Three Circles

One of the questions I'm most often asked is, "When you say North Oshawa, what do you mean?"

Some people hear "North Oshawa" and picture the new, large, beautiful homes being built over acres and acres of land on the north end.

Many people hear "North Oshawa" and think of the campus that's shared by both the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College.  In fact, the most common misconception I hear of this new community of faith is that it is (or will be) a new campus ministry - which isn't actually the case.

And relatively few people hear North Oshawa and picture high-rise apartment buildings full of families under serious financial pressure, or facing a variety of issues of poverty, drug use, and desperation. But, in reality, that's there, too.

My family and I are coming up on six months of living in Oshawa, and I've very intentionally used these six months - and likely more months to come - as a season of listening and learning. Hearing stories and meeting people and exploring this new city of mine. And what I've been learning is that North Oshawa encompasses all of these things. There's the very suburban-feeling new development on the north end of the city, right across the street from the large and growing UOIT and Durham College campus, and there are also a couple of pockets of poverty, which are consistently forgotten and buried under all the excitement of the growth happening in Oshawa.

All these things are true of North Oshawa. When I think about it, I think of these three distinct demographics as three different circles. And when I picture what I want our new church to be, it's in the point where those circles meet - bringing together the diversity of Oshawa into a beautiful community of grace.

I want our church to be accessible to all three circles, on some level. Especially when I dream about a community space where friends and neighbours can easily and meaningfully connect, I dream about it as a space where all our neighbours in North Oshawa have access and can engage in meaningful and grace-filled community. When I picture our community of faith gathering for worship, it's a diverse and beautiful community, bringing together people from all three circles in North Oshawa.

It's like a Venn diagram in my mind. There are three circles - the new homes, the campus, and the pockets of poverty - and then where they meet, that's Ecclesia. 

That's us. Together.

So, no, I'm not working on a campus ministry. I'm not creating a church that caters exclusively to the middle-to-upper-class residents in the new developments on the north end. And I'm not going to forget the pockets of poverty and isolation in the middle. 

And, yes, you are absolutely invited to join in God's mission here in North Oshawa!

Prayer Update

Phew! It's been too long since I've sent out an update for how you can pray for our new ministry in North Oshawa. Thanks for your faithful prayer partnership, even when I'm not up-to-date with updating!

Here are three ways you can pray for our new ministry in North Oshawa - Ecclesia - today:

1. We’ve started a monthly gathering in our home, where we spend a bit of time in worship and prayer, as well as sharing a potluck meal together. We’ve invited people from all walks of life - some strong believers, some still asking lots of questions about faith - and we want this to be a safe, loving space where we can all bring our joys and sorrows, our doubts and our convictions, and share them together. We had a great gathering this past weekend, with 13 people there - and we pray that God would continue to move in that time!

2. Pray that God would continue to bring clarity to the vision of our church plant and what, exactly, our rhythms and life will look like as the church grows.

3. We’re still in the early seasons of life for this ministry, and working toward building a core team of committed people to journey on together as we go forward. Pray that God would bring the right people at the right time to bring this community of faith intoto the next stages of life!

Thanks for praying along with us!

Bringing Life

Hello, friends! It's been too long since I've posted. We've had a full few weeks of both good things and difficult things - and after a week and a half or so of sickness and injuries in our family, I'm finally getting back on track. So, hello again! I haven't forgotten about you. :)

Today, I wanted to share something I've been thinking and praying a lot about - and beginning to share with others - regarding this new community of faith that's beginning to be planted in North Oshawa.

Imagine, if you will, your heartbeat. 

Our hearts are amazing things. These powerful muscles that we depend on completely for us to have life. That steady pulse that allows us to live and work and play. The very heart that is pumping life in your body right now - that’s what I want this new church in North Oshawa to be.

The heart is the muscle that gives life to all parts of our body. It’s the place where our very literal life is gathered and sent. In the heart, the cells that give us life are gathered - at least for a moment. And there they receive oxygen and are renewed and refreshed and made useful again.
And then the heart contracts. It beats. When the heart has the most power and puts out the most energy - that’s when it beats. It sends out those life-giving cells - after their moment of rest and refreshment and renewal - to go out throughout the whole body, to the head and the toes and the fingers and everywhere in between.

