Thursday, March 26, 2009

Because we didn't go to Alaska

Yesterday I wondered how different our lives would have been had I accepted the job in Glenallen, Alaska. I mentioned that my children were ten and eleven years of age when in 1980, while I was pastoring a church in Peterborough, Ontario, a missions representative came to our area and stayed a couple of nights in our home.

For thirty years Phil Armstrong had been a founder and the General Director of Far Eastern Gospel Crusade (later called Send) and when we met him he was Minister of Missions of FEGC. He was seeking to interest Christine and me to accept a position in Glenallen, Alaska. I was being offered a three faceted role as a pastor, part-time Bible instructor at a Bible College and a part-time radio talk show host. Christine would have been involved in music at church, school and radio. My ten year old son thought he would have a rifle and a snowmobile. My daughter didn’t find the thought of such a move appealing. We considered this for a while and then declined. (photo of Phil in army uniform WWII)

During the following year, in September 1981, I received the news that our friend Phil Armstrong was aboard a plane with five people that went down off the coast of Alaska. His death was a shock to us and to the entire international Missions community in which he was known and respected. He was 62 years of age at the time of his death. In the short time we knew him he had impressed us as a warm, gracious and godly person with whom one enjoyed spending time.

It’s difficult and perhaps futile to surmise where I and the members of my family would be today and what it is we all would have become had we gone to Alaska. One of the factors Christine and I considered was our children’s’ futures as they were nearing their teen years. Ultimately our decision not to relocate to Alaska led to an opportunity to go to Toronto in 1982 where I pastored a vibrant congregation and our children grew within a multiethnic environment. When they completed high school we watched each of them thrive. Cari graduated at Mennonite Brethren Bible College and the University of Winnipeg where she received Bachelor degrees in Christian Education and in Music. She later accomplished a Master’s degree in Piano Performance from Western Washington University. She is now married and a mom of three children. Jeff went to Trinity Western University in Langley, BC and graduated to pursue a teaching certificate from Simon Fraser University and then embarked upon a teaching career. He is married and a father of two. Christine served with me in our church, directing music and worship, and giving leadership to a Canada wide Worship Leaders’ Fellowship. After ten years in Toronto, In 1991 Christine and I moved to British Columbia and a pastoral position in Cloverdale. I had opportunity to pastor four congregations over a 34 year span, picking up a doctoral degree along the way, and concluded a career in a leadership role as President of a denomination of autonomous churches for six years.

I am satisfied with the choices we have made.

Faith Missions: Do they have a future? By Phil Armstrong Phil served in the US Army during WWII, was a pastor and a Bible School instructor before working with the mission.

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