What a God!! What a ride!! The journey we’ve been on pursuing God with the dreams He’s planted in our hearts has led to my becoming the Lead Pastor of the Fort McMurray Alliance Church in the bustling Oil Sands community of Wood Buffalo, Alberta – the fastest growing municipality in Canada. I start May 1st. I can’t tell you how incredibly blessed we feel by what God has done on our behalf.
But it doesn’t end there. In addition to serving as the Lead Pastor of the Fort McMurray Alliance Church, God has opened up an amazing door for me to continue to pursue my passion to see men and women well prepared for service in local church and other kingdom ministries. Effective August 1, I become the MDiv (Master of Divinity) Program Coordinator as well as Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Briercrest College and Seminary.
I’m humbled by God’s goodness. I get to lead a local church that already has a passion to make the invisible Jesus visible to their city and world by being a grace filled community that is welcoming and sensitive to those who are net yet in a life transforming relationship with Christ while figuring out what it means to do ministry both within and beyond the walls of the church. I get to do this in a high growth region that is one of the primary economic drivers of our county. It has a permanent population of 64,000 but a total population of over 104,000 when non-permanent residents are included. The municipality is expected to double in a decade and the permanent population is projected to reach 230,000 by 2030. Simply explosive.
Furthermore, I get to do this in a city where the average age is around 31 – making it one of the most challenging and unchurched demographics in Canada, a city that occasionally takes on a bit of a frat house feel. This means I get to do this in a city full of young adults and young families who are just starting to figure out how they want to see their lives and the lives of their children unfold. It’s also an amazingly diverse city attracting people from the world over. A growing First Nations community is also found throughout the municipality. Youth and diversity simply spells opportunity!
Let’s keep going! I get to do this in a city with incredible outdoor sports and recreation opportunities (just a forewarning to the moose and walleye) as well as with some of the most amazing indoor sports and recreation facilities for a city it’s size. I could keep going!! One way you can describe Fort Mac is that it is Thunder Bay on steroids. Okay the shopping sucks, but online changes a lot of that!
I also get to invest in the lives of young men and women and some not so young men and woman who have heard God’s call to vocational ministry. I’ll be teaching two modular courses a year at Briercrest College & Seminary while helping to shape the future of ministry preparation in Canada by providing strategic and visionary leadership to Briercrest’s MDiv program from my home base in Fort McMurray. This is an incredibly bold and innovative move on the part of Briercrest that simply speaks of their willingness to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the next generation of ministry leaders are well prepared to serve effectively in our ever evolving contemporary Canadian culture, as well as our vastly changing world.
And while God’s been at work responding to the dreams and aspirations he has planted in the hearts of Jane and myself, we see His hand at work in our family as well. As I head to Fort McMurray, our son Graeme heads to the Vancouver Film School chasing after a dream God has planted in his heart. He recently received news that he had been awarded a $10,000 scholarship, the largest the school has ever given! Many of you know that our daughter Meagan, having graduated from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, is pursuing her dream that currently involves her serving and learning as a pediatric resident at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. Susan and Chris are now taking steps to pursue their dream a living for a year or two in New Zealand before settling down and having a family, perhaps in Fort McMurray.
And while this might sound a bit materialistic, it does speak of the goodness of God who cares for the practical, physical details of our living. On June 15th we take possession of an incredibly beautiful 1,588 square foot bi-level with over 3,000 square feet of sweetly finished living space, adjacent to some of the most picturesque urban trails in the country. With 5 bedrooms we still have room for boarders or family, however things all unfold! And if any of you have any idea about the difference in housing prices between Thunder Bay and Fort McMurray, you’ll understand that this is nothing less than a miraculous provision on the part of our great God!
As we entered this journey, it was with the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 in mind: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV11) With that verse and a little encouragement from reading Mark Batterson’s, “The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears,” I prayerfully and humbly laid my heart aspirations before God, and watched as He answered prayer beyond what I could ever ask for or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20) We are so pumped to be moving to Fort McMurray with the opportunity to impact the next generation both in Fort Mac and the rest of the country and through them the world. To God be the glory!