Salut Ron!

This week we said good bye to a dear dear friend of our family. We first met Ron not too long before he married Marlene, moved to our street, and became part of our church family. Ron was a man not easy to forget and I want to share just a few of the lasting impacts he made on a group of people in just a very short time – that we might all aspire to have such influence in the lives of those around us.

Ron was a big presence. A big guy with a big smile, a big laugh, and always looking to have a big time. He was a storyteller and we looked forward to hearing many more stories than we had a chance to hear. It wasn’t so many months ago that Ron discovered that he had contracted lymphoma. He battled it hard but it didn’t relent. We prayed and prayed for Ron, full of hope that the Lord would beat back this cancer and give us more time with our good friend.

It wasn’t to be. Just days before heading to the hospital this last time he was organizing a day of ice fishing for our group. You have to understand that Ron was a man who knew a lot about a lot of things and most of this through experience. And he loved nothing more than to be able to introduce others to the same joys that he had experienced himself. So having had a great time ice fishing with his grandkids the season before, he thought he’d take this group of mostly imports to Quebec on their first ice fishing excursion.

He had done the same thing for several of the guys in our group in October when he took us to our first Habs game. Though with Ron it was more than a game. It was an experience. We cooked and ate together beforehand, then drove and parked right next to the Bell Center because, of course Ron knew people. As we walked around inside we got to not only see the plaques with the history of the team and players but we got Ron’s own twist on each as well. It was amazing to think that this guy knew so much and his heart was bursting to share what he had with his friends.

Ron, Norton, Helielber, Mike at Bell Center

Ron, Norton, Helielber and me at our first Canadiens’ game. A season ticket holder, Ron jumped at the opportunity to introduce the national sport of Canada to a couple Brazilians.

One rainy fall evening Ron and Marlene took Shari and me out on a double date at a nice French restaurant by the river where we could enjoy some time just to get to know the two of them better. They had jumped right into the life of our city group and quickly become a blessing to all of us, even bringing others out to join us as well. Ron was a generous man. So excited to treat us all to our first Nanaimo bars, he sent a whole slew of them with Marlene on an evening when he wasn’t even able to come enjoy them himself. That’s Ron.

Ron drove for Uber, and one evening in our kitchen he told me about a gentleman whom he had driven that day who had actually invited him in for tea. Ron had pictures of himself and this stranger-made-friend in his beautiful downtown apartment overlooking the city! All because people are important and Ron was good at being with people. In less than six months Ron had became a fixture, not only in our home but in our hearts, and he managed to make a life-long impression on each of us.

Lord, we have entrusted Ron to you for so long now and in your loving care for him and his wife you brought him to be with you. We are so thankful to know that no matter how good Ron’s experience was in this life, it is only now becoming what it was always meant to be. I have no doubt that you are at this moment giving Ron new experiences and stories to tell so that he will be well prepared when we see him next. Thank you for loving and rescuing your son Ron.

Salut Ron!

 

 

 

Wife and mom on mission

How effective would I be on mission if my wife was not? Hmmm. I don’t even want to think about that. Shari plays such an important role in the mission that our family engages that it is hard to even imagine how we would function without her leadership. I’d like to highlight just a few of the ways that she serves and leads that make a lot of things possible for a lot of people that wouldn’t be otherwise. I hope that these serve as an encouragement to you other wives and mothers in your missional role and as a challenge to you husbands to really get behind your wife and support her in her work!

The first and arguably most important thing that my wife brings to the table is her grasp of the gospel. Any attempt at mission without this would be unexciting, directionless and ultimately dead. I need to hear the good news of Jesus in my life every day because there are a lot of other sources of not-so-good news vying for place and position in my mind. Our kids need to be disciplined with an orientation toward their heavenly Father and his loving provision for our sin, and his ultimate victory. When I hear Shari speaking life and encouragement instead of harsh and discouraging words to our children (and other people’s children) it is immensely refreshing.

