“Settling” is in quotations marks because though I am now settled enough to write this update on the ministry, what God has been doing through our household is so unlike anything that I have ever experienced in my spiritual journey thus far that it can be questioned whether settled is something I will ever be again. But before I get into that, let me introduce you to our household- six people, three rooms- again, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced being an only child. First there are our directors, Charis Goh and Steve Schalm. Charis is stern but underneath is extremely compassionate and possibly the wisest of us all- she is a campus minister, not just by profession but by character and love. Steve Schalm was one of the worship leaders at Urbana 2015, so it has been great getting to know him personally. Steve and I are very similar people, we both have masters degrees, love books, and are well versed in genres of music nobody would ever expect. Next are the other interns, first there is my co-worker at Concordia University, Sebastian Lee who was a biochem major in Vancouver who, having come from a missionary family, has taken an interest in theology and ministry- we have some great conversations and have grown quite close. Second is Austin Fedchuk, a native Albertan with a background in teaching physical education. He has a simple Christian faith that humbles me immensely- he is also the most energetic and funny person I have ever had the joy of knowing. Third is Julianna Lei, another Vancouverite with a undergrad in criminology and psychology, who was working in the mental health services but was disenchanted by its operations, and was called by God to serve students. Fourthly and finally is Megan Broadfoot, who was originally from Texas but having done arts school at Emily Carr in Vancouver and having a great deal of experience in discipleship, has been inspired to serve students with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

      Now back to our definition of “settled.” I have found our local Starbucks’, having even made some friends with the baristas and taught them a trick or two.  St. Peter’s Anglican Church has become my church community in Montreal, as it has the same welcoming spirit and heart for mission as is reminiscent of Kingsway Baptist Church. We have explored our local grocery stores, having now committed myself to learning how to cook this year, beginning with a cookbook by Fresh.

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We have our weekly rhythms of Bible study, prayer, intern training, mentorship of students, and leadership meetings- as well as various arrayed social events, and personal one-on-one meetings. Lastly, our chores list is complete, our finances are sorted out, and everyone knows that I rap and have a Masters of Theology. According to most definitions of “settled”- I am now, but lately God has been redefining for me the meanings of ‘settledness’ and especially ‘accomplishment.’

      People have frequently been asking what it is that we are doing, and truthfully, its hard to say. At first, I wanted to give simple answers of ‘we lead Bible studies’ or ‘we evangelize to non-Christians by giving out pamphlets’ both of which seem like pretty tangible activities that can be measured and shown that the investment that has been made in this ministry can have very visible fruit. But truthfully, I have been struggling to articulate exactly what it is that we ‘do.’ Our theological conversations vary between ‘we’re here to minister’ all the way to ‘God is the one doing all the work.’ Caught between being an activist and being a passive receiver, the tension has been eating away at my nerves. Coming into this internship however, I didn’t come just to be everything I am and give to everyone everything I have, I came to grow into what I am not yet, and to receive from the Holy Spirit working through my brothers and sisters what I am lacking. Gifts such as diplomacy, listening, empathy, and actively cultivating sincere love are all things of which I fully acknowledge that I am lacking, but ready to receive.

      I was excited to begin this internship with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship because I was impressive by the breadth and depth of their engagement with academic issues and topics relating to justice in this world- I wanted to throw in my lot with the Christians that came out in support of Black Lives Matter. What I didn’t anticipate coming into this internship was all the spiritual work to be done on my own heart and mind in relation to my devotion to Jesus himself. Possessed by a vision of the Kingdom of God, I have yet to learn, like all Christians in one way or another, how to give full homage to Jesus everyday. What are we doing on our campuses? Hanging out with students that need friends, being vulnerable about our brokeness and fragility with each other, laughing together about the most frivolous and unimportant things you could ever imagine, playing games that are fun and learning about each other through them, giving international students who may be lonely a home, preparing BBQs for a bunch of leaders and a few students at Fish Frosh with the hope and the fervour of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to go find the one. All of my activist and academic tendencies are still being nurtured both by the free books I have been receiving from Steve, sharing my writings and sermons with students that may be interested, and my personal outreach project to the Fightback Socialist Club at Concordia- believing that as much as Christian needs to incorporate socio-economic and political organizations and relationships into their theology, so do I believe that atheistic marxists and socialists need Jesus and the Holy Spirit should they ever want to bring about a poverty-less society. Alongside of this jubilance however is the often painful growth into ministry maturity such as accepting that I am part of a team of diverse people, and that often my notions of success need to be challenged in light of the reality that we are living in and through relationships, not in impersonal visions or ideas.

      Let’s conclude with how you can be praying for us as a household, and for our ministry. We collectively are studying the Acts of the Apostles so please pray that when we teach our students we will teach it to them in unity as well as creatively as Sebastian and I in particular want to instil into our students at Concordia the transformative power of the scriptures when your story is read by the Biblical story. Pray for our Concordia team as we are currently discerning social service projects in which to participate on our campus with other student clubs. We need creative imagination in discerning the needs of our campus and city, and especially our ability to shape our context and society. We took a group of students to see the recent biopic on Edward Snowden– I in particular was hoping that they would be inspired by his moral courage and self-sacrifice- but by the end many of them felt powerless to change our situation. Our students often feel powerless not only to change the mental afflictions or debt that they often face, but even the condition of our world- we need the Holy Spirit more than ever, just as the disciples in Acts did.

Thank you fellow saints for your support, with love and gratitude,

Caleb Upton

In the next Episode: Particular students we’ve gotten to know, St. Joseph’s Oratory, more on the outreach to non-Christians, and more! 

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*For more: http://intervarsity.org/page/media-engages-intervarsity-and-black-lives-matter 

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