All posts by Karen Stiller

The Joy of a Webinar

by Karen Stiller

As “host” of the two EFC webinars we have done so far, one on euthanasia and one on religious freedom in Canada, I have to say, they are surprisingly enjoyable to do. Surprising in their enjoyment because they are also a little bit nerve-wracking. The fear of being tongue-tied or stumped, or wandering down a rabbit trail is there in the background.  Or hiccuping loudly into your microphone. But so far, so good.Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 10.46.30 AM

The webinars blend nicely with Faith Today, as these issues are ones regularly covered by Canada’s Christian magazine. Produced by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada — publisher of Faith Today — the webinars so far have been interview style with Bruce Clemenger, president of the EFC, answering questions and sharing his insights on these two crucial topics for Canadians.  Then, listeners send in their questions live and Bruce answers them on the spot. That’s where things get really interesting.

Even if we try to anticipate what questions will come in, we have been surprised each time. The really interesting part, and maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise, is how practical the questions are.

They are “rubber hitting the road” queries as Canadians of faith try to figure out how to live in a changing country. And it’s fascinating to “pick the brain” as they say, of Clemenger, who I realize each time has got to be one of Canada’s best informed and insightful evangelical leaders. He knows his stuff. And the webinars are a great opportunity to share that knowledge.

Next up on the webinar schedule? Rick Hiemstra, director of research for the EFC, will explore the changing face of the Canadian Church.  What does it mean for leaders and those who attend regularly? What will our churches look like in 20 years with the current reality of ageing members and rising rates of immigration?

When a Conversation Turns Crucial

by Karen Stiller

Have you ever had a conversation that started out innocently — as in, not intended to be a fight — but quickly derailed and became a train wreck? I know I have. And it seems the closer the relationship (spouse, parent, child, close co-worker) the greater the risk of a fiery conversation crash.

Read the full Crucial Conversations cover story in the July/Aug Faith Today.
Read the full Crucial Conversations cover story in the July/Aug Faith Today.

Our July/August Faith Today cover story deals with just this topic.

Tim Schroeder, national pastor for The Leadership Centre Willow Creek Canada, wrote the piece for us, delving into what a “crucial conversation” is and why it’s so important we get them right.

The material for the story is based on the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High (McGraw Hill, 2011), a book that I bought for myself a couple of years ago and now sits worn out and well-read on my shelf of books I will not give away (and don’t easily lend because I don’t want to lose it).

A crucial conversation, according to (and our article!),  is “a discussion between two or more people where (1) the stakes are high, (2) opinions vary and (3) emotions run strong.”
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How Sweet Christian Community is, Even Short-term

by Karen Stiller

There is so much to write about from my just-finished trip to Cambodia. I was gone for almost two weeks — and on planes for almost two days on the way back — with Samaritan’s Purse, accompanying a Water for Kids Trip.

Members of the team from across Canada and across generations pray with school staff in Cambodia
Members of the team from across Canada and across generations pray with school staff in Cambodia

I will be working on a story for Faith Today about the trip and the work we did building filters to provide clean water to school children in rural Cambodia. My task in the next few days is to sit down with my journal and a highlighter and discover the story that is there, already forming in my now worn-out red notebook. I will listen to the interviews I recorded on my iPhone on jiggly bus rides and under the most intense sun I have ever stood under. I’ll flip through my pictures yet again, marvelling at how beautiful the children were, and how ready and open to make friends.

But what I am thinking about today, two days home, is how sweet it is to be in Christian community. We experienced the warmth of fellowship on a few levels. We were a cross-Canadian/trans-denominational/intergenerational  group. We came from Nova Scotia to B.C., and spanned the years from 18 to early 60s. We made friends quickly, as we tentatively shared our stories in the departure lounge in B.C., waiting to board a flight to Shanghai. It seemed like a nice group then, and then things just got better.

We built, explored, worshipped, laughed, cried, sweated, shared, taught, learned, sang, prayed and ate a lot of rice together. And then sweated some more. And then ate some more rice. And sweated.

It was amazing to see the Church in Cambodia and join in worship and devotional times with Samaritan’s Purse local staff and with local churches.

It was wonderful to experience once again the magic of a short, intense trip in creating deep community. Yes, it is short-lived community, but short lives are good lives too.

Sometimes you do just need to add water and stir to make something rich and delicious.  I had this great big sense, once again, of being part of a great big Church. How sweet it is.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor with Faith Today. Watch for the story of the Cambodia trip in an upcoming issue. 

Leaving on a Jet Plane

By Karen Stiller

This Friday, Faith Today has a unique opportunity to visit the work in the field of one of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s affiliates, Samaritan’s Purse.

