Monday, May 25, 2015

Perspective

This week I indulged in one of my favourite activities -- a walk with a friend through Butchart Gardens.  It's a trek we have undertaken dozens of times before, through every season of the year.  We know what to expect.  In the spring, we'll be carried along on the heavenly perfume of hyacinth.  We'll marvel at the giant tulips, and the tiny tulips and the many coloured tulips.  Later on, the rose bushes will wow us with their exquisite petals and perfect blooms.  In the autumn the trees will turn to fall colours and the dahlias will put on a show.  Even in winter
we enjoy the walk, admiring the many textures and shades of green, catching a glimpse of primula through the snow.  We know this place.  We've been here before.
   Yet, this week, we saw something new.  Hidden
beneath a shiny broad leaf, were a cluster of deep purple flowers.  We stopped, stared and exclaimed, "Why haven't we seen that before?" 
    We came upon another exotic, like a yellow thistle without the prickly thorns.
 "Never seen that either," we said to one another.  "What do you suppose it is?"
   As we continued to meander we took less travelled paths and saw old scenes from a different viewpoint.  We saw behind the showy beds to find tiny gems in forgotten places.  As we took in the gardens in a new way, our talk turned to the Scriptures, so like our walk.  
     We start out knowing what we'll find.  We've read the familiar passages so many times.  We can recite Psalm 23, and John 3:16 and Luke 2.  We know the stories by heart. -- Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Jonah.  Why study it yet again?  We've "been there; done that."
   Well, if our garden walk is anything to go by, we haven't "done that."   
  My friend and I have walked the Gardens in every season of the year, always discovering something marvellous.  So too, as we study Scripture in the many seasons of life, we find hidden treasure, words of comfort we missed when we were young and invincible, words of wisdom we overlooked when we were set in our ways, and words of courage as we face difficult times.
    Studying the stories with a colleague may show us a different viewpoint, where the old and familiar reveals something strange and new.  Read them a scholar, read them with a child, the scriptures always have something new to say.
   A favourite hymn for the Saanich Peninsula Hospital service is "In The Garden."  It contains the line "and He walks with me and He talks with me,"  Perhaps scripture is that garden where we may hear God speak, as surely as He spoke in Eden.
   This week, why not explore the garden God gave us?  You'll be surprised.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Reflections on My Trip to the Dominican Republic


 by Linda Cliff


    It has been a few weeks since I returned from the DR.  My time there was one of hard physical work, living outside my comfort zone in terms of the activities of daily living and growing in my spiritual life.  During our orientation to our time with the House Upon the Rock Ministry, Sharon Branson stated that one of the goals of the Ministry was to “ruin us for the normal Christian Life”.  Since my return I have been reflection on this statement and these are my thoughts to date.

     Prayer.  This is something we all do as Christians.  We pray to give thanks, to ask for direction, to commune with God.  What I saw in the DR was people praying as part of their lives.  Our first day in the DR we attended church service with a local congregation.  Three weeks prior to our arrival they had been told that their landlord would no longer be able to rent them the place where they held their worship service.  They had contacted us and asked for our prayers that they would be able to find a place to worship.  This was announced at a local church service and God moved someone to donate $20,000 for the purchase of land on which to build a church.  When this was announced at the service we were attending, the joy of this answered prayer was overwhelming.  
    Then there is the man who prayed for a new home and was convinced that God would fulfill his request in 2015.  We helped to finish building his house during our trip.  

    There is the Doctor who had no more medicines to give to the people who visited the clinic.  She started to pray two weeks prior to our arrival in the DR asking for direction about her role in the Ministry in Pedregal.  We arrived with three suitcases filled to the brim with medications that she needs to do her work.  
     One day on the worksite, I looked up from mixing mortar to witness two members of the Mission team bowed in prayer.  I do not know what they were praying about, but my wonder was what can I learn about my daily life and the place prayer has in my day to day activities.  These thoughts were reinforced when I was working in the clinic and saw the clerical staff bowed in prayer when the doctor was working with one of the clinic patients.  I also heard the doctor praying with a patient who needed spiritual care as well as physical care.

    So how have I been “ruined”?  I have seen powerful answers to prayers while I was in the DR.  I have learned that prayer must be an integral  part of my day.  If I am speaking with God and letting Him know what my needs are and what His wishes are for my life, He will have the opportunity to answer my prayers.  This requires that I spend time in his Word, time with other Christians and time in prayer-- time depending on Him during the day to day.


     I am sure as time goes by there will be more insights that will come to me because of the time I spent in the DR.  I have much to be thankful for!


