President's Blog

God seemed to be further and further away and even absent

I hope you always sense your church is a safe place to do life with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, not everyone believes this about the Church. They find the Church unsafe. Not welcoming. Not loving. A bit institutional.

I find it interesting that some of our brand new church facilities look more like warehouses than church buildings. Whereas, our brand new homes are seeking to become more like chapels. An oasis away from the ravages of daily life. Architects have replaced our dining rooms with a “great room” with awe-inspiring “cathedral” ceilings. My dad even put a large beautiful stained glass window in his home. Our houses are becoming our chapels. A place of peace and refreshment from the weary dryness of life.

One group of noble “peace agents” within our Fellowship are our chaplains. They are an extension of our local church ministry in areas where our churches do not often penetrate. Our Fellowship chaplains provide the “ministry of presence” in places where people are searching for peace. They provide safety while demonstrating the love of Christ in airports, hospitals, truck stops, police cruisers, prison cells, and with our armed services. We have 128 Fellowship chaplains, but I continue to hear in my travels, of dozens of others (often pastors) who are recognized chaplains in nursing homes, hospitals, police departments, and emergency services.

News from our Fellowship Chaplains

Mike Garabedian – volunteer senior chaplain at Toronto Pearson International Airport

I can’t begin to describe the feeling I’ve experienced these past four months at the helm of Toronto Pearson’s Aviation Interfaith Ministry (AIM). The word “exhilarating” would not be an understatement! Of course, we’ve had to navigate quite a few COVID-19-related challenges that are unique to an international airport setting, but there’s just so much goodness to praise the Lord about that I’d rather focus our attention on those highlights with you instead! 

Two Praise Items

  1. Contacts — Since December 16, we’ve been blessed to make over 90 new contacts, receive 120 prayer requests, conduct over 40 counseling sessions, 50 worship services, and 80 Bible meditations with both employees and passengers of the airport community. We also counted close to 200 devotionals and 400 topical booklets leave the chapel in that same time span, besides a handful of Bibles and other related literature.
  2. Volunteers — Isn’t it just like the Lord to open doors we can’t open and orchestrate circumstances that are beyond our control? In less than four months, we’ve been blessed beyond words to recruit two strong volunteers and we are in talks with a third candidate to join our team and assist us with the work in both terminals.

Two Prayer Items:

  1. Website — Keep us in your prayers as we work to develop a website for this ministry in order to better connect with both travelers and airport employees in this digital age — to reach many who currently struggle to stay connected with us due to limitations on gatherings and varied work shifts in a 24/7 environment.
  2. Relations — Pray also that the Lord will continue to strengthen our relations with both the airport authorities and our colleagues in an inter-faith setting.

Rob Schweyer – military chaplain currently on deployment in Eastern Europe

COVID-19 cases growing exponentially among the general population and Russia building up forces along the border of this Eastern European country.

It’s one thing to read this in news headlines but altogether something else when one is deployed with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in this situation. My goal is to earn the trust of our soldiers by being present with them whatever the circumstances might be. I am humbled that I am able to participate in ministry in this unique way. 

Our deployment is primarily a training mission to help train the security forces of our host nation. Our soldiers are well-equipped to lead the training and demonstrate best practices to help prepare the host nation to maintain their independence. 

As the chaplain, I have freedom to travel to the various training centres to offer support and encouragement to our members as they are away from home for this deployment. I also have unique opportunities to meet with the military chaplains of this host nation and build relationships and discover community outreach opportunities.

The Dark Side of COVID-19 by Serge Caron – volunteer chaplain in Granby, QC

Worry, fear, darkness, guilt, deliverance; this is the COVID-19 sequence that my wife and I experienced.

Worry: In early November 2020, some muscle pain and unusual fatigue led me to be tested for COVID-19. Surprise! Despite my efforts to avoid contact, the test result was positive, but no further harm was done. Later, a member of my Bible reading group, and then my wife Mona, and three other people my wife had contact with, all tested positive as well.  Only one of us, our friend Daniel, needed to be hospitalized. Nevertheless, we thanked God for limiting the spread to only this small group.

Fear: In the days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, my wife and I became very tired, with fever and severe headaches.  A week later, we were both bedridden for 20 hours a day and could hardly move without experiencing great difficulty in breathing.  Fear took hold of us.

Darkness: Two weeks passed without any improvement. God seemed to be further and further away and even absent despite the prayers and support of church members. Our spirits tipped to the dark side without the sense of God’s Presence.

Guilt: We learned that our friend, Daniel, had passed away from the disease. I now struggle with the feeling of guilt.

Deliverance: Finally, God gave us hope through the support of our doctor and a nurse. After a few more weeks of rehabilitation we began to regain our strength.  To Him be the glory.

What COVID-19 Didn’t Do To Me by Maria Diaz – employee community chaplain in Toronto, ON

Even though I was the first one from our church to contract COVID-19, the virus didn’t take away my joy to celebrate in my heart and mind, Jesus’ birth at Christmas during my quarantine.

COVID-19 could not create anxiety or fear in my heart because God’s people were constantly praying to the Lord for my recovery. I believe He answered their request and the Lord kept me alert and resting in my armchair. On one occasion, at 2:00 a.m., I experienced a sudden, violent, non-stop coughing episode. I cried to the Lord for His help, and I did not only experience His presence, but the cough stopped instantly, and I didn’t cough again! COVID-19 could not stop God’s people and my non-believing neighbours from providing me with meals, constant care, and genuine concern. His love was so evident during this critical time; I am so grateful to Him. And now, are the doors open to witness to my non-believing neighbours? Yes! I thank the Lord for His grace and care during this COVID-19 experience. To Him be the glory! (Isaiah 35:10; 40:31)

Thank you for praying for our Fellowship Chaplains serving across Canada in over 15 different venues. Their ministry of presence is demonstrating Christ’s love to many far from God. They need our prayers.