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This Year’s Best Book on Prayer

November 28, 2022 1 comment

I frequently share the book reviews I’ve done at Thinking Out Loud with readers here, and this one, although there’s no particularly Canadian connection, is no exception. This is a book I have already recommended many, many times…


I hear Jesus saying, “Pray with the heart of a lover and the discipline of a monk” – Praying Like Monks (p193)

If the Bible tells us anything about how to pray, it says that God much prefers the rough draft full of rants and typos to the polished, edited version. – Praying Like Monks (p21)

Two years ago, when I reviewed Tyler Staton‘s first book, Searching for Enough, I commented that a book about the apostle Thomas was fitting since it is a recurring theme in Tyler’s preaching. Given the available instances online of Tyler speaking in his own church — Oaks Church Brooklyn and later Bridgetown Church Portland — and as guest speaker in various venues, that was an accurate reflection of his go-to theme.

In hindsight however, this sophomore book project, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer (Zondervan, 2022) lands the plane on a topic that is more central to Tyler’s heart and by which his current ministry is more defined.

You could deduce this partly from the fact he’s done not one, but two teaching series on prayer in this calendar year alone; one series, Teach us to Pray in January; and a second “Vision” series which began in September. (Click here for Bridgetown’s teaching page.)

But you could also discern it from a look at Tyler’s life: Even before entering his early teens, prayer became a defining part of his spiritual journey, to the point of doing early morning prayer walks around his middle school to pray for the students in his year. Those prayers bore fruit. Today, he’s National Director of the United States chapter of the 24/7 Prayer Movement, an organization founded by Pete Greig.

Full disclosure: I am a somewhat rabid fan of Tyler’s teaching. It meets my current need for sermon content that is both informative, illuminating and pastoral. I would start to read a fresh chapter convinced I must have already read it the day before, because many of the illustrations had stuck with me; a sort of situation where you’ve read the book before seeing the movie, only the other way around.

I also deeply respect him not only for the breadth of sources and influences that shaped the book, but also for the personal anecdotes where the principles taught have been brought to life through interactions with people both in and outside the church, and on both coasts of the U.S. Honestly, I could write about prayer, but it wouldn’t emerge the same as someone like Tyler Staton who is practitioner of the things described; someone who lives the lifestyle taught.

For the cynics who say that there are already too many books about prayer in a crowded Christian publishing market, I would answer, “I agree, but you need to read this one.” I’m not overly emotionally, but several times I had to rub my eyes, if you know what I mean. At the same time, there are some more lighthearted references. In a podcast, I think Tyler referred to letting people breathe after particularly heavy moments.

Some churches end the sermon time with the pastor saying, “Today, for your homework, I want you to…” At Bridgetown, the language used is “practices” and each chapter of Praying Like Monks contains action steps you can take. The ten chapters lend themselves to small group study — I’d even say take twelve weeks — and it’s good if you can listen to a few sermons online so that you’ve got Tyler’s voice in your head as you’re reading.

It’s hard for new voices to find an audience, but I really hope you’ll take my recommendation and consider this one.


As an example of Tyler Staton’s writing style, I offer this short excerpt which I ran at Christianity 201 a few weeks ago.

Link to: Publisher’s book information page

Zondervan, 272-page paperback, 9780310365358

 

Third Title in Skye Jethani’s “Serious” Series

Christian Book Shop Talk readers: I occasionally include reviews here which appeared on my other blog, even if there is no specific Canadian element. This is such a review.

Book Review: What if Jesus Was Serious About the Church?: A Visual Guide to Becoming the Community Jesus Intended (Moody Publishers, 2022)

Two years ago I was able to review the first book in what we now know has become a series, What if Jesus Was Serious? At the time, I mentioned that the use of “napkin doodles” therein was foreshadowed in one of Skye Jethani’s older books, With. I was unable to get a review copy of the follow-up, What if Jesus Was Serious About Prayer? but when the subject-at-hand for the third book was the modern church, I knew I wanted in, and despite the publisher’s great reluctance to grant review copies, was able to request one.

The reason I wanted to own this one in my personal collection is because this is a theme on which Skye is most outspoken when talking to Phil Vischer or interviewing guests weekly on The Holy Post Podcast. As a former pastor himself, and a former writer for over a decade with Christianity Today, Skye is able to articulate the challenges faced by the capital “C” Church worldwide, the small “c” church locally, and those whose vocational employment is church-related.

The podcast for which he is quite well known fails (in my view) in one respect, in that it is far too American-oriented. If you’re reading this review in the UK, or Australia, or Canada, and you’ve sensed that as well, you’ll be happy to know that the book casts a wider perspective beyond the U.S. I promise you’ll only roll your eyes once or twice.

