Love New Canadians

Love in the Philippines

Rick and Patti were recently asked to write about their experience as missionaries with the C&MA in the Philippines. You can read their chapter, Love in the Philippines, in this free book online: On Mission Vol. 3.

Here is an excerpt from the end of their chapter, outlining the birth of the intercultural ministry that led to the start of Love New Canadians!

     While attending the Western Canadian District (WCD) prayer retreat in the fall of 2003, District Superintendent Ken Driedger challenged each of us to think about how we could creatively share the love of Jesus with those in our neighbourhoods. I felt like God was telling me if we ever moved back to Canada, I would want to work in a church offering ESL classes as part of a ministry helping immigrants move along a pathway to Jesus.


     Meanwhile, Pastor Ian Trigg was shopping at a grocery store, and God led him to think about the fact that those in the store did not look the same as those in the church building next door. This eventually led to me becoming pastor of Intercultural Ministries at Foothills Alliance.


     We returned to Canada from the Philippines in 2005, and I started working at Foothills Alliance in 2006. I began this ministry with over one hundred interviews of people in the church and the neighbourhood, trying to determine what kinds of ministries would be of most significant interest to immigrants. I discovered that, though immigrants are, of course, looking for help finding a job or learning English, their biggest desire is social connection. So we started asking the question, “What can we do to create a situation in which immigrants in our community could have a conversation with a loving Christian?”


     At our first ESL class, we had five volunteers and two students. Every week we wondered if anyone would show up. Over the years, we have developed a ministry model for new Canadians made up of three stages.


1. Stage 1 has little or no spiritual content. Instead, it is all about showing kindness and friendship while helping new Canadians adapt to life in Canada. It includes a focus on ESL, employment, citizenship, public speaking, “Life in Canada” (finances, parenting, health care, and education), and immigrant transitions, normalizing the emotional challenge of moving to a new country and culture. Activities include farm trips, camping, curling, hiking, Easter egg hunts, banquets, and potlucks. We offered a regular gym night with ping-pong and badminton for six years before adding basketball, volleyball, games and crafts, movie nights, and a scrapbooking club.


2. Stage 2 is a pre-evangelistic class for the spiritually curious. This is our Bridges class because it bridges the gap between settlement classes and events (stage 1) and spiritual classes (stage 3). Those who attend the Bridges class are not usually interested in becoming followers of Jesus (at least not yet), but they are curious about Christianity or about Jesus. Many come from countries where they were not allowed to ask questions about Jesus or the Church. People from various faiths (including atheists) learn about the life and teaching of Jesus while studying the English language and Canadian culture. Immigrants learn about the Gospel gently and respectfully.


3. Stage 3 of this pathway to Jesus is the spiritual classes, like ESL Bible studies and Alpha. The students who attend these classes are usually close to faith or have already decided to follow Jesus. They ask heartfelt and profound questions, and we pray together for our physical and spiritual needs.


     On average, we have found, for every ten who attend settlement classes (stage 1), four will attend Bridges (stage 2), and two will participate in spiritual classes (stage 3). We are overwhelmed with thanksgiving to God for how He has used His people volunteering in this ministry to reap a spiritual harvest. At our church, when everything is functioning, about 250 attend settlement classes each week, 80-90 attend the ESL Bridges class, and 40-50 come to one of the spiritual classes. Our goal is to increase the variety of settlement programming we offer so that a broader range of immigrants will enter onto a pathway to Jesus. The more students attending settlement classes (stage 1), the more will come to Bridges (stage 2), and the more who will attend Alpha and ESL Bible studies (stage 3).


     While writing this chapter, I met with a former student who has become a follower of Jesus and wants to get baptized. We love seeing God at work in the lives of those new to Canada.


     In 2014 we started Love New Canadians to help churches develop their own pathway to Jesus for immigrants. We encourage churches to experiment with the three-stage ministry model we have used at Foothills Alliance Church since 2006. Love New Canadians serves churches by “holding hands” while we walk together through details such as advertising, choosing classes and events, selecting curriculum, finding and training volunteers, and troubleshooting when problems arise. As of June 2021, we have worked with 343 churches and ministries from twenty-five denominations in eight provinces of Canada and fifteen countries around the world. We focus on coaching, curriculum, and seminars for volunteer training. We like to help others avoid some of the myriads of mistakes we have made over the years. Our seminars focus on:


• understanding immigration in a local community,
• the needs of new Canadians,
• each church’s role in helping new Canadians,
• common challenges in this venture,
• defining success,
• creating values to guide this ministry,
• explaining the three-stage pathway,
• the ideal intercultural church,
• beginning to learn how to teach ESL classes,
• and the equipping of church volunteers for ministry with immigrants.


     The twenty books of the curriculum we have written are designed for churches to use at each part of the three-stage pathway: 1) settlement, 2) transition, and 3) spiritual focus.


     We thank God for using us to help churches throughout Canada as they each develop their own pathway to Jesus for immigrants.

If you’d like to read more about Rick and Patti’s time as missionaries in the Philippines, along with other missionary stories, you can access the book here: On Mission Vol. 3.

Volumes 1 and 2 can be accessed here: On Mission Vol. 1 & 2.