School children will have access to a dependable source of clean, safe water.
School children will have access to a dependable source of clean, safe water.

I am joining a team of other Canadian volunteers to travel to Cambodia on a Water for Kids project. We will be camping out — literally camping out (and that means tents) — at a school where we will install water filters paid for by the team itself. Each of these specially adapted filters can meet the U.N.-established daily water needs of about 250 children.

The ingenious BioSand filters are used by many organizations around the world, to provide low-tech solutions to bad water in communities. And it is a Canadian-made solution (invented by retired University of Calgary professor Dr. David Manz) adapted from ancient ways of cleaning water using sand and other natural materials.

In Cambodia, Samaritan’s Purse Canada has partnered with a number of local organizations to build and install more than 122,000 BioSand Water Filters since 1999.

Our team will also be working with school-children to have some fun and educational opportunities. Hint: I’m buying face paint later today to take along. We will also witness some of the work to fight human trafficking that Samaritan’s Purse does in Cambodia, a country tragically known for its high rates in trafficking.
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Because it is Right and Just: Voices From Canada’s Pro-Life Movement

The National March for Life will hit the streets next week on May 14. In honour of that event, and in recognition of the ongoing efforts by countless Canadians to remind us that Canada does not have any legislative restrictions around abortion, Faith Today presents the voices of pro-life activists from across the country. Click here for more quotes from campus activists.

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“I stay involved in the pro-life movement because it is right and just.” Jeffrey Belanger, London, Ont.

“The thing I would like Canadians to know about abortion is that it hurts women and kills children. Women deserve better than abortion.” Christina Alaimo, Campaign Life Coalition Youth Coordinator, Toronto

“I stay involved in the pro-life movement in Canada because without true commitment and dedication to the movement, the status quo surrounding abortion will not change. Innocent human beings will continue to be murdered, and mothers will continue to be exploited. I stay involved in the movement because I want to see a day that abortion is abolished in Canada; a day when human life is protected from its earliest stage; a day when Canadians sanctify human life rather than destroy it.” Carter Grant, Campaign Life Coalition Toronto

“I stay involved in the pro-life movement in Canada because the pay is below average, levels of stress is high, I work days, evenings, weekends, and I haven’t had a real vacation in 3 years. I question my involvement in the movement every day and after almost 4 years of working for Campaign Life Coalition, I still don’t know why I keep coming back, but I do.” Matthew Wojciechowski, Campaign Life Coalition Communication Director, Toronto

“I can help end abortion in my lifetime. In Canada alone, 300 children are killed every single day throughout all nine months of pregnancy, paid for by your tax dollars.” Yvonne Boon, Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, Calgary
Continue reading Because it is Right and Just: Voices From Canada’s Pro-Life Movement

A Phone Call From Nepal: Local Leader Shares What Life is Like now

Luke McKee is Communications Coordinator  for Partners International Canada. This week, he hosted a phone call with Bhim Lai, a partner in Nepal.  Bhim Lal shared what life is like right now in the earthquake-stricken nation.

Since early in the morning on April 25, 2015, Bhim Lal’s life has changed. As the director of Good Friends of Nepal he has dedicated much of his life to sharing the love of Christ to a country that has not heard the Good News.

Bhim Lal in better days in Nepal.
Bhim Lal in better days in Nepal.

Since 1996 Bhim Lal and Good Friends of Nepal has grown from four Church plants to over 150, with hundreds of baptisms taking place. They have also been able to operate an orphanage, as well as reach others through the development of a literacy class. Bhim Lal’s work and life have made an incredible impact on the community that surrounds him. The New Vision Orphanage Home serves 20 children in Kathmandu, providing them with food, clothing and education. Good Friends of Nepal was expanding, transforming hearts and lives around the country.

On April 25th that all changed.

As a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck near Kathmandu in Nepal, Bhim Lal and his family were forced into the streets as houses began to crumble and thousands were trapped in the rubble, calling out for help.

In the days that would follow, aftershocks and tremors between 4.0 and 6.1 magnitude continued to devastate Kathmandu destroying homes, streets and lives.

We were able to connect with Bhim Lal from the Partners International Canada headquarters in Brampton within hours of earthquake striking and the scene that he described to us was a scene of sadness and loss.

With all of the building damages, Bhim Lal and his family were amongst the thousands who would spend the night in the streets, with his children sleeping inside of their car while he and his wife slept outside.

In our phone conversation Bhim Lal said he could hear people crying out for help, the situation remained chaotic and people began to simply try and survive as they waited for help to arrive.

Aid agencies across the country immediately mobilized to provide relief to those in Nepal.

