Our previous post told the story of Betty Milne Anderson and Joyce Oxnard, two faithful women who were called to church planting. We hear of their faithful, difficult work in the far north. Their ministry didn’t end when leaving Inuvik, however. This part of the story shares how Joyce and Betty served in many places on behalf of our denomination—sometimes drawn by passion, other times by need. ~Cailey
After Inuvik, Joyce and Betty went to Fort McMurray as interim pastors for 9 months. There had been a church split and they came to work with the remnant. Betty and Joyce held them together and did a lot of healing during that time. The church didn’t really grow, though there were some encouraging things.
A building was built while they were there, but that was the downfall of the church because they built too soon, too small, and too cheaply—it wasn’t a place that was appealing or functional. They were not allowed to have any input into that decision or design, because some capable people in the congregation took over but lacked the needed vision of what would grow a congregation.
Starting from the Ground Up
In 1979 they were moved to Grand Center to start a new congregation from scratch. They were given an initial salary that was weaned off as the church got stronger. They began by visiting house-to-house, sending out invitations in community and started with a Sunday school. Some Baptist families came on board fairly quickly. They joined “The Concerned Citizen for the Community” group in order to get to know people.
Photo credit: Heartland Regional Minister Mark Doerksen.
One woman asked if there was a women’s Bible study, and so they said they would start one. They started with the three of them, then a fourth joined who was from Cherry Grove (outside of Grand Center). She said there are families there where kids had nothing to do and no activities, and so Joyce and Betty started a Sunday school in Cherry Grove that really thrived.
Some of those people started coming to the church, which met in the town hall. They also drew families from the forces base at Cold Lake, but that also meant a transient congregation. This was the most successful work they were involved with, in establishing a church that has continued on.
Betty only had schooling in Bible from BLTS, but they took some courses and went to the Billy Graham school of evangelism and received Stephen’s Ministry training. Joyce and Betty alternated preaching unless they took a series. The one who didn’t preach cooked the Sunday meal and did Sunday school. They were in Grand Center for five years.
Serving Across the Prairies
From there, they went to Medicine Hat to an established church that needed a “blood transfusion.” The pastor at the time lacked some people skills and he needed some support in his ministry. The denomination still supplemented their salary because it was a very discouraged church. There wouldn’t be a lot of male pastors that would accept such help from two women, but this pastor accepted their help for a year which brought some warmth and healing.
The BUWC felt there needed to be another church in Edmonton, and so some demographic studies were done and Castle Downs was identified as the area, so after a year in Medicine Hat, Joyce and Betty followed the call to Castle Downs. Unfortunately, the other BUWC (CBWC) churches were not involved in the planning and seemed to feel that a new work wasn’t needed. There wasn’t a mother church—it was a cold plant. The work was especially difficult without much support from other area churches, and Joyce and Betty would never recommend that strategy again.
“We tried to develop a partner approach with the churches and to have teams from each church come out and offer music, child care, to add to the numbers involved, but it wasn’t what they felt equipped for in that situation.”
They tried for three years but it never really got off the ground.
After Edmonton, they were encouraged to rebirth a church in Swift Current after our BUWC church had closed its doors. Jim Wells, pastor of Westhill Park in Regina, had a vision for that community and urged them on. It was a hard city to find a place to meet that was suitable.
It was the one calling that Betty and Joyce really questioned whether God was really leading them to for ministry. They felt more pushed into it rather than a true sense of calling—the BUWC was desperate and they were it! However, the plant had support of other churches from the Baptist Union, and has continued on since that time:
“Though our time there was not overly successful, Ricky Williams followed up our fledgling start and there is a thriving church there today.”
Argyle Road in Regina was Joyce and Betty’s last posting. They came to serve there because the pastor was ill, and they stayed 16 months until the church called a new pastor, Ron Phillips.
Joyce and Betty were asked and encouraged to be ordained if they would take a year of seminary, but they never wanted to stop the ministry they were doing in order to go to school. It was financially challenging since they shared one salary the whole time.
They never really experienced face-to-face opposition or were challenged about being women, or untrained. Once, however, they were called to a small northern community in Ontario and were excited to go—everything was arranged and their bags were packed. But in a meeting the night before an influential man that said he didn’t want any women leading his church, and though the Regional Minister still wanted them to come, they decided not to go.
Thanks again to Faye Reynolds for sharing these stories, and to Betty and Joyce for their inspiring lives of ministry! There are many lessons we could learn from Joyce and Betty’s experiences—ones that I hope all of us will take to heart.
We need each other, and God often answers our prayers through each other. Where may He be calling you?
New church plants often draw people back to God, or to God for the first time. They tend to reach new demographics existing churches haven’t reached, and can energize the other congregations around them. Until everyone in a place surrenders to Jesus as Lord, there is always room for another expression of God’s family there.
How will your church encourage new works in your area? Who of your best leaders could you send to help water a new seedling? What greater flourishing of your area, which seems impossible for a single group, could you imagine when the synergy of multiple congregations is offered as a platform for the Holy Spirit to work? I know these are pointed questions, but it’s easy to fall into territorialism–something that can’t keep happening if we to see God’s Kingdom come and His will be done in Western Canada.
Do you have other stories of servants of God that have inspired you? Do you have a bone to pick about my use of the word “territorialism?” Do you want to hear more about how to partner with the CBWC in establishing a new missional work or congregation? Please get in touch. Leave a comment here, or take it up with my boss! Shannon’s available at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can contact me directly at email@example.com. ~Cailey Morgan
PS: Listen to a message from Joyce and Betty’s 2014 visit to Argyle Road here!