THE JESUS TABLE
It is so close, yet out of my control
Query of belonging speaks most
What will we make of it many ask?
Shared life, yet I still reach for my mask
I have been to the table
But not alone
With the many a shared life
I find I belong
I am not alone I settle inside
We are not alone we don’t have to hide
It is His table to which we are invited
At His table our demons end fighting
Is it not my identity that requires resolve?
For the table I sit at stayed it all
When I forget who I am and flounder in my way
I look to the table for it is there I may
For I belong at the table
There is a place set for me
Shared life is provided
My inclusion is its motif
Subtle whispers escape my heart
Who can come to this table and take part?
This stranger beside me, my brokenness may see
Must I first contain the outcast in me?
I fear this table I love to touch
Belonging to those I know not as much
I eat at this table carefree and secure
When I do, I can receive what was given so pure
– Todd Rutkowski
163 days is close to 6 months. Could you imagine calling and inviting a community to fast and pray for 163 days…? and that they would actually join you and do it? Silas, the pastor of the Namchi Vineyard, was once a political rebel and one of the leaders of a resistance group in the 1980s in the district of Darjeeling in Northeast India. Kalimpong is a hub area in the district of Darjeeling. Ben Isaacs, a now fellow Vineyard pastor in Siliguri, India, grew up in Kalimpong and recalls the terror this uprising, led by the resistance group, created for his family and that area. He remembers bombings, riots, gun shots, terror and fear for weeks and years. He recalls as a young boy, a moment where Silas stood outside their family home, machine gun in hand, stoking the uprising with terror and fear. It was a few years later that Silas had his own encounter with a living Jesus, when he was captured and thrown in the mud pit; left to be drowned and shot to death. He wasn’t shot and didn’t drown but that story is for another day.
Silas, now a Vineyard pastor and part of the Leadership Team of the Himalayan Vineyard region, had felt God invited his church community to purchase a piece of land to create a home in the center of the city of Namchi, India in the State of Sikkim. Sikkim is one of the 29 states in India and was its own country until 1975 when it joined India. The piece of land they first had identified was caught up in the middle of a husband and wife battle. He wanted sell and she did not. While they began to pursue other parcels of land the Chief Minister of the State, a practising Hindu, was planning to put into law that all non – Hindu or non – Buddhist temples could only have up to 15 people in a meeting space. This law, in consideration, would set them back substantially, if it went into rule. They identified another piece of land that would suit their needs. However, the church had no funds in waiting towards this purchase. They simply had a sense that God wanted them to have a home. They first contacted their partner church in Canada, the Cornerstone Vineyard in Winkler, Manitoba to see if they could help with giving them $40,000 Canadian towards the land. That was the cost initially. The Cornerstone Vineyard had a unfolding God story of their own at that time. The City of Winkler, Manitoba had approached them about trading their land to the city to build a new Fire hall on it. In exchange, the City would give the Cornerstone Vineyard their old land, the old Fire hall and $400,000 in cash. They said yes. The Cornerstone Vineyard received the request for the $40,000 from Namchi about the same time they had received the $400,000 from the city. As they prayed in Manitoba, it seemed God was inviting them to give their 10% tithe to the Namchi Vineyard for their land. By the time they received the money from Canada in India the price of the land had gone up significantly. If they put the $40,000 down on the land they would now need an additional $80,000 within 6 months or they would lose the land and the money they put down. Welcome to India! India does not function with mortgages or credit. Land is purchased with bags of cash or with cash sums over a short period of time. There is no ability to pay off land over years or through interest loans. Silas, felt God invited them to say yes, though he knew the risk was great and land prices were rising quickly.
I remember when Silas came to meet with Nathan Rieger and I in Bangalore, India in November, 2013 and told us the story to this point. He had, I believe, until February, 2014 to come up with the rest of the money or they would lose the land and the money. Silas asked us if we could rally the Canadian Vineyards to help him come up with the remaining $60,000 needed. Nathan and I spent time talking to Silas about considering other parcels of land, other options to get a mortgage or credit and pay for it over time, like we do with land in Canada. Silas, in his disarming way, smiled, laughed and though he heard us, it seemed he knew that wasn’t God’s answer for them. The Vineyard conference in Bangalore ended and we all went our separate ways. Silas and Noel Isaacs, leader of the Vineyard in the Himalayas, had many exchanges over the phone after that time. They would weep together, pray together and sometimes just have long silences on the phone as they didn’t know what to do.
