Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Building Strong and Straight

The following is the speech given by Glenn Penner at the November 19 banquet in Mississauga, Ontario celebrating Klaas and Nellie Brobbel's 35 years of service to the Persecuted Church.

Mark Twain once said, "It is by the goodness of God that in (the United States) we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them."

By this time in a banquet following a number of other speakers, these are certainly words that one should keep in mind. There is probably not much that I could add to what has already been said anyway. And so, I will attempt to show the prudence that Twain spoke of and limit my freedom of speech during the time given to me tonight.

Prior to joining The Voice of the Martyrs, I spend almost three years building concrete basements, mostly for residential homes. Building basements is dirty, hard work. There is nothing glamorous about it and is largely unappreciated; no one compliments a home owner on the beauty of their basement). And when the job is done, it is covered up so that no one can see it.

But the basement is essential to the stability of a home. Everything gets built off of a basement. If a basement is not level or out of square, the construction of the rest of the home will be adversely affected. Everything will be off.

I grew up on a farm in Alberta. My dad would work construction in the winter to pay for his bad habit of farming. Making sure that things were square to the world was a passion of his. Nothing annoyed him more than if something was crooked.

One summer, our neighbour across the road built a new house. And wouldn't you know it, it was just slightly out of alignment with the rest of the world. It drove my father crazy every time he had to look down the lane and see it.

It was just off by a few degrees but it looked odd from a distance and reflected poorly on the builder, the surveyor, and the owner. And it started with the basement. They didn't lay the foundation straight and the whole house looked bad as a result.

For many years, Klaas and Nellie laboured long and hard to build the foundation, the basement, for what would become The Voice of the Martyrs today. It has been hard work; not very glamorous and often unappreciated. Not many may know the name of the Brobbels across this country. They have been most comfortable working in the background and letting others get the credit for when something goes right.

But they have set a building in place with a solid, straight foundation.

Ten years ago, they stood in an empty building on Timberlead Blvd., just the two of them, wondering if the mission would survive. It has survived and not only that; it is thriving.

It has been my honour to work with these two builders for the past 9+ years. And to be entrusted with the task of building off of their foundation as the new Chief Executive Officer is a privilege and a God-given responsibility that I take very seriously.

I was warned by Nellie when I first joined the mission that this kind of work would become an all encompassing life obsession. She is right. I cannot imagine ever doing anything other than serving the persecuted church.

This is God's call upon my life and I am honoured to be able to continue the legacy of the Brobbels. With Klaas, we retire the title of Executive Director and I am glad that I will not have to take that title. It will always be associated with Klaas and Nellie in my mind.

But my dedication to continuing the work of The Voice of the Martyrs is no less than theirs. Like Elisha picking up the mantle of Elijah, I will continue the ministry that Klaas began, asking God for a double portion of the Spirit which he possessed.

Yes, there are differences between us. I am a different kind of leader than Klaas is. The mission is larger now than when he began and the world we face is not the same one he faced when he started. Then, the might of Soviet Communism threatened world peace and the faith of believers everywhere. Today, the threat of militant jihadism threatens world peace and the faith of believers is threatened on many sides, many religious, others secular. The ministry of The Voice of the Martyrs will continue to adapt to the changing needs of the persecuted church in a changing world, just as it has adapted over the past 40 years.

We have learned that how we served the persecuted church 40, 30, 20, even 10 years ago is the best way to do so today. Some mistakes have been made. New ones are yet to be made. But this is how one learns, if one is willing to learn. Klaas and Nellie have demonstrated that kind of willingness. That willingness to learn is part of the foundation of The Voice of the Martyrs Canada today.

I covet your prayers as I pick up Klaas' mantle and seek to wisely lead this incredible and talented team that God has assembled. We dare not live in the past, for victory can contain the seeds for future defeats if we are not careful. But we do know that the God that led Klaas and Nellie is the same God who leads us today. And this gives us grounds for confidence.

The thing to remember is that that the future comes one day at a time, as we walk faithfully and humbly with our God, staying true to our mission and values.

Klaas, Nellie, thank you for your years of service to the Persecuted Church. Thank you for your example of sacrificial servanthood.

And thank you for the fact, that I know that for as long as you live, this mission will be on your hearts and minds and that you will NEVER stop praying for us.

May God bless you both.

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