Dear Pastors, Missionaries, Chaplains and Friends,
Steve Jones here… Since the 2008 recession the plight of the poor in Canada and around our world has increased exponentially. Our Fellowship personnel and churches in Canada and internationally are seeking to meet the need. Here are a few stories:
Out West I recently visited Pastor Joe Russell at the New Beginnings Fellowship Baptist Church which backs onto Hastings Street, the poorest section of east Vancouver. Joe told me the miracle story of how believers helped his small church to purchase their building. They reach out to drug addicts, displaced people and broken people. Most of his church is made up of single mothers.
Out East I was visiting with Pastor Brad Somers from our PAXnorth Church in downtown Halifax. Four shootings in one month in his church neighbourhood left two people murdered. This is a very poor neighbourhood. However, the church has grown to 90 people (21 are new to Christ in the past three years) and recently a young Buddhist man bowed on his living room floor before his wife and Pastor Brad and committed his life to Christ. God is good.
Our Fellowship International missionaries, Mark and Catherine Buhler, returned home one year ago to Vancouver from Kenya after many years of missionary service. However, their mission work has not been completed. In a partnership between Fellowship International, the Pacific Region and Faith Baptist Church, the Buhlers are supporting Vancouver-area churches in reaching out to the large ethnic population in Vancouver. I visited Mark and Pastor Jack and was so encouraged by their ministry to the poor and wide diversity of their church and community.
Mark Buhler tells of one of their initiatives to the poor in Vancouver in the following email. Be encouraged as you read it:
DIFFERENT TYPES OF COMMUNITY
We arrived before 8 am at the location on Hastings street. Many men and a few women were busy bringing their shopping carts and garbage bags full of bottles and cans to the recycle center after obviously working hard through the night and previous day to collect so many recyclables.
Soon the full team arrived and we got underway serving three kinds of delicious homemade soup, buns, bagels, mini-mandazis and juice. There were rave reviews from many of the 350 individuals who enjoyed the nutritious meal. Almost all were polite and grateful. It was a cross section of humanity from a number of ethnicities, ages and backgrounds. I was struck by the sense of community shared by these street folks. I was also struck by the profound brokenness that I observed in many individuals. The situation of one particular man especially tugged at my heart strings. He had escaped devastation in Southern Sudan, lived in a refugee camp, moved to Nairobi and finally was granted access to Canada – the “promised land” to so many asylum seekers. Apparently he is married with two little children but he is living in an apartment in the middle of brokenness and was drunk or stoned himself. He asked for directions to come to church on Sunday but I am afraid he probably couldn’t remember the address later. Hopefully I will be able to connect with him the next time we share a meal on the street.
Compare that to another family of six that arrived several weeks ago from Europe where they face significant documented discrimination. They arrived in one of our New Hope Community Services homes. There they have received food, clothes, baby items, reading material and friendship from many in the New Hope / Faith Baptist family. I spent a day with them visiting immigration offices as they seek to prepare for their hearing. Prior to this week I had only heard of Google Translate and never used it. Through this electronic application I have been able to communicate and get to know this wonderful family. The father is a proud grandfather like I am. We both have a picture of our first grandchild on our phone. The daughter and son in law have a beautiful six month old baby girl. On recent Sundays they joined us for church and special events. We are seeking to provide a sense of community for these folks as they maneuver the complicated asylum system. We are praying that the Lord will provide a miracle for them and allow them to stay among us. If you would like more information about our ministry to asylum seekers visit http://www.newhopecs.org/ .
Later in the year we will be hosting a Ride for Refuge http://rideforrefuge.org/canada for New Hope. If you would like to sponsor a rider / walker or host an event in your community for New Hope please contact me.
Have a blessed week, Steven