Mixed marriage marks decade
Multicultural urban congregation celebrates 10-year anniversary with support of rural church
Fellowshipping over samosas has characterized Behta Darya’s gatherings from its beginnings in 2003. The Toronto MB church continued this style of fellowship June 9, 2013, marking 10 years with a celebratory banquet attended by 200 members, partners, and supporters.
“We have been, and continue to be, blessed by great leaders, mentors, and church families,” says pastor Vishal Ranga of the connection with the Ontario MB conference. “We have cultivated great relationships.”
Behta Darya was planted as part of the Key Cities Initiative – Love Toronto. Ewald Unruh (then-board of evangelism director) and Terry Wiseman (then-Ontario church planting director) were influential in Behta Darya’s early days when 15–20 people would gather for fellowship. Now, Behta Darya has some 120 members including children.
One source of the church’s growth has been an annual outreach concert to thousands in the GTA on a Punjabi radio station. Some 1,000 people attend the two-day event, often hearing the gospel for the first time in their own language. “Almost every year, we have people accepting Christ and staying connected somehow to the church,” says Ranga. “Some have even joined and become members. Other folks experience healing and begin to question who Jesus is.” The 2013 concert is planned for September.
From the early days, a close relationship developed with the MB congregation in Port Rowan. “We view them as a parental figure,” says Ranga, who co-pastors with his wife Rafiqua. “They have journeyed with us and we have shared our struggles, our challenges, our battles, and our victories. They graciously support us with financial aid, they pray with us, and we’ve exchanged visits.”
The churches are a study in contrast: “Port Rowan is rural, with a traditional church background, and mainly Caucasian members,” says Ranga. Behta Darya in Toronto is “multi-cultural and ethnic.” Yet, “when the two merge, it becomes a wonderful and colourful expression of God’s love within his kingdom. Although we are very different, we share Christ in common, and we are reminded that we are related through his shed blood. We have a connection and it is beautiful.”
“It’s neat to see a cautious rural church partnering with an expressive, contemporary inner-city group,” says Ed Willms, Ontario MB conference executive director.
Now-retired Port Rowan MB pastor Alexander (Sandy) Young, who was instrumental in establishing the partnership between Port Rowan and Behta Darya, says, “Behta Darya congregants showed their overwhelming love and esteem for Vishal and Rafiqua” at the celebration. Young says the pastor couple’s character also inspired a Sikh businessman who offered a ballroom and catered the party at no charge.
—Stacey Weeks, Ontario correspondent