Friday, September 29, 2006

Congratulations Fouad and Isabella!

We attended our first wedding celebration as part of the Bridge family today. It was a joyous occassion and one representing the true ethnic diversity of our church - bringing together a Moroccan, and a Chinese from Hong Kong who met in Turkey officiated by an American and MC'ed by a French Canadian! Pretty cool huh? And yet, we all one in the body of Christ.

The funny thing was that we had thought that the days of us attending a translated wedding were over! Were we proved wrong! (God has a real sense of humour sometimes...) Once again, we were delighted to hear the sounds of alternating English and Cantonese at their wedding.

Fouad and Isabella, thank you for letting us share in your very special day. May God continue to use you two to bless others.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Want some melba toast?

With Erich's almost biweekly teething pain, we've had to adapt our techniques of feeding him. Sometimes because of the pain, he refuses to eat solids from spoon. However, we've discovered that serving up his pureed food on Melba toast works very well! He simply takes the melba toast coated with the tastiest jarred baby food and munches away. On days when he is eating well, we've been using melba toast as a sort of after-dinner treat. He loves the stuff and just half a piece of melba toast can keep him occupied enough for mummy and daddy to finish their dinners.

The other day, while we were giving him one of these pieces of melba, he offered it back to daddy. How sweet! :-)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Koby and Lisa's Wedding: A great reunion

The Ngs attended a wedding this past weekend at Vancouver Christ Church of China. Congratulations to Koby and Lisa - you guys are FINALLY married! We wish you the best as you resettle in Seattle!

The wedding brought together many familiar faces, many of whom we had not seen in quite some time. It was great to reacquaint with old friends.

This was also Erich's first chinese wedding banquet that he attended. Despite the long hours, he was a real trooper and managed to keep himself and many others entertained! The melba toast helped (see next post) but also regular trips to the seafood tanks. Shown below is a photo of some hungry crabs looking at Erich.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Today was Jonathan's Mum's birthday - her first as grandma! We treated her to a very yummy breakfast thanks to La Patisserie LeBeau. (Of course this photo was taken after we had finished!) May her love and her love for God pass down through generations to come.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Little guy on the go!

Erich is 9 months today and crawling around the house as if it is second nature to him. Shown here is a photo of Erich patrolling the hallways. He has already figured out ways around many of the baby proofing / baby sectioning devices we have put in place. (!!) He's learned for instance that if it stands up and leans his weight just right, he can move the ottoman that is situated to prevent him from moving out of the living room. He has also figured out how to open and close doors that are slightly ajar. His hand-eye coordination is amazing for his age. He can pick a Cheerio right from daddy's finger in mid air and place half of it in his mouth to bite. Now that's precision!

He's developed a keen awareness of who mommy and daddy is, and goes to each respective parent for different reasons. For comfort, mommy is always best. He is always in the know of where mommy is and has even learned to discern her footsteps. For play or to relax, daddy is best and daddy always gets a big smile when he comes home from work. :)

Erich has also enjoyed trying many new fruits. Fruits such as peaches and pears are definitely his favorites. His latest passion is eating miniature bananas (from grandma) straight from the peel. His favorite comfort foods include melba toast (which he eats holding the whole piece by himself) and Cheerios which he either picks off his high chair table or from daddy's fingers.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bridge BBQ 2006

Last chance to enjoy the beach and the sun at Spanish Banks beach. The Bridge had a time of fellowship and Pinniata.

Shown here our fearless pastor holding the pinniata while another attempts to break it open.

Check out more photos here.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Bridge: A New Beginning

A few years ago, Hans Stein, Karen’s step-dad invited us to a Christian concert at the Kitsilano showboat. Hans, who is a skilled tradesman, had apparently been invited by one of his clients who, as I recall, plays in the Bridge band. Although Hans is not a Christian, he thought that since we were Christians we would like to attend. Well, as we soon found out, the Christian concert was run by a local church called the Bridge. At this concert, we received a water bottle. On this water bottle are the paraphrased words of Jesus: “Every person who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water Jesus gives will be satisfied.”

As we enjoyed the concert and as we sipped from the water bottle, the irony became apparent. Here were a handful of Christians and police officers gathered around for a concert worshipping and drinking from the only water that can truly satisfy (Jesus). In the backdrop were a multitude of people playing in the pool and beaches in an abundance of water neither of which could satisfy. I got to wondering – what makes that water so much more attractive than this? I had seen packed audiences for the showboat before - Was our community of Kitsilano really this void of God that people would rather be out there than here listening to praises? Were people so turned off by the sound of Christian music that cops had to be called in to keep the peace?