So for those who need to play catch-up, as with the first two books, this one consists of short — never more than four page — chapters, each of which commences with a little drawing which might be a chart, or a diagram, or a cartoon, or a meme. It’s hard to describe them. Hence the reference to “napkin doodles.” The thing you would draw on a napkin (or blank paper place-mat) in a coffee shop when trying to explain an idea. (Again, the book With is must-reading to see how the concept evolved.)

This one has 51 such chapters, grouped in five sections; The Family Reunion, The Family Meal, The Family Gathering, The Family Business, and The Family Servants.

I immediately shared the second part with my wife. I find that I can never read enough about the Eucharist, Last Supper, or Communion Service, and our need to keep its centrality in the modern worship service. It and the third part, about the manner in which we worship are the longest two groupings in the book and include subjects that are important to the author.

Skye Jethani is so forthright and authoritative on these subjects, and I feel he is a voice that everyone in Evangelicalism needs to be hearing.

Because I tend to gush about the books I review — I choose them and don’t get books sent automatically — I do have a couple of criticisms. One is that for those who obsess over page counts, the 232 pages in this one include about 45 which are essentially blank. That’s a product of the way the book is formatted, and in balance, one needs to also consider this digest-sized paperback uses color process throughout.

The other thing was the ending. For me, there wasn’t one. The 51st article ended abruptly, which I expected given the concision that Skye employs throughout. But then I turned the page looking for a conclusion; something that would tie everything altogether, and there wasn’t one. No closing statement. Perhaps, as with the podcast for which he is known, there is a bonus chapter only available to Patreon supporters.

Those complaints aside, I encourage you to consider this. It’s fairly quick reading, and if you or someone in your family is employed in ministry, it contains a number of great conversation starters. If you simply care about where modern Evangelicalism is headed, it contains even more topics to provoke discussion.

The Story Behind Flying, Falling Catching by Henri Nouwen

In late May I received a short note from the co-author of a book we had mentioned briefly here, Flying, Falling, Catching: An Unlikely Story of Finding Freedom (HarperOne, 2022) by the late Henri Nouwen and Carolyn Whitney-Brown. Both Carolyn and I thought that the story behind the book deserved greater attention, and months later, she sent what follows, which at this point, we have exclusively.

Carolyn lives on Vancouver Island, and the book is set in North Toronto. As she says, “It’s a very Canadian story.”

You can learn more about her writing at this link.

by Carolyn Whitney-Brown

I first met Henri Nouwen at L’Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill in 1989 when he drove me with my husband Geoff to a local pizza place for lunch. He was a terrifyingly inattentive driver. But we had a terrific conversation that day. Geoff and I were completing our PhDs in English literature, so like Henri, we were coming from academic backgrounds looking for ways to live the gospel more concretely in a diverse community.

As Gord, a longtime L’Arche member with Down syndrome, would encourage us, “Open your heart.” We lived with Henri and Gord and many others at Daybreak until 1997, learning to think and love and laugh and pray in new ways. Those were transformative years.

Carolyn Whitney-Brown with Henri Nouwen

Henri first saw the Flying Rodleighs trapeze troupe perform in 1991, and it hit him like a thunderbolt. He described a physical response that left him shaken, excited, in tears – a response of his body, not in words. Over the next five years, he got to know the trapeze troupe and they became close friends. His times with them were relaxing, inspiring and full of fun. He talked about them constantly.

I knew from conversations with Henri at the time that he wanted to write differently; something that would read like fiction or even a novel. He wanted his circus book to be different than any of his previous books, based not on ideas or insights, but offering a story that would draw readers into an experience and invite them to draw their own significances and connnections.

But he died suddenly in 1996, and the fragments that he left behind sat in his literary archives for decades.

In 2017, because I was a writer who knew Henri well, I was invited by the publishing committee of Henri’s literary estate to have a look at his trapeze writings and see if anything inspired me.

Immediately, I was hooked by two mysteries. First, why did his encounter with the Flying Rodleighs strike him so powerfully at that moment of his life? And second, why he did he not finish his book about them?

I started to read widely in the archives, trying to figure out what else was going on in his life and spirit in those years, what had prepared him to see, as he put it, “the angels of God appearing to me in the form of five trapeze artists.”

I couldn’t write the book that Henri would have written, but in Flying, Falling, Catching, I honour his desire to write a creative book that would be as engaging as a novel. I juxtapose his writings about his friendship with the Flying Rodleighs trapeze troupe alongside other significant moments in his life. Those experiences in Henri’s own words are framed by the true story of his first heart attack and his rescue out the window of a hotel in the Netherlands in 1996.

