Thursday, February 4, 2010

Global Impact Missions Conference - St. Pete, FL

Twenty three hours of driving over 2 1/2 days brought us safely to Florida. But we were refreshed a bit on the way. Our children love swimming, and the Lord helped us find a hotel with both an indoor pool, and reasonable rates. So, after checkout in the morning we took time for a nice swim. The icing on the cake for Mom and Dad was the Jacuzzi, which felt so wonderful on travel weary bones and muscles. Tues. evening we arrived in time for a very warm welcome and a good Supper at the home of our long time friends and “adopted family,” Bruce and Karyl Kaufmann, and, of course, a good night’s sleep.

Coming back to Cornerstone Community Church in St. Petersburg, Florida has been a highlight for us. Steffi was very involved there when she first came to Florida. Later, during her seminary years, she did an internship there. And during Dean’s four years in Florida there was a lot of interaction with both teens and adults from Cornerstone through his involvement with various events and ministries. So Cornerstone feels like home.

The conference started early Wed. morning with Breakfast with the “Summer Club,” a ministry to seniors. Each of the missionaries had a chance to share briefly with this group with whom we would become much better acquainted throughout the conference. We have really come to appreciate the supportiveness of Christian seniors (in all of our churches) for the cause of Christ through missions. They are great people with hearts of gold and generous spirits. We also heard firsthand from Pastor Rex Bullock about his visit with missionaries Jack Munos and Katie Zook, who were pulled from the rubble of a building in Haiti and medivaced out, first to Guantanamo Bay, and then to Florida. They are recuperating well, and are both out of ICU now. But Jack lost his wife, Jeanne, in the earthquake, and two other short term missionaries, Merle West and Gene Dufour, were fatally trapped in the rubble, as well. The fact that Jack and Jeanne Munos were scheduled to be with us at the missions conference was an ever present and sober reminder of the tremendous toll this earthquake has taken, and frequent prayers went up for the missionaries and their families, our Haitian brothers and sisters, and their country.

Thursday’s main event was a “Heartside Chat” with the missionaries going to different homes and speaking to smaller groups. We enjoyed a good meal and great conversation with new friends at the Kaufmann home. Friday we were hosted at the church for a “Missionary Appreciation Luncheon,” and back again in the evening for a youth service. Saturday was a rather full day. Dean had the privilege of speaking to the Men’s Breakfast, and several of the men said they really appreciated what he shared, and were encouraged to pursue the dreams God has placed in their hearts. Also, a homeless man came in while we were having breakfast, enjoyed a meal, and stayed for the devotional. He asked for prayer to overcome alcoholism. Pray for J.D.

Later that morning and afternoon, each missionary or missionary couple were given time to share what God has been doing through their ministries, and in the evening we were treated to several songs by the choir from our Haitian church in Immokalee, FL. Then their choir director, who is a medical assistant, shared pictures and stories from his trip to Haiti shortly after the earthquake. He was an angel of mercy to several badly injured people. And the offering that evening went to help the Immokolee church with several projects in Haiti.

Sunday morning all of us participated in both services, and had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to a much larger audience. Between services we answered “Questions you’ve always wanted to ask a missionary.” We also enjoyed an inspiring and challenging message from Dr. Art Brown, the director of Free Methodist World Missions in the U.S. Another highlight for us was when award winning puppeteer Pam Lorenzo brought her puppets out of retirement to do a very creative rendition of “Please Don’t Send Me to Africa.” Pam is always a creative genius. But what made it more special for us was that Steffi worked with Pam and her puppeteers 19 years ago. It was working with the puppets, Sunday School, and Bible Quizzing programs in St. Pete that inspired Steffi to take such a keen interest in working with children and teens in Christian education.

Throughout the conference we thoroughly enjoyed making new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and sharing our mutual love for the Lord. We want to thank Cornerstone, its staff, and especially Pastor Lee Crist for organizing such a wonderful event.


Saturday found us on the road to Florida by way of Whitby, ON, but not until we returned home to grab our “twinrix” serum. Having had the first inoculation against Hepatitis A and B, we needed to have the serum with us on our trip in order to have the second shot about three weeks after the first one. Twenty minutes down the road toward Whitby we realized that in our haste to get to the International Banquet on time (at which I was to speak) we had left the serum in the refrigerator! Talk about stress! We had to go back. After a quick call to let them know we’d be late, we were on the road once again. All’s well that ends well, however. We made good time, and the banquet was a little late getting started. We arrived in time to get in line for some very delicious food, and had the privilege of sharing our story with a group of very interested and gracious friends. That evening we enjoyed the very generous hospitality of our friends, Myron and Louise Cooper and their daughter Pam. Sunday morning I was greatly privileged to have the honour of preaching the final message in the annual Faith Promise Ministries series, during which the good people at the Whitby Free Methodist Church commit themselves to honour the Lord by supporting various ministries throughout the year. They prayerfully promise that as God supplies the ability they will give a certain amount over and above their regular giving to the missionaries and ministries which their church supports beyond itself. We were greatly honoured to be included among that group of ministries, and wish to thank the entire church, the Faith Promise Ministries Committee, and Grant Sigsworth, who did much to connect us to the committee and to the church. After a very enjoyable meal with the Sigsworths and Pastors Vic and Joan Stonehouse in their home, we started our trek to Florida to participate in the Global Impact Missions Conference at Cornerstone Community Church in St. Petersburg.

