Consider Yourself Called

by contributing writer Heidi Eastman

For the last few weeks, Pastor Amos has been asking for help in child and youth ministries.  Every area of ministry needs leadership.  And obviously, enough of us are not stepping up quickly.

I wonder how many are actually involved in any area of ministry?  And I wonder how many of the rest are too busy, too lazy, physically unable, or too burned out from helping in the past?

And I wonder how many people are thinking “I don’t feel called”?

For those of you involved: thank you!  

I am so thankful that I get welcomed every Sunday morning by happy faces greeting me at the door and others taking up the offering.  I am so thankful to have somewhere to take my kids on a Sunday morning so I can sit and hear a sermon.  I am thankful to have a team of musicians on the stage welcoming me in with song.  I am so thankful that our church is a place hurting people can find support and healing.  I am thankful for the lovely people who serve drinks in the foyer.  And I’m thankful for all those other volunteers who help make the church an environment I am proud to be a part of.

For those who don’t help: why not?

Too busy? I understand.  I am married to this one.  And if he were to suggest volunteering at the church with his current schedule, I would be the one to say no.  When you are so busy, the last thing you need is adding one more thing to your plate.  You need to take care of yourself and when this busy season ends, the church will appreciate your hard work in whatever area of ministry you decide to join.  But, before using this reason, honestly evaluate your life – are you actually too busy or is it just the first excuse that comes to mind?

Too lazy?  Just stop (or should that be start?).  Jump in.  Not every area of ministry involves hours of time.  For example, the nursery could use you.  Show up on your scheduled Sunday and play with babies.  You can sit in the comfy chairs (unless you have to bounce a crying baby) and read stories to babies if you choose.  It may not seem like a big deal to you but for the stay-at-home mom whose only break from her baby is the nursery, this ministry can be a life-saver.

Physically unable?  If you want to help but have physical limitations, ask the leadership if they can use you.  I expect if you are able to get into the building, the answer will be yes! A few years ago, one of the youth leaders was well into his 80’s.  He couldn’t play the crazy games, but he cheered on and encouraged the teens.  Perhaps seeing you there will inspire some of those kids.  Perhaps your physical limitations will open doors to relationships you never considered.

Burned out?  I’m sorry.  Sometimes we do have to take time out to care for ourselves and that’s okay.  Personally, I stayed in an area of ministry longer than was healthy for me but I found it hard to step out when I didn’t see other people stepping in.  I would love to see a church where there is such a strong volunteer base that when one of us needs a rest, we can do so guilt-free knowing that everything is covered.  Everything has a season and I think that applies to ministry as well.  Sometimes we just need rest, and we need to know the gaps are filled to make our time away refreshing.  I hope you find the rest you need and can rejoin us soon – motivated and enthusiastic.

You don’t feel called?  I have been involved in some area of ministry since I attended high school.  And guess what?  I don’t feel “called” to help – and I never have.

And I think that’s okay. 

And I think it might be normal.

This “called” word that gets tossed around in Christian circles gives us an easy excuse not to help.  If we say “but I don’t feel called,” other Christians don’t dare question us. 

But I am going to. 

What if being a Bible-believing-Jesus-loving-Christian is all the calling we need?

I believe God can use us without a clear calling.

But why would I help when I don’t feel called?  My current reasons include:

  1.     I love our church.
  2.     I feel most connected to other people when I am actively involved in something.
  3.     I want to set an example for my children of the importance of volunteerism.
  4.     My current job does not use my social work background, and I spent a lot of time (and money) learning those skills, and I don’t want to lose them.
  5.     My toddler needs to learn that the world will not end if Mommy is not home every single night.
  6.     But the bottom line is: I am a Bible-believing-Jesus-loving-Christian, and I think that is all the calling I need.

So please – honestly evaluate why you are not currently helping at the church. If you don’t have a good excuse then make a change and get involved.   It may surprise you to find that ministry will sometimes impact you just as much or more than those you are there to help.

