Category: Minister

Minister’s blog

Why Judas the Galilean belongs in my nativity scene

Posted by on Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 in Minister

Why, exactly, did Mary and Joseph set out on such a dangerous journey in such a dangerous time. This is one aspect of the story that has never made much historic sense. The story seems to be saying that the Romans decided to conduct a census in a way that makes no practical sense – that they required that the people be registered, not in the places where they lived, but rather in the places where their ancestors came from. That, when you think about it, is a very silly way to hold a census. The whole point of taking a census, if you’re a Roman, is to find out where people live so that you can find them and tax them later. That is why the Romans always took censuses in the way that they are still taken to this very day - making sure that people were registered where they actually lived. There is no evidence that they ever took a census in a way that Luke seems to be describing.

But what if Luke isn't saying that the people all traveled to their ancestral homes because the Romans made them do it? What if they maybe even did it to spitethe Romans? That might make more sense. Luke tells us that Caesar Augustus ordered that the people be counted, yes, but he doesn't say that Caesar ordered them to return to their ancestral homes – just that the people did that. What if it was someone else who told them to do that? And what if that person was Judas the Galilean?

Judas was a rebel against Rome (we know that from historical records) and Judas was particularly upset about the census that the Romans were holding and the heavy new taxes that came with it. But we also know that Judas was not the kind of rebel who actually employed violence or terror to achieve his goals. There are no accounts of Judas attacking anyone but there are plenty of accounts of Judas and his followers being attacked by the Romans. The evidence seems to indicate that his revolt was essentially nonviolent – a campaign similar to Ghandi's campaign against British rule in India or like Martin Luther King Jr's Civil Rights movement in the United States.

The histories also tell us what Judas’ goals were. He set out to oppose slavery and to allow the people "to regain prosperity and retain their own property." That is what the historian, Josephus, says in his book, the Antiquities of the Jews (18:4-8) But how could he accomplish such lofty goals without resorting to violence? One way may have been suggested to him in the pages of the Old Testament.
There was an ancient law in Israel that required that, every 50 years, a special festival should be called: the Festival of Jubilee. It was a festival to celebrate God’s gift of land to all the families of Israel. And the first thing that was supposed to happen during the Jubilee was that every family was to return to their ancestral home. And there they were to claim the land that God had said was rightfully theirs. And during the festival the land was to be returned to that family.

If we cannot find any basis in Roman law or practice for all the people of Galilee and Judea being required to return to their ancestral homes, perhaps we had better look to the Old Testament to find that basis. There is only one Old Testament law that required all of the people to return to their ancestral homes: the Jubilee law. So maybe the Romans ordered up a census but somebody else must have called for a Jubilee - called on all the people to travel all over the place and did it for the express purpose of messing with the Roman census.

I think that the person who called for that Jubilee was none other than Judas the Galilean. It was one of the few things that he could do, without resorting to violence, that would actually cause a great deal of trouble to the Romans and the process of their hated census. He must have set the entire countryside into chaos as the Romans prepared to count the people.

If that is the case, then Judas the Galilean is an essential part of the Christmas story. He set the whole thing in motion. Yes, Caesar Augustus may have ordered a census of all the people but Judas was the one who got the whole countryside in motion, who convinced Mary and Joseph to make that long and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. And they weren't just doing it to be good citizens of the Roman Empire like we often assume. They were doing it because they really believed that it was God's will for them to return to Bethlehem and claim the land there that had once belonged to Joseph's family.

So maybe we ought to make some room in our nativity scenes for Judas – for someone who sets out to make the world to conform more closely to the will of God but who does it without violence – who inspires people to claim what God intends for them to possess for themselves: their freedom and the means to be the people that God always intended for them to be. And, after all, isn’t that what Christmas is about too – at least when we get rid of all the things that our modern world has tried to make Christmas about instead?

For more information on the place of Judas the Galilean in the Christmas story, read Caesar's Census, God's Jubilee.
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Book Discussion Series

Posted by on Monday, October 6th, 2014 in Minister

I am very excited to offer a book discussion series on my book Caesar's Census, God's Jubilee.