All of the churches we’ve visited were not only very welcoming, but also very generous, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their friendship, for their generosity, and for their prayers. It has been a great blessing to experience the bonds of love and fellowship that we have between brothers and sisters in Christ. And we thank the Lord for the help He has given me to preach, and for the ways that the Spirit has been moving in the hearts of His people.

Cub Cars and I.D. Cards

Back home at Charlemont we had a busy week ahead of us, getting ready to be away for a month. But Wednesday night was a special night on which Christopher and Jonathan finished their Cub Cars in preparation for the Annual Cub Car Rally. Since Jonathan isn’t quite old enough for Cubs, he couldn’t enter his car. And Christopher had to leave his car with his friend, Ben Plank, because we wouldn’t be able to attend the Rally. We heard later that Christopher’s car placed fourth out of 70 cars, and that Ben had a blast being his proxy. Thanks Ben!
The next day we had to drive to Windsor to pick up Steffi’s “Permanent Resident Card.” This was a bit harrowing, since we needed it to travel to Florida. Steffi had applied for her new card back in October, but the government is months behind on getting them issued. The MP’s office helped us out by asking the office in Nova Scotia rush it to Windsor. But, we needed to pick it up in person. The only catch was that the office is only open on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and Friday is the only day you can pick up your card, unless it is urgent. Well, with a major trip scheduled for Saturday, we felt it was urgent for us to go on Thursday. So, we drove all the way to Windsor to find a rather tense waiting room. People ahead of us were running into roadblocks. When it was Steffi’s turn the lady in the booth said, “This isn’t urgent, I can’t give it to you today.” Steffi explained that she had applied months ago and didn’t think it would become urgent, but that the matter was now urgent. That didn’t seem to matter. Apparently they really go by the book, and the rules said we had to come on Friday. But when Steffi said that the MP’s office had rushed it to Windsor, that changed everything. The lady said “let me check on it.” She discovered that even though the computer file was not marked urgent, the envelope said “urgent,” and she gave Steffi her new card with a smile. As for us, we “went on our way rejoicing” that yet another detail had fallen into place, and thankful for both the Lord’s help, and that of the MP’s office.


On our way home from Smiths Falls we had an appointment at the Missionary Health Institute in Toronto for checkups and immunizations. So we enjoyed an overnight visit with our good friends, the Sullivans, in Bowmanville, and then continued to Toronto. We were very impressed with the staff at MHI, and their ministry to missionaries. They make it their business to be aware of the various health concerns and risks associated with travel to various parts of the world, and help missionaries be prepared both to go, and to come back. (Believe it or not, “re-entry” can sometimes be very difficult). Well, between the five of us, we received about 17 shots, plus they took blood samples from Mom and Dad. The shots weren’t very pleasant. The boys were very brave, but Sarah cried bitterly, and informed us that she was never going to the doctor again. To brighten the whole experience and distract the children from their sore arms, we took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese for pizza and some fun. That was a big hit. We’ve been asked if we could go back to Chuck E. Cheese sometime, but no one seems eager to go back to the doctor. We’ll have to, though, as there are more shots required. The next day was one of the grumpiest days we’ve ever had at our house. Everyone was feeling tired and out of sorts from the shots. But, we all survived, and we’re praising God for good medical care and for immunizations that will protect us from potentially deadly diseases.

Back on the Trail Again

January has been a very full and exciting month in so many ways. We’ve been to some great churches, and connected with so many wonderful people. We wrote in the last post about kicking off the year at Zion. (It was really nice to only have a fifteen minute drive to church). Our next weekend took us to the wonderful people and city of Belleville. Pastor Rodney and Heather Peterson were great hosts, and our children really enjoyed their hospitality (it was obvious they like kids). We also were privileged to reconnect with friends from Wesley Acres, and met some wonderful new friends. Their heart for the Lord was inspiring and encouraging, and we enjoyed a good visit over lunch after the service. The highlight of the trip for the kids was our sledding trips at the hill by the bay in Belleville. They’ve been missing snow and sledding, and the way things are looking, it may have been our only chance this winter!

The next weekend found us travelling all the way to Smith’s Falls, Ontario. It felt odd to be within 2 ¾ hours of Deep River and not “drop in.” But with a major trip looming just one week away, we didn’t have the time. On Sat. night we enjoyed meeting some new friends at the Volunteer Appreciation Banquet the church organized to honour their volunteers. And that evening Children’s Pastor Emily Arbo gave our children a royal welcome with a basket full of toys, sticker books, and snacks, etc. Sunday morning we were blessed by the worship, and joined the congregation in heartfelt prayer for Haiti’s earthquake victims, and for Pastor Angel Valentin, who was in the hospital awaiting surgery for two stents. (He’s recovering nicely). Dean particularly enjoyed meeting people who are close friends of his Uncle Floyd and Aunt Alice Hicks, who lived in Smith’s Falls for many years and are fondly remembered for their friendship, Christian spirit, and untiring efforts to serve the Lord and their church. It was a pleasure to minister to such a friendly and responsive group of believers. And after preaching two services, it was our pleasure to enjoy Chinese Buffet with Associate Pastor Randy Williams and his wife Leah.