Bringing life.

This is the image that resonates within me as I think and pray and dream about the new community of faith that God is building in North Oshawa. I want this new church to be a living, beating thing, bringing life into all parts of our neighbourhood - all the way from head to toe and everything in between.

I want us to live into that regular rhythm of Life, with a capital L. I want all of us in this community of faith to come together and be re-oxygenated with the hope of the Gospel. I want us to gather and worship and glorify our Creator, to be reenergized and renewed and empowered to live our salvation. And then, I want us to see the power and energy of that sending heart beat. I want our church to be a place that sends us out into all the arteries and vessels and capillaries of North Oshawa. To all the places we live, work, and play - to go out and share the Life that we experience when we gather, to invite others to experience that Life with Christ, too. To bring Life and life abundantly into all our spheres of influence.

In the last few months, I’ve spent most of my days meeting incredible people, who find themselves all over the spiritual spectrum - so to speak. Many see their everyday lives and work with incredible significance. Some of them understand themselves as missionaries in their workplaces or neighbourhoods. Some of them aren’t quite sold on the truth of Jesus, but they recognize that something bigger is happening when they go to work at the university in North Oshawa, or commute to work in Toronto, or schedule morning playdates for their kids.

But one thing many of these people God is putting in my path hold in common is that they don’t feel that the church understands them. They see this everyday life that’s full of meaning and significance and worth as completely separate, or misunderstood, or even disliked, among God’s people. They look at the church and just don’t find a place where they might fit. My heart aches to invite each and every one of these men and women to walk with me and have a voice in creating a church body that connects our worship with our lives. Even more - that recognizes our sovereign God at work in our lives, even outside of our Sunday gatherings. That serves as that powerful heartbeat of life - gathering and scattering us around our city to bring Life.

I want us to come together in worship and be reoriented to the One who gives us life. To be reinvigorated and refreshed and empowered to live into our callings. And then I want us to go and reinvigorate and refresh and empower all of North Oshawa to know and love and serve our great God. And keep repeating the cycle.

I want us to be a church that seeks the peace of the city, as it says in Jeremiah 29. A church that shines a light in the darkness, like it says in John 1. And that carries Christ’s abundant life with us as we preach and share and act out the gospel in our places. We want our presence in North Oshawa to make North Oshawa better - in both the sacred and the secular. I pray that our church becomes such life-giving presence in the neighbourhoods of North Oshawa that all those who live, work, and play in here will recognize a different kind of life stemming from our church - even if they don’t yet understand or believe the Gospel. I want the life we experience as God’s people to permeate all the places and spaces of Oshawa - because, as Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!" 

But the other piece I love about this image of our heartbeats is that it’s a constant presence. A constant gathering and scattering - a constant giving of life. Our hearts don't just beat once and wait a week or a day or an hour to beat again - it’s always beating. So, while we highly value that element of gathering for worship, as my family and I dream of what this church will look like, one thing that has always stood out for North Oshawa is the need for a place throughout the week where we can gather and be scattered, again and again. I love the idea of some kind of community space - like a coffee shop or study or work space or play space for kids, or some combination of those things - where friends and neighbours can come and connect in a unique way with one another, and, ultimately, with Christ. Where folks who might never step foot into a Sunday morning worship service can come and experience a taste of the community of grace that is the church - where they can belong, even, potentially, before they believe. A place that can be that steady pulse of this heartbeat for Oshawa, in between the times we gather together for worship and refreshment.

This is what we’re dreaming about for this new community of faith God is building in North Oshawa. My family and I are still in this season of listening and learning, getting to know the people and places and spaces of Oshawa - but as we listen, we feel these constant themes coming through. I think that's one way that God speaks. As always, I'd love your continued prayers as Jeremy, Norah, and I walk through this adventure. Pray for the right people to come at the right time and join us on the journey. Pray for clarity in what God has for this new community.

