The Joys and Challenges of Transition
Red Lake, ON has been the base of Living Hope’s headquarters for many years, so there was a bittersweet element to the staff gathering held there in October. As Merle Nisly ends his years as the Executive Director, Stuart Swartzentruber takes on that role. As the LHNM office moves to Thunder Bay, transition is not just a theoretical discussion. Most of the staff and board members met for a refreshing time of reconnecting, and enjoyed input from Richard and Jewel Showalter on the theme of Thriving in Transition.
Lila Graber reports: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Guest speaker Richard Showalter talked about the familiar verse from 2 Corinthians as he offered guidance as we move through our current time of transition.
During times of transition we are in a period of vulnerability. Richard reminded us that our vulnerability puts us in a position of enormous potential because of the spiritual principle that is so contrary to human thinking: when we are in weakness, God’s power gets perfected.
Richard said that transition includes several steps. It will start with a period of “forming.” New structures must be formed in order to proceed in the changes occurring in Living Hope Native Ministries. “Storming” is also a part of the process. In transition, a certain amount of chaos can be expected as we make changes and adjust to them. Eventually we move into “norm-ing.” We will learn a new normal and become comfortable in it.
Jewel described an example of vulnerability experienced by the Israelites in the desert. God actually caused their hunger, then fed His helpless people manna, something they had never seen before. He did this to teach them that man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Being in places of weakness and powerlessness is part of God’s work of humbling.
Four principles for successfully navigating change were shared by Richard. First, “Don’t hold on to the past.” We must be willing to let go of the past in order to embrace the new.
But the second principle states, “The past is still yours.” Remembering is a theme in Scripture. The past is ours to remember. It’s part of who we are and will go with us into the future.
“Celebrate and embrace the DNA that has been given you.” This principle reminds us to deeply value the unique spiritual heritage that God has placed within Living Hope Native Ministries in its beginning. It has been a part of our identity ever since and should not be rejected.
Finally, we can “Anticipate the new.” The God of the past is in our future. Whatever He does will grow and flourish. “If we could see it, it would blow our minds!” Richard promised.
Richard and Jewel affirmed the transition of leadership, the way it came about, and the way it is proceeding. They encouraged us to trust our God whose purposes will not be hindered in times when we feel our weakness and vulnerability.
One practical aspect of this transition was the physical moving of Living Hope Native Ministries’ office from “mission hill” in Red Lake to our new offices at New Hope Fellowship at 532 Edward Street North in Thunder Bay. The sign was removed and loaded with computers, copiers, office furniture, and other supplies and began the seven hour trip to Thunder Bay. The move happened on September 29 and marks the end of an era for LHNM and Red Lake.
Living Out the Message of Jesus
In the December 2018 issue of Hopelines, the theme of transition at Living Hope Native Ministries seems to permeate everything. But although there are changes, much remains the same. We have a dedicated staff team committed to encouraging and developing local churches that matter in our world. We continue looking for ways to partner together to build up First Nations leaders and communities. We also remain committed to staying engaged with those who support us through personnel, prayer, and financial support.
My wife, Delores, and I have been privileged to be a part of LHNM for many years. For the last 26 years, our focus has been in Sudbury, being a part of Sudbury First Nations Church. We have enjoyed partnering in leadership with friends from different cultures and church backgrounds. It has been a rich experience for us as we moved out of our comfort zone and saw life through different lenses. We are excited about the opportunity to serve LHNM in this new leadership role in Thunder Bay, where we get to experience yet another part of Ontario where God is building his church.
One of my greatest passions is encouraging local churches to impact their communities by involvement in meaningful relationships, and by living out the message of Jesus. This message offers far beyond what the society around us can offer. We are one part of God’s amazing kingdom, which will one day fill the whole earth!
In the early 1970’s, I was employed at an auto dealership as an apprentice technician. In the process of hearing God’s voice and calling on my life, I would sometimes spend my lunch hour in my car so that I could focus on what was ahead. That seems like the other end of a long story that we are now looking back on. Those times were a key part of how God kept renewing my thinking and changing my values.
I’m still adjusting to the idea that a phase of my life and ministry has ended. This time, it’s a little different than previous phase changes—in that I don’t foresee ever having another similar position of responsibility. It feels more abrupt, too, as I didn’t finish out the term in a normal sense because of the injury I’m recovering from.
So, I think about the words of Apostle Paul when he confidently claimed that he had done it well, and was finishing well. (2 Timothy 4:7) He modeled a very desirable view of life past, a life that he could recall without shame and with satisfaction. I have always wanted that confidence for myself.
I think about the meaning of “finishing well” and of having “no regrets.” The truth of the matter is that I remember well a few of the times when I regret what I said, or the times when I didn’t find the best way through a difficult episode. I’m sure there are many more times that I’ve now forgotten.
