Kids often ask the best questions. That’s why On Mission magazine invited nine-year-old Anna Im to interview Jeff and Sara Phillips, North American Mission Board church planters working in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2010 Jeff and Sara started a church called The Crossings. Here’s what Anna found out about the work of church planters in one of the world’s most diverse and least Christian cities.
Anna Im: My first question is why did you guys choose to plant a church in Vancouver?
Jeff: We were part of a conference in Vancouver called Passion Ministries. While we were there, we got a chance to walk around the city. One of the first things we noticed was there were no churches. Down south where we lived the tall buildings were for offices and businesses. In Vancouver, though, more than half of the tall buildings are where people live, but they had nowhere to go to church. We learned that in one particular section of downtown more than 85,000 people lived within two miles. We met people from every nation you could think of. So we asked one of our friends “Where do people go to church?” He said he didn’t think they went to church. That stuck in our minds, so when we came back home we decided that God wanted us to take His light to a place that doesn’t have a light. That was 2008. It took all of 2009 to raise funds, because Vancouver is the second most expensive city to live in in North America. We have several churches supporting us as well as NAMB.
Anna: Where did you live before you moved to Vancouver?
Sara: South Haven, Miss., right outside Memphis.
Anna: What do you enjoy most about The Crossings?
Jeff: I think right now it’s our friendships. We had five families move from the states to Vancouver and then we had some other people who joined us locally. There’s a real sense of family.
Sara: I enjoy being around a lot of non-Christians. Since I was your age, I’ve been around Christians all the time, even in high school and college. Jeff’s always worked in churches, so my whole life I was around Christians. This was the first time my life has crossed paths with non-Christians. It’s been fun seeing their reactions to what we do and that they’re not offended by it or anything like that, but they’re just interested and intrigued that we would move all that way for what we believe in.
Anna: How many people are involved in your church plant?
Jeff: Including the families who moved up with us, we have 16 adults and 12 kids involved in The Crossings.
Anna: How many people come to The Crossings each time you guys meet?
Jeff: During our weekly meetings in our home we usually have between 20 and 30 people. But we also have a monthly worship service where we meet with our friends from a Korean church, an Iranian church and a Russian church. We call it an All Nations Gathering. We’ve found that partnering with these pastors helps us to love and be involved in the lives of people from many other nations. We have about 100 who attend that gathering each month.
Anna: What countries do people come from to Vancouver?
Jeff: There are people from more than a 150 nations living in Vancouver. Our son, Ty, has 18 kids from 13 nations in his kindergarten class. And our daughter, Emma, who’s your age, has close friends from Spain, Poland and Bosnia, Serbia and Russia and they all speak the language of the their countries with their families, but they speak English with Emma.
Anna: When did the church start? When did you have your first gathering?
We moved to Vancouver in April 2010. It was right after the Olympics. We started meeting in September as a small group in our home. In November we had our first All Nations gathering. We still haven’t begun our weekly services yet, so we’re still working on that.
What activities are The Crossings doing to tell other people about Jesus?
Jeff: I think our biggest thing right now is building relationships. Canadians, and especially Vancouverites, need to know that you love them and that you are friends with them. When they have this trust, then they open up and listen to what you have to say. We’re encouraging our team to build relationships.
Believe it or not, the number one way we meet people and build those relationships is through our kids. Since our kids are in school, we get to meet the parents of our kids’ classmates. I coach my son’s baseball team, so I meet moms and dads doing that. I also coach 5th grade basketball at my children’s school so we’re meeting families through that, too. A lot of times we meet families because our children are making friends.
Sara: We’ll also host events and do outreach activities. Sometimes we’ll take hotdogs to the homeless downtown. We’ve also hosted an Easter egg hunt for people who wouldn’t necessarily come to a church service but would come to a fellowship like that.
Anna: How are your kids included in the Crossings?
Sara: When we have our All Nations Gathering they help me set up the kids room. Sometimes they help set up chairs and do different things like that. When we have gatherings at the house they help clean the room.
Jeff: Their desire is to tell other people about Jesus as well. One of the things our daughter said right before we moved was “Okay. We’re going to tell the kids in Vancouver about Jesus and you’re going to tell their mommies and daddies about Jesus.” And we said “Exactly. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.” So they feel like they are a part of it. And that’s what we want, because we are coming as a family to tell people in Vancouver about Jesus.
A couple of days ago Ty said, “Dad, I got a chance to tell one of my friends about Jesus.”
Anna: Have you noticed any changes in Vancouver since the Olympics?
Jeff: One thing that’s been noticeable since the Olympics is that 1,800 immigrants have started moving into the city every month. Because the Olympics showed off Vancouver and showed the world what a nice place Vancouver is to live people started coming to the city.
Sarah: I think there’s also more of a community feel. I remember when the Canadians won the gold against the U.S. in hockey—the city erupted and people came out of their apartments and into the streets. Ever since then the city has had more of a community feel. The city has tried to keep that up by doing community-wide events like playing hockey games on the big screens along the city streets and they let everybody watch the games. I don’t think they did that before the Olympics.
Anna: How can we pray for the Crossings?
Sara: One thing we consistently pray is that people here know Jesus is real, that they know He’s alive and active and that He’s doing mighty things. The second prayer is for our families and our children. The Bible talks about spiritual warfare and darkness, and there are dark places in this city. Just like where you are, there are people constantly being tempted to do things that they’re not supposed to. Our team’s and our kids’ beliefs are being questioned a lot. We pray that our children and our team would see God in a real way every day.
Jeff: Pray for the lost. Pray for unity on our team. That God would continue to keep us together. Pray for the people in the city to realize they need Jesus.
Also please pray that we would have favor and a good relationship with city leaders. Pray they would look at The Crossings and see that we’re doing a good job in their community. OM
Anna Im is in 4th grade and lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She likes reading, writing, all things horses and the great outdoors.
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