Faith Today is going to Uganda

This week, one of Faith Today‘s senior editors, Karen Stiller, is flying to Uganda to visit refugee camps that are welcoming the seemingly never-ending flow of ordinary women, men and children fleeing the seemingly never-ending conflict in South Sudan.

“This is one of my favourite shots from the South Sudan trip five years ago,” says Stiller. “It reminds me that kids are kids no matter what, and joy happens, even when your life has been turned inside out.”

Samaritan’s Purse, an EFC affiliate, is there in the camp providing clean water, health care, improved sanitation and other programs, including a trauma healing program for the people who have lived through more than we can imagine.

It was roughly five years ago that we visited camps in South Sudan for the story “A Visit to the World’s Newest Country.” That situation was bad enough; internally displaced South Sudanese making their way to, and their homes in, the rough, temporary camps within their own country.  Back then, the world was still optimistic about South Sudan’s opportunity to build something new. But the conflict in recent months has just grown worse, and so has the possibility of a severe famine. Families are fleeing and they often end up in northern Uganda– a country that borders their young, struggling nation and receives the largest number of South Sudanese refugees in the world.

The team travelling to Uganda, which includes two or three other journalists, will visit two refugee settlements, as well as maternal/newborn health projects and a rehabilitation program that helps women and their children out of a life of prostitution.

“Today I’m packing my small bag for a week of what is usually pretty rough travel, but an incredible privilege to travel to spots like these and try to understand what people who are just like you and me are going through,” says Stiller. “When I visited South Sudan in 2012, I was also struck by the presence of Canadian workers in the camps and the incredible work they were doing. I’ll look for more of those stories as well, even as we focus on the most important story: the lives of the South Sudanese and how they are struggling to survive and flourish under such unimaginable pressure.”

We hope that Karen will be able to post blogs or photos from the field, but we know internet capability is not predictable in these circumstances. Watch for updates!

Faith Today is happy to be recognized as an excellent source of Christian journalism in Canada. By subscribing to Faith Today, you help keep journalism like ours healthy and ready to tell important stories like the ones you will read in recent months about the people being helped and the work being done in one of the world’s most troubled areas by a Canadian Christian organization. We tell the stories other people don’t tell, and ask the questions other people aren’t asking. Join us

Seven great reasons to grab hold of the May/Jun Faith Today

Hey folks! We are excited, as always, about the next issue of Faith Today. And we think you will be too. Here are seven great things coming up, and seven great reasons to subscribe today

(1) “Help Your Kids Embrace the Faith: Trading in picture-perfect faith for authentic experience with Jesus” is our cover essay from Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach of Ottawa. She is the author of the upcoming book Why I Didn’t Rebel: A Twenty-Two-Year-Old Explains Why She Stayed on the Straight and Narrow—and How Your Kids Can Too (Thomas Nelson, 2017).

Faith Today is Canada’s Christian magazine. Subscribe today.

(2) “Voyeurism, Exploitation or Edgy Fiction? The mixed messages of Pure” looks at the new CBC TV series about a Mennonite mafia.

(3) The Five Love Languages turns 25: Our mini-interview with Gary Chapman. Is your love language words of affirmation? Quality time? Receiving gifts, acts of service or physical touch? It’s been 25 years since the release of Gary Chapman’s enormously best-selling book The Five Love Languages. Chapman had several Canadian speaking engagements this year to mark the milestone. He spoke with Faith Today about the book, its legacy and the new challenge to modern marriages.

(4) “How to Lead Well When Leading Is Hard: Agents of Change in a Resistant Culture” is an essay by Gary Nelson, president of Tyndale University College & Seminary.

(5) “The Shack Controversy: How the Label ‘Christian’ Can Lead Us All Astray” is a feature article by senior writer Patricia Paddey, addressing the new movie based on a controversial bestselling novel by Canadian born “missionary kid” William Paul Young.

(6) “Listening to the diaspora church: A conversation in Toronto leads to insights and knowledge about immigrants and the Church.” Staff from the Tyndale Intercultural Ministry Centre share what we all need to hear from a recent gathering of nine immigrant church planters at The People’s Church in Toronto.

