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Partnerships key to bivocational church planter

EDMONTON, Alberta (BP) — Long days have become the standard for Nathan Vedoya, a bi-vocational church planter in Alberta, Canada.

There’s no such thing as a typical day. But on many of them he wakes up early, shares the breakfast-making responsibilities with his wife, and drops the kids off at school. He then goes to his full-time job as the shelter manager for a local mission. His wife Deen-Deen also heads out to a full day of work at around the same time.

Vedoya spends every weekday working at Hope Mission in Edmonton. After work, Vedoya enjoys dinner at around 5 p.m. with his wife and three children for much-needed discipling and family time. But on nights and weekends, he shifts his focus to planting a church in one of the toughest-to-reach cities in North America. But he said his often-hectic schedule is not something he regrets.

“I’m working 50 hours a week and planting a church. My wife is working, too,” said the Canadian Baptist church planter who is supported through the North American Mission Board. “Why? Because we’ll do whatever it takes to see a movement get started in this city.”

After more than a year of preparation, Vedoya launched Church in the Valley on Easter Sunday with 140 people in attendance. Vedoya’s work in Edmonton represents what Canadian Baptists hope to see blossom throughout the city — a reproducible movement of new churches planted.

Vedoya’s commitment to planting bivocationally is grounded in the spiritual needs of the city, where evangelicals are in the minority. Right now, there is one Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) church for every 76,549 people.

Bob Shelton, the North American Mission Board’s Send North America city missionary in Edmonton, says the city’s churches are relatively small –about 1,200 people make up the 17 CNBC churches in the city.

Vedoya, who grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, noted, “We came under the conviction that for a movement to come to this city, we needed to be bivocational, so we began hunting for full-time jobs. We want to develop a team of like-minded people — bivocational leaders who would also come alongside of us.”

Economically, the City of Champions — so coined because of its historic National Hockey League team — has been flourishing in recent years. An oil boom in the Alberta province has brought people and resources into the city. Edmonton is one of 32 Send North America cities.

Like other North American cities, financial affluence has tended to quiet spiritual searching among residents. More people have affiliated themselves with “no religion” than any other religion over the last decade in the city, according to the 2011 Statistics Canada National Household Survey.

Shelton said, “Many people here don’t see the need [for Jesus]. They have social problems — like family breakups and trouble with young people — but many Albertans feel like they basically have life under control because things are going pretty well financially.”

Shelton said that’s why new missionaries to the city have to take time to build relationships to help the people of Edmonton see the Gospel lived out before them. New missionaries to the city must come with a commitment to weather the extreme physical and spiritual climate over an extended period of time if they plan on seeing a new church take root.

Vedoya said new partnerships are critical for his work and the work of other church planters in the city. He pointed particularly to the value of the encouragement that church partners bring.

“Just to know other people are praying for you means so much,” said Vedoya, whose parents were CNBC church planters. Deen-Deen’s parents also serve as Southern Baptist church planters near Tacoma, Wash. “When you get letters or cards from partners, it is such an encouragement. You just never know what it could mean to a church planter when God impresses on your heart to reach out to His family. It’s very refreshing,” Vedoya said.

For more information about getting involved in Send North America: Edmonton, visit namb.net/Edmonton.

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  • Tobin Perry