An uneasy burden grew in our hearts so we decided to keep the water bottle as a reminder. Over the years it sat empty, gathering dust in our cupboard. Little did we know that God would use this very water bottle to call us to serve our community and this church a few years later: When Karen was pregnant with Erich, we, as first time parents were rather cautious. As the due date grew nearer, we got more and more worried that her water might break. What if her water were to break midway through church service? Our church at the time was 40 minutes away! So what does a good husband do on a Sunday morning when his wife looks like a balloon about to burst, barely fits into his sports coupe and is dreading the 40 minute car ride to church? That’s right – he goes and gets an empty water bottle. No, not to catch the waters should they break! But to look up the address and service time for when the Bridge meets!

Now seriously, this is how we got to the Bridge, but we believe that there is a much greater plan at stake here. God had been planting a burden in our hearts for our community and had simply used Erich’s birth to give us a time to re-evaluate what His will was for us with regard to ministry. Before we came to the Bridge, we were heavily involved in our ministry at a church in Coquitlam called Coquitlam Christ Church of China - an independent evangelical Christian church. Eight and a half years ago we were called to serve as church planters and missionaries to this church. Our mission was to start an English ministry in a Chinese church.

Much like the ministry here, this involved administrative work, establishing an identity, establishing a community, teaching, leading worship, preaching – many things that we felt horribly inadequate to do. But God was faithful and God used our service as a way of humbling us, and teaching us to rely on Him. He gave us a passion for His Word. He increased our faith. We watched as our congregation grew from nine youth holding worship services in a Sunday school room to now over 60 young adults worshipping, praising and serving God.

Most importantly though, we saw many people brought to salvation through Christ over the past eight years. We saw God move in their hearts: first learning about God, then personalizing that faith through knowing Jesus, and then ministering to others in the community through the Holy Spirit.

So as this heavy involvement came to an abrupt pause, we took inventory of our life once again. Three questions arose: First, had we succeeded in our mission in Coquitlam? Second, were we beginning to become too comfortable in our ministry context to the point where our own spiritual growth had stopped? And third, did we need to get out of the way so that those leaders whom we had reproduced had room to flourish on their own?

The answer to the first question is rather easy – given the quantitative facts, yes we had indeed succeeded in starting an English ministry and instilling in a group of young leaders the desire and passion to spread God’s Word. But the second and third questions were much harder to answer.

Early on in our Coquitlam ministry, God had taught me a very valuable lesson. Although I have always had a heart to serve God, my often stubborn and self-confident attitude presented a stumbling block to being effective in ministry. Through many challenges, God humbled me and taught me that in order to be effective; I had to rely on Him fully. He taught me that effective ministry is not only about DOING, but also about BEING an effective Christian. Our relationship with Him MATTERS and has a direct correlation to how effective our MINISTRY is.

So when we felt that we might be too comfortable where we were, this set off some warning flags. Reaching beyond our comfort zone in our relationship with God and in our service to Him is what causes us to grow. If we were too comfortable, it meant we weren’t growing, and that meant our ministry wasn’t as effective as it could be. Challenging others to do the same also enables them to grow. So the answer to both the second and third questions is also yes. God was telling us to move beyond our comfort zone.

As we prayed over what we felt God telling us to do, we sought for His timing. We prayed specifically that certain circumstances would come to pass with regard to our Coquitlam ministry and indeed they did, so a few weeks ago, we said our goodbyes and were blessed as our congregation prayed for us as we moved on to the Bridge.

Serving our own community will be a challenge. Effectively ministering to a community so turned off by God is definitely beyond our comfort zone. But we feel that through our service here, we will grow spiritually and we will cause others to grow too. We have always felt very welcome here, and Karen and I really appreciate the sincerity and humility of the leaders here. We feel we have a lot to learn from all of you. We look forward to being part of the community here – sharing life’s journey together with you, worshipping our God and serving you.

-- Address given to The Bridge congregation Sunday, September 10th, 2006

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Farewell and Thank you Joy Fellowship!

Today marked our last official service at Coquitlam Christ Church of China as their English missionary. Much to our surprise, we were greeted with flowers and a grand farewell party in the parking lot. Thank you CCCC for making our last day with you such a memorable one. Thank you also for the kind words of appreciation and encouragement as we move on to our new ministry at the Bridge. We'll miss you too!

Below is a transcription of the farewell speech given to our dearest brothers and sisters in Christ at Coquitlam Christ Church of China on August 13th, 2006 for the benefit of those who were absent.

