I heard the song, The Best Day of My Life, as one of the themes songs in a wedding. Recently, Lloyd and I have been focused on weddings, having attended two rehearsals, two weddings and edited videotapes of those ceremonies over a ten day period. The wedding of Steven and Julia-Ann was truly an event that can be described as the best day of their lives.
The venue was a delightful spot, groomed for weddings in a peaceful rural setting. After the service, cupcakes and veggies etc. were served from two farm wagons just off to the side of the open area for the service The Pastor, the groom’s father, stood in front of an old country church. About 70-80 people watched the service while seated in a green space under a bright warm sun. Even through it rained in the morning and later in the evening, the afternoon was an answer to many prayers for sunshine. The bridesmaids, two flower girls and a ring bearer walked down a natural aisle between two rows of trees. The church bell sounded as the couple was declared man and wife.
The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly and very family centered. The groom’s sister, mother and grandfather sang a trio, and one of the groomsmen was the groom’s brother; members of the bride’s family read scripture, prayed for the couple or were part of the bridal party. Later, the father of the bride was the emcee of the reception dinner.
The day was the best day of their lives.
Next blog will be about the second wedding.
There is a song about ending a relationship which says “movin’ on out”. It is a rather negative image of the break-up of a relationship. But moving on out can be a very positive concept. My husband and I spent one day this week at a wedding and reception but we also had opportunities earlier in the day to talk with several people and in particular with two pastors who spoke about the timing for a congregation to move out beyond itself and into its community.
Pastor Andres has spent three years in his church building trust and training leadership and learning about healing ministry. Now is the time for his people to move out into the community both locally and globally. Someone from his congregation goes monthly to a church about an hour’s drive away mentoring and helping a young pastoral couple. In a month Pastor Andres plans to be in Columbia with his mentor pastor teaching about healing and using God’s power to heal, reconcile and restore.
Pastor Mario is considering a month of prayer and fasting before going out into the city of London. He states that you have to go out and listen and be caring because the world we live in is a hurting world. Churches cannot look in on themselves; they must be alive and sensitive to hurting people and to bring God’s healing to others. We spent a few minutes with Pastor Mario in the chapel praying for God’s blessing and healing grace.
These two meetings took place before the wedding and between the wedding and the reception we sat in the Tillsonburg mall and spoke with Mexican migrant workers inviting to the opening of hospitality centre which is open for workers every Friday. Jesus met people in the streets rather than in the tabernacles. Let’s follow his example and be out in the community around us listening to and seeing needs.
Yesterday, we participated in what has been a family tradition for decades and celebrated with thousands of others Canada Day. We are blesses to live in a country with freedom and to be able to sing of the “true north strong and free.” In Sarnia, Canada Day involves a parade – bigger and better this year because of it being 150 years. Lloyd and I have shared this experience with our family and also with several of the migrant workers who come to our area. A parade here to celebrate a national day is quite different from what happens in many countries. In Mexico, there would be a strong focus and significant presence of the military forces in the parade. When Canada day occurred on a Sunday we brought workers to the parade and went on to the church where I preached wearing a pair of shorts and a red t-shirt with a maple leaf. We sang the Canadian national anthem and then some of the verses of the Mexican national hymn. Then we followed up with a barbecue and hamburgers.
Canada Day in Sarnia celebrates Canada’s history and its diversity. We also participated in the international flavor of the celebration: the international food booths in the park. We ate perogies, spring rolls and souvlaki. We did not sample the cake which was made up of 3000 cupcakes. How wonderful it is to have a rich diversity of cultures living together in Canada. I remember attending Canada Day with a family from El Salvador which had just arrived in Canada a few days before July 1. Their delight was wonderful.
Most Canada Days end with fireworks. This year we watched the fireworks sitting in lawn chairs on the church property. The evening was one of activity and games for children, music with a live band, popcorn candy floss and birthday cake.
We are blessed to live in Canada.
Being with people in moments of difficulty and moments of rejoicing is part of God honouring ministry. Many migrant workers leave their homes and come to Canada or other countries looking for work to support their families. The sacrifice is significant as wives and children and family and friends are left behind for many months. Some churches in SW Ontario try to become a replacement family during the workers time away from home. This can involve welcoming workers into homes for a shared meal or participating in a special event on Father’s Day when all the men are far from their families. And For Mexican workers, it can be a celebration of Independence Day in September with Mexican food, music and laughing and sharing together. It can involve going to Mexico to rejoice together with Jorge and Amalia at their wedding.