Monday, May 11, 2015

BASIC CHRISTIANITY


    The Wednesday morning Bible Study group has reached the end of their study of the Book of Hebrews.  As usual, it was an enriching and lively study -- also somewhat sad as two of our regular members passed away during the thirteen weeks of the session.
    We took a bit of a break this Wednesday and watched a video,
"Drive Thru History -- Holy Land with Dave Stotts."  As well as showing us  various archaeological sites described in the Bible, the video made us chuckle.  Dave has a real thing for his Fiat 500!
   Next week we begin a six week study of John Stott's  Basic Christianity.  This is an old book and may well be already on your shelf.  It may have a different cover too, but the content is the same.  It's a classic because it speaks a truth that is timeless.  It's also fairly dense.  I welcome the opportunity to work through it in a study group!  As usual, Rev. Irwin will lead the study. He's a terrific teacher, able to make complex theology accessible to the layman.
    The book, "Basic Christianity," is available for purchase but is not necessary to the study.  If you haven't already picked up a copy of the study guide, it will be available on Wednesday too.  Biblical passages for the sessions include Mark 10:17-31, John 8: 51-58 and 1Peter 2:21-25 to name a few.  Topics include the claims of Christ, the character of Christ, and the Resurrection of Christ.

    The Bible Study is open to all and you don't have to sign up for the whole series.  Try it out, come once or as often as you like.  Coffee's on and there are terrific goodies.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cedar Tree Ministries

The first Sunday of May, we had a special guest in our service. Rev. Joey Cho of Cedar Tree Ministries shared with us his call to ministry and his journey to the Cowichan Valley.
    After giving his life to Christ as a youth in Korea, Joey felt drawn to mission work.  His acquaintance with Canadian missionaries made him want to come to Canada.  Unfortunately, his church told him "No.  Canada is not a mission field."  But Joey believed that God was calling him to work with First Nations in Canada.  He prayed about the situation for twenty days and the call was still strong.  So, Joey set out for Canada without the backing of his home church.
    He went first to Vancouver but there seemed to be no place there to start a congregation.  Then he moved to Duncan, where he found seven tribal units with about 4500 First Nations people.  He believed he had found the place where God wanted him to be.
    The work was not easy.  Many of Rev. Cho's congregants are survivors of the Residential School system.  Some are angry, some are addicted to drugs and alcohol, some hate the name of Jesus because they associate it with the pain of residential school.  Despite this baggage, in 2007 he began Grace Cowichan Church with one First Nations family.  Later, with the permission of the band, the church moved into a building on reserve land.
   Even then, there were trials.  Because of the hatred felt by so many, the cross was continually stolen from the church or damaged.  In the end, a Native artist created a sign that incorporated First Nations art with the cross of Christ.  That sign has not been vandalized.
    The church now holds regular Sunday services, Bible Study class, hosts a women's group and a Kids Bible Club.  There are regular sharing days when people offer what they have to those in need.  There are weddings and baptisms and funerals.  There is pain and there is healing.
    But, as his ministry progressed, Joey felt isolated.  At times he wanted to give up.  But each time he thought he could not go on, he received a sign, a token of encouragement that told him God wanted him to continue.  Eventually, Rev. Cho joined the Presbyterian Church in Canada and was ordained by that denomination.  Now he is part of the Presbytery of Vancouver Island and surrounded by loving, supportive peers in ministry and by prayer partners in other congregations.
    Still driven by the need to be a missionary, Joey, with the blessing of Presbytery formed Cedar Tree Ministries, an outreach program focussed on First Nations.  There is now a First Nations Victory Chapel in Nanaimo and a new congregation in Mill Bay, begun at the request of three families on the reserve there.
   Cedar Tree Ministries is living its mission of Reconciliation, Restoration and Renewal.
    Rev. Joey's story speaks to God's mysterious ways.  Who would have thought someone from Korea, brought to Christ by a North American missionary, would then travel from Korea to do mission work in North America?  But God's ways are better than ours.  Because Rev. Cho is not Caucasian, he is better able to minister to a people who suffered at the hands of their white neighbours.  While his church in Korea was right in saying Canada is not a mission field, they were wrong in terms of First Nations reserves in Canada.  Those areas are crying out for the Gospel.  Thank God for people like Rev. Joey Cho who bring the Good News to hurting people. 
   One compelling feature I took from Sunday's message was Rev. Cho's reliance on prayer.  At every step of his journey, he spent days praying, seeking guidance.   When his Korean church said no, he prayed.  When he is discouraged in his ministry, he prays. When he felt lonely and isolated, he prayed then found a home within the Presbytery of Vancouver Island, and at the end of his presentation, he did not pass around the collection plate.  Instead, he asked for prayers.
   The Bible is full of examples of servants of God who pray earnestly and with open hearts and minds.  Sunday I met such a man in person.


For more on Cedar Tree Ministries, visit their website here/