August 13th, 2006

Good morning brothers and sisters in Christ. This year marks the 8th anniversary of the English congregation here at Coquitlam Christ Church of China. Over the past eight years we have seen how God has been faithful to this ministry: We have seen our congregation grow from nine youth holding worship services in the Sunday school room to now over 60 young adults worshipping, praising and serving God. Our church has grown so much in fact that we now have a problem of space and thus see the need for expansion. We have seen God move this ministry as a small attachment to the children’s department to a full fledge department having its own children’s ministry and having full representation on the deacon board.

Most importantly though, we have seen many people brought to salvation through Christ over the past eight years. We have seen God move in the hearts of all of us here: first learning about God, then personalizing that faith through knowing Jesus, and then ministering to others in the community through the Holy Spirit. God has indeed been faithful to us, and He is indeed a powerful God.

God has also changed me tremendously through this ministry. Although I’ve always had a heart to serve God, my stubborn and self-confident attitude presented a stumbling block to being effective in ministry. Through many challenges, God humbled me and taught me that in order to be effective; I had to rely on Him fully. He taught me that effective ministry is not only about DOING, but also about BEING an effective Christian. Our relationship with Him MATTERS and has a direct correlation to how effective our MINISTRY is.

God has not finished working on me yet. Karen and I have both felt that over the past while, particularly with Erich’s arrival, that God still has so much more to teach us. For starters He has been stretching us as we’ve learned to become new parents. But God has also used Erich’s arrival to give us pause. During this pause, He has prompted us to meditate about this one question: would we be just as effective of a Christian if we were placed beyond our comfort zone – beyond our normal cultural context?

Almost as if to test this question, God has been placing a new burden in our hearts – one for our immediate urban community of Kitsilano. Although I grew up in a non-Chinese church, most of my recent Christian life (the last 22 years) has been spent serving in Chinese churches. Karen, too also grew up primarily in the Chinese church. It is our comfort zone and our familiar context. Even as we outreached to other communities such as through the Short term teams to England, we still ministered within the local born Chinese context.

Vancouver’s urban Kitsilano and West End communities, the community that we live in is perhaps as far removed from the local born Chinese culture as one can get. Although it is one of Canada’s more educated and affluent neighbourhoods, it also has one of Canada’s highest divorce rates. It also has a large concentration of gays and lesbians. Far from a culture where church is valued, churches and “organized religions” are devalued – seen as unnecessary impositions of old fashioned conservative values.

God’s question – would we be just as effective of a Christian if placed beyond our comfort zone kept haunting us. As we pondered, God continually brought us back to our own community. To this end, we began searching to see what we could do to influence our immediate neighbourhood. We found that as we sought opportunities to minister, God began placing people in our lives: from coworkers to neighbours – all in need of the love of Christ. We also found a local church ministry called the Bridge filled with people with the same burden.

Could God be calling us to move on? After much prayer, Karen and I believe that it is indeed God’s will and timing for us to leave our ministry here, and to serve our own community through the Bridge. Coming to this decision was both easy and extremely difficult at the same time. The easy part is -- once you know what God’s will is, the decision is clear – we had peace about it. The difficult part, however, is dealing with the emotional consequences. Karen and I have grown up with all of you, and we’ve seen each other grow. We’ve seen each other mature spiritually and in wisdom and have watched as your faith guides your decisions from academics to dating and marriage. As we reflect on our last summer retreat together, we have seen the realization of the seed that God planted in our hearts 8 years ago. Praise God!

As we move on from one chapter in our lives to the next, so too does Joy Fellowship. This congregation started as a missions plant from Vancouver. Now is the time for the missionaries to leave and for the local leadership to take root. We look forward with much anticipation as William and Juliana take on the leadership and pastor-ship here in the fall. We pray that God will allow them to continue to work well with the counselors and leaders here and that the ministry would be blessed abundantly.

In closing, we want to say how very proud we are of what God has done in your lives. We feel tremendously humbled to have been offered the privilege to be your missionaries, your mentors, your Sunday school teachers, your worship leaders, your prayer partners, your elders, your deacon, your friends, and most of all your brother and sister in Christ. Although this is farewell as your missionary, we are nevertheless all in the body of Christ. We will continue to support the ministry here both in prayer, through limited engagements, and through sponsorship in the expansion project. Our home, as always, is open to you. In return, we ask that you don’t forget us! As Karen says, we’ll be eagerly awaiting your wedding invitations! Seriously though, you will be forever etched in our hearts. We love you all. May God bless you.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Erich's first date :-)

Had a very enjoyable evening BBQing with Pastor Rodney and family at Kits Beach. Erich evidently enjoyed the company too! :-)

Pictured Emily (Rodney and Tiffany's daughter) and Erich in Kits Point.