Like a Mennonite Brethren Indiana Jones, MB Mission general director Randy Friesen travels the world inspiring the body of Christ to surrender to God and take risks for Jesus as we fulfill the great commission. He told one of his “God stories” at MB Mission’s inaugural AWAKE event held in Waterloo, Ont., in September, where I was one of 250 participants.
On a recent flight, Randy began an exchange with his seatmate with the Holy Spirit-prompted question, “Do you ever talk to God?” In response, the young man told Randy about his struggles and how he prayed – but only in a crisis. During the conversation, Randy encouraged the man to let Jesus “out of the trunk and into the driver’s seat” of his life. The man resonated with the challenge and Randy led him to Christ on the plane!
Randy and the other speakers at this renewal and mission conference inspired our group from Glencairn MB (GMB). I was hoping God would do something dramatic at the outreach event we had planned for Saturday afternoon.
We’re in transition at Glencairn. Our senior pastor retired in June, and our associate pastor just left as well. A young couple at our church, Nathan and Rachel Dorsch, spearheaded GMB’s participation in AWAKE with a few other keen members, but the rest of us were slow to sign up. In the end, 35 people came on board – about one third of the congregation. Three refugees – two of them Muslim – and two staff from Welcome Home (transitional housing for refugees in Kitchener) also worked alongside us.
About 15 of us were going to run a soccer camp. The other 20 volunteers planned to visit with the parents who were invited to stay while their kids participated in the camp. I’m an experienced soccer coach, so I volunteered to organize the camp. I had detailed plans for three different age groups of children. The soccer volunteers met earlier in the week to practise the drills so we would all know how to teach them. In faith, I had borrowed about 50 balls plus pinnies and pylons. This was going to be good.
Fifteen children had pre-registered for the camp, and we hoped a few more would just show up. And then it rained. It rained and rained and rained. Two boys came: a four-year-old and a seven-year-old. The dad of the seven-year-old left, while the parents of the four-year-old stayed.
We had 40 volunteers and four community members. Not exactly the stuff of inspiring testimonies.
As the leader of the soccer camp, I had to make a choice. I wanted to cancel the whole thing and go home. Instead, I asked a few of the soccer volunteers to participate in the two-hour session along with the children. The boys had fun and learned some skills as they did the drills and played a game with the volunteers. The four-year-old’s mom was impressed at how well her son did playing with older people. (In a group of four-year-olds, no one has much focus.)
A few volunteers stuck around to visit with the parents and dispense the snacks. The rest of the volunteers went out into the community: a few did a prayer walk, a couple went to the grocery store to help people pack and carry their purchases. Another group drove around the neighbourhood doing an impromptu food drive to collect items for Bridges, GMB’s bi-weekly ministry to people in poverty. At the first door they knocked on, a woman had a whole box of food that she had been wanting to get rid of; she was happy they had come.
Our event was not an obvious success, yet it wasn’t a failure either. We survived – and learned from the experience. Spirits were high and the camaraderie was rich during our debrief time on Saturday evening: we laughed together, talked about what we might do differently, and congratulated each other for taking a risk.
“This is a beginning, not an end,” said Vic Thiessen, one of the people who helped start GMB 25 years ago. We all agreed that, though our church is pastor-less, we’re awake and God is working among us. Next time we’re challenged to risk, we can remember that God will be with us whether what we do is a “success” or not.
—Sandra Reimer is a member at Glencairn MB Church in Kitchener, Ont.