The book is in two voices, Henri’s and mine, with two typefaces so that readers know which writings are Henri’s and which are mine.

I had a lot of fun writing it.

After completing the book, I keep thinking about pedestals. It’s easy to put Henri on a pedestal: he was wise and brave even when he was demanding and anguished. He’s often called a spiritual master. But that elevates him to a unique and lonely place, and being admired like that was not a healthy place for Henri. The trapeze act involves a different image of a pedestal, as somewhere to launch from. You’d look silly staying on a pedestal. It’s a platform to allow you to take a risk. And trapeze performers are rarely on a pedestal alone: no one can do a trapeze act by themselves.

Henri Nouwen with The Flying Rodleighs
Photo: Ron P. van den Bosch

You can actually see some hilarious film footage of Henri on the trapeze pedestal on the online recordings of two book launch events, one with commentary by Rodleigh Stevens himself, and the other with L’Arche Daybreak. In that one, I tell viewers to notice that real friends will not only accompany you on a pedestal, but they will throw you off at the right moment! You can find links to both book launch events at:

https://www.writersunion.ca/member/carolyn-whitney-brown

It struck me recently that I am now the age that Henri was when he was so entranced by the Flying Rodleighs, and interestingly, so is Rodleigh himself, since he and I are close in age. At our age, Henri let his imagination be seized by a whole new adventure. He said,

On a deeper level, [my friendship with the Flying Rodleighs] has given me a sense my life is just beginning. I don’t know where it’s going but I’m only sixty-two so I may have another thirty years. The Rodleighs are saying to me indirectly, don’t be afraid to fly a little, don’t be afraid to take a few doubles or triples or a few layouts. If you really miss the catcher you fall into the net so what’s the big issue! After all, take a risk and trust, trust, trust.”

Henri cared passionately about building communities that honour differences, that work for justice, that seek God’s vision of peace on earth and goodwill to all. As you finish reading Flying, Falling, Catching, be open to the spiritual challenge: What seizes YOUR imagination? What excites you? What life of fun and creative energy does God imagine for each of us, not just alone, but in our communities?


Flying Falling Catching is hardcover; 272 pages; ISBN 9780063113527 and also sold in the UK through SPCK.

Ontario Author’s Compelling Case for Christianity

The book we’re highlighting today is special to me because I’ve known the author, Clarke Dixon for a decade, and had read the material when it first appeared as part of his blog, now called Thinking Through Scripture. Clarke was a pastor in western Ontario, then Ottawa, and most recently Cobourg, Ontario.

Beautiful and Believable: The Reason for My Hope is especially directed towards those who might be sitting on the fence regarding Christianity, or doubting its core claims, or having specific objections.

From the introduction:

The picture of the diving board on the cover was taken by one of my sons where we vacation. My sons have taken the plunge from this board many times. Me, not so much. I can understand reticence. However, despite my caution, there are good reasons to dive in from this board. The water is deep. There are no sharks. Jumping in can be great fun. Or so I am told. I tend to be a skeptical person.

There are many reasons people share for being skeptical of the claims of Christianity. In this short book I would like to introduce you to some reasons that we can lay aside our doubts and fears and take the plunge into a life of faith. It is beautiful. It is believable. And it can be great fun.

This book is presented in two parts. The first part gives reasons to believe in God and trust in Jesus based on the beauty of Christianity. The water is refreshing on a hot summer day. Jumping in is a beautiful experience. Christianity, when expressed well, leads to greater beauty in one’s life, and indeed the world.

The second part gives reasons to believe in God and trust in Jesus despite the warnings of the people who say it is foolish to do so. According to the evidence, the water is deep, there are no sharks. Faith is not a blind leap, but a reasonable step.

If you are skeptical, I understand. However, I invite you to discover how Christianity is both beautiful and believable. I invite you to join me on the diving board, maybe we might even take a step . . .

The chapters are short — this is a great title to give to a guy, since some men have trouble staying on track while reading — and Beautiful and Believable is printed in a very clear, readable font.

Booksellers in Canada and the U.S. can order through Ingram, using ISBN 9798836457112 and while this is a short(er) discount product, the MSRP has been set generously low for the 142 page paperback. I’d encourage you to consider having this in stock.

Ontario Retired Pastor’s Collected Teachings

This week I had the opportunity to meet Rev. Bruce Pero, a retired minister and see his book, Teachings from God’s Word.  The 180-page paperback (also available in hardcover) is published through Friesen Press of Altona, Manitoba, and is available to Canadian retailers at standard terms and discounts through Ingram. Here is the publisher summary:

Teachings From God’s Word is a book of life experiences—of trusting God through difficult circumstances. It is a devotional memoir of a believer’s life testimony, the testimony of Rev. Bruce Pero, through messages he has preached over the years bringing insight and hope to others on their earthly journey with faith-building strategies and detailed accounts of intimacy with God.

