I didn’t realize how appropriate it was to use my “official NorthLife portrait” on my little fridge magnet-prayer card thingie until just now. While that fridge magnet obviously represents my future in Japan, nevertheless, embedded right on it is a reminder of a part of my past that will continue to have affect me for years to come.
Come to think of it, I arrived in Alberta on August 30, 2013. in a couple of days, I will be arriving in Osaka on August 30, 2017 (ok to be absolutely correct about it, I arrived in Edmonton on August 30, spent the night, then drove up to Fort McMurray on August 31st). So even there, the connections remain.
If I had to think of a word to describe my experience in Fort McMurray, intense would be at the top of the list. It was intense from the beginning – packing up my little 2004 Honda Civic and driving across Canada. To the intense traffic along Highway 63 as I made my way to Timberlea for the first time (boy was I surprised about that!). To getting called as an Associate Pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church a mere 6 months before the senior pastor retired. To welcoming a new, intense senior pastor. To wildfire. Lightning strike. To becoming a part of distributing nearly a million dollars in wildfire donations. To terrible illness that forced that new senior pastor to cut his term short. To finding a new job while I was posting a job for the church (how’s that for irony?). To rushed meetings that would see me appointed as a Mid-Term Missionary with the Fellowship.
Note: It was at this point that I boarded my flight to Taiwan. I had planned to finish writing this on the plane, but I procrastinated. Then in Taiwan. But I procrastinated again (well I chose a massage instead.. haha). Now I’ve just spent my first night in Japan, so I have a ton of things to express… But I’m going to try to keep it on topic.
Yes, intense is a really good word to describe these past 4 years, all the way to how it ended. My last summer at NorthLife in a sense represented the intensity of the past 4 years. I hired 4 interns and Joseph and I ran a Summer Day Camp – Toronto style, except… souped up like crazy. No one in town did what we did. And we ourselves had never done what we did – at least with the numbers that we had.
For my last 6 weeks at church, I worked almost non-stop, finishing off the commitment I made to the fire relief effort (to preach the Gospel to as many children as would come through our doors). By the time it was over, I was pretty spent. I barely had the energy to pack up my room. And certainly when I flew back to Toronto for a break, I just needed an entire week to decompress.
So that’s how my ministry in Fort McMurray ended. I went out with a bang, and I pray that it will pay dividends for years to come even if I don’t get to see it myself. In all, it was a great season of ministry, despite a few discouragements and disappointments (is there ever anywhere in the world you can’t be discouraged and disappointed?). But I had a chance to work with some great people; and especially to glean from the knowledge and experience of two great senior pastors at the end of their careers (pastoral, that is… their ministries of course continue in to retirement). And now, as I look forward to Japan, I’ll take all that I have with me to do the best I can here in my new context.
Next week: My first few days in Japan and my new apartment.