First News

An Open Letter to the Mexico Mission Team

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At the beginning of John's first epistle, he says he writes to proclaim what he has seen and heard for the sake of fellowship and to make his joy complete. Following his example, I invite you to share in our fellowship, as I proclaim to our youth what I witnessed in our week together in Ensenada, Mexico.

Dearest Mexico team,

It has only been two weeks since we returned from our week-long adventure constructing a new home for our beautiful family of five in Mexico. When we first arrived, I barely knew your names. But after spending eight days with you (believe it or not) I count myself blessed. And before the experience fades from memory, I want to proclaim to you what I saw that week.

Courage. I watched as you bravely attempted new and different things, stepped up and took responsibility. Few of you had hammered a nail, and fewer had worked with power tools. But you fearlessly showed up that first day and went for it! We measured, marked and cut timber; hammered nails; ran wiring; laid roof tiles; painted siding; hung drywall; taped, mudded, textured, and painted walls and ceilings until it was finished!

Love. I watched you fall in love with the family and the neighbourhood (and they with you). On day one, you were all a bit shy and hid behind the sheer amount of work there was to get done. But as the sun got higher in the sky the ice melted. Smatterings of broken Spanglish were heard, often accompanied by frantic hand gestures, and then raucous laughter. By the end of that day, you have found a common language. The children laughed and played, gave hugs without hesitation and even fell fast asleep in your arms.

Joy and Koinonia. As work on the house ebbed and flowed, you delighted in bringing out activities and toys to engage the children - bubbles, sidewalk chalk, soccer balls and jump ropes. On the morning of the dedication, you could hardly wait to decorate the rooms and display all your gifts for the family - dishes, linens, clothes, stuffed animals and daily necessities carefully chosen and presented with anticipation. Later, as you passed the key from hand to hand and shared words of blessing and thanks, tears welled up, and then fell from Jesus and Monica's eyes. When the key came full circle, and Filipe put it into Jesus' hand, they embraced and wept. And you wept with them. You participated in the gratitude, wonder, and joy experienced by them as they marvelled at God's generosity manifest through you. 

On our first night in Ensenada, the interpreter asked Jesus and Monica to each share a Spanish word for us to learn. They chose bondad y amor, kindness and love. At the end of the week, you not only learned these words but you embodied them, and in them, Jesus.

Your (big) sister in Christ,
Holly Rail

Posted by Holly Rail

2019 Liberia Mission Trip

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Hello First Baptist Church! Thank you for your prayers, messages of support for us, and your care for our families who were back at home in Canada. Dr. John Potts has been documenting his experience through daily letters and several of you followed along with my blog as well. I'll try not to repeat too much from those posts, but give you an idea of the things we saw and did in the town of Kwendin, in Liberia.

I know that people often have questions about where Liberia is, and why we go there. Liberia is located in West Africa, neighbouring Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. You will likely recall the Ebola outbreak of 2014/15 which caused further political and economic strain upon the country. Beginning with the military coup in 1980, through the years officially labelled as the first and second civil wars of Liberia, until the UN Peacekeeping Mission began in 2003 the people suffered greatly. Hundreds of thousands died and many more fled as refugees trying to escape the unspeakable violence. The scars of those years of conflict run deeply in the nation. The population of the country has grown rapidly since peace returned, which has provided new challenges. With half of the entire population aged 18 or under, there simply aren't enough trained adults able to provide the leadership that is needed.

There are three main areas to the work that we undertook in Kwendin: Medical, Education, and Community Development. Obviously, the three areas overlap, as you cannot learn if you are in poor health and struggling for your daily subsistence.

Medical
Dr. John Potts and RN Spencer Willis provide the medical care in a very well-run, but under-resourced, medical clinic in the town. They are able to provide a true Canadian system of healthcare; giving care that includes minor procedures (removing scar tissue and other lumps and bumps with local anesthetic), hernia and other minor surgeries (in the hospital in the nearby city of Tapeta), and dispensing medications all at no cost to the patients. It is a blessing to the entire community, and many people travel from miles away when they hear that the Canadian Medical Team has returned to Kwendin.