The Gospel of Luke alone tells the story of the birth of Jesus set against the background of a census taken on the orders of Caesar Augustus. This historical setting has always raised serious questions: Was there ever really such a census? Why does Luke describe the census as being carried out in a manner that does not fit with what we know of Roman practices and policies?

This book struggles with questions like those in a creative way which leads to some surprising new ways to understand Luke's timeless story of Mary and Joseph and their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Part investigation, part exercise in creative imagination, this book will help you to see the Christmas story in a whole new way.

The discussion will be held on Wednesday evenings from Wednesday, October 15 through to Wednesday December 3, 2014

We will meet at 7:30 pm in the Foyer at St. Andrew's Hespeler Presbyterian Church, 73 Queen St. E., Cambridge, ON

These are the planned sessions:
October 15:            The Journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem
October 22:            Should the Two Birth Accounts be Harmonized?
October 29:            When is Luke Saying that Jesus was Born?
November 5:          The Old Testament Ideal of Jubilee
November 12:        The Jubilee in the Gospel of Luke
November  19:       Two Nonviolent Insurgencies
November 26 :       The Call to Jubilee
December 3:           What is Truth? and Jesus’s Coin Trick
Provided you have read the book, you should be able to join in the discussion at any point



Participation in this group is free of charge but participants will need to have read the book to participate. The book is available in print at Amazon.ca and at select local book stores. You may also purchase a copy at St. Andrew's Hespeler. The e-book is available through many online e-book sellers including Amazon, iBooks and Kobo. Please call the church at 519-658-2652 or contact [email protected] if you need any assistance finding the book or if you have any questions. The print edition sells for $11.95. The price of the e-book varies accord to the vendor, but should be approximately $4.

In addition I will be leading a parallel discussion in a Facebook group called Caesar's Census, God's Jubilee Discussion Group.


I will be posting discussion starters on the chapters at around the same time that I am preparing for the discussion group at the church. The group is public (I hope that doesn't get me into any trouble!) and everyone is invited to join in.

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It’s a Love Story

Posted by on Saturday, October 4th, 2014 in Minister

True story:

Today I had the great honour and privilege of presiding at a marriage. As we prepared, I asked the couple, as one will often do, how they met.

They told me the story of how they had come to know each other while they were both working in different departments at the local Rona store. He worked in plumbing and she was in the flooring department. It was just a nice little story and they were a very nice couple who obviously loved each other very much and so their story put me in mind of the greatest love story every written.

That was why I started my sermon today like this:

"If you are at all like me, you found that to be a beautiful story - a classic love tale. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more it reminded me of the greatest love story of all times. Correct me if I'm wrong, but when William Shakespeare took up his pen to write what many consider his best play and what was certainly his best romantic play, didn't he open it with these words:
"Two sections, both alike in dignity
In the fair Rona, where we lay our scene,         
She toils in the flooring dispensary,       
He, with the pipes among the porceline.
From forth these various store departaments.
A pair of star-cross'd lovers share their lives;   
And join together with excitement         
To be the best of all husbands and wives."
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The Lighthouse Society

Posted by on Saturday, September 13th, 2014 in Minister

Once upon a time, there was a lovely little coastal village. Life was good and peaceful there but there was one little problem. The nearby coast was treacherous and unforgiving to passing sailors. It seemed like there were shipwrecks just about every week. And so the villagers all got together and decided to do something about this terrible problem.

They decided to pool all of their resources and build a tall and beautiful tower. It would stand on the shoreline and offer warning and guidance to all who passed that way. They formed a society to make sure that the light was always lit, that the foghorn was ready to go off in bad weather and to ensure that the tower continued to stand and do its job. It was a wonderful achievement that made them rightfully proud.

There were some other benefits of all this work. In those days, the Lighthouse Society was the most important and most active association in the village. Everyone wanted to be part of it. Meetings of the society became the most important social events of the year. They had fun together, talked about important things and raised the funding to keep everything going. They never forgot, though, that they only existed to offer guidance and protection to passing ships.

But time went by and it somehow became easier for the people to focus on the meetings themselves and especially on what they were getting out of them. The meetings were a comfortable part of some of the people's lives and so they got upset when things happened during them that were unexpected or unusual. But then there were others who complained that the meetings were too boring if it was always the same old thing.

