Jennifer and Christina grew up as daughters of ministers. They moved around often and watched their parents love people and preach the gospel. Christina says, “God was always at the center of everything our family did.” Growing up this way helped these sisters see truth from a young age. Jennifer watched the struggles her parents faced in ministry, and she also watched the growth that took place in their life as a result of the struggles. This increased her faith and gave her the values she has today. Both girls live in Toronto with their parents, Yousif and Jacqueline, and are a very active part of the ministry at House of Prayer International Milton, the church they helped their parents start two years ago. Jennifer is 27 years old, sings in the choir, and helps teach young children about Jesus. Christina is 30 years old and serves the youth who are a part of their church. Before moving to Canada, their family lived in Pakistan where they faced enormous persecution because of their faith. They left Pakistan after their uncle was assassinated for preaching the gospel. This impacted their faith greatly. Jennifer says, “It makes you want to hold on to your faith tighter when you know that someone is so against what you believe.” In Canada, they get to experience a religious freedom they do not take for granted. Perhaps their biggest culture shock upon moving to Canada was seeing people refuse to take advantage of their religious freedom. They are thankful for this freedom and for the opportunity to help their parents lead a multicultural church which reaches people from all walks of life. Christina works for a large shipping company, and Jennifer plans to go to Cambridge Heritage Seminary for training to be a pastor. Serving in a church plant is not always easy, and there are many lonely days. Jennifer and Christina are praying for God to send more mentors and leaders into their life for encouragement and support. They are excited about the things God has in store for House of Prayer International Milton. To learn more about their parents and House of Prayer International, click HERE.
Yousif and Jacqueline met while working as nurses in Pakistan. They moved to Bahrein and met the Lord through a local church in 2000. There was no doubt God was calling them back to Pakistan to spread the news about God’s love. Once they were back in Pakistan, they began seeing hundreds of people come to know Jesus. They were there for ten years and started three new churches before they were forced to flee the country for fear of persecution. In fact, the persecution of the church in Pakistan had become so violent, Jacqueline’s brother, who was also a pastor, was assassinated. God provided an opportunity for Yousif, Jacqueline, and their two daughters, Jennifer and Christina, to move to Canada. They may have thought they were only leaving to escape the persecution in Pakistan, but God had plans to use them to reach the diverse culture in Toronto. In 2015, Yousif and his family started House of Prayer International in Milton where they see people from all different countries gather to pray and worship Jesus each week. Yousif and Jacqueline can speak five different languages making it easier for them to reach many different groups of people. Jacqueline loves to host meetings with women in their home. She and Yousif meet people in the markets and invite them over for dinner, or tea, to build relationships with them, pray for them, and share the love of Jesus with them. Yousif works as a nurse and often has opportunities to minister to people through his work and invite them into their home. Their church is currently meeting on Sunday afternoons inside another church building. They are praying for God to provide them with a permanent meeting space of their own. House of Prayer International Milton seems to attract those who are new to Canada or new to their faith, and the numbers are continuing to increase. Please pray for this family and this church as they seek to help others grow in a relationship with Jesus. To learn more about how Jennifer and Christina are serving with their parents, click HERE.
Never underestimate the importance of discipleship. Mauricio and Mabel were working full-time as a computer tech and a dance teacher in Colombia, South America when they were approached by leaders in their church about being discipled into ministry. They began discipling others, and eventually became leaders of cell groups within their church. They knew God was calling them to something different, and after praying, they both had dreams that helped affirm they would be moving to a multi-cultural place. God later affirmed the new place would be Canada, 4,000 miles away from their friends and family.
After 2 years of preparation, including learning a new language, and mountains of paperwork, they moved to Toronto and began building relationships and sharing Jesus through those relationships. Initially, they met with four to five others in the dark, cold basement of their apartment. As their numbers grew to fifteen, they outgrew the basement and searched for another place in the community to meet. In July 2017, King’s Church Mississauga launched weekly gatherings at the local community center, and they have already seen numerical and spiritual growth take place.
King’s Church Mississauga primarily ministers to Latinos, and their heartbeat is to disciple immigrants, refugees, and professionals. There are 35,000 Latinos in the city, most of whom are professionals.
Mauricio said God told him, “I sent you there [to Canada] because I have sheep there without a pastor.” This was further affirmed as God provided Mauricio a job as a delivery driver for a local company. Every weekday he drives around the city, meeting professionals in the community. This provides him with the perfect avenue to build relationships for the purpose of sharing the gospel.
King’s Church Mississauga has a vision to evangelize, disciple, and send out. They plan to start seven churches in seven years. They would also like to find a translator who can help them start an English service in the near future.
Mabel is in school to become more fluent in the English language, and she spends her days caring for their 21-month-old son, Oliver. She also leads music for their church’s weekly gatherings.
