CANADA … THE NEXT 150 Mission Canada


by Charles Hermelink

“And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27, ESV).

The president of the mosque across the street from our church called me. The reason for his call on that particular day was to extend an invitation for Friday evening, to join them for the breaking of their daily fast during Ramadan. I accepted.

After receiving our food, I sat on the floor next to a man a few years my senior. I greeted him. He replied politely. We ate. I allowed him to do so, thinking of what he must be feeling after having not consumed any food or even liquids during the daylight hours. After munching down delicious South Asian food, I reinitiated conversation. “Roger” (yes, an alias I use here to honour his privacy) immigrated just a handful of years ago and loves this country. He loves that here his children can get a good education. That we have good health care. That we have peaceful relations with other nations. That we have freedom of religion and speech, being able to peacefully discourse and even respectfully disagree with each other.

With growing wonder, I listened to his unfolding story as I asked Roger what he did back in his original homeland and what he does now. He was a policeman. But that is not all. For decades he served as a UN peacekeeper in multiple nations. He loved being able to step into difficult situations to effect peaceful change, getting sides to talk and resolve their differences without violence. He’d even personally received commendations and invitations to dine with national rulers for his successful work in directing teams of UN peacekeepers in their nations. All of this behind a mild exterior many might be tempted to overlook. He was delightful. Warm. Humble. Gracious. Charming. And overwhelmingly appreciative of his new adopted homeland. Canada.

One hundred and fifty years ago, 83 per cent of newcomers were arriving from the British Isles.1 Who received them? What reactions did they have? Did they say, “What strange looking people they are! They don’t look like us. They don’t sound like us. They speak funny. They smell funny too.” Yet room was made for them.

And “them,” through time, became us. Now we, alongside the First Nations, receive more newcomers arriving on our shores. They arrive mostly in “ships” of alloys and carbon fibre having navigated seaways of air currents rather than those of wood or steel through currents of waters. Newcomers often still look different (though not always), sound different, speak funny—and, yes, smell “funny”—too. Such observations are not pejorative, for we actually make them all the time. They are said without animosity or condescension. Yet, like 150 years ago, 150 months ago, and 150 seconds ago, there are some who have reacted and still react poorly to our newcomers. And, for growing numbers of us, those newcomers were our ancestors. Today, we somehow have a personal vested interest in how they were received. Were they received well? Who made life difficult for them? Who stepped forward and received them with open arms? What can we learn from the past?

And it is perhaps for this reason that I think of not only the range of reactions of First Nations and those already here in Canada for 150 years. I think too of the reactions our future generations will have toward newcomers arriving 150 years from now … should the Lord tarry so long.

One hundred and fifty years from now, Roger’s descendants and ours will be the current Canadians receiving waves of newcomers. They will look different from Roger’s descendants and ours. They will speak different languages, sounding funny to these future Canadians of South Asian and mixed backgrounds. They will dress differently and even “smell funny” too.

Why do they come? Yes, for better educations for themselves and their children. For good living in a peaceful land. For political and ideological freedom.

Yet they will also come then as they do now, and have in the past, for a deeper spiritual reason. Not their own rationale and purposes, but rather those of the Holy Spirit. Paul, in his sermon to the thinkers of ancient Greece, dropped in this spiritual reality always at work:

“And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27, ESV).

God is behind immigration, the movements of people throughout the ages from land to land. God still determines when and where we will all live. And He does this all for His good purposes—that we should seek Him and find Him.

Yes, God uses immigration to bring people to Himself. His purpose for newcomers is to find Him. And His methodology is us. Our divine purpose is to lovingly reach, proclaim, engage and care for newcomers to our lives and land, both today and for the next 150 years.

Charles Hermelink serves as lead pastor at Danforth Community Church in East Toronto, Ont., and one day per week as the Cultural Language Group co-ordinator for Mission Canada, the national mission agency of the PAOC.

  1. “150 years of immigration in Canada,” Statistics Canada, June 29, 2016, last modified April 13, 2017,


Image © This article appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.

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