“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1 (NIV).
I am thankful for how Jesus leads us in a journey of learning to trust Him more through whatever obstacles we face. I am humbly grateful for how Jesus has led and provided for Hope Ministries over this past year.
It is a new season for us as a team and it has been a privilege for me to get to know Pastor Ken and Pam better as we serve together as a Hope Ministries staff team and to have Pastor Shawn’s supervision and counsel.
As we look back on the past year, I want to start by highlighting Hope Groups. Hope Groups are support group environments that delve into some of the tough things or deep valleys of life that people may walk through. As support groups, they are deemed “essential” in this season with AHS guidelines and have continued to meet in person. We are thankful.
GriefShare is one such group and it is designed for people who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Derek and Lynne have co-facilitated two 13-week seasons of this group since mid-October. They nurtured an environment where it is safe to share as they led the group through conversations in relation to the Christ-centred video content each week. I had the privilege of sitting in on the group a couple of times. It felt like holy ground as people shared their stories, their questions, and heartache. There were tears, laughter, and people simply being real as they listened to one another and prayed for one another.
I appreciate how Derek oversees this ministry. I appreciate his heart for Jesus, his heart for people, and his sense of humour. The plan is for this group to resume again in late summer or early fall with Derek and Hettie co-facilitating the group.
DivorceCare is also a 13-week group that began meeting in mid-January and wrapped up its first session at the end of April. Back in the summer and fall, we were praying for God to raise up facilitators for this Hope Group. The Lord had put this ministry on Corey’s heart and he was excited to see it begin here at CrossRoads. Then the Lord led Lori-Anne to join the team. Finally, He added Art and the four of us talked, prayed, and planned for the start of the group. These conversations and times of prayer were invaluable in preparing for the group to begin early in the new year. I had the chance to observe each of these leaders share from their own stories of walking through the pain of divorce and come alongside others in Jesus’ name. Corey and Lori-Anne co-facilitated an environment where people felt safe to share vulnerably about where they were at. The Lord has also raised up Ross and LeeAnne as group facilitators who are now hosting the second session of DivorceCare that began in early May.
Lori-Anne shares about her experience with this vital ministry:
On December 25, 2020, my children's and my world was forever altered. Completely shocked and devastated by the proclamation I frantically searched for support and guidance. By the grace of God, I happened upon the DivorceCare program at CrossRoads. The timing was absolutely perfect. God's timing. The thirteen week program came at the most vulnerable, terrifying time in my life. With no family in the province and the dreaded Covid restrictions I could not have felt more overwhelmed and isolated. DivorceCare allowed me the opportunity to face difficult emotions. The videos and workbooks provided coping mechanisms and strategies to help overcome obstacles and future challenges. Truthfully, it was the moral support, prayers and encouragement of the individuals who led and attended the meetings that ultimately made the course. One little angel God planted just for me: this person was such a beautiful source of wisdom, compassion and God's love for me. I will forever be grateful. Quick texts, emails and even one little comment would lighten my load and raise my spirits. In my opinion. the DivorceCare program facilitates the opportunity to share a horrendous journey with others who are currently walking or have walked the long, difficult path. Suddenly, the burden becomes lighter.
TOOLS FOR A LIVING HOPE
This past fall, we also began working toward a Hope Group in relation to mental health needs, specifically in the area of anxiety. Pastor Shawn introduced me to Don Albers and I have learned much from Don as we prepared together for this group. Don helped to facilitate wall-mapping conversations as we brainstormed ideas and then worked towards the goal of launching the group at the beginning of April: The Soul Outfitter Series: Mental Health Hope Group – Tools for a Living Hope. Don took the lead on forming the content. The group’s Scripture focus was on the book of Ephesians. We explored practical tools related to awareness of what we’re thinking and feeling and bringing all of that to Jesus to hear His words of truth. Listening prayer exercises and reflecting on songs of worship rounded out the key parts of the group’s content. I was impacted by hearing members of the group share their own stories and praying together. The group has run for 8 weeks in April and May and it will wrap up on June 1st. Lord willing, we hope to have this group run again in the fall.
Don shares from his experiences from this past Soul Outfitter Session:
I (Don) enjoyed working with Dave as we ventured together. I was blessed by the courage of each participant as they reached out to engage. Seeking help when facing a mental health challenge is difficult. Our emotions, our thoughts, our relationships and even our physical body are affected when our mental health is in crisis. Every person suffering from a mental health condition has a valuable and often painful story of factors affecting their mental health. Some face difficult life experiences that have overwhelmed them. Others experience biological factors affecting their brain chemistry. Others have been through trauma or abuse. An example of finding new hope was shared by one participant: She experienced a complete shift in her perspective as she explored with Jesus the Parable of the fig tree that was not bearing fruit. Peace came over her as she understood Jesus' willingness to protect her and help her. Luke 13:6-9.
