Lessons Learned from Church Planting in Canada

The Call

“You think God is calling us to plant a church in Canada? It’s cold and far!” This was about as much as I was willing to say when my excited husband told me that since God had placed church planting on his heart, he finally had clarification on where. Sitting in our comfy home provided by the church he was pastoring in Mississippi and watching our three kiddos play in our 5 acre yard, I wasn’t sure I heard him right.

The Sacrifice

Some of us are slow to obedience. I guess that’s why God has to work on us months or even years in advance. Maybe Moses needed those 40 years in the desert before God would speak to him through the burning bush. And, it’s certain that God was preparing Arrica Hess almost 2 years earlier when he taught me the parable of the ring.

Pregnant with our third child and trying to wash two slippery toddler boys up in the bath, I took my wedding band (which was soldered to my engagement ring ) off and put in up on the counter. Preggo brain caused me to forget it was there until the next day. I questioned my four year old with no results and tried questioning my nearly 2 year old, “Did you see Mommy’s ring on the counter?” Head shake affirmative. Uh oh. “Where did you put Mommy’s ring?” My sweet little two year old pointed to the toilet. I cried, I called Matt frantic, we called our plumber friend to pull up the toilet, we called another plumber with a camera snake to search the pipe, and at the end of our rope, we had the septic tank pumped and that kind man jumped in and searched with his hands for my ring.

I cried and prayed for days over that ring. I told my sob story to everyone who listened and we scoured the house again and again. Meanwhile, God had me reading through the book of Luke. My reading that day was from Luke 15. You know the parables of the lost sheep, coin, and son. God says to me, “Would you spend as much time, energy, and money in seeking my lost sheep as you have your ring?” This wasn’t God stepping on my toes, this was a brick on the foot. I bowed my head, cried, and had to honestly whisper, “No, God, I wouldn’t. It would not have even crossed my mind.” I spent a lot of time over the next few months seeking forgiveness for my failure to notice and pray for the lost souls around me and making my list of those I needed to seek out and share the gospel.

The Lesson

I thought of this lesson when Matt was pouring out his heart to me. I agreed to join him in prayer and fasting and sure enough God confirmed in my heart that moving to Toronto, Canada, was His will for our ministry. Everything was set in motion and nothing would be the same, including my heart.

 It wasn’t easy, it was paved with uncertainty, hardships, loneliness, and rejection. We experienced resistance from the officers at the Canadian Boarder telling us that “there are Canadians that can fill this job, why should we let you in?” We had no credit history, job history, or monetary earnings in the country which meant securing a residence even just to rent was tough. We ended up moving into a small, very old, 900 square foot town home with no yard and one bathroom for five people. The first time I went grocery shopping, I cried and left with 2 things, bread and peanut butter. The prices were astronomical, the stuff I needed wasn’t there and why did milk have to come in bags? Matt went to the grocery store for the first 3-4 months we lived here. I spend a lot of time feeling sorry for myself and trying to assure God that I deserved better. And then I met the neighbors…

I met a woman who was living with her three kids and had just escaped an abusive relationship. I met a lady who was lonely and stuck because her husband took their one car to work. I met a widowed older man who allowed his grouchy exterior keep him from getting to close to anyone. I met those lost sheep. The ones Jesus left the others to seek. My heart broke. The lesson came back. I knew what God was saying, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” along with “set your mind on things above, not earthly things.” It was as if I was seeing for the first time why I lost that ring and why God wanted me to experience these seemingly less than perfect conditions. I didn’t need to focus on what I had, where I lived, what food I ate, I needed only to focus on the mission, “seek and save the lost.”  

The Reward

It is said that the rewards outweigh the sacrifice and in God’s kingdom, it is absolute truth. He blessed us with friendships, resources personally and for our church, he allowed us to see the lost get found, a church started from nothing, and is now allowing us to use our experiences to help other church planter families get started with their church plants.

Sometimes, in God’s merciful goodness, He even rewards our faithfulness here on Earth with material blessings. One year after we moved to Canada and started Fellowship Pickering, I received a message from a friend that the new pastor of the church in MS found a set of diamond rings in the dishwasher of the church’s parsonage. I was reunited with my lost rings and I felt God saying, “Lesson learned. Carry on.”

Tags: Church Planting

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