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Church with Diversity and Contrast

I love the variety, the unexpected and the huge diversity that is my church. Perhaps I should describe the basic setting first. We meet in an older-than-a-century four-story brick refurbished tractor factory built in what was, at the time, the perfect location, right beside the railyard. Today this neighbourhood is the saddest, neediest, most violent place in the city. The old brick, massive timbers and polished but distressed oak floors inside remind us that this is no ordinary church.

Our pastor said that we are at the intersection of the ordinary and the kingdom of God, which couldn’t be truer. In our midst are suburbanites who move in the finance, medical and education worlds, Others are artists, musicians, writers. Some are homeless, some living in booze-can hotels and some in apartments and houses that have seen better days. We have the well-dressed and the unwashed, those with poise and those who hide in corners, never looking anyone in the face. Prostitutes and drug addicts mix with the minivan crowd and together we make what may be the oddest but very warm community.

This week was a good example. In the midst of our worship time, two girls in black, each with a multi-coloured shawl around her hips, did a beautiful interpretive contemporary dance of worship to a song that included the words, “I will not be moved, I will not be shaken.”

A little boy about five arrived at church with a costume of gem-studded gold crown and cape.

The pastor opened the microphone to those who had announcements to make because he couldn’t remember all who had asked him to do it. We heard about the fund-raising banquet for Living Bible Explorers, an inner-city ministry to children with the least promising futures; the tree-cutting bee at the church-owned farm (bring your chainsaw, please); and a neighbourhood man in scruffy clothes talked about how God used gamma-ray surgery to remove a large growth from the back of his head. We were told about the evening before when all the Himalayan people in Winnipeg—Buddhist, Hindu and Christian—gathered together in our building and we listened as one very articulate young man shared his recent experiences on a leper colony near Bangalore, India—a story of how lonely is the leper’s existence but also of miracles performed by God.

When all the preamble was done, the Nepalese pastor visiting from our sister church in Kathmandu stood up to exhort us to living a godly life. That deserves its own post, which I will hopefully share soon.

I love this church. I love the diversity and contrast. I love the way I am challenged to step out of my “box” and see life from different perspectives. I love the ministry to our needy neighbourhood and to the needy on the other side of the world (e.g. water is currently available in Kathmandu for only four hours a day—at unpredictable times). God is good.

Comments

Abby said…
Hey Debbie! This post is wonderful... I wish my church were more like that. We're in the darker side of town, and we've attracted sketchy people.... there's a guy who stalks me all the time, and there's this other guy who was trying to get out of his druggie situation... however one of the pastors drove him away. I felt really awful about that.
That is sad. I think it happens all too often.

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About the Author

DEBBIE HAUGHLAND CHAN
WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA

I'm married (35 years in December 2008) with four grown sons. I love my city (Winnipeg) and my country (Canada) and promote them both to whoever will listen. God (through Jesus Christ) is the biggest part of my life. I am learning to let him take control of all areas--though I do better at this some times more than others.

I have written a book that's recently been published about part of my journey with God. In it I tell how God confronted me with the same-sex attraction issues I've struggled with all my adult life and how he led me through them to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with him. God is amazing—his forgiveness, his love, his movement in our lives when we allow him and so much more. I suspect God will never run out of things to teach me or ways to make me grow and that’s a good thing (though often very painful).

I suppose I can say that what gives me the greatest pleasure in life is telling others about…

Memories of Mikael Vincent Tien Doe Chan

Reviews of Searching for Love

If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. You may e-mail me at debbiehaughland@gmail.com or post them in the comments section below.

A Real Testimony
I finished your book. A real testimony to what God does for us.
Leona March 3, 2009
I Had Tears Coming

I sat down to read it about a week later and ended up finishing it the same night. At first I admit I was a little bored and thought that the whole book was about a battle all in your mind, but as I continued reading this creeping thought came over me of a different...struggle in my own life, that I would never in my right mind have shared with anyone accept maybe God. I've mentioned your book to a few people because it stirs up age-old controversies that I have myself argued and wondered about, namely about whether or not homosexuality can be cured or just managed like alcoholism--you just have to stay away from temptation. I noticed at the end of your book that your struggle story …