1 Corinthians 12:27
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Heidi Eastman lives in Neustadt with her husband, two daughters, and a beast of a dog. She has been an active part of the HMC congregation from the moment she was old enough to contribute. You can find her over at her own blog, My Sister Told Me To Start A Blog.  [Articles by Heidi]

Pitch and Praise – It’s For Grandpa’s Too!

by contributing writer Brian Austin

How does a grandpa like me give a fair evaluation of a weekend with 1,500 youth? How do I measure the energy in that huge tent full of youth singing, clapping, and many of them dancing as they praise God? When the beat of the drums has my chest feeling like someone is doing CPR, how does an old guy like me still enter into the spirit of praise?


I love youth, but like many of my generation, I love them in small doses. I confess to a bit of trepidation in committing myself to this weekend. I enjoy the passion and energy of their music, but I long for some of the old hymns in the mix. I rarely give much thought to the bit of hair I have left, but I’d have gladly had enough to cover my ears so I could discretely wear ear plugs. I’m not a guy to dance and wave my arms, but there is something contagious about that many youth more focused on God than on what this old grandpa might think.

 Old school as I am, I’m uncomfortable when guys wear hats in church, especially during prayer. But there was no disrespect in the prayer times when hats were totally forgotten by everybody but me.

One of our own youth has this crazy talent for be-bopping. (Is there a right way to spell that?) He made it to the finals in the “Pitch Has Talent” competition with a huge fan club cheering him on. The laughter and cheering brought a wonderful and needed break from the sometimes intense soul-searching. I’d have arranged things a bit differently, especially giving a longer transition time between those soul-searching moments and the celebration – party-atmosphere times that followed so closely. Yet I find no room for criticism. I saw God touching lives. I heard God speaking into my own life.

It was no great sacrifice for me to go. Our youth are great kids and are worth it. I thought I was going primarily for them and was content with that. But it wasn’t just for them.

Little (perhaps not so little) things stood out. The weather threatened as we packed up to leave Friday afternoon. We drove through rain much of the way. But it was dry as we set up tents, and we had only one light shower during one of the main sessions. Nights were chilly but not freezing. We had times of brilliant sunshine followed shortly by light clouds. The weather was as close to perfect as you could ask for in May when sunburn and frostbite in any 24 hours are very possible. Dynamic speakers gave powerful challenges to these youth, yet still spoke strongly to this grandpa. Words of healing and worth were spoken to the broken and wounded.  “Power in the Blood,” one of those old hymns I love, boomed through the tent and beyond with passion I’ve never heard in those words before. I attended one workshop on prayer and found it rich and rewarding, especially as youth crammed into that room when there were a dozen other planned events they could be doing at the same time.

I came home exhausted, but full of hope for our youth and our world – and challenged in my own spirit to give of myself more fully in reckless abandon to God.

Brian Austin is a published novelist, poet, fish enthusiast, and church librarian. He has been an active part of HMC and it’s Resource Centre for more than 30 years. He and his wife live in Durham.  [Articles by Brian]

*photo courtesy of @pitchpraise on twitter

Snow Camp 2015

Over the last few years there has been a great push towards strengthening relationships between various age groups – a lot of focus on mixing generations and age demographics in an effort to solidify the Biblical call for us to be one body in Christ.

“so in Christ we, though many, form one body,
and each member belongs to all the others.”

Romans 12:5

In keeping with this focus, for the first time ever, the Junior Youth Group was invited to join the Senior Youth Group for our traditional HMC Snow Camp weekend retreat.  “Doing something new often causes apprehension,” says Karen Krotz, coordinator of the Senior Youth program at HMC. “It raises questions like Why am I doing this?  Why change things when it has worked perfectly fine the same way for many years?  What happens if it doesn’t go well?”  The questions really could go on and on.

The age range between a seventh grader and twelve grader is huge.  The shift in dynamics had to be considered during planning and changes had to be made to accommodate a wider age range but, much to the delight of Karen and the other leaders, “our younger youth joined in all the activities – including the talent night…and our senior youth welcomed them into what used to be ‘their’ weekend with open arms.”

hanover missionary church snow camp group photo

“What a great bunch of kids,” reported Jason McDougall, who helps his wife, Melissa, with coordinating the Junior bunch.  “I bunked with the junior high boys and LOVED it.  Stayed up late, told stories, laughed, and learned as much from them as they did from me.”

The weekend was a time of getting to know the kids better through play, learning, and relaxing together and it was all possible because of the great team of volunteers that were there. From the
leaders to the volunteers in the kitchen to all the incredible prayer support and encouragement from the church family.

“God is good,” Jason shared. “It was a privilege to watch the kids grow as a group – to learn, and laugh, and play.  I enjoyed my weekend with them and the other leaders… and we are all looking forward to doing it over again next year.”

“Was it a success?” Karen asks.  “Are we glad we tried it?  Do we do this again next year?” 

And her answer to these questions is a resounding, “YES!”

Watch the Snow Camp video on YouTube

See the full photo gallery on Facebook

Alanna Rusnak shares her life with her husband, three children, and a cat she’s trying hard not to love.  She has attended HMC for her entire life and been on staff since 2003, currently fulfilling the role of Creative Communications.  You can find her over at her own blog, SelfBinding Retrospect.

Memories From Vi

{Vi MacKinnon passed away in the Spring of 2011. She had been a vibrant piece of HMC for years. The following is a collection of some of her memories, transcribed from her hand-written notes for a publication that was released for the 100th anniversary of HMC in 2001.}

flash back friday

My family and I joined the Church in 1962. It has meant a lot to us. I felt a very loving, caring, friendly place to worship.

I have to say that my fondest memories were being a Sunday School Teacher. I would like to call it ‘serving the children’. I started out as Dorothy Schmitt’s helper in her class of 4 & 5 year old’s. I loved working with God’s precious jewels…so I started Junior Church. Then the Church decided to start a bus service. I took part in the visitation that it required. We ran the Bus Ministry for several years.

I would need a lot of notepaper to record all the fond memories of so many things about the children. We had singing of choruses, Scripture memorization, children becoming kind to each other, and just loving to get on the bus for Sunday School and Church.

Lynne Crossman was a great helper. She was always there for the children. There were different bus drivers but Gary Schmidt was our last one. The children all loved Gary and Lynne. I was very grateful to God for their help. I always felt so blessed by how the children would take part in the singing (on the bus rides).

One Sunday morning stays with me. It was a fall morning and we were on our way to Sunday School. We had our usual sing-songs and action songs and fall colours were at the Master Painter’s best. Driving through Allan Park, there was such a great spirit on the bus, Gary turned and said, “I think we should stop here and have a service.” I quite agreed. It was a beautiful ride and a beautiful feeling to go into Church with.

Corn roasts, hayrides, and barbeques brought old and young together for great times. There is such a great blessing when one decides to work with God’s children. The work was a joy to me.

Senior Youth Snow Camp

Guest Post by Brian Austin (youth leader)

More than once, Snow-Camp has been celebrated in half-frozen mud, but this year it fully lived up to its name. We rolled into Riverview Bible Camp near Scone at about 5:30 P.M. on Friday. Minus the bus, every vehicle was packed with bags and bodies, kids wound up and raring to go. The more “mature” types were also pretty keyed up, although many of us had already put in a long day. We’d made an earlier trip with sound equipment, cardboard and carpeting to help keep feet dry. – And food! Do you know how much it takes to feed a bunch of teens for a weekend? Everyone got somewhat settled, then we headed to the gym.
We started with a few announcements followed by a surprise Birthday Party for someone reaching that magic age when the government offers an early pension. I did say “Senior” Youth, didn’t I? But these teens are a wonderful bunch and I’d be a proud Grandpa to any or all of them.
Jasmine Koch and her team led us in worship at each session. For our first session Mike Krotz read scripture passages and the limited background information the Bible gives about Barabbas (the murderer released during Jesus’ trial when Jesus was sent to the Cross). Then Barabbas himself, somehow bridging 2000 years, shared his view of events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus. Special speakers, Yorge & Melissa Von Hatten Baer shared with openness and vulnerability before we broke into smaller groups for more in-depth discussion.
Saturday and Sunday mornings saw leaders crowding around the coffee pot before an early meeting and prayer time, then youth devouring pancakes, toast and cereal. Basketballs threatened tables of food in the gym, as well as heads and chairs. Rousing games of Dutch Blitz had hands slapping and voices shouting. The wildest game, exhausting in knee-deep snow had two teams defending snow towers. Even our senior Pastor got into the fray. One of our younger youth seemed to find sitting on Pastor Jason warmer than sitting in the snow itself, and took great pride in his achievement. The old guy of the weekend isn’t sure he wants to be remembered for repeatedly attacking his Pastor, dragging him off the tower and throwing him into a snow-bank. He is also pretty sure that some games weren’t meant for Grandpas.
Rebecca Grierson braved nasty road conditions to bring our Saturday night banquet, made even more delicious with the appetites our romp in the snow created. Semi-Formal attire did not dampen enthusiasm for wild and crazy pictures, the portrait studio presided over by Heather Winkels and Kristina Dyck.
Yorge & Melissa shared twice on Saturday and again Sunday morning. We had great fun and a wonderful spirit prevailed with an openness, honesty and vulnerability that enriched youth and leaders alike. It’s not always that fun and spiritual richness happen together, so we are truly thanking God.  Our final session included a quiet reflective time, with six stations youth and leaders could visit as they chose. These included: “Give it to God,” “Cross Training,” “A Word of Encouragement,” “Prayer Requests,” “Items of Praise,” and “Communion.” Tears could be seen in youth and adult eyes a number of times.

Thank You. . .

  • to Mike and Karen Krotz for leadership. It takes a team to make a retreat like this work, but every team needs leadership. Yours is guided by a love for God and a love for every one of these kids.
  • to all volunteers, those who stayed for the full weekend and those who came in to help with one or more meals.
  • to those who prayed for us.
  • to Allan and Marie Edgcumbe for providing and maintaining a wonderful facility where God’s presence is always invited.
  • to each teen. It really is great fun being with you. We learn so much from you any time we let ourselves.
  • Most of all, Thank You to God, for meeting with us, for safety and protection, for touching hearts and minds.  

{stay tuned for photos and a video from the event}

The Joys & Tears of Youth Ministry

I remember it like a grainy film – that first night – like some tragic drama playing in painful slow motion.  Me, glued to the back floor of that room that helped to shape me through those years of molding up into the adult I’d become, eyes wide and terror gripped tight against my chest at the sight of all those crazy kids.  I was only a few years older but I felt our differences like a violent culture shock that spun me in a dizzying jet-lag and I knew I couldn’t do it.  I knew I couldn’t relate.  I knew I couldn’t make a difference.

I wanted to sink.  I didn’t know how to be relevant.  I didn’t understand how my presence could minister.  I felt angry with the youth pastor who had approached me – a young, brand new mom – and tricked me into agreeing to this nightmare.  I felt stupid and uncomfortable and peripheral.

I went home that night and cried, giant tears of ‘not good enough’ and ‘I have nothing to give’.  I wanted to quit.

“You’re not a quitter!” my husband reminded me.  And I wasn’t.  But I had this idea that I needed to be exactly what my old youth leader had been: loud, charismatic, bubbling up with scriptures appropriate to every single situation that presented itself.  That wasn’t who I was nor could I ever force myself to be that.  What then, was my calling?

And then, as I battened down the hatches of my self-deprecation it occurred to me in some obscure light-bulb kind of moment:  I didn’t have to be relevant.  I only had to be real.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Isaiah 40:29

I faced my second Friday night with lighter shoulders and a determination that helped me find my footing on the slippery slope of teenager chaos.  And I found myself smiling.  I realized there was joy in letting go of my own fears.  It become startlingly clear that all I needed to do was LOVE.  And by loving on these kids I was ministering into their lives in ways much deeper than I ever could with words.

And then, as weeks turned into months turned into years, something incredible happened – I was the one being blessed.  These kids had turned my ministry of love back on me and I soaked it up like a thirsty sponge.

This is the reason behind it all: to see the love of Christ reflected in the eyes and hearts of kids once thought too broken or worldly to change.  To see that love reaching out into a community darkened by a fallen world.  To watch your own heart soften to their hardness.  To watch that hardness dissolve.  To claim victory when a soul is won.  To celebrate together.  To cry together.  To see God’s hand in the little things.  What could ever be more rewarding?

