Monday, 11 September 2017

Every Morning

Every morning I pull up my database of Alphas running in Alberta. Practically every morning there are new ones registered, and I say a little prayer of thanks and blessing for each one.

Of course I love every one, but particularly encouraging lately have been Alphas set to run in various schools, universities and community colleges. Just in the last few days I've been notified of Alphas at the University of Alberta, Grant MacEwan University and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).

I've seen Alphas being run in High- and Junior High Schools, both public and Catholic.

Each one, in each community, means there is a person or team there who cares about reaching our next generation for Christ.

This week and last I've been preparing for a trip to Calgary. I'll be there next week from Tuesday to Sunday. I'll be visiting the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association office Tuesday afternoon, then meeting Alpha Canada's Director of Ministry Development, Stephen Mulder, and our Alpha for Youth National Director, Tim Gonsalves that evening for a youth event at RockPointe Church.

Wednesday will be filled with a number of appointments with various key Calgary Alpha churches. Thursday is back to RockPointe for a C2C church planting conference. Many churches have used Alpha in their church planting strategy. In fact, as I believe I have mentioned before, one well-known church planter says his strategy is to, "..find an empty building and start running Alphas."

Friday is open so far, but I have yet to hear from everyone I've contacted for appointments, and there may be time for some cold calls. Saturday and Sunday I'll be with Alpha Canada's National Director Shaila Visser at Foothills Alliance.

Finally it will be back to Edmonton for registration Sunday evening for registration for Billy Graham's Evangelism Congress at West Edmonton Mall.

A busy little time after the dog days of summer, (which weren't really that doggy at all.) And don't forget; if you or if you think anyone you know might consider Alpha's ministry in Alberta is a cause worth supporting, please click on the yellow button to the right.

Blessings,

John


Sunday, 27 August 2017

McKernan Baptist


Here we are at McKernan Baptist in Edmonton. McKernan is a longtime Alpha church and once a year I am their missionary of the week. Even though my mission field is only the Province of Alberta, it is a mission field, nonetheless. I love how many people came up to us at this event and told us what a wonderful part Alpha has played in their lives and/or their spiritual journey.

McKernan is very near the University of Alberta, so attracts a good number of students. I'm not sure where they'll put them. They have two services every Sunday morning. Their sanctuary holds over 300 people and was fairly full both times, with even an overflow area well populated, and university students, for the most part, haven't even started arriving yet. Having experienced McKernan's hospitality, biblical teaching and worship music ministry, I can't think of  any place I would want more as a, "home away from home" for an out-of-town student, were I a parent worried about sending my kid to the big city to live for the first time.


I know of at least three other churches running Alpha on the U of A campus, and McKernan wondered if there would be a conflict  if they invited, as they always do, students to join their own Alpha. "Absolutely not!", I said. The more the better. There are nearly 40,000 students there so we would need one or two thousand Alpha's to accommodate them all. We can only dream!

McKernan just went through a 2-year rebuilding process; a time when they met in a local school, but now they have been back in their new building for a couple of years now,  and a beautiful facility it is. They are a mission-minded church and a light for their neighbourhood and for U of A students. I pray God will bless them in these areas and that they see wonderful fruit from their upcoming Alpha.

Blessings,

John

(Oh, and by the way; that post below - 400 Alphas? It's now 430 - and counting)

Friday, 11 August 2017

400

The list of Alphas registered in Alberta so far this year hit 400 yesterday I'm a day late in posting it. This morning it's 401. Just sayin'.

Thanks be to God.

John

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Driving the Peace

This a picture I took where Highway 49 comes down to cross the Smoky River at Watino Alberta. I hope the picture shows the fascinating low cloud that caused me to stop and take the picture. I was on my way from Grande Prairie to Peace River to meet with Bishop Fraser Lawton about arrangements for my presence at their Diocesan Synod in October (a meeting that went very well, by the way.)

I also squeezed in a meeting with the Director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Catholic Archdiocese of Grouard McLennan while I was in Peace River, but I wanted, in this post, to comment on some of the highlights of my drive itself. Other than scenery such as pictured above, a highlight for me in driving the Peace Country are the farms along the highways . They seem to be endless; yellow fields of canola or green fields of hay, and, in the fall, golden fields of wheat, stretching as far as the eye can see away from the highway. I remember my Dad, whenever we used to go for a drive, commenting on farms along the way. He grew up on a farm in Southern Ontario during the depression, so always liked to see a prosperous looking farm. "There's a good looking farm," he would say, when we passed one that seemed to be doing well, with a nice house and a well-kept barn. He would have loved driving around many parts of Alberta.

I took a bit different route to Peace River this time, heading east out of Grande Prairie, then north on Hwy 733 at Bezanson. A ways up that highway I saw a sign pointing east to, "Straw Church Historical Site," so I determined to find it on my way back, which I did. It is about 7 km off the highway via the dustiest gravel road I have ever seen. Even in that short distance I passed a  couple of large trucks coming in the opposite direction and they raised so much dust I had to slow down almost to a stop til I could see again.

In any case I followed the signs to this Straw Church. The first building I saw, thinking it was the church, turned out to be an abandonded community hall of some sort, with a long-unused baseball diamond behind it. I wish now I had taken a picture of it, because I find it rather poignant thinking of all the activity, laughter and fun that once must have take place there, but now all that remains is a forlorn-looking backstop in an overgrown field, with a single bench overturned behind it that once must have served as the bleachers.

This, however, was not the church. I Googled, "Straw Church," and found it described as stuccoed, whereas this building was clapboard. It turns out the the church was right next door. I hadn't seen it because of a stand of trees between the two buildings.

The building was open (I'm not sure it was supposed to be) so I was able to get inside. Here is a link to a site describing it, including pictures of outside and inside. It has been designated a historical resource because of it's unique construction of straw bales. I also found its full name interesting, (Bad Heart Straw Church.)  I have visited a number of churches named, "Sacred Heart," but none so far called, "Bad Heart."

Just sayin'.

Blessings,

John

Friday, 4 August 2017

Lunch in Grande Prairie

I had lunch with Pastor Wes Dong of Grande Prairie Alliance Church (GPA) today. Wes was the driving force behind the Global Alpha Campaign earlier this year in this city. In all there were close to 20 Alphas registered in the GP area.

We ate at the Jackpot Grill, a former Bingo hall. Bingo halls in Grande Prairie seem to have fallen on hard times. In addition to this one converted to a restaurant, another one has been purchased and beautifully renovated by McLaurin Baptist church. I was there too, today.The person I spoke with at McLaurin said they were happy with their Alpha, and had some good results, but most guests were from their own church and they thought that many guests from outside church might have been more comfortable going to one of two others close by - one at GPRC (Grande Prairie Regional College) and one at a local cafe. Both of the latter were run by people from GPA, so it was wonderful to see the spirit of cooperation among the churches in the city.

Wes told me that every Alpha bore fruit; a militantly atheist student at GPRC became a Christian; the employee who ran Alpha at Jeffrey's Cafe West  enjoyed it so much she plans to run another one. Victory Church On The Rock also had great results; a church I've been pursuing for 4 years, that Wes was able to bring into the fold. I'm hoping to visit Victory on Wednesday, as well as Christian Fellowship Assembly, the day after I travel to Peace River to visit churches there and see Bishop Fraser Lawton of the Anglican Diocese of Athabasca.

I love the people I work with, not only at Alpha Canada of course, but key brothers and sisters in every corner of the Province who, when I get to meet with them, always encourage me with their enthusiastic attitude for God, for Alpha as a means of reaching their communities for Him, and their stories of wonderful conversions in their midst. I won't mention Amy, Alana, Mark, Brent, Kevin, Kenny, Jerry or others I'm sure I've missed. What a team! God is amazing - He has raised up people in every corner of Alberta with such a passion for how Alpha, "simplifies" evangelism. I suppose that is His way of delegating.

But this post was about Grande Prairie and about Wes and how encouraging is his heart for the Lord, for Alpha and for this city.

