Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Light of Hope

Guardians of Hope in Pithapurum, India

This week, for World AIDs Day, I had the pleasure of guest blogging for Sam Chaise, CBM General Secretary, on the ministry of the Guardians of Hope. You can read the brief article on his blog “Cut to the Chaise” here.

Monday, November 26, 2012


This Sunday, many churches across Canada are beginning the first week of Advent by participating in "World AIDS Day". We join with Christians around the world who believe that Christ’s coming brings about transformation in every aspect of life. We stand in solidarity with  all of God’s children who have been affected or infected by HIV and AIDS. Working together we can share Christ’s hope and healing to families and communities who  desperately need to know and experience the love and transforming presence of God and the community of faith.

This World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), Canadian Baptist Ministries is collaborating with several other Christian organizations and the Stephen Lewis Foundation to highlight the critical role played by faith communities that provide care, support and comfort to those impacted by HIV and AIDS. You can participate and help raise much-needed funds at the same time for Guardians of Hope, CBM's HIV/AIDS ministry program in Africa and India. 

To Learn more or to get involved visit the CBM World AIDS Day page by

Monday, November 19, 2012

Praying for Peace in Kenya

Violence in Kenya’s Northeastern Province and the Nairobi community of Eastleigh has continued to escalate this past weekend after a Matatu (public mini-bus) was hit with a grenade in Eastleigh, killing seven people. Rioting today both in Eastleigh and in Garissa has resulted in the deaths of police, military and civilians. The high level of insecurity is affecting tens of thousands of households, as families fear for their safety.

Please join us in upholding these communities in prayer. Erica and I spent our day with several Somali women who were deeply concerned for their children and neighbours. “We can not live without peace!” shared one woman. “We pray for a better life for our children.”

Christian and Muslim leaders alike are calling people to reconciliation and an end of the retaliations and attacks that have caused so much blood shed and suffering over this past year. We pray that by God’s grace that people will have the courage to stand against violence and aggression.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 
Martin Luther King Jr.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

CBM Rwanda

Visiting with our friends Bruno and Kathleen, Pierre & Louise, 
Laura Lee, Caleb, Darrell, and Bronwyn in Kigali, Rwanda

This past week, Erica and I travelled to Kigali, Rwanda, to connect with our CBM colleagues and participate in the 2013 planning for the Guardians of Hope. We were excited to spend time with our friends Bruno and Kathleen Soucy and their friends Pierre and Louise who were visiting from Quebec. We also had a wonderful time getting to know our new team mates Darrell and Laura Lee Bustin and their children. The Bustin family completed their ministry in Indonesia in 2011, and actually flew to Africa for the first time with us this past August when they moved to Rwanda to begin their new work with CBM’s Integral Mission initiatives with the AEBR. 

Laurence, Isaie and Baby Rey
at their home in Kigali, Rwanda

A highlight of our time was getting to meet our friends Isaie and Laurence’s son, Rey. Isaie is the GOH project officer for Rwanda and member of the CBM development team that is working throughout Rwanda in helping local churches live out the hope of the Gospel in word and deed.

Rey was a little tired during both of our visits
but his yawns were as adorable as his smiles!

Aaron & Isaie with baby Rey

Erica and Laurence

Please continue to pray for the Soucy and Bustin families, as well as the national team in Rwanda, as they work hand in hand with local churches in empowering communities to overcome poverty in all of its dimensions.

Friday, November 9, 2012

CBM NEP Strategic Gathering

CBM NEP Strategic Gathering
November 7-9, 2012

We are excited to share a few photos from our time this week
 with our friends and Christian leaders in Garissa

Erica and Laura training women leaders from Garissa 
on the self help group approach. 

Colin Godwin sharing with the Garissa pastors and leaders about
choice of "how we will use our hands" in times of conflict

Agents of Change

Please pray for these leaders as they return to 
Garissa to put their training into action

John, Laurena and Erica

We are so thankful for our colleague Laurena Zondo, and her son John, who came to lead our group on media relations. How the church expresses itself in times of conflict is of crucial importance. The group was encouraged by the time of learning, prayer, and strategic planning as they desire to work together for peace and unity in their community.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Praying for Peace in Garissa

Holes mar the side of the Utawala Church
after this Sunday’s attack in Garissa, Kenya

This week we are meeting with Garissa pastors and Christian leaders for a Canadian Baptist Ministries’ gathering in Nairobi. During the three-day gathering, Erica and Laura will be training seven women leaders on the self help group approach to women’s empowerment, and Aaron, Yattani, William and Michel will be following up on the church-based community development training that we began with the churches in August. We are also thrilled to have our colleague Laurena Zondo joining us to help the pastors and church leaders with communication during times of crisis. Laurena is not only a specialist in communication, but she leads an effective peace and reconciliation ministry among youth in Rwanda. This is a critical time for the people of Garissa, it is a community that needs prayer and healing.

Over the past year, the Garissa Churches have faced a high level of insecurity and persecution. Despite increased police presence, the violence has continued to escalate. On this past Sunday morning, the Utawala Interdenominational Church, which meets for prayer and worship within the Garissa Police barracks, was attacked by militants. Among the 14 wounded, was the pastor who died upon his arrival to hospital. Three members, of the congregation of 30, were air-lifted to Nairobi and are in critical condition. Please remember this church, the family of the pastor and the injured. As we pray for peace in Garissa, we hold on to our faith that God is concerned for the well-being of the vulnerable, and that our Hope is the power and grace of God’s Spirit to transform the hearts and minds of his people.

