Fleetwood Children’s Church Ministry.
A few years ago, a member of the library staff at Trinity Western University approached some students with a simple request. Would they be willing to help out at his Arab Christian church by minding the children during services? That first handful of students responded with a resounding, “Yes!” that has continued to echo years later. This is the first year that Fleetwood Children’s Church Ministry has been recognized as an official TWU outreach group.
Bethany Foutz now takes a group of students to Jesus Way Fellowship Church every week to care for the children. This congregation is made up largely of Arab immigrants from a variety of Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Iraq, and Iran. Not all of them are Christians, and yet they regularly attend several churches every week; church is a way for this community to find comfort in their common culture, but attending other Canadian churches also helps to integrate them into the culture they now find them selves in. Church is both a way to feel at home, and to find a new one.
It seems that the rambunctiousness of children crosses all cultural and national boundaries; Foutz laughingly and lovingly says that these are “the craziest, but the sweetest kids I’ve ever met.” The joys of working with children are given an additional layer of complexity because some of them speak only their native Arab dialect. Turning her back for one minute, Foutz can find herself having to run out to the parking lot to retrieve particularly adventurous toddlers.
When asked what has given her such a heart for the children of Fleetwood, Foutz remembers her own childhood as a missionary kid in the Philippines. Identifying with their experience of growing up in a foreign world, Foutz attempts to support these Arab children in every way, “even though they might not realize it yet.”
She does not have a lot of experience ministering to Arabs or Muslims in particular, but Foutz has always felt drawn towards people of all backgrounds. When she was a teenager, her parents had the opportunity to host some Middle Eastern Muslim teachers who had only been allowed abroad to learn better educational practices. Although they had been forbidden to talk about Christianity, Foutz and her parents took the opportunity to show God’s love, and several of those Muslims were baptized as Christians. They were promptly interrogated and punished after they returned to their countries, but Foutz has never forgotten the power of their faith and God’s ability to reach every kind of people.
The Fleetwood outreach group meets on Fridays in the Fraser 3D lounge at 6 pm, and is always looking for more volunteers.