But being there is very much needed without ever leaving Canada to support and encourage someone. It can mean talking to a boss so a worker can ask permission to spend two weeks at home because his wife has been involved in a major accident or a parent has suffered a stroke. It can mean taking the workers to Western Union to get money to his family to meet an urgent need. It can mean packing some snacks for the flight home since airport food is expensive. This week being there was important to Jorge when he learned that his wife had been injured in an accident, in the hospital and does not know her family members. Listening, talking to the boss, making trips to send money, sending out information to contacts by email all were necessary. Most important was the opportunity to hug Jorge and pray with him and let him know that although he felt alone, he was not alone.
Being there is important for rejoicing or weeping with those who live next door, in the same apartment building or at the same workplace. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans encouraging them to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15. Who will you rejoice with or weep with this week?
Often when we are away on mission, we are asked “what is a typical meal in Canada?” In Canada, we have a great richness and variety and many foods have been borrowed and become part of what most Canadians eat, such as pizza, lasagna, sauerkraut and pretzels. Truly Canadian foods include poutine, butter tarts and maple syrup.
In the Dominican Republic, white rice, beans, salad and a small serving of chicken is the staple meal. I especially enjoy fried cheese and the fried yucca arepita. In Mexico, Tortillas are part of every meal. Most families also have pan dulce – sweet bread- at least once a day. These breads come in a variety of shapes; some are stuffed with fruit. The concha is one. It gets its name from the shape and marks in the icing which gives the appearance of a conch shell.
A person goes on a mission tries to adapt to the culture and food of the area we visit. When migrants come to Canada, we should as reverse missionaries try to offer them something of their own culture when possible. Lots of hot sauces are available in grocery stores. I decided to make conchas since there is nothing quite like it in Southern Ontario. You can imagine my surprise when Alberto asked me to write out the recipe so he could take it back to his wife. I was delighted to have made the men who came to the apartment for the conchas and a pop happy.
Paul wrote that he became all things to win all people to the gospel. By baking a typical Mexican food, I had the opportunity to sit and visit and talk about various churches with three workers.
The expression is that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Perhaps that fact is one of the reasons yard sales are popular. They are a great opportunity to get rid of things you no longer use, want or treasure. Our experience at yard sales in the past month has been one of finding treasures – treasures for ministry in the Dominican Republic. One Saturday morning, we brought a clown costume – this is a highly sought item for children’s ministry in the Dominican Republic. The next Saturday we bought a brand new pair of butterfly wings suitable for the ministry of dance which is quite popular in the Dominican. (The man who sold it said he would like to see us wearing or using the wings and we said it is a long trip to the Dominican if he wants to see the wings in use.) He looked at us with surprise and said we were the second couple to buy things that were going to the Dominican Republic from him that morning
This week we found two brand new puppets and again often Dominican churches have requested puppets. I would love to find some more treasures including wooden beads suitable for heads on an angel craft or glue guns. Ribbon is great for making bracelets, barrettes and angels. While the puppets, clown costumes and wings will be used in ministry, they are still things. What makes them a treasure for me is that they can and will be used to tell bible stories and the good news of salvation.
Treasures – things – can be found at yard sales or sometimes stored in house that are full of things. However, the real lasting treasures are not earthly things and not things that can be worn out or destroyed by use but the treasures I value are ones we store up in heaven. ( Matthew 6:20)
The Facebook message From Pastor Andres read, “Don’t stop touching peoples’ lives as you touched mine.” I first met Andres, pastor of a Spanish speaking congregation, while being part of a network of pastors in London, all of whom except my husband and I, spoke Spanish as a first language and served as pastors of Spanish speaking congregations in London, Ontario. For a period we met regularly with Andres, communicated often, prayed together and went of a mission trip to the state of Jalisco, Mexico.
His words were a real blessing and caused me to focus on a couple of people who had greatly touched my life and ministry. Pastor Leonard challenged me to stretch far in my faith journey urging me to stand up and speak up for what I believed in. His generosity and his faithfulness to Christ touched me deeply. His example and teaching helped me move from a one-hour a week Christian to a person sold out to Christ.
Silvia, a Dominican and mother of six children all involved in pastoring or serving Jesus, also touched me. Her example and prayer life encouraged me to grow. When I began to study theology and enter the pastorate, she spoke prophetic words that God was leading me in a new ministry and that I should not be afraid to embrace God’s plans for my life. She supported my decision to study, prayed for me and for many years brought coffee to my room in the Dominican each morning. She provided a wonderful example of a servant’s heart.
Pastor Andres’ comment to keep on touching people is solid advice for many today. How do we keep on touching? Is there someone you know who needs to be mentored by a faithful servant? Is there someone who needs to see you serving with a servant’s heart? Who will look at you and say thanks for touching my life for Christ? E