Cooperative sparks new energy for outreach to Indo-Canadians

Abbotsford, B.C.

Pioneer evangelist and pastor to Indo-Canadians in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, David Manuel was honoured at Celebration 2010 for ministering to more than a generation of Punjabi settlers in the Valley. Some three decades after Manuel started his work out of South Abbotsford (B.C.) MB Church, a number of congregations in the central valley have embarked on an effort to reach out to the growing community of more than 30,000 Punjabi people, most followers of the Sikh religion.

Don Klaassen (far left) moderates panel discussion on practical issues in reaching out. Panel members (L-R) are pastors Marcel Morneau, Salvestina Felix, Kapil Sharma, and Harinder Sahota.

Don Klaassen (far left) moderates panel discussion on practical issues in reaching out. Panel members (L-R) are pastors Marcel Morneau, Salvestina Felix, Kapil Sharma, and Harinder Sahota.

The inter-church cooperation among a relatively new working group is testimony to a budding awareness of shared vision. This Cooperative Indo-Canadian Ministry Team is coordinated by Outreach Canada church mission coach Don Klaassen (formerly Sardis MB pastor and MB Mission staff).

Already, Abbotsford has added another Mennonite Brethren Indo-Canadian outreach ministry at South Abbotsford and, closer to Vancouver, at Fraserview under the leadership of Santosh Raj. Clearbrook MB is supporting local minister Salvestina Felix, in partnership with Immanuel Fellowship Baptist Church.

“To start a Punjabi ministry here was quite an undertaking for us,” says Clearbrook pastor Ron Berg. A church ministering primarily to seniors, Clearbrook now hosts three annual festival events, a children’s program, ESL and computer classes, and Bible studies as part of their commitment to Indo-Canadian ministry.

Keynote speaker Marcel Morneau urged a workshop to realize God loves the people he brought from the Punjab to Canada. "So what is holding us back?" he asked.

Keynote speaker Marcel Morneau urged a workshop to realize God loves the people he brought from the Punjab to Canada. “So what is holding us back?” he asked.

Marcel Morneau, mission pastor to a Sikh farmworker community in the Okanagan, said he remembers a speaker’s comment at Missions Fest Vancouver 1996: “Don’t go to India; India is coming here.” After a period of learning the Punjabi language and culture in India, Morneau has been working among the Okanagan’s Punjabi immigrant community for 15 years. He was keynote speaker at a day-long workshop attended by 120 people on “Loving Indo-Canadians” Feb. 23 at Clearbrook.

“God has brought these Punjabi people here, and even to our church steps,” Morneau said. “What’s holding us back?” The workshop focused on the history of Sikhism and on practical steps to reach out meaningfully. “You can be a resource to new immigrants,” he said.

Pastor Harinder Sahota of South Abbotsford encouraged attenders to “keep walking with the person” over a long period of time; steps will be small as people slowly get over their fears. The principle of “show and tell” is sound.

Punjab is an agricultural area, not unlike the Fraser Valley. Warmth and hospitality characterize Punjabi people, Morneau said. There are contact points with Christian faith: Sikh faith, unlike the multiple-deity Hindu beliefs, posits that there is one god; a devout Sikh’s purpose is to seek truth.

Salvestina Felix divides her time between Clearbrook MB church and Immanuel Fellowship Baptist in Abbotsford as she answers her call to minister to Indo-Canadians in the area.

Salvestina Felix divides her time between Clearbrook MB church and Immanuel Fellowship Baptist in Abbotsford as she answers her call to minister to Indo-Canadians in the area.

“The Word became flesh [John 1:1] is a very strong word for Sikh people.”

Barrie McMaster, B.C. correspondent

 

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