Readers will experience wisdom on how to:

• build their faith with endurance and perseverance
• know the Master in a personal relationship with God as their Heavenly Father
• perceive the Father’s love through mothers’ prayers that can deeply affect the direction of their lives and what they are called to do.

The book outlines wide-ranging stories of salvation experiences and testimonies of how the author led individuals to the Lord and of how God loves to heal His people through His power, grace, and mercy.

Teachings From God’s Word will increase the reader’s knowledge of God’s eternal plan for their life. It can be used for new Christians as a seminar teaching tool for intimacy with God, for those hoping to grow in their faith, and also for mature Christians still hungering to learn about God’s word.

Teachings From God’s Word will cultivate discipleship by resurrecting God’s church to be doers of the word and committed to His Glory.

Bruce grew up just north of Kingston, and currently lives just east of Oshawa.

ISBN 9781039124387 | US $14.99

7 More Men in the “7” Series from Eric Metaxas

One of the challenges booksellers face is finding titles which function as great gifts for men. This is one of those books, not for the obvious reason in the title, but because the concise chapters and fast-paced writing style is in keeping with the attention of span of even men who might be considered non-readers. This is a preview of a mention of the book which will appear at Thinking Out Loud.


I have to give him credit. Eric Metaxas knows how to take biographical data and make it interesting and relevant to the greatest number of people. In a 2007 interview he said that his books, “don’t touch upon anything at all where Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians differ. They express just the basics of the faith, from a basic, ecumenical Christian viewpoint. They only talk about the Christian faith that they have agreement on.” 1

Back in 2013 I reviewed 7 Men and the Secrets of their Greatness, and in 2015 I also covered 7 Women and the Secrets of their Greatness. (You may read those here and here.) Those two titles are also now available in a single volume. This time he’s back with the hardcover release of 7 More Men and the Secrets of their Greatness (Zondervan).

As with the other two, it’s not necessary to read the chapters in the sequence they appear, but I started with the first, Martin Luther, but then found the chapter of George Whitefield (pronounced WHIT-field) even more engaging. The man was a bit of a superstar in “The Colonies” and on his home turf in England. While I was aware of him, I had never taken the time to learn about his life or ministry.

And that’s the problem. There are people, including those in vocational ministry, who never are confronted with some of these figures in church history. That George Whitefield was mentored by John and Charles Wesley made him all the more interesting to me, but I was saddened to learn that towards the end they differed over “predestination and election.” It’s the same old song today, isn’t it?

Whitefield’s passion and appreciation for preaching in the streets was shared by William Booth the Salvation Army’s founder, and so I skipped ahead to chapter four. While this was shorter than other accounts I’ve read of William and his wife Catherine, I never tire of them. There are certain “must read” books that are recommended to young Christians, but not to discount those, I would suggest that a biography of William Booth should be near the top of that list.

Then it was back to chapter three for George Washington Carver. I knew next to nothing about this man, a certifiable genius who literally rocked the agricultural world with discoveries that affect us to this day. Sadly, he grew up amid the segregation in the U.S. South, but that only made him more determined to better the lives of both his own people, and all of us. Appearing before Congress, he was asked where he learned all of his various food applications. He told them he got them from a book. When asked what book that was, he said, “The Bible.”

Next, I was off to chapter six, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I must confess that this was also an author I only knew superficially and reading this account of his life is almost exhausting as the man is moved from prison to prison for his crime of daring to critique the Soviet regime. I wasn’t sure about his faith. Was he a Christian or simply a deist? That became more clear toward the very end of the story, and his roots in the Orthodox church would certainly resonate with Metaxas.

Chapter five is about Alvin York, among the most decorated soldiers of World War I, and chapter seven is about Billy Graham, and consists mostly of material culled from Graham’s autobiography, Just as I Am. Sections on Graham’s interactions with U.S. Presidents and world leaders was where I hoped Eric Metaxas would find his own voice, especially with his background working for Chuck Colson, but these are succinct biographies and Metaxas stuck closely to the script. Billy Graham is still very much with us, so there were fewer things here I had not already seen, but I didn’t remember reading that Graham himself had been encouraged to run for President. His wife, Ruth, told him that if he did she would divorce him!

Overall, I enjoyed this volume every bit as much as the two previous “7” books in this series. Maybe even more. But what was the secret of their greatness? I think the question is a bit of teaser, with readers left to figure that out for themselves for each of the men profiled.