Blessings

John

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Straight Outta the 15th Century

I met the Rev Matthew Hysell for coffee the other day. Fr Hysell is a priest at Corpus Christi Catholic parish in Edmonton. We had not previously met except by email - first when he ran an Alpha in his parish last year and again as he was planning another one this coming fall.

We arranged to meet at a Tim Hortons in South Edmonton. Having never met him personally, I jokingly asked him how I would recognize him. "Try to look like a priest," I wrote.
"Don't worry," he replied, "I look like I'm right out of the 15th century."

Little did I know he was exactly right. I tried to find a picture of 15th century priests' vestments on line but nothing looked exactly right, and I didn't think to take one when we met, but there he was when I got there and indeed there was no trouble recognizing the one in the black flowing cassock and hat.

All, of  which has nothing really to do with the story. We had a great conversation and Matthew was a real, pleasure to talk a with. He is hearing impaired himself, and his Alpha is going to be to include those with that, "disability" themselves. I put the word, "disability" in quotation marks because, and I hoped I am not being insensitive in saying this, in his case it hardly seemed that. We communicated a very well verbally.

Long story short, I was very encouraged by our meeting. Fr Matthew is determined to do everything right in his Alpha. He may have been looking for my help but it it turned out, as we spoke, all I could give him was my affirmation. He plans to have a full meal every session, a weekend away, and three signers on site every evening for the benefit of his guests. His initial contact with me was to see I felt
Alpha videos were available with the little circle in the bottom corner with a person signing for the hearing impaired. (Unfortunately they are not.) They do have subtitles, which may help, but he is bringing in signers as well. I thought it might even be an idea to rcord them as the presenters on the videos spoke, and I believe that is what he is going to do, but probably only for their own future use.

All in all it was a very encouraging conversation. I love it when I hear of Alphas being run successfully in various contexts and the passion of those who take so seriously Jesus' command to go and make disciples.

Blessings,

John

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Nothing to Report

Except I'm back from southern Alberta and I didn't have to sleep in a chuckwagon. Every meeting I listed on my previous post, below, went extremely well.

I don't know if I've ever revealed Alpha's current strategy for the province, but here we go;

In 2012 there were 61 churches running Alphas in Alberta. With the big initiative in 2013 that figure jumped to over 300, and that number has been basically maintained since. So the thinking is that most churches have either run Alpha or heard about it, so there is not that urgency to be constantly seeking out new churches. In other words, I haven't spent a lot of my time making cold calls on new churches. Instead, my focus is on developing relationships with current key churches, helping the run their own Alphas with excellence and finding out how we as a ministry can serve them better.

To that end, I feel I had some really meaningful conversations. I recently had what I consider to be a bit of a revelation. I don't know if I can explain it adequately, but essentially it is this:

We often think of evangelism in a larger scale, at least I have. We may think of evangelizing the nation, or in my case, the Province. But evangelizing starts locally. Each pastor I speak with may not be thinking of reaching the nation or the province, but reaching his own corner of the larger territory. So my conversations are about, "What's happening in your town/city/neighbourhood? Tell me about your own church, your own team, your own efforts, your own successes, your own challenges." All these things are often even before we talk about Alpha, because, truth be told, a pastor may indeed be more concerned with these than specifically about Alpha. Alpha in my opinion is the number one resource for outreach to any community, so I don't need to worry about the subject eventually coming around to it.

As much as I enjoyed each of my meetings, the highlight was perhaps my last one - with Aaron, who is n Youth Ministry at Lethbridge E-Free, one of the larger churches in that city. He ministers to about 75 or 80 kids, many of whom are from outside the church. They have used our Youth Film Series successfully in the past, and are going to run our new Youth Series in the fall. Aaron is looking forward to its release this October and  thinks it will be perfect for his charges. I mentioned to him about the opportunities to encourage his kids to run Alpha in their schools and it was a concept he hadn't previously considered, but the seed has been planted. Already, a young woman from University Drive Alliance (another church on my itinerary) is doing just that in her own school.

Well, that's it. Rather a sudden conclusion but the only other things of note were rather ho-hum, ordinary things - a severe thunder and hail storm around Okotoks, and a traffic jam on the Deerfoot Trail through Calgary.

Nothing else to report.

Blessings,

John