How Can JHC Reach Out to Immigrants?
“My grandparents on my father’s side were (Christian) Armenians, who were living in Turkey, in a city called Adana,” begins JHC member Petros Yergatian. “But they had to flee because of the genocide against Armenians being committed by the Ottoman Turks (between 1915 and 1917). When they escaped, they had with them their three kids, a boy of six, a girl of four and my father, the youngest at two. “Being quite near the coastline, they managed to jump aboard a ship and ended up in Athens, Greece — like so many refugees today — where they lived in a refugee camp for two years. While there, they had a fourth child, a boy. “The Greek government did exactly the same thing they are doing today, distributing the refugees to other nations. They ended up being shipped off to Cyprus, and that’s where they were finally able to raise their family.
“But they had to flee because of the genocide against Armenians being committed by the Ottoman Turks (between 1915 and 1917). When they escaped, they had with them their three kids, a boy of six, a girl of four and my father, the youngest at two.
“My mother was a Greek Cypriot, but because she had worked for an Armenian lady she could speak both languages, which was quite unusual. After marrying my father, they lived with his parents for a year, then built their own house, and had three kids, myself being the youngest. “Cyprus was a British colony at the time, so we all held British passports. During WWII, the British had promised independence to Cyprus if they joined the Allied forces, but when the war ended that promise wasn’t kept. By the mid-1950s the Cypriots had had enough of British rule, and under the leadership of George Grivas’ Eoka movement, civil unrest began to build. By the end of the 1950s my parents decided Cyprus was not a good place to raise kids, so in December 1960 they decided to move to England, and settled in north London.
“I was nearly four years old at the time, so the situation was almost exactly like that of my grandparents. My parents then had another child in England, a girl. She was born three months after my father died of a heart attack. “On the face of it, that was a terrible situation for my mom, being an immigrant with three young kids and a fourth on the way, and having just signed a mortgage. But now, 53 years later, I can see the Lord’s hand in it all. “My father was a backslidden Christian, and my mother was not a believer, though I had been baptized into the Orthodox church as a baby, as had my two older sisters.
“A nearby Gospel Hall found out about my mom’s situation and rallied round her, providing help in every way. She had to spend three months in hospital, during which time we were looked after by neighbours and friends from the church. Her brother came to live with us, breaking off his own engagement to help; he stayed with us for about seven years.
“We ended up attending that church, went to its Sunday School. I came to Christ there. My mom was part of that church till the day she suddenly died from a brain aneurism. She had had a hard life. Her own mom had died when she was 12 and she had had to raise three younger siblings. She always insisted on us kids giving practical help to neighbours in need, whenever we could, and that’s what we did.
“After high school I left home to attend Nottingham University. Following that, I returned to my home church to begin leading the youth group, as well as leading worship. I had a great job in the computer industry, which had many perks, but it involved a lot of travel, sometimes overseas. “Eventually I began to get the feeling that my work load was impacting my ability to more fully serve the Lord. I took a week off and went to Israel to think about my life’s direction. After I came back I knew I had to make a decision, so I went to the church elders and asked them for their wisdom. They asked me what I would do if I were to give up my job, and I had to reply, ‘Honestly, I have no idea.’ “After helping with a building project at the church I went to a summer camp, where someone said ‘I think you should go to Capernwray’ (a Bible school). I didn’t have the money for the fees of 1,025 pounds, and I told the Lord He’d have to provide the funds. That same day I got a cheque in the mail for 1,024 pounds and 75 pence, from the company I’d worked for! They weren’t obligated to send it, but they did. “By then this was August. I phoned the registrar at Capernwray, which was based in an old manor house in Lancashire in northern England, about attending. He said they’d been booked up since the previous February, so I asked to be put on the bottom of the waiting list. He called me three weeks later and said ‘You need to be here on Friday.’ That was in September of 1985.
