Thrust into Darkness

By: Shannon Youell

Here I am, and the children the Lord has given me.  We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.  When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God?  Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?  To the law and to the testimony!  If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.  Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God.  Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness, and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.  Isaiah 8:18-22 

Just before Isaiah wrote the famous Advent words, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;”, he scribed the passage above.  He sets the context for what the world is like, where hope has waned, if not disappeared, where both the present and the future are painted as a bleak, gloomy fearfulness, where people curse and blame both their government and their god.  It all sounds so dismal, disturbed and pointless.  If one were to never go on to chapter 9, one would consider the calamities of the day as fatalistic and humanity as on the precipice of expiration. 

But, then, one has missed the beauty of what Isaiah is saying.  He first acknowledges that as far as it is up to him, he will wait for the Lord, he will put his trust in him (8:17) and then he echoes his words from chapter six, “Here I am.”  But he is not alone.  The people whom God has given him, the people of God with whom he journeys, are there with him.  And together they are “signs and symbols” from the Lord who dwells among them in the land. (8:18) 

Signs and symbols of hope when hope seems to have fled the hearts of people.  Signs and symbols of a light that pierces the fiercest darkness, saturating hearts with an unexplainable expectancy rising up in joy.   

The writings are a poetic reminder that we, the God believers, the disciples of Christ, are called to shine our light and not hide it under a bowl.  In that way we embody hope to the world.  

In one of the Advent Readers I am following this season, the writer wrote these words, “Hope holds steady, clinging to peace in the midst of chaos.”1 

This is powerful imagery in the reality of this particular Advent in 2020.  In a time when many are embodying fear, anxiety, despondency, cynicism, hopelessness and anger, Isaiah and the Gospel of God’s kingdom invites us to cling to peace in the midst of it all.  To be seekers of peace, joy and love.  To be the embodiment of the kind of hope that fosters hope to and towards the world.  God’s hope.  

It is our “God of hope” who enables us to “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).  This reality isn’t true only in ‘good’ times; in fact, it is dark and difficult times when hope truly shows its mettle. 

Hope, God’s hope, disrupts the utter darkness we find ourselves plunged in.  It displaces it with “a great light” revealing the shadows we live in are only that, shadows.  They are dangerous, frightening, agonizing shadows that in the absence of God’s hope are bereft of any peace to cling to.  But with God, with Messiah, with this great light that has already dawned, when we embody the presence of God calm comes with us.   

In the midst of the chaos where suffering, grief and loss are so real, we, the people who call Jesus Lord and Savior, are to be signs and symbols of our God-With-Us.  His hope is with us when we can’t leave our homes and are lonely.  His hope is with us as we struggle with all the things that have been disrupted and displaced by this virus.  And the Gospel invites us to embody that hope for others, to be signs and symbols clinging to peace, and our very demeanor, language and gestures embodies a hope that is disruptive to shadows we find both ourselves and others living shrouded in as our world feels thrust into darkness. 

May each of us be signs and symbols of Disruptive Hope. Let us shine the light of dawn among our neighbours, our church families and our nation in humility and strength, love and grace, in this very different and modified Christmas Season. 

Hold steady. Cling to peace. Together we are signs and symbols of our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Shalom.

BC-Yukon Update

By Shannon Youell. This update is being published in the CBWC’s BC-Yukon Regional Newsletter Our Journey. Email to subscribe.

It seems I just finished writing all the January newsletters and reports only to discover the cycle starts again already!  How quickly life and time march forward.  It is a stark reminder that we journey this life for a season and that we should endeavor to remain attentive to the working of the Holy Spirit of God dwelling and at work around us wherever we find our time spent.

My update this period is to remind us of attentiveness to pray for the places and people that CBWC is supporting right here in BC as they labour to see the kingdom of God present on earth right where they are!  Please join us in praying for these as we also pray for all of you in your gospeling journey!

Meeting with Pastor Jim Walton of Burnaby North Baptist and Pastor Janet McBeth of Emmaus Community Fellowship.

Meeting with Pastor Jim Walton of Burnaby North Baptist and Pastor Janet McBeth of Emmaus Community Fellowship.

