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.

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