Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Timely Visits

This was my trip today; from home to Morinville, to Gibbons, to Fort Saskatchewan and back to home again. I know the map says an hour and forty five minutes but it actually took me longer than that because, you see, I stopped at a few churches on the way.

My day started when I arrived on the dot of ten, their opening time, at The Father's House in Morinville. Whenever I walk through a church door and people don't know who I am, I have a sense they might feel like I might upon seeing some kind of salesperson approaching my own front door. Not exactly a trusting look - somewhat skeptical perhaps. I don't want to single out The Father's House because it happens many times. In any case, I was greeted cordially, and introduced myself as being with Alpha Canada.

Genuine smiles broke out instantly. "This is a very timely visit," said the Associate Pastor who greeted me. He went on to say they were just discussing what to do with some of their small groups this fall, and Alpha fit the bill perfectly. Father's House has three, "campuses," he told me so they might run multiple Alphas. He was especially happy to hear that all our resources are free, "Available," I like to say, "for the low, low, cost of nothing."

From there it was on to Gibbons, where Sturgeon Alliance has been a pretty steady Alpha church. Once again, they were glad to see me. Once again they used the same term, "What a timely visit!" They were planning their fall, were aware of the upcoming Global Alpha Campaign with Bear Grylls and hope to run both it and the Youth Film Series.

On then to Fort Saskatchewan, visiting three churches there, including dropping information off at the Catholic Parish, Our Lady of the Angels. The receptionist knew about Alpha and said she would leave the information for Father. I was surprised, when I got home and went to enter a record of my daily calls, to see that they actually ran a Youth Film Series earlier this year.

My final stop was at Community Baptist Church, the energizer bunny of Alpha churches in Fort Saskatchewan - they just keep running and running and running... Here is a picture.
 
There was no one there, so I just left my card in the door, but look above their sign and the shrub that's behind it. It's an old Alpha sign. I'm not sure how old, but if Alpha ever opens a museum, I'm sure it could find a place there.
 
Alpha HQ might shake their heads, but there's something I love about these small town and rural churches. That banner has been up there for years and, "Why change it...?" They're just so faithful in serving their communities, and if something ain't broke, why fix it? In any case, I will have to talk to them about an upgrade.
 
So there you go. Another fun day in Alberta.
 
Blessings,
 
John



Monday, 15 August 2016

Misssionary du Jour

I posted this picture on my facebook page yesterday, along with this commentary;
With Sam Nikkel and Eva (who took the pic) at McKernan Baptist at 'Meet our Missionary.' Yes I am counted as one of their missionaries and today I was, 'Missionary du Jour. '
McKernan has a wonderful brand new facility, in an established neighbourhood in Edmonton, and I think many might attribute at least some of their growth to their relationship with Alpha for over a decade. Sam has been a long-time Alpha enthusiast and supporter.

Thanks Sam and McKernan. I really value our relationship.

Blessings,

John

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Outta The Blue (From Time to Time)

From time to time I get discouraged. Doesn't everybody - from time to time that is?

Often I get frustrated at how many people don't return my calls or respond to my e-mails. Sometimes I think it might be better not to try to make appointments, but just to drop in unexpectedly. I've actually had success using this tactic, and one of my favourite things to do is to go to a particular community and just walk in through church doors. In 5 years I've only had one what I would consider negative response. I even forget where, exactly, but it was a rather fundamentalist church who wanted nothing to do with Alpha because Catholics used it too. I resisted the temptation to come back with the snappy rejoinder, "Catholics also use the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation. Do you reject it as well?"

But I digress. A couple of weeks ago I telephoned a church in Edmonton hoping to speak with the Pastor. He was on holidays; could I call back the following week? No problem. I called back the next Tuesday, thinking I would give him his Monday to get back into the swing of things. He was in a meeting; would I like to leave a voicemail? So I did. No reply. So I emailed a friendly message saying I hoped we could get together. No reply. I was feeling quite rejected.

Yesterday another pastor, Senior Pastor of a pretty large church called me. I asked how things were going with him. He shared how it might be a sign of summer, but he was getting frustrated at how people didn't return his calls and emails. I said, "And here I thought I was the only one with that problem." It didn't necessarily make me feel any better, but at least I was not alone in my misery.

