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Eric and Valerie both grew up in loving, Christian homes and have similar stories of how they came to faith in Christ at a young age, and developed a deeper understanding of their faith while in high school.
They met while studying at the University of Waterloo and being involved as student leaders in a campus ministry called Power to Change. They were both impacted deeply through their involvement and grew in the areas of evangelism and discipleship. For Eric specifically, seeing the truth of God's Word changing student's lives gave him a deep desire to become a pastor.
Eric and Valerie write, “God has given us both a heart for missions and people from different parts of the world.” Eric spent three months in Ethiopia teaching Sudanese refugees about the Bible. and Valerie spent seven months volunteering at a pregnancy crisis clinic and hospital in Bolivia. “We saw these mission trips as very formative in our lives, teaching us about our global church family and what cross cultural ministry looks like.”
In the middle of Valerie's two-year nursing program at University of Toronto, Eric and Valerie were married. Eric was working on staff with Power to Change first at the University of Waterloo, then at York University. Through their involvement at Grace Toronto Church, God taught them about the importance of living in community with other believers and being immersed in the life of a Gospel-centered evangelical church.
A year into their marriage, the Nielsens moved to Chicago for Eric to work on his Masters of Divinity at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Although uncertain as to how Valerie would find work in the States, God provided abundantly. Following exams, paperwork, and many phone calls, Valerie found a job at a new pediatric clinic in downtown Chicago. They became members at Holy Trinity Church and soon after moved into a multicultural neighbourhood in the city where they lived as part of a missional community with others from their church.
“We are so thankful for all the excellent theological teaching and mentoring we have received during our time in Chicago. On top of that, we have seen God's work through His body and have been faced with many challenges and joys in our community. We had our first son, Zachary, while in Chicago and it has been a wonderful and challenging transition to parenthood.” God continues to remind Eric and Valerie that for the Gospel to have impact through them in the city, it needs to first have impact in their own hearts and in their home.
Their exposure to the spiritual reality in Quebec began during Eric and Valerie’s involvement with Power to Change. They learned, through others' testimonies, of how under-reached Quebec was for the Gospel. However, their sense of call began in March 2014 when Eric and Valerie visited Montreal and saw firsthand the tremendous spiritual need. God began to stir in their hearts an inescapable hunger for the Gospel to be proclaimed in Quebec through the planting of new, Gospel-centered churches. In July 2014, they participated in a church planting assessment in Atlanta which helped to clarify their calling and encourage them regarding their gifts.
During a visit to Quebec, God gave Eric a view of the people through “new creation eyes” with an increasing desire to see Quebecers reconciled to God through Jesus (2 Cor. 5: 16-20). In learning directly from Quebecers about the unique history, language, and barriers to the Gospel in Quebec, God gave both Eric and Valerie a stronger call to making disciples in Quebec.
While the prospect of crossing another culture for the sake of the Gospel has invoked both excitement and fear for them, God has graciously provided experiences and people along the way to help clarify His leading. They are looking forward to connecting with many churches and individuals in the Fellowship.