Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Grande Prairie

Max Rossiter
A dear Alpha coach passed away New Year's Eve in Grande Prairie. I may post further about him, pending permission from Joyce, his wife. His memorial service was held on Friday Jan 13 at Grande Prairie's Christian Fellowship Assembly (CFA). I was determined to attend, but to make it otherwise worthwhile, I fired off a number of emails to arrange meetings with other churches in town. There was no rental vehicle available until Thursday morning, so I arranged to pick it up by 7:30 that AM. My daughter and her husband and family had been down to our home for New Year's, and on the way back had hit a deer with their truck, so, knowing I would be travelling back at dusk on Friday, I decided to take the full protection package for this trip. Normally I don't, but for an extra 9 dollars a day I thought it was worth the extra insurance.

A number of Grande Prairie churches are participating in Alpha's Global Advertising Campaign (GAC), so there are about 10 Alphas running or about to start. My first appointment was with Fariborz Khandani of Christ Church Anglican. It was a lunch meeting and I actually beat him to the restaurant after my 4-hour-and-change trip. Following that meeting, I met with Pastor Peter Ma of McLaurin Baptist, where my co-father-in-law (son-in-law's dad) is actually hosting a table in their Alpha. Then I visited the Salvation Army, who are going to run an Alpha at their drop-in centre.
 
Friday morning I met for breakfast at Denny's with Wes Dong and Senior Pastor Anthony Bulmer of Grande Prairie Alliance. It was a great time spending time away from their usual environment with leaders of one of my key Alberta churches. Wes is the one who basically organized the GAC for the city, and he did quite a lot of work, including bringing on at least one church I had been pursuing since my first visit there, and one course running for students at Grande Prairie Regional College. Thanks Wes.


My last visit Friday morning was to the Chancery of the Catholic Archdiocese of Grouard-Mclennan, just to keep in touch and let them know I haven't forgotten them, and to ensure they have not forgotten me. My hope is that we might be able to arrange some kind of Diocesan-wide training event. If so, I'd invite Alpha Canada's National Catholic Coordinator, Josh Canning, out to participate. I'd appreciate prayer to see that happen, should it be the Lord's will.

Max's memorial service had a number of references to Alpha, the difference it made in his life, and his devotion to it as an evangelistic tool. He had been the Alpha coordinator at CFA for many years. Max was one of the most colourful characters one could ever meet. On his facebook page he attributed his education to, "Kingston Pen." After he was saved, he couldn't stop talking about Jesus. Now he's talking to him. And Jesus is probably smiling.

Peace, Max

John

BTW, no deer.
BTW.2 On the way to GP I passed at least half a dozen large, wide load trucks with pilot trucks, carrying oil patch offices or machinery heading north. I'm guessing they would have been heading either to the Grande Prairie or Peace River areas. I hope that's a good sign.

My Morning Routine,You Ask

Well, you may not have, but I'm going to tell you anyway. I have taken to beginning my mornings with the same routine every day, at least my work routine, not counting shower and breakfast.

What I do is this; when I first sit down at my computer, I open up Alpha Canada's database and pull up the report on Alpha courses registered in Alberta for 2017. If there are more than there were the previous day, (and this time of year, the beginning of a new Alpha term there usually are), I export them to Excel, organize them, remove any that don't really count (eg. some marked, 'test', and any mistakenly registered - so far, one in Long Beach CA, one in England and one in Chicago. How they got registered in Alberta, I have no idea!) and start scrolling down the list.

As of this morning, halfway through January, there are 119 courses registered in the Province, from Fort McMurray to Medicine Hat, Grande Prairie to Banff; big cities and small villages all in between.

The records show the city, the organizing church and the administrator's name. As I scroll, I pray a short prayer for each one. My prayers are prayers of thanks, for a course in a church I have called on and given my, 'spiel,' thankful to see them going ahead. Some prayers are prayers of blessing, that God would bless that particular Alpha, empower their team and bring many guests from their community. I have been doing this every day and it is a real blessing, to me, covering basically the whole Province with prayer in this way.