1Greek News: Eric Metaxas and the God Question


This volume in the series is currently available in hardcover only. Thanks to Mark H. of HarperCollins Christian Publications for an opportunity to review an advance copy.

 

 

Ontario Author to Parents: Kids Won’t Automatically ‘Catch’ Your Faith

Just take them to Church each weekend and your kids will ‘catch’ it, right? In a sense, that may have been more true in previous generations than it is today. But many parents are finding they singularly can’t take anyone spiritually beyond where they are themselves without help.

Some good input for parents comes from Ontario’s Natalie Frisk in her new book, Raising Disciples: How to Make Faith Matter to our Kids (Herald Press). After her undergrad work at Redeemer University in Ancaster (Hamilton), she completed her Master’s degree at the same city’s McMaster Divinity School.

In a recent interview with Redeemer’s Resound magazine, the story unfolds as to how the book came to be:

Throughout her time as a youth pastor, Frisk would get a lot of questions from parents about having their kids follow Jesus. “I started to keep track of that with no real plan for what to do with it at the time,” she says.

It wasn’t until later, when an editor from a publishing company asked to meet with her, that she realized she had some great material for her book.

“It is the shared wisdom of so many people who have been part of my spiritual community,” she said. “It’s kind of crowdsourced from people who are rockstar parents. There was a lot of community involvement. I just got to write it down.”

Today she is a curriculum developer for The Meeting House family of churches and that curriculum is being adopted by churches all over the world. (She’s also currently Interim Lead Pastor of the church’s Brantford site, one of 20 remote locations.)

Her publisher, Herald Press summarizes the book,

Children and youth will just “catch” the faith of their parents, right?

Not necessarily. Talking with kids about Jesus no longer comes naturally to many Christian parents. In Raising Disciples, pastor Natalie Frisk helps us reconnect faith and parenting, equipping parents to model what following Jesus looks like in daily life. Filled with authenticity, flexibility, humor, and prayer, Frisk outlines how parents can make openings for their children to experience God in their daily lives.

As curriculum pastor at The Meeting House, one of the largest churches in Canada, Frisk calls parents who follow Christ to ask the big questions about the spiritual formation of children and teens. In practical and thoughtful ways, she equips parents to disciple their kids in various stages of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Raising Disciples will awaken parents to the possibly of Jesus-centered parenting and encourage us to engage in the lost art of discipling our own kids.

Resound Magazine’s Shannon McBride continues Natalie’s story,

…[T]here are two parts to how parents can model faith to their kids: intentional practices and unintentional lived moments.

Intentional practices are things like praying with and in front of your kids and reading your Bible. “They see you doing it, so they know you value it,” she says.

Unintentional lived moments are things like modelling forgiveness to your kids. Frisk says parents should apologize to their kids when they do something wrong. “Get down to their level and ask for forgiveness. And forgive them when they apologize. That offers a glimpse of the heart of our Father God.”


9781513802589 | 216 pages, paper
Foreword by Marv Penner
available Parasource (Canada) & Spring Arbor (US)


Retailers: For your social media pages or website:

 

Danielle Strickland Joins Thomas Nelson Family

Canada’s Danielle Strickland, recently named as an associate teaching pastor of The Meeting House in Oakville, has a new book and 6-session DVD study releasing in February with Thomas Nelson. We wrote about Danielle about 20 months ago, and mentioned her association with The Meeting House about 8 months ago. She’s spoken at Willow Creek, NorthPoint Community Church, The Peoples Church, and at various conferences. This Canadian author has already written for Monarch, NavPress and IVP.

The book, Better Together: How Women and Men Can Heal the Divide and Work Together to Transform the Future releases in paperback on both sides of the border on February 11th. The publisher marketing describes the book as follows:

We are currently at a strategic cultural intersection with relationships between women and men eroding. And it seems no one knows what to do. While it is good for women to expose their pain, what often happens is that they immediately blame the person at the other end of it, which sets up a never-ending cycle of accusations, denial, avoidance, and ultimately devastation for everyone involved.

This moment of discovery should not signal the end but instead become an opportunity to create a different world where men and women are better together.

Better Together is a beacon of hope in a challenging storm. It’s where thoughts can be rechanneled and hope rekindled as author Danielle Strickland offers steps toward a real and workable solution. Her premise is that two things are needed for change:

1) imagine a better world, and
2) understand oppression.

Understanding how oppression works is an important part of undoing it.

Danielle says, “I refuse to believe that all men are bad. I also refuse to believe that all women are victims. I don’t want to be just hopeful, I want to be strategically hopeful. I want to work toward a better world with a shared view of the future that looks like equality, freedom, and flourishing.