“That was where I met my first wife, who was from JH church. After getting married (at JHC), we moved to London for 17 months. Then, suddenly, all the doors there closed for us, so we again went to the elders for advice, and ended up back here in Canada. Three kids and a divorce later, I bought the house I was renting, near JHC. There was lots of God’s leading in that too.
“I feel like we’ve always been immigrants — my great-grandparents, my grandparents, my parents, and now me! We can all see ethnic changes at JHC; when I arrived 29 years ago, most people in the congregation were from western Europe, so I saw myself as the token foreigner, the one with the ‘different’ surname. But sitting round our table at JHC last week there was an Iranian from Russia, an Iranian Armenian, an Iraqi Chaldean and an Egyptian. No Caucasians at all! In our life group there’s Chinese, Iranians, Japanese.
“What can JHC do to show our neighbourhood that we’re here for them? In our immediate neighbourhood there’s South Asians, Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, Iraqis, South Americans, Syrians and others. We need to build a multi-national ethnic program or focus, offering assistance where we can. We need to make those connections . . .
“One way we could do this would be to offer translation services during the morning worship time, perhaps in Farsi, Mandarin, Russian or Spanish. How many people need that? Very few. But that’s not the point; the point is that it’s being offered, it’s available. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate or an expensive program. It’s just that you’re putting out a hand of friendship, to offer people something.
“When not just some but all your neighbours are from some other ethnic group, you need to start thinking, ‘What’s going on here? How do we connect?’ You can’t just say, ‘Well, we only speak English here,’ and push them off somewhere else. You have to make the effort to reach out to them. Growing up in London, many of my neighbours were Jamaican, and it wasn’t that difficult to connect with them. You don’t have to be perfect at it. Nobody’s perfect, we’re all human. You just need to do whatever God is leading you to do.”
Petros Yergatian is the Africa Area director of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission (EFCCM). He and his wife Arlene frequently travel to the African continent to oversee mission work there.
Experiencing The Real-Time Protection of Guardian Angels
At a recent meeting of the Golden Agers group, John Goudsward responded to an inspirational message by guest speaker Dan Nicholson which included a reference to angelic protection.
“Many years ago now my friend Dave and I decided to hitch-hike from Surrey to Clearwater — this was before hitch-hiking was illegal. Starting from our family store on 156th Street, we got our ﬁrst ride in the direction of Hope. But the driver, a farmer, dropped us off in the middle of nowhere, halfway between Chilliwack and Hope.
“After about an hour of trying to hitch a ride, with everybody ﬂying by at 60 miles an hour, a ’49 Ford went by. It stopped about half a mile on and then started to back up. We ran up to him and got in, and right away we could smell beer. When he found out where we were wanted to go he said, ‘I’m going to Kamloops, I’ll give you a ride.’
“By the time we got to Hope it was getting dark, and he stopped for gas. Dave and I had a quick conversation about whether or not we should continue on with him or try our luck on the Canyon highway; he was intending to take the Hope-Princeton. We decided to stick with him.
“Well, if the sign said ‘slow to 30 mph,’ he’d maybe slow to 60, as we were often going 90. Just before getting to the well-known Whipsaw Hill area, we came round this corner, doing way over the speed limit, and the car went off the pavement onto the shoulder. When it came back, it ﬂipped right over on its roof. The car had no seat-belts! Fortunately the road at that point was straight for about 200 yards, and the noise as it slid along upside down was incredible. Talk about scary! When we stopped, the door was jammed, and at ﬁrst it wouldn’t open, but I kept kicking at it and ﬁnally we all got out safely. That was the ﬁrst time I really experienced the providential care of angels.
“A few years later I was travelling in Europe with a friend in a Volkswagen van. We were in Switzerland, and I was driving. At the bottom of a hill with S-curves, there was a railroad track. Just as we got to the middle of the track, without any warning, the crossing guard arms came down in front and behind us. I managed to swerve parallel to the guard-post just as the train came by. Providential angelic care again, for sure!”
Elder Profile: Daniel L Carnahan
Daniel (Dan) Carnahan was born 8 May 1980, in Placerville, California. At the time, his parents were moving around quite a bit, from Texas to California to Oregon to Alaska, the latter state being the one where Dan grew up. He has an older brother, Jesse, and a younger sister, Tiffany, both of whom still reside in the U.S.
“My folks (who currently live in Corvallis, Oregon) had met at a Bible camp in Alaska. He had always liked the outdoors type of lifestyle, so he convinced her to move up there,” says Dan. “I grew up in a town called Palmer, about 40 miles north of Anchorage. I didn’t get much involved in church until my senior year in high school, when I became a youth group leader. I continued with that until I moved down to Langley, in 2004. Why am I here in Canada? Because of a person . . .
Bible school in Austria
“Emily (née Lawrence) and I met at Capernwray Bible school in Schladming in Austria (her parents, Don and Shelley, are JHC members; her grandfather Ken, with his wife Virginia, was the senior pastor at JHC for many years). My best friend in Alaska had invited me to go there with him. My name was on a wait list for months, then I suddenly got the call to go.
“Emily and I long-distance dated for a couple of years, then I decided to move down here to go to Trinity Western University — and to be closer to her, of course. After high school I had attended the University of Alaska, doing general studies, before I decided to follow ministerial studies.
Degree gained at TWU
“I graduated from TWU with a degree in Christianity and Culture, their pre-pastorate major. Since then I’ve done three years part time toward a M.Div. degree, which I’m still working on — and would eventually like to ﬁnish. “When I transferred to TWU, Emily was volunteering with the youth group at JHC — she’s served in several positions with youth over the years, including Fusion director. The church was looking for youth leaders, so I became one. I’ve been involved in various capacities since then, becoming an elder in 2014. My portfolio as an elder is prayer.
Involvement at JHC
“Emily and I got involved in Night Church from the beginning, and I was one of the two or three worship leaders, and in the process got involved in Sunday morning worship services too. I’m a self-taught guitar player; I didn’t start playing until I got home from Bible school in Austria. I play the mandolin as well. I’m left-handed, but I play a right-handed guitar. I’d like to build my own guitar one day.”
Asked about his hobbies, Dan replies: “It’s pretty slim pickings these days, with three young girls and all,” he says. Dan and Emily’s daughters are Sophia (soon to be eight), Mikaela (turning ﬁve in December) and Sarah Jean (18 months). “I do enjoy camping and mountain-biking. I did a fair amount of hunting and ﬁshing in Alaska, but not since I’ve lived here in B.C.”
Dan currently works as a carpenter, having developed an interest in the trade while in high school. While attending TWU, he often crossed the border to build houses in Lynden, WA, where he could work legally.
“Once I got my landed immigrant status, I could work here in Canada,” he says. “From 2009 to 2017 I worked with a company called My House. Then (JHC member) George Foster called me a few months ago to say his son Scott, a home-builder who builds custom homes in Fort Langley, was looking for someone to work with, so I met with him and it all aligned really well. It’s a close commute for me, and I enjoy the variety a lot” (the Carnahans live in Walnut Grove).
Observations on JHC
Asked for his philosophical ‘take’ on Johnston Heights, Dan says: “I think that JHC being described as a ‘friendly church’ is a good thing, and I think we’re making inroads into the church being more than a homely church, where people get past the friendliness and become involved, going from a façade of friendliness to being a congregation of people that let other people in and get engaged quickly.
“To be honest, I struggled for quite a while with why it was so hard for people to get an ‘in’ at Johnston Heights and become involved sooner. For example, a couple of years ago my parents came to our summer camp to look after our kids while we were busy as leaders. Afterward, I asked them how they liked it, and they said, ‘It was cool, but we didn’t connect with anybody.’ Which was a frustration, because if you were going to connect anywhere, that’s where it would be.
“People at JHC are super-friendly, they’ll smile and say ‘hi,’ but when it comes to deeper, meaningful relationships, it takes more. I think we’re doing better at it, but there’s always room for improvement.”
