All posts by Karen Stiller

In Light of Paris: A Refugee Support Group Finds its Way

by Karen Stiller

We have one of those decorative signs in our house near the back door so our kids can see it as they leave for school. Instead of “dance! sing! celebrate!” this one is about doing the right thing.

Syria in rubble (http://photo.sf.co.ua/id154)
Syria in rubble (http://photo.sf.co.ua/id154)

It is a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr., with this quote, “The time is always right to do what is right.” I’m sure it annoys our kids. As if they need Martin Luther King, Jr. nagging at them too.

But it is top of mind for me these days, after Paris, and before our next meeting of the Port Perry Refugee Support Group.

We formed the group, our own church getting the ball rolling, to try to bring together churches, along with community groups and individuals who might not go to a church, but still care deeply about the devastation of Syria’s people.

We thought this was something we could do together. To borrow a line from the EFC, something we could do better together than apart.
Continue reading In Light of Paris: A Refugee Support Group Finds its Way

Why we Force our Kids, Almost Without Fail, to go to Church

12279089MidResby Karen Stiller

Last Sunday morning, my lovely 17-year old daughter told me she was going to the gym instead of church. I told her she wasn’t. She told me she was. I repeated she wasn’t. Then she said, “I have no choice in this!”

And I said that was right. She has no choice in this.

I know that in millions of dark, incredibly messy teenaged bedrooms around the world, this scene is played out every Sunday morning. I also know that in some homes, it ends differently.

I’m not judging anybody, especially not another parent of another teenager. But in our house, we force our kids to go to church almost every Sunday.

It really boils down to two simple things:

1. We believe it is the best thing for them.

2. We believe they do not always know themselves what is the best thing for them.

Continue reading Why we Force our Kids, Almost Without Fail, to go to Church

Urbana, Refugees, James Bond, Poverty and more. Here Comes Nov/Dec Faith Today

by Karen Stiller

We’ve just hit “send” on the Nov/Dec issue of Faith Today. It’s a great one, if we do say so ourselves (and on behalf of all the writers whose hard work it showcases, and all the Canadian stories it tells).

Coming soon!
Coming soon!

Off it goes to the printers after last week’s marathon sessions of proofing: poring over each page to make sure there are no errors; checking placement and quality of images to make sure they are crisp and colourful, and all the other double and triple checking that goes into making sure there are no “stupid mistakes.”

Which is not to say we have never made any stupid mistakes. We have. And we will again. But it always feels great to wrap up an issue and know that soon our readers will hold it in their hands.

Here’s some of what’s coming your way: We’ve affectionately dubbed this issue “The Urbana Issue” because that student mission conference is coming up in December. Although it’s held in the States, it’s co-hosted by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship Canada. About 2,500 Canadian students will head down to it in the break between Christmas and New Year’s. And it always features Canadian speakers and presenters.

Faith Today offers a guide to Canadians to make the  most of the conference, and interviews Steve Colby, one of the key-notes and a great thinker on what mission looks like today. I called Gordon T. Smith, president of Ambrose, when I saw he was presenting at Urbana. He told me he loves to go, and that Urbana really respects the Canadian voice. We think that is true too. And we’re happy to add to that voice in this issue.

Our cover story will challenge how you think about fighting poverty, and our Christmas gift catalogue guide will help you put some of that thinking into action. We have more great features like an Ebola update, and a “how-to” for churches who want to help with the refugee crisis but need a little guidance.

And there’s more. Regular contributor John G. Stackhouse Jr. moves outside of the norm of what he normally writes, and unpacks Jesus and James Bond. That sure caught our attention when he sent it in. We think you’ll like it.

If you don’t subscribe, but want to, now’s a great time to grab one of Stackhouse’s most popular books at the same time. We are in the last days of that subscription special. Click here to claim it until Oct. 31.

Then…you will love our next offer, which begins Nov. 1. You will be able to buy three Faith Today gift subscriptions for the price of one. This is a fast, easy way to start crossing people off your Christmas list, and give them a gift that we are confident they will love. No stupid mistakes!

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Subscribe now.

Steve Bell on Freedom Road Activism

By Steve Bell

Several weeks ago, I found myself an interviewee-in-waiting at CBC’s complex on Portage Avenue, situated in sunny downtown Winnipeg. Talk-show host Ismaila Alfa requested an interview, having noticed I had publically backed a petition to the Federal sl40mapGovernment asking for a firm commitment to the building of Freedom Road – a 27 kilometer provincial-grade road that would end a century of artificially imposed isolation for the people of Kekekoziibii (Hawk River) —otherwise known as Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.

The Federal government has committed one million dollars to a design study. However, to the people of Shoal Lake 40, “design only” sends quite a different message. They have already suffered two federally funded (and subsequently abandoned) studies for a water treatment facility, and are now heading into their 18th year under a boil-water advisory. They are feeling far from assured.

When it was time for my interview, Ismaila came to the area room to fetch me into the studio. As I was rising from my chair he suddenly smiled and pointed through the window to the church across the street. There, posted in large red letters on Elim Chapel’s street sign, were the bold words “We support Shoal Lake 40 Freedom Road.” It was all I could do to keep from tears, and I interviewed as a proud Christian.
Continue reading Steve Bell on Freedom Road Activism

What Grows in the Dark. Fighting Human Trafficking in Cambodia

by Karen Stiller

My sister Miriam and I were walking down a dusty street in Poipot, a border town in Cambodia, with Thailand a stones-throw away, when the darkest moment in our trip took place.

A billboard outside of a bank machine in Poipet, Cambodia
A billboard outside of a bank machine in Poipet, Cambodia

I travelled with Samaritan’s Purse to Cambodia in the Spring (and wrote about it in the Sep/Oct Faith Today) on a Water for Kids project. The trip was primarily about the construction of water filters that bring clean water to areas where there is none. But it also included visiting Poipot to see the work Samaritan’s Purse does around human trafficking and illegal migration. This involves mushrooms, but more about that at the end.

From the moment we pulled into town in our little bus, Poipot had a different feel to it for me, at least the downtown core. And at least compared to the other lively and colourful spots we had seen.

24 hours does not an expert make, of that I am very aware.

But there was a heaviness to Poipot that I had not felt before during our trip. It felt thick and menacing, dark and dangerous.
Continue reading What Grows in the Dark. Fighting Human Trafficking in Cambodia

Heading to Urbana

by Karen Stiller

In 1993 my husband Brent and I travelled to Urbana, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s student mission conference that happens in the snowy days between Christmas and New Year’s every three years.

Worshippers gather together at Urbana (www.urbana.org)
Worshippers gather together at Urbana (www.urbana.org)

Back then, it was still held at Urbana-Champaign. We went to represent Regent College, where I worked as admissions officer and my husband studied. We stood  in the huge hall where exhibitors provided information to eager students contemplating what God was calling them to in their young lives.

I remember the halls packed with worshippers. I remember the best worship music I had yet heard in my Christian life, and I remember being blown away by Ravi Zacharias, one of the many excellent speakers.
Continue reading Heading to Urbana

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 www.crucialskills.com (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.”
Continue reading When a Conversation Turns Crucial

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.
Continue reading Leaving on a Jet Plane