during the last years of their life. That was and is a whole different transforming experience in my life. Anyway, Mom’s Bible had been in my car since her passing. I opened her Bible and read where it fell open to Ezekiel 37:4-5…

Dry bones, listen to what the Lord is saying to you, “I, the Lord God, will put breath in you, and once again you will live. I will wrap you with muscles and skin and breathe life into you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” 

Whenever, I would share a concern or problem with my Mom or Dad, Mom always would have a verse of comfort or encouragement, not to mention their prayers. Please know, I don’t adhere to crossed over loved ones speaking to you, but I felt that this is a verse she would have shared. I know it is out of context, but it was a comfort all the same. 

In my darkest moments, a song or verse would come to mind and I would contemplate or sing the words till they penetrated my heart and mind and soul. “When Peace like a River, attendeth my way, When Sorrows like sea billows roll.  IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL”. That was my Dad’s favorite song. 

Philippians 4:4-7 says:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice…. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

So I kept saying and singing, to God be the Glory. Sometimes over and over till it penetrated my being.

It helped me to pray for friends and family going through their own issues and many others who needed God to touch their lives.  I know have a God who loves me and is not surprised by my circumstances. He knew before I was born what I would go through in this life.

When asked am I mad at God, I often tell people I was angry at times, yes. But I know in my heart He loves me and will never do anything to pull the rug out from under me just for fun. So I trust Him.

God is Still Working

So where am I in this transforming encounter with Jesus? I’m still transforming, he is still working on me. I’m still learning to trust, ask for help, and make prayer and study a bigger priority. I am apprehensive for what He will ask of me, where I will share this experience, and what the future holds health wise.      

In closing, one of the books I read this winter was the Prayer Box, by Lisa Wingate. It has this prayer about God’s Grace. 

“Yet amid all of this, there is the water of Grace. It flows in all directions, seeping into the hidden crevices, the darkest spaces. The water of Grace, is a sponge to the lips. A trickle and then a flood of hope, the river moves into the mountain stone by stone slowly widening its path, going over each of us, cutting into each of us, washing the places that are hard, that would separate us from one another, from you, among us and within us. After the Storm all are equal, all wanting, all needing, all in need of the water of Grace from one another and from you.”

I praise God and thank Him for loving me enough to give me family, friends, and a church family like Whyte Ridge. It’s your love and prayers that helped get me through this year. And I thank God He is NOT finished with me yet.

Loss and Gain through Illness

Melanie Penner - Sep 28, 2014

Loss & Gain Through Illness

Melanie Penner interview by Pastor Terry Janke. Melanie shares about the losses and gains experienced through illness (cancer).

From Series: "Faith Stories"

Whyte Ridge Baptist people sharing their faith stories - faith journeys.

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Loss and Gain through Illness

Loss and GainDealing with the subject of loss and gain, Whyte Ridge Baptist people were challenged, encouraged, and moved in a very special way this past Sunday morning.

Pastor Terry Janke spoke on the theme–Living in Christ–based on Philippians 1:12-26. The sermon was a call to weigh our losses and gains in light of what Paul teaches, particularly in verses 21-24:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ,which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Phil. 1:21-24, NIV)

Loss & GainTo conclude his sermon, Pastor Terry interviewed Melanie Penner. Melanie was diagnosed with cancer one year ago. She has written with refreshing candor about this journey in her blog Our Hope Adventure

Melanie shared briefly about her diagnosis and then spoke about the loss and gain she has experienced as a result of the diagnosis.

Listen to Melanie’s Story

Rewarding Summer at Camp Nutimik

by Jesse Bergmann

Camp PLT LeadersI write this to share with you a little of the experience I had at Camp Nutimik this 2014 summer season. I hope to convey some of the incredible things which were accomplished through God’s providence. 

