Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
~ Ephesians 3:20-21
As we begin a new season of life and ministry in Cochrane, Laurie and I are very aware of our need for God’s power to work through us. The verse above reminds me that God is able to do above and beyond what we might think.
We are all entering a new season in Cochrane Alliance. There are many unknowns and many new opportunities that will come our way. It is good that we remind ourselves that it is God’s power at work in us that will lead us to the plans he has for us as a church. The verse also assures us that even if we feel powerless or if we cannot conceive of a way forward, we rely not on ourselves but on God’s power at work within us.
I pray that the vision of this church, to see thousands of people experiencing the transforming love of God will be done. It’s a vision that cannot be accomplished without God’s power at work within us. Let’s be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in these days so that we make the most of every opportunity to proclaim the goodness of God and the glory of his Kingdom.
It has been an amazing five months as your new lead pastor. My family feels welcomed and well-loved by this church family. Thank you for all the encouragement, support and prayer you have given to us. We feel incredibly blessed to be with you all and are excited for the days to come.
Although we are still prayerfully discerning future plans for the ministry of this church, there are some highlights from the last five months that I wanted to reflect on in this report.
First of all, I am so grateful for the staff team that I am privileged to work with and serve. We were able to do a staff retreat in February and get to know one another better. In the past few months I have seen our staff serve the church body with excellence and dedication. Their competence has made my transition into lead pastor incredibly rewarding as I get to observe people serving well in so many ministry areas of the church. I also want to recognize how well Pastor Mike did in the interim role as lead pastor. It allowed me to come into a very healthy church that was not just surviving but thriving.
When I first started my role, we were still in the midst of Covid restrictions; however, it did not take long before restrictions were lifted and we were able to see the ministries of the church return to a sense of normalcy. I was thrilled to see dedicated volunteers serving in dozens of different positions around the church, keeping our Sunday morning and mid-week ministries running. It truly was a highlight for me to see so many willing volunteers serve their church family in so many different ways.
As restrictions lifted, we saw the need to reconnect as a church family and to welcome new people into the life of the church. We had an excellent newcomers lunch that was very well attended, as well as an informal pizza lunch. This was all topped off by our volunteer appreciation Sunday with a church family BBQ. It’s been a great joy to get to know so many of you and to see the sense of family that exists within this church body. My prayer is that we would continue to be knit together in faith and in love by the Spirit at work amongst us.
I ask that you continue to pray for the leadership of this church. Pray that we would discern the leading of the Holy Spirit. Pray that we would be wise in how we use the resources of the church. Pray that Cochrane Alliance would continue to be a blessing and light in the Town of Cochrane.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 23-24
On my first Sunday as your interim lead pastor, I let you in on a little secret: I feel like I'm at my best when I can influence and lead from the second chair. I really do cherish playing second fiddle. In that regard, embracing the role of interim lead pastor has challenged and stretched me in ways I've never experienced before. So I shared Thomas Merton’s prayer with you as my own:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. AMEN.
I can honestly say that God meets us in that prayer over and over again. There are times when we don’t know what to do, yet as we press forward as best we can, God blesses us.
He blesses our vision of a thriving town being transformed by thousands of people who love Jesus.
He blesses our mission to bring people together, invest in their spiritual development, and launch them into service in the power of the Holy Spirit.
There have been hardships. We've stumbled at times. We've had our share of sad goodbyes. YET, God has never abandoned us to face our perils alone. To God be the glory!
Interim Lead Pastor
December 2020 - February 2022
2021-2022 was filled with a great deal of highlights.
For the past 2+ years, we have been gathering at one-third capacity, social distancing and wearing masks while worshiping. While this has had many challenges and disappointments, God has continued to move and work within us. In April, we were able to begin gathering with no restrictions in regards to capacity, masking and singing. It has been such a blessing to hear our church singing and worshiping together as the family of God.
I want to say thank you to all the volunteers who give of their time and energy to continue to serve the church!
This past fall during our annual Worship Conference, we had Joe and Nola Sinanan come and impart to us great wisdom in building a worshiping community and pressing into the presence of God.
In May, we began our first Holy Spirit Encounter weekend. 25 people attended, and as we heard teaching on the person of the Holy Spirit, we were filled up with overflowing and were encouraged. I cannot wait to see how the Spirit of God continues to blow afresh on his people. I believe that God is awakening His Church to a new awareness of The Holy Spirit. A church that will move in extravagant love and miracles, signs and wonders. Jesus, the early church and the church throughout church history have walked closely with the Spirit of God and the church of the future must do the same!
It was so great to see and hear from those small groups who took part in the “Audible” course. Learning to “Hear God’s Voice” is foundational to the Christian walk. It has been great to see our church moving forward in this.
Improving sound and visual quality is something that is always ongoing. This year we were able to move the screens and projectors to open up the stage area. Another major improvement has been enclosing the drum kit to adequately control the sound quality.