(7) An investigative piece by Craig Macartney into why and how Compassion International was forced out of India after 48 years in that country. Compassion centres ran out of money because the government banned them from receiving any foreign funds—cutting off support for 145,000 children and their families. The move is part of a growing wave of nationalism that is spurring a sharp increase of Christian persecution.

Plus challenging columns by John G. Stackhouse, Jr., James A. Beverley, Carolyn Arends and Bruce Clemenger. Each issue of Faith Today now comes with a new copy of Love Is Moving, the EFC’s magazine for young adults. Subscribers are encouraged to enjoy it themselves or to give their copy to a young person you know and love.

Making peace with creation: the story behind the new film out of Regent College

In “Making Peace with Creation” poet and theologian Loren Wilkinson presents a compelling and compassionate vision for life in the 21st century.

by Iwan Russell-Jones

I knew that I had to make this film after my wife, Amanda, and I took part in the ‘Boat Course’, a remarkable educational experience that Loren and Mary Ruth Wilkinson devised and have been offering at Regent College for many years.

From the Wilkinson’s home on Galiano students and teachers set off together in two rowing boats on an 8-day voyage around the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, to think, study, discuss and meditate on the meaning of life on this our beautiful and fragile planet – to ponder Technology, Wilderness and Creation (to give the course its correct title).

It was an unforgettable trip – shipping our oars while a pod of Orcas crossed the channel just metres in front of us, standing in wonder on the beach in the dead of night as the sea was lit up by millions of plankton working their miracle of bioluminescence, reading the Scriptures and praying together using the rhythms of Celtic daily prayer in the stunning setting of the Pacific Northwest, contemplating the devastating long-term impact of the acidification of the oceans …  And weaving it all together with insight, poetry and passion was Loren himself, who has spent decades of his life thinking and teaching about the human experience and its relationship to a biblical understanding of creation.

Continue reading Making peace with creation: the story behind the new film out of Regent College

My conversation with a man whose wife died by assisted suicide

The other day I met a man whose wife had died by assisted suicide earlier this year. We sat beside each other on an airplane and struck up conversation, as people do. We discovered we were both writers of a sort, and that was our starting point.

I don’t really remember how it came up, but I must have asked him about his wife. He was an elderly man and something he said made me think he was widowed fairly recently. Then he told me this really enormous thing: that his wife had fought cancer for years and had entered a new, final phase of not winning the fight anymore and so she had chosen assisted suicide about four months ago, with his support.

Subscribe today to Canada’s Christian magazine, and never miss another issue.

This seemed like a huge disclosure, a big, sad, tragic thing to share. I don’t know if the ease of his disclosure is a statement about how writers tend to go deep quickly with each other, or maybe it’s more a statement about the potential “ordinariness” of what we are now doing in Canada, by having assisted suicide.

Or, maybe, he was just sad and it was recent and so he blurted it out to a stranger. Then, almost right after he told me, this kind, quiet man asked me what kind of writing I do.

So, I told him I wrote mostly about faith things, and religious things, and that my husband is a minister. I’m not sure why I added that bit about my husband, but I think I said it because I wanted to assure him that I understood grief, and he was clearly grieving.
Continue reading My conversation with a man whose wife died by assisted suicide

The latest issue of Faith Today is out in the world

Politics is on everyone’s mind these days. It’s almost impossible to avoid, and why would we? As Christians we know we are citizens of another Kingdom, one we will welcome someday in its fullness. But in the meantime we are called to be good citizens here, engaged in caring for our neighbours, our communities and creation.

Subscribe today to Canada’s Christian magazine, and never miss another issue.

Our cover article in the Mar/Apr issue of Faith Today provides challenging insights from a handful of different theologians on how our faith should not — and cannot — be separated from our politics. Canadians too easily assume politics is public and faith is private, but this article is a timely reminder to avoid that mistake.

Our interview with Loren Wilkinson presents another facet of citizenship — our call to care for creation. The B.C. poet and theologian, together with his wife Mary-Ruth Wilkinson, has devoted years to opening their home on Galiano Island to students who come to visit, feast together and get their hands dirty in creation’s soil around the island.

If the coming of spring isn’t already getting you thinking about gardening around your church, you probably will be after hearing from Wilkinson — and you’ll be reminded of its spiritual importance.

