God’s Story in Lake Country

(adapted from a presentation made by Bonnie Derksen to the congregation in June 2013)                                                

Imagine if you will, thirty years ago. There were no buildings, no pavement, no landscaping to line the perimeter of a parking lot, no children’s play area to the east of the gym. It was simply a hill, completely in its natural form except for a few random trails through the tall grass. That particular afternoon, back in June of 1983, was a special Sunday for it was the sod-turning ceremony to dedicate this land to the Lord. Construction was to begin the next day.

A group of dignitaries had lined up – The Canadian Pacific District Superintendent, Gordon Fowler, the Kelowna Alliance (now Mission Creek Alliance) pastor, Lloyd Draper, our pastor, Graham Clark and an enthusiastic, pulled-out-of-retirement, construction manager named Manny Fiedler. Each of them had their hands around shovels, a foot on the blade ready to push it into the ground to symbolize the official start to the construction of a new home for Lake Country Alliance.

Across from these gentlemen stood a group of fifty or so who had become a family over the year as they’d gathered each Sunday.

A heartfelt prayer of dedication was declared, shovels pushed into the ground and the sod turned and then two trumpeters led us as we sang a favorite hymn.

I can easily recall the bright sky, gentle breeze and the sound of our voices singing the words of “To God be the Glory” to the backdrop of the trumpets.

     “To God be the glory, great things He hath done,

     So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,

     Who yielded His life, an atonement for sin,

     And opened the life-gate, that all may go in.”  

Pastor Graham Clark had been selected by the District to be our first pastor because of his gifting in church planting. Graham and Vi had barely set up their new home in Winfield when Pastor Clark dug into his new role and began organizing the troops in preparation for our first service on September 12, 1982. 

Our church services were held in the Seventh Day Adventist Fellowship Hall on Bottom Wood Lake Road. It was a great arrangement, using their building when they weren’t, but it also meant a lot of extra work as everything we needed for our programs was carried in, in boxes.

I’m sure you can appreciate our excitement when we were finally able to move into our building.

Since then there have been quite a few changes to that original block structure but our gym today functioned well then as a sanctuary with a modest kitchen, office space, balcony and classrooms.

Another favorite and often sung hymn at that time was “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing” and as I write this recounting of God’s story in Lake Country Church I am mindful of the significance of the words: 

“There shall be showers of blessing,

this is the promise of Love,

There shall be seasons refreshing,

Sent from the Savior above"

In mid July of 1986, God’s pastoral provision for us came through the servant leadership of Dave and Linda Martens. Graham Clark had resigned the previous November and now the Lord was setting the stage for a new season of both refreshing and change.

Under Pastor Dave’s direction, our sanctuary was taken apart on the site of Trinity Baptist Church in Kelowna and carefully transported in sections on a flatbed trailer in the middle of the night. We had outgrown our former sanctuary and now, through the collective effort of many people, the sections were reconstructed here. In due time, we joined our voices together as a thank offering to the Lord. We sang…

“Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,

Let the earth hear His voice!

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,

Let the people rejoice”

Then in 1992, Gerry and Leah Gould accepted our call, moving from Ontario, to lead our growing church family. With their energetic arrival, another season of life for Lake Country Church began.

The sounds of our worship services changed as did the face of leadership as many began to step forward into new positions.

We became encouraged and felt prayed-for through our small groups and the heart of God for our community could be felt beating in our chests once again.

In July of 1999, we came face to face with the man, David Hearn, who now leads our denomination in Canada.

When our search committee prayerfully invited Dave and Agnes Hearn here we knew little of what we were in store for.  God’s Father-heart of love was tangibly received through the bouncing, enthusiastic, joy-filled, hugging frame of our new pastor.

Gifted in the areas of encouragement and animated story-telling, Dave exposed us to God’s intended purposes of mutual love and respect. He gathered us together, like a shepherd would a flock of sheep; and, just when it seemed we were poised to head out into our community, Dave accepted a new call.

As we scratched our heads in disbelief over the once-again empty position of Lead Pastor, the Lord gently put His fingers under our chins drawing our eyes back to His. He reminded us that all leadership ultimately comes from Him and that all things are possible for those who believe, even the pressing on of a motley group of Lake Country-ites.

Encountering the Life of Jesus Christ became our theme and as surely as the Lord cared for us through the pastors, He blessed us with incredibly talented musicians. These men and women used their skills and abilities to lead us in song, often at great personal cost as they themselves became vulnerable before our eyes.

