1prod·i·gal adjective : carelessly and foolishly spending money, time, etc. As Christians, we may assume that prodigal means to be “one who returns sheepishly,” but the word actually means to be a wasteful, frivolous spender. It isn’t the repentance that earns the prodigal son his unfortunate moniker but his irresponsibility. So why would our Assembly keynote speaker, David Fitch, be encouraging us to be prodigal Christians? In his book, Prodigal Christianity, (co-written by Geoff Holsclaw), the authors explain that the son isn’t the only prodigal character in the story; the father is, too.
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“God is a prodigal God, not just in graciously receiving us back when we sin but by recklessly leaving behind everything and, in the person of Jesus, journeying into the far country. God recklessly pursues the world by entering into the very depths of the far country. This is the way God works. This is the way God is.” Called to be like the God we love, as Christians we must become more like him, lavishly and wastefully welcoming lost children home, even seeking them out to bring them home. Here you will find stories of people in your Canadian Baptist family who are sharing God’s prodigal grace.
SIMONET Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
Every parent knows that raising children is hard enough when there are two of you with a steady income. For single moms in Montreal, many of whom are new immigrants, providing a safe home, healthy food and keeping up with the bills can be impossible. That is the gap that Grace Boakye saw when she started SIMONET, the Single Mothers’ Network. Part social program, part food bank, SIMONET has allowed Grace to connect with moms and their families when they need help the most. Both the church and the food bank are based in Ville St. Laurent, an area of Montreal that has a high percentage of Muslim newcomers who are struggling to provide for their families. As Grace has both a social services background, and she is the pastor at Grace Baptist Church, she has the two things she needed most to start this initiative. She has the tangible knowledge
of how to respond to the poor in Canada and the spiritual wealth of a committed and connected follower of Jesus. Certainly it isn’t easy work – it can be exhausting – but Grace is full of stories of the amazing ways that God is using her ministry. Together with her team of intrepid volunteers, they making meaningful connections and building friendships that create spaces for conversation, including opportunities to share their faith with those who might never otherwise get to hear about it. There are many gaps still to fill. Moms need after school programs for their children while they finish work. They need safe housing for their families. They need good food to supplement what they are able to afford. They need healthy communities of people supporting each other and they need a relationship with the Father who loves them most of all. Through God’s grace, Pastor Grace at Grace Baptist Church is extending prodigal grace. That’s a whole lot of grace.
The squeak of shoes on a gymnasium floor. The hollow thump of a large orange ball hitting the backboards. The swish of a nylon net and the cheers of an exuberant team. These are the sounds of a basketball tournament. But there is so much more to this than meets the eye! BOOM Basketball is the result of a coalition of organizations, including CBOQ, that are investing in the lives of young people. Through sport, the Willowdale Collaboration Network is able to bring together teens from across Toronto and beyond to play together, get to know each other and have the chance to learn about Jesus. Bringing together a variety of organizations and athletes, the network creates a space for many kids to gather, grow and learn. Part of this program is Olympian Elodie Li Yuk Lo. For her, sport is a universal language, a healthy way to keep kids out of trouble and an amazing platform for sharing her faith. Volunteering at BOOM basketball, she is both a spiritual and athletic role model. Shaka Fonderson plays football at the University of Toronto. Like Elodie, he sees sport as a way to connect with teens and share his faith at his own pace – at the pace God directs. Rather than seeking fame and fortune through athletics, Shaka sees enormous opportunities for sport as ministry – a chance to share what God is doing in his life.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Cor. 9:24-25
Jolene is 16-year-old member of CBOQ’s Spring Garden Church (a church she found through another sport-based initiative). Now a facilitator and key volunteer at BOOM Basketball, Jolene is developing her leadership skills and growing outside of her comfort zone thanks in part to the encouragement of BOOM’s organizers. God can use all our skills sometimes in ways we never expected. He can equip us for work in our distant future through things that seem unrelated at the time. He can give us exactly what we need to do his work, even though we may not see it at the time. He is a prodigal giver. Let us be prodigal Christians in return.
FINDING NEW PATHS Reconciliation is a worthwhile path; it is the one Jesus calls us to take. It isn’t an easy one. Thousands of First Nations people have suffered atrocities over several generations – the effects of which are still having a devastating impact on families and communities. It would be easy to stay angry – to remain in a place of justifiable, even righteous, rage. But many First Nations people are choosing to forgive. This April, at Lorne Park Baptist Church in Mississauga, CBOQ, CBM and the Convention of Atlantic Baptists Canada hosted New Paths, a conference dedicated to helping our Canadian Baptist community understand more about how to connect with our First Nations neighbours. Through sharing stories, music, culture and faith, attendees had the chance to learn about the difficult history and ongoing impact
of the residential schools, but also about how we can learn about the person of Jesus and living faith from First Nations people and culture. Whether through an illuminating history lesson on the shocking legacy of stolen children and systemic racism told by Regional Chief Stan Beardy, or the music and prayer of Cheryl Bear, there is so much we can learn from our First Nations family. Some partnerships have already begun, with a team from Uxbridge Baptist Church heading to Weagamow to lead a hockey camp for kids. Our CBOQ Compassion Experience team is heading to a First Nations community in western Ontario this summer. The opportunities to reset the relationship are exciting, indeed! The road to reconciliation is steep and difficult, but it also has the footprints of our prodigal God on it, who calls us into the far country to extend his love in his name.
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