We got into a conversation with a neighbor in the park the other day and it turned to 'Christianity'.
"Do you go to a church in town?"
"Yes, we go to NewLife."
"Oh, so you are Baptists, don't they believe..."
"Well, I can't say for sure because we aren't really Baptists."
"Oh, well what are you then?"
I thought about it. "I guess you could call us 'Vineyapentaptists'."
Unfortunately, I didn't really get to explain myself because at that point the person's child needed desperately to go home, so off went our neighbor, thoroughly confused, I am sure.
But the conversation had started me thinking. In the whole grand scheme of life, how would I explain our walk with the Lord? Who are we? It dawned on me then, how blessed we've been and what a rich walk we have been given, but at the same time, because our walk has involved relocating a couple of times, it makes us kind of poor in people who know our whole story.
A while ago, I don't think I would have thought that mattered, but in the 'aptist' part of our journey, there has been a lot of emphasis put on giving our testimonies for God's glory as well as the accumulation of a few 3:00 in the morning friends. So I decided it might not hurt to give a Reader's Digest version of who our family is and where God has been gracious enough to bring us so far. Many of you will recognize your parts in this story and that will be fun!
And here it goes. A bit of the story of how we became Vineyapentaptists.
Koos was born in small Northern Alberta farming community of about 500 people, called Hines Creek. His Dad and step-Mom are still there. His Mom is in New Zealand. Koos has two brothers, two step-brothers and a sister from his Mom's second marriage.
I was born in Cranbrook, BC. Then we moved to Stettler, AB, then Yellowknife, NT, then Hines Creek, AB. My Mom is in Fairview, AB, also in Northern Alberta. I have one brother.
Koos' Dad's farm is about half a mile down a dusty gravel road from the farm my Dad grew up on. Koos' Mom and my Grandmother were very good friends. Whenever my family would show up to visit Grandma, there would usually be the pesky neighbor boys hanging around, so technically Koos and I have known each other since he was old enough to dirt bike over to my Grandma's by himself.
We officially started 'dating' though in my grade 12 year. Koos was my grad escort. Then we moved to Edmonton. He worked to support us and I attended the U of A and worked part time.
We moved to Bluesky, AB (in the Hines Creek / Fairview area) five years later and lived on a small acreage. I was working in a farrowing barn and my boss 'invited' us to a 'Bible study' that he and his wife attended. And this is where the craziness began.
My Mom's parents attended an Anglican church, but I only remember my family going if we happened to be visiting my grandparents for Christmas or Easter. Koos' Mom has a Catholic background, but Koos had only really been influenced for a year when he had lived with her in High River in southern Alberta during grade 11.
So when we got this 'invitation' from my boss, neither of us were too excited. But God works the way He will and I was really concerned that if we didn't attend, I would get fired. I just wasn't sure how those crazy 'God people' worked and we now had a mortgage to pay, so I definitely couldn't get fired. We decided we'd just go hang out and smile and nod at the crazy God people so I could keep my job. My boss had mentioned that they had snacks after the Bible study, and at that point in our lives, free food was a bonus.
Thus began the 'Vineya' portion of our walk. The fellowship turned out to be a Vineyard church plant, with the planting church in Calgary. Koos gave his heart to the Lord at a conference the Calgary church had put on for us in Fairview. I held fast for another six months or so, but soon I too succumbed to the wily ways of those crazy God people. All that prayer and love and stuff. Man, it was brutal. Our time with the Peace Vineyard Christian Fellowship gave us a passion for worship. Obviously. That's what they do those Vineyardites, they rock worship. We also learned pretty much everything we needed to know about spiritual warfare hanging out with them. They don't put up with much nonsense from the enemy.
Brooke was born while we were in Fairview.
Then came the call to Hay River,NT disguised in the form of a 'job opportunity', which I fought and resisted with all my might. I was very comfy with all my friends, and our fellowship was awesome, so why on earth would I move? Because God said so, that's why. So off we went to Hay River to begin the 'Pente' portion of our upbringing.
Delaena was six weeks old when we moved to Hay River.
Pentecostals believe this, "It is better to be road kill trying to do something for Jesus than to sit and rot in some pew." Well, at least our Pentecostals believe that. We were blessed beyond blessed in Hay River to receive an eight year Bible school education for free. Our fellowship there at its max was around 12 adults, but our Pastor is one of the most gifted Bible teachers on the face of the planet (in my humble opinion). So at the Oasis Homechurch, we got to sit comfortably in couches, worship to great live tunes (because our Pastor's wife just happens to be an outstandingly efficient worship leader too) and most importantly, dive deeply into His Word. Our Pentecostals also made seeking and using spiritual gifts a reality. There is nothing odd or strange about words of wisdom or knowledge, discerning of spirits or speaking in the tongues of angels or men. You ask for the gifts and you use them for the betterment of the body. Period.
Calahn and Kael were born while we were living in Hay River. We picked up our fantabulous tag-along, Caitlind, while we were up there.
And now here we are at the 'aptist' stage of the voyage. The first thing that comes to mind as we've observed how NewLife works so far, is that they believe that when it comes to things of God you either 'go big or go home'. Now granted, we have only participated in small fellowships, so that may skew our view, but it seems that nothing gets done here on a small or half scale. One is either all in or not in at all. And that includes, no sorry, is foremost, when it comes to dedication to Jesus. Pretty intense and we kind of like it. No sorry, we really like it.
Now, please don't take it that any of these fellowships only had one thing to offer us. All of them are complete in themselves. It is just fascinating for us that at each stage in our travels, God had a specific thing He wanted us to learn and He had just the right people in place along the way to teach us.
So there it is. How we became Vineyapentaptists. We have to admit, when it is all summed up...
Worship like there's nothing else that matters. Don't put up with any stuff from the devil. Stay grounded deep in the Word and don't be afraid to be road kill for Jesus. Ask for His spiritual gifts and use them unapologetically to better those around you. Give glory to God by telling people what He's done in your life, have 3:00 am friends. Be all in or not in at all, go big or go home when it comes to the things of the Holy Spirit.
...it is a pretty impressive package. And it was just given to us, freely, by God, through all of His people. So thank you to all of you out there who were part of it and thank you Creator for the winding, yet wonderful path. With both trepidation and anticipation we wait to see what's next!
PS I actually wrote this a couple of days ago, but I usually leave these things for a bit and then revisit them. This morning - during the parts of the sermon when Pastor Mark didn't have his face in the kleenex box - he made an exceptional case for the practice of becoming a member of the church body and I thought it goes along nicely with the spirit of this particular blog. So I encourage you to have a listen at this NewLife site!