Peer Leadership Training

This year at Nutimik I had the opportunity to serve as one of four Peer Leadership Training (PLT) leaders, three of which attend Whyte Ridge. The PLT program is an intensive week long experience which pushes young men and women to grow in their leadership skills as a team. The week included a day long canoe trip through rapids, sleeping in tents, group initiative tasks and sharing testimonies. There is perhaps no greater skill needed by a young Christian leader than the ability to share ones faith with others. So I was greatly encouraged to see fifteen young people take active steps in their faith and step out of their comfort zones, particularly when it came time for each of them to give their testimonies.

Having finished the PLT program, many of these young people plan to enter the CIT (Councillor In Training) program next year. As a PLT leader, I witnessed firsthand the next generation of camp staff developing into strong Christian leaders. I look forward to seeing the impact they will have on our camp. 

Now that I have returned from my time at Nutimik I am left to reflect on what our camp has accomplished and what it is still striving to complete. Our camp has great things planned that, when put in place, will greatly increase the scope of the God centered ministry which is carried out year after year. As Nutimik looks forward to new opportunities and growth, we as the community of Whyte Ridge Baptist Church must continually remember to pray for and support our camp in its ministry. 

The Key Player

Key Door

by Emmie Dryjski

In my testimony on March 9th I made several references to the missionaries with whom I lived and worked. After my baptism service, I spoke with Dan Penner, a member of our church, and we discussed that it was his father, the late Richard Penner who was the key player in my journey to Christ. Sadly, Richard was killed in a plane crash on his way to a meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 2004.

It was Richard who arranged a teaching position for me for PAD (Partnership in Academic Development), in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan, where he worked as a director for World Concern. He also arranged an entry visa for me and met me at the Afghanistan border. As a woman travelling alone to a war torn country I was extremely thankful for this. It can be very stressful entering Afghanistan due to all the military check points and language barrier. Not only was Richard fluent in Dari, but also very familiar with all Afghan customs and procedures.

While in Mazar-e-Sharif, Richard kept a watchful eye over me. He would assist me to the market and showed me what food I must not eat. He also reminded me to follow daily the Afghan tradition of covering myself from head to foot. During the two months there, I was cut off from my life in Canada because there was no means of communication. However, Richard would deliver news from Winnipeg to me, including email from my family whenever he attended a meeting in Tashkent. Most importantly, he took me to the worship services on Fridays and introduced me to all his missionary friends and colleagues. From them I learned what it means to be a servant of the Lord.

Richard’s life was a witness to me in his love for God. This same love was also demonstrated in his genuine interest in helping the Afghan people and his care of me.

It has been a real gift to have worked with Richard and to call him my friend.

From Kingdom Hall to the Kingdom of God

by Kelly Karam

My spiritual journey started in a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was born and raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was taught about a God named Jehovah, my Father. He was the God my family served, prayed to, studied about, and ultimately feared.

We spent a lot of time in personal Bible study and in church, we had meetings 3 times a week plus put in service hours, like going door to door (what they were and still are famous for). Those service hours were all recorded and handed in to the elders at the end of every month. Despite all the study and service, I never felt as close to God as I wanted. He seemed distant or somehow disconnected from me.

Growing up I spent alot of time feeling like I didn’t belong in the church. I always had a sense I never measured up. I didn’t have a perfect attendance record, others had more service hours than me, my dad wasn’t an elder, my best friends’ dads were, I didn’t have it all together. The list goes on and on.

I never felt secure in my salvation. It seemed I could never do enough. From a young age until I was 20, I remember having reoccurring nightmares of finding out at Christ’s return I simply didn’t cut it.

At the age of 20, I met my match – literally.

I started dating a Baptist boy. Things got serious. We knew we had to sort out our religious differences if we wanted to move forward. My soon to be in-laws also recognized the importance of being evenly yoked, so they put us in touch with a gentleman named Ray from the Navigators. He set up a bible study with the two of us.