And, if you'd like to get further involved - don't hesitate to send me an email or leave a comment here on the blog! If you're local, I'd love to connect over lunch or coffee. Or, another way to partner with us is through financial support. You can donate online here using the "Donate" tab at the top of this website - just don't forget to designate your gift to the North Oshawa Church Plant. Or you can send a cheque to our calling church, Zion Christian Reformed Church (409 Adelaide Ave E, Oshawa, ON L1G 2A2) - again, with a note to designate the gift to the North Oshawa Church Plant.

Thanks for reading, and for your love and encouragement along the way!

The Called Out Ones

As a church planter, I often get asked very specific questions about what’s happening in north Oshawa, some of which I don’t have an answer for yet. Like, what time are we meeting on Sundays? (We’re not yet.) Where are we located? (Nowhere, yet.) Do I have an office somewhere? (Yes, in the basement of my house. Or, I’m currently in Panera Bread.) What’s my church called, and who is on staff? (Nothing and… well, me.)

I admit, at times those questions are frustrating. I highly value these early months of listening and learning and catching up to what God is already doing around Oshawa - both inside and outside of the Church. It’s so important that I spend time getting to know the people and places of Oshawa, so I don’t come with a conquering or colonizing mentality, but with the posture of learning and service and love toward all those who live, work, and play in Oshawa. At the same time, there’s a part of me that aches to have answers to all those questions - to be able to share real stories of events and life rhythms and have concrete evidence of God’s work in and through and around this new community of faith.

So, as I often do, I’ve been dreaming of what those answers might look like. When would I like to meet? Do we stick with the usual, expected time of 10 am on a Sunday morning? Or do we mix it up and gather for worship on a Saturday evening or sometime mid-week? Where would I like us to be located? Would we rent a school gym or a theatre? Would we use an unused church building? Would we go big and find an empty warehouse and set up shop, or maybe rent a storefront in a new strip-mall that will inevitably be built by the new 407 freeway extension?

Who knows?

But what’s been especially fun to dream about is the name of this new church. What would we be called? The name of a church can be so important - especially for a new community just starting out. It should evoke something - make a statement about who we are as God’s people and who God is in our community. It should bring to mind an image from Scripture or beg a question or start a conversation.

I’ve always loved the name Ecclesia for a church. Ecclesia is the Greek word used in the New Testament for the church that was springing up in a cities and communities all over the ancient world. But it has a history even longer than that. The term “ecclesia” (or ekklhsia) was used, for years, for any sort of gathering. When city officials gathered for a meeting, they were an ecclesia. When religious leaders came together, they were an ecclesia. For a long time, it meant any kind of gathering of a number of people for a specific purpose.

Eventually, the early church began using this term for their gatherings too. While we don’t know if this choice was intentional, once the term “ecclesia” started being used for the gathered people of God, it took on new meaning.

If you dig into the Greek grammar and syntax of this word, “ecclesia” means “the called out ones.” The first part of the word - ec, or ek - means “out” in Greek. The second part of the word, “clesia” or “klesia”, comes from the Greek word kale-o, which means “to call.” So, to put it together - ecclesia means called out, or the called out ones.

And that, my friends, is the church. The church is God’s community of called out ones. We are called out to meet together for a purpose in worship. We are called out together to serve. We are called out together to love both our literal and metaphorical neighbours (Mark 12:30-31), to seek the peace and prosperity of our cities (Jeremiah 29:7), and to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). We are the ones who have been called by name, the ones who belong to Him (Isaiah 43:1). 

We are called His children. His people. I love the words of 1 Peter 2:9:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

God has made us His people, His special possession, where He calls us by name. More than that, He has called us out of darkness, into His marvelous light. And as it says in John 1:5, when Jesus, the True Light, shone in the darkness - the darkness could not overcome it. We have been called into that light - that light which darkness cannot overcome. We have been given and gifted that light as the called out ones for Jesus Christ. And we have been called out to go out and invite others into this life of light and hope and grace that we experience now every day. 

