Monday, May 4, 2015

Cedar Tree Ministries

The first Sunday of May, we had a special guest in our service. Rev. Joey Cho of Cedar Tree Ministries shared with us his call to ministry and his journey to the Cowichan Valley.
    After giving his life to Christ as a youth in Korea, Joey felt drawn to mission work.  His acquaintance with Canadian missionaries made him want to come to Canada.  Unfortunately, his church told him "No.  Canada is not a mission field."  But Joey believed that God was calling him to work with First Nations in Canada.  He prayed about the situation for twenty days and the call was still strong.  So, Joey set out for Canada without the backing of his home church.
    He went first to Vancouver but there seemed to be no place there to start a congregation.  Then he moved to Duncan, where he found seven tribal units with about 4500 First Nations people.  He believed he had found the place where God wanted him to be.
    The work was not easy.  Many of Rev. Cho's congregants are survivors of the Residential School system.  Some are angry, some are addicted to drugs and alcohol, some hate the name of Jesus because they associate it with the pain of residential school.  Despite this baggage, in 2007 he began Grace Cowichan Church with one First Nations family.  Later, with the permission of the band, the church moved into a building on reserve land.
   Even then, there were trials.  Because of the hatred felt by so many, the cross was continually stolen from the church or damaged.  In the end, a Native artist created a sign that incorporated First Nations art with the cross of Christ.  That sign has not been vandalized.
    The church now holds regular Sunday services, Bible Study class, hosts a women's group and a Kids Bible Club.  There are regular sharing days when people offer what they have to those in need.  There are weddings and baptisms and funerals.  There is pain and there is healing.
    But, as his ministry progressed, Joey felt isolated.  At times he wanted to give up.  But each time he thought he could not go on, he received a sign, a token of encouragement that told him God wanted him to continue.  Eventually, Rev. Cho joined the Presbyterian Church in Canada and was ordained by that denomination.  Now he is part of the Presbytery of Vancouver Island and surrounded by loving, supportive peers in ministry and by prayer partners in other congregations.
    Still driven by the need to be a missionary, Joey, with the blessing of Presbytery formed Cedar Tree Ministries, an outreach program focussed on First Nations.  There is now a First Nations Victory Chapel in Nanaimo and a new congregation in Mill Bay, begun at the request of three families on the reserve there.
   Cedar Tree Ministries is living its mission of Reconciliation, Restoration and Renewal.
    Rev. Joey's story speaks to God's mysterious ways.  Who would have thought someone from Korea, brought to Christ by a North American missionary, would then travel from Korea to do mission work in North America?  But God's ways are better than ours.  Because Rev. Cho is not Caucasian, he is better able to minister to a people who suffered at the hands of their white neighbours.  While his church in Korea was right in saying Canada is not a mission field, they were wrong in terms of First Nations reserves in Canada.  Those areas are crying out for the Gospel.  Thank God for people like Rev. Joey Cho who bring the Good News to hurting people. 
   One compelling feature I took from Sunday's message was Rev. Cho's reliance on prayer.  At every step of his journey, he spent days praying, seeking guidance.   When his Korean church said no, he prayed.  When he is discouraged in his ministry, he prays. When he felt lonely and isolated, he prayed then found a home within the Presbytery of Vancouver Island, and at the end of his presentation, he did not pass around the collection plate.  Instead, he asked for prayers.
   The Bible is full of examples of servants of God who pray earnestly and with open hearts and minds.  Sunday I met such a man in person.

For more on Cedar Tree Ministries, visit their website here/

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