Eric & Julie find JHC to be their ‘home’
“I was born and raised in Penticton, B.C.,” begins Eric, “and Julie was born in Brantford, Ontario. We both had Church of the Nazarene backgrounds, and when we finished high school we both went to Church of the Nazarene College in Winnipeg, and that’s where we met and started liking each other. I was there for four years, but she was there for three, finishing sooner than me. When she ﬁnished she went back to Ontario, and when I finished I chased after her, and she stood still while I caught her.
“We got married and lived in Ontario for nine years before moving to Prince George. I had got my electronic engineering diploma in Ontario, and my sister in Prince George knew someone at BC Tel (as Telus was called back then), who was saying they needed technicians with my skills, so I got hired.
Church life in Prince George
“We attended the Nazarene church there, which was very small. After ten years it hadn’t grown, so for the sake of our three kids we started attending the bigger Alliance church, which had about 200 people. We stayed there for 12 years, and were in Prince George for 22 years.”“L-o-n-g years!” adds Julie with a mock frown. “Imagine, you can have frost any month of the year, and just like that, lose all your bedding plants.” “We were both very involved in the music ministry there,” she continues. “I played piano and Eric played the trombone; he was one of the worship leaders. At one point there were about 12 musicians on our worship team. “I also wrote plays that were performed, and created a musical with 11 original songs that I wrote. And I taught piano lessons from home, and worked for short periods of time at Sears and Woodward’s stores.” After unsuccessfully trying to arrange a transfer in the company, Eric eventually accepted the offer of a severance package from BC Tel, and the couple sold their house and moved to the Lower Mainland.
Seeking — and ﬁnding — a church home
“We attended a local Alliance church at ﬁrst because of our history with the Alliance church in Prince George, but we somehow didn’t feel connected there,” says Eric. “We started coming to JHC in December 2003. We knew that my second cousin John (Hanson) was already attending there with his wife Ellie, although we didn’t really know them at that time.” “We also tried a Baptist church in New Westminster,” adds Julie, “which is actually quite close to where we live. But then we came to a Christmas production at JHC one time and before anything had even got started we said to each other, ‘This is home.’”
Children and grandchildren . . .
The Hansons’ younger daughter Nicola (‘Nicki’) is married to Jason Giesbrecht (who serves as an usher at JHC); both help out with the JHC youth ministry. They have three children, Spencer, Max and Jonah. Their other daughter, Kira Howe, lives in Port Moody with her husband Trevor and two late-teen kids, Annica and Lief; they attend a church there. Their son Fraser, the oldest, has very recently moved from Raleigh, North Carolina to Castlegar. Married to Lori, the couple have three kids: Caden, Mary and Scarlett.
“For one thing,” says Eric, “they’re pleased to be getting away from all the big fat centipedes and poisonous snakes and fire-ants over there!”
A brush with cancer
Both Eric and Julie have been involved in plays and the choir at JHC. “But I’ve been out of things for a while,” says Julie, “because of my cancer treatment (which began in December 2015). At the start I had to go through four treatments of chemotherapy, which was really tough. Then we had to travel to Surrey Memorial Hospital for 21 almost-consecutive days of radiation treatment, because that’s the only local hospital doing that. My heart sure goes out to people who are facing treatment for a second time.” Julie’s health has since stabilized and she is no longer undergoing regular treatment. Now fully retired, Eric had worked for nine years as an electronics specialist and office manager in a New Westminster mechanical shop with Abbas Mofazeli, who also attends JHC, but when the roof of the building literally caved in one day, his involvement came to an end; with the structure having been evaluated as not worth repairing, the business has since moved out to Aldergrove. “You never lose that web of connections that you make with people when you’re part of a church family for a long time,” Julie ﬁnally observes. “We still have good friends from our Bible college years, from our Ontario years, from both churches in Prince George and now we have some good friends here at Johnston Heights too. Friends from our drama involvement, as well as through the Life Group we attended for many years. What a blessing to be a part of the family of God!”