I viewed this as the perfect opportunity to convert the both of them. Our studies were uneventful in my humble opinion. Ray seemed wishy washy to me, he had no concrete, definite answers, which is what I had always been used to. Jehovah’s Witnesses have an answer that makes sense for any question one could ask. In Ray’s quiet way, he would let me preach my interpretation of the scriptures and then respectfully say, that’s one way to look at it, here’s what I take from it…. I remember him pointing out the importance of reading scripture prayerfully. I was used to being told what the scripture meant – No Questions Asked.

In the weeks that followed, Chris and I would go to the downtown library to look up the Greek and Hebrew origins of words. I started to discover there was more than one definition. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we were only ever allowed to read spiritual material that was published by our Watchtower Society. So these library dictionaries and concordances were creating small cracks in my belief system.

Still focused on converting Chris and Ray, I agreed to attend a Ralph Bell Crusade night in lieu of Chris attending a service at my Kingdom Hall.

I distinctly remember being very unimpressed by the sermon and looking forward to going home. Then came the alter call. I recall Chris bowing his head in prayer, me thinking you can pray all you want, I’m not going up. I wrapped my hands around my chair to hold myself down in my seat.

I remember being in awe of the power of God as I was being physically moved to the front.

As I walked, I felt all my burdens being lifted from me completely. Those burdens were the burdens of works.

What I know now, that I didn’t know then:

  • I know I didn’t know Him as I do today.
  • I know He 1st loved me and sent his son to die for me and because of that I don’t have to try and earn my salvation.
  • I know I belong to Him because he says – I am His child

My study of Ephesians this summer reminded me of my identity in Christ. I encourage you to read it if you haven’t lately. Here are my Coles notes:

  • Eph. 1:7 – our sins are taken away and we are forgiven
  • Eph. 2:5 – says, it’s by Grace you have been saved.
  • Eph. 2:8 – for its by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
  • Eph. 3:12 – we can come with freedom and confidence into God’s presence. No more nightmares since he brought me up that aisle!!

Charles Stanley once said, “Salvation is not a reward that God has given to us for works or for good behavior.  Salvation is the result of grace and goodness and the love of God. It is a Free gift from God to those who trust him as personal savior”

I want to encourage you to make that decision to trust Him and make Him your personal Savior if haven’t already.

To learn more about making this decision that Kelly speaks of – read about the Good News on this website.

Lessons from God Through Cancer

God and Cancer

by Melanie Penner

Most of us fear the diagnosis of cancer. I grew up fearing cancer even more then the average person. When I was four years old my brother died of cancer. I honestly believed that since my family had suffered from this loss, I would always be spared of having to live through the trauma of cancer. However, God decides, not me. In October 2013, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer. My journey of getting diagnosed, being treated and recovering has not been easy. Here is my story…

I had day surgery in mid-October in order to determine if I had cancer or not. Three days after that surgery, I developed a deep vain clot in my leg and was admitted into the hospital. During this stay, I was told I most likely had cancer and that we didn’t need to wait for pathology to confirm my diagnosis. My clot was reinforcing what the doctors had predicted; I quickly became a cancer patient. I remember crying and feeling sad, but not devastated. I completely believed that God would make it all better quickly. I had been in a cancer-screening program for 18 months prior to being diagnosed, so I was certain that a quick surgery would take care of things. Wrong again. A month later, I was officially diagnosed. I was told that the tumor in my cervix was very large and had probably been there for up to 2 years. Apparently I had slipped through the cracks of the cancer-screening program that I was a part of. Mistakes had been made and my cancer had been missed. My biggest nightmare would come true: chemo and radiation. The tumor inside of me was too large for a successful surgery.

I remember crying out and asking God, “How could you let this happen?” It felt like it was more then I could handle. God’s response to me was, “I am with you.” I didn’t want Him, I wanted Him to fix my problem. Looking back, I had so much to learn. My first lesson was a hard one: God allows big, bad things to happen in our lives. He allows things to hit us that we can’t handle, so that we learn to lean on Him completely.

