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Issue 2015 #4
Table of Contents:
Our Prayer and Web Presence Era
We have reviewed in this series of Reflections articles, the three earliest eras of God's work. Now we come to our prayer and web presence era in Western Tract Mission, now Impact Canada Ministries.
The first was with the founder, Mr. George W. Elliott, the business man passionate about distributing tracts in person, and by mail. He trained thousands of ordinary people to do this as well.
Russell Rice, the second Director, had a great interest in mechanical things, and brought in printing presses on which WTM printed millions of pieces of literature each year. From the 1960s to the 1980s the current building went up, extra staff were hired, and tracts and booklets were shipped abroad.
Discipling the souls won to Christ through the literature became a pressing burden. Mailbox Bible lessons were started. Mel Anhorn came in as the new Director, for the Board learned he had some experience with the Mailbox Club lessons. A bookstore was tried, but didn't remain financially viable.
We should not forget the Jake Heppner's who travelled with their little Boler trailer and conducted meetings in the name of Western Tract Mission, all over Canada and the USA, often seeing people saved at those meetings, and raising many faithful supporters. Some continue to this day!
Chuck Aney was Director for a short while, resigning for health reasons.
With no Director in sight, the Board members took on a more hands-on leadership. Particularly, Dave Wolfrom, an engineer, and Arnold Stobbe, a retired farmer from Blaine Lake area, got the lion's share of responsibilities. Gradually, Arnold became known as the interim, or Acting Director. He came in on Wednesdays to tend to things in person. His focus was on prayer meetings with the staff that remained (many found reasons to leave), and to tap people he knew on the shoulder and ask them to volunteer. Nor has he allowed the mission to operate in a deficit.
The Mailbox Club continued, as did the occasional re-printing or publishing of a tract, printed at Globe Printers, only when it could be afforded.
Quietly, almost incidentally, a new ministry began, an international web presence. The internet was fascinating. Many people in the 1980s-1990s, and more and more people were getting computers, learning to send/ receive emails, and to surf from website to website around the world.
Arnold met a young man, Ernie, who had once been in his VBS class. He had a job in computers, and suggested that Arnold should get a website for the mission.
Arnold was open-minded; how would you do that?
He brought it up at the next Board meeting, and a committee was formed to look into it. One of the Board members, Dave Ginther, invited me, Ruth Friesen, to be on this committee - because he knew from my pen pal letters that I was teaching myself how to build a website.
Having been on committees in church, I knew what to expect; I usually got the extra workload. I turned Dave down twice, anxious to build my own website to sell my novel. By the third time, I admitted that I loved missions, and working with literature. Also, accepting would not call for raising support.
I was at the first committee meeting on August 4, 1999. By December I had about 30 web pages ready, based on the brochure Arnold gave me about the mission. When the site was up on a free host, I reduced my rash of full-time hours to just Monday evenings. I continued to build the website by adding more tracts, and Reflections issues. Over the years, Hope testimonies, and Kids' Korner, a Gallery, etc. have been added.
After just a couple of years, I understood that a domain name and our own hosted site was better than the free sub-domain. No more secular ads on top of each page. By that time I was on the Board myself, and explained this. Dave Wolfrom paid the fees, and urged me to go ahead - just do it!
It would take much more space to give all the details and examples. Over these 16 years, our quiet, unpretentious website has grown to over 1400 pages, plus 100s of graphics, and averages well over 100 visitors a day, all at no cost to the mission.
In 2007 my Dad died, bringing my caregiver years to an end. I moved to the city, hoping to support myself with my little internet business. Arnold offered to make me a missionary, so friends could support me; in return he wanted to give me new assignments. I was willing.
For more than ten years, WTM members, in Tract Clubs, gathered at regular meetings to stuff tracts into envelopes and mail them - at their own expense. However, the mailings were to small towns and rural areas, and the number of Tract Clubs was dwindling as the members grew infirm, or quit.
God gave Arnold a vision for using Canada Post's admail system for sending out a booklet with five of our best testimonies and a children's feature to every home in Saskatoon first of all, and if that worked - maybe all of Canada. He arranged for me to interview some people with out-standing testimonies, and to write them up for this booklet. It became my main work for the summer.
