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Missionary Ventures Canada: Impacting Lives Inside and Out
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By Haydn Jensen

"We are here to see God at work." Or, to use a sailboat analogy, "We don't create the wind--we simply set up our sails and get blown along by the wind." Missionary Ventures Canada President Brad Wilson used these words to describe how his organization serves worldwide. Clearly, this points to God as the Initiator of all that they are doing as missionaries. During our conversation we talked about working alongside locals, seeing lives transformed, and getting out of our own bubble of North American complacency. While there are different terms of service available as well as short-term teams for individuals to join, Missionary Ventures Canada believes that a long-term commitment to short term missions impacts churches and people to a far greater degree! Brad says his heart beats with a mission-minded passion, and yet he recognizes that not every believer is wired this way. And that’s OK. He knows that not everyone has the kind of adventurous spirit required to willingly leave behind the structure and consistency we are accustomed to here. Regardless, it's well-worth considering how God is calling each of us to serve. We’ll do this here in the context of exploring how others have been serving and helping around the world through Missionary Ventures Canada.

Missionary Ventures Canada was established in 1992, growing out of founding organization Missionary Ventures USA which began in 1983. They provide opportunities for people to become actively involved in serving in projects overseas. Through local churches, they implement and direct international projects involving construction, education, feeding programs, agricultural initiatives, water filtration projects, skills development and medical/dental clinics. These efforts address many social justice concerns in various countries. The movement began its international work with a project in Guatemala and continues ministry there today. Primary regions of activity today include Central and South American countries and a few countries in Africa. New projects and initiatives are opening up in South Sudan and India as well! Not only do they have projects overseas but they also serve and minister to the migrant workers in southwestern Ontario!

Missionary Ventures Canada works alongside local people wherever they go. They want the goal and vision of their work to remain with the people and for them to recognize that God is at work among them. "We believe that local leadership is important from beginning to end. Sustainability is crucial. We are simply there to walk along side and work together with the national Christian leaders."

Brad himself grew up in London, his family attending what is now Southdale Bible Chapel. This church introduced him to many visiting missionary guest speakers and sparked a desire to go on the mission field himself one day. He got his first taste when he was 19 and 20 when he went with a church planting team to the Philippines for two years. The passion has stuck with him. In 2013 he joined Missionary Ventures Canada as President and Executive Director and now lives in Guelph, where the organization has its national office.

A main goal of Missionary Ventures Canada is "to bring the love and message of Christ to a hurting world" and they do this most obviously in practical ways. Building projects to provide shelter, biosand water filtration systems, schools, health care infrastructure are all examples of practical, meaningful love. Although they usually work with translators, no translation is needed to understand these expressions of care. Brad explains the well-grounded biblical reasons for the practical aspects of their ministry. He points to the "Greatest Commandment" of loving God, and loving your neighbour as you would love yourself. He also recalls the teaching in James that faith without works is dead and also Jesus' parable in Matthew 25 with the sheep and the goats and our final judgement based on how whether or not we respond to those in need around us. Brad sums it up neatly by pointing out that for him, "Love is tangible. We can say that we love others but without the effort to put that love in action, our words do not mean a thing.”

Conversations are a common occurrence between the visiting Canadian missionaries who come to work on projects and the locals who directly benefit from the new building, water project etc. For example, after annual teams went to Guatemala for four consecutive years, one of the team members asked a local single mother, whom the team was visiting with in her home, what she thought of "us gringos" coming here each year. She paused and then responded, "It gives me hope!" When the same team asked the church leadership what they thought of them helping in the construction of the church, the leadership replied, "As long as you are coming to work with us and not for us, it's fantastic." Inspiring in both directions, another Canadian--a first-timer--on a Missionary Ventures trip commented on those she went to serve: "Their faith far exceed their material needs." Brad has seen relationships forming beyond language and cultural barriers as Canadians and locals work together. Huge smiles, laughter, hugs and high-fives are not uncommon.

In another setting, local church leaders observed how Canadian teams came annually to sacrifice a week and a half of "holidays" volunteering in the construction and program development. They responded by saying "we need to do something ourselves." So, the national church leaders started reaching out to communities around them, visiting villages a few hours away. Because of one Missionary Ventures team coming once a year, this has now inspired a local church to regularly serve a group of about forty unchurched people throughout the year.

Even better, sometimes these practical projects serve to remove longstanding barriers among people groups locally. In South American areas, a history of war and oppression between indigenous peoples and Spanish speaking people has created deep rifts. Brad shared how something basic like church-based sewing programs have become outreaches to the neighbouring communities. By sewing together, people get to know each other, relationships and trust grows, and barriers come down. Imagine us in Canada building friendship with our first nations neighbours through such simple means!

Sometimes ventures take on a life of their own...or perhaps this is simply God at work through His people. Brad shares a story from Swaziland involving their specialized food ministry, "Together Against Hunger". In that country serious health issues like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are claiming the lives of parents, sometimes leaving the oldest sibling in a family to care for their brothers and sisters. One local Swazi pastor has been providing leadership in their Together Against Hunger program, helping struggling families and struggling parentless families get enough food. With the need for action so clear, the pastor has caught the vision for expanding their program from feeding to growing. They planted a garden and this was so successful they plan next year to expand it to four times larger so that they will also be able to sell some of the produce. This same pastor hopes to begin a brick making operation to provide a means for local pastors to earn family income. Funds are now being raised through MVC to support this effort.

Presently, one big effort is a hospital project in Nebaj, Guatemala. It actually began as a clinic about 9 years ago. Now, it is a fully self-sustaining clinic with a staff of 29. Two nursing schools grew from that and these graduate about 50 people annually at each school. The founding doctor of this clinic will be coming to Ontario from September 21st to October 12th to share about the work and opportunities to get involved. (Please contact MVC as to the locations of these meetings)

While there are tangible ways to measure the success of projects, a building, a water filter, children being fed, people receiving medical and dental care, etc, there are so many intangible ways that impact can be made which are immeasurable. "You can't measure how much encouragement or joy a project or a simple visit brings to someone and the entire community. People are often times filled with joy and feel so honored that we would actually go and be with them - that they are important enough to be thought of, remembered, visited, and prayed with.”

Deep down inside, we desire our lives to count - to have meaning. We desire to make an impact. Consider serving on a short term mission trip or internship as a participant or consider joining as a partner with MVC. Missionary Ventures Canada is a great way to impact the world - Reach, Rebuild and Restore our broken world. Brad would love to personally talk and visit individuals and churches wanting to become involved with MVC and in what God is doing!

Here's some contact information to get you started.
Missionary Ventures Canada
(519) 824-9380