The Botellos spend a lot of their time pastoring couples, specifically immigrant couples who left their home country in pursuit of their dreams in Canada, and who do not have family close by, or a support system in place to help them navigate the difficult times. They are passionate about discipling these couples toward a Christ-honoring marriage and walking with them through their struggles. They are seeing couples begin to understand God’s design for marriage, and they are encouraged by the marriages that have turned away from divorce as an option.
They are praying for more influence in the huge Catholic and Muslim communities around them. They are also seeking God for the next church location. Please join us in praying for King’s Church.
Multiplication is the heartbeat of Fellowship Pickering. The 4-year-old church plant located in Pickering, Ontario, is reaching a highly diverse, densely populated and widely unchurched area in North America. Matt and Arrica Hess first planted Fellowship Pickering in October of 2013 and by October of 2016, the church multiplied to plant Fellowship Church Rouge Park and Fellowship Oshawa.
Matt grew up near Tulsa, Oklahoma, and felt called to ministry as a 12-year-old. He joined the Marine Corp when he was 19 and again felt called to pastor a church. He began preaching, but still felt like something was missing. After moving churches and starting seminary, he realized that he had never truly given his life to Christ. After surrendering to follow Christ, he and Arrica started to feel called to church planting. When they learned of the need in Toronto, they knew God was calling them to plant Fellowship Pickering. Their family moved to Toronto and began knocking on doors and starting Gospel-centered conversations.
Fellowship Pickering is primarily made up of young families that gather in an elementary school building. They encourage their members to attend the church gathering time, invest in a small group, grow in a community, and give everything to God. Matt wants Fellowship Pickering to look to the harvest in their community. “People have to see that Jesus can’t be a hobby,” he says, “The call to salvation, the call to a life with Christ, is not ‘Hey, when you feel like it, follow me.’”
Matt trains and mentors church planters to fulfill their vision of multiplication. Although they have already planted three churches in the Toronto area, they hope to see nine more planted by 2023. Their goal is to follow where the Holy Spirit has already started to work in the lives of those in their community and raise them up in evangelism and discipleship. “We teach our church planters how to get in to the harvest early and often…to have a mentality to multiply from the very beginning,” Matt says. In the future, they hope to have a permanent space where they can gather to worship together and train believers to plant new churches in their community.
Matt and Arrica hope that more believers can join in their vision to see the Gospel spread and churches multiplied throughout Toronto. Churches can join them by praying, giving financially, and sending teams to serve at Fellowship Pickering. “We really believe in the power of prayer,” Matt says, “And we need people to come up and catch the vision.”
In the center of one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in North America, Trinity Life Church seeks to engage an unreached people group—the people of Toronto. Mike and Missy Seaman, together with their two daughters Emerson and Reagan, first moved to Toronto in 2012. Mike, along with his parents and twin sister, surrendered his life to Christ as a young boy when a neighbor invited his family to church. “We were totally passionate about the Word,” Mike says, “God was transforming us.”
Mike met Missy when they were both college students. Mike began to share his faith with her and within a few short months, Missy shared Mike’s passion for having a relationship with Christ. As they grew in their faith, they began to feel called to full-time ministry and stayed obedient as God called them first to seminary, then to church planting, and finally to Toronto.
“God really grabbed our hearts for the lack of Gospel opportunity and the lack of Gospel presence in Canada,” Mike says. “We knew very little about Toronto, but we knew we were going to plant a church in downtown Toronto.”
They were alone in a city of 3 million people, but they knew God was calling their family to be a light in a lost community. They did not begin with a Bible study or a church service. Instead, the Seaman family began by living life on mission. They looked for opportunities to help people in the community and as they did, people began to notice. The more they helped, the more people wanted to know about them and why they acted the way they did. Over time, God built up a core group of individuals and the Seamans started a Bible study. The Bible study grew in to a worship service, and today Trinity Life Church is a growing body of believers.
Mike describes Trinity Life Church as “transient.” Church members often come and go, but the vision of Trinity Life Church is to help members first find their identity in Christ, and then find their destiny in Christ in order to reach their city and the world. “We’re not trying to gather a crowd,” Mike says, “For us it’s not about growing our church, it’s about releasing people into the kingdom.”
Trinity Life Church focuses on local and global engagement. Mike hopes this body of believers will feel empowered to reach the unreached people in their city and around the world. Mike is currently training members at Trinity Life Church in church planting strategy, with the vision of multiplying churches across Toronto.
As Trinity Life Church continues to grow, Mike says, “We don’t just want to pray about our strategy…we want to make prayer our strategy.” According to Mike, this is the best way to offer support for Trinity Life Church. He says, “Prayer should not be underestimated in terms of partnership. It is the key to what we do here in Toronto.”
by Hans Ostrem, Church Planter
Have you ever been asked which biblical character you most imitate?