Two weeks after my diagnosis, treatments started. I got sick instantly. Nausea hit me like a punch in the gut and all the medication I was taking, was a shock to my body. So many nights I lay in bed and couldn’t believe this was the journey God was leading me on, and at the same time, I marveled at the strength He gave me just when I needed it. After my first week of treatments, I felt so incredibly overwhelmed and thought I could not survive 6 more weeks of this. I went to the hospital 5 days a week. I had radiation Monday through Friday and chemo every Tuesday. This was an intense treatment plan; however, God provided ways to cope. A group of friends offered to take turns driving me to the hospital everyday, so I was never alone. When I didn’t have energy to physically get there, I was escorted. God would bring verses into my life everyday through friends, devotions, and just in my mind to help me carry on. Somehow, I managed to get to every treatment. I was learning to rely on Him as my refuge and strength at all times. I learned that He will give me what I need, when I need it. I often felt like I didn’t have the strength or courage to get through each day, but I did for each moment. God often doesn’t give us beyond what we need, just enough. But enough is enough; and He is always dependable with enough.

There is another part to this story. I was sick, but so was my husband, Darryl. 4 months prior to my diagnosis, we learned he had a tumor behind his right eye that was the cause of severe headaches. In early January, when I was half way through my treatments, Darryl had to have major brain surgery to remove the tumor. The surgery was risky: there was a high chance he would lose his sight in his right eye. When the person you love the most is in pain or in any kind of jeopardy, all you want is to be with them and take care of them. But I couldn’t because I was too sick. We relied on friends and family to take Darryl to the hospital for his surgery and to be with him during his hospital stay. The morning he left for the hospital, I lay at home in bed begging God to carry Darryl through and to keep him safe. I did manage to get to the hospital in the afternoon of surgery day. In fact, I had an appointment with my oncologists that day to give me a progress report (my first one since treatments had started), had my daily treatments, and was sent for a chest x-ray in preparation for more treatments. Then I went up to the surgery ward to get the results of Darryl’s surgery. I think back on that day; it was way too much for me, but God was there. Because He was there, I made it through.

The surgery went extremely well; the first thing Darryl asked his nurse after waking up was, “How is my wife today; tell her I love her”. I was so relieved he remembered me! One of my biggest fears was having Darryl in the hospital. I didn’t have the energy to visit him each day, and I needed him at home to cheer me on through my treatments. God knew this. Darryl was discharged from the hospital 24 hours after major surgery. We couldn’t believe it, but were so thankful.

Not everything became easier after Darryl came home though. Now I was more on my own. He couldn’t come to the hospital with me for doctor’s appointments, even on days when “big news” would be given. I quickly learned how much I depended on Darryl and learned to depend on God instead. I managed to complete 5 rounds of chemo, 28 radiation treatments, numerous blood tests, and weekly doctor’s appointments. God carried me through all of this and has continued to be faithful to me.

My recovery from treatments has gone very well, quicker then expected. However, I have been told that my cancer did not respond to treatments as well as my doctors had hoped. So, I’m waiting for 12 weeks, to let the treatments finish working. Then, I will be reassessed to determine if surgery and more treatments are needed.

Waiting can be a very scary place, but I have learned that God is in control. He allowed me to get cancer, and He gets the last say as to whether I am cured or not. He gets to choose how I’m healed and when. God has also taught me that He is always present. He will never leave me nor forsake me. But it is my responsibility to acknowledge His presence in my life. I know God is taking me through this journey to change me and prepare me to serve Him. I’m not sure how, or where or when. But I can’t wait to see what is in store because now He is directing me and I am learning to follow.

Remembering Ana – One Year Later

Ana Marquez-Greene Trampoline

One year ago, Ana Grace Márquez-Greene’s “home going to heaven” service was held at The First Cathedral of Bloomfield under Archbishop Leroy Bailey. Three ministers spoke: Dr. Paul of Glory Chapel International Cathedral of Hartford, Ana’s great aunt Myrta from Puerto Rico, and Pastor Terry Janke of Whyte Ridge Baptist Church of Winnipeg, MB. Because of Jimmy’s participation in the music community and their tremendous love for Ana, the music was provided by a Hartford Symphony Orchestra chamber group, Harry Connick Jr., Javier Colon, Latanya Farrell, and The First Cathedral Mass Choir led by J.J. Hairston.