Speaking of other people’s kids, there are a lot of them that find their way into our house. Go figure, with five kids of our own there is always something happening and with that comes a sense of energy and activity and an atmosphere that is easy to walk into. But it takes a strong and selfless leader to subject yourself to the demands of parenting more than your own brood even if it is only for a few hours a day several days a week ;-). As if just keeping everyone in line isn’t enough of a challenge, Shari puts these kids to work (if you’re one of the parents don’t panic, a little work never killed anyone and it will make them that much better at helping out at home). Seriously though, it’s picking up after themselves, cleaning projects, even cooking dinner or baking cookies, all valuable life skills that kids don’t just develop on their own. Thank you dear for not only being a good cook, but a great example!

And as you know, most kids come with parents. I really appreciate the way that Shari engages not just the friends of our kids and their siblings or the occasional random kid that pops by but also their parents. This has led to numerous family friendships over the years which has also led to opportunities for encouragement in daily life as well as introduction to what it means to be the family of God. Remember though, this stuff doesn’t just happen, and it’s not often super easy. It takes prayer, planning, preparation, and intentional availability on her part. The result is that I am able to join in the work that she has started or benefit from a relationship that she has handed to me. Through this and so many other ways Shari has developed a lifestyle defined by loving people that makes it a pleasure to engage not only life but life on mission together.

More formally, being part of a missional community is a normal part of life for us and it comes with its own responsibilities and opportunities. But when we decided together to start and lead a new group last spring we knew that it would bring a whole host of additional demands and the emotional burden of leading people whom you care about. Their cares become your cares, their challenges become your challenges, and of course their victories become your victories. On top of that we agreed that we would host the weekly meetings in our home which means that at least once a week in addition to helping kids with homework, overseeing their disagreements, and cooking dinner, she has to prepare the house for an additional 10-20 people. And this she does with gladness in faithful expectation of God’s work in the hearts of those we lead and love.

There are many more examples that I will reserve for another time or about which you could ask her yourself if you feel so inclined. But I do want to mention the role that Shari plays in my professional work. It might be tempting some times to think that the mission we’re engaging here in Quebec is primarily about my day job – directing the training of future church planters and leaders. But quite honestly, without the constant companionship and support and example of a wife that is with me in this Christian enterprise, I would only have a fraction of what I have to offer to others and it wouldn’t be worth as much. Let me say very clearly that mission involves all of life and that I am so thankful for the opportunities that we have as a family and that other people will have for generations to come because of the hard work and dedication and love of my wife!

shari and daniel

Over the years we’ve enjoyed not a few jokes about how much time Shari sits on the couch eating bonbons. Ironically, I’ve never been able to capture this frequent occurence with the camera…

Meet David Ritz

Montreal is the most popular university city in North America! So how strategic is it that we are establishing and multiplying missional communities on the campus of McGill University and looking to expand the influence we have for the gospel at other universities in the city as well?

Just ask David Ritz, one of the guys who is part of our Leaders: church planting residency. He and his wife Jeannie moved from Alberta and now live in downtown Montreal so they can focus their energy on shaping the lives of university students who are impacting the lives of their friends and fellow students with the life changing reality of Jesus Christ. We’re seeing amazing fruit and expect to see a lot more in the days to come…

David Ritz Sarah Campbell

Check out David’s website to read more about his training and work with Church 21 and his aspirations to plant a church that will impact the coming generation here in Quebec and around the world!

Notre Première Assemblée Française à Montréal

Yes, you read that right. This past Sunday we held our first worship gathering in French simultaneously with our normal weekly worship gathering in English. As our church is made up of both anglophones (native English speakers) and francophones (native French speakers), we have been looking forward for a long time to being able to start a worship gathering completely in French in downtown Montréal. This week we held one for the first time. We still have a little ways to go before we can effectively hold this service on a weekly basis, but the precedent has been set.

Not long ago we announced that Norton and Tatiana Lages, missionaries from Brazil and wonderful friends of ours who are part of our city group, would be taking the leadership role in developing the French expression of Église 21, our church in downtown Montréal. Norton has worked with our French city group leaders, our worship director, and the pastors to design and conduct an initial worship gathering in French. He was able to capitalize on the overlap with our existing welcome team, nursery and children’s ministry, and bookstore and security ministries by putting in place bilingual volunteers. They assembled a French worship band to lead us and asked Marc Pilon, the lead pastor of Église 21, Sherbrooke to preach the message.

