November 2, 2015
Over a year has passed since I moved to Calgary, much has taken place, and I continue to marvel at God’s steadfast love throughout. Thank you to each of you for your interest, care, support, prayers and love, expressed in so many ways, even when I am slow to communicate. Read on for a brief picture of what’s happened since May. . .
My first summer was packed full of firsts: experiencing the Calgary Stampede, undertaking an extended road trip in my car, collecting oysters at low tide off of beautiful Denman Island, putting up fence posts with one of my Olds students during a 3-day immersion on her family farm (what an Clubs Expo for 1st Years privilege to learn about that culture!), and an Olds Leaders’ team retreat, among other things. The preparations and activities for our first Fall season of our International Friendship Group at the University of Calgary have been intense and also really rewarding as we learn to see how God is working and partner with Him. Unity among believers on campus is also growing. And this year the Lord has gifted our team with two homes out of which to offer hospitality, and new relationships to invest in.
So now, having just passed our first Thanksgiving, my teammate Nicole and I are catching our breath and taking stock. We continue to experience a tremendous amount of favour from the university, and are planning to start a “Tea and Table Talk” time in one of the residence lobbies next week to reach out to International Students looking for conversation, friendship or just some good snacks. We are currently engaged in investigative bible studies with a few seekers, as well as having a weekly bible study for believers who are hungry to know God. Our community dinner, prayer and worship time is held in Nicole’s home, which is walking distance from the University, and this seems to be meeting a need for those who can attend. Friday nights will typically find us preparing a meal and some activity for Olds Leaders’ Team students in my apartment. We long for our students to be called into deeper relationship with one another and to commit to being part of our community, discipled together by Jesus and loving one another, believers and non-believers, in the name of Christ.
The group at Olds College is growing in many ways. November 6-8 I will be joining our leadership team in hosting a Fall retreat on the theme of REST. A couple of long-time volunteers will be helping me lead the sessions, and we are excited for the involvement of new students . We are asking for God to call students to deep rest in Christ, and to offer this rest to others in the world.
Urbana 2015 missions conference will soon be upon us, and we hope to be able to send several International Students from Calgary. This is a rich opportunity for students to be challenged with the call to live out their lives fully for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom, no matter where He leads them. Both Nicole and I are leading small groups at the Canadian Student Leadership Track, where students will be invited to apply the teaching more immediately to mission on campus. The cost from Alberta can be close to $2000, which as you may imagine can be quite prohibitive for students, so if you are interested in helping students get there through contributing to our scholarship fund, you can contact me directly, or go to www.ivcf.ca and indicate you are donating to Urbana Scholarships—Calgary—83C.
God has faithfully provided for me in so many ways over this past year. . . . I am so grateful for your prayers and to so many of you who continue to financially support my ministry now in Alberta. As I look ahead, though, I do need an additional $900/month to meet my budget for the coming year. Your prayers for this would be much appreciated. If you wish to give a gift, you can do so by going to www. ivcf.ca and designating your gift for me, or by calling IVCF at 1-800- 668-9766.
May you know the abiding presence of the One who calls us to be bold and courageous as we live out his calling in our lives, Sara
It is hard to believe that I have been in Calgary for over 9 months. . . The time here so far has been unexpectedly full and also so very rich. I am so sorry I have neglected to write. And so I have finally decided to just write you even though briefly, to try to fill in the gaps and let you know what is to come.
The fall was a season of transition, of learning about this new city and the University of Calgary, the other ministries that are already working here and the people who are co-labourers in Christ around international students on our campus. It was such a gift to have these few months with my staff colleagues Nicole and Jamie(now on maternity leave) and to consider the ways that God is already at work and where and how we might begin to love and serve international students here, which of course will be our ongoing work as well! It was a season of observing, of watching, of learning, of praying and of dreaming together. Truly God blessed us with this time taken for transition, listening, and preparation. Personally, I have felt the generosity of God in so many ways: provision of car, excellent housing and furnishings, leading me to a very warm and welcoming church community (St. James’ Anglican), the seeds of new friendships here, and in the growing rapport with colleagues and with the broader Inter-Varsity community here, among many other things.
Starting in January, we began to gather regularly with a few international students, some with whom we had gathered in the fall, others new, and many dinners, games, movie nights and coffees or lunches with students have ensued. It has been such a blessing to have both Canadians and internationals in the mix, and to see the diversity of cultures and personalities of the students that are enjoying being together, and with whom we have also started to have conversations about belief and the Christian faith. In addition, we were praying for some Christian students to join us for bible studies in the gospel of Luke, and first one, then a second, and in the end five students, Canadians and internationals, were joining us by the end of the semester. Several of the Christian students have also started joining us for the social activities we have held on Friday nights, and this has been a great encouragement to us as we long to disciple Christian students who will embody the vision of reaching out to others with the love, friendship, hospitality and hope of Christ.
Two of those Christians, Japanese students, are joining us this week at our annual 6-day gospel of Mark manuscript bible study camp (May 1-7). I also have 3 students from Olds College (where I work part-time) who attended our other Mark camp, April 26-May 2, and I am really thrilled that two of them will be leaders in the group at Olds next year, so able to pass on some of what they have learned and experienced to others. We are praying that the seeds of God’s word would go deep in all of their hearts and bear much fruit, that students would understand Christ’s power and his deep compassion in their own lives.
Looking forward, the summer term will include a variety of things. May 9-19 a colleague and I will be in Israel, attending the annual joint conference of our sister IFES movement there, meeting with both Israeli and Palestinian staff workers and students, and looking ahead to a possible Global Partnership again next year. June 6-20 I will be in Ontario, attending some training for staff supervisors, and meeting with various friends, churches and partners in both London and Toronto.
The rest of May and June will primarily be a time to work on building connections in Alberta, together with my staff partner Nicole, and continuing in relationship with the students we know that remain here over the summer. And with warm weather we look forward to the possibility of some spontaneous road trips, picnics and walks at places around the city with students. Finally, after some vacation time in July, Nicole and I will begin planning and preparing for the new school year, and welcoming new international students into our mix. I also will be working with the leadership team at Olds College to vision and plan for the year, and have the opportunity to go and experience one of my student’s farm in Northern Alberta, which I am so excited about!
It has been a rich year of learning about myself, about my team, about Alberta and about leading in this new context. It has also been a time of some struggle, confusion and often fear. In the midst of that, I have experienced the Father’s faithful love and his sometimes gentle, sometimes firm reminders that it is he that is God, and not I, and that this is his work. I am so profoundly grateful that he does not give up on us in the midst of our fear and our failure to understand, that, like in the gospel of Mark, he keeps revealing his power and his compassion to me.
Many thanks for following me through this part of the journey, and for your support as I lead and love staff, international students and Canadian students here in Alberta in the name of Christ Jesus.