The Mental Health Hope group aims to be one positive factor offering hope to people who want to engage their faith in God as they seek help. The reality is complex for all involved. We ask for your prayers as we discover the best ways to minister Jesus’ love, hope and power to people experiencing mental health needs.
I appreciate Pastor Ken’s leadership of the prayer team. Since this past fall, it has been a privilege for me to step into this role of giving pastoral leadership to the prayer team. There is tremendous commitment and dedication by the prayer team as they pray for people and remember the prayer requests that are shared with us online through the CrossRoads website.
This dedication is evident on the prayer team chat via the WhatsApp messaging platform. Here, my teammate Pam shares prayer requests that come to us largely via submitting online through the website. From there, prayer team members respond in the group chat that they will be praying for that request. Sometimes, it is a shorter note and other times it is a longer prayer. Please know that these godly men and women are praying in every season behind the scenes.
Again, with AHS updates and guidelines, it has been an interesting year in the area of being able to pray for people in-person. I am thankful for the creativity this past fall in setting aside the NW corner of the foyer for prayer team members to meet and pray with people after the services. Since then, following the services, prayer team has been in the Sanctuary praying for people.
Dianne Buchholz serves with prayer team and here is a story that she shared from this past year:
I prayed for a man as he passed me at the front of the church. He could not lift his arm because his shoulder was wrecked. As I casually prayed for Jesus to meet him and restore him, he was being hit by some kind of power. Not knowing what to do, I asked him if he could lift his arm to which he replied 'Lady, I told you that …' as he lifted his arm high!!! How can anyone say that Jesus doesn’t love us? Don’t tell me He can’t do whatever it is you need today! O, I want to see more of His wonder working power! Recently I heard Brandon Lake sing “Too Good to Not Believe”. I guess that would sum up how I feel about our God!
I appreciate Dianne’s heart for prayer and for sharing this glimpse into how the Lord is at work!
Matt and Hannah serve with prayer team. This past October, Hannah took the lead in organizing a day of continuous worship and prayer from 10am to 10pm in the Chapel at CrossRoads to ask Jesus for physical, mental or emotional healing. It was an impactful time of meeting with Jesus and bringing others to meet with Him. Matt and Hannah make themselves available to intentionally pray for people’s inner healing. This is something that the Lord has clearly placed on their hearts and I am excited to see what He has planned in this way.
Please enjoy this story from Matt:
One Sunday in church Matt felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to share a word of encouragement with a man (we’ll call him ‘Allan’) sitting ahead of us. As Matt shared a picture the Lord had given him for this man, you could see the tears trickling down his eyes and his countenance changed. Something shifted in the spiritual and you could feel that Jesus was touching his heart.
Allan had been believing lies for many years and as the song goes,
"Oh, just one word, You calm the storm that surrounds me.
Just one word, the darkness has to retreat.
Oh, just one touch, I feel the presence of heaven
Just one touch, my eyes were opened to see
My heart can't help but believe.”
(There’s Nothing that Our God Can’t Do by Passion)
Allan’s wife caught me in the lobby and said, “You have no idea, but I’ve been on my knees praying for him for several years. A few Sundays ago, he no longer had a desire to come to church, he had lost his faith, our marriage was barely hanging on."
Later they shared:
“We are completely shaken. Allan hasn't been overcome and overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit like this in years. He is soaking in the word of God. He said he doesn't know how to use words to even describe what it was like for him to receive this word from God but that he felt things physically coming out of him as Matt spoke and prayed over him. Allen and his wife could not describe just how desperately this word was needed. Allan walked into church, a man who had no hope, his marriage was falling apart, his relationships were broken and he was surrounded by darkness. He left church smiling, holding hands with his wife with mended relationships and a heart full of peace. Allan's wife had been journal writing, prayers and believing and asking that by Palm Sunday the Lord would work a miracle in him and in their marriage - 'We cried tears of joy today. God showed up.'
I love this story because it gives us a glimpse into the power of the prayer - God heard the many prayers of Allan’s wife and nudged someone else in the body of Believers to share the exact thing he needed to hear. The Lord is ready to speak through us to strengthen, encourage and comfort others when they need it. What a beautiful picture of how the body of Christ works!
As we look to the year ahead with Prayer Ministries, I am asking Jesus to help us be in step with Him. I am excited to see what He has planned as we pray with people on Sunday’s, both in person and online. I am excited to see what He has planned for groups that gather to pray, like the group that Olga hosts on Tuesday evenings. Thank you for remembering Hope Ministries in prayer!
“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6 (NIV).
- Pastor Dave