And that applies to sending kids to summer camp, as our advertising feature will no doubt remind you.
Continue reading The latest issue of Faith Today is out in the world

John Bowen goes very personal with his review of Andy Crouch book

By John P. Bowen

No book is read in a vacuum. You may kid yourself that you are “getting away from it all” to be quiet and simply read. But the “all” never retreats very far. And if the book is any good, it will follow you back into the “all” anyway. And there, the book and your life will find each and will tangle and fight and perhaps love, and nothing will ever be the same again.

This happened to me recently when I was part-way through reading Andy Crouch’s newest book, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing (InterVarsity Press, 2016) for a group I belong to.

Author John Bowen’s recent health crisis brought a keen awareness of his weakness and God’s strength.

I had been diagnosed with stable angina, which degenerated a few weeks later into unstable angina. I was told to stay home for a week, until the cardiologist could arrange for an angiogram. The angiogram, on a Monday morning, revealed four major blood vessels in trouble, one of them 85% blocked, and an appointment was made for quadruple bypass surgery at 9 am two days later.

And then began the wrestling of Crouch’s words and my life. At the worst, it was as though his words began to curl off the page and meld into thin indestructible lines, tying down my life and making me horizontal for the better part of a week.

You know the kind of thing: an unbreakable plastic name band, tubes filling my body with various liquids, lines of nylon thread holding edges of flesh together, lines of metal staples like tiny telegraph poles bridging bloody gashes, oxygen tubes poking up my nose, a catheter to drain urine, a heart monitor with five coloured wires, and thin blue electrical wires poking out of my chest “just in case.” I knew how Gulliver must have felt when the Lilliputians tied him down with their silken cords.
Continue reading John Bowen goes very personal with his review of Andy Crouch book

What if your love language stinks?

Years ago, at a marriage retreat we were attending, the couple leading the talk made reference to the hugely bestselling book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman. They listed off the love languages — words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service or physical touch. Then they quickly added that neither of them had the love language of  receiving gifts. As if that was a bad thing (to have that love language) and a good thing (to not have that love language).

Happy 25th Anniversary to the book that has taught a lot of couples how to love each other even better. Watch for our “mini-interview” with author Gary Chapman in May/Jun Faith Today.

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and glanced at my husband. Because … my name is Karen and receiving gifts is my love language.

I remember when we first completed the love language profile, the results rolled in and it felt like of all the love languages, I managed to get the most superficial, materialistic, greedy needy one. Of course, that is not how Gary Chapman intended it to be understood. He writes: “A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say ‘Look, he was thinking of me,’ or ‘She remembered me.’ The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is you thought of him.”

But still, it has always felt funny.  Continue reading What if your love language stinks?

The Shack: Sometimes Ramshackle, But With a Solid Foundation

Movie Review by Bruce Soderholm

It was pretty much inevitable that a version of The Shack, the bestselling novel by Canadian-born author William Paul Young, would find its way to the big screen.

Any book boasting worldwide sales numbering close to 20 million has, in the lingo of the publishing and film industry, a huge platform – a large base of people likely to want to see the film. That said, the motivation to bring this project to screen is much less about its money-earning capacity than the passion of its supporters. The fruit of that labour debuts this weekend in theatres across North America.

What follows is a review of the film intended to assess its merits as a film and not, as much as possible, to be an assessment of its theology or its utility as an outreach tool.

Continue reading The Shack: Sometimes Ramshackle, But With a Solid Foundation

The beauty of church

There are a hundred reasons to dislike church. A thousand reasons to suspend your participation in one church, or swap it for attendance at another. I attend church every Sunday and I haven’t church shopped, swapped or dropped since I was in my early 20s (and that was a while ago). I’m married to an Anglican priest, so his church is my church, our family goes every week, and yes, there is bickering and badgering and we are often late.

Read Rod Wilson’s article on the circulation of the saints in the Jan/Feb Faith Today, available now.