The Vineyard communities in Himalayas prayed and joined their faith to God’s invitation for the Namchi Vineyard during this time. From among their own pockets, over those days of prayer and fasting, they gathered $20,000 Canadian towards the remaining $80,000 needed for the land. But February, 2014 came and went and they had no answer. The owner gave them one final extension. With 30 days left until the final extension was up, the Namchi Vineyard had half of the money they needed. They prayed and fasted for almost 133 days by then but the answer they were waiting for, $60,000, had not yet come. Would it? Had they been presumptuous and foolish? Had they heard God? The owner of the land gave them until the end of April, 2014. If they did not have all the money by then they would lose the land and the $60,000 invested to date.
During that time, the 5 year elections for the state of Sikkim were in process. The Chief Minister (what we call a Premier in Canada) and his party were up for re-election of the state. The Chief Minister, who’s government headquarters was in Gangtok, was on the campaign trail during those months. Earlier that year, Silas had organized a gathering of pastors in Namchi, and during that time gained stature in the community. Though Silas didn’t lead one of the biggest or more known churches, he and the Vineyard community had received recognition for their grassroots work in the city. The Chief Minister, a practising Hindu, invited Silas to come pray for him to win the election. The Chief Minister and his party had ruled for 4 terms, 20 years, but their re-election seemed unlikely this time. Silas accepted the invite and came and prayed for the Minister with 3 friends. In Kingdom fashion God had a word for the Minister, and Silas chose to pray in such a way that he shared that word in his prayer. The Minister visibly moved by the prayer, thanked Silas. As Silas departed the minister asked him about his need for the church property. Silas told him they needed $60,000 more to keep the land and that they were believing God would provide. The two went their way after that exchange.
The elections occurred on April 12th, 2014 in the state of Sikkim and the Chief Minister and his party were re-established in power to lead the State again. Silas had not seen or heard from the Minister since he prayed from him that day almost a month earlier. Silas didn’t expect to hear from either now. He was the Chief Minister again. With a week before the deadline for the land and the faith of the community growing weary after nearly 163 days of fasting and prayer, Silas received a unexpected phone call from the Chief Minister’s office. The Chief Minister had wanted Silas to come to an event and meet with him afterwards. Silas went to the event and there was a line-up of people waiting to talk with the Minister. Silas caught the eye of the Minister, who motioned for him to wait around. Silas awkwardly waited, unsure for what. When he saw the Minister, he was asked how he was doing and how the process for the land was going. Silas updated the Minister with their continued waiting. The Minister then asked Silas to wait a minute as he left the room for a second. He returned moments later with a duffle bag of cash (remember its India) and said that he wanted to give this money to Silas and the Vineyard church as a gift to buy their land. This is the same Chief Minister who wanted to put into law that non – Hindu’s and non – Buddhists couldn’t have more than 15 people at a church gathering. Silas is of course was stunned and shocked. He didn’t see this coming from the Chief Minister.
The Minister turned to Silas, after handing him the duffle bag, and asked him why the Vineyard people don’t like him. The Minister responded to his own question by saying, “Tell them I am a good guy”. Though unorthodox and somewhat odd, Silas believed, because of their prayer, the gift of money was from God and accepted it. He then carried the large duffle bag of cash to his vehicle. When Silas arrived home and counted the money there was the equivalent of $60,000 Canadian in Indian rupees in the duffle bag. Silas quickly phoned Noel on his cell phone to tell him what happened only moments earlier. Upon hearing the story, Noel and his wife Dona, fell to the floor in their home in Kalimpong weeping, knowing God had provided. With days left they paid off the land and the Namachi Vineyard had a home and a heck of a story to tell. Who knew what 163 days of prayer and fasting could do!?! Apparently God did!!!