Pastor of Worship Arts
It has been another unique and wonderful year for JAM Kids Ministry. As things have opened up, we have resumed some great programs and birthed some exciting new ones in our ministry. Throughout the year, we have offered online Family Church and At-Home Kits. They have been a fantastic way to allow families to grow spiritually together and to encourage parents to be the primary spiritual influencers in the lives of their kids. I pray this spiritual parenting emphasis will continue to blossom and flourish. As well, in September we opened our regular onsite JAM Sunday classes, phasing in and then increasing as more kids came. Through it all we introduced an excellent new curriculum which was prepared and administered by Laura Nixon, our new Office Assistant. And, of course, the ministry would not be possible without a wonderful group of volunteers who have taught and cared for our JAM kids each Sunday. I am so grateful for such a great JAM team!
For the summer of 2021, Simone Eeles joined our staff as a Summer Kids Coordinator. With her help, our summer was fun and full as we offered Backyard Kids Camps Family Events and Summer Soccer Camp. All the summer events were well attended; relationships were forged and people were pointed to Jesus through the love of our ‘church’ caring and sharing. For our Christmas Family event, we hosted a “Gingerbread Bash.” It was an invitation for families to participate in the story of Christmas in an interactive way. What a great day…meaningful and fun! Easter Escape Rooms uncovered the mystery of Jesus’ whereabouts when the tomb was found empty which provided excitement and good conversation.
A highlight for many families was a Spiritual Parenting seminar called “Deep Roots.” It offered very worthwhile information and connection as parents were able to gain insight while their kids were being cared for. Feedback indicated that spiritual parenting opportunities are very helpful and welcomed!
The experiences of kids and families being pointed to Jesus are real. Kids sharing and caring in small groups led by loving leaders; little ones singing worship songs in JAM class; kids praying together; babies cuddled and prayed over; relationships built with neighbors at family events; ‘aha’ moments as kids ‘get it’; praying with two young girls as they decide to Follow Jesus! Some of the sweet seeds of faith that were planted and nurtured! We are privileged to serve as we disciple kids and families in our church and community!
Pastor of Children's Ministry
Youth ministry in 2022 continued to be marked by change and a need to be flexible. How we approached our goals may have looked different throughout the year but our desire to see a growing family of students; pursuing Jesus, transformed by God, changing the world through the Spirit remained the same. God’s faithfulness was once again seen and experienced in our youth ministry, in the lives of the youth and leaders.
For many young people today, events in the world have left them feeling anxious, alone and asking questions such as: who am I, does God exist, is God good, what is my purpose, and can I make a difference? Small groups and weekly gatherings continue to be a safe place where youth can engage with trusted adults who are pointing them to Jesus. Roughly 75 youth are currently in small groups led by 17 leaders. These youth have found a place to belong, and they are pursuing Jesus together in community. We are excited that this summer 4 youth are taking the step of baptism!
After not being able to hold retreats for 18 months, we were grateful that we could once again do both a fall and winter retreat. At our fall retreat, we partnered with Helping Hands and Bethany Care to serve people in our church and town. Working in small groups, youth served in a variety of ways including; lawn clean-ups, washing windows at Bethany Care, helping a family move and handing out handmade encouragement cards and gifts to front line workers in Cochrane. In the evening, youth shared about their experiences around a campfire. It was encouraging to hear what God showed them and taught them throughout the day as they served others.
Pastor of Student Ministries
The 2021-2022 year of Discipleship Ministries was cut a bit short for me (at the end of April to be precise) when I was blessed with a 16 week sabbatical. I cannot tell you how grateful I and my family are for this precious gift of rest, reflection, re-attachment, refreshment... I look forward to retelling some of the many blessing we received with many of you in the days ahead.
For now I will share one key reflection, as it relates to the previsous year of discipleship ministry. With all the chaos and anxiety in the world today, one thing which remains clear is that God is not hindered in his plans and purposes. In particular, he seems to do his best work when his people "scatter". What I mean by that word is that ministry seems to thrive when people spontaneously roll up their sleeves and band together to embody what it means to love God and their neighbours as themselves. When people "scatter", Christ's kingdom of LOVE seems to proliferate like popcorn. Not only is this exciting when it happens, it truly is our future.
That said, the previous year was also challenging with an ever-changing landscape of restrictions and the overall fatigue that came with it. Of note, our men’s and women’s ministries (WINGmen, Day 6 and Bonafide) saw significant decline. That said, many of you who lead adult discipleship groups have hung in there and "scattered" when the Spirit moved. Thank you for your perseverance!
We subscribe to RightNow Media to help isolated people access a wide range of discipleship content. Currently, 259 people who call Cochrane Alliance “home” are subscribed to this service.