They tell us that nearly two thousand people attended… Not because we all agreed on the same thing but because our hearts were broken. We thank all of you who came so graciously to stand with us, despite our differences, to pay tribute to a little girl whose life stood for this very principle.

Jimmy & Nelba

Here is the message Pastor Terry shared at the service:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled… Trust in God, Trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms… I go to prepare a place for you.’ John 14:1-2

Jimmy, Nelba, Isaiah… and the entire Marquez-Greene family – it is a treasured privilege to be able to share with you in this “Home Going Celebration” for sweet little Ana. And it is with the deepest sympathy that I stand here on behalf of your Canadian church family in Winnipeg (Whyte Ridge Baptist Church); who is also standing with you in prayer before the throne of grace and beseeching the Lord to pour down mercy upon you and unshakable faith in the face of this loss. I cannot begin to tell you how many people from our church and community have conveyed their heartfelt love for you through the pastoral staff of our church and through Linden Christian School. We have talked and prayed with many people in Winnipeg who have been impacted by your family and the news of Ana’s death.

I also know that the communities of the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba, where you have so many friends, have been deeply impacted and that they have been walking with you in your grief. Know that God is multiplying His manifold graces upon many, many people; that He is not wasting your sorrows, and that the truth of His living presence is closer to the surface in countless conversations about eternal things.

I want you to also know that from the very moment we heard the news of Ana’s departure to be with her Lord, our prayer has been for God to sustain you, support you and display through you the wonders of His matchless love through your Savior, Jesus Christ. His light is shining through you, who have become such a witness to the living hope we have in Christ.

Ana was such a sweet girl. My wife Pat and I remember many times shared with your family, and we have spoken with friends who knew her well from church or school. One staff member from Linden Christian School wrote to me that Ana always loved reading and singing, and could out-dance anyone. “She was so much personality packaged in such a small bundle. I am blessed to have had even a little time with God’s special ray of sunshine.”

Someone else said; “She was a happy girl that lived in the moment. I love it that Ana celebrated who she was; her African-American heritage and her Latin-American heritage… and even living in Canada. She celebrated WHO she was, WHERE she was, WITH WHOM she was, WHAT she was, WHEN she was… and at some level, even WHY she was!”

Jimmy and Nelba, you will remember last January our church studied the book of Job. Job is a theodicy; an attempt to understand God’s involvement in our suffering. It is the testimony of a man that suffered greatly and for no apparent reason, losing his entire family and all he owned, yet hanging on to his faith in God through it all. Except for the opening and closing words, the entire book (42 chapters) is poetry. Someone took the time to make the whole story move to the beat and rhythm of Hebrew poetry. To understand its message we have to slow down and get in sync; something we are not good at.

When I started preaching through Job, I began with these words:

Part of my responsibility as a pastor is to prepare you to face your own theodicy – when the day of evil appears on your calendar, when calamity comes knocking at your door; when suffering finds your address, when your faith is no longer just theory about God held in your mind, but is forced to decide what you really believe about Him… in that moment, in the middle of that conflict… my goal is that instead of cursing God and losing faith, your trial will cause you to bless God and strengthen faith.

Jimmy and Nelba – that day of evil came last Friday… and it has been our prayer, that your faith would remain unshakable; and would reflect the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus to sustain you. Peter writes, ‘Now, for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold… may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.’ (1 Peter 1:6-7)

To understand the book of Job, you need to study its key questions. The first one is found in chapter one. The scene is the courts of heaven. Satan is standing before God and he poses a sneering question: Does Job fear God for nothing? Oswald Chambers writes that the devil was saying to God: ‘You are infatuated with the idea that man loves you for your own sake; but he never has and he never will. Job loves you because you bless and prosper him, but touch anyone of his blessings and he will curse you to your face and prove that no man on earth loves you for your own sake.’ (Baffled to Fight Better, p.9)

You see the purpose of the book of Job is not just to instruct us about patience in the face of suffering. What is on trial in Job is faith in God itself, and whether God is worthy of being trusted. Job understands this and so in chapter 2:10 we get the second important question in this book.