  • We were sad to see Pastor Hizon Cua of Greenhills Christian Fellowship Vancouver move back to the Philippines.  We pray blessing and direction for him and his family as they seek God’s work there.  Please join GCF as they prayerfully seek and listen for God’s direction in the calling of a new lead Pastor who will continue discipling, encouraging, and loving this community and whose vision to plant churches enhances the great work GCF is already doing.  Please pray for the new work already in the beginning stages as they all transition.  Also pray blessing and encouragement for Pastor Tom Lavigne who has served and loved GCF during this time of transition.
  • The CP Team is excited about a new work that is almost ready to launch in Vancouver.  We hope to have details next update for you.  Please pray for Jonathan Lee, Pastor Tad and their pastoral team of Rajan, Charles, Jay and Austin.  This dynamic, diverse, multi-cultural team desires to see God’s light shine in the community around them in ways that bring the presence of the kingdom of God in love, hope, peace, justice, liberty in tangible relational ways.  Currently they are gathering at 5:30 a.m. for forty days of listening prayer that they would clearly hear the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they discern how to live in and engage this community.  Please pray for the community partners they have found right in the neighbourhood and also for CBWC local church partnerships with them.
  • What a pleasure I had a month ago to meet Janet McBeth of Emmaus Community Fellowship!  This lady is full of love and grace for people and particularly the people she is blessed to minister to at Union Gospel Mission where she works and also leads the Emmaus Community in worship, study, prayer, as well as a quarterly coffee house held at Burnaby North Baptist Church.  Solid Rock Café is a place where all are welcome and invited to share their gifts in music, conversation and community.  Janet has asked us to pray for more connection between this ministry and the local church and how we can partner with her.  Please ask God how you/your church community are to partner with Emmaus or consider interning with her in an area of ministry that is challenging but rewarding as lives are transformed by the love of Jesus through Spirit and Followers.  Jesus reminds us that whatever we’ve done for the least among us, we have done for him.
  • Remember also to continue to pray for God’s House of Many Faces, Mill Bay Baptist, Father’s Heart Mission Church, Canaan Life Spring Baptist and their pastors who we’ve featured in recent newsletters.  Prayer is always our first line of support in all we do as Christ Followers.  Please support those who labour humbly and committedly to see the love of Jesus bring healing, hope and rest to a weary world.

I pray for you and for myself with Paul’s amazing words from Ephesians 1:15-19a:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray also that they eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Shalom dear partners of the gospel of the Kingdom,

Shannon Youell
CBWC Church Planting Coordinator/BCY Director

Merry Christmas!

Dear co-labourers in the Kingdom of God,

It is with the expectation that the Advent season reminds us of that I pray for you Shalom.

Shalom in the places where darkness still lurks; where oppression, marginalization, disenfranchisement and blindness engulf the neighbourhoods; where hopelessness abounds and love seems utopian.merry-christmas

Shalom in the mystery of Christ; in the secret places of our hearts; in the midst of our homes, of our families, of the work of our hands.

Shalom that brings redemption, reconciliation, resurrection and restoration; of broken lives; of ailing bodies, of shattered communities.

Shalom as the peace of God. The Shalom that Adam and Eve were in. That place where the presence of God’s state of justice was present in everything they were and in before creation was broken by foolishness and ambition and curiosity. The Shalom that now became the state which the Jewish people, our people, the world’s people now search for as our hope, our only hope.

In Jewish practice there is this searching for shalom found in tikkun olam which is “a Hebrew phrase that means ‘repairing the world’ or (healing the world) which suggests humanity’s shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform the world” (Wikipedia). It is this Shalom that Jesus brought. We call it salvation, but it isn’t new, it isn’t improved; it is the epoch ushered in through a wrinkly little babe, the incarnation of He who so loves the world, the Prince of Shalom himself entering our brokenness, our darkness, our restlessness to bring back to earth the Presence of Shalom and the state of justice that delivers God’s hope, God’s love, God’s healing, God’s salvation into the places and spaces where anything but peace reigns.

I pray you this Shalom as you share in, participate in, co-labour in, our mission, our shared responsibility to bring this amazing gift, this undeserved gift, this incredible, holy gift into the places around you and beyond you.

May this Peace, this Shalom be the catalyst for all you do this season and the year to come May it grow deeper and broader and higher than you have ever hoped or imagined.

It is a privilege to journey alongside you all in this amazing adventure of being God’s peace-bearers; Shalom-bearers.

May you find it in the most unexpected places and take it to the least comfortable places as you journey on.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.

Shannon Youell