Easter Weekend: Looking Ahead to Fort McMurray & Briercrest

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This past Easter weekend of worship with the Redwood Park family has been an awesome way to wrap up our time in Thunder Bay. Wow, what an amazing church family with so much potential for the future. What a privilege to have been a part of making Redwood happen over these past twenty years.

Yet as I look back with thanks for twenty years well spent, I cannot begin to tell you how pumped I am about the next chapter that God is opening up. I am so looking forward to yet another opportunity to serve God in the building of a high impact prevailing church through the Alliance Church in Fort McMurray as well as the opportunity to impact the next generation of ministry leaders through Briercrest Seminary. Never have I been more excited to take a next step in the journey God has Jane and I on! While I’ve already shared on this blog why I’m so excited for the move to Fort McMurray, let me add a few more thoughts to the conversation. Perhaps three words best best summarize what has so grabbed me: beauty, community and opportunity. Let me unpack those thoughts in a few brief points:

  • Nothing short of the word, “breathtaking” can be used to describe the beauty of the city we are moving into. Soul stirring green-spaces are found throughout the city that give way to pure rugged wilderness beyond the urban landscape. Add to that the intensity of the Northern Lights! It simply jazzes my being as I’m confronted with God’s unmistakable signature all around.
Fort McMurray, looking south from Thickwood.

Fort McMurray, looking south from Thickwood.

  • Quickly I encountered an unexpected friendliness within the culture of the city. As wild as traffic can be in a city that is growing faster than it’s infrastructure, people are simply understanding – why they even slow down and let you in! Folk who are total strangers are so often willing to pause what they’re doing, just to have a brief conversation with you. At first it catches you a bit off guard, but then you just love it!
  • With so many people being from “away”, it’s just easier to enter into friendships and relationships. Whether church or unchurched, young or old, Canadian born or not, you find yourself quickly welcomed into various relational circles in a way I’ve rarely seen in the rest of the country. People are yearning for community and are willing to invest to make it happen.
  • And quite simply opportunity abounds on every front. Opportunity for the average Canadian to find a good job in a city that is a wonderful place to raise a family. And the untold story of Fort McMurray is what a family friendly city this is with amazing sports and recreation facilities, facilities for the arts, parks, state of the art schools, and the list goes on. Who needs good shopping when you have everything else. ~ Okay that might be a male perspective! 🙂
  • And then there’s the Fort McMurray Alliance Church family. They just have the right attitude; a wonderful combination of grace and faith that will allow them to have such a huge impact on this growing city that is expected to be over 230,000 people by the year 2030. There is a core DNA to this church family that is rare to find. They’ve got this wonderful foundation from which a prevailing church will continue to emerge, making  the love of Jesus visible and tangible to Fort McMurray and the world. Their grace and faith is simply awesome! It simply means opportunity abounds for this church family!

Sure many folk from outside of Fort McMurray are quick to tell me about the problems associated with a boom city, that a city with an inordinate number of young people with money and nothing to do simply spells drugs and prostitution and the like. And while there is some truth here, my short experience with Fort Mac leads me to believe that it’s not a whole lot different than the city I currently live in. Every city has its challenges. And the challenges in Fort McMurray simply strike me as opportunities to demonstrate the love and life of Jesus in a way that touches and transforms lives for now and eternity.From my limited perspective, if you know anyone with a bit of a work ethic, who is looking for a great place to live and find work and enjoy family, encourage them to consider For McMurray!! Fort McMurray may just be best kept secret in the country. So much of what the average Canadian is looking for in a city can be found here: good jobs, well planned neighbourhoods, easy access to the outdoors and diverse recreational opportunities, great facilities and schools for kids, as well as a great place to make new and life long friends. Fort Mac offers so much!

A perfect city? Not a chance! Does it have stuff to work through? Absolutely! But I’m pumped to get the opportunity to make Jesus visible in this family friendly city full of opportunity, community and beauty with a church family full of grace and faith.  Throw in what God wants to do on the Briercrest front with all that, and all I can say is “Wow, the next chapter of our lives is looking awesome!”

Oh and if you want to get a flavour for Fort Mac, here are two videos. The one immediately below plays on the typical stereotypes that are out there that pushes back on some of my glowing statements about For Mac. It’s fun to watch but a word of warning, it’s not 100% family friendly, and for that reason I’ll rename it: “Stuff Fort McMurrayites Don’t Say.” It’s put together by a young guy who grew up in the Fort McMurray Alliance Church along with a few of his friends. Yup, there’s a Matt Popowich in every church family and where would we be without them!  The next video is a promotional video that is already a bit dated but will give you a good overview of the Fort Mac/ Wood Buffalo area…

So do pray for Jane and I as we make the transition over the next several months. It’s a huge move for us; lead by our God who has huge plans for us as well as the church and the city he’s called us to!!

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