As the culture of the village changed, people started to have other options for social interaction than just belonging to the Lighthouse Society. Feeling that they weren't quite getting everything that they wanted from the meetings, they started attending sporadically or even not at all. This led to a general feeling of discouragement in the society. Alarmed, the leadership began to focus on the meetings of the society to make sure that they pleased to greatest number of people possible.

This was not an easy thing to accomplish, of course. They spent a lot of time and a fair bit of money trying to come up with solutions. It was an all-absorbing problem and so you can hardly blame them if, in the midst of all that important work, nobody bothered to change the light bulb in the tower when it burned out. And when the foghorn rusted out, nobody bothered to fix it. They had other things on their minds.

Of course, it was a shame about the shipwreck...
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One week after returning from our mission trip. (Why it is sometimes hard to adapt when you come home).

Posted by on Thursday, July 17th, 2014 in Minister

While we were there in Winnipeg for our mission trip, we spent five days in full-time connection with the various parts of the Winnipeg Inner City Mission. During that short time, a number of very significant things happened:
  • A young girl in the church went missing from her family.
  • Another young girl, in desperate need of a new kidney, successfully underwent surgery that would allow her continue her daily dialysis
  • The church was putting together household items to set up housekeeping for a young mother and her children as she was in the process leaving an abusive relationship.
  • A resident in A Place of Hope celebrated two years of sobriety.
  • Another resident reached the end of her time in A Place of Hope and made arrangements to move out and begin a new and exciting phase in her life
  • A church picnic (that had been as good as cancelled) was resurrected and organized in about two hours.
This was, as far as I can tell, a fairly typical week at Winnipeg Inner City Mission with big doses of both good and bad news and the church doing everything that it could to help when needed and to celebrate when that was called for. In addition we heard some heart rending (and also some heart uplifting) stories of people dealing with some very big things in their personal lives. I can't imagine what that is like for the staff and volunteers who are there week in and week out and have to deal with all of it. I know that I will continue to hold them up in my prayers that they might have the spiritual stamina to continue their vital work of living out the love of Christ.



But, despite the high pressure of the ministry there, I must admit that I have found it a little bit hard to come back an reenter the day-to-day church life at home. As hard as some of the things that we saw going on were, at least it was always clear what was important and what really mattered. There was a clarity and an immediacy to the needs that they faced that was undeniable.

Now, I am quite aware that the people in my church and in all of our churches often have problems and crises and losses that are very difficult and that are deeply disturbing. They also celebrate very important and meaningful milestones and victories. And I am deeply grateful that I am often given the privilege of being there and ministering to people at those very significant times in their lives.

But, though the problems and issues can be very difficult at times, people's lives are generally much more stable that what you tend to find in the inner city of Winnipeg. We are not constantly bombarded with one crisis after another. What's more, while the people involved in the Winnipeg Inner City Mission are very quick and eager to share what they are struggling with - in many ways, the prayers of intercession for the families of the church was the most important time in their worship together - often our people are slow to share some of their deep personal struggles.

So the reality is that we spend less time dealing with deep personal or family crises in our churches. That is a blessing, of course, but does it mean that we have fewer problems overall? Not really.



There is a popular meme that makes the rounds on the internet from time time time. It is called "First World Problems." The meme mocks the way that people in the prosperous nations of the world get all hung up on problems that are of little immediate importance especially in the face of the poverty, disease and war that plague so many people who live in the Third World. Coming back from a mission trip in the inner city of Winnipeg, I recognize that we often do the same thing in our "First World" churches. When we are not overwhelmed with problems and issues and decisions of ultimate importance, we tend to take our other, much less significant problems and decisions and invest ultimate importance in them.

We do this all the time in the church. And so issues like the following can become major crises in churches:
  • Someone wants to move a piece of furniture and someone objects.
  • A committee is short of members
  • Someone doesn't like the hymn selection one Sunday
  • Someone is hurt when their idea is not adopted
Of course, these are all issues that have to be dealt with in some productive way, but we tend to make them more important than they really are. They take too much emotional energy and administrative time and we have less and less or ourselves left to devote to the things that are of ultimate importance.

