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New Horizons

English—An Open Door in Quebec

Bernard Westerveld

In Quebec City we speak la belle langue, French. I minister almost entirely in French. However, English is an open door through which we can reach out to the community with the gospel.

English is a ticket to the world. People in Quebec City want to speak English, and parents in particular want their children to master English. While English classes are offered in the schools, parents are prohibited by law from sending their children to English immersion schools. We can take advantage of this situation.

Since the summer of 2005, we have organized English for Kids Bible camps at our church each July. Parents enroll their children, five to twelve years of age, in an all-day camp from Monday to Friday. Mission teams from Presbyterian and Reformed congregations run the camp, with the help of an OP missionary associate. All the activities—singing, skits, crafts, Bible lessons, videos, sports, etc.—are taught in English, while volunteers from our congregation provide translation into French as necessary. The camps run a total of three weeks, with up to forty-five kids participating each week.

The immersion process enables the children to advance significantly in their understanding and even speaking of English. And since the camp is built around biblical themes, the children learn the fundamentals of the biblical story, in particular the good news of Jesus Christ.

On Friday evening, the families are invited to come to a barbecue hosted by our congregation. The kids recite the Bible verses they learned, sing some songs, and often perform a skit. A short gospel presentation is given in French for the parents.

Why do we put so much time, effort, and money into these camps? Obviously they are a means of evangelism. However, the benefits are much broader, for which we praise our heavenly Father.

For the Kids—and Their Families

We host these camps first and foremost for the kids. We are praying that the Lord would use the songs, the Bible lessons, and our Christian love to plant seeds of faith in their young hearts. We are also asking the Lord to enable us to reach whole families through the children.

More than two-thirds of the children who enroll in our camps do not come from Christian homes. They have come from nominal Roman Catholic families, from Vietnamese families, and from North African families. While some parents have withdrawn their children because of the overtly biblical content, the majority absolutely love the camps. Their kids are learning English. They feel loved by the members of the mission team. The kids sing the name of Jesus with enthusiasm. Many kids cannot wait to return the next summer.

We would love for them to join us in church on Sundays. That has not happened—yet. But some families have come to "check us out." One grandmother and her three granddaughters worshiped with us regularly, before drifting away.

We are planting seeds. Growth takes many years in Quebec. Hearts here are hardened to anything that bears the name "church," "Christian," or "Bible." For now, we rejoice to see the same families sending their children for a fourth, fifth, and even sixth year of English for Kids.

In fact, in order not to lose contact with the older children, we ventured out this year and did our first English for Teens Bible camp. It was a great adventure! The older children were much more attentive to the Bible teaching, reading extended passages of Scripture for themselves, and asking some pertinent questions. One teen, who came to the camp with misgivings, expressed his appreciation this way: "Here I can ask questions about God."

Lord willing, our camps will continue to develop. Our prayer is that we may accompany these children from their youth, through the teenage years, and then on to university, where we have a campus ministry. When the Holy Spirit opens their hearts to receive the word, we hope to be there to teach them the good news of reconciliation and to receive them into the family of God.

For the St-Marc Congregation

While our English Bible camps are primarily for the neighborhood children, we also rejoice to see how the Lord uses the camps to bless members and new visitors of our congregation.

Some of the children at the camps come from our congregation. The camps give us another opportunity to train them in the faith. At the same time, our children become a friendship link for the children who do not yet worship with us. They can enter our assembly not as total strangers, but as friends.

Several members of our congregation, particularly young people, volunteer as translators. For some of them, it is the first time that they have gotten involved in a ministry of the church, besides Sunday morning worship. In fact, some have started coming to church more faithfully because of their involvement.

Their involvement in the camps connects them to the life of the congregation, as well as to other members. Friendships develop. They feel more integrated into the life of the congregation. We grow in our Christian fellowship.

They are also growing in their ability to be God's witnesses in Quebec City. Several of them come to the Friday evening barbecue in order to connect with the kids and their families. Since the children live in the neighborhood of the church, members of the congregation bump into them throughout the year in various places. We can continue to be a light of truth in their lives.

For Sister Congregations

We could not run our camps without the sacrificial love of the mission teams coming from sister congregations, both Orthodox Presbyterian and Reformed. They speak English so well! But they also love their Savior and desire to participate in the missionary mandate by bringing the gospel to the children in Quebec.

While the long trip to Quebec City, the sacrifice of vacation time, and the intense week of the Bible camp are not for everyone, the mission teams have overwhelmingly appreciated participating in this missionary endeavor. Sure, they love visiting Old Quebec City, watching Cirque du Soleil, and eating chocolate-covered ice cream. But most importantly they enjoy working with the kids. Many team members have returned for a second, a third, and even a fifth year!

Short-term mission projects like this can be a turning point in the life of team members. An elder of an OP congregation shared with me how some of the young people who recently made a profession of faith in their church testified how the Lord used the trip to Quebec in their Christian pilgrimage.

Friendships also develop, particularly between team members and members of our congregation. Before leaving, many of them exchange e-mail addresses or look each other up on Facebook. On a couple of occasions, the friendships have resulted in the ringing of wedding bells.

While I am thankful for the teams that give of their time, their money, and their talents to serve the Lord and his people in Quebec, I also desire to see them become more active in their home churches. When we close each camp with a final farewell and a time of prayer, I often challenge the team members to be God's light in their own communities. Oftentimes we find it easier to evangelize when we are far from home. However, we need to take our boldness home and be the Lord's witnesses to our neighbors, our classmates, and our fellow workers.

For You?

Maybe English for Kids, and now English for Teens, is for you. Or maybe you would like to participate in an English Café, or English Conversation about the Life of Jesus, or some other activity. Why not use your talent for English in Quebec or elsewhere for kingdom service?

New Horizons, September 2011.

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