A music camp helps a family find their church home.
It’s been nearly a decade since Lanah Harry and her children walked through the doors of Hope in Toronto, Ontario. Lanah had heard about Hope’s music camp for kids and decided to give it a try; little did she know that it would end her search for a church home.
Lanah’s two oldest girls attended the music camp that summer, and while they were learning about instruments and doing crafts, they also heard about Hope’s Sunday school. “The girls didn’t like the Sunday school at the Pentecostal church I was attending, so I gave in and said, ‘Okay, yeah, you can try it,’ ” Lanah says.
The girls loved it, but Lanah continued going to her own services at the Pentecostal church. Eventually, though, she decided to make a change. “I asked myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Because the girls were really getting connected at Hope, and I felt as though they need to be connected somewhere. So I decided all right, I will make the switch for them.”
The first time she attended Hope, Lanah says the congregation was very welcoming. “The first Sunday I tried it, I really enjoyed the people. They were very warm,” she says. “Then I went the next week and realized, ‘Wow, these people don’t change! Everybody is loving. They are caring.’ That meant a lot for me. In the Bible Jesus says you will know his disciples from the love they have among themselves. That love is what stood out to me. I didn’t have that before.”
Looking for a connection
Lanah says feeling connected to her church and its members has always been important to her. She grew up in the Pentecostal church but didn’t have that sense of belonging. “I just went to Sunday services. There was no connection; I just walked in and walked out,” she says.
When she was a teenager, her mother became a Jehovah’s Witness. “I went there for a few years too, but there were some things I didn’t agree with,” says Lanah. “So I didn’t pursue that at all.”
Then there was a period when she didn’t attend church. Eventually, she was invited to the International Church of Christ. She said there was a small group of people who studied the Bible together, and she enjoyed the close-knit group. But after a while, some of them began pressuring her to come to Bible study every night of the week, with no exceptions. She tried her best, but with her busy schedule she got burned out and started getting sick. “That’s when I called it quits,” she says.
After she left the International Church of Christ, Lanah said she knew she had to get plugged in somewhere, so she went back to the Pentecostal church.
The difference at Hope
When Lanah finally ended up at Hope, she noticed some differences right away. “At my previous church it was fire and brimstone. You always felt you had to live at a particular standard,” she says. “But now I am free from that.”
Lanah says she is also amazed by the sermons at Hope. “I really appreciate how our pastor takes the time to prepare his message. His foundation is always the Bible, and he goes back to the Greek and Hebrew,” she says. “He is able to bring the teaching to life, and the message really stays with you! I am always grateful for the opportunity to sit and listen to that message. I feel as though I can’t miss church. . . . I go because I’m being fed, and I feel as though I’m coming away with something. If I don’t go, I really miss it!”
And she loves having fellow believers that feel like family. “From the time you walk through these doors, you feel very comfortable,” Lanah says. “I haven’t seen a person who doesn’t feel that love and warmth of the members here.”
Lanah and her children are now members at Hope. They attend Sunday school and Bible study, and her children play instruments for worship and sing in the choir. They are also involved in the church’s summer music camp, which is still going strong. “My older daughters volunteer,” says Lanah. “They help teach the kids about the different instruments and do crafts, singing, and Bible stories. They have a blast!”
Lanah and her children also enjoy giving back to the church. “One way we like to do that is on our birthdays,” she says. “Every week we have fellowship after church, and on our birthdays we all pitch in and serve. The kids always look forward to that, and they make sure we don’t forget about it. It’s fantastic!”
She says it’s such a blessing to see her kids getting involved and growing in the Word. “My four-year-old comes home every Sunday and tells me the kids’ message for that day. He pretends he is the pastor and puts on my shoes and sits there and rehearses the whole message,” she says. “I see them learning, and I see them growing.”
Lanah says she’s growing in her faith too. “When you come to church, you look for people to connect with and grow in your faith with from day to day,” she says. “It’s wonderful to have all these brothers and sisters to help me along that path—and not only at my home church, but also an entire church body! Knowing that we all believe in the same thing, I’m thrilled about that. It makes a huge difference.”
Sharing music and the gospel with the community
In 2010, members at Hope, Toronto, Ontario, began reaching out to their community—which includes a large population of first-generation immigrants from many different countries—with a summer music camp for kids.
“We asked, ‘How can we get to know our neighborhood better? And how can we help our neighbors to know who Jesus is?’ ” says Mark Henrich, pastor at Hope, a congregation whose members come from more than 20 countries. “Our church is blessed with a variety of musical talent, including a full steel pan orchestra, so it was decided that we would try a summer music camp.”
Since then, hundreds of kids have attended the weeklong camp, which includes instruction in steel pans, keyboard, guitar, djembe drum, and singing. Every day also includes Bible study. The camp routinely fills all 140 spots and even has a waiting list. More than 60 members from Hope and other congregations volunteer for the camp, which continues to grow thanks to word of mouth.
“What a blessing it has been!” says Henrich. “Every year we have opportunity to share the Word with the children of our neighborhood, so many of whom did not know Jesus.”
Five of the seven youth who were confirmed at Hope last year were first introduced to the church through the music camp. “They kept coming back and, in time, found a home at Hope,” says Henrich. “Three of their mothers also joined Hope, and we all continue to grow in Jesus together. To God be the glory!”
Author: Alicia A. Neumann
Volume 106, Number 1
Issue: January 2019
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