Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Home Missions: A Challenge

Written by Rev. C.A. Schouls
This editorial is written by Rev. C.A. Schouls, the Assistant Editor of The Messenger, in connection with Home Missions. Following this informative and thought-provoking editorial there is a report by a member of the Calgary, Alberta Home Mission station. The intention is that you will prayerfully discuss and reflect on the challenges that are presented.
"Go West, Young Man"
"Go West, young man, and grow up with the country." It was Horace Greeley, the American politician and aspirant for the presidency after the Civil War, who uttered this famous phrase. Whether it was his disillusion with the post-war corruption of the government of U. S. Grant (who proved that good generals do not necessarily make good presidents) or the general unrest and malaise resulting from a forced Reconstruction movement in the South or whether he was caught up still in the expansionist fervour of the 1840's which saw it as the nation's "Manifest Destiny" to expand westward--I do not know and, as this is not meant to be a lesson in United States political thought, it matters little.

The phrase stuck in my mind during my recent (early October) visit to "our West"--that, is, the churches in Alberta. All of our pastors visit there from time to time. This time, Rev. Bergsma and I travelled together and took turns serving all three churches. No doubt, many of us will also soon have to slide British Columbia into our schedules. (Consistories and congregations, please do allow your pastors to provide a helping hand!) And when we return, people ask, "How was your trip? How are the churches doing?" Allow me to say a little in response to the last question. You must realize this is strictly a personal comment, although it is published with the knowledge of the executive of our Home Missions Committee. The official status report on the Home Missions work comes to the churches via the Home Missions Committee report to Synod. I'm sure many grabbed the Acts of Synod and turned to that report as soon as you saw that little white book. You didn't? Maybe I'm going to go "outside of the box" for a moment, but I hope that you'll come with me.

Calgary is the fastest growing city in Canada, maybe in North America. We've all heard or read about the economic conditions in Alberta. Even with the beef disaster, it still seems to be booming. And in this city of Calgary there is a struggling little preaching station. The report to synod speaks of 20 to 25 people attending on a regular basis but when I was there the number was only 7 for the first service and 9 for the second. Admittedly, there were people away to Lacombe; there were seriously ill family members; there were newcomers who had not yet realized that their absence (for whatever legitimate reasons) made such a huge difference in such a small group.

Currently, worship is conducted in a rented room in the basement of a hotel. Manageable; better than most of our Guatemala preaching posts, to be sure; no doubt more comfortable and luxurious than meeting places in Serbia and Moldova. But this is not Guatemala, Serbia, Moldova or any place other than Calgary--modern, fast growing, wealthy Calgary. And these people need a church building in order to attract others. (Did the apostle Paul have a church building? No. Did he live in the 21st century in the affluent West?)

Efforts and Possibilities
Pastor Jack Schoeman of Monarch, Alberta has been enabled to start a weekly half hour, prime time Sunday morning radio broadcast. He invites people to come to the church in Lacombe--on the main street of town; in Monarch--the church is clearly marked and visible from the highway. Calgary? Directions are needed to some hotel basement. In an age of fly-by-night religious charlatans and fast operators, this does not send out a good message. They need a building. They need to look like a church.

And, they can have a church--for free. Well, "for free" is a relative term. As soon as Rev. Bergsma and I met our hosts on our last trip, they told us with great excitement, "We have some news for you" and over lunch they told us. A "modular" church (pre-fab) of three sections is theirs, literally, for the taking. But they have to dismantle and move it. They have to refurbish parts of it. And, the big one!--they need to buy land. Land will cost about $123456. They do not have that kind of money. The Home Missions Committee has assets of about $80,000. They may approach other synodical committees for loans but it may not be possible or responsible for a denominational committee to invest such large sums into a church plant which, humanly speaking, is still rather tenuous.

So - let's go outside of that box. We need three or four people who are willing to invest about $50,000 each to buy a piece of land in Calgary. I am not a businessman but I'm sure legally safe arrangements can be made for such a purchase with the provision that if the work should fold, the property can be sold, if they wish, and the profit will be theirs. And, if the work prospers, arrangements for payment and transfer of title(s) can also be made. These are details that can be easily worked out between brothers.

If you see anything here of which you think the Lord is giving an opening to do something for his cause, why don't you go out and have a look in Calgary. Harold and Janey Slingerland will be pleased to put you up. Contact them at 403-254-6591 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Perhaps you wish to investigate this at some distance (literal and figurative) first. Rev. L. Roth (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is the secretary of the Committee and Rev. J. Schoeman (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is the "man-on-the-spot." They will be pleased to provide further information.

As with all things, it is not just money they need: they need people. And this is where the "Greeley quote" really comes into focus. Are there not some young people, stable and committed to our churches, who would want to start up in Calgary? Are there not some young families, stable and committed to our churches, who could see this as a way of serving the Lord in a most practical manner? Was there not a similar appeal to our parents and grandparents some fifty years ago? What opportunities there are here! And if the thought of living in such a big city would scare you off, why not consider our newest church in Lacombe, just two hours driving north of Calgary? They, too, need people and they, too, hope to acquire their own church building at some time.

So--will money and people settle the problem? We know better than that. It is still true: "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Ps. 127:1). But the implication is clear: unless there are labourers building the house, the LORD will not build it.

We pray for the extension of the church, do we not? Do we really mean that? Then, let us do what our hand finds to do.

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