Now that’s a church I want to be a part of. That’s my prayer for this new community God is building - that we would be the called out ones. As I meet those who live in the new housing developments that stretch Oshawa’s northern borders, I want them to know that they are called out as God’s people. As I engage with students and staff on the campus at UOIT and Durham College, I long for them to live as God’s called out ones in their studies and in their fields. As I encounter my neighbours in the pocket of poverty surrounding Nonquon Road, my heart aches for them to know that God gives hope and life as his chosen and called children. This is what the Church is all about, and this is what I am confident God is building in North Oshawa.

God’s ecclesia.

Prayer Update

Here's how you can pray for North Oshawa this week:

1. Jeremy and I have spent many hours these last few weeks dreaming and strategizing how we want to move forward with this project of building a new community of faith here. I'm realizing that my leadership style is very collaborative, and I have very few people to actually collaborate with right now as I lead this movement - so we're dreaming and scheming up ways to get there. Pray that God will show us how He would have us move, and pray that I would be patient where patience is needed (and I say that for me specifically because Jeremy is much more patient than I am! Ha!)

2. This Saturday is our first of hopefully many worship gatherings in our home. Pray that the right people would come, that we'd recognize God's presence, and that we'd build a new sense of togetherness as we worship and pray together.

3. It's been so fun to continue to see the results of our ice cream party in our neighbourhood (if you missed that story, check it out here!). Earlier this week, it was so fun to run into one of my neighbours who I learned is a teacher and ask her about her first day of school. A simple interaction, but one that would never have happened without a bowl of ice cream. And I see neighbours talking differently to each other, too. Pray that God would continue to grow the seeds of community planted there, and that Jeremy and I would have our eyes opened to opportunities to continue building those relationships and, hopefully, let those relationships blossom into something even bigger.

Thanks for praying along with us!

Prayer Update

Here’s how you can pray for North Oshawa this week:

  1. Jeremy and I have been working together to establish some family rhythms that will contribute to our shared ministry in this new community of faith we’re building - one of which will be a monthly worship service in our home. We’ve sent out some invitations to folks who have expressed interest, and we’re planning together how the evening will go - and now we’re praying that God will move! We pray this will be a warm, welcoming time of worship with friends, along with a shared meal and good conversation. There may be people in attendance who are really familiar with Christ and the church, and perhaps those who are less comfortable, and we pray that God will speak to all of us together as we spend time with music and prayer!
     
  2. I have meetings coming up with some folks about budget and fundraising things…and, to be honest, those are the areas of church planting that stress me out most. Pray that God will provide what we need, that I’ll be confident and bold (yet friendly) in my requests for support, and that all my anxiety over this area will be proven unnecessary.
     
  3. Related to numbers 1 and 2 above, I’m so grateful to have people to invite to worship and to talk about finances and to dream together about what this new community of faith might look like. All along I’ve been praying for people - and you’ve been praying with me - and slowly but surely, we’re making connections and building friendships and finding our way together. So - another moment to give thanks!
     
  4. Finally - next week school begins around here. Just like last week - pray for all the planning and transitions that students, faculty, and staff are doing - both here in Oshawa and in the places where you live!

Thanks for praying with and for us as we continue on this adventure!

Prayer Update

A big thanks to all of you who have been faithfully praying for what God is doing here in Oshawa - some of you, for months and years before I even arrived on the scene! 

Here’s how you can pray for North Oshawa this week:

  1. Pray for the new fall season. I’m not sure what to expect of fall for us, but I’m looking forward to a season in which people are around more than they have been in the summer. Pray for students of all ages as they return to school, pray for churches as they begin a new ministry year, pray for UOIT and Durham College as they start a new year of work and study; pray for the Campus Church ministry on the UOIT/DC campus; pray for those who live in a little pocket of poverty on Nonquon Road and all the changes and shifts that a new school year begins; pray for my neighbours - a number of whom are teachers - as they move forward into this new season.
     
  2. Continue to pray that God would bring the right people at the right time to this movement to start a new community of faith. I keep meeting people who know God but don’t feel at home in the church, and I’m praying that God will build those relationships and that Jeremy and I might be a place of safety in the midst of a number of different life situations.
     