I want to be clear here. I'm not complaining that this is something that self-centred people in the church are constantly doing (though, of course, that does happen). I am saying that I do it to myself as much as anyone does it to me. I make things that don't matter very much too important. I judge myself and my ministry in terms of solving or avoiding those kinds of problems. In fact, I will often make them more important than anyone else ever does. The results can be very discouraging and very draining.

At Winnipeg Inner City Mission, God was never too far from their awareness because they needed God's presence just to make it through the day. If we complain that God often feels too distant, could it be because we are investing too much of ourselves in things that don't matter that much?

It is my hope that I can hold on to the sense of what really matters that was so powerful in Winnipeg and let it guide me in where I put my energy back in Hespeler. I also hope that, by keeping close ties with WICM, we might also greatly strengthen our focus at St. Andrew's Hespeler.
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Why it is Important that we Came

Posted by on Friday, July 11th, 2014 in Minister

Our trip to Winnipeg has been short - too short we all agree. It seems like we just arrived, have just gotten to know the people there and to appreciate everything that is so special about them and we have to go. But there is absolutely no feeling in the group that it was not worth the effort to get here for a few days.




Why are we so sure that it was vital that we come? Because we have received that message loud and clear from everyone at all involved in the ministry that we have met and from the children and young people and families. Is that because of all the work that we did for them? Well, not exactly. They certainly appreciated everything that we did. Whether it was painting Flora House (and, yes, we did manage to get the main hall and the front and back entrances painted in our time with a little help from Derek) or organizing clothes and goods in the miracle store, weeding Papa's Garden, helping to keep the kids or youth organised and safe on outings or cleaning out mountains of cardboard, everything was fully appreciated. Rev. Margaret Mullin's head seemed to be constantly at work trying to come up with something else for us to do. But we were appreciated more than what we did.

From the moment we arrived, Rev. Mullin made one thing perfectly clear: we would have to leave our mark behind us. It would not be enough to paint Flora House a nice bright colour. We would have to each leave our personal handprints behind us, though she did allow us to decide what our hand prints would look like and we chose to arrange them in the colour wheel that they use at Anishanabe.


See, they caught me red handed.


In addition, the painting of a new mural by our team in the Miracle Store was deemed so important that Alexis, Gabrielle and Joni were given almost all of our last day to work on it. This was clearly a priority. Why? I mean, yes, the mural that Alexis designed is beautiful and it will be enjoyed for a long time. But why was it so vital?

The answer to that question may be found in a woman named Jane. She is a wonderful, beautiful person who runs the Miracle Store where she gives away clothes, food and other items to whoever comes in for next to nothing. Jane is a registered nurse, a grandmother and is about the sharpest person I have ever seen when it comes to dealing with people who might want to take advantage of the situation. She seemed to connect with our group right away and to be immediately fond of us. But she especially loved Alexis and Gabrielle. In fact, by the last day, she was determined to find a way to adopt them and keep them!  Her understanding of what they were doing by painting the mural was clear: they were leaving a little bit of themselves behind. And in response to that gift, Jane did something truly extraordinary.

Some First Nations people do not like to have their picture taken. They find it disrespectful - as if someone is stealing a piece of themselves from them. Jane is one such native woman. Through many years working with Winnipeg Inner City Mission, she has always refused to have her picture taken even by people that she loves dearly. But on the last day, once the mural had been finished, a miracle occurred. Joni respectfully asked Jane if she would consent to have her picture taken with the mural and the girls and she agreed. She did not do so lightly. In fact, she had considered the possibility long and hard the night before.

I have a copy of the picture with Jane, but I will not be sharing it here on this blog because I understand that it was Jane's intention to give a gift to Gabrielle and Alexis - a little piece of herself willingly given for them to take with them just as they were leaving a piece of themselves in the mural. It was a very special and precious gift but it was a private gift for them - one that they will long treasure. It doesn't belong on the internet.