– Todd Rutkowski
On Behalf of the Himalayan Vineyards
The State of Sikkim, situated in the Himalayas, is bordered by Bhutan on the east and Nepal on the west. Sikkim was its own country connected culturally and in language to Nepal, until 1975 when it joined India. The minister had been in politics for 20 years and his party had ruled the State of Sikkim for two decades. He, no longer an elected official, works in management of his recent re-elected party and has a 2nd home in Siliguri, where his wife and daughters live while he commutes each week to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. That evening, as we shared momos together (a Nepali dish), the minister let us know that he had given his wife Gem, “permission” to be baptized into the Christian faith at the next day’s baptism. He himself a Hindu, was willing to support her choice and wanted to let us know that he would be present at the baptism, as well as the Sunday’s service at the Vineyard. In fact, he had given the Vineyard money that week to pay for the entire meal to feed the community after the baptism service down by the river. After we ate momos together that evening, sitting in the living room eating until our stomachs content, we asked Gem to share her story with us. She told us about growing up as the daughter of a Buddhist monk and how she hated Jesus as a child and teen. She told us of how “Tula mommy” had introduced her to Jesus years earlier but how she had walked away from that relationship with God. Then a few months earlier, Gem had been invited by a friend to come to the Vineyard and as she walked into the room she felt these invisible arms of love wrap around her and God inviting her home. She knew it was Jesus. She joined the community, stepped into God’s invitation and wanted to seal her faith with baptism. After we heard her story we prepared ourselves to leave for home when we realized culturally we had missed what was going on…. the momos were just the appetizer. After Gem shared her story, we as guests were all invited to the dinner table and served a huge meal (after a huge meal of momos) where the minister, Gem, Tula mommy, their 2 daughters and servants all served us and watched us eat. It was humbling, oddly moving and wonderfully touching as we ate at their table being served by them. We soon learned that in Indian culture you talk first and eat a meal later, the opposite of our experience of hosting in the west. We also learned in India, or at least that part of India, your guests sit at your table and you serve them not eat with them. We went home with our hearts and tummy’s full of life and hope that night.
The next day was a Saturday. Late that morning we met together at the church and 70 to 80 of us jumped on a rented bus as two escort vehicles for the minister and his family followed us. We headed a hour outside of the city to the river for baptism. The ride was filled with joy, as the fully loaded bus sang their hearts out in Indian song the whole way. We arrived at our destination, sort of. A rugged dirt road, off the main road, led to the river… so we thought. After winding our way along the river banks through boulders and gravel we realized our destination, the river’s edge, would be reached only on foot. We parked the bus and like a band of nomads crossing the desert, we made our way up hills, over rocks and sand dunes to the river’s edge carrying everything in arm. With great joy we sang, shared and entered into the sacred experience of baptism for 4 individuals that day, one of them being Gem. Joy was in the air, a historical moment was taking place and we gratefully were present to witness it. It is not always easy to see what God is doing around us as we live it in everyday and lose perspective to His unfolding narrative, but it is much easier to see what God is doing in places outside our daily routine. Often it can be as plain as the nose on our face. We were thrilled to join in this unfolding story with Ben & Rachana and the Vineyard team there in Siliguri and eat momos, sing Indian songs and wear cool “green” scarfs… although Ben assured us the “yellow” scarf he received was more special.
– Todd Rutkowski
Watch Flora’s testimony below:
Wayne MacQueen and his wife, Sabrina, pastor the London Vineyard in London, Ontario.
This recognition of authority resonated deeply with me. I also am uncomfortable with aggressively assuming a position of leadership, grabbing the spotlight, taking charge, sitting at the head of the table and commanding attention. That just doesn’t sit well with me. But this laid-back, waiting style is a bit counter-intuitive in our Western culture. If you stand at the back and wait for recognition you might grow old while waiting. If you sit back quietly and wait to be called on, you will probably never get noticed. Or so it seems.
During the course of the national gathering, I was involved in several meetings with those in the Vineyard who are invested in theological education. We are at a pivotal point in developing new resources and refreshing old ones, hoping to make good quality theological education more accessible to a wide variety of people. One of the meetings was an attempt to get everyone involved in the different initiatives in the same room in order to find a way forward in which we would all work together instead of reinventing the wheel or spreading our resources too thin. Since there had been some lack of communication about recent developments and some past frictions, there was a bit of tension in the room. I am one of the new kids on the block in terms of theological education (and one of the few females) so I was content to mostly listen. The room was full of dynamic and forceful personalities (lots of pastors and teachers who have been at this much longer than I have) and there was seldom a quiet moment, people jumping in one after the other with their comments. At one point I raised my hand (yes, I tend to do that) and said, “I have a question…” but the force of the conversation was already moving in another direction and there were many voices in the mix, so when I was not acknowledged, I just let it go. It wasn’t a big deal.
