Monday, October 21, 2013
This morning National Team member Larry Levy posted the above spoken word piece. It gets at the heart of a couple things I've been thinking about lately. First the heart of my connection to the Vineyard is one of family, I'll tell you a bit of my journey home. Second it is about the struggles we all face as a movement moves into the future trying to be faithful to a vision God has given, one that I think family is profoundly suited to meet. Let's start with my journey to give a little context.
I love that Miriam Swaffield names family a foundational truth. For me I found spent my early ministry years in a church that discarded me when I began to push at the boundaries, it seems some communities are not equipped for people that ask "too many" questions. As a result I was left trying to pick up the pieces. Had I missed God? Had I made a mistake uprooting my life and moving to a city where I knew no one to minister tirelessly without wage (I held down a full time job at a pet food store so I could work as worship leader, youth pastor as well as lead the charge on evangelism)? My friends outside of the church I worked with kept telling me that I should go to a Vineyard. So I did. I remember calling the Airport (this is a few years before the Toronto Blessing) Vineyard and explaining that I was technically on staff at my church but wanted to go to a kinship. The lady who answered told me most of the people in her group didn't attend their Sunday service and welcomed me. I still remember that first night. I was feeling like I had missed God and was a stranger in a strange land. That night we sang songs, hung out, and then a couple began to sing over me. They sang songs of the Father's love for me. One lady even shared a vision, one that God keeps bringing me back to year after year. One that reminds me that the journey is not always easy, but it is that journey that God is using to refine and mature me. I literally left that meeting bubbling over with joy again.
Now it wasn't all roses after that. In fact it was pretty hard. I still had issues to resolve with the church I had been working with. But my new Vineyard family continued to love me and invest into me despite getting so little in return. They showed me what family is like. Never giving up. Always hoping. Always trusting God to do more. They gave me the strength I needed to start putting my life back together again. I ended up moving back to Ottawa, really as a stepping stone to returning to my hometown of Truro (where I first met Larry actually) to figure out what was next. There was no Vineyard in Ottawa at that time. But God soon made it clear to me that I was to stay in Ottawa, at least for a season. I landed in an inner city Baptist church where I eventually served as a lay minister. It was an amazing church, but there was still a longing in me for family. I remember when the senior pastor brought me into the office to propose me working towards ordination, they actually wanted to send me to seminary. It was a hard moment because my dream had been to study theology, but much as I loved this church I just wasn't a Baptist at heart. In praying through what I was to do next I caught wind of a new Vineyard about to be planted in Ottawa. I knew that I needed to be part of that. I needed to serve that Vineyard and give back what it had given me. So I sought out Jim and Mary Rennicks and a funny thing happened - they recognized me. Turns out Jim and Mary pastored the Alliance church in the backyard of the house I grew up in. It gets even more amazing. They had brought in the evangelist who saw me in a pizza shop (where I worked) and God told to go pray for me. I met him a year after, I had gotten saved after he went back to his hotel room to pray for me, at a conference for Christian leaders in Ottawa (Vision 2000). So basically, my Vineyard family, even before I knew them as family, had been instrumental in my whole journey into the Kingdom.
Family is a big deal for me. I love my Vineyard family. They've been with me through some really tough moments. Loved me, prayed for me, believed in me even when my faith led me to risk in ways they didn't understand.
It is family like that which will bring into the future. We have a wonderful diversity, a richness that will take us forward. As I've been ministering more formally in the Vineyard I know that God leads us into different places to bring the gospel to even the lowest, most needy places. I know we don't always understand or even agree with the directions this leading takes others. But when we listen to the stories of people finding family, we learn to trust that God knows the score. God is concerned with what we say love always does - going to the lowest places to lift them up. I've been watching as those "lowest" places grow more and more diverse. People I know and love are both struggling with this and pursuing the lost in new mission fields. To me that DNA that led the group in Mississauga to welcome a broken Pentecostal minister continues to extend the Kingdom invitation throughout our country. This is perhaps our greatest strength - the willingness to love beyond ourselves. It grows our family.
I think the call in the spoken word piece is that family is what matters here. Not family as in we all look the same. But family as something deeper, something that reminds us who we really are and always hopes for a better future together, richer because of our diversity, stronger because of our faith. To me that is family. You, in the Vineyard, are my family. And I am so grateful for you all.
Would love to hear your thoughts on family.
Frank Emanuel - Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa