How awesome it was knowing that we all come from different backgrounds and are at different stages in life we with one voice praise our God together! This...was like a foretaste of heaven. We built unity, not just by being friendly...but the common ground on which we stand: God’s grace.

Every year for the past few years, our young people have gotten the chance to escape their lives in the suburbs or the city for a two-day retreat to Priceville, Ontario. And every year, someone either forgets to bring a towel or decides not to shower the entire weekend. And I mean every year. I guess you could say it’s become a bit of a routine for us, and maybe a dangerous one at that. We’ve been going to New Life Camp every winter retreat, and I’ve come to realize how easy it is to fall into the trap of familiarity, comfortability, routine.

But this year was a bit different. Well, a lot different. We had a pastor, who we never heard of before, preach - Pastor Hassan Bell from Thistletown Baptist Church; and we were told people from other churches were attending too - Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, Christie Street Baptist Church, and Ennerdale Road Baptist Church. 

I’m sorry, who? 

Don’t worry about it. They’re good people. 

This was sure to shake things up.

I was really excited. Finally, something different! We needed this. We needed to step out of our comfort zone. Or rather, we needed to be forced out of it. In our case, our comfort zone was being around people who were a lot like us; people who grew up in a similar way, who looked the same as we did, to put it frankly, who were also filipino like the majority of us.

When the vision of becoming an international congregation, one that focused on reaching out to our neighbourhood instead of within our own cultural circles, it was a lot different than anything we’d ever really heard before. We had identified ourselves as a ‘filipino church’ for so long, how would we ever be able to detach ourselves from that label?

This was a step.

I was so blessed, and I’m sure others were too, to see that after only two hours we went from being a bunch of strangers merely being in the same room to new friends sharing endless laughs over Taboo and Mad Gab.

It was encouraging to be reminded that we’re not alone as a congregation, we’re not the only ones stuck on being ethnic, we’re not the only ones with problems. As strange as it felt at first, it only makes sense to think that this was God’s plan all along: to have the next generation of leaders come together for the purpose of teaching each other, learning from our experiences in our own congregations and being able to further the Kingdom together. 

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) 

Being a smaller congregation, during musical worship you’re used to only really hearing your own voice, the few around you, and maybe that one loud person that’s always offbeat. But altogether, it sounded almost angelic. How amazing it was to worship together! To see faces you’ve never seen before singing the same songs you’re singing, worshiping the same God you worship. How awesome it was knowing that we all come from different backgrounds and are at different stages in life we with one voice praise our God together! This is what brought me the most joy: it was like a foretaste of heaven. We built unity, not just by being friendly and sharing the fun of ‘mattressing’ (think tobogganing, but with mattresses), but by the common ground on which we stand: God’s grace.

I think Daniel's vision has the image so beautifully painted

"I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed."

(Daniel 7:13-14 ESV)