For some organizations that means serving the immediate needs of those on the ground, for others plans began to take shape that promote mid to long term recovery.
Continue reading A Phone Call From Nepal: Local Leader Shares What Life is Like now

An Insider Glimpse Into the Ebola Crisis

Dr. Rick Sacra contracted the Ebola virus in September 2014, while working at ELWA Hospital in Liberia. Following several weeks of treatment at the Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Sacra returned to Liberia. He shares his thoughts about ELWA’s response to the Ebola crisis, and the fulfilling nature of medical ministry.

By Dr. Rick Sacra

Monday morning, 9 February, was my last morning at ELWA Hospital – in just a few hours I would be heading for the airport. There was an appreciation program, with breakfast, for all of the hospital staff after our morning chapel gathering, recognizing those who had served so courageously during the worst of the Ebola crisis.

Dr. Rick Sacra with young baby Noah, a patient the hospital was able to treat because it stayed open.
Dr. Rick Sacra with young baby Noah, a patient the hospital was able to treat because it stayed open.

Along with Dr. Jerry Brown, our Medical Director, I was asked to say a few words. As I spoke, thanking our nurses, midwives, aides, and cleaners for coming to work during the toughest times (August-October 2014) my mind went back to a meeting with health care planners from an international NGO. They wanted to know: “What allowed ELWA to remain open when other hospitals closed?”
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My Difficult And Rich Experience Being A Pro-Life Campus Activist

by Karen Stiller

A Canadian university  campus just might be one of the most difficult  places to be actively pro-life. We’ve all heard the disturbing reports of pro-life groups being shut down by totalitarian-style student unions, of displays ripped to shreds, of cancelled events and banned speakers.1803098MidRes

As we gather  testimonials for a fascinating spread in our upcoming May/June Faith Today from students across the country who are actively pro-life on campus,  the years fall away and I’m back at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S.

It was 1989 -1990, the last two years of my undergraduate degree when I was swept into that city’s pro-life movement. The heat had risen because a Morgentaler clinic opened up. Pro-life activists in Halifax were galvanized for action.

I was new to being pro-life (in fact, had been just the opposite for many years). I was compelled to change my position because of my newly-committed life as a Christ-follower.  I could no longer reconcile abortion and its tragic lack of imagination as a solution for women and their children, with the compassionate Christ I now followed.

I went from being ardently pro-choice to picketing outside a clinic on the other side. How I hated that experience of picketing, which was the experience of being hated by those who disagreed.

Things accelerated on campus.

My boyfriend and I (now husband for 25 years) started Students for Life, a pro-life group at Dalhousie. Our posters (before they were ripped off the walls of course) attracted a motley crew who met together weekly to plot strategy. Our activism consisted mostly of information tables and posters. We used material from Feminists for Life because we thought it had the best intellectual appeal.
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The Power of Good Stories Well Told

By Karen Stiller

Last night I sat in a packed movie theatre in Oshawa watching The Drop Boxdrop_box

It is, of course, the inspiring story of Pastor Lee Jong-Rak who installs a dropbox for unwanted babies in the outside wall of his Seoul home. The little compartment is lined with a blanket, equipped with a warming light bulb and can be opened from outside the home — to deposit baby, sometimes with umbilical cord still attached — and  from inside the home to a bittersweet welcome. Bitter because no one is happy when a baby is abandoned. Sweet because the first thing Pastor Lee does is hold the child closely and thank God for the miracle in his hands.

There is a red glowing button that triggers a doorbell to alert Pastor Lee and his family (including at the time of filming about 15 children, many of them disabled) that someone new is about to enter this chaotic, messy, drooling, happy family.

I was struck with the expected things: the selflessness of the Pastor, his wife, daughter and the children who embrace the presence of each other. The value of “imperfect life” as seen in the severe handicap of the Pastor’s own son, a heartbreak that clearly broke the Pastor’s heart completely open, preparing it to receive what was to come: one after another after another less than perfect and less than wanted child, here perfectly loved, fully wanted.
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Awkward Interview Moments

So there I sat in a little cozy room at the Royal York hotel in downtown Toronto, chatting to Franklin Graham and his entourage about Eliza Doolittle. Yes, Eliza Doolittle.

Part of my very sophisticated pre-interview warm up strategy involves small talk. Small talk is hard with Franklin Graham. I was trying to relax myself primarily. This straight shooting Southern guy who I’m sure has been interviewed by a million people, did not seem in need of relaxation. But as I set up,  I explained how I would be taping the interview using an iPhone app I had learned about from a journalist, Eliza Doolittle, who had travelled with Graham to South Sudan. I had heard her speak and asked her about the app. And now I use it. (And isn’t that the most amazing coincidence, I chortled).
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