I am sitting in my quiet office on Monday morning. It’s such a difference from what took place at the church yesterday. But there is still evidence of this weekend’s activities. I can still smell deep-fried churros. My stomach is still slightly unhappy because of the hot sauce contest. There are bits and pieces of different stations, games and activities still noticeable around the building. And as I reflect on the weekend’s events, my heart still contains a growing joy at what took place.
It started on Saturday when we hosted a seminar at our church called Living in God’s Mission. It was led by Aaron Gerrard, pastor of Ancaster Village Church outside of Hamilton, Ontario. AVC is a church community that we have been in partnership with for the last 4 years and is a community that is uniquely focused on being a blessing to their city and making known the goodness and love of God through their own loving presence in Ancaster. A group of about ten of us from the church were blessed to hear from and interact with Aaron and one another surrounding this focus of being ‘missional’, a lifestyle modeled by God in that he became human and lived in His created world among His created people.
A lot of things were discussed. We talked about how God is pursuing all people and that we can take encouragement from this truth and look to partner with God in this pursuit of and love for others. We heard that Canadian culture has changed and that not many people are actively looking, nor see any reason, to go to church anymore and that this, among other things, presents a lot of obstacles, challenges and opportunities for the future of the church. And we talked about how we need to change how we evaluate our effectiveness as the church. We should move away from primarily measuring our events and effectiveness with things like baptisms, professions of faith, giving and attendance to things like what kind of relationships did this help us build and what sort of conversations did you have because of it. It was safe to say that we all left with a lot of things to think about and sort through.
Then on Sunday morning, we had the opportunity to hear from Aaron once again. He spoke to us from Jeremiah 29 and shared with us Jeremiah’s words for a people who had been but were no longer in the centre of power and privilege within their culture.
“Build houses and settle down; cultivate gardens and eat what they produce. Get married and have children; then help your sons find wives and your daughters find husbands in order that they too may have children. Increase in number there so that you don’t dwindle away. Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because your future depends on its welfare.” Jeremiah 29:5-7 CEB
And it’s into this context, this call to promote the welfare of the city of their captors, that God speaks this famous promise found in Jeremiah 29:11.
“I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.”
Aaron then shared stories about how Ancaster Village Church was attempting to live this out. He also spoke a prayer and a hope for us that God would foster a “prophetic imagination” within us of what God could accomplish through us in Estevan and our surrounding communities. We closed our time together by watching a video that looked back on the first four years of AVC and that also celebrated the part EAC had in this that has now come to an official close.
Then that afternoon we had the privilege and blessing of putting on a street party (in our parking lot) for anyone from our city and surrounding area who wanted to come. There were games, a bouncy castle, horse rides, crafts, face painting and henna drawings, churros, snow cones, go karts and pedal cars, a DJ, a show and shine, a police car and firetruck, a hot sauce eating contest and more, with all proceeds from our concession going towards the Saskatchewan Summer Games being hosted in Estevan in a few short weeks. It was great to see the amount of people who came out and had a great time with their families and friends. And it was so good to see our church come together and make this event not just happen but become a great success.
Thank you to those who made this such a great weekend. Thanks to April, Sam and Waylon for their work in the planning and organizing of the street fair. Thanks to all of those who volunteered by preparing food, running events, setting up, cleaning up, playing the music, making hot sauce and countless other things that I don’t even know about. Thanks to Aaron for his presence with us as well as the thought and passion he has given to his church and his time with us. Thank you to Ancaster Village Church for being a forward thinking, sacrifice oriented community of love, for modeling a way of church to us and to their community that is honouring to God and sensitive to culture. And thank you to Estevan Alliance Church, to those in leadership in the past and present who have invested much in this long distance partnership, who had the wisdom and humility to listen to God in directing us towards this and the courage and foresight to see how beneficial this partnership would be for all. May God continue to lead us and fill us to be about His mission among all the people of His earth, people He loves and is pursuing.