I have been asked this many times though out my life and ministry. This is a very hard task given the vast examples in Scripture. Though I have chosen different characters at different times in my life, currently I choose Gideon.
I relate so much to Gideon’s calling, as I also was surprised to be called into His service. My parents are career missionaries, but I never felt that on my life. Of course I desired to serve Him, however, I wanted to do so in my own way. I studied medicine after college, happy to leave evangelism and ‘missions’ to those ‘called’. I still remember when my (now) wife and I were praying for clarity in getting married and were seeking Him for the future. My wife knew she was being called to serve, but I believed I was unworthy. “ [. . .] “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 1 I can relate, also being least in my Father’s household. I felt that God could and should use others with greater potential for His kingdom. With Gideon, he also doubted himself. But the angel of the Lord provided a sign, demonstrating that God was not only calling Gideon, but was WITH him. I did not physically see the angel of the Lord with my calling, but knew it was in fact, God. I knew that no matter what happened in my life, He was with me and would use me, for His purposes.
Later on, Gideon’s faith was tested in battle. “By a divinely guided process of elimination, the numerical strength of Gideon’s army is reduced from 32,000 to 10,000 to 300.”2 In a relativity short period of time, God reduced Gideon’s army to the mere but humble 300. Yet, he was facing an army of over 100,000. God wanted Gideon to trust that he could still win with so few soldiers. Again, God sent a sign in the form of a dream, this time, to help Gideon know that God had not only called him, but was still WITH him.
In my life and ministry I have faced some pretty incredible, and seemingly impossible, circumstances much-like Gideon. One of my big life applications from Gideon’s life; is to trust that God has not only called me to His work, but is WITH me always in it.
1 Judges 6:15b (English Standard Version)
2 Howell, Don N., Jr. Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003.
Church Planter Jose Fasolino
Every opportunity we have to learn and grow is a great opportunity, especially if it’s related to what we’re doing on a daily basis. Therefore for us as Christians, SEND was an enriching experience. We knew where we were going. What we did not know was that it was going to be beyond our expectations! Emmanuel Baptist Church East brought a group of four church leaders, which is 25% of our Church. How awesome is that!!
We left behind our spouses, children and homes to spend the next five days doing something we all have been called to do. Live our lives on mission. From the moment we left our “comfort zone” for the 14 hour car ride, we began experiencing something we would come to understand as “life on mission”. This was the most important thing we brought back. We understand now that the place where we are living, working, studying, doing everyday life, is our mission field. Those around us; our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers are the ones we need to reach. And even though this is probably something we already knew, it is the main reason our lives and hearts are oriented toward church planting – meaning planting churches that plant churches that plant churches…
Our experience at Send2015 was the flame that lit a fuse which nothing can extinguish!
Church Planter Gelvi Urribarri
The Send conference was an awesome experience. My family got to experience a well organized event and was able to meet part of our huge Baptist family. But for me the highlight of this trip was the words of my 21 years old, Jose, when he told me how amazing the whole movement is. He was surprised to see the movement that is supporting the church he is helping to plant in Toronto.
Church Planter Derrick Wilhelmus
My wife and I just returned from an awesome conference in Nashville, Tennessee where we worshipped with 13,500 people, prayed with them, and learned with them from many amazing speakers. This two day event was awesome! The focus was to live out our faith by planting churches, sharing the gospel, making disciples, embracing the life Christ has called us to, and the need to support these efforts.
As I reflect, my heart has much joy and sadness. Joy in the fact that there are many embracing this calling; sadness because many more are not embracing this calling. We need to live an active Christian life. We need to be sharing the gospel with others, we need to be walking alongside others, and we need to be investing in others. We are God’s servants. Our task is to first and foremost represent Him!
People will be quick to share with you places of interest, such as: great restaurants, exciting tourist attractions, a great bargain at a retail store, or a favourite book. But many have difficulty sharing Jesus. Why is this? For everything we enjoy is by the grace of God. Why find pleasure in these things when we can find ultimate pleasure in Him, the One who created everything?
Being a follower of Christ isn’t a solo experience. We work better in numbers. I would encourage you to join us on this journey. Let’s live out our faith together.
by Jacob Puiras
Learn how Jacob and his wife, Tamsyn, are serving their community of Glendon College through this video blog.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Sarah Bessey
Target has failed in Canada. And I can’t say that I’m surprised. But it’s not because I know much about retail. My notable retail experience includes three years working at Smart Set in Southcentre Mall during high school. I was excellent at folding t-shirts for the 2 for $25 table. Nope, a retail giant analyst I am not, but what I do have I offer to you: regular old church experience.
Most of my childhood and teenage years as a neo-charismatic Christian in western Canada can be characterized by an almost identical exercise: a big American name comes to Canada to plant a church, and then in rather short order, heads back over the border, usually while blaming us for the failure.
