Monday, November 28, 2011



For the past 45 years these have been my daily friends, my constants. They have welcomed me in the mornings when I walked into my office, wherever it was. Many bear my underlines and comments. All of them carry my name inside their covers. And today they lie contained within clean boxes, ready for me to deliver them to a new home, not mine, but new for them. They are the volumes of my pastoral library.

My personal library began with a gift, a bestowment of many books from my pastor when I was a young man of 21. James Vold was one of the pastors of Calvary Church in St. Catharines, the church in which I grew up, from boyhood to manhood. He was moving to Philadelphia and was affirming my decision to study the Bible at college level when he invited me to his office. There Pastor Vold entrusted me with commentaries and reference books that launched the birth of my library. With each college course other books were added. By the time I was hired to pastor Calvary Bible Church in Smiths Falls, Ontario, I had a reasonable working collection of books with which to compose Bible Studies and sermons. Five years there, and then seven years in Peterborough at Ferndale Bible Church and now my library filled an entire wall of my office. Then I was called to Wishing Well Acres Baptist Church in Scarborough (now called Gracepoint), named after its community. I was blessed with a healthy book allowance and over the nine years of my pastorate there, I was fortunate to build that library with the finest of reference books. The Reformation Bookstore was owned and operated by an astute gentleman, a prolific reader, whose shelves were filled only with the most helpful volumes, old masters as well as newer editions. I would call ahead to tell him what I needed and when I arrived he would have a stack of books from which I could choose the several I found most helpful. Then I came to Cloverdale Baptist Church where I pastored for ten years all the while growing my library, giving some volumes away and adding others. And I concluded my formal ministry career with six years as the president of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada (EFCC), whose home office is housed in the Fosmark Building on the campus of the Trinity Western University.

Upon retirement three years ago, I found my double door closet of my study was the only space in which I could shelve my library. So my friends sat in rows, clean, dry and waiting for the less than regular times I might need one or two of them. And now, assured that we, Christine and me, will sell this home and move to something smaller, it is obvious to me that I will not have room for my library of ministry associates. I have asked young pastors occasionally whether they might be interested in having them. The response has been underwhelming because many pastors already have a library and they want only certain volumes that supplement their collection and other pastors are accustomed to e-collections. I preferred to gift the entire library. So I discussed giving my entire collection to a Bible College called Christ for the Nations, where because their own library is small and they are seeking accreditation and therefore must enlarge their collection, my books are a welcome addition. They will be useful again. That gives me pleasure. But is it ever difficult for me to let them go. I will pray a dedicatory prayer this morning.       

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I visited Carberry a couple of times when I served as President of the Evangelical Free Churches of Canada
Carberry, Manitoba is a rural farming community outside of Winnipeg. It's located in the prehistoric Upper Assiniboine Delta which is composed of deposits from the glacial spillway which drained meltwater from the receding Laurentian Ice Sheet by way of the Qu'Appelle Channel. Near Carberry, as it moved east the water slowed and delta marshes occurred, which allowed finer particles to settle forming the fertile Carberry Plains. Between 1878 and 1890, thousands of settlers from the East moved to take up the 160 acre homesteads offered by the government of John A MacDonald to settle the Big Plains. Their wives and children began to arrive in 1879, and the farming district of the Carberry Plains was born. Today Carberry's prosperous economic life has become inextricably bound to potato growing and processing. Carberry and the surrounding rural municipality of North Cypress has a combined population of 3400 residents. Carberry is 173 km out of Winnipeg. (Data courtesy of Carberry's A1 website)

I was visiting the congregation of Carberry Evangelical Free Church where Will Feldbush is the pastor on the occasion of this sermon delivered in 2008. The church kept me busy. I spoke five times from Friday night to Sunday night on their missions conference theme, 'For God So Loved the World.' In the video you will immediately get the sense of a small congregation in a small building with a warmth and friendliness between pastor and people. they are a wonderful group. The sermon was missional, reminding believers of what it is with which we have been charged or commissioned.

The video is 43 minutes in length. I preached almost that long, 35 min perhaps. I have been retired since 2008. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011


We can't help it, we three boys, three sons of a woman who was born in Montana and brought as a toddler to Saskatchewan. This is one of those days in every year when we remember her. I am glad that we can do it with fondness and gratitude. We remember her with reference often to this photo of her, mature, with cognition and joy and love shining from her blue eyes. Her mind and her eyes fogged in later years.

