On Saturday, November 15, the Okanagan Chapter of Teen Challenge came to SBC for a fabulous dinner put on by one of the small groups in our church, and then attended a Groundswell concert performed in their honor! What an encouragement to see our own SBC families sitting around tables offering a listening ear and words of encouragement to these men who are dealing with addictions, but also the life changing freedom that Christ offers. Some 20 students and staff from the Winfield center attended; some nearing the end of their one year program and others just getting used to the strict program, parameters and accountability of staff and peers. Encouragement from the ‘Body of Christ’ spurs these men on to stay the course and allow God to transform them day by day.
After the dinner, everyone moved up to the sanctuary where Groundswell performed songs that spoke of freedom and justification bringing appreciation, applause and nods of agreement from the audience. Though this event was targeted to the Teen Challenge men, a crowd of approximately 200 was in attendance. A key component of the concert was the dynamic testimony of a changed life… given by Colin Woolsey (son of Aggie and Gerry Woolsey) who had flown in from Saskatoon for this opportunity. Please read an excerpt of his story written below:
I was born on July 14th, 1964, in Beinfait, Sask. My childhood was basically normal and uneventful up until the age of 8, when I was sexually abused by an older cousin while on a camping trip. On the scale of child abuse, this one time incident seems minor but the ways in which it affected my developing mind were quite major.
Meanwhile, things in my home were changing. My Mom became a Christian and our whole family was loved and prayed for by a small Mennonite Brethren Church in Moose Jaw. Ten years later my Dad became a Christian, too. Even though our home had been a normal, average home there was something very special that changed in those years. My parents and my sister had a new direction that curved up and mine definitely curved down. Yes, I did accept Jesus into my heart when I was nine years old but the reality of it didn’t last.
It was in grade 8 that I started drinking with the rebel kids that I was trying to emulate. I smoked pot for the first time and loved it. I was hooked instantly. I started putting effort into my pornography collection as it was sort of a status symbol in my group of friends. This is when I abandoned my church and all it stood for.
I entered high school with only one thing on my mind...party as much as possible. I was expelled near the beginning of the next year which gave me more time to party and hang out with my friends.
The rule in my home was either move ahead in life or move out. I moved out and after about 3 months, I committed an armed robbery with four other kids. I was sentenced to 6 months in jail, and so this skinny little white kid spent his 18th birthday in jail.
After my release my parents pulled some strings and got me back into my previous high school, but I soon began to deteriorate and we knew I would soon be expelled.
By this time I had convinced myself that marijuana was as harmless as tobacco and I continued to make it my drug of choice.
I had begun to pay the consequences of my life style, and saw other older friends of mine doing the same, so I entered a 28 day treatment program in Saskatoon. The first day there I met Elaine (who would later become my wife). After we both completed the program, we stayed sober for a couple of months and then became very good at enabling each other’s drinking.
We were married in 1992 and were blessed with two beautiful, healthy daughters in 1996 and 1998. In 1998, I came back to the Lord for a brief time.
I had a good job and life was good. In 2000 my twisted and corrupt thinking led me to commit an assault on an extended family member. This was the most horrible, despicable and disturbing thing that I had ever done and the guilt, grief and anguish began to eat away at me. This is when my substance abuse grew at an alarming rate and I began drinking and smoking pot daily. This was the darkest time in my life.
In October 31, 2009, my “carefree” life came to an abrupt end when I was charged with possession of illegal pornography. I seriously began to contemplate suicide. I was concerned with finding a way to make it look like an accident so that my wife could collect insurance.
I remember clearly the day, alone at home, when I heard God’s voice speak to me. He told me “I’m still here. You may have forgotten me but I’ve never left you.”
I sobbed for hours and that night I gave my life completely to God.
I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior for real and let him take over 100%. I knew from past experience that this was the only way...all or nothing.
During the next couple of months my life changed drastically and God gave me an incredible hunger to learn all I could about Him and His ways. My conscience also came out of hibernation and without chemicals to numb it and shut it up!! I was forced to deal with my past and the assault I had perpetrated on the extended family member. Despite promises from my Heavenly Father for courage to come forward and strength to face the consequences, turning myself in was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I never could have done it on my own.
On July 19, 2010, I walked into the police station and gave my statement. I was immediately placed under arrest and remanded in custody for eight days. Six months later I was sentenced to three years in a federal prison. Despite that horrible environment, God used it for His purposes.
In the Medium Security, or “behind the wall”, where I was until July, 2011, I had a Bible, two mail order Bible correspondence courses and letters from “The Troops.” My parents set up an email prayer chain of their closest prayer warriors who prayed and cared for me and my family (and still do!) God knew what I needed and when I needed it!
On November 1, 2014, I celebrated five years clean, sober and porn free. By God’s merciful strength (and none of my own), I have made it this far.
Out of all my addictions and weaknesses, I feel that the most destructive influence in my life has come from pornography. I challenge any of you reading this to take everything in your life that could be considered to be pornography and destroy it... today!! The longer you wait, the more time Satan has to attack you with it.
Lean on God for strength and don’t try to fight this battle on your own. Talk to your Pastor or to someone you trust and bring this issue into the light.
God has shown me love and support through people I have never met, and although the enemy continues his relentless attacks on and through my family, he knows that he has lost the war and that I completely belong to God through my Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit.
