As one of the older kids, I always found myself in leadership positions. As soon as I was too old for Sunday School, I was teaching. As soon as we had enough kids in their teens, I was the president of the youth group. As soon as we had enough musicians (I started taking piano lessons almost as soon as we moved to Canada), I was leading the youth worship team. The years I spent at SCAC were some of my best formative years. And it was during those years that I began hearing the call to ministry.
When I started High School, I met a solid group of Christian friends. These friends attended a much larger church, Churchill Heights Baptist Church, and eventually I started attending their youth group with them during my senior year. At Churchill, I once again found myself in leadership positions, particularly in the youth music ministry. Additionally, my group of friends took on a new identity as the group “Truly God is First”, and expanded to include guys from different grades. In addition to attending Youth Group, we held Bible studies together, and even did service projects for the church (we will never forget how we affected the pastoral staff at Churchill when we purchased and donated a Foosball table to the church… Apparently productivity decreased significantly).
Call to Ministry
During that year of significant activities (with multiple churches), I was advised to attend Capernwray Harbour Bible School by my pastor at SCAC. I took his advised and ended up going for two years, completing their 1-Year Bible Program, and the Leadership Training Program. Returning to Toronto, I convinced myself that what I was headed to was a situation of lay ministry while working a regular job. So I started my bachelors at University of Toronto, intending to eventually go to law school. At this time, I also formally transferred home churches by becoming a member of Churchill Heights (soon to be renamed Morningstar Christian Fellowship), and heavily involving myself in the Worship Ministries.
During my third year, it became painfully obvious on multiple fronts that becoming a lawyer was not I what I was meant to do, and that I had been “running away” from the call to ministry. Finally, I switched my program to Christianity and Culture and made plans to attend seminary. In 2009, while still completing the last few credits of my bachelor’s degree, I began attending Toronto Baptist Seminary part time. Also I joined the staff at Morningstar Christian Fellowship as a pastoral intern in Worship Ministries, formalizing many of the things that I was already doing as a volunteer.
In 2011, my vision grew to include the possibility of doing a Ph.D in theological studies. So I transferred to the Master of Theological Studies program at Wycliffe College. At the same time, my internship with the worship ministries at Morningstar came to an end, and so I switched over to the Youth Ministry as the Young Adults Ministry intern, essentially a preaching/teaching training ministry. I finished this internship in 2012, and began working at Parkway Bible Church as their part time Worship Pastor.
Move to Alberta / NorthLife Church
After just one year at Parkway Bible Church, I found myself at a crossroad. I needed to decide whether I was going to continue on with to more advanced graduate education (though at this time I had not yet completed my MTS), or seek out a full time job, in or out of the ministry. I decided it was no only time to seek out full time work, but also to make a drastic change in my life. So I decided to move to Fort McMurray, Alberta, where a couple of my TGIF buddies were already living.
I arrived in Fort McMurray in August of 2013 and originally, I intended to get a regular job while completing my thesis. Of course, I began church – a Fellowship Church like Morningstar – and took up ministry there as well. Eventually, my experience in the ministry came to the attention of the Senior Pastor, and in May of 2014, I was called as an Associate Pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church, which was later (under a new Senior Pastor) renamed NorthLife Fellowship Baptist Church.
While in Fort McMurray, I was able to experience ministry to its fullest, making mistakes, but doing great things with some great people. I was also able to use my training at Morningstar and all my past experience as I provided leadership to the youth, young adults, worship, and as I preached and taught. I had the chance to provide leadership to two Cantatas, one for Christmas and another for Easter. I served in the executive of the Wood Buffalo Christian Ministerial Association. I was part of the steering committee that helped organized the Celebration of Hope (with Will Graham) in Fort McMurray in 2015. I even had the chance to interact with Christian bands as I organized several concerts at NorthLife.
There are many highlights from my ministry at NorthLife. But one clearly overshadowed them all. In May 2016, the city of Fort McMurray was evacuated during the 2016 Northern Alberta Wildfire, which was dubbed “The Beast”. Displaced for 6 weeks, the ministry team of NorthLife found ourselves thrust into a unique ministry of evacuation and disaster relief for our congregation and the community at large. Upon returning to Fort McMurray, this took on the main forms of a distribution centre in the church and free summer day camps for kids.
In addition to the work with NorthLife, I had been serving (for 3 years) on the Executive Board of the Wood Buffalo Christian Ministerial Association as their treasurer. As such, I was involved in the decision making to distribute nearly a million dollars of wildfire relief funds donated to the Ministerial by the Diocese of St. Paul (Roman Catholic Church).
Call to Japan
Working full time gave me the opportunity to vacation in Asia several times. It became my practice, instead seeing my family in Toronto, to join them in the Philippines right after Christmas. This allowed my to spend the holidays in Fort McMurray and still have quality time with my family. During my plans to go the Philippines in 2015, I had a wild idea. The typical route to fly from Canada to the Philippines is to have a stop-over in Japan. Usually this stop over was only a few hours, but I wanted to see what it would be like to extend it by several days. To my surprise, it only added about a hundred dollars to the whole ticket price. So in February of 2015, I vacationed in Tokyo for the first time.
This rekindled an interest that I’ve had in Japan’s people and culture since I did a social studies project on Japan in the 6th grade. I returned a year later in February of 2016, and in December 2016/January 2017, I went for the longest period yet – 8 days. In that last trip, I explored outside Kanto region and made it all the way up to Akita City and Aomori City in the Northern Tohoku region (just south of Hokkaido). This trip convinced me that week-long visits to Japan were no longer sufficient. I wanted to live there and explore its culture to its fullest.
At the same time, I was spending a lot of time learning about Japanese culture through documentaries and YouTube videos. I learned several shocking facts about Japan – like the fact that it had the highest suicide rate of any first world countries, and that there are 700,000 Hikikamori in Japan (reclusive youth or adults who have shut themselves out of society, usually due to some traumatic experience in school or work). Incredibly, there are only about 300,000 Evangelical Christians in Japan – less than half the number of Hikikamori. Because of this my concern for the Japanese grew, as did my desire to share the hope found in Christ. And in March of 2017, I was presented with just that opportunity when I found Grace English School/Trinity Grace Church and their need for an English Teacher/Missionary. After consulting with my family and friends, I decided to take the position, which of course meant moving on from NorthLife.
In mid-August of 2017, I will finish my ministry at NorthLife, after eight intense weeks of summer programming. After a two-week break back in Toronto, in order to recharge and refresh, I will be moving to Japan at the end of of the month, and will begin my work with Grace on September 1.