When our daughter went through customs at the Calgary airport this summer, the agent asked why she was entering Canada. “To visit my parents,” she replied. “They live in Airdrie.”
“Why did they move there?” the agent inquired. Good question. Why?
Airdrie, a city of over 43,000, is just north of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. It started out in 1889 as a railroad village; the Calgary and Edmonton Railway was then being constructed. Today it is a scenic bedroom community and industrial center. It is located on Alberta’s busiest highway, the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, which connects Calgary and Edmonton. Airdrie is about ten miles from Calgary International Airport. Owing to its proximity to Calgary, its population has exploded in recent years. Its growth is especially fuelled by young families.
Matthew 9:36 tells us that “when [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The Good Shepherd came to seek and to save the lost. He is so full of grace that he is moved by compassion for “the crowds” who are “like sheep without a shepherd.” He sees believers who are not being protected, fed, and cared for. He sees unbelievers who are without hope and without God in the world, dying and unprepared to die. And he has compassion for them. “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Matt. 9:37–38).
While there are sister Reformed churches in Calgary, there has been no Presbyterian and Reformed witness in Airdrie—until recently. The OPC’s Presbytery of the Northwest has formed a church plant, Redeemer Chapel.
The basic core group came from a sister Reformed congregation that, for its own reasons, deemed itself unable to take on that church-planting venture as this group was forming. The Presbytery of the Northwest took it on and began sending regular pulpit supply. From the time regular worship services began, the group has been growing. It seems evident that this community needs a bold and biblical witness to the sovereign grace of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Many of Christ’s sheep heard that witness and responded with thanksgiving. They were able to hear expository preaching week in and week out, despite the variety of ministers who came to preach.
The story of how the Presbytery of the Northwest came to call me to serve this flock, and how I came to accept that call, is too long to relate in this article. It was, however, a difficult decision. In the end, Holly and I were persuaded not only that the Lord wanted us to go to Airdrie, but that we wanted to go as well.
We arrived in April 2011. Not long after that, I found myself in the hospital. As we were preparing to move, I caught the flu. I seemed unable to shake it. But, although it may have started that way, it turned out not to be the flu at all. My heart had gone into atrial fibrillation and was beating way too fast. A visit to the urgent care center led to an ambulance ride to the hospital. Things seemed to be getting under control, but then I suffered a stroke.
A blood clot resulting from the atrial fibrillation had traveled to my brain. This resulted in an ambulance ride to another hospital. In God’s mercy, the stroke was caught almost as soon as it happened, and the stroke team was able to administer a clot-busting drug that cleared away the clot. As far as we can tell, the stroke has left no lasting effect. Praise the Lord! My heart, however, is still not beating correctly, so I have to take medications to keep it relatively controlled and to prevent another stroke.
Through this experience, the Lord has dramatically underscored, among other things, our ongoing dependence upon him. In a matter of seconds, he took away my power to speak clearly, and then he restored it. He has largely reduced the stamina and energy that I have long taken for granted. Truly, apart from him we can do nothing. If that is true in the physical realm, how much more true it is in the spiritual realm! Who can effectually call sinners out of darkness into his marvellous light? Who can build his church so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it? Only the Lord! How we covet your prayers!
Please pray for Holly and me as we:
- adapt to living in a different country, far away from family,
- seek to make new friends, and
- seek to get to know and serve our new flock.
Please pray for me as I:
- seek to preach Christ,
- seek to prepare a number of people for membership,
- seek to help this new body develop a better understanding of what it means to be a congregation of the OPC,
- seek to serve pastoral needs,
- seek to identify and train future leaders in the congregation,
- continue to face health challenges, and
- seek to make new contacts and do the work of an evangelist.
Pray for Redeemer OPC as she:
- seeks to worship the Lord in spirit and truth,
- seeks to jell as a congregation and love one another, and
- seeks to grow in grace and in effective witness to the gospel in her community.
Regional Church Extension Conference
Coming from the seventeen presbyteries of the OPC, home missions representatives will gather on November 3–4 in Orlando, Florida. The featured speaker will be organizing pastor Brad Hertzog of Reformation OPC in Queens, New York City. Presbytery committee chairmen and representatives, regional home missionaries, and Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension members and staff will be looking at the big picture of OP home missions and strategizing for the future.
Pastor Hertzog will be helping our home missions leaders to examine the various church-planting efforts spawned by recent Reformed movements. Brad believes we ought to “consider what we might learn from them. We have a confessionally Reformed grid through which we can chew up the meat and spit out the bones. If ministries with these commitments are seeing fruit from their evangelistic efforts, we ought to cast a discerning eye upon them to humbly acknowledge what our brothers might teach us about church planting in the twenty-first-century world.”
Praise the Lord for the thirteen new organizing pastors who have begun their ministries in ten states and provinces since last year’s conference. Two to four more church planters may begin their work before the end of the year. Please pray for good fruit to come from the 2011 Regional Church Extension Conference.