As I’ve seen people in various churches over the years drop out for a time or for good, or switch churches (usually for a bigger or newer option, and yes, I totally get that there are lots of good reasons to leave a church), I’ve wondered what I would do if I had that freedom. Would I become a circulating saint, as Rod Wilson puts it in his recent Faith Today article? Would I regularly try out other churches to sample the offerings? Would I choose my couch and a good book on Sunday morning instead, and often? Would I let my kids throw in the worship towel because I just can’t stand the arguing? I can’t honestly answer “no” to those questions, because I just don’t know. I hope not, but it is possible that without my built-in church attendance motivation,  I might go to bedside Baptist, and poolside Presbyterian and be Lutheran at the lake, and all those other silly names.
Continue reading The beauty of church

The difference crokinole can make to everyone: Can churches do better with our seniors?

Our writer, Lisa Hall-Wilson, takes us behind the scenes of her article, “Can churches do better with our seniors?” including extra material and the background story behind the pivotal “Mr. Brown,” the senior who had such an impact on the spiritual life of the writer as a young woman. Read on…

By Lisa Hall-Wilson

As a writer, often when I write these types of articles I search for a way to put myself in the shoes of the people I’m writing about. My desire was to really give seniors a voice through this piece. One of the things that I struggle with is feeling like I belong in Church. I know I have a unique place within God’s Kingdom, but the local church…not so much always. Over the years, I’ve attended a few different churches and denominations and this feeling has followed me from city to city.

Read this full story on churches and seniors at www.faithtoday.ca Or better yet…subscribe and receive your own copy of Canada’s Christian magazine.

At the very beginning of the article, I mention an intergenerational crokinole tournament that took place when I was in youth group. That’s where I met my prayer partner Mr. Brown. I was saved at 17 and my family did not attend church, so the whole church culture was completely foreign to me. It was my first year in the youth group that I participated in the annual youth and seniors crokinole tournament.

Almost every Sunday, when he wasn’t out working in the fields, Mr. Brown would make sure to connect with me and ask how I was. He sent cards and small gifts all the way through university and attended my wedding. I don’t think he ever knew how much those small gestures meant to a kid who never quite seemed to fit in.

I thought it might be interesting, like the extra features on a DVD, to read some of the interviews I did with the people from Cannington Baptist (I’m not sure that church is even open still) for this piece. In researching any article, I talk to many more people than I am able to quote. Here’s what the pastor and some of the youth (now married with children) had to say about that annual crokinole tournament.

I tracked down Pastor Mark Lowrie in Owen Sound, Ont., just a few days before his retirement. I asked him and his wife Margaret about why the seniors and youth integrated so well.

How did that annual crokinole tournament between the seniors and youth get started?

Margaret and I were leading the young people and I think we just thought this would be a good idea. Probably Margaret’s idea more than mine. The seniors loved it. I’ve seen it done since then. Probably read about it somewhere.

Do you think there’s value in connecting the age groups in church ministry? Have we lost something by segregating the age groups?

I think it’s invaluable to connect the seniors with young people and vice versa. I think there’s way too much segregation in our churches. We slot everyone into their age group and there’s very little mixing except maybe in worship services, and then many divide that up…We do too much dividing up and not enough bringing together.

Our youth guy had cards made up with the teens [pictures] and he partnered each teen with a senior who prayed for them for that year. I was recently looking at the Bible of a senior, and in her Bible was still that teen’s card she had prayed for and the process had discontinued for at least five years.

Michelle Raynor and Megan Elford were two of the 20 or so youth who attended the youth group and the crokinole tournament at Cannington Baptist. I asked them if the tournament helped them get to know the seniors better?

Michelle: Yes! It was a highlight for sure! I think it built relationships within our church…I sincerely did enjoy those evenings. The friendly competition it made it fun to meet the others and help us relate on Sunday mornings.

Megan: Yes, I remember that too! I really believe in intergenerational ministry, but it’s something we don’t see happening as often anymore. It was always an encouragement to know that we had all of these “Grammas and Grampas” that cared about what we were doing and prayed year after year for us. My mom attributed many of the blessings we [my siblings] experienced to the prayers of those surrogate grandparents. I think it probably was a good thing for the seniors too, in that they had a chance to connect with each of the teenagers and with what was going on in our lives.

Lisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning freelance writer for the Canadian faith-based market, who sometimes writes for Faith Today. Subscribe now to keep stories like these coming, and help ensure print Christian journalism stays alive and well in Canada. 

Canada's Christian Magazine