Job says to his wife, ‘Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?’ (Job 2:10)

Is God only worthy of being loved when He treats us the way we want to be treated; when He gives us what we want? Is He worthy of our devotion when He seems silent and far away; and when He allows sorrow and pain into our lives? Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?’

Job’s conclusion to these questions reflects a robust, gutsy and rugged faith. He says things like:

‘Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.’ (Job 13:15)

‘My advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God.’ (Job 16:19-20)

‘Oh that I had someone to hear me... let the Almighty answer me.’ (Job 31:35)

‘I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.’ (Job 19:25)

‘My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.’ (Job 42:5)

In all that he went through, Job did not lose faith in His God!

Others in Scripture evidence this robust faith. The psalmist says… ‘Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.’ (Psalm 73:25-26) The Apostle Paul said, ‘if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.’ (1 Cor. 15:19)

Jimmy and Nelba – many people will not understand this kind of faith that clings to the love of God and the goodness of God and the sovereignty of God in the midst of what feels like being hopelessly abandoned by God! It was the same for Job. His friends judged him as having sinned somehow. His own wife judged God and told him to curse God and die! She could not see God as yet a loving God because of the blinding pain!

But oh, dear friends, God could not love you more than He already does; and He has never loved you less. The measure of His love for you was demonstrated when He gave up His own dear Son on the cross so that you could be forgiven of your sin and have eternal life with Him. Ana has already entered into that fullness of eternal life because of God’s matchless love.

Let it be clear today, that though Ana was such a sweet little innocent girl, and so full of joy and love – she nevertheless needed a Saviour. There was nothing inherent in Ana that made God love her. God set His love on her because God is love, and she received that love in Jesus Christ and became a child of God. Jimmy and Nelba, you told us last night about how Ana prayed and how she loved reading Scripture. God put her in your home for these six years to nurture living faith in a living God! What a trust you were given… and you were faithful in that trust! And now Jesus has cleansed her soul and received her into the eternal home that He has prepared for her. And people, He can do the same for you… for everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.

In the last message Jesus shared with His followers before he died, He said: ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (Jn 16:33) But He also said: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.’ (Jn 14:1) In this world you will have trouble… but do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God.

Jimmy, Nelba – I remember your first winter in Winnipeg. Oh what an adjustment it was to that climate, and how you loved getting away to Puerto Rico! The winter season in Canada is harsh.

The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that seasons are not just about the earth’s rotation and our climate. He says, For everything there is a season and a time for every activity under heaven. There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. Our hearts and souls have seasons as well.

Ana’s departure signals a season of winter for your souls… it feels frozen, numb. But because of your three years in Winnipeg, you know a little bit about winter. It can be cold and lonely, but it does not last… and it passes easier when you share it with others who are also in winter.

Mark Buchanan has written a book entitled, Spiritual Rhythm in which he discusses how to be with Jesus in every season of your soul. And about the spiritual season of his own winter that he passed  through, he writes this: “It would end, in time – but not by my own doing. My responsibility was to know the season and match my actions and inactions to it. It was my season to believe in spite of – to believe, in the absence of evidence, when there was nothing, no bud, no colour, no light, no birdsong to validate belief. It was my time to walk without sight.” (p. 17)

Friends, the natural assumption about the winter season’s of our souls is that God is not there; life is not there. Either He has abandoned me, or I have strayed from Him. It is bleak and fruitless. Surely God is not in the winter!  Yet He is!

There is growth and work that God does in our souls that can only be done in the winter. And you will find that Jesus is a Saviour for all seasons, especially the winter. For He is a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.

