“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” – Psalm 107:1
God & Government 2012 has wrapped up! And the experience was incredible. By God’s grace, about 50 representatives from 16 ARPA groups and ARPA Canada were able to bring a Christian perspective directly to approximately 50 MPs and Senators. We were also able to host an evening reception, featuring Dr. Cornelis VanDam on the topic of multiculturalism. Perhaps best of all, we could spend an entire day devoted to meeting together as ARPAs and strategizing for 2012-2013.
Tuesday – March 27
Blocks away from Parliament Hill, the ARPA groups gathered in the basement of the historic First Baptist church for an orientation for the days activities. Pastor Holtvluwer, a delegate with the Niagara ARPA group, set an appropriate context by doing a devotional about the Biblical calling for Christians to serve as exemplary citizens, to pray for our leaders, and to act as salt and light in our nation. Andre Schutten, Ilse VanderMeulen, and Mark Penninga, the staff of ARPA Canada, offered tutorials to ensure that the delegates knew where to go and provided tips for meeting with MPs.
At 8:30 am the ARPA reps broke up into groups of two or three and headed off to their respective meetings. They met with NDP, Liberal, and Conservative MPs, a few Senators, and were also able to sit in on a number of committee meetings being held through the day. Some of the issues of focus included the need for a new prostitution law (in light of the Ontario Court decision on Monday), Woodworth’s motion about the definition of a human being, and aboriginal affairs. We took the time to also ask the MPs how we can be of better service.
The MPs welcomed us warmly. It was encouraging to note that ARPA is becoming well known among the Christian MPs, who are excited to see young and old alike coming taking an active concern in our nation’s well-being.
We took a break in the afternoon to sit in on Question Period. Tim Bloedow, a staff member on Parliament Hill and a member of a local Reformed church, then kindly toured us through Parliament, pointing out some of the Bible inscriptions as well. He is the author of a recent booklet about the biblical legacy of Canada’s Parliament buildings.
On Tuesday evening we met for the key-note address by ARPA Canada board member Dr. Cornelis VanDam. Since the topic was multiculturalism, we added a Dutch theme to the evening, with some Dutch treats available to our guests. Dr. VanDam’s speech was well received. We opened it up to questions from the MPs, and they seized the opportunity. Many of the MPs stayed for an hour after the event, socializing with the ARPA reps. It was a memorable time.
Wednesday – March 28
On Wednesday morning we gathered bright and early at the Reformed Presbyterian church (who kindly offered their building to us) for the second ever national ARPA conference. There were twice as many delegates as in 2010, and it was very evident that all of the ARPA chapters have grown so much in the past two years. The day was filled with tutorials and small-group discussions devoted to 8 goals that we are pursuing over the next two years. Themes included media training, abortion memorials, making election questionnaires, building relationships with local government officials, and organizing provincial conferences in 2013. The groups were also able to meet together with their provincial counterparts to strategize how to respond to some key provincial issues, including the Alberta election, developments in the Manitoba education system, and Bill 13 (anti-bullying legislation) in Ontario.
Mike Schouten, from Cloverdale BC, was also able to share with the ARPA reps about an exciting new campaign that he plans to lead, under the direction of ARPA Canada, starting May 1st.
Most of the ARPA reps then headed back to their homes on Wednesday evening. However, the ARPA Canada board (who also took part in all of these activities) and Mark and Andre spent the next two days in our national board meeting. It was very encouraging for us to see the hand of the Lord on all of our activities. We acknowledge that this is done in spite of our many shortcomings. God is gracious, and it is exciting to see how this organization has been able to grow so much since it started 4-5 years ago.
ARPA Canada is very thankful to so many of you who had a direct hand in making this week possible. A huge thanks goes to the Jubilee Canadian Reformed church community and Ambassador Christian School in Ottawa, who opened up their homes as billets and catered four days of meetings.
We also extend our heartfelt appreciation to many of you, who donated flights so that these ARPA reps could make it all the way to Ottawa.
Many of you have also donated generously to ARPA Canada over the past year so that we can organize efforts like this, and continue the work even when all the ARPA reps go back home. Having an office in Ottawa has been instrumental in many of these efforts.
Most of all, we give thanks to our loving God, who allows broken vessels to serve in His kingdom. What an honour!
ARPA reps from Niagara and Neerlandia meeting with one of the MPs in his office
At the conference in the basement of the Reformed Presbyterian church
Dr. VanDam addresses MPs and Senators. To promote openness among the MPs, we did not take many pictures at that event.
Andre Schutten, Mark Penninga, and Ilse VanderMeulen take a break during the conference.
Tim Bloedow, our tour guide in the Parliament building, and a big help to ARPA since we started.
MP Maurice Vellacott, who sponsored the evening event for MPs, along with MP Lawrence Toet and John McKay
ARPA rep Liam H. meets chats with MP Lawrence Toet
Some of the ARPA reps and family members on the steps of Centre Block, Parliament.
Photos courtesy of Michael Zwiep – ARPA Niagara