Last Saturday (11.30.2013), I drove north of Edmonton to the small town of Westlock, Alberta. There in the town hospital are my dear friends, Hope and Horatio McCombs.
Our paths first crossed in 1983, when I arrived in Edmonton to serve as a pastoral intern at Millbourne Alliance Church (to read more about Millbourne Alliance Church, see The Heart of the Gospel: A response to Samuel Escobar’s ‘Mission Fields on the Move.'
Hope and Horatio were physically active and strong then. They were outstanding leaders of their congregation and community. Horatio was on the Board of Elders, while Hope served as a deaconess. Horatio also served on the Board of Governors for the Canadian Theological Seminary. The McCombs were successful business people and diligent supporters of kingdom-advancing missions both globally and locally. Most important for this post, Hope and Horatio were active in reaching out to the Scattered People (diasporas) in Edmonton.
This couple used their own apartment building to provide housing to newly-landed immigrants and students. They would pick up international students to take them grocery shopping and would invite them for meals at their home. The Filipinos attending Millbourne Alliance called them Lolo and Lola (grandpa and grandma in Tagalog). Through the 1980s, Horatio and Hope "adopted" a Chinese family who came to the University of Alberta to study engineering. They patiently took care of this family of four until they followed Jesus Christ.
In 1984, Millbourne Alliance Church launched a church-birthing initiative among the Filipinos which led to the birth of a missional congregation, the First Filipino Alliance Church. FFAC, in turn, became a catalyst to the church-planting movements among the Filipino-Canadians under the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA). Today, there are over 20 Filipino congregations affiliated with the C&MA in Canada. The McCombs were quietly but effectively involved and engaged in this movement through their prayers and financial support.
The McCombs will be remembered as servant leaders, catalytic leaders--leaders with tender hearts for international students and new immigrants. Hundreds have been ushered into the kingdom because of Hope and Horatio.
Now let me tell you about the following morning. On Sunday morning, I found myself ministering to a group of 25 (European Canadians) senior citizens during their worship service at an Edmonton senior’s extended care home. I was surprised to learn that their pianist was a youth of Chinese descent. It turns out that the chapel ministries at this senior’s manor are a ministry of South Edmonton Alliance Church (SEAC) — a vibrant South Edmonton congregation that started by reaching out to the Chinese diaspora.
It seems that evangelism here (in this post) has come full circle. The kingdom formula remains: various people cultivate the ground, plant the seed, water the seedings, nurture the plants, and harvest the fruits. God is glorified in team efforts. Lay leaders like the McCombs must be affirmed and mobilized for glocal (or global local) missions.
My recent weekend experiences remind me of the words of Dr. Mary Wilder of Western Seminary spoken in an address given to the Conference of Filipino Alliance Ministries (CFAM) held at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton in August 2007. She said of the Filipinos, “… 100 years ago, the Filipinos were a mission field. Now, they are moving out to take their place in missions, reaching around the world in very creative ways!”
May many more extend welcome and love to “newcomers” particularly to Scattered People, in Christ's name. Only God knows what tomorrow may tell.