NEPEAN, Ontario, Canada (BP)–From handing out coffee and hot chocolate at intersections to cleaning up after the local Christmas parade, Sequoia Community Church members have made service an integral part of their mission since the Ottawa-area church was born about nine years ago.
The city of Nepean and the greater metro area have noticed — Sequoia was presented the Service Club/Non-Profit Organization of the Year award at the annual Greater Nepean Chamber of Commerce awards dinner this fall.
“We’re a big-time serving church,” Sequoia pastor Rick Lamothe said. “It’s in our DNA.”
Sequoia was the only church among six nominees for the award. The others included the Lions Club and a Muslim organization.
“It was cool just to be nominated,” Lamothe said. “I mean, just to be noticed in the community as a church serving the community and doing some really cool things.”
In receiving the award, Lamothe got to give an acceptance speech before about 300 Nepean community leaders in October. “God is getting the glory and Sequoia was recognized for its great impact in the community,” the pastor said.
One of the first service initiatives was handing out hot coffee to motorists at busy intersections — prompting Donna Boisvert, now the church’s care minister and serve team leader, to start attending Sequoia, which she described as “a light and the hands and feet of Jesus, not with words only, but we walk the talk.”
She has organized Sequoia’s effort to pick up trash after Nepean’s annual Christmas parade for the past three years — an effort that began after parade organizers would not let the church hand out materials during the parade, although they are allowed to hand out candy canes. The church also sponsors several floats in the Christmas parade.
Sequoia’s “Fun Cruiser,” meanwhile, has become a common sight at community events, and the church has also been involved in such activities as disaster recovery training and sponsoring a disaster relief trailer as well as hosting 200 World Changers who tackled a number of projects around Ottawa, such as roof repairs and singing in homes for the elderly.
The church also plans to add a mobile carpenter’s workshop and to establish an Eastern Canada Missions Centre in cooperation with the Canadian National Baptist Convention.
For all this, Lamothe thanked Sequoia members and First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., who have provided volunteer assistance and financial support.
Lamothe hopes Sequoia can serve as an example for other Canadian convention churches to find ways to connect with their communities. “We want all the other churches in the convention to win an award,” he said.
CNBC leaders complimented Sequoia’s work, with Gerry Taillon, the convention’s national ministry leader, noting, “[K]nowing Sequoia, it means they are sharing the love of God with their community. We thank God for churches like Sequoia; they are showing us how to impact our world for Christ.”
Paul Johnson, leader of CNBC’s “Share” team, said churches sometimes are seen as parasites in Canada because they pay no taxes and some give little back to the community. “Sequoia has shown a better model, enhancing Nepean with its Fun Cruiser and creative events,” Johnson said. The church not only has been involved in its community, he added, but members also have traveled to other locations to serve.
Other CNBC churches are doing the same, Johnson said, citing such examples as taking a potted plant to local businesses (The Potter’s House in Westbank, British Columbia); sponsoring a Family Fun Day (Église de Rocher Vivant Communauté Chrétienne in Saint-Félix-de-Valois, Quebec); and giving concerts on the beach (Abundant Life in Penticton, British Columbia).
“They find ways to add value to their community and give credibility to the Good News,” Johnson said. “One Quebec pastor, Francois Vershelden, states it this way, ‘Jesus came with good news and good works. We must too.'”
Harold Campbell is a journalist who lives in Kansas and volunteers as communications and prayer coordinator for Baptist ministry in Quebec and eastern Ontario. This article first appeared in The Baptist Horizon, newsjournal of the Canadia National Baptist Convention.