So when news broke today about Target’s abject and utter failure to expand into Canada, I began to think this morning about how church planters to Canada (or even within Canada) can learn from the Target failure. So off the top of my head, here are a few connections I made between Target and outsider-church-planting in Canada:
1. Target tried to open American stores in Canada. That sounds a bit silly when I write it out but here’s what I mean: Americans often tried to start American churches in Canada. They wanted churches that looked like American churches and they wanted people who thought like Americans. And then there would be frustration because we weren’t, well, American.
2. Target was out of stock of the essentials. When people went to Target, they simply never found what they actually went there to get. It’s hard to miss this metaphor for the church in Canada. Often what we have to offer as a church isn’t what people actually want. Canada isn’t the United States and we aren’t Europe either. Each community has its own religious history and even that changes drastically from neighbourhood to home.
3. Target went too fast. In less than a year, the retail giant created 133 stores and a few distribution centres. From a church perspective, I saw many church planters fail because they also went too fast. They landed and set up shop quickly. They weren’t part of the community, they had no friends, they didn’t take the time to live among us and with us. They didn’t love us and it became obvious. We were a project, not people.
4. Target refused to allow people in Canada to lead. Like most retail giants, leadership isn’t valued as much as management. We often saw the church planters come with Their Vision and Their People and Their Six Month Plan: we were there simply to execute their plan. Our input was not required.
5. Target didn’t connect to the communities where they set up shop. The leaders often didn’t consult the area churches, leaders, or believers. They simply showed up and started without a thought for other believers already labouring in that field. By not connecting to their community, these leaders often missed opportunities to learn and to be part of something amazing.
I’ll miss Target in theory. I feel incredibly sad for their employees today.
But the truth is that I didn’t shop there either.
To read this blog in its entirety visit What Church Planters can learn from Target’s Failure in Canada by Sarah Bessey
reprinted from The Exchange – A Blog by Ed Stetzer
“How do I know the Lord wants me to go here?” is a common question I get from young church planters trying to decide about a planting a church. The answer to that question is of utmost importance.
A Church Planter is Called to a People and a Place
People have different opinions on this, but I’m going to give you mine.
I don’t think a church planter should go plant a church until you’re called to a specific place and people.
This is a little tricky because I actually don’t think people are generically called to church planting.
I think they’re called to plant a church among a certain people or a place.
You can’t build your entire view of something on your personal experience, but I will share my calling as an illustration.
Even though I got turned down by my denominational missions agency to be a church planter (I was, after all, 20 and had no training), God still spoke to our hearts. I was up in Buffalo, New York and Donna was at home. I returned and told her when I was at Prospect Avenue and Seventh Street in Buffalo I discerned that the Lord wanted me to plant a church there.
Donna said she was praying and that God told her the same thing. We knew at that point we were supposed to go. It was significant, but that’s only happened to me once. I’ve planted six churches and the level of clarity was not as evident. But, there was always a sense of call.
Confirmation though Compassion
Confirmation came to me in every place when I knew that I could do nothing else except plant the church among the people of a certain place. I could not do anything else or do it anywhere else.
I lived in my current neighborhood for four years before setting out to plant a church. I was reaching some neighbors and inviting them to church, while serving as an interim pastor at various churches. But then God put a burden in my heart that I needed to plant a church for these people and for their friends.
All of the places I planted had one thing in common. I had a spiritual burden that involved a specific people—from the urban poor in Buffalo to my neighbors in Sumner County, TN decades later.
Fall in Love with a Specific Group of People
Church planting and missionary work is a unique role that requires a unique and clearly discerned calling. The Apostle Paul consistently spoke of the burden he had for different people in different places.
A church planter must fall in love with the place and fall in love with the people. When I fell in love with my wife, I wanted to know everything about her and spend as much time as I could with her. I did things with her that I would not normally do. I learned new things about her interests. I did this fervently because I was in love with her.
The same thing is true about a people and a place where you are going to plant a church. You must fall in love with its interests. You need to learn more about the place than anybody else does because you’re falling in love with the place and you’re falling in love with the people.
Pray and Fast for Discernment
Pray and fast until God makes your calling clear to you. Wrestle with the Lord until it is irrefutable. I don’t want a general calling to plant a church. I want a clear burden for a specific people. I cannot plant a church until my heart breaks for the people where God has called me to plant a church. Don’t start a church without this calling.
At the end of the day, I want a type of Macedonian call. Paul had one when he saw a man from Macedonia calling to him, “Come over and help us” (Acts 16:9).
I’m not saying you need a vision in a dream—and I’ve never had one like that. However, I’ve never planted a church, and I wouldn’t plant a church, unless I had a clear vision for a place and a people that I knew in my heart God was calling me to “come over and help” a certain people in a certain place.
– Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of LifeWay Research