Thank you for praying.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Andhra Pradesh, India

A view from the port city of Visag, 
Andhra Pradesh, India

Canadian Baptist Ministries India Team
C.P. Raju, Suraj Komaravalli, and Judson Pothuraju

It was a great privilege to be able to share time with our CBM colleagues serving in India with CBM’s first partner churches in communities in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Please continue to pray for the vital ministry that continues as the Church of India engages in Integral Mission as it seeks to bring wholeness and healing into communities struggling in poverty and division.

 I was so glad to have time with Guardians of Hope leaders and groups that are working together to strengthen the lives of those living positively with HIV and AIDS through heath and nutritional support, pastoral care, accountability, and micro enterprise development. One of the villages we spent and afternoon with has two groups that are making and selling soap, salves, and carves, as well as collecting and selling buffalo milk (Sadly, seeing someone milking a buffalo was one experience missed on this visit). I was grateful to be able to bring greetings from the self help groups and GOH groups that we wrk with in Africa, and presented scarves made by the PEACE Women’s SHG in Eastleigh to some of the leaders.

 In Visag with Terry, Suraj, Shannon, Judson, Judy, Aaron and CP

It was also a great opportunity to learn from Shannon and Judy, my colleagues from CBM’s head office in Mississauga, Ontario. Judy is CBM’s program manager and Shannon serves as the program officer for India and Latin America. Among our travels, we were able to see first hand the work that CBM is doing in partnership with the COCH hospitals, including their nursing school. I am thankful for this chance to be exposed to CBM’s wider work, and for the incredible people that are a part of the ministry that we share in together as Canadian Baptists.

Aaron with children of a Sangum (Self Help Group)
Pithapurum, India

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Suara and the Oriya

Saura Children Praying at the Muriel Bent 
Youth Hostel in Orissa, India

Along with spending time in India with the Kui tribal community and churches, Aaron, Terry, C.P. and Suraj had opportunity to meet with the church leadership of both the Suara and Oriya communities, and visit their communities. Similar to the Kui people, both the Suara and Oriya struggle with lack of access to education for their children. Again and again the church leaders asked for prayer for their children and youth. It was exciting to see how many churches are working together to improve their facilities and offer evening literacy classes to their community. “All of our churches are multifunctional,” shared one Suara pastor. “God has given us this house to serve one another!"

Oriya Children

CP. Raju, Terry Smith and Aaron
Meeting with Oriya church leaders

Chapel set in the heart of the Serango Hospital

Please continue to pray peace in Orissa and for the security of these churches, especially the Oriya communities that have suffered persecution from Hindu fundamentalism. Since the riots that erupted after the August 23, 2008, murder of Swami Lakshmanananda, Oriya churches have been destroyed and lives have been lost. The pastors we met continue to feel that the atmosphere is tense and covet your prayers.

One of the many Hindu Shrines in Orissa

Orissa, India

A hillside view from the state of Orissa 
in the interior of South Eastern India

 In October, Aaron joined our colleague Terry Smith, Canadian Baptist Ministries’ Director of International Partnerships, for meetings with CBM’s ministry partners in Orissa, India. It was a great opportunity to learn more about our earliest work as Canadian Baptists, which began in India in 1874, when the first Canadian Baptist Missionaries landed by steamer in Andre Pradesh, India, to begin work among the Telugu people.

Entering a Kui Tribal Village

One of our great privileges, was to be the first CBM people to visit the remote Kui tribal villages in over 25 years. The Kui are one of the smaller tribal groups in Orissa, but through God’s work among the Kui the seed of the Gospel has spread and today ninety percent of the tribe living in this area are now Christian believers. 

Being a minority tribe, the Kui people were pushed out of the fertile valleys of Orissa and established a network of villages on the steep hillsides and mountain tops of the area. Today none of the Kui villages are accessible by road but require a minimum of a day’s hike to reach. Terry and I were able to drive for about 4 hours into the mountains with our CBM India team mates Suraj and CP Raju. After the road ended, our 4x4 took a narrow path eventually crossing through corn fields until we had to walk. After rolling up our pant legs and fording a river, we walked to the closest village which was expecting us for a time of worship with the community, before our meetings. Today the Kui Church is composed of 20 villages.

Kui girls posing for a photo

The Kui people live as subsistence farmers. Lack of access to health care and education is a major problem. The closest clinic is over 50 km away from the village that we walked to, and the other 19 villages are several days journey away from any road. Most families can only afford to have one child attend school because they must pay for their child to be boarded in a youth hostel as there are no schools near their villages. Illiteracy is a major challenge facing their community.

A Kui mother carrying food to her home

Church Supper Kui Style

It was great to see the Kui men serving the women and children of their village. After the community worship service, a feast of rice and curried meat was prepared and served by the men on banana leaf. It was a great celebration!

Terry, Suraj and Aaron in Serango, Orissa

A highlight of our time together was getting to know our CBM India team leader, Suraj, who is committed to seeing CBM’s work in Orissa grow. Over the past ten years, the majority of our work as Canadian Baptists in this region has been through the COCH hospitals not only providing health care to the region, but also community support through the Guardians of Hope HIV & AIDS ministry and through women’s Self Help Group initiatives -- two ministries very close to our hearts. The Serango hospitals are vital work of Integral Mission to the Kui, Oriya and Sauran people. They still speak highly of CBM missionaries who dedicated so much of their lives to their people. We were asked many times about Mildred Law, Muriel Bent, Frank Burn, Ken & Janet Knights and many others.

One of the exciting new developments in Orissa is the construction of a new Mother and Child hospital in Orissa that CBM is helping to establish through the ministry of the COCH hospitals. Please continue to remember the ministry of CBM in your prayers.

To learn more about our work in Africa, India and around the world please visit our website at