  3. These next few months, Jeremy and I plan to begin a few more intentional initiatives as we move towards a new community of faith in north Oshawa. We plan to have a monthly worship gathering, open to folks who are all over the spectrum of faith journeys and experiences. We also plan to continue to have regular prayer gatherings to shower this movement with prayer and listen to what God has to say. I’m also working with a team of folks from Zion CRC - the mother church of our church plant - to do some community mapping this fall. Pray that all these things would be both faithful and fruitful, and that - most of all - they would bring God glory and allow us moments to both experience and embody His grace.

Thanks for praying for what God is doing in North Oshawa!

Love Your Neighbour

Hello! It’s been awhile since I’ve updated this space - and I apologize. Our house had a bout of the flu, and then we went out for town for a few days, but now I’m back - and I have so much to share! But…not all in one post. 

I’ve been reading a book called The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, which digs in to the Great Commandment - our call as followers of Christ to love God first, and love our neighbours as we love ourselves.

I'm sure these two are dreaming of all kinds of ways to love those neighbours outside our window...

I'm sure these two are dreaming of all kinds of ways to love those neighbours outside our window...

One thing that struck me right in the beginning of the book is Pathak and Runyon’s suggestion that we in the church have done a really good job of turning the notion of “neighbours” into a sort of metaphorical picture, rather than a concrete reality. If you know the Parable of the Good Samaritan (if not, you can read it in the Bible in Luke 10:25-37), you might remember that Jesus tells this story in response to the question, “Who is my neighbour?” And the answer Jesus gives, in this story, is that the one who showed love to a man who was beaten on the road was the true neighbour. And this person wasn’t who people expected; he wasn’t someone of power or prestige. Not someone you’d want to hang out with. But he was the one who showed love.

So - what we tend to do with this parable, this story, is to hear the words of Jesus and recognize that our neighbours are those who we show love to, and who show love to us. And that may come from unexpected places, so we should treat everyone like our neighbour. And that’s good and beautiful and correct…except for that if everyone is our neighbour, then no one is. And we so easily create this metaphoric neighbour-thing, and forget to love our actual neighbours. Those people who live and work and play right next door from us.

I’ve long been drawn to expressions of church that intentionally, tangibly love their neighbours. Their literal, actual, physical neighbours. I love to hear stories of churches starting non-profit organizations or providing space for community or spending time in a nearby park or volunteering in a school down the street - all to serve the neighbourhood. I think God has placed us in our particular places and times and contexts for a reason, and that we are invited to join Him in what He is already doing, right in our own backyards.

So, Jeremy and I have decided we want to find real, intentional ways to love our neighbours here in Oshawa. Last Sunday, we hosted an ice cream party in our front yard for our neighbours. My 23-month-old daughter and I went to each of the 20 houses on our street and handed out invitations for people to come to our front yard, bring an ice cream topping if they could, and enjoy some ice cream on a warm summer evening together. When the night came, Jeremy and I set up a simple folding table in our yard with some big gallon buckets of ice cream and some paper bowls and plastic spoons, and we waited. And waited. No one came for 30 minutes, and just when we were about to pack up and go back inside - EVERYONE came. Out of 20 houses on our street, 15 of those households came to eat some ice cream with us. 25 people total, ages 2 to 85, came and ate ice cream together. And we watched as people who had lived across the street from each other for 30 years finally learned each others’ names. We met our neighbours and they met us, and we heard little snippets of each others’ stories. And the two comments I heard over and over as people eventually went back inside their homes was (1) how nice it is that we can now use names to say hello, rather than just waving, and (2) how we all couldn’t believe that no one had ever done this before, when it’s so simple, so fun, and so meaningful.

The next morning, I watched with pride as two of my neighbours, on their regular morning walk up and down the hill in our street, stopped and said hello - using names - and chatted for a moment. I’ve seen these neighbours walk past each other and simply wave almost every day since we moved here, but this day they could say each others names, remember a shared experience together from the night before, and connect just a little deeper.