This morning I got a call from the church mentioned two paragraphs above. Not from the pastor, but from someone else on staff who had no idea I had been trying to reach them, but asking for help and advice on running Alpha this fall. Coincidence, eh? We spoke for a while, and I made an appointment to visit the Pastor next week. Mission accomplished in a roundabout way.

God seems to do this  - from time to time - come up with little ways to encourage us in our times of frustration or discouragement.

Outta the blue.

Blessings,

John

Thursday, 4 August 2016

What's Going On?

"What's going on?" you ask (as also did Marvin Gaye). "What's coming up? What's in the works?"
Well I thought it was time I wrote another post, so let me tell you about a couple of things.

I've been working on a few things. A couple of churches have been really encouraging to me. Yesterday I met with St Albert Alliance. They are planning a pretty major fall Alpha campaign, as a church as a whole, in small groups and in Seniors' homes.

South Calgary Chinese Evangelical Free Church (SCCEFC - Chinese Churches seem to like initials; see Westside Calgary Chinese Alliance Church [WCCAC], SEAC [South Edmonton Alliance Church], ECCC [Edmonton Christian Community Church] etc., but enough of that - they are all good Alpha churches) are planning 2 Alpha's this fall.

Christcity, my favourite Sunday evening church, (I tell people I'm an Anglican Sunday mornings and a Pentecostal Sunday nights) is planning to give Alpha a higher profile this fall. I've been after them for quite a while about that because they are quite a rockin' church and I have long felt they could be a very major Alpha church.

And I've reserved a spot at Break Forth for next year, along with a breakout session.  My session will be entitled, "Communicating the Relevance of the Gospel in a Changing Culture," (I hope the title will fit in the program.) My description for the program is:
 this
 "Evangelicalism has never chased relevance more determinedly than it does right now. And yet, we've never been more irrelevant." (a quote from Os Guiness)
As soon as we feel we have to try to make the Gospel message relevant, we are admitting that we think it is not, so how do we communicate the eternally relevant message in today's world?
 Hopefully, it will receive the same response at the conference as last year's presentation.
Please continue to pray for Alpha's ministry in Alberta, across Canada and around the world. As we are embarking on a fall fundraising initiative, you might also consider clicking on my picture on the right and helping us out a bit.

Blessings,

John


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Driving in Peace

Image result for dunvegan alberta
Canola to infinity
My title for this post is a bit of a play on words. A recent road trip took me to the city of Grande Prairie and from there to the  town of Peace River. That whole area of Northwest Alberta is known as the Peace Country, after the mighty Peace River. As a matter of fact, an annual Youth gathering there has one of the coolest titles I've heard; Disturbing the Peace, to be held later this year at Grande Prairie Alliance, a really good Alpha church.

The first picture above is where the Highway 2 crosses the river at Dunvegan. The second picture is of some of the bright yellow fields of canola one sees along both sides of the highway. I love travelling this Province.

In Peace River I had some interesting and encouraging calls. My first appointment was with Pastor Nathan Friedt at First Baptist, a church who has been taking the lead in that community, Alpha-wise. Nathan is a former Youth Pastor who left for Vancouver Island for a time, then was called back to be their Senior Pastor. They must have liked him, and I don't blame him. We had a very encouraging visit and brief time of prayer.

My next call was a cold call on the Catholic Church, appropriately named, "Our Lady of Peace." Fr. Cyril Joseph and I had a good conversation about Alpha and the possibility of his parish using it in conjunction with their RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults).

Finally I dropped in to the offices of the Anglican Diocese of Athabasca. Bishop Fraser Lawton (with whom I get along pretty well, as we are both, "car guys") and his Administrator, Danielle, had just returned from the Anglican Church of Canada national synod in Toronto, at which a motion  was passed which will ultimately lead to the approval same sex marriage in that denomination. Bp Fraser was among those standing against this motion, and in addition to the usual jet lag, I suspect was emotionally weary as well, so I didn't stay long - just long enough to say I was thinking and praying for them.

