Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Christmas Story

I read this story earlier today in a church newsletter.  It is well published on the Internet with no known source.  I hope you enjoy it!
This is a story of a young pastor. His church was old. Long ago it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit, prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshiped there. Now the good days had passed from the sections of town where it stood. But the pastor and his wife believed in their rundown church. They felt that with paint, hammer and faith they could get it into shape. Together they went to work.

Late one December, a severe storm whipped through the river valley and the worst blow fell on the little church. A huge chunk of rain soaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar. The pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they couldn’t hide the ragged hole. His wife despaired, “Christmas is only two days away!”

That afternoon the dispirited couple attended an auction held for a local youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out a handsome gold and ivory tablecloth. It was a magnificent item, over 4 metres long. There were a few half-hearted bids, then the pastor was seized with a great idea and he placed the winning bid of $6.50.

He carried the cloth back to the church and tacked it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole. Its shimmering handiwork was a fine holiday glow over the presbytery. It was a triumph.

Just before noon on Christmas Eve as the pastor was opening the church he noticed a woman standing in the cold at the bus stop. “The bus won’t be here for 40 minute,” he called and he invited her in to get warm. She told him that she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as a governess to the children of a wealthy family, but had been turned down. She was a war refugee and spoke imperfect English.

The woman sat in the pew and prayed. She looked up as the pastor began to adjust the great gold and ivory lace cloth across the hole. She rose suddenly and walked to the steps of the chancel. The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage but she didn’t seem to listen. She took up a fold of the cloth between her fingers.

“It is mine” she said. “It is my banquet cloth.” She lifted up a corner of the cloth and showed the pastor that there were initials monogrammed on it. “My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels. There could not be another like it.”

For the next few minutes, the woman and the pastor talked solemnly together. She explained that she was Viennese and that she and her husband had opposed the Nazis and decided to leave Austria. They went separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border. She never saw him again. Later she heard that he had died in a concentration camp.

“I’ve always felt that it was my fault to leave without him. Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment...” The pastor tried to comfort her and urged her to take the tablecloth but she refused and then she left.

As the church began to fill for Christmas Eve, it was clear that the cloth was going to be a great success. It had been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight. After the service the pastor stood at the doorway and many people told him that the church looked beautiful. One gentle faced middle aged man, the local clock and watch repairman looked rather puzzled.

“It is strange,” he said in his accent. “Many years ago my wife – God rest her – and I owned such a cloth. In our home in Vienna, my wife put it on the table only when the Bishop came to dinner.”

The pastor became very excited. He told the watchmaker about the woman who had been in church earlier that day. The startled man clutched the pastor’s arm. “Can it be?” Where does she live?’

Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed the woman. Than in the pastor’s car they started for the city. And on Christmas Day, this man and his wife who had been separated so many years were reunited.

To all who have heard this story, the joyful purpose of the storm that had knocked a hole in the wall of the church was now clear. People said it was a miracle, but I think you will agree it was the season for it!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Growing Forward!

December is a great opportunity for reflection and evaluation on the year that has passed.  Looking back over 2013, I’m amazed again at God’s goodness, blessing and favor on us.  It has been an exciting year of ministry opportunities, growth and some stunning ‘God moments’ that went beyond anything that we would have dared to ask, dream or think.

In January, Barb and I travelled to Edmonton for the launch of Leading Influence Alberta.  Everyone needs to make at least one trip to Edmonton at that time of year just to experience the incredible sunshine, the fresh air and especially the ‘dry cold’.  Pastor Larry Lindoff serves as our chaplain at the Alberta Legislature but he could also be an unofficial ambassador for the city of Edmonton.  He regaled us with insights and facts about Edmonton that were almost enough to distract us from the -20C daytime temperature.  Larry’s warm and outgoing personality is a fantastic fit for us at the Legislature ‘village’.  I visited again in mid-April, just as the snow was starting to melt and was thrilled to watch Larry in action.  He’s a virtual ‘people magnet’ and MLAs and staff alike are drawn to him. 

While we were in Alberta, we also launched PrayAB (www.prayab.com) which is the prayer ministry of Leading Influence in Alberta.  Elaine Baille is doing a fantastic job of providing leadership and oversight to this important part of what we do. 

February marked the beginning of the spring session of the BC Legislature.  More importantly, it marked the start of something we have worked towards for a long time.  As the result of a request from a member, we were able to launch a weekly prayer gathering in the Legislature.  This has been a long road of 2 steps forward, 1 and sometimes 3 steps back, but by God’s grace we were finally able to see this long-term goal achieved.  On a weekly basis, a group of MLAs meet together to pray and encourage each other in their faith as they serve Jesus in the political arena.  We finished the spring session by celebrating communion at our last meeting time before the election was called.  I’m not sure if it was the first time that happened, but I know it’s the first time in a very long time!

In March we held our 7th MLA Prayer Breakfast.  The sold out event was well supported by MLAs and many friends and supporters.   The Prayer Breakfast also marked the beginning of our 60 Days of Prayer Campaign.  60 Days was designed to mobilize the church to pray during the BC Election Campaign.  In addition to daily emails, FaceBook posts, twitter updates, highway billboards, smartscreen and radio ads (and the list goes on…) we used simple silicone bracelets as a reminder for people to pray.  One Cabinet minister put a bracelet on at the breakfast and wore it through the entire campaign.  One of my favorite memories of the spring session was to see him ‘flash’ his bracelet at me from the floor during Question Period.  He wanted me to know that he was praying. I would flash mine back at him to show him that I was too.

