I’ve written this blog many times in my mind over the past month, and I’m confident that in the future, there will likely be technology that will take our thoughts and transcribe them. (Hopefully, selectively!) For now, though, lacking such a system, the pace of these weeks has precluded doing the “non-urgent” so I’m thankful that today as we fly to St. Louis, the time has come. We’ve had a fall of “two-fers”: five days on the road, “two fer” Boston. And those “two-fers” have been dedicated to our two Patriots studies and counseling, so that’s why it feels like we really haven’t been home much! We haven’t!
Backing up to Nov. 17th, we had a great morning with the MOPS group at North Shore Community Baptist Church. We love opportunities to speak into the lives of young moms. So much encouragement is needed during that season of life—which is delightful—but also so demanding, challenging, and often times undervalued in our culture.
Early on Nov. 18th, we packed our passports and flew to Seattle, where we rented a car and drove to Vancouver, British Columbia. We considered it an immense honor to partner with lead pastor Ken Shigematsu and his team at Tenth Church. We had known Ken from our time at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary back in the early 90’s and respected him then as a true man of God with a heart to impact the world for Him. We were delighted to reconnect with him last year as he wrote asking for input on a chapter he was writing on family. He invited us to spend a weekend with his congregation and it was definitely one of the highlights of our year to do so.
After spending Friday evening in the Shigematsu’s home having dinner with his family, we knew it was going to be a great weekend. His beautiful wife, Sakiko, and son, Joey, extended warm hospitality and we felt kindredly linked in short order. It was a lovely launch to the weekend.
On Saturday, we presented a marriage seminar in the morning and a parenting seminar in the afternoon. In between, we met with a team from the church to consult for them on family ministry within the church, and then spent that evening with a couple on their church lay leadership team, continuing the lunch conversation. It was a full, productive day.
The seminars were very well attended, which took even the planners by surprise, and even delayed the beginning of the morning due to so many “walk-ins.” A nice problem, really. The audience was engaged and thoughtful, and much to our surprise, had a rather large representation of single adults. Tenth Church does have a large single population, but we didn’t necessarily expect them to come to these two seminars. Happily, they did! As we conversed with more than a few of them, they explained that they wanted to gather as much information as possible before they were married or parents. Wise singles!
Sunday we preached four times at two different locations. Tenth Church has exploded under Ken’s leadership, growing from 150 in 1996 to over 2,000 now. Space is an issue and they’re creatively working to “expand their borders.” Focusing again on family issues in our sermon, we were amazed at the number of moving conversations we had with many singles who are wrestling with developing Godly expectations for their future marriages and families. Many of them bought copies of Letters to my Daughters and we were blessed beyond belief to have conversations with several on Sunday who had already read it, after picking it up on Saturday! One young woman related to me through tears how deeply she had been impacted by the wisdom of Paul’s father’s heart. “I didn’t receive that from my dad, and I was overwhelmed by the message and the heart behind it. I feel so much better prepared to make a wise marriage decision now. I only wish I had read this book sooner; it probably would’ve saved me some heartache.”
Another beautiful young woman wrote:
I want to thank you full heartily again for giving me Paul’s book Letters to My Daughters. I’ve been reading it every night since. It has brought me tears and joys. As I read on, I reflected on my own past, my own experiences wishing I’d read it earlier, and thanking the Lord for bring you and Paul into my life.
We had many great conversations with married couples as well, but I think we were both so impressed with the hunger and openness of the single population at Tenth. What a great reflection of the heart of the ministry at that vital church.
After late night sushi following the evening service (which kept us connecting with the “we’re in no hurry to leave this place” crowd until after 10), we got some sleep and headed out early Monday morning for parts south. We felt like we were leaving Vancouver way too quickly. We were comforted that a return is in the offing when we received this kind email from Ken:
Thank you, Paul and Virginia.
It was such an enormous blessing to have you at Tenth!
You are declaring God’s wisdom about marriage and family in a way that is biblically faithful, wise, winsome, moving, and practical.
Perhaps most powerful of all you are living example of how a family can hike in a direction that’s different from the general culture and in so doing serve as a light on a hill.
I sense that God is truly honoured in your lives and ministry!
I don’t know if you recommend an ideal “wait time” ratio before you come back to a context, but if you are open to returning to Tenth we would love to have you again—and perhaps market it beyond just our local church.
Reconnecting with Ken Shigematsu, lead pastor of Tenth Church in Vancouver, British Columbia, we rediscovered how similarly our hearts beat regarding God’s design for family and marriage.
It was a joy for me to spend time with my new friend Annie, and thanks to the internet, our friendship will continue.
There was a lot of interest in our books at Tenth and we’ve received some very encouraging feedback from this congregation.
Next stop: Seattle. We managed to squeeze in brunch with Richard and Donna Dahlstrom, who are on our short list of favorite friends and ministry partners. They inspire us! So down to earth. So real. So missional. Our time as a foursome passed all too quickly. On to the church (Bethany Community Church, for which Richard serves as lead pastor) to spend the lunch hour with his staff talking about the virtues of family camp. That was easy. :) Our passion for family camp runs deep for so many reasons, as we see it as one of the most effective venue for impacting families who make it a tradition. I think we were convincing.
