Well, all Sundays are exciting, since we have the pleasure of beginning every new week with rest and worship, but this coming Sunday will be particularly pleasant for the Prince George mission congregation.
This coming Sunday four young people will make a public profession of their faith. We'll be welcoming Morley Kyte into membership in the church, and Leon Verhelst, Tiffany Grounds, and Julia Grounds will be making the transition from non-communicant to communicant members.
It's a wonderful thing when you think about it - here are four people, from different backgrounds, with different life experiences, who have come to be a part of Christ's church in different ways. As members of the Church, we may have a lot of differences, but we are united by one thing, and that is our faith in Jesus Christ. The Church is not a voluntary organization; it's not a social club or a group for people with shared interests. It's the body of Christ, and we can experience unity with people of widely varying backgrounds, because of the unity we have with Him.
1 John 1:3, one of my favourite verses, speaks to just this truth:
"That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ."
In a society that is so fragmented, so unconnected, it is our fellowship with one another that bears powerful testimony to the reality of the gospel message. As the covenant community, we have what so many people wish they did; all too often we take it for granted, and we don't cultivate it as we should. But we need to remember the "fellowship," the communion we have with the saints, celebrate it, and nurture it. Because it's central to the Christian life, it reflects the personality of our Triune God, and it's one of the things God gives us that can impart true, lasting joy.
And next week, the Lord willing, we'll be able to ceremonially enact that fellowship, as we celebrate the Lord's Supper. So next Sunday will be an exciting one for us as well, as these four new communicant members will be celebrating the Lord's Supper for the first time, along with our other newest members, Paul and Cecilia Roberts.
May there be one exciting Sunday after another, as we live in anticipation of our eternal rest.
It's been a couple of weeks since I've posted here, and that's because we've been away for the past couple of weeks. We spent a week in Edmonton, and then a week in Mexico. It's the first time since we've been in Prince George that we've been able to enjoy a complete summer vacation together as a family, because we had been unable to travel with the foster kids. So it was a great experience! Edmonton was enjoyable (even the mall, surprisingly enough!), and Mexico was as well. We spent a week in an area known as the "Mayan Riviera," which is about 100 km south of Cancun.
We got to see a number of Mayan archaeological sites, including Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Coba, and Tulum, and I even got to go for a swim in a cenote, one of many underground caverns on the Yucatan Peninsula in south-eastern Mexico. It was beautiful, the weather was hot, but it's good to be home, refreshed and ready to get back to it. Vacations in the sun are great, but a good sunburn on the top of my feet reminded me once again that there's no heaven on earth!
And we hit the ground running, with a lot of things to look forward to - we're expecting several first-time visitors to worship with us on Sunday, we're starting a new Sunday evening Bible study, called "Six Steps to Reading Your Bible" (another course put out by Matthias Media), and to make things even better, we're enjoying an extended stay from the two foster boys that we had in our home before.
God is truly good to us, far beyond anything we deserve!
Once again it's been a while since my last update, and I didn't post my weekly sermon this week, since I was away preaching in Vernon. I was invited to Vernon to meet with the Canadian Reformed Church's evangelism committee and to give a presentation to the congregation there about our evangelistic calling, as well as to lead the worship services there.
It was a busy weekend (driving down on Saturday, driving back here to P.G. on Monday), but it was really a blessing to be able to spend time with the church there, and to speak about the work in Prince George, as well as how we as congregations can reach out in our communities.
I recently received a whole whack of material from an Australian organization, called Matthias Media. They've done a great job of producing materials that can help us speak about the gospel to our friends and neighbours. One of the programs they've developed is called "Two Ways to Live" - it's a seven-week course meant to equip believers to speak about their faith with clarity and confidence. I've been going over the material this week, and I'm looking forward to beginning the program with our mission congregation next week.
I think a lot of times we have the desire to speak out about the gospel more than we do, but our fears get in the way - will I have the right answer? Will I make a fool of myself? Will I present the message properly? I'm hoping and praying that using this "Two Ways to Live" program will be a big help for all of us, myself included, in giving us a bit more confidence to speak about the things that really matter!
I'll be writing more about the course as we go through it, and also reviewing some of the books, pamphlets, and courses that Matthias Media has put out. So, watch this space, and I hope you'll hear more than the sound of crickets...
Last night I returned from balmy Hamilton, Ontario, where I spent the last few days participating in a conference at our seminary, on evangelism and church planting.
When I arrived in Hamilton, it was actually raining; but as I write this, it's -23 in Prince George, and we're looking at lows of -37 over the next three days. It's on days like today that I'm particularly thankful for the practicalities of my work - mainly the fact that it takes place, for the most part, indoors!
The conference was excellent. There were over 120 registered participants, and we got to hear some great presentations by Rev. Henk Drost, who works as a missionary in Ukraine; by Rev. Ted Van Raalte, who is part of a group that is working on developing ideas for a church plant in the Greater Vancouver area; and by Rev. Ross W. Graham, who is the general secretary for the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
On Saturday, we broke into smaller groups, and four concurrent sessions were held, dealing with different issues in evangelism and church planting. I hosted two presentations on our work in Prince George, which was a lot of fun, but which also meant that I unfortunately couldn't participate in the other sessions, which I did hear very good things about.
All in all, the conference was great. I got to meet a number of people I haven't seen in a while, as well as several whom I hadn't met before, and we had time to share notes and learn from one another, and just to enjoy some good conversation.
It was encouraging and exciting to see the level of interest and commitment that our churches have for outreach. We may have our struggles, and we will face difficulties, but there was a great deal of enthusiasm and willingness to learn how we can best go about spreading the Good News faithfully. It is a blessing for all of us to have been entrusted with the task of working as God's ambassadors in a world that desperately needs what we too often take for granted - the good news of Jesus Christ!