I also announced the plan in Reflections. Shortly after, a reader of Reflections in the USA sent a large cheque. Suddenly we could afford to do this mailing not only in Saskatoon, but in ten other cities in Saskatchewan!
Our committee decided to name the booklet, There is Hope, because we saw that the testimonies had a united theme of finding hope in Christ. We also urged readers to send for our Mailbox Club lessons, reasoning that if we could develop a long-term trust relationship with them, we could ensure that they had the gospel presented to them multiple times.
That first mailing went out in early September of 2007. Most responses were to sign up for the Bible Lessons. There were a few calls, but Rick Langlais, whose testimony was included, was the one to receive at least two crisis calls, and talked the callers out of suicide.
Funds have been raised each year since, and each fall we sent out another mailing to as many postal codes as we could afford. All of Saskatchewan was covered in three years, then in two years, we covered Labrador and Newfoundland, followed by Prince Edward Island, and this October we finished the last of Nova Scotia and starting some English-speaking parts of New Brunswick.
One year a Saskatoon friend came into some money, and decided he would like to pay for another mailing to certain sections of our city he felt were most needy to read the gospel. Arnold and I checked over our supply of Testimonies of Hope on our website, and picked some new ones, and a new children's feature. This way those areas would get a new booklet,
which we named, Inner Peace Factor.
Both of these booklets are on our website as free downloads so people don't have to wait until we can afford to mail one to their door.
For years, Arnold Stobbe has had a burden to get a younger generation interested in evangelism and this ministry in particular. He has met weekly for about five years with a small group of these Christian millennials, praying with them for revival, and waiting while they grew to seek for ways to serve God wholeheartedly. They are now on board with passionate visions! We have become Impact Canada Ministries.
The old website is to be archived, giving way to a new site to go with our new name. I will polish and tidy the old site up so that it doesn't need constant maintenance, but I will continue to keep an eye on it, and it will stay on the internet - ministering quietly like a global library with doors open 24/7 for those who want to wander in to read, and perhaps download and print the gospel tracts, testimonies and Scripture Signs.
Others have told me they have no inclination to work on a website. They are thankful it's me, not them, doing this work.
Oddly enough, God has given me great joy and interest in this quiet, 'alone' ministry at the computer. I have learned so much, and grown in my web design skills, but also in writing and graphic designs. I have come a long way, from when I began in 1999, and I am honoured to be made the keeper of the old site. I understand the importance of not casting it aside.
Orders for tracts still come in to Priscilla, students discover the Mailbox Club, and those in Children's ministry are downloading the activities and patterns in the Kids' Korner.
It isn't quite so much fun to have to reply to some poor pastor in a third world country who pleads for us to send ALL the Bibles and literature we can for their ministry. I must write back and tell them that we cannot afford the postage. Then I cheer up as I explain that they can download our tracts, and freely print them, or translate them into their language, and distribute them. Unfortunately, many of them can't do even that.
Some have sent photos to show that they have done this. Pastor Reuben, in Myanmar, showed how he filled his backpack with tracts and traveled about on a moped to distribute them to all the villages he could reach.
Early on in building and maintaining this web presence I saw that God had prepared me for this work, and tailored this ministry just for me!
Arnold's style of leadership as a Director has always been to encourage me and offer me new creative challenges, such as interviewing people for their testimonies, and preparing the booklets, There is Hope, and Inner Peace Factor. Also, writing, and doing layout for new tracts, or updating old ones, and designing Scripture Signs and the last few calendars.
Outsiders may have thought this ministry had gone dormant. Yet, I have seen how God has been at work in hundreds of little, refreshing ways, in preparation for the next era which will be different, but build on all that has happened in the past.
The many seasons of prayer Arnold has initiated have put down the fertilizer for the new era that is on the horizon. The God who made the whole universe, also specializes in the little, hidden ministries, and He knits everything together with His perfect timing!
- by Ruth Marlene Friesen