Here is my understanding of why our coming to them is so important to them. Native ministry in the inner city of Winnipeg is tough - really tough. But one thing that makes it tougher is the sense that no one else cares. Yes, the national church does support some of the ministry positions through Presbyterian Sharing... and, yes, there are many faithful supporters spread across the country, but when you are faced with so many examples of apathy and even open hostility to the work being done there, it is very easy to fall into the feeling that you are all alone and that nobody really cares. When people like us come and are not afraid to roll up our sleeves and do some work, it is a vital reminder that people - white church people - do care a great deal. It lifts their spirits to know that they are not alone. But the trips are short and the people leave too soon (way too soon it seemed in our case). That is why it is so vital to them that we leave a piece of ourselves behind. They need to remember us. They need reminders on their walls and on their sidewalks (like in this cement poured by a previous team outside the miracle store) so that they do not forget us and fall back into despair. It matters that we came.


So if anyone out there is considering making a mission trip to the Winnipeg Inner City Mission, we can highly recommend it. You will make a difference. You will feel loved and appreciated. It will matter that came.

We are home now and this is my blog for the final day there. But I know that I am not finished reflecting on our time there. Give me a few more days to process and I am sure I'll have lots more to say. Thanks for listening

s

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Thundering Eagle Woman

Posted by on Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 in Minister

Rev Margaret Mullin comes from a mixed First Natiions and Irish heritage. She is an ordained Presbyterian minister and a recognized First Nations elder who has had the traditions passed on to her from the elders who have gone before. There are eight eagle feathers on her staff to represent the eight years she has spent learning from the elders. The spirit name that she was given is Thundering Eagle Woman - a name that fits her very well indeed.

It is as if in her two different worlds have come together in one beautiful spirit.



Today she spoke to us about the long and difficult journey she has had to reconcile the different traditions that are her heritage. Today she participates in almost all forms of native spirituality and sees no contradiction to the teachings of the Christian tradition as she has received and absorbed it. 

I tend to think that she is on the right track. There is no question that the Christian church has done a lot of damage and been a party to a lot of damage that has been done to native communities. This makes it very difficult indeed for many First Nations people to see the Christian gospel as a good thing. It would be wrong for us to insist that in order to accept it they must leave behind spiritual practices of their ancestors that might very well contribute to their healing and strong walk with God. 



But, even more importantly, we need to let go of our arrogant notion that our way of dealing with and living out our relationship with Jesus and with the Creator is the only way. For thousands of years, people lived out their spirituality on the lands where we now live. And through centuries of practice, trial and error (and, yes, I'm sure there were errors but they learned from them), they found practices that worked in this land. Are we to ignore all the wisdom that they gained at great cost now that we live here too?



Yes, we have a revelation of God through Jesus Christ that is unique and that is precious to us. We must not abandon that. But an openness to other traditions can, if done wisely, deepen our understanding of the revelation that we received. This thought came to me as Margaret spoke of one native spirituality practice that she will not participate in: the Sun Dance. The Sun Dance is a ritual in which participants cut and pierce themselves for the healing or atonement of others. Margaret doesn't participate (though she is respectful of the participation of others) because of something that lies at the heart of our faith: the belief that only one needs to suffer and bleed for the healing and atonement of others and that that work has already been accomplished. As Christians we simply have no need for a Sun Dance like ritual - just rituals that remind us of the sacrifice already made.

But even if we don't need it, the ongoing practice of a ritual like the Sun Dance can provide us with an continuing illustration of the deep meaning of what Jesus has accomplished for us. How they do it can still teach us.

Rev. Mullin spoke about how she has been trying to persuade the Doctrine Committee of the Presbyterian Church in Canada to tackle the question of how Christian Faith and Native Spirituality can live peacefully and respectfully side by side in a mutually beneficial way. They have not accepted the challenge. I certainly think that it would be time well spent (better spent than some other projects Doctrine has taken on). And yet at the same time, I have no doubt that the discussion of such a report on the floor of General Assembly would include many a cringe-worthy moment. We still have a long way to go as a church, I am afraid.

I hope I can do my part in helping our church on that journey.

s

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Smudging along

Posted by on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 in Minister

I spent most of my day, our third day at Winnipeg Inner City Mission, at Flora House. The day's activities there began, as they often do, with a smudging ceremony. The First Nations kids take smudging very seriously and respectfully and it really makes for a good start to the day together for them.

In such a ceremony, dried herbs (usually some mixture of sage, tobacco and cedar) are set to smoking in a small shell or pot. The smoke is waved by a feather and each person takes a turn to waft the smoke over his or her arms, head and body.

The smudging ceremony is primarily a purification ceremony -- a way of putting aside mistakes, errors, regrets and things that weigh you down. This kind of ritual that is part of most every religion and is needed by everyone (even non religious folk) at least sometimes.

And that was kind of what all of our day's work at Flora House was about today. Flora House has gone through some tough times recently. There have been some things that have gone wrong there, some staff have left, there have been changes that have been hard to deal with. Maybe the stress of dealing with an extremely needy group of kids in an extremely depressed area just got too heavy. And there is a real spirit about the place that has become negative and people can feel it.

I do believe that spiritual forces are real in this world and that they can be very destructive. They can linger in the certain places and in certain communities like churches. (Amazingly the spirit can remain in a community even when the membership overturns entirely.) They can often also be very difficult to get rid of. In many ways, Rev, Margaret Mullin is asking us to expel the bad spirit from Flora House this week. How successful we will be in this, we will have to see, but we sure worked hard at it today.

This morning Joni spent some time with the WICM staff team. We discovered yesterday that they were in need of training and updating in Leading with Care -- the Presbyterian Church's policy for providing safe environments for children and vulnerable people. Turns out that Joni has all kinds of experience and training with this and she was able to volunteer and provide the training for them. By coming in as an outsider to their staff group, I think she was also able to provide something else too -- helping to build up the team and suggesting better ways to work together. This is the kind of thing that will prove very helpful in new beginnings.

From 11 am to 4 pm, Joni, Alexis, Gabrielle and I stayed at Flora House while the others went with the kids to Oak Hammock Marsh (where they had a great time). We were continuing the painting job the others had started the day before.



The painting in a bright new peach colour is a very important in the plan to lighten the spirit at Flora House. Sometimes a change in the setting can go a long way to making sure that things change on a spiritual level. Already Flora House looks like a very different place inside and I am sure that Margaret is right that our work here will make a very big difference going forward.



We said when we came here that we were willing to do whatever we could to help. And Margaret has certainly taken us at our word! Every time she walks up to us she seems to have a twinkle in her eye and a new idea in her head. We're learning to watch out for that twinkle.

But she has a way of making you certain that whatever you are doing it is completely drenched with meaning and significance. She makes me feel sure that our brief time here will leave its traces for a long time. In fact, she has Alexis at work right now designing a new mural in the Miracle Store that they want us to paint so that they can celebrate the time that they have had with us and not forget us.

We'll sure not forget them. It's hard to think we'll be leaving before we know it. We are resolved to keep the relationship going in some way though.

s
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Overcoming the Overwhelming

Posted by on Monday, July 7th, 2014 in Minister

I'll start today's blog entry where the day started at The Place of Hope. We had a sharing circle where everyone was asked to share some reflections from the previous day. As we went around the circle, one word that came up again and again was "overwelming." It had been overwhelming in terms of the information and the stories that we had had to absorbed and were only beginning to process and in other ways as well.

The word that came to me in the circle was also overwelming but especially in terms of the challenges that fill the community around the Place of Hope. With gangs, prostitution, drugs, alchoholism and much more, the problems just seem too big. They are overwhelming. And when I face an overwelming challenge like that, the temptation is always to throw up my hands and say, "It's too big, it can't be solved so what is the point of even trying. We'll never get anywhere anyways."

To see the ministry that is taking place here at WICM against overwelming problems like that is really amazing. How these people -- in fulfillment of the vision given to Margaret Mullin -- managed to build a place where people could come and live and turn around lives that seem impossible to turn around is an amazing story. The funds were raised, the permissions and property were obtained. The local gang didn't want it built and did everything to threaten and strike fear in the heart of the people involved in the project but they still built it. The overwhelming was overcome.

And then the people came. It seemed impossible for them to turn their lives around when they were in such a mess. But they did. Not all of them, of course. Some have dropped out. Some have had to be told to leave but there are these wonderful success stories. The overwhelming was overcome.

Yes, I think there is a message for me in that somewhere -- when I feel like I'm up against something overwhelming.



After our sharing circle we headed over to Flora House to spend the rest of the morning and the afternoon with the kids in the day camp program. The kids were awesome and were very open to meeting us and interacting with us. Before I knew it, there were a few moments break as the staff had to organize a few things and I found myself thrust forward. "Tell a story." they said.

Anyways, I just went with one of my favourites of Jesus because it was the only one I could think of. It was the story of the shepherd who had 100 sheep and had to count them every day and kept falling asleep (because we all know what happens when you count sheep). But one day he was suddenly wide awake because he only counted 99! Well you all know how that one ends -- with a big celebration with all the shepherds friends and neighbours (I figure that had a big lamb stew). Jesus said that parties like that are what the kingdom of God is like. (That's totally how Jesus told the story, right?)

Anyways they listened graciously to my story and I felt connected with them from there.

Spending the afternoon with them at the water park was just pure fun. I loved to watch eight year old Johnny play. He just enjoyed everything 100%. He loved everything that you would do with him whether is was jumping on the bridge or playing in the water. Johnny has a number of things to struggle with but I don't think I'll soon forget him.


All of the kids were well behaved and loved everything you did with them. Naomi in particular seemed to latch onto the girls. They were amazing with her too.


I talked with one of the staff from Flora House in the van. His name is Brad. He's had a tough history and managed to come out of many things. For many years he ran a gym and taught mixed martial fighting. There were some things he could do in that line of work to help kids to find a better path in life, but ultimately he felt like he wasn't doing enough.

He also spent some time working in halfway houses, working with youth on their way out of detention. These places are supposed to help them to prepare to reintegrate back into society but there he found that the centres were just not doing enough to really help these young people to get back to productive and positive lives. It seemed that there was so little being done. He wanted to accomplish more.

So now Brad has been at Flora House for about a year. The great thing there is that he gets to know these kids and young people while they're still young. He knows that very soon (if it hasn't happened already) they will be facing enormous pressures to get involved in gangs and drugs, prostitution or whatever it may be. But his hope is that if they know people like him, people that they can talk to and trust, it will give them options that they wouldn't have had otherwise. It will enable them to make better choices and find the resources to help them when they need it. It is one way to make the overwhelming problems in these neighbourhoods become overcomeable. If they can catch these kids before they fall, think of the possibilities for the future. Now that I'm getting to know these kids, I know that there is tremendous potential in them. What can't they do for their community? The ministry of Flora House is very important indeed when you look at it that way.


We came back to our room tonight and cooked an ate together using our limited resources. The salad was in a pot. We had to "scoop" ice cream with a knife, The chicken was warmed in a frying pan and kind of pulled apart. We all agreed it was the best supper ever! It was so good to be together as a group and share our various experiences. (Some had been painting at Flora House -- an important project that I hope to get into tomorrow). God has really blessed us with a wonderful team. Everyone seems to be providing something essential to the work of the whole. It is a perfect model of the functioning of the body of Christ. What a blessing to be here together as a team.

Well, off to bed because I know that tomorrow will be just as challenging, if not more!

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A gift from Vivian

Posted by on Sunday, July 6th, 2014 in Minister




Our first day at WICM was very full and meaningful and I am quite sure that I will be processing it for some time. I have shared some thoughts on the early part of the day and am too weary now to reflect on all of the rest of it. But I did just want to say that I will long remember watching and listening as Vivian Ketchum stood by this monument to survivors of the Residential Schools (erected just a couple of months ago outside what will soon be an absolutely stunning human rights museum) and tell her utterly devastating story of what her time in the Cecile Jeffery Residential School (run by the Presbyterian Church in Canada) cost her.

Her testimony is so much more powerful because she is able to speak it now as a healed and healthy woman who has dealt with her loss and anger and betrayal. She has also done amazing things to help bring the church towards healing from what it was involved in by helping it understand what it did and still does sometimes. She is a wonderful illustration of the power of grace and forgiveness. She has been a gift to us and to the church.
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