An interesting "coincidence" took place before all this on our way from St Albert to Grande Prairie. We stopped at McDonald's in Whitecourt. I was just leaving the till when I heard someone call my name. I turned around and it took me a couple of seconds to recognize Fariborz Khandani, a former Muslim from Iran who came to Christian faith and is now Rector of Christ Church Anglican Church in Grande Prairie, also in Bp Fraser's Diocese of Athabasca. He was travelling in the opposite direction, to Edmonton. We had a good time of discussion over Big Macs and a short time of prayer right there in McDonald's. I'm hoping his church will be one to run Alpha in the fall. For various reasons, which I'll not get into here, I believe it was not a coincidence that we met, but divinely ordained.

But you never know who you'll run into. It's a small world when you're a Christian. Family is everywhere.

Blessings,

John

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Holidays

Eva and I returned a couple of weeks ago from a few days in Vegas. "Vegas?" you ask, in the summer? Well, yes. We had a package deal that gave us free hotel in exchange, I didn't realize until the pitchman was halfway through his spiel, the, "Opportunity" to sit through a two hour time-share presentation. I've sat through one of these before and swore never to do it again. In addition to not particularly enjoying being subjected to a relatively high-pressure pitch, I don't really feel right wasting a sales person's time. I had no intention of buying anything, and I didn't.

But, hey, free is free. We also had Air Miles to pay for a hotel on the way down and Wyndham points for one on the way back. So all it cost us was gas. Well, gas plus food and entertainment. We carried and kept a fair amount of food in a cooler that we drained and filled with ice from the hotel ice makers twice a day. And we found a place on the Miracle Mile who served $9 entrees and $3 Margueritas. I gambled a total of $2, while waiting for my lovely bride outside a casino washroom. My last dollar won me 3 cents, which I just left in the machine for the next high roller.

We saw a couple of shows, notably Penn and Teller, which I thought was terrible, and The Million Dollar Quartet, which we both thought was fantastic.

The drive down was rather eventful. Somewhere south of Idaho Falls, at mile 87 of  I 15, we saw three kids standing on an overpass. Eva even commented that she hoped they weren't going to throw anything at us. Well, they did. We saw him throw it and heard a great bang, thinking it had hit the roof. When we had a chance to inspect the car however, we found he had hit the right front fender, damaging it, the hood and the headlight. Thanking God it didn't hit the windshield. That could have been disastrous.

Why we had a chance to inspect it is another story. I called 911 to report the incident, but basically kept on driving. Some time later we began to notice a strange noise coming from underneath the car. I feared the worst. I pulled in to a rest area and that is when I saw the damage. Looking under the hood I saw that the plastic skid plate under the motor had broken loose so that over about 50 miles an hour it dragged on the highway. Not a big problem. We stopped at the next town and found a NAPA store where a young man came out, crawled under the car and removed it. He wasn't going to charge us but I gave him ten bucks anyway, and let him keep the broken skid plate.

While we were in Vegas I checked out the Alpha USA website to find local Alphas. There is only one running, and only two in all of Nevada. I jokingly posted on Facebook that, "They need a Regional Director down here!"

I suppose it might be nice when the temperature is -30 in Alberta.

Blessings,

John


From Generation to Generation

Seniors' Alpha

Just a couple of things, among many, happening with Alpha right now, at opposite ends of the generational spectrum.

First, [a well-known local home developer] is hoping to run Alpha in four of their Seniors' residences, starting in mid-September. Their corporate chaplain has asked me to help find teams from among local churches.

Seniors are now my generation, the "baby boomers," once rebellious against the establishment. That spirit of rebelliousness would seem now to be once again appropriate, as our culture seems to be departing more and more from its roots. It's time to rebel once again against the 'establishment' and turn back toward God.

Youth Alpha
Turning to Youth, Alpha's Youth Film Series (YFS) has had a tremendous impact since its introduction in 2013. If you can see the infographic (just out) to the right, it has been viewed by nearly 70,000 Canadian teens. Over 20,000 young people have come to a new or renewed faith through it. Last year alone, 2015, over 6000 teens came to faith through Alpha's YFS. It is being run in more and more junior high and high schools, both Catholic and public. Just this morning I spoke with  Youth worker in a town in East-central Alberta whose church is planning to run it in their local high school.

I must admit, I sometimes fall into the trap of worrying too much about what I see going on around me, culturally and politically, but I'm then convicted. I will let others be concerned about those things. I have one aim, job, duty. That is to help churches and my brothers and sisters in Christ reach their communities for Jesus. I must leave politics to others.

Please keep Alpha, and me in my position, in your prayers.

Blessings,

John