All in all, I find this a very encouraging way to start my morning. That's about the first half-hour. I'll not bore you at this time with the remaining seven and a half.

Blessings,John

Friday, 6 January 2017

2016 Year End Wrap Up


As 2016 winds down, I’m happy to report that God’s blessing of the ministry of Alpha in Alberta has been more than I could possibly ask or imagine. 2016 was a pretty good year, as far as Alpha in Alberta was concerned. Many Alpha's (close to 700 or more at last count) ran throughout the Province, and from my conversations with various church leaders and Alpha administrators, many went very well. From the large (200 or more guests) to the small (two or fewer guests) I always find that every Alpha impacts someone's life in a positive way. Every Alpha makes a difference in someone's life.

I meet with churches, large and small, in every corner of Alberta, and at any given moment, as I'm meeting with a Pastor, their community is foremost in their mind as we meet. The concern is how to reach out to the citizens of that town or village or city, and more often than not, if they are running an Alpha, or have run one, the feedback is good; stories of the lost found, families reconciled, people returning to church after having walked away in youth.

I say there were, “around 700” because I know that there are Alphas running that haven't been registered. This is because we at Alpha make all our teaching and training materials available free of charge to any church or organization who wants them. Numbers are nice (for bragging purposes?), but the important thing is that the Gospel is being preached and people introduced to Jesus. Whether we know about them or not, God does. We may not see the results until we are in heaven. Bottom line, though, I believe those who support Alpha in Alberta are accomplishing even more than we can measure.

  
Just in the last week or so of the year I received amazing news about what is happening or about to happen, in various High Schools in, mainly but not limited to, Calgary and Edmonton, both in Catholic and public schools. Support is beginning to come from some high up places. At one recent Catholic High School Alpha, the percentage of students who said they had a personal relationship with Christ, or wanted one, rose from 24% at the beginning of the course to 67% by the end. Aslan is on the move. Please pray for continued good news in this area.

Just this week it was made official that the City of Grande Prairie is participating in the Bear Grylls Global Advertising Campaign, with city-wide advertising and Alpha’s being run in 8 locations throughout the city beginning in January. Especially heartening to me are a couple of things; one, that one of the churches I have been, “pursuing” for a long time, is running it for the first time. Secondly I was delighted to see an Alpha planned for GPRC (Grande Prairie Regional College) for college and university age students. Grande Prairie has been hit hard by the downturn in Alberta’s oilfield, so thanks be to God and to Wes Dong of Grande Prairie Alliance for this. Please pray for success beyond measure for each of these Alphas in GP.

Once again, my sincere thanks for all the support I've received this year.
If you feel called to support Alpha in Alberta financially, please click on the link to the right.
 
My own prayer is that I prove worthy of the confidence you have displayed in this ministry by your financial and prayer support and your personal encouragement to me.

May I wish you all the best to you and yours in the New Year.

Blessings,

In Christ,

John

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Perhaps the CIA can Give an Answer (Bumped and Updated)

здравствуйте
Which means, "Hello," in Russian. At least Google says it does, so I hope it is not some terrible insult.

Blogger tracks page visits to this blog, and again lately there have been quite a few visits from Russia. In the hundreds in fact. My tongue in cheek title for this post refers to the current news that the CIA accuses Russia of interfering in the recent American election. Well, if they want to know about Alpha, I'll be glad to tell them everything they need to know, even with no hacking. I'd even come over to do training if they'd pay my way, although the only Russian I know is, "Hello." And that only to write.

Interesting indeed. Perhaps we will see a growth of Alpha there.



