Whether it’s a married couple who are finding themselves part of planting their second Lutheran Brethren congregation in Alberta or young adults eager to see people come to know Jesus, friendships are key to the Red Deer mission known as The River.
Over the past year, Pastor Harold Rust, former president of Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute in Camrose, Alberta, and his wife Joyce have been doing foundational planting work—getting acquainted with the region and building relationships with people in and around this city of 100,000. Now, living in the area together with their daughter Naomi, they are launching home-based communities where those who are part of the mission can welcome those who are being drawn to become disciples of Jesus.
Young adults who have come to know and love Harold and Joyce, most through their experience at Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute, are key members of the team. “It’s exciting to live here,” says Imanuel, a university student from Germany. “I’ve always wanted to intern in the church and see the kind of work the pastor does. It’s a passion of mine to see people grow. Church planting is all of that combined. It will be exciting to see a common vision develop, with ways to invest in the kingdom of God. This is what made us come here.”
“We are recently married and, before going back to Germany after Christmas, we have time to get involved,” his wife Alanna notes. “We have a heart for missions… a heart for doing things. We thought it would be cool to step into some things, to pray and meet people and see what God will do.”
Former Bible School students who are now attending Olds College and Red Deer College are excited to stay connected with the Rusts and at the same time be engaged in mission. “It’s fun that you guys are here,” Melissa Skretting, a nursing student at RDC, has shared with the Rusts. “I like the thought of being part of something new, pulling people in that haven’t been a part of church before, or have misconceptions. It’s really important to clarify things for them.”
Wayne and Karen Sollid, close friends of Harold and Joyce, recently relocated to the area after playing a key part in planting Resurrection LBC in Camrose. “It feels like we are living parallel lives, ending up in the same places, working in very different ways, but doing the same mission,” says Karen. “Our farm near Camrose helped support them in practical ways—food for the school, jobs, space for student activities. Now they can use our Olds house as a support for ministry. It’s been fun having young adults on our farm and in our home, visiting and getting to know them.”
With the support from these and other team members, on Sunday, October 22, home-community friends came together for the first monthly Celebration Service and Supper. These gatherings provide a place for home communities to connect, worship, and encourage one another and provide a venue where members of area Lutheran Brethren congregations can bring friends and family members, introducing them to new friends and new life in Christ.
As this next chapter of ministry begins, pray that in the months ahead many new friends will become friends of God.
Rev. Roger Olson serves the Church of the Lutheran Brethren Canada as Regional Pastor.