Just a little bit of ice cream, and our neighbourhood was already just a little better.

image source: adventuretykes.com

image source: adventuretykes.com

It reminded me of these words from Jeremiah 29:4-7:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Okay, so no one got married and we ate ice cream, not garden vegetables - but in a small simple way, we were trying to seek the peace and prosperity of our little piece of Oshawa. I want to be the kind of follower of Christ who deeply loves my neighbours - both literally and metaphorically. And I am so grateful and encouraged and inspired by how my neighbours came together a week ago, and I pray that God planted some seeds that night. Who knows what He can do with a little bit of ice cream?

Prayer Update

Here’s how you can pray for North Oshawa this week:

  1. I’m grateful for some more new connections around Oshawa this week, from some plans to meet more local pastors, to a couple of people who found this blog and reached out. Pray that God would continue to connect me with the right people at the right time as I work towards building more roots here in Oshawa and build a new community of faith here.
     
  2. This week, I’m also giving thanks for little things. For playdates in awesome play spaces with tiny kiddos. For blanket forts and wading pools and good books that spur on exciting trains of thought. For gifts from far-away friends, for challenging work-out classes, for time to play the piano, and for popscicles on the deck. Life has been good this week.
     
  3. Pray for more inroads in my neighbourhood. It’s been fun to get to know some of our immediate neighbours through toddler interactions, new puppies next door, and a few other very normal, neighbourly things that have happened. I love that - I love the normal-ness of it all. So, pray for more of the same, and for me to keep my eyes open for those moments to connect!

 

Prayer Update

Here’s how you can pray for North Oshawa today!

  1. Pray for the disparities in my neighbourhood. As I’m living in north Oshawa, I’m learning more and more about the disconnect between the “haves” and the “have nots” here. I talked about this in an earlier blog post, if you follow along - just one street away from my comfortable, very suburban-feeling home lies an area of deep poverty. And my neighbours across that street have little access to the help that they need, feeling bogged down with unfeeling bureaucracy, facing issues of transportation to the social agencies located on the south end of town, and feeling disconnected from all the growth in the north end that people are all excited about. As I hear these stories, I’m convicted that this new community of faith must be involved in these issues, and I’ve been dreaming of what that looks like. I’m not quite ready to share those dreams yet, but pray that God will make clear what he would have us do - and that he’ll bring the right people to do it together.
     
  2. Another moment to give thanks - Canada is teaching me heaps about the importance of slowing down and enjoying the moment. I’m learning that folks around here deeply value their summers - and you can tell by the amount of people who are gone on vacations and enjoying all the beauty that Ontario has to offer. Yes, this is true everywhere I’ve lived; summer vacations are not a uniquely Canadian or Ontarian (is that a word?) thing, but it’s taken to new-to-me heights here. I’ve often joked that it feels like the rapture happened at the beginning of July, and I’m left here. :) I’m grateful for the encouragement and value that rest and relaxation and play has among people here. It seems so simple, but it’s a beautiful thing.
     
  3. Jeremy and I are working to implement some new rhythms as we live into this role as church planting together. We want to open up our home regularly to new friends, to pray with others regularly, and…something else? Pray that God will help us discern the right rhythms to engage in, that He’ll guide us as we live as a family on mission, and that he’ll use these rhythms to grow the Church in north Oshawa!

Prayer Update

Here’s how you can pray for North Oshawa this week:

  1. I’m grateful for an incredibly meaningful prayer walk with some new friends. I learned so much about my own neighbourhood, and I really feel like the five of us who prayed together got a bit more of a sense of God’s heart for north Oshawa. Thank God for this gift!
     
  2. This week, I began more intentional fundraising work for this new ministry. As I mentioned last week, this is uncomfortable work for me, but I know it’s important. Someone once advised me to think of fundraising as offering others an opportunity to get involved in ministry - and that’s a thought I love. So, continue to pray for this new ministry to receive our “daily bread” so that God’s work in Oshawa would be made possible!
     