It’s hard to overstate the excitement that this brought to our church, especially those of us who worshiped completely in French for the first time or the first time with this church. We planned this service specifically to bring encouragement to our French speaking brothers and sisters and to begin to put key things in place so that as we grow and see more and more Québécois people become part of our family that we will be well postured to worship together on Sundays.

Please join us in thanking God for this great privilege and blessing and pray with us that God will add to our number many more francophone followers of Jesus and that this service will soon become a permanent part of our regular experience!

Norton and Tatiana sharing their heart for this church!

Church 21: Strategic Partnership

One of our priorities as a local church in Montréal has been to work with others wherever possible for the advancement of the Kingdom of God in Québec, not to work alone in order to build up our own kingdom and/or reputation as a church. A few weeks ago we acted out on this value in a huge way and formally merged with another congregation to become one church. We did so in order to more strategically impact the province of Québec with the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What may be different about this merge from others is that we did not geographically bring two churches together but rather two churches in two different cities came together under shared leadership. Our primarily anglophone congregation in Montréal (Initiative 22) and a primarily francophone congregation in Sherbrooke (Axe 21) now celebrate a common identity as Church 21 (Église 21 in French). What’s more, one week after we relaunched each church with this new shared identity, we launched a new church plant that has been over two years in the making as Église 21 in the city of Magog.

Each church brings some very powerful gifts to our common table and we are very excited about walking forward together with the same heart and mind for the province of Québec. The church in Montréal has been leading the way in living out our missional identity and working this out well in the structure of the church. Our brothers and sisters in Sherbrooke have such a strong identification with the culture and people of Québec that they are imparting to us as we work alongside each other. It is a blessing to see how our leaders share responsibilities and humbly accept difficult changes for the sake of the growth of the Kingdom of God!

From the beginning of our church planting residency we have been preparing to train men in the church in Sherbrooke, and now we have one couple on the ground there who are part of the church and who are training with us with the expectation of planting a church in Montréal. Our newest church planting resident will also be moving to Sherbrooke with his family to train with the French church there. It is so important that we have different contexts in which to train men and that we are able to train in both French and English.

So let me happily introduce you to our new church – Church 21 – a church with a huge heart for the people of Québec and a very intentional strategy to see disciples and churches multiplied for the good of the province and the glory of God!

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Stay tuned for the launch of our complete website which is still under construction. In the meantime, you can see more at http://eglise21.ca/en.

Our First Year in Review

One year ago we sold our home in Clark’s Green, packed up everything we owned and headed north on I-81. Here are some of the things we learned in our first year in Québec…

God is in control!

We didn’t even make it into Canada before learning this lesson. Many of you remember that we were denied entry into Canada twice in Ontario before we finally got in through Québec. This very trying couple of days was more than adequate to teach us that we are not in control but we don’t have to worry, God is.

God provides.

For the last year and a half we have worked hard to secure commitments of financial support to cover all of our budget. Though we did not accomplish that in the time frame we originally desired we decided to move anyway (we figured since we have to live somewhere while raising support it might as well be Montréal). Yet while we still have not reached 100% of our goal, God has provided everything we have needed and we have no doubts that he will continue to do the same. Over the years there have been times where we’ve had more and sometimes with less, but there has never been a time when we did not have what we needed to do what he asked of us.

French is hard.

Ok, it’s not that hard, and there are lots of languages which are a lot harder, but it hasn’t come automatically just by virtue of living here. It takes a lot of work and just when you feel like you’re making some good progress you encounter a new situation that reminds you just how far you have to go. On the flip side, the four older kids who are in school have done amazingly well. Their entire school year is completely in French and we are so proud of them for jumping in with nothing and coming as far as they have!

Life is dark for most people.

