“We are God’s people, empowered by and dependent on the Holy Spirit to tell the life-transforming story of Jesus Christ. We must. It’s the task we’ve been called to.”
“God began by making one person, and from him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided exactly when and where they must live. God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us.”
(Acts 17:26-27, NCV)
The tag line for Mission Canada, the PAOC’s national mission agency, was birthed in an informal stand-up meeting in an office doorway at the PAOC International Office over a decade ago. Just three words, “Because We Must,” became a strong, clear, affirmative, and bold response to why we needed a national mission agency. We knew as a team, the moment the words were uttered, that that was the clarifying statement, the tag line, the clarion call for mission as a Fellowship in our nation.
In a quick online search of the noun “must,” you’ll find this statement: “Something that should not be overlooked or missed.” 1 As a verb, “must” expresses “an opinion about something that is logically very likely.” 2 It speaks of necessity and action that should be taken or put into place. Simply put, a national mission agency is a necessary part of who we are and how we must position ourselves across our nation as a missional family. The mission statement of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada declares that we glorify God by making disciples everywhere. We operate with a set of core values, one of which is valuing people who are without Christ, and to whom we owe the compassion of Christ and an opportunity to receive the gospel and enter into Christian fellowship. We are God’s people, empowered by and dependent on the Holy Spirit to tell the life-transforming story of Jesus Christ. We must. It’s the task we’ve been called to.
In mission, some are called to the uttermost parts of the world. Yet all of us are called to our Jerusalem—to the people around us who are like us. And all of us are called to our Judea and Samaria—the people who are physically near but culturally different or distant from us.
Mission Canada’s identified priority groups reflect just that. As we look at our urban centres, we strategically consider ways we can reach into the high-density areas, engage the high-diversity populations, and extend arms of godly care and compassion where there is high disparity. Simply put, the PAOC needs more urban missionaries—workers who will go and be among those who call the city core “home.” After 30 years of pastoral ministry, Scott Couper felt compelled to move his daily “office” into the city core by becoming a Mission Canada urban worker. In this new role as a Street Level Advocate in downtown Peterborough, Ont., Scott engages a population of street-affiliated people that has skyrocketed in recent years. Scott recognized this reality and knew he needed to respond to God’s call to go. Why? Because we must. We must be among the marginalized, those without hope and purpose for everyday life. We must be bridge builders. We must “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” We are to “judge fairly” and “defend the rights of the poor and needy,” as Proverbs 31:8-9 clearly instructs.
In the words of Kevin Rogers, Mission Canada’s urban ministry co-ordinator, “We must be about qualitative neighbouring: loving our neighbours in Jesus’ name in ways that engender hospitality, community building, and home-centred spiritual practices. We must be gospel influencers, those who bring light and energy to subcultures of art, politics, business, community, education, etc.” 3 Mission Canada urban worker Ejay Tupe and his family can be found in the Riverdale/Leslieville community in Toronto. His energy is expended in ways that bring the light of Christ to people who find themselves in spiritually dark or dismal places and spaces in life.
Dan Collado, Mission Canada’s co-ordinator for our focus on the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, would tell us that over 50 per cent of Canada’s 1.5 million Indigenous peoples live in or near our urban centres. That is why Anna Morgante prioritizes her Mission Canada work with children, youth, and their families in downtown Winnipeg. Canada’s Indigenous population represents five per cent of our nation’s citizens, and the birth rate is two times the national average. The average age of a Canadian is 41, but for the Indigenous population it’s 10 years less—just 31 years. Mission Canada workers like Anna or Tarrant Cross Child are responding to God’s call to reach our next generation of Indigenous Peoples in their Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria—because they must. But more workers are needed.
Our francophone population and the province of Quebec are a priority in our Fellowship’s mission. Our Fit4M program is all about training and equipping leaders who will engage missionally in French Canada. Carole Amico, a Mission Canada worker to Canada’s francophone population, uses an online digital platform each day to reach and disciple those who find themselves searching the Internet for answers to the complexities of life—a need that has been magnified in a pandemic. Many are living life behind locked doors. Their groceries are ordered and delivered to the doorstep while the light of a computer screen shines long into the midnight hours. Hope can be hard to find, and depression and despair can settle in quickly. “Being among” looks very different in this context, but the truth of God’s Word shared through a computer screen is just as life-giving.
Our Canadian post-secondary campuses are home to thousands of international students, even during a pandemic. Loneliness abounds when classes are forced online and human interaction is limited. Reaching out to post-secondary students through online events like Tough Question Tuesdays, Bible studies, or apologetics evenings is how our campus workers have been reinventing themselves in a COVID reality. And, in the midst of reimagining campus ministry in a digital space, students are coming to Christ and water baptisms are taking place—one in Lake Ontario and another in the ocean off the West Coast of Canada. Faith in Jesus is being publicly declared, and because it is, we must be there on our Canadian campuses.
Our next generation, in particular Gen Z, is experiencing cultural and societal shifts that may be greater than what’s been seen in the last century. Influencing and empowering this generation for kingdom purpose is key, not only to the future of the church but to the expansion of Christ’s kingdom. Gen Z is incredibly creative, driven, entrepreneurial, and technologically advanced. With a solid understanding of God and His Word, their potential impact for Christ in our nation could be paramount in the days and years ahead.
So why is Mission Canada identifying workers to go into the gaps in our nation where Jesus needs to be known? Because we must. And because Acts 17:27 (ESV) is true—“he is actually not far from each one of us.”
Natalie Rogge serves at the PAOC International Office as director of communications and the strategic manager for Mission Canada.
This article appeared in the January/February/March 2022 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2022 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos courtesy James Perreaux (top) and Lifeline (bottom).
Top photo: James Perreaux baptizing Chanidu, a student at University of British Columbia – Okanagan, in summer 2021. Bottom photo: David Burke and Jazelle Johnson baptizing a Ryerson University student in Lake Ontario in Toronto, also in summer 2021.
- “must,” Oxford English Dictionary, https://www.lexico.com/definition/must.
- PowerPoint presentation and notes by Kevin Rogers from a Mission Canada class online for Master’s College and Seminary, Peterborough, Ont., October 13, 2021.