The video curriculum releases two weeks later on February 25th. Again, the publisher description:

This six-week video study takes on the most difficult issue our culture and the Church is facing today: gender division. Known activist and speaker, Danielle Strickland shows that we are stronger, freer, louder, and livelier in alignment with one another.

In a time when societal disruptions are rampant—have you wanted to cut and run?

Have you considered your own gender versus the opposite in a defensive way?

If we are honest, we all have. And that truth is where we begin to be set free. We are only as strong as our understanding of our differences—and they are many and varied and begin with each our fingerprint. But we were not created alone, or separately. We were in fact created of and from and in the image of the same God. Until God created man AND woman, he called everything he created ‘good.’ When he saw us together, he declared, “It is VERY good” Gen 1:1-31.

So how then, in a current state of division at every intersection of life, do we return to the flourishing of men and women together as originally intended?

In this six-session study, author, activist, and headlining international speaker Danielle Strickland will guide us through our differences and mutuality with a biblical lens and foundation. She will teach and inspire us to face the core challenge that drives all division—FEAR—and to change the story of our culture. We will transform and become examples of equality and equity as in the Garden of Eden where we were made better, together.

The video trailer for the study series, posted above, released just a few days ago.

 

 

Canadian Charity Worthy of Greater Support

November 30, 2018 5 comments

A few days ago I tried to get some discussion going on the Christian Retail Insights page about using our stores to promote charities to our customers. This is different from what we do ourselves as a store — such as donating a certain percentage of the proceeds from a single item or a single day to a Christian organization — because it involves challenging our customers to be intentional about giving on their own.

Here’s some information about a charity that is the type of organization I envision when I talk about things like this; not a high-profile, brand-name one, but something more grassroots. This appeared earlier in the week on my other blog…

A few years back, when I told someone that our oldest son was helping out with an orphanage in Haiti, the person rolled their eyes and said, “Sure; right. In Haiti everybody is running an orphanage. But how many of the kids are true orphans and how many of the orphanages are legit?”

We live in a world that is automatically skeptical when it comes to charities. Compound that with further cynicism that in very poor countries, corruption means that aid doesn’t reach those who need it most. If only there was a way of meeting these objections and being able to give with confidence.

As it turns out there is. I want to share a bit of the story with you and also explain how it intersected with our son’s story, and some portions of what you read are taken (directly or loosely) from the Welcome Home Children’s Centre (WHCC) website.

We got to meet Camille Otum and her husband Sam for the first time a few days ago. She was born in Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, and raised in the town of Cabaret about two hours north. At the age of nineteen she left Haiti and chose to settle in Montreal, Québec, where she could better leverage her French language skills and familiarity with the culture. After getting married, Camille and Sam and their family moved west to Ontario, settling in a bedroom community small town outside of Toronto.

In 2004, a group of teenagers from her church were headed to Haiti on a short term missions trip, and Camille volunteered to be a chaperone and give something back to her country of birth. She went to connect with her old friends in her hometown of Cabaret but was quite distressed by what she saw. It was not the same place; not the village she had left many years ago. Instead, she was witnessing homeless children begging in the streets, desperate and malnourished.

With this image imprinted in her mind Camille began discussions with her family and friends about the situation in her homeland and her deep desire to help. With the support of her husband, and her church friends, their husbands and one other friend, she shifted into what my wife calls ‘entrepreneurial missions’ mode and decided to open an orphanage. Welcome Home Children’s Centre was incorporated as a non-profit entity in Canada. A hired agent now working for them in the country was instrumental in helping secure a three-bedroom home with fenced yard that could be rented and converted into a home for homeless children. (Fences and walls are a non-negotiable necessity in Haiti, since people will break in and steal anything that might have value.)

A few years in, with the lease running out, Welcome Home began looking for another property which would offer the possibility of greater expansion. They had about ten children but dreamed of being able to house up to seventy. They called Engineering Ministries International (EMI) for help designing a new orphanage on recently acquired land.

This is where the story first connects with our family. Our son Chris had graduated in Engineering and it would be several months before he would find his first job, so with a little bit of fundraising he signed up to do an internship with EMI in Calgary for four months. (The organization has about ten offices around the world.) As it turned out, one of their two projects for those months was the Welcome Home Children’s Centre and in February of 2015 he flew with a team of a dozen people from Canada to survey the land and help design the three phases of the new centre. He was one of only two people on the EMI team who spoke French with any proficiency and did his best to learn Haitian Creole.