April marked the end of the 39th Parliament in BC and launched the beginning of the election campaign.  Sadly, we said goodbye to some retiring members who were instrumental in helping us establish Leading Influence in BC.  We will always be grateful to those who opened doors, made introductions and helped us find our feet as we began our ministry.  I was able to make a quick trip to Alberta to cheer on Larry and Elaine during the Alberta Youth Call to Prayer.  Elaine initiated the AYC2P in Alberta.  While we were in the building, Larry and I were welcomed and introduced before Question Period.

May held some huge surprises for us.  On Election Night in BC, we saw 13-15 Christians elected to office.  While God is neither a BC Liberal nor a member of the BC NDP, He is advancing His Kingdom and it’s important to remind ourselves that God is eager and able to respond when His people come together around the purposes that are close to His heart.  In this case He gave us men and women who have hearts inclined to His plans and purposes.
The Legislature resumed sitting in late June and through all of July.  I was asked to open the 40th Parliament in prayer.  It’s the second time that I’ve been given the privilege to pray at the Throne Speech and always an honor. 

Through the combined generosity of our ministry partners and the Canadian Bible Society, we were able to provide a bible to every MLA.  It was an exciting project that was well received by Members on both sides of the House. 
Through a series of ‘promptings’ and conversations, I made a trip to Saskatchewan in September to explore the possibility of launching Leading Influence Saskatchewan.  As is often the case, I arrived to discover that God had already been at work in preparing the way before I got there.  He had not only prepared the way, but prepared the right person for us.  As a result we are pleased to announce that Pastor Barry Berglund would be joining our chaplaincy team to provide ministry to MLAs in Saskatchewan starting in 2014.  Barry will be a great addition to our team.  He comes from a successful background in business and has a long track record of ministry involvement both in the church and in the marketplace.  His understanding of life in the business world will be a tremendous advantage for him as he takes on this ministry challenge.  Barry will continue in his role as Senior Associate at Lawson Heights Church in Saskatoon in addition to working with us.  We are delighted to have him join our team! 

One of our goals for 2013 was to increase the number of church visits as a way to stay in touch with our partners and share what God is doing through Leading Influence.  As of last week, I visited 28 churches this year and had the privilege of speaking to well over 6000 people. We covered most of Vancouver Island and the lower mainland with several visits into the Interior and Alberta as well.  BC Ferries should show a profit off our ferry fees alone!  
It’s been a great year!  God has been faithful to make a way time and time again.  Thanks so much for standing with us!  We cannot do this without your partnership and support! 

Do You See What I See?

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time this fall working on a 5 year strategic plan for Leading Influence.  While it’s always been in my heart to see the ministry established in every province and territory, it was time to re-visit the how behind what that looks like, and then map it out step by step.  Going through this process has challenged me and my faith tremendously.  In many ways, I am as overwhelmed at the size and scope of what God is calling us to do as I was in the very beginning.  The task is ENORMOUS!  At the same time, I am filled with a growing excitement and anticipation as I look forward to what God has in store for us.  Here’s what we see as we look towards the future.

As you already know, we currently are underway in BC, Alberta and now, Saskatchewan.  As God helps us and goes before us, we plan to launch in Manitoba and Ontario in 2014.  Depending on how many doors God opens, Ontario for us could mean both Toronto (Queens Park) and Ottawa.  Our first priority is Queen’s Park.  Establishing a presence in Ottawa will continue to be high priority for us moving forward and we will do so at the earliest opportunity.

In 2015, our plan is to add two Maritime Provinces and then follow with two more in 2016.  Which two go first depends largely on the doors that God opens for us. 

In 2017, we will launch Leading Influence in Quebec.  Quebec presents many challenges, but it’s important that we are there to reach out and serve the members of the National Assembly.  We will spend considerable time over the next few years developing a viable strategy to reach the leaders of Canada’s oldest and 2nd largest province.

In 2018, we will establish Leading Influence in each of the 3 Territories. 

It’s an ambitious vision that presents many challenges.  At the same time, it is a vision with many opportunities and possibilities and puts us in a place where we can effectively reach leaders and shape nations. 

One of my favorite bible stories is found in Num. 13:30 when Caleb stands before the people and boldly declares ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for surely we can do it!’  I love his faith, passion and absolute confidence in spite of what he sees in before him.  I know that Leading Influence can do nothing unless the Lord helps us and our partners and friends stand with us. 

The past 6 years have been exciting and rewarding, but our biggest opportunities are before us.  We are can’t do this without your partnership and financial support.  As you consider any year-end giving you would like to do, we would be grateful if you remembered Leading Influence.  We have an ambitious 2014 ahead of us.  Reaching our goal will require a tremendous amount of favor, wisdom, faith and financial investment.    Your gift as we approach the close of 2013 would be very timely and greatly appreciated.  Click here to be taken to our secure online giving portal.
Thanks so much for standing with us!  Have blessed and prosperous 2014!