Right Hand Support has had a very productive and blessed year. Using the funds from the Alberta Government Grant followed by the Calgary Foundation Grant, Jordan Bell and I were able to implement our mentoring and counselling program as well as complete two training sessions resulting in 15 additional mentees. We developed relationships with various churches, agencies and organizations and have had referrals for mentees and counselling clients from Family and Community Support Services Cochrane, Family Resource Network, Alberta Health Services, Probation, Big Hill Haven, community professionals and individuals. Clients for mentoring and counselling have flooded in and we now have a waiting list. Our clientele include individuals and families of all ages and stages. In May, we had a retreat for our mentors and had a featured speaker who presented on First Nations truth and reconciliation. We contracted Leah Yardley to create an interactive, multi-faceted platform for online learning based on the mentor training curriculum. The mentors have met regularly in cohort groups and have become a support to each other. We are humbled as we recognize God's hand in all areas of Right Hand Support.
Right Hand Support Lead
Right Hand Support is looking for volunteer peer mentors to partner with those in Cochrane who are hurting. We are seeking men, women, couples, young adults, and older adults. Our waiting list of mentees is growing.
Right Hand Support is here to train and support you as you walk alongside persons or families who often feel marginalized and are struggling with life's challenges.
Multiple doors of opportunity have opened up to us as we have reached out to people in need of special care. For example, during Covid, we helped many people with mental health and trauma issues. Other People Care ministries carried on in spite of protocols that we carefully followed. The following summary shows some of the ministries that were carried out this past ministry year.
We held two GriefShare courses with a total of 30 participants. GriefShare is a 13 week course to support those suffering from the loss of a loved one.
Counselling sessions saw us assist people with a vast variety of needs. I had approximately 52 in-person sessions. In addition, our Right Hand Support team served another 100 clients.
Prepare/Enrich pre-marriage counselling sessions saw 8 couples each receive 6 hours of counselling in preparation for marriage.
Through chaplaincy ministries at three long term care facilities (Cochrane and Calgary), we were able to give direction to 11 live chapel services.
We recorded 9 Seniors Chapel services that were used in long term care facilities, as well as seniors gatherings all over the world, and people in their own homes.
Although Covid restrictions limited our Heritage Seniors ministry for a portion of the year, we were still able to hold four gathering events this past year. In August 2021, we held a kick-off breakfast. Then in December, residents of Bethany Care joined our seniors for our annual Christmas Tea. In April, we welcomed approximately 80 seniors to our Spring Supper. Our final event in June was an evening with Marie Enns where approximately 55 attended.
Since 2010, Cochrane Alliance Church has been an ongoing partner of the Jesus Viene Church and School in San Raymundo, Guatemala through Hungry For Life. In the early years, our partnership focused on the construction of the school building. The school opened its doors for the first time in January 2015.
A MESSAGE FROM PASTOR VICTOR CHITAY & THE SCHOOL TEACHERS
We thank God, because during this first semester of the 2022 year, we have seen God's love for this ministry. God has been good! In June, the school has been able to return to face-to-face activities for 80% of the time. Students are attending school 4 days a week. We are implementing biosecurity and Covid-19 prevention protocols, mainly social distancing and the use of masks and alcohol gel.
The return to face-to-face classes has not been easy, and has represented a new challenge for teachers. We have several students who have found it difficult to adapt to face-to-face activities and other students have required teachers to work on reinforcements of knowledge mainly in the area of mathematics, reading and writing. Teachers are doing their best to educate children. In the country of Guatemala, education is one of the sectors that is showing more negative consequences for the confinement and closure of schools. The objective of teachers in this new modality of face-to-face classes is to help students to improve educational level.
As teachers, we are very happy to be able to have the children back in our classrooms, after 2 years of distance education. Even though we cannot see their faces, we can see in the eyes of the children that they are also happy to come to school. We want to be a blessing in the lives of the children and their families, that the knowledge we share with them is of benefit to their future.
Every day, teachers and children participate in a small devotional where we sing, talk about God's love and pray together.
God has been faithful in our church as well. He has taken care of us from all evil, and people in our church are staying healthy. However, the cost of basic groceries has risen and the cost of fuel is very high so church families are struggling financially.
We ask for prayers for the school, as teachers and students adjust to face-to-face learning, and for families with limited economic resources.
Brothers and sisters of Cochrane, we love you in the love of God and we pray for you. Thank you for supporting this ministry! We are sending hugs and greetings from the teachers, students, parents and church of San Raymundo, Guatemala.
God bless you.
Our family lives overseas and we are immersed in a very different culture and language, far from our families and home country. We are there because the Lord has asked us to be; to go into the world and make disciples, so that all might know Him. It’s a challenging task, full of learning to trust in God more and more. However He didn’t sent us out alone. He gave us a network of support from home and Cochrane Alliance Church is the nexus. Your prayers and financial support allow us to go. You are behind every spiritual conversation and every rent check. Your love, prayers and giving are the encouragement that help us to continue to serve in the Middle East! Thank you so much for the past 10 years of partnership with us and we look forward to many more together.