We never thought gospel work would be easy. And there is spiritual darkness everywhere in the world, not just in Québec. But in just the last few months we have had one friend commit suicide, another consider it, marriages breaking up, a child battling transgender questions, alcoholism, and the list goes on. Whether it is lack of hope or misplaced hope, there is a deep set spiritual blindness that leaves many of our friends and neighbors groping around in the dark for anything to help them find their way.

The world is at our doorstep.

Maybe not the doorstep, but definitely within a short walk. Our neighbors include friends from Poland, Iran, Morocco, Chile, Colombia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, China, the Philippines, Portugal, and Italy. If you were to consider those who are part of our church this number would easily double. While most of the people in our neighborhood, in Montréal, and across the province were born Québécois, the growing number of immigrants as well as second and third generation Québecois offer an amazing opportunity to see the nations impacted by the gospel!

Church planting will take time.

We have been excited by many opportunities to meet people, network with other gospel workers, and share what we’re doing to train men to plant and lead gospel-centered churches in Québec. At the same time, we have seen several guys begin to walk with us only to realize that this is not exactly where God is leading them at this time. This will be an ongoing part of our experience and is truly helpful for them and for us, but it does force us to keep our eyes on the Lord of the harvest and trust him to provide the workers.

Canada is cold. 

I have to sneak this in. It reminds me of the line in Band of Brothers where Guarnere says “My brother’s in North Africa, he says it’s hot there.” and Malarkey replies with “Really? It’s hot in Africa?”. Yes, we knew Canada would be cold in the winter. In February our average temperature was -15C (5F), which turned out to be a tad chilly to have the kids outside playing all day. But we enjoyed it and made the most of it and look forward to next winter :).

We are the light of the world!

While not necessarily something we learned in the past 12 months, we certainly have been reminded of its importance over and over. In the midst of the challenges, the failures, and the successes we want to keep our minds set on this essential truth. Jesus is the light of the world, the only hope for those in darkness, and a welcome relief for those who are coming to know him. And he shines his light through us so that when people see our good works their response is to give honor and glory to God. There have been countless opportunities to shine that light over this past year and we can’t wait to see eyes being opened and people confidently walking in the light of the gospel!!!

This video includes a sampling of pictures representing what this first year has brought us in Québec: some scenes and friends from around the province, the kids and their friends, the church, our city group in St. Henri and the one we just started with our neighbours in LaSalle. A special thanks to all those whose prayers and financial support have made this first year such a great success!

City Group Meetings

What do we do when our missional community (we call them city groups) meets? In addition to eating together, recreating, serving each other, and just being together at various points throughout the week, we gather one evening each week to do three very intentional things:

  • Renew our focus on the good news of who God is and what he has done
  • Share the victories and challenges of the past week and expectations for the week to come
  • Pray for each other and for those around us

Anyone is welcome, regardless of whether they believe what we believe or not, but we are calling them to join us as we follow Jesus, to be family, and to serve those around us. The idea is that people can belong before they believe and oftentimes they must.

The structure is very simple as you can see in this agenda from last night’s meeting. We always start with a casual time for coffee, snack, or meal, any introductions, light conversation, etc.

1. Renew our focus on the gospel…

Read Mark 2:1-12 twice.

Ask the following questions concerning this passage:

Who is Jesus?

What has he done?

What does this story remind us about our needs?

What does faith look like in this story?

What will faith look like in our lives this week?

2. Share life from this past week and the upcoming week.

How does who Jesus is or what he has done speak to what’s happening in our lives?

In what ways are we being challenged to exercise faith?

How can we pray for and encourage each other to walk through this next week by faith?

In what ways can we serve each other and others in our lives this coming week?

3. Pray as a group through everything that we just explored together.

Now when we come together next week we automatically have specific touch points to address to see how God worked and how we were able to exercise faith and put our faith into action. This rhythm helps us to be more and more transparent with each other, more dependent on God, and more likely to get into each other’s lives throughout the week.

Kids are welcome in the meeting but are also free to play with their friends. Older kids and adults from the group take turns watching over the little ones.