This week, Three Streams caught up with Dave Dejong, Administrator for the Anglican Mission in Canada, who is currently in the process of planting a new church in Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m blessed to have been married to Megan for over 22 years and together we have two wonderful sons – Joshua (20) and Ethan (18). Megan and I were born and raised in Port Alberni and were a part of Jericho Road in Port Alberni for all of our married life until now. Megan was a great social worker with the provincial government for over 23 years but retired in July just prior to our move, and also served our church family as an Elder, passionate Sunday School teacher, and on the prayer team. Prior to serving the church vocationally I worked in a local sawmill for several years and then ran a painting business with my brother. I enjoy music, sports (especially basketball), and coaching (various sports as our boys were in school, and in terms of life and leadership coaching).
What has your history in ministry been?
Early on my ministry focus was with youth – volunteering for many years in the church I grew up in, and later being asked to volunteer and then work with Young Life of Canada – a work I enjoyed for eleven years. Near the end of my time with Young Life I sensed a call to work more broadly in the church and after a time of discernment ramped up studies at Regent College in Vancouver, BC in preparation for that.
While attending school I worked part-time with Jericho Road and have done so since 2006 in a mix of part- and full-time capacities and various emphases. In 2012 I was asked to serve as the administrator for theAM in Canada on a part-time basis and I’ve really enjoyed serving our churches, being part of the leadership team and helping to shape the Mission culture here in Canada.
Have you always had an eye towards church planting, or has this been something that God has recently led you towards?
In our early days journeying with AMiA church planting was obviously emphasized, but as we were helping guide our church through some significant transitions it wasn’t really on my/our churches radar at that time. God began to plant seeds of vision and a sense of calling for me in 2012 which he later confirmed in Megan and the broader church leadership. Clarity and confirmation have also come through prophetic words spoken over Megan and I, specifically at a conference we hosted at Jericho Road in Port Alberni in 2013 which included words pointing to significant change and church planting.
Early on in the life of Jericho Road in Port Alberni our leadership team envisioned ministry not only in Port Alberni, but the communities of Parksville and Nanaimo, so that was a seed of vision generally.
Over time that vision began to focus in my and Megan’s heart and mind as a call to Nanaimo, and as some key relationships developed there we began investing more time in Nanaimo, ultimately leading to our move in July after our youngest son graduated from high school.
While we still have a lot to learn about our new city, Nanaimo – like Port Alberni – was established as a resource-based town and had a high percentage of blue-collar workers, and has experienced all the ups and downs that go with the boom/bust cycle of a resource-based economy, etc. And like Port Alberni it’s a city in transition, so some aspects of the city (especially in the south where we are living and starting out) has many similarities to what we grew up with and felt like a “fit” for how we’ve been shaped for ministry.
What do you think are going to be some of the specific challenges to planting in Nanaimo?
An initial challenge will be forging significant relationships with those God has entrusted to our ministry thus far and reaching out to our neighbours. We leave a church family where we have deep roots as well as my parents and my sister and her family … although we have their support and are just over an hour away, those rich relationships won’t be as easily accessible when we inevitably encounter challenges personally and in ministry.
We are also embarking on this plant as “tent-makers” – with 60%+ of my wages to come from outside work. God has been incredibly faithful to us over the last 22+ years, and that faithfulness has often been expressed in a variety of jobs coming to me which in turn supported our family and the ministry I was involved in. But I anticipate some challenges of balancing my ongoing part-time work with theAM in Canada, a new part-time job with the local foodbank, and providing leadership to the church plant.
G.K. Chesterton reportedly once said, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” I trust you’ll recognize that I’m not setting out to do anything badly! I just realize that establishing a new community where our common life, nourished by the Three Streams but consistently oriented towards serving and reaching out to our neighbours will be no small challenge … in my own life, and in my role as a leader. But we are committed to taking it one step at a time, trusting God will lead and grant us ‘every place we set our foot’ (Joshua 1:3). With 95% of people in Nanaimo not knowing or following Jesus, it’s definitely worth doing, even if we don’t get it right each step of the way.