During this time, the Holy Spirit inspired Steve Maskell to write a new song:

     "This is a healing place,  This is amazing grace,

     This is the season when God’s glory meets our shame.

     This is a freedom dance, This is a God romance

     This is a time when we gather in His Name.

     This is our guarantee, This is our humble plea

     This is encounter with the life of Jesus Christ

     This is a battle cry, This is God’s sword raised high

     This is encounter with the life of Jesus Christ

     This is a mercy feast, For all the least of these

     The hungry are made full, the poor are satisfied.

     This is our worship price, Our lives the sacrifice

     Our burdens lifted, our brokenness made whole.

     This is a Caleb prayer, Our reason we are here

     We claim these hills Lord, come and set your captives free

     This is a trumpet call, The gates of hell will fall

     This is the life of Jesus changing lives again."

In March of 2003, Daren and Kristin Wride moved from Hinton, Alberta to step into the role of Lead Pastor.  Through his preaching, we were stirred and challenged to seek the Lord with our whole hearts and to make the Kingdom of God a priority in our everyday lives--not just as a form of Sunday godliness. Daren was also gifted in organization and administration and set many of the effective processes in place that we still use today.

It was during this time, that prayer took on a new shape, both on Sunday mornings as well as through the week. Once again, the unseen realm was shaken and pierced as representatives of Lake Country church approached the Throne of Grace pleading for those Showers of Blessings we had so earnestly sung about twenty years previous.

Though not a large gathering, the groups of intercessors would cry out for revival and refreshing for the people, through repentance and returning to the Lord. We longed to see a fresh move of God in our land, to claim the hills for him, and to see our neighbors and friends set free to experience the reality of Jesus Christ changing our lives.

In September of 2008, Dwayne and Brenda Pederson with their three children, moved from Edmonton to lead us.  Dwayne’s ready smile and enthusiastic approach to ministry was quickly assimilated into the full schedule of a twenty-six-year-old church. Through their tenure, God used Brenda’s creativity to bless us with a fresh perspective of Kingdom principles as inspired by the puppeteers and dramatists.

God has blessed us repeatedly with pastors who fervently lead us to the best of their abilities, not only the Lead Pastors mentioned in this recounting but also the impressive list of associates and youth pastors not named. They have stood shoulder to shoulder with all of us to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth here in Lake Country.

One of those, was Ron Erickson, who came to us as a Transitional Pastor.  

During his time with us, Ron systematically led us through the steps to become a healthy church, ready to move ahead with the next Lead Pastor. While we prayed for him and those entrusted in the search process, our collective anthem came from a desire to keep in step with the Lord during the waiting period: 

“Breathe on us, Breathe of God, Breathe on us.

We come alive, we’re alive when you breathe on us.

Awake, awake, awake our souls.

God resurrect these bones.

From death to life, for you alone, Awake our souls.”

And, once again, God proved His faithfulness!

On September 28, 2014, after a two-year transitional process, Sandy and Brita Colero and their young family began their ministry at Lake Country Church. It was a beautiful, autumn day in the Okanagan, but as we worshipped the Lord, who had carried us, and were then challenged to look forward to our future by the Assistant Superintendent of our Pacific Western District, Brian Derksen, the day turned spectacular. 

From that Sunday until today, we can feel the familiar, and yet, brand new, heartbeat of our Lord in our chests. We feel poised and ready, more than ever, to be His hands and feet in a world that desperately needs to experience God's unfailing love and jubilee favor. We are inspired to extend the comfort, compassion and hope that is found in Jesus Christ--we feel compelled by His love to reach out to our community and beyond.

Another song is rising in our hearts and circling in our minds these days as we purpose to do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly with God: 

"Did you feel the mountains tremble?

Did you hear the oceans roar?

When the people rose to sing of

Jesus Christ, the risen Lord...

Open up the doors and let the music play

Let the streets resound with singing

Songs that bring your hope and

Songs that bring your joy

Dancers who dance upon injustice..."

It's only through daily, real encounters with the Living God, that we can move from our past into a hope-filled future. As we become a people of gratitude, we will be able to comfort with the comfort we've received.

"And here we see that God you're moving

A time of jubilee is coming

When young and old return to Jesus.

'Fling wide your heavenly gates

Prepare the way of the risen Lord.'"

Lake Country Church, our best days are before us.

"If you haven't found something you will die for, you aren't fit to live."

(adapted quote from Martin Luther King Jr.)