Есус ловес ею Jesus Loves you.
Есус ванц то кнов ею Jesus wants to know you
Ооо сан кнов хим алсо You can know him too

#аттенд Alpha #RunAlpha

Blessings,

John

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Always Changing

Not me; Alpha numbers. I can't keep up. I believe I posted recently that there have been 650 Alphas run in Alberta in 2016, and that I didn't expect many more, as it was so late in the year. Well, I now see that number is up to 677. I don't think I have much to do with it, but it is such a blessing to me to see how many churches have it on their heart to reach out to those in their communities who do not yet have  Jesus Christ in their lives.

This picture is from the course-end Celebration Supper at Beulah Alliance in Edmonton, to which their fantastic Evangelism Pastor, Angie, invited Eva and me. Beulah is one of my best Alpha churches (they run, in various contexts and venues, about 30 Alphas a year), and Angie, who calls herself, an "Alphaholic," is not only a very good friend, but one of the most passionate and enthusiastic people I've ever seen on behalf of the Lord. The supper was attended by about 140 people; graduates from their just-completed courses and their invited guests. It struck me that Beulah's Alpha supper had more people than some congregations. And we're concerned with church growth! Alpha, run properly, in the context of a real invitational culture, is, I would say, one sure way of ensuring church growth.

Having said that, let me say that that is not our primary focus. Our real goal is Kingdom growth. Our task is to obey what I personally see as the first prerequisite of Christ's Great Commission (go and make disciples), which is first to go and make Christians. (Even that seems to have come out wrong - all we do is make the introduction to Jesus. He, by his Holy Spirit, actually does the, "making").

Alpha called me the other day and told me I should take some holidays, as I still had three weeks coming, so I suppose I'm officially now on holidays, even though I'm still sending and receiving emails, making and receiving phone calls, and prepared to meet with key contacts who want me to help them with Alpha. Have I ever said, "I love my job?"

Blessings,

Happy Advent,

John

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Great Stories

Back from Southern Alberta and to a certain extent looking toward Christmas and the end of the year. I don't have any major trips planned between now and then, but Alpha never sleeps, nor would I want it to. I consider myself to be constantly, "on call."

In the last little while I've heard some great Alpha stories and had some encouraging meetings. A story about an Alpha table leader who came to Alpha looking to serve behind the scenes but was thrown directly into the fire, so to speak, and was incredibly blessed by the experience.

A story about a couple with a young family, relatively new to the faith, with almost no Christian background or experience who found that Alpha strengthened not only their faith but their marriage as well.

A meeting with the Senior Pastor of a fairly large church, influential in its community, whose Alpha attracted 200 guests, and is turning out to be very fruitful. This church is hoping to integrate Alpha into its small group program, as well as running it in a local high school in the new year. It is already involved in running it in an area community college.

All in all, as they say at McDonald's, "I'm lovin' it!"

Blessings,

John

Friday, 25 November 2016

Unknown Numbers

If you have call display what is your reaction when a number comes up you don't recognize; nervousness, fear, annoyance, hesitation? Are you tempted just to avoid answering it - let it go to voicemail?

Well, I certainly wonder, when it happens, "Who could this be?" However, in my ministry with Alpha, it turns out as often as not to be a call I'm glad I took.

Yesterday, near the close of the day, I received such a call. I answered, wondering, of course, who it could be. It was from a pastor in a town in Alberta. I had met him at a recent networking event. He told me he has a youth group meeting in his church building in which there are no kids from his church! Twenty to twenty-five teens every week. No Christians! He wanted to know if Alpha had any resources he could use for this group.

Do we have resources?!!! (Rhetorical question of course on my part 😉)

I went over highlights of our Youth Film Series, including some figures showing how successful it has been across the country. I gave him our link to preview the videos, explained how he could set up an account and be able to download everything he needed to run the course (even training and promotional resources), offered to help personally, and gave him contact info for the youth pastor at another church in his town who, I made sure to ask first, should be able to help him as well.

I know my Youth Associate Amy will probably read this blog, so I was a little hesitant to tell this story. She is so enthusiastic to reach young people for Christ that I'm afraid she might want to jump right out of bed, ready to help.

Don't worry Amy. They probably won't start until February.

Blessings,

John