Finally, put on the full armor of God. The battle has begun... do not grow faint. (Ephesians 6:11-17)
Our Christmas tree just wouldn't stay up that year. I tried a new tree stand which was guaranteed not to fall or tip over; and the tree fell over in the night with a crash. I tried tying fish line around the tree to a railing; and the tree fell over in the night. I tried wedging wood into the tree stand against the trunk to firm up the base; and the tree fell over in the night. I tried laying hands on the tree to caste out the demon that was obviously tormenting us. At that point Erna suggested that medical intervention was imminent.
Feeling confused and angry that a dead conifer was getting the better of my Boy Scout skills, I went to a friend who gave me a brilliant suggestion. The tree stand had a wide plastic base he said. Drill two holes in it and then nail the stand to the floor. The nails wouldn't show through the carpet and the tree stand would never fall over again. I rushed home and immediately got my drill and then had the most brilliant idea I had ever had. I wouldn't nail the stand down; I would screw it down instead. I would show that tree who was boss with a power tool!
The drill bit quickly tapped through the plastic base and then I changed the bit and grabbed the biggest screws I had. As the screw began to sink into the floor I confess to a certain amount of pride as I thought: let's see you fall over now! Just then a dark line suddenly appeared in the carpet and began to race across the floor! The screw had caught a loop of wool in our full loop Berber carpet and it was unthreading itself! I instantly stopped the drill and tried to correct this. Putting the drill in reverse I started to retract the screw. Just then a dark line appeared on the other side of the tree stand and began to race across the floor in the other direction! I stopped the drill and sat there in stunned disbelief. My war with a tree had ruined our carpet!
I left the screw where it was, put a nail in the other hole and when Erna came home I met her at the door to confess that I had done a bad thing. The tree never fell down again but every time I went near the tree to place a gift or add an ornament I realized that I had made a mess of Christmas.
That pretty much summarizes how a lot of us feel about Christmas: as we approach it we recognize the mess we have made of things. Many of us have painful memories, scars as vivid as the lines on my carpet, and a deep sense that we have messed up.
That is however exactly why I love Christmas and why I believe it is worth celebrating. Jesus came to bring hope and healing for all of our messed up lives. We will still mess things up but our mistakes no longer need to define us, rob us of joy, or prevent us from truly celebrating Christmas. That is why I celebrate every year. I have discovered that there is even hope for people who wage war with dead trees!
This spring break Justin Wiebe, Luke Riemer, Brad Riemer and Trevor Loeppky will be joining the SBC Youth on their mission trip to Mexico. Their focus, however, will be on The House of Refuge. The House of Refuge is a place of refuge for girls that have been sold by their family, because their family could not afford them. These girls now exist in abusive situations. The goal is to complete The House of Refuge and then rescue these girls. Here’s a video that will explain more about the heart behind this ministry.
On Thursday November 27, 30 people from Summerland Baptist Church travelled to the Kelowna Gospel Mission to offer skills and availability on a Ministry Day! Our Beacon Seniors have been doing this over the past 12 years, but this time our group included all ages, from teenagers to Seniors. The group was involved in: Music Ministry (Back Porch Gospel), food service, office work, moving and organizing in the thrift store, cleaning in the dorm, dining area and administration area, washing dishes, and serving a hot meal (restaurant style!). Michael Batt, who recently accepted Christ and was baptized at SBC, gave a devotional by telling his story of freedom in Christ.
With the temperatures dipping into ‘minus’ territory, there are increasing numbers of homeless people who find shelter and nourishment at the Mission. The Kelowna Gospel Mission provides overnight dorm accommodation, meals, support, a thrift store service, free dental work, hair cutting and counselling services to the homeless and disadvantaged of Kelowna. The Mission depends on donations and volunteers to fulfill their vision and keep the doors open.
Several of our team had never been to KGM before and found the experience rich and meaningful. The smiles and warm gratitude of the clients spoke volumes to our folks as God’s spirit confirmed His words that we are to ‘love others as I have loved you’! John 13:34. Here are a few comments from those who participated on the trip:
“One outreach at the KGM that brought tears to my eyes was the dental care facility. Professional personnel caring for hurting lost individual's with genuine compassionate hands of Jesus.” Linda Leckie
"I really enjoyed myself and learned a lot by participating in the trip to Kelowna Gospel Mission. I worked in the store, moving and sorting furniture, and was impressed with the dedication of the volunteers. Serving dinner to and eating with their clients was a great experience. The clients and the volunteers were really engaged with the music ministry, and Michael Batt’s testimony was well received by all. Even the bus ride there and back opened opportunities to get to know folks I had never really gotten to know well. A great day, and time well spent." Fred Lindsey
"I had an absolutely AMAZING day . I felt a warmth like a burning candle had been placed inside my heart. I saw the love poured out by the staff to people in need truly in Gods favor. My desire would be that everyone spend time, given freely, at the Mission and see how the smallest gift of your time and willingness to serve will make a difference. YOU WILL BE BLESSED !!!!" Bev McCauley
"I really enjoyed having the chance to visit with those on the bus ride to KGM. Once we arrived and unloaded everything they were ready to put us to work and afterward gave us a tour of their facility, it is wonderful to see how organized they are. When Michael shared his testimony with everyone you could have heard a pin drop, they were listening, while many of us were praying for those in attendance. Lunch was soon ready so we served everyone while Back Porch Gospel ministered in song. There was one gentleman at the table using his spoons to play along with them. Before leaving we prayed together with all the workers, thanking God for them and the work of the Kelowna Gospel Mission." Basil Cogill
"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men…” Gal 6:9-10