  3. Speaking of prayer, gratitude, and support for this new community of faith - I’m so, so grateful for the amount of prayer support I have. I know many in my mother church, Zion Christian Reformed Church, are praying for me and for north Oshawa faithfully - and have been much longer than I’ve been a part of this initiative. I know all of you are praying along with me each week. I even had a woman ask to meet me to pray together earlier this week, since she couldn’t be part of the prayer walk on Saturday. This means the world to me - and is such an important and needed aspect of my work as a church planter. So, thank you, each of you reading this, for your faithful prayer and support - I thank God for each of you!

Life

This past Saturday, I invited some friends to join me on a prayer walk in my neighbourhood in North Oshawa. I’m about a month into this whole church planting adventure, and I could think of no better way to really start than to spend time in prayer, out in the neighbourhood.

Water tank at Mary Street Community Garden image credit: www.oshawa.ca

Water tank at Mary Street Community Garden
image credit: www.oshawa.ca

We started at my home, walked down the street, and then crossed over one road into a park, leading us into an area full of high-rise apartment buildings and families struggling to make ends meet. Two of my friends who were there that morning live in this area, intentionally living with and for those who are around them to bear witness to what it means to be a follower of Christ. (For more on what they’re up to, check out their organization, Move In.)

I was so struck by the disparity of the two sides of my own neighbourhood. On one side of the road is where I live - big, beautiful trees shading a well-kept road. Older homes - some of them feeling a little worn and tired, some of them re-done and beautiful - all of them well-loved and lived-in and full of families of all different ages. There are pools and kids playing on the streets and people living…well…comfortably. And then on the other side of the road were faceless apartments with too-high rent, forcing people to choose between rent and groceries or laundry. There were people with little access to all the comfort and amenities we enjoy on my side of the street.

And we’re just blocks away.

Northview Park image credit: http://frugalfamfundurham.wix.com

Northview Park
image credit: http://frugalfamfundurham.wix.com

We stopped in a park, sandwiched between the library and a community center, where people constantly gather and play and enjoy the Ontario summer. We stood under a tree and we prayed that God would bring His hope and peace to this neighbourhood that’s full of disparity and contradiction and diversity. That God would show us His heart for this neighbourhood and all who live in it - on either side of the street.

It was a beautiful way to begin a Saturday - and to begin a new community of faith.

The word that kept coming to my mind all morning was life. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” God wants us to have and know and live His Life, with a capital L. He wants His people to infuse light and life into the dark places in our cities, our neighbourhoods, our world. He wants us to know Him, so that we might really, truly live.

And so there we stood, in this community space - this space where so much life happens - and we prayed.

North Oshawa Park image credit: https://threebestrated.ca/public-parks-in-oshawa-on

North Oshawa Park
image credit: https://threebestrated.ca/public-parks-in-oshawa-on

I left that morning feeling energized, inspired, and a little more in love with my neighbourhood here in Oshawa. We meant to be out for 30 minutes - instead we were out for an hour and a half, and I, at least, felt God’s heartbeat for this place.

Christ came that we might have life, and now we have the privilege of being God’s partner in that mission - to bring life, that all my have it, and have it abundantly. And I am so, so excited to keep looking and leaning into those places where life happens, so that others can know the Life that God has for us.

Prayer Update

Here’s how you can pray for what God is doing in North Oshawa today:

  1. On Saturday, I’m hosting the first of two prayer walks in the month of July. I have a few people joining me - some from supporting churches and some from the neighbourhood, and I can’t think of a better way to start this movement towards a new community of faith. Pray that we’ll hear God’s voice together on Saturday morning! (And if you’re local and want to join, we’ll be meeting at 9 am at my home. Email me at jana.koh@gmail.com for details!)
     
  2. It’s high time I get more intentional about fundraising for this new ministry. This is an area that I am completely uncomfortable with, and need some help figuring out what I’m doing. Pray that God will honor the work being done here with the financial resources needed.
     
  3. Give thanks! I’ve been able to take some small, simple next steps in the relationships that I mentioned in last week’s update, and I’m still just floored that these connections are being made already. I’m grateful for the encouragement of new friends and potential partners in ministry already - and I’m just starting month two!

Thanks for praying along with me on this journey! I can’t tell you what your support means.