The River: FOCUS Project Update

The River Church in Red Deer, Alberta has been blessed to be a place where newcomers to Canada come to hear the gospel in their mother tongue and to worship the Lord in joy and freedom.

Over the last few months, the congregation has grown rapidly with the influx of many large refugee families from central Africa. Suddenly, we are ninety percent African, and our worship includes Bible readings in Swahili, French, Kinyarwanda, English, along with Ukrainian, and the occasional Arabic or Cree. It feels like we are living the seventh chapter of Revelation with “a multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language” gathered at the throne of the Lamb.

The music has grown as well, with William from Sudan, Musa from D.R. Congo, and Rwandans Evode and Dieudonee, each sharing their love for Jesus and music, as they lead people in songs of worship and praise. The rhythm is amazing, lyrics uplifting, and the dancing… well, it’s pure joy! When we lead the music, with our Scandi-Canadian style, it certainly is much tamer. The River is a cross-cultural experience of worship and praise to our awesome God, and we love it!

The sermon is always in English with a multilingual translation on the screen. Biblical truth described in simple words and well-explained with passion has created an atmosphere of love and an attitude of prayer. Every sermon is followed by a time of congregational prayer in small groups throughout the sanctuary. The young children are led by an adult, and every person is given the opportunity to pray in their heart language. Last Sunday, two men were asked to lead us all in prayer, Abedi in Swahili and Mgunga in Kinyarwanda. Everyone joined in with whispers of agreement, calling out to Jesus to heal the sick, to set free the oppressed, and to bring salvation to our city. Lydienne, from Cameroon, went to the microphone when the men were finished and spontaneously sang a beautiful hymn in French.

Our people are growing in their desire to give an offering as part of their worship, as well. Our hope is that soon the offerings can cover the cost of renting our worship space. One of our men was emphatic when he said, “You’ve got to start teaching us more of what God says about giving!”

Friends in a neighboring church know how to give. They gave us their twelve-passenger van so we could give rides to church to the many newcomers who, as yet, have no vehicle or license to drive. The time spent in the van is often filled with laughter, worship, or debate in other languages, but it is all building community and friendship.

The Women’s Ministries of the CLB (WMCLB) also loves to give. We were so blessed to receive your generous gift for the developing ministry here at The River. Children, teens, and young adults will be so blessed as specific ministries for them are created, and whole families will grow in faith as the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is taught clearly with love and joy.

Thank you for all your support. Come visit sometime. Better yet, invite a family of newcomers into your home for coffee or tea. You will be blessed.

Rev. Harold Rust is a church planter in Red Deer, AB, Canada. Harold also serves as the President of Church of the Lutheran Brethren Canada.

1 Comment

Gaylan Mathiesen - March 19th, 2024 at 11:09am

What a wonderful expression of God's mission at the local level, and a foretaste of what God has in store! God be praised, and may He raise up new workers to come alongside Pastor Harold and Joyce in this disciple-making movement.