2014 Winter Assignment Highlights – Cadet Keith Hopkins

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Cadet Keith Hopkins Cadet Keith Hopkins

Two hours north of Toronto is the welcoming community of Parry Sound, where the work of the Lord is being led by a devoted corps (church) of believers bent on sharing the message of Jesus Christ. From the very moment I arrived, there was an overwhelming sense of hospitality and community spirit which made me feel right at home. During my two weeks with the saints of the “Rainbow Country Church”, I was immersed into the work of the ministry. If I were to describe it in a sentence or two, the passion of the people, I would have to turn to Romans 12:13-17,Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.”

Lieutenants Colleen and Justin Gleadall are blessed with the responsibility of leading a dedicated ministry team with a passion for helping others. They oversee a multifaceted ministry, including church, food bank, thrift store, weekly street ministry, court ministry and several others which center on sharing the love of God. This mission was further amplified by the seasonal work that was well underway when I arrived. During the two weeks of ministry, I was encouraged by the outpouring of love and support from the other churches and the greater community of Parry Sound. This was evident in the overwhelming support of the annual “MooseFM Radiothon” and from people walking in off the street to donate in some small way. I was blessed to work side-by-side with the many volunteers who gave of their time with genuine love for the people they were serving.

Cadet Keith Hopkins speaking at an event in Parry Sound
Cadet Keith Hopkins speaking at an event in Parry Sound

My days were enriched with a variety of ministry learning opportunities, including: spending time with Tim and the thrift store team and learning from Susan on the front desk. Working with Heather and the volunteers from both the Salvation Army and Presbyterian Church to prepare for the community toy and hamper campaign was very rewarding. Meeting and conversing with the kettle volunteers and observing Dennis during court and Friday night street ministry were blessings. Spending time with Harvey, Frank and Shirley – witnessing their passion for the young people of the Corps was inspiring. During my deployment, I was blessed to work with so many wonderful people and hear the testimonies of what God is doing in their lives. Connecting with the people was by far the most rewarding experience, which inspired and challenged in so many ways.

Rainbow Country Church is a forward looking body of believers, and always cultivating new ways to speak to the different needs of the people. Yet, they maintain a warm and welcoming spirit that I remember as a young lad growing up in small town Newfoundland. This is a beautiful balance! Towards the end of my time in Parry Sound, we had the blessing of visiting several of the congregation.  During one such pastoral visit I had the pleasure of spending time with a wonderful gentleman who is not only a long time Salvationist, and a WW II Veteran he is also a poet. Mr. Patterson blessed me with two books of his poetry. One poem caught my attention that sums up the warm and loving feeling I experienced during my time with the people of Parry Sound.

“The Country Church”[1]

I had a yearn for childhood days, when country church did all my life surround,

The junior choir, the Sunday school, the Godly teachers, who did my life shape and impress,

And Reverend Engle, who from the pulpit, preached God’s word, so all would hear and understand.

And what of hymns, born, as the spirit led, through Wesley, Watts, Crosby and countless more,

And Toplady’s ‘Rock of Ages Clift for Me’, and beauteous psalms from Scottish Psalter learned,

An old pump organ, giving lead and voices all lift up with joy and reverenced expressed, like an angel choir, and little country church becomes a place of Holy Ground.

And so one day, I journeyed to a little country church and found indeed, the sense of my youth,

The love of God was evident, and showed himself in every loving face and so “praise God”,

There is no end to His unchanging plan, through countless years be found, and on and on,

It will always be, when country folk plant their feet on Holy Ground.

[1] Jack Patterson, The Country Church, Poetic Thoughts and Prayers (Book 2). 2012