In a Cathedral in Milan, there is a doorway with three inscriptions over it.

Over the right-hand door, there is the motto: “All that pleases is but for a moment.”
Over the left-hand door, it says: “All that troubles is but for a moment.”
And over the top of the centre door: “Nothing is important, save that which is eternal.” (p. 51, A Chance to Die, biography of Amy Carmichael by Elizabeth Elliott)

Dear friends – live in the assurance of the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13); who, when He appears will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away. (Rev 21:4)

‘To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.’ (Jude 24)


God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform,

He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs and works His Sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread,
Are big with mercy and shall break in blessing on your head.
His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain,
God is His own interpreter and He will make it plain.
                 – William Cowper, 1731–1800

Greene Family

Love Wins Memorial Page

For the full family tribute visit Love Wins – Remembering Ana Márquez-Greene, the official family endorsed memorial Facebook page.

Ana Grace ProjectLearn more about the Ana Grace Project established for the purpose of promoting love, connection, and community for every child and family.

Marriage Wins The Amazing Race Canada

Tim Hague Sr. shares a key take away from competing in The Amazing Race Canada.

Tim Sr. Tim Jr. Hague10,000 applicants, seven provinces, three territories, 23,000 km traveled, eight other highly competitive teams, navigationally challenged, Parkinson’s. How does one go about winning the inaugural The Amazing Race Canada? I’m not sure I know how to answer that question entirely but I do know that it requires a fair bit of muscle, a bit of smarts and a fair bit of what some would call luck but I’ll refer to as blessing. Clearly Someone had our back!

So having had the opportunity to participate in something that is a once in a lifetime, if not multiple lifetime opportunity, what does one take away from it? Well, one is having Parkinson’s and trying to climb a mountain is not fun. Yes it’s true, Parkinson’s impacted my race, sometimes significantly. However, there are three salient truths I take away from the race in regards to this line of discussion. One is, in the long-term, without a cure, Parkinson’s will win this war that I battle with it. I’m OK with that. I know my ultimate home. Two, Parkinson’s does slow me down. It impacts my life, it impacted my race and it makes life slower than I would otherwise like it. Three we none-the-less won The Amazing Race Canada with Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s could not take this opportunity away from me and it did not prevent us from winning. Therefore, I am determined to not let it take an ounce of my life today. What it ‘wins’ tomorrow is not important but what I win today is. And, really, does it ever actually win? 2 Corinthians 5:8.

Then there’s the intriguing thought of how a marriage wins The Amazing Race Canada. Now, you know that Tim Jr. and I did all the heavy lifting on this (insert laugh track) but the brains of the team stayed at home in Winnipeg! Sheryl has been an avid fan of the show and prior to our leaving she had us studying all kinds of hopefully relevant trivia which included flags and flowers. Thus, her knowledge and encouragement to be prepared even before leaving proved vital to our overall success. So, in fact you could say we were effectively a three person team.

Now, how effectively do you listen to your spouse? I think there is a fascinating analogy here for how marriage is intended to work. My spouse, help mate, team mate, wife, made an invaluable contribution to our overall success even though she never ran a leg of the race. When it was said, “and the two will become one” (Genesis 2:24), I think this is a bit of what was in mind. The two are still two; independent in thought, action, ability, autonomy, but now one in life, partnership and direction. What if I had chosen ‘to be my own man’ and ignore the advice of my wife? What if she had felt that this was ‘their thing’ and chose to not be involved? By participating together on the same team (marriage) yet in very different roles we have experienced success together.

These are two of my favorite takeaways from The Race. I could regale you with tales of muktuk, dogsleds, zoo’s, navigational errors and the like, but I will leave you with these thoughts; we consider ourselves to be so incredibly blessed in life and so much more for having been given this experience. What a complete joy it was to run with my son and to win with him. It’s truly more than a father could hope for.

A heartfelt thanks to WRBC! The outpouring of support and encouragement has been wonderful. You make it so easy and delightful for us to call this place home.