Some moments later, the chairperson of the meeting interrupted the discussion and said, “We haven’t heard from Matte yet. Do you have anything to add?” I sat silent for a moment and so did the room. Not sure where to start, I turned to the chairperson and said, “Thank you. You’re so nice.” He responded, “I’m not being nice. This is important.” I was a bit stunned, but I gathered my thoughts and said I had mixed feelings about the discussion. Then I asked the question that I had tried to insert earlier. It was quickly answered, and I started to add a comment but was cut off by another eager participant. The chairperson stopped everything again and brought it back to me, indicating that I still had the floor. I voiced a few thoughts on the matters at hand and talked about what seemed to work in our community. Then someone asked if they could make a comment. The chairperson indicated that it was up to me whether to give to floor to someone else. I gladly invited the person to make his comment and the discussion continued from there, everyone seemingly a bit slower to jump into the fray and a bit quicker to listen.
Afterwards, I spoke to some of my colleagues who had been in the meeting and they remarked on the chairperson’s actions and how it brought them up short. In a good way. I felt extremely honoured that someone had made space for my voice, deeming it important, and I realized that I loved the style of leadership that had been modeled, a leadership which makes room for voices that might otherwise be overlooked. I want to be the type of leader who gives a place of honour to the “least of these” (Matthew 25) and a leader who embraces humility more than bravado or aggressiveness. I want to be a person who is an excellent listener and makes space for other voices, especially those who might be overlooked. I want to lead like Jesus.
Matte and her husband, Dean Downey, pastor the Église Vineyard Montréal Church. Click here for more information about their community.
For more information about the plant, please contact Robin Ellingwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We had a wonderful day last Saturday in Muyange and Mageregere. In the morning 14 people were baptized, 10 from the new church in Mageregere, and 4 from Muyange. After the service we drove to Mageregere about 20 km away in 3 packed cars and a minibus. It was a great celebration as we heard testimonies from those who were baptized and as we blessed the new church ‘officially’.
Many of the local community, attracted by the singing of the worship team/choir from Muyange, joined us for the afternoon and one man came forward to receive Christ as his savior. Please pray for the growth in maturity and numbers for the Mageregere church.
Click here for photos.
I arrived at the Ontario Regional Gathering on Monday with vertigo that I had for 14 days. I woke up Tuesday morning, and the vertigo was still there. I received prayer Tuesday night, and during the prayer time I suddenly felt a fairly significant headache and pressure appear out of nowhere along with a weird aching in my throat and intense jaw pain. I’ve never felt that type of throat or jaw pain before. The head pressure was familiar from other times of prayer. I wondered what God was doing. After debriefing, the throat and jaw pain began to disappear, and we prayed some more. The vertigo was still there, though. I woke up the next morning and realized the vertigo was gone! After breakfast, it felt like it was returning, but it never was able to take hold and I am still vertigo-free. I am certain that God did a restorative healing work in me Tuesday night during prayer! Thanks to the folks who gathered around me to pray and thank You Lord for Your continued work and healing in my life and all our lives!
Greetings in the strong name of Jesus! We just got back from Brazil with the international Vineyard family. The National Leaders of the released AVC’s and emerging countries meet every two years. You can have either one or two couples attend and sometimes due to finances or other reasons only one person may attend. Karen and I represented Canada in Sydney Australia two years ago. This year I attended with David and Anita Ruis. Beth Wood, who is on the beginning of her month-long ministry trip, was also there helping out with translation as she speaks Portuguese, having lived there for many years.
There was a great sense of unity in the room, and powerful times of worship and prophetic ministry. Canada has a strong role in this regard, and both our presence and ministry is deeply welcomed. Click here to view a document that some of you may have seen before, it describes the common values and mission that we have in our global work together. “The mission of the church is inaugurated and sustained by the Missio Dei. We join with the activity of God in the world. Our deep conviction is that churches plant churches, and so our primary missions activity around the world is the establishment of new churches expressing the values of the Vineyard.”
Some people said they thought it was the best international gathering yet. Along with reps from the 11 released AVC’s, we had leaders from Brazil, Mexico and Chile. The face of the world wide Vineyard family is changing! It was great hearing about the advance of the Kingdom of God in both the north of Brazil (where Art and Cindy Rae and family minister) and in the south, and how they are learning to overcome some of the natural differences and obstacles in being a national family.
Everyone prayed for the Canadian Vineyard and our upcoming National Celebration in Kitchener. On their own initiative and our enthusiastic welcome, we have John and Eleanor Mumford (UK) and Phil and Jan Strout (USA) joining us. We are also having some of our international leaders coming from the countries we are working in (we are bringing Antoine from Rwanda). I believe it is going to be a significant gathering, make sure you encourage your people to register, it will be worth it!
– Larry Levy