Still, Rita and I agree that we have no regrets for the path we’ve been on, and are still on. Though we are ready for a change in responsibilities, we celebrate the experiences we’ve been given and the grace God has showered on us through seasons where we had no other hope.
These have been years of rich relationships. We are so very blessed to have shared life and ministry with hundreds of people who have made us wiser, have forgiven us, have strengthened us, and have inspired us. That’s worth more than anything I can think of.
These have been years of learning. We may have started out thinking that we had what others needed; but
we have learned so very much from others. The value of seeing the world through another’s lens, the value of learning to communicate in another language, the value of information that we didn’t even know existed. We are not the same—because of what others have invested in us. These years are also rich because of what God has allowed us in family. In spite of our weaknesses, we are inexpressibly thankful for the families we originated from and the offspring we now are privileged to enjoy.
I sincerely thank the boards we have served over the years, for your investment of time and prayer, and for the care and guidance in leadership. I thank the colleagues and teammates we have been privileged to serve with, and to love. What an incredible gift each of you are, still!
And to our readers here, thank you for your interest, your support, and your prayers. You are a critical part of the story as well. All glory to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Reflecting on 2018 and Anticipating 2019
Most of the Living Hope Native Ministries staff team gathered in Red Lake on October 25 and 26 for reporting, prayer, and LHNM leadership transition activities. Each had a chance to reflect on their past year and share their joys and concerns. Following is a bit of a summary from these reports.
Dave and Laverna Brenneman, Weagamow, generously opened their home to young people for Bible studies, games and connection. They are also involved in the local church, with Dave preaching occasionally. After 4 years in Weagamow, their prayer is for the youth to have hope in relationship with Jesus.
Colleen Estes recently reached the 21st anniversary of her arrival in Pikangikum, and is continuing to build strong relationships in the community. Her daily Bible classes bring her in contact with hundreds of children each day, and she also organizes other gatherings related to overcoming addictions or Bible study. Her heart’s cry is for the church to grow and take its place in Pikangikum, and to bring the hope and healing of Jesus to hurting people.
Phil and Anne Warner live in Pikangikum First Nation, where Phil works in the school, connecting children to the social services they need. His prayer is for spiritual healing for all in Pikangikum. Anne enjoys her friendships with women in her neighborhood, as well as caring for her family.
Ken and Sondra Funk’s role in Thunder Bay is changing as they move in to a semiretired stage of life. They are finding that they are advising and praying as others take on the day-to-day leadership of New Hope Fellowship. Sebai and Beverly Yaman are pastoring at New Hope Fellowship in Thunder Bay, while enjoying their young family. The community of believers is an encouragement to them and Sebai is enjoying the opportunities he has for mentoring young people who want to grow in their relationship with Jesus. They are thankful for the maturity they see, and pray for continued growth.
Stuart and Delores Swartzentruber have recently moved from Sudbury to Thunder Bay, where Stuart is beginning his term as Executive Director in the LHNM office. They are trusting God to open doors as they navigate the newness of this leadership role, location and relationships. The LHNM office staff team also includes Mary Keesic (bookkeeper) and Rhonda Slaubaugh (administrative assistant). Both Mary and Rhonda appreciate prayer that their work in the office will be a support to the LHNM staff.
Wendell and Lila Graber, in Sault Ste. Marie, ON, are excited about the building that The Lighthouse was able to purchase this year, and are praying for strength as Wendell and others work on the renovations that are necessary. Relationships in the church and community are their passion, and both Wendell and Lila invest time and energy in people daily.
Arthur and Iris Lyndaker are living in Red Lake and are involved in their church with preaching, music and children’s ministry, as well as maintaining the LHNM property in Red Lake. They are committed to building up relationships around them and pointing people to Jesus, and are praying for God’s guidance as they look to the future.
LaMar Weaver helped organize seven vacation Bible school teams this year. He produced several newsletters and did design work for LHNM. He and his wife Janice live and work in Red Lake, building many relationships as they are fully involved in their store, community and church.
Merle and Rita Nisly have recently retired from the leadership of LHNM and are enjoying a slower pace of life. They will continue to be available to the current leadership as consultants, and are waiting to see how God leads in this new era.
Paul and Esther Lee live and minister in Grassy Narrows First Nation, where they mentor, pray with and encourage fellow believers in the community. This year they were encouraged by several teams that came for summer VBS. The Lees ask the Lord for His strength as they continue to follow Him.
Dion and Krista Gingerich are LHNM associates in Manitoba. Dion is working as a counselor and also as a teaching assistant at Providence Seminary. As they work and raise their young family, they are praying for God’s guidance for the future.
Stan and Sally Bragg, Saugeen First Nation, ON, are associates who are building relationships by investing in the lives of many children through afterschool clubs and other events. Their heart is for planting God’s word in young people and supporting and encouraging believers in their area.
Rob and Sharlene Dilts, Golden Lake, ON are associates working with the community of Golden Lake. Pray for their involvement in camp ministry and building relationships with those around them.