Paul writes to the Roman Christians that he longs to see them “so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11-12). As Tony and I were preparing for our trip to Canada, this was the verse that the Holy Spirit kept bringing to my mind. I knew that as we reconnected with dear friends who served with us years ago and also met new friends who’ve joined the church in recent years, we would be as blessed by the experience as those we came to encourage by our presence. And this has proved true already!
Our first Sunday in the Ottawa area was wonderfully refreshing. Tony preached at Chapel Ridge, the church we founded over 25 years ago. (Ken Roth, the senior pastor, was on vacation.) The text he preached from was 1 Peter 4. You can see the video of the message at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/16496964… Following the service, Irene and Henk Wolthaus, missionaries serving with OM who are now living in this area, invited us to their house for lunch. We were joined by Sarah Jackson and a lady from Australia named Karen. The potluck they put together was a feast. But even better than the food was the fellowship we enjoyed around the table, sharing our spiritual journeys and exalting the Lord Jesus.
The mutual edification didn’t end there, either. That evening we enjoyed another wonderful meal at the Peterkins’ house, where we got reacquainted with Mark and Tracy’s three growing children, Stephen, Ben, and Megan. Mark and Tracy are almost as close as our own children, so we had a delightful time catching up with each other’s lives over the past few years. Just before we left, they all (including the kids) anointed Tony with oil and prayed for his sore shoulder, the shoulder that has been bothering him for months. He woke up the next day reporting that he had slept better with less pain than he had in a very long time! God had answered our prayers offered in sincere concern for a brother in Christ. It was a beautiful example of how He plans to use our time in Ottawa to build up His body, both physically and spiritually.
Sunday was just the beginning of a wonderful week of Christian fellowship, prayer, and spiritual encouragement. On Monday afternoon and evening we visited our dear friends the Camerons. Doreen prepared a delicious meal that we enjoyed as we reminisced about shared experiences, common friendships, personal challenges, and God’s faithfulness to all of us. We cried together, laughed together, and prayed for one another around the table. Does it get any better than this? It’s a little taste of heaven I’m sure.
The following day (Tuesday) we were able to attend an excellent Bible study hosted by the Gallaghers and taught by Ralph Kellett. It was another evening of bearing one another’s burdens and sharing concerns through prayer as well as being built up by studying the Scriptures. Tony and I can relate to what John wrote in his third epistle… “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (v. 4). To see our “spiritual children” going on with the Lord, faithfully serving Him and helping others in their faith walk, is such a joy. These are the things that you can’t know unless you take the time to revisit places where you have served before.
There is another kind of joy in breaking new ground and meeting new people, seeking to introduce them to the Savior. This kind of ministry is often what Tony and I are involved in overseas. But I have also enjoyed ministering to Christians who are established in their faith and just need to be encouraged to “keep on keeping on” – to continue to fight the good fight in the midst of tremendous discouragement at times. As we minister to them, we are encouraged as well. It’s truly a win/win situation! Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity to see your love in action.