“The fact that this relatively small church on Canada’s West Coast is able to make such a significant spiritual impact on people on the other side of the world confirms to this pastoral team the goodness and favour of God.”
The PAOC is a Fellowship of churches as well as a sending agency to the world and to our own nation. Mission Canada, our national mission agency, has five priorities that guide our missional efforts in Canada. Two of these priorities include reaching those in our urban centres and in various cultural language groups. As a welcoming nation to those immigrating from other countries, our urban centres are growing and diversifying. Some of the amazing churches that make up our Fellowship are smaller congregations with a high concentration and reach into a variety of cultural groups. Our West Coast Punjabi Masihi Church (PMC) is one such congregation.
The Lower Mainland of British Columbia has perhaps the largest population in all of North America of people from the Indian subcontinent. PMC is a fellowship of Christ followers who pray, teach, preach, worship and glorify God in several languages: English, Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu. With its main campus in Surrey, B.C., and another campus in Vancouver, the doors of both these locations have been wide open to everyone who desires to come and experience the presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Then COVID-19 hit, and everything changed.
Doors that were open quickly needed to close. Gatherings ceased. Globally, planes were grounded. Borders closed. Immigration halted. Travel stalled. Canada, along with other nations around the world, were shutting down on account of a global pandemic. And, because the world changed, the church needed to adjust rapidly as well. Churches that had never had an online presence needed to quickly make the leap into seemingly new technology and methods to minister to their congregations. Other churches that were online expanded their exposure from Sunday only to more frequent, if not daily, Zoom gatherings and interactions. Live streaming and pre-recorded messages became the new norm.
During this season, although government restrictions had kept their physical doors from being open, this B.C.-based church found itself being catapulted into engaging a much broader audience. PMC saw their online viewership almost quadruple as compared to their live in-person services. There has been steady and consistent online engagement with people in Pakistan, India, the United States, and with the members of their local congregation, as their services have been made available on various social media platforms. One of the challenges the team has been navigating is translating the services into Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu, but God has faithfully provided just the right people and resources necessary so the gospel could be clearly communicated to listeners in their own language.
It can be easy to focus on the negative and on a feeling of loss in a time of great uncertainty, but Pastor Rehan, Pastor Mathew and Pastor Balbir, along with others in the church family, are thankful to God for the good that is coming from this pandemic. Joseph’s words to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 (CEV) resonate in their hearts: “You tried to harm me, but God made it turn out for the best, so that he could save all these people, as he is now doing.”
They are encouraged by the high engagement of young adults who are involved in worship, being trained for ministry, and taking the lead on many of the technical aspects that come so naturally to a younger generation. To see the advancement of technology is remarkable, and the way the church is now using it to spread the good news of Jesus is even more incredible. PMC made some technology updates in this season that are enabling them to do more than just broadcast their Sunday services. The fact that this relatively small church on Canada’s West Coast is able to make such a significant spiritual impact on people on the other side of the world confirms to this pastoral team the goodness and favour of God. They are even receiving requests from new believers locally for outdoor baptisms, and the church is working to launch a third location in British Columbia shortly!
With the increase in online viewers, there has been a great need to disciple those coming to faith in Christ. As a result, PMC has established the Disciple-Making Movements (DMM). The Discovery Bible Study series is being used as new believers from around the world are joining PMC in an online Zoom format. Each group has one facilitator and seven students. It is incredibly moving to see these disciple-making communities flourish as people “zoom in” from India, England, Pakistan, and other parts of Canada.
Prayer has been a huge emphasis for this church congregation because they know they can do nothing without God’s help. Before the pandemic hit, this congregation would intentionally gather at the church altar and pray for one another’s needs and for God to move. Daily, they have been reminded that not even a rapidly spreading coronavirus can stop their commitment to join together in prayer, as morning and evening they gather on Zoom for prayer meetings, believing God for a 2 Chronicles 7:14 experience.
Corinne Storms is part of the Mission Canada core team and oversees Wordcom Christian Resources, the distribution arm of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.
This article appeared in the October/November/December 2020 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2020 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos courtesy Punjabi Masihi Church.