As it turns out, language is a big part of the Welcome Home strategy for those they serve. Chris writes,

A big part of their education is learning the French language, which in Haiti is the sole language of business and politics. The vast majority of Haitians can only speak Creole, which makes it easy for the elite to exclude them from anything involving influence or serious money. The Welcome Home kids will have access to the upper strata of Haitian society because of their education, and it is my hope that they will hold onto their Christian values, continuing to acknowledge God in all their ways while wielding the privilege of education, and be a blessing to their neighbours and communities in adulthood.

With the exception of only a handful of EMI volunteers in the entire history of the organization, our son decided to get involved with the charity itself. He returned to Haiti with a group of WHCC volunteers three years later in February, 2018. He said, “It was amazing to go see the building we had designed on paper actually realized in concrete.”

Which brings us back to a few days ago, when we got to meet Sam and Camille. I don’t like to show up for meetings unprepared so I decided to do some research. In Canada, the annual financial statements — think of it as an organization’s income tax return — of churches and non-profits are posted online for the world to see. I couldn’t help but note that the line item for compensation (i.e. salaries and benefits) for WHCC was nil. Zero. Nada. That was refreshing.

Camille shared a story with us about a woman who had been giving to what I call a “blue chip” Christian charity and how appalled she was at the amount of compensation being received by its key personnel and staff. The woman then stumbled onto the same information I did, with the realization that this was the type of grassroots charity she wanted to support.

Part of this is possible because Sam and Camille have decent jobs in Canada. But if Camille isn’t there in person, she’s very much present, admitting to calling the orphanage for an update every single day.

The Welcome Home team conducted numerous interviews to be sure that the children they received actually were orphans. In some cases parents will see an opportunity for their child to have a better life and are willing to let their child go. This is a heartbreaking scenario that the team have seen played out over and over. To turn them away is difficult, but their commitment is to help the most needy orphans; children who have no other options.

It’s true that the overall financial scope of the organization is small. But the building referred to above is only part of what the EMI people designed. There is a Phase II, which involves another building that would dramatically expand the size of the operation to eventually include 70 children. The budget for construction is a half million dollars. (Labor is less costly, but building materials are expensive. The island has been deforested; so wood is extremely rare. Most buildings are formed from concrete.)

Right now, WHCC cannot issue tax receipts in the U.S. (I know there are U.S. readers here for which a receipt is not the bottom line.) For a grassroots charity, operating in Canada, with a very limited donor base to raise $500,000 is a daunting task, but in Christ, nothing is impossible. You can help plant the seeds for Phase II at this link.

I’ll let our son Chris have the last word,

I want to live in a world where everyone loves the place where they were born, where we don’t have people clamoring to get across borders because the country they were born in just isn’t livable. And I want to live in a world of rest and gratitude, not one of strife and pride. I believe the theory is true that the developing world will keep improving itself economically until the imbalance that has characterized the last three centuries levels out a bit, but we can help speed up the process.


If you are in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, Welcome Home’s annual fundraiser is this Saturday night (December 1) at Halton Hills Christian School in Georgetown. See the “Latest News” page of their website for directions and cost and to RSVP. [Canadians can also donate via Canada Helps.]

Brian Stiller’s New Book, In His Own Words

by Brian Stiller

It all started in Jerusalem, the home place of Christian witness. It then moved out into Asia and Europe, and in time elsewhere, but Europe continued for centuries to be the center of gravity. But then, in the twentieth century, the witness of Jesus broke out in new ways. It spread down through Africa, and a renewed form of faith infused Latin America and took hold in Asia. That center of gravity that once hovered over Jerusalem shifted westward, then south, with it now being around Timbuktu.

Today in every corner of the world, to over two billion people, Jesus has gone global.

Each book has a story. This one began years ago as I traveled, working with colleagues internationally, speaking at churches and staff conferences in various parts of the world. But it particularly took hold of me when in 2011, after stepping down as a university and seminary president, I was invited to immerse my life in the Christian community as global ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance.

Be it in my home country of Canada or in visiting abroad, I was asked to speak on what I was seeing globally. In study and research, reflection, conversation, and observation, I saw particular forces (or as I note, drivers) at work, growing and reshaping the church. I tested these with missiologists, seeking to fairly and accurately identify what is at work today in our global Christian community.

Many factors impinge on and free up the gospel witness. Much has been written, as is indicated in the bibliography. My interest was to get to the heart of the drivers creating such remarkable growth. As Patrick Johnstone has noted about this period, “Evangelical Christianity grew at a rate faster than any other world religion or global religious movement.”1 In 1960, Evangelicals numbered just under 90 million, and by 2010 that had reached close to 600 million. I wanted to find out who and what they were. I also wanted to see what, within my lifetime, has engaged and continues to engage the reshaping of the church to which I belonged.