Her daddy had just died, so young, too young, 29 years of age. Doerksen was his surname. Her mom and her brother Peter two years older than she, were transplanted into another family, the Willems family. Marie married Abram. He had lost his wife and he already had six children. Opportunities did not abound on the prairies in the twenties and thirties, specially for a girl. Mom completed grade 9 before needing to work. She met Edward Richard Unruh, dashing young man, with a pencil mustache, balding dark hair, whistled everywhere he walked, well liked by everyone, a gentleman, a gentle man. She loved him. He was 4 years older than she. Although living in a distinctly Mennonite Christian community, Hepburn, he was not practicing the faith of his parents. His personal commitment would come later, ten years later, but Tina married Edward. I (Ron) was the first to be born to them.

He ran a gas station and then he went to war, enlisted, and that was unheard of. Conscientious objectors they were, these Mennonite settlements, but he was a Canadian and proud of it. He was an enlisted member of the Royal Canadian Royal Air Force, Force mind you, not Farce. So on this weekend, Remembrance Day, is also a time when memory of Dad re-emerges. And then the war was done and mom and dad started up a coffee shop, and then moved east to Ontario, and Murray (son #2) was born, and I was 5 years old. Dad worked hard at factories and mom was busy with children and work at home projects, sewing for others. She cleaned other people's homes. She worked in a restaurant as a waitress. And son #3 was born, Neale, named after Dad's eldest brother, and I was 11 years old. A coincidence that has intrigued us was that in dad's family there were three sons as well, and they born at the same time intervals, the first five years older than the second who was six years older than the third son.

And in 1954 Tina and Ed bought their first home and dad was 39 years of age and mom was 35. It was a small home and all three sons grew into adulthood there. Mom had basic life skills which because she was entrepreneurial, she turned into a livelihood. Many figure skaters wore her garments. Thousands of people ate her food. She ran her own occasional catering business. She served her food for coffee breaks in a corporation office building. She was head chef for many summers at a Christian Conference campus. She wrote a cook book in which Neale's and my drawing appear. She led women's groups at church and regional women's meeting in many places surprising herself that she could stand in front of others with adequate thoughts and words from which others would benefit. Those latter responsibilities compelled her to read and to study the Bible among other books and she grew spiritually and intellectually. And in all of these pursuits she was encouraged and assisted by the gentle man whom she had loved when she was a stunning young woman of 22. Sometimes it seemed that he had no greater ambition than to see her succeed.

I have written in memory of mom today, but as all of us have witnessed through our experiences with mom and dad, you could hardly think of the one without thinking of the other. So, on this day of remembrance of Mom's departure from here, I know that it won't be long, six months from now when we will remember Dad's departure. At 93 years of age he spoke to her still body and said, "good night sweetheart, I'll be seeing you soon." He too, could not think of life without her, and then he too was gone. We are all okay with this. This is life and theirs was a happy and contented life. They were married for 66 years. Her eyes convey to you why we loved her so much.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I have been thinking a good deal about the challenge of maintaining spiritual vitality. This is particularly demanding when one is employed and life is full or when children are young and require constant care. Responsibilities can impact one’s efforts to sustain a vital relationship with God. Conversely I have found that following retirement from formal work and in my case from ministry-oriented work, the absence of time consuming responsibilities also impacts spiritual vitality. Often responsibilities of the kind I knew when I pastored four churches or served as an executive officer of a church denomination, compelled me to pursue with diligence an intimate connection with God through prayer and reading the Bible and trusting God’s Spirit for insight and direction. When no longer faced with pressing duties, I have found it easy to relax the level of time and commitment to spiritual disciplines. It’s a retirement risk. It isn’t necessary but I know that it occurs. I have experienced it until I have realized afresh that no matter what I am doing in life, my relationship with God should not diminish but it should develop. This has been a good reminder, initiated by the theme of a one-day seminar that is being offered by ACTS Seminaries on November 25th, 2011. I will attend. While it designed for people in Christian ministries, it has application to all working and active Christians and I know that it will apply to me as well. The principal speaker on that day is Gary Thomas, author of numerous good books. The seminar is entitled, ‘MaintainingSpiritual Vitality in Ministry.’  
Information about the seminar