I was also able to go back to the church where we worshipped for a year while living in Hamilton - Streetlight Christian Church in downtown Hamilton. It was great to see a lot of familiar faces, and it's always a joy to be able to participate in this important work of outreach in one of Canada's most needy neighbourhoods.
But after a few days away, it's great to be home. I had wonderful hosts in Hamilton, but there really is no place like home!
I've had a couple of people ask me about my "Getting Lighter for the Children of Light" fundraising effort, and here's the update. The closing date was to be December 1st, and I have not yet had the opportunity to get back to the doctor's office for an "official" final weigh-in so I can announce my progress (or lack thereof) to a waiting world (so to speak).
To those who made pledges, don't worry, the extra days aren't going to break the bank. After an impressive start (if I must say so myself), my journey to a thinner me hit something of a snag (involving 2 1/2 weeks of vacation and meals at Mo's Seafood Restaurant in Newport, Oregon, and Lil' Sambo's in Lincoln City, Oregon, and Papa Pete's Pizza in Castle Rock, Washington, among other places), and things have been pretty much at a standstill since then. I'm hoping to get into the doctor's office for my official weigh-in this week, and then I'll tally up the totals. I'm hoping for good news... stay tuned!
Every November, the Smithers home mission board holds a combined meeting with the council of the Smithers church to discuss and review the progress of our home mission work. This is the fourth annual review I've taken part in - time flies! It was forty-five months ago that we arrived in Prince George. Our mission congregation now has 35 members - 17 communicant members, and 18 non-communicant members - along with several regular participants and prospective members. We're very thankful for the Lord's continued blessing on our little mission congregation, and I wanted to take this opportunity to ask readers to pray for the home mission work.
Tonight at the meeting I will be reading from Ephesians 6, and one verse in particular:
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
We always need to be reminded of the fact that we are involved in a struggle, and that struggle is a spiritual one. The "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" do not want mission works to succeed, and we have seen and experienced this spiritual opposition in action. I've seen the struggles of new and prospective church members after they've made the decision to unite themselves to the body of Christ, and I can only attribute this to the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in.
So I ask for your prayers - for our fledgling congregation, for new believers, for those who are struggling, for those who have not yet come to faith. As a missionary, I'm no Apostle Paul (and I'm not an "ambassador in chains," so I'll use a ... in the following quotation), but reasoning from the greater to the lesser, I also want to ask for the same thing that he asked of his readers - that you pray "also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel... that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak" (Ephesians 6:19-20).
The great thing is that we can know that the victory belongs to the Lord. Trials and struggles may come, but we know that with God on our side, nothing can prevail against us!
I should have posted something before we left, but you know how things go...
Be that as it may, the reason why things have been unusually quiet on this page for the past couple of weeks is that we've been away! We got back to P.G. last night, after spending a week in Abbotsford at my parents' place, and a week in the States. McKinley and I travelled as far as the Redwoods in Northern California, and travelled back north along the Oregon Coast. It was a very enjoyable trip, a refreshing time away, but it's good to be back home!
And this coming Sunday is a very special one, as we welcome a new member into the fold. On Sunday, September 25th, Jordan Killam will publicly profess his faith, and will become a member of our mission congregation. And to top it off, we'll also be celebrating the Lord's Supper, so we'll be dining at the Lord's table with our brother for the first time.
I'll be sure to post some photos here and on Facebook after the event.
And now, it's time to get back into the swing of things!
There's an area of Prince George, just south of downtown, known locally as "the 'hood." I was reading the newspaper this morning, and read on the front page that a young man was picked up by police after being sighted carrying a battle-axe (yes, you read that correctly, and no, we haven't been magically transported to the 15th century - he was carrying a battle-axe) and a paintball gun down one of the streets in the 'hood.
Totally apart from the lack of smarts this guy displayed (and he was, surprise surprise, known to the police), this is just another example of many of the urban culture (in the negative, ghetto sense) that has infected this community.
It's strange to think - here we are, in Northern British Columbia. Vancouver, the largest city in B.C., is nine hours away. Our population is about 80,000. Yet if you were to walk through some parts of town, you'd be excused for thinking you were in one of the nastier neighbourhoods in some big American city. Gangster culture has had a huge impact in Northern B.C., thanks largely to the influence of the media - music and movies in particular. A certain segment of our society looks to that culture for its role models, identifying with it, seeing the similarities , and mimicing a style and culture that is entirely foreign.
In the U.S., an organization called ReachLife Ministries has been reaching out with the gospel to the black, urban, hip-hop culture in the inner cities and beyond. Reach Records produces Christian hip-hop music that is both doctrinally and artistically solid (your mileage may vary, but hey, I like it). One of the evangelistic and discipleship tools that they have produced is called "13 Letters," a survey of the New Testament epistles of the Apostle Paul.
The Lord has given our mission congregation a great gift in the form of two young men who will both shortly be becoming members of the Church. With their help, this fall we hope to reach out to this segment of our community, using resources created for young African-Americans, resources that are suprisingly well-suited for our situation here in Northern British Columbia.
So please remember this work of outreach in your prayers, and if you're in Prince George and you know of someone who would benefit from participating, please let us know.
I tried to upload this yesterday, but I was having all kinds of problems with my Internet connection. Somehow it seems to be working again, so with no further ado, here's Sunday's sermon:
On Thursday of this week we're headed to Alberta for a week of vacation! So things will probably be even quieter than usual here at www.jimwitt.ca. We're looking forward to a relaxing and exciting week in Southern Alberta, and I'll be participating in this: