I am writing today from a train between Auxerre and Lyons, France. The train is travelling through the Bourgogne region of France, renowned for its pre-Roman history, fertile rolling hills, spectacular vineyards and culinary achievements.
But like usual, no matter where I am in God’s world, I always long to be home – in Canada, shoving snow, grumbling about the Leafs, shivering in the cold, waiting in a line-up at Tim Horton’s, complaining about our two seasons, one of which is called ‘road construction’. As the great philosopher, Dorothy said at the end of The Wizard of Oz, there’s no place like home!
I am a Canadian who has spent half of my life living outside of Canada (8 yrs in the States and 19 yrs in France). I am always proud to say “I am Canadian”, to write it on the forms we fill in when entering a foreign country, to hold out my passport confidently whenever asked. Perhaps our national irony is that we apologize, as Canadians, for everything and all the time, except for being Canadians!
And as a Canadian Baptist and head of our International Ministries, I am fortunate to witness frequently the long and rich legacy of Baptists who have served God, usually at great cost, abroad. Land reform in Bolivia, Dalit rights in India, women’s education and empowerment in Africa, Church planting in secular Western Europe, evangelism among Diak people in Indonesia, Muslim / Christian relations among Somali people in Northeast Province, Kenya… the list could go on and on and on. We have an astonishing track-record as Canadian Baptists. Many of our global partners have shared with me how we, as Canadians, work differently than other mission partners. Perhaps we are less brash, less colonialist, a bit more meek in our style. Maybe we just say “sorry ” a lot more. We definitely value mutuality, being co-learners in this mission journey.
On this Canada Day, 2014, we can celebrate our past but not lose sight of the daunting challenges which lie ahead. The recent New Paths Conference reminds us of the long journey we have ahead in addressing the brokenness in our relationship with our First Nations brothers and sisters. The continuing debate around oil pipelines and the tar sands remind us that the Church needs to be a strong, clear voice in the delicate waltz of economic development and creation care. Immigration laws, refugee resettlement and urban poverty cry out for a bold Christian engagement. Battle lines are drawn, erased, shifted and re-traced regarding myriad of “defining issues of our time”. What does it really mean to follow Christ as his disciples, in a period of religious radicalization and rapid secularization.
From within our small tribe of Canadian Baptists, many great leaders and thinkers have helped shape generations of Christians, both locally and globally. When we stand on their shoulders and look forward, we can be either intimidated (Yikes, look what’s up ahead!) or inspired (Yes, we are confident that we can face that challenge!). We are always stronger together. All that unites us far exceeds whatever can separate us.
So let’s enjoy Canada Day with its barbecues, fireworks and fluttering flags. Let’s be patriotic for the day, grateful for what we have and have accomplished. And tomorrow, let’s get back at work, helping to heal a broken world through word and deed!
Deputy Executive Director
Director International Partnerships