Who Am I?  Part 15

Two weeks ago I made brief comments about how God provided for our needs, even if the situation was less than ideal.  One thing is for sure, God did take us out of a bad situation and He did provide a new setting where we could be a family and be active in ministry.  (You can read about the last chapter of my life story by clicking here.)

Unfortunately, it did not last a long time.  From the time I was interviewed until the time I left for Prince Edward Island driving another U-Haul truck was just less than two years.  On the one hand, I could say that it was a good thing, as moving to PEI ultimately led me to discover and join Pioneer Bible Translators.  On the other hand, I can look back with regret and consider this church experience as the next one of my great failures.

And yet, even as I say that, I know that neither statement is completely true nor completely false.  As is often the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle.  I do know that at the one year mark there was a Board meeting to decide if they would keep me on as the minister for another year.  The vote was “yes”, but it was not a majority vote.  Nine months later, I decided that this was not the place for me to stay.  So what really happened?

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The history of the church is a bit fuzzy now for me after all these years.  I can tell you that this church was built in the mid 1800s and was the first church of our movement to be built this far west in Canada (Manitoba was considered “Pioneer Country” at that time).  The stone work and the wood crafting was phenomenal, and it had an overarching balcony over the main sanctuary that allowed for a capacity of over 250 people.  It was considered a grand church in its day.

There had been some great preachers there over the years, but as is the case for most small towns, the number of attending members continued to decline over time.  By the time I came for my interview, the church had an average attendance of 25 people.  It was rather sad to see such a grand hall be so empty looking, not just during the week, but even on a Sunday morning.

When I was interviewed by the Search Committee, I expressed my desire to come and be a Preacher / Church Growth Evangelist.  It was very evident that the members of the committee were quite excited about this prospect.  They recommended me to the church at large, I preached on Sunday, and then flew back to Alberta to await their decision.  It came back within a few days – they voted unanimously to hire me.

And so in December of 1990, we arrived and stayed in one member’s house while they did the finishing touches to remodel the suite that took up most of the church balcony.  One month later, our second son Glen was born and we moved soon after that into the suite.  There is no doubt in my mind that Glen’s birth and then living as a foursome in the small but quaint balcony suite were the most positive aspects of life for us at that time.

It didn’t take long though to see that the energies I was attempting to pour into revitalizing the church were meeting some opposition within the small group.  Of the few families that were left, there was one “clan” still there who had some powerful people, at least in terms of their opinions.  I came to realize the truth of a saying that one of our Bible College teachers used to say, “The young are out to change the world; the old are out to change the young.”

Interestingly enough, it was the middle-aged clan members who showed resistance to trying new ideas and welcoming new people as I worked at growing the church.  In fact, the hand full of old singles ladies and I got along very well.  I recall with great fondness how I would hold my mid-week Bible studies, working our way from Genesis to Revelation, and it was the same 4 or 5 old ladies who would come out and catch my vision and passion for teaching God’s Word.

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I believe it was when I moved the piano to the side and introduced some choruses while playing my guitar that was the beginning of the end for me there.  The “power players” resigned from helping with worship, and the older people were not able to lead or assist.  And so I was left alone in that ministry.  Jill saw the end coming, and hung on with me for a number of months more.  It ended up that she moved with the kids first to PEI while I stayed to end my 2-year commitment to them.

In between the beginning and the end though, I do remember the family moments we had there.  And there were some young couples that we really bonded to while there.  And certainly our “Old Ladies Bible Study” held precious moments, and I still use some of those materials today.  I haven’t mentioned about the outreach I had with a friend in town for a year to young people at a  Christian drop-in center.  Some of those young people gave their lives to Christ.  How precious is that?

And so I have a choice.  I can remember this 2-year experience as one of my great failures, where not only did the church not grow, but a few years later had to close its doors.  Or I can remember the special intimate times I had with family, and with dear old saints, and with brand new young Christians.  So you tell me, what really happened there?  I may not have built up the church building in that town, but I do believe I helped build the Kingdom of God in the hearts of those people who mattered most to me.  That is what I will remember most.

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