Education
In the school, my goal was to advance Math and Science education – not just for the students, but also for the teachers. We brought a variety of resources with me, including textbooks, thermometers, rulers, and a microscope that works in tandem with a cellphone. Although the class sizes were smaller than I had hoped for, I am hopeful that the teachers I worked with will be able to impact their students for a longer term. It seems hard to believe from our perspective, but this was the first time that many people had seen a thermometer outside of the medical clinic – ones which were able to measure beyond the usual scale of body temperature. As one teacher said to me, “learning comes easier for you [Canadians], not because you are smarter than us, but because of the access to resources such as this which you have in your schools.” As I think of the abundance of resources we have here – both human and physical – I know exactly what he means. Hopefully, the books and resources that we brought are able to inspire the teachers and the students to learn more.

Community Development
The third area of work that we undertook, Community Development, was largely overseen by Rev. Bob Swann. In 1980, one of the jobs that Bob oversaw at Kwendin Vocational Training Center (KVTC) was completing the roof of the new Dining Hall. In the years since then (including a time when the school was taken over as a military base by a group of rebels) the buildings have not been well maintained. Metal roofing begins to rust and leak, and buildings like the Dining Hall are unused or abandoned. Meanwhile, the Kwendin Public School (with over 400 students) has had no permanent home; classrooms often meet under the shade of a palm tree. With the building maintenance projects were undertaken over the last few years, KVTC has been able to restore its facilities and invite the public school to use some of the buildings in order to share and provide help to the larger community. This year, Bob climbed to the top of the KVTC Dining Hall, once again, to rebuild the roof and make the Dining Hall a usable space for learning once again. With the growth of colleges offering mobile training seminars, it is hoped that the campus of KVTC can once again become a focal hub for learning in this region of Nimba County.

Two years ago, one of the projects that Bob coordinated was to replace the metal roof at the Hope Baptist Church in Kwendin. Since then, the women of the church have raised money to build new walls and expand the footprint of the church! This was a surprise to us, and we were inspired by their efforts. With the expanded footprint, it meant that the old cement floor had to be removed, and the church was operating with a dirt floor and unfinished interior. It seems a long way from the building project that we are undertaking at First Baptist Church! Bob coordinated a team of workers, led by former KVTC students who have been using the woodworking skills that they learned from the late James Conway, who finished off the door frames, window sills, and poured a new cement floor for the church.

Although the school still continues to struggle in a variety of ways, we are able to see the growth and development of the whole community. There are many more businesses along the main street of Kwendin than there were in previous years. The young men who studied woodworking at KVTC now run a carpentry shop in town, building and selling doors and other items. The sewing students are learning valuable skills and making garments for themselves and to sell. The agriculture students at KVTC are learning valuable skills for growing their own food, and techniques for growing cash crops including cocoa and rubber.

All three phases of the work in Kwendin are blessing the community in ways that we cannot see, and may not see for many more years to come. More importantly, all of the things happening there are not because of the work of Bob, John, Spencer, Courtney, or the others who have been to Kwendin in the past. None of us is capable on our own. It is all thanks to God, who demonstrated his love for us through Jesus. We thank God for His ongoing work in the hearts and minds of the people of Kwendin, and we trust in Him to continue to raise the community up. 

Courtney Klassen

Alpha

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In the busyness of life, we don't often take time to ask the deeper questions or to wonder if there is more to life than the narratives presented by our society. Is God real? Who is Jesus? Alpha provides an opportunity to discuss these questions, to hear the perspectives of others, and to reflect on our own. 

Sometimes it's hard to share our faith with friends or family. We worry that people don't want to hear it, or that we'll come across as being pushy.  Alpha creates a welcoming space where people who are interested in discussing questions of God and faith can ask their questions without pressure, and share what they think without fear of 'getting it wrong.' Guests are welcome to try out the course for a few weeks without committing to the whole program. 

The structure of the evening is simple: a dinner, a short video on different topics relating to Christianity, and a discussion in small groups. 

Alpha will be hosted at St. James Community Square on Monday nights from 7-9pm from April 15th to June 17th. 

Weekly topics:
April 15th: Is there more to life than this?
April 22nd: Who is Jesus?
April 29th: Why did Jesus die?
May 6th: How can I have faith?
May 13th: Why and how do I pray?
May 20th: Why and how should I read the Bible? 
May 27th: How does God guide us?
Saturday, June 1st (day retreat): Who is the Holy Spirit? 
June 10th: How can I resist evil?
June 17th: What about the church?

The best way to advertise Alpha is through word of mouth!  Would you pray about whether God might be prompting you to invite someone (and attend with them at least at first)?

If you would like more details, or if you are planning to come with a friend, please email me at 

Warmly,
Rebecca Thornber
Minister of Discipleship & Community

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