Continuing south, our next stop was San Diego, where we spent a couple of days with my parents and assorted other family members. I was genuinely pleased to be in town to take my mom to have cataract surgery that Tuesday morning. Thankfully, she came through with flying colors and can’t believe what she’s seeing again. Good days with my side of the family before driving to the central valley to spend Thanksgiving with Paul’s side of the family in Pixley.
Besides my parents, it was great to visit with my sister Francene and her husband
(the taker of this photo) while in San Diego.
The farm in Pixley. Legacy. Roots. Shaping. Paul’s boyhood home, where his godly character was forged. It was so good to be back at the farm. Especially thrilling was introducing Gabe, Brandon, and Derek to Pixley; walking the cotton fields, playing the annual family football bowl; cracking walnuts gathered from the orchards; eating traditional dishes for the Thanksgiving feast; regaling tales of times gone by. We had family meals and family devotions with extended family each night in the “great room” of the farm house, which is still occupied by Paul’s oldest sister Sandy and her husband Wayne. Flashbacks of 35 years of history danced through my mind as we sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” together, as we’ve done many times over time. Four generations have been a part of my Pixley experience; five generations for Paul, whose grandmother and aunt lived with them when he was a young boy growing up in that house.
The greatest gift was gathering with three generations of Friesens, all of whom are committed to faithfully walking with the Lord. It’s hard to express how significant it’s been for our own family to be journeying through life with those who not only share DNA, but who share spiritual convictions. It’s been reinforcing for us to keep pressing on. It’s filled in some gaps for our daughters, especially during the teen years, to have cousins who would stand with them, especially when they felt “alone” in their values and convictions. Well beyond the tangible benefits of being on the farm were the intangibles, and we left refreshed and renewed after three wonderful days there.
But not home yet! We headed north with Gabe, Kari, and Brandon, and spent a couple of days with them before flying home on Tuesday, Nov. 29th.
The extended Friesen family gathered for Thanksgiving at the family farm in Pixley, California.
All smile after the family friendly football bowl game was won, once again, by the “west.”
The days at the farm were full of discovery for Brandon, the city boy.
Our gang enjoying a bonfire at cousin Randy and Rachael’s home in Strathmore (a suburb of Pixley!)
The girls, standing in front of an old oak tree with the cotton fields forming the backdrop.
Back to real life: the Patriots women’s study early the morning after we returned, counseling, the couples’ study, and . . . what? No trip to the airport Friday morning?
Breaking the pattern, we stayed home the first weekend of December. Sort of. We didn’t really stay home, we just didn’t actually fly anywhere. :) Friday night we spoke at Couples’ Date Night at the North Shore Community Baptist Church and had a lot of fun teaching on temperaments. The beautifully-planned evening (thanks to the creative efforts of Ryan and Kelly Plosker and their great team) was a fitting launch to the holiday season, forcing a pause to prepare for the physical and emotional challenges of this great but sometimes hard month. Always love being with this group.
At the end of the date night, some lingerers were willing to be “shot.”
The next night, we spoke on parenting at the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church. Due to a scheduling error on our part, this group graciously flexed and changed their event to accommodate us, which made it difficult for some who had planned to come. An enthusiastic group gathered nonetheless and we so enjoyed our time with them.
Wai-Chin and Fannie Ng (far right) planned this event and were wonderful hosts.
In between those two dates nights, we did an Engagement Matters seminar all day Saturday and Sunday. :) We have only ourselves to blame for the packed schedule, but besides being too tired to eat popcorn during the Patriots game Sunday late afternoon, we were none the worse for the wear. The Engagement Matters weekend was one of the best we’ve had. We loved the couples and had a lot of interaction with them since our EM partners (Doug and Julie Macrae) were out of town. Fortunately, Ryan and Kelly Plosker were able to come up for an hour on Sunday to present a session dealing with great decisions to make early in marriage, and they knocked it out of the park.
One of the attendees wrote:
“The entire weekend was so amazing! My girlfriend and I are so very thankful to have gone and are excited about the future together. You and Mr. Friesen did just an amazing job and we are glad to have had such wise counsel.”
How we pray that God will use this weekend to prepare couples for a marriage which fulfills His design!
The Engagement Matters attendees were delightful, and sincere in their desire to make great decisions regarding marriage.
After another great Patriots win, the first week of December included an H.I.M. Board meeting in addition to the normal counseling and Patriots activities. We are so very thankful for our board. They are very smart and very dedicated to this ministry, and each of them sacrifices a lot to make this ministry happen. We are blessed.
As the calendar days march on under the heading of “December,” I must admit that we’re still a bit back in November. We have no Christmas decorations up yet . . . in fact, we have a few pumpkins hanging around our house, and harvest-scented candles still fill the holders. It’s a really good thing that we’re not in charge of the world, or there’s a very strong possibility that Christmas would be celebrated sometime in late January or February! Our pattern this fall of being home “fer two” days (and gone for five)—and those 48 hours being full of counseling and Patriots ministry—has caused many important things on the home front to be neglected. We’ve truly loved everything we’ve done but are committed to reassessing how to schedule our lives with more wisdom.
For now, though, we have another plane to catch. We’ve been home for 48 hours and it’s time to get moving . . .
Brandon is “soooo big” and at 15 months, continues to delight us with each new development.
Strutting his new Patriots duds given him by his aunties, he’s all about football. Go Pats!!