There have been many favorite moments – memories that capture the essence of what this ministry means – but there is one, for me, that is set apart.  So simple, yet so drenched in the selfless purpose of what it all boils down to…

T-shirts are thrown from the main stage to promote the merchandise tent.  There’s a dive for it – like single girls going after a wedding bouquet.  Five guys and a boy about eight. The little boy gets knocked around and one of our youth wins the fight over the shirt. The boy goes back to his mother, crying, hurt and disappointed.  He sits in his chair, tears on his cheek, arms crossed, shoulders shaking.  When our guys realize he’s hurt they take the t-shirt and give it to the little boy.  He refuses to look at them, taking the shirt without raising his eyes, his mother saying thank you for him.  The shake of his shoulders stills. He unfolds the shirt carefully, checking out his prize, tracing the design with a finger.  A small smile starts to spread across his face.  He hugs his mother.  And I’m fighting back tears like a blubbering idiot and am so ridiculously proud of our guys that I want to hug them…for giving up the shirt they got grass-stains on their own by fighting over.


(This story was first shared here.)

There are moments that stretch you beyond what you thought you could bear.  There are days that leave you feeling breathless – like you could never go on.  There are words spoken that break you.  But never has there been a moment when I felt regret for the time I gave to this ministry.  Never (since that first night) did I think it was all for not.  It has made me better.  It has taught me patience, faith, grace.  It has taught me to love without limits.  How could you not want a piece of that?

And now there is a call.  Will you step beyond your boundaries?  Immerse yourself in something that, like it did me, scares you to death?  Will you give of yourself – even if it hurts?  Will you be Jesus to a youth?

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deuteronomy 31:8

  Alanna Rusnak shares her life with her husband, three children, and a cat she’s trying hard not to love.  She has attended HMC for her entire life and been on staff since 2003, currently fulfilling the role of Creative Communications.  You can find her over at her own blog, SelfBinding Retrospect.

Many Hands Make V.B.S A Tremendous Success!

It only takes a willing heart to be used by God:
if people show up, God will take care of the details.  

We definitely saw this in action during our week of Hometown Nazareth, a morning children’s program exploring Where Jesus Was A Kid.  Averaging around 68 children per day, our church was filled with the sounds of laughter, singing and team cheers.  Throughout the five day program over 1000 crafts were made, over 300 snacks prepared, over 30 volunteers (plus the many who brought in snack items, helped with decorating or supported us through prayer), and each child received their own New Testament Bible at the end of the week.

Pastor Lyndsay shared that she was so moved to see the Body of Christ at work.  It took many hands and many hours of preparation but God filled all those needs, from someone to slice the cheese for snack to volunteers to run games in the gym.  Children as young as four years old were active participators, learning all the songs and singing their hearts out in praise.

Throughout the week, children were encouraged to look for God in their daily lives.  These encounters were written out on little sheep and set to graze in the God Sightings Pasture.  About 40 sheep were filled with evidence of God.  The Bible speaks of having faith like a child and this faith Jesus speaks of was evident in the ways our V.B.S children saw God.  As adults we tend to overlook so much and sometimes it takes a child to remind us that God is in all things, like something as simple as a butterfly, a rainbow, or a hug from a friend. 

Thank you to all the volunteers who made our week of V.B.S. a huge success!

And a very special thank you to Angela Peeters for organizing, recruiting and blessing our children with the wonderful experience of the body of Christ in action.

Samaritans’ Purse

submitted by Gloria Burrow on behalf of the six people who were privileged to go their year

Again this year, our day at the Kitchener warehouse checking and sealing up hundreds of Samaritans’ Purse Christmas boxes was well spent.  On November 26th, we arrived at about 9:30 a.m. and stayed until 4:00 p.m.  The operation there is very well organized and the warehouse and leadership were most accommodating with many people working together.  God is obviously honored, making the system run smoothly.  Training time, break times and lunchtime gave us a chance to sit down about every two hours.

We had a productive, interesting and enjoyable day!  It is an experience well worth anyone’s time and effort.  Each time we go to help out it amazes us that God has taken a simple idea such as a shoebox and made it into this huge world-wide ministry.  The feeling of being a small part of it is very heart-warming.