This past week, I attended two reunions. The first was my high-school grad class 50th anniversary. The second, was the 100th anniversary of the Baptist church where my wife grew up and where we exchanged our wedding vows – a place filled with fond memories.
Now that I’m over the shock of almost no-one recognizing me at either event (I guess time has not been kind to me), I reflect on my observations.
Except for just a few people with whom I have kept in touch, most of my former class mates were strangers to me. Their lives had each taken different roads. Some had enjoyed success in business, some had struggled to make ends meet. Some had wonderful stories about their families whilst others had experienced the sadness and pain of break-ups. Some had overcome illness, accidents and the loss through death of children and spouses. Sadly ten fellow graduates had died as indicated in the memorial page of the handbook that was prepared for the reunion. Whilst none of this came as a surprise to me, never-the-less, it provided a microscopic view of life from ones late teens to late sixties.
And how was God working in these people’s lives during this period?
Because I was active in my high-school’s Christian Fellowship, I knew the Grads who were open about being Christian. Praise to God, these believers are still walking with Jesus. And I had the privilege of meeting some of their spouses. I was even more delighted to have two people come up to me to chat about how they had come to follow Christ in the intervening years. One was a teacher whom I had particularly admired.
God is good!
Over 100 years ago a Vancouver church planted a small Baptist work in an adjacent community known as Sapperton, named for the Columbia Detachment of Royal Engineers (“Sappers”), whose camp was on the hill overlooking the Fraser River. Sapperton Baptist Church, as it was first known, was started with a few members from the parent church. Though a poor working-class community, within a year of commencing, they had acquired a small building in which to worship, began a Sunday School and vigorously reached out to the surrounding neighborhood. (The present church building still occupies that original block of land.) The church grew quickly and soon called a Pastor, expanding the small wood-stove heated building to accommodate a burgeoning Sunday-School.A few years later, during the First World War, they added even more space. The ensuing years repeated this pattern right through to the present day.
But perhaps the greatest indication of the vitality of this church has been their missionary zeal. Over 100 years, this small congregation has commissioned about 60 missionaries from their membership. Of these, 11 served for over 30 years, with 13 members serving from 10 to 22 years. These men and women served in foreign missions work for extended periods; some spending their entire adult lives in missionary service. The balance served shorter term mission stints and were usually self-funded or partially funded by the church. The bulk of the financial support for the long-term missionaries came from this congregation. (There are some remarkable stories of faith and courage here, but perhaps I’ll write about this in another post.)
So what has this Baptist church become today?
Is it a prosperous mega-church? Does it have a ‘big name’ pastor? Is it counted amongst the prominent Canadian, or Vancouver churches? The answer to these questions is NO! It remains a small humble congregation, faithfully serving God and it’s surrounding community. In my opinion, it is what church is supposed to be.
God is very good!
Some of my warmest teenage post-faith memories are of attending missionary conferences and testimonials. There’s so much to learn for the broader church in what you’ve shared here. It’s not what we do, but what He does in (and out of) us which matters.
What a blessing for you Don. And what a church. Part of the “church invisible” I believe. All will be revealed on that Glorious Day when the Lamb’s book of Life is opened. Revelation 20:12 & 21:27.
Rob & Lyn, thanks for celebrating with me in the appreciation of God’s work through this humble and faithful church.
It’s my hope that others will be inspired by this example of God’s people giving of themselves and their resources to take the gospel to often difficult and hostile places so that otherwise lost people might come to faith in God through Jesus.