My life has been lived in the convictions and practices of an Evangelical community. Raised in the home of a Pentecostal church leader, after university—and for more than fifty years—I served in various Evangelical ministries, all the while building friendships and partnerships with Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and mainline Protestants. However, I know best this Christian communion. In general, my writing concerns itself with the Evangelical world, although occasionally statistics will encompass the entire Christian community.

A number of labels are used to describe this Christian world of “Evangelicals.” I include Pentecostals, as their history and theology is family in the Evangelical community. In some cases, to give emphasis, I use terms such as Evangelical/Pentecostal, or Evangelicals and Pentecostals, as in some countries, Pentecostals make up more than half of Evangelicals.

The shifting force of faith, in a world most often described in materialistic and commercial terms, is a factor that no longer can be denied, be it by a country leader, academic, or social observer. Each year, as more and more people in the Global South embrace Christian faith, the center of density of Christian populations pushes further south, leaving the real (and emblematic) city of Timbuktu toward places never before imagined.

 

Canada’s Brian C. Stiller is former President of Youth for Christ Canada, former President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada former President of Tyndale University College and Seminary and is now Global Ambassador, The World Evangelical Alliance.


978-0-8308-4527-9 | 248 page paperback | IVP Web-page & Reviews | in Canada: Parasource Distribution

Author’s blog and source for this article: Dispatches From the Global Village

Book Trailer Makes Me Want to Read This

I would (and will) stock this title based on the creativity and clarity of the book trailer. Take 3 minutes to watch this. Well done, IVP!

Krish Kandiah, PhD is the founder and director of Home for Good, a UK charity finding homes for foster children and young refugees. An international speaker, he teaches regularly at Regent College and Portland Seminary and is the author of several books.

Kandish encourages believers to allow their questions about faith to draw them closer to God. He also includes personal stories of his own faith journey, making God Is Stranger relatable and accessible for any reader grappling with questions about God and the Bible.   – Publisher marketing

352 pages, paperback; 9780830845323

 

Canadian Author Turns Church Comedy of Errors into Teachable Moments

Like me, you probably get customers who have no church affiliation whatsoever. Somehow, somewhere, something happened that left them burned by the experience. I think this author would identify.  This review ran earlier this week at Thinking Out Loud; I want to encourage you all to bring this book into inventory…

Killed by the Church Resurrected By Christ - Rick AppersonIf someone decides to start something like Churchgoers Anonymous, I think I’ve just found your curriculum: Killed by the Church, Resurrected by Christ published by WestBow Press. Author Rick Apperson has had his share of strange church experiences. Remarkably, just weeks after visiting some of these congregations, the place would shut down. Someone suggested it was like having Angela Lansbury of Murder She Wrote show up at your front door, but clearly, none of this was Rick Apperson’s fault.

From Pennsylvania to East Tennessee to Croatia to British Columbia; and from Catholic to Charismatic to Congregational; Rick has seen his share of church governance models, worship styles, and quirky parishioners. But mostly he’s seen hurt, frustration, and disappointment. If anyone had the right to walk away from it all, it was him and the book’s final chapter should end with total rejection of faith in God.

But instead, Rick, later with wife Sarah, perseveres. We aren’t told what drives this desire to keep attending even in the face of lies and false doctrine, but he seems to always be willing to risk the vulnerability of starting from scratch in a new place of worship; of giving it all one more try.

Despite the autobiographical nature of Killed by the Church, there is much teaching here and I would suggest that at 132 pages, the book offers more food-for-thought than books twice its size. What’s more, despite what some would consider the ‘in-group’ nature of a critique on the local church, it is presented in a very simple, very casual writing style that might actually resonate with that person you know who has walked away from weekly church attendance.

Most of the chapters in the book conclude with a section called “What I Learned on the Way to the Resurrection” where Rick does delve a little deeper into the life lessons underlying his personal journey. Then there is a section called “Taking it Deeper” which is a set of discussion questions that could be used in a group setting, but are also deeply personal to the reader.

I can’t say enough how much I think people who have abandoned church could identify with this book. However, despite the many ways that people in local assemblies may have wounded them, this book has a very positive spirit to it and could be instrumental in their journey to healing.

…I’ve been following Rick’s blog, Just a Thought almost from its inception and have especially enjoyed the Five Questions With… series he runs with Christian leaders and authors. After years of association with Youth With A Mission, today he serves with The Salvation Army in BC.

Finally, in the last chapter, just to show that God has a sense of humor, we learn that Rick and Sarah planted a church. Who better?


Read an excerpt from chapter 2 of the book at Christianity 201.


Paperback 9781490853789 $13.99 US
Hardcover 9781490853772 $30.99 US
available from Ingram/Spring Arbor
reg. disc.