Blessed For Nassau

Last night was an extremely special evening for the MacPhails. Friends of ours hosted a wonderful dinner for a small gathering as an opportunity for us to say farewell before our June 3 departure for ministry in the Bahamas. The table was suitably decorated with shells and sand. Lobster was served. Good conversation was shared. Photographs were taken. Friendship was celebrated.

But, for me, the most special aspect of the evening was the prayer our host offered before the meal. This was no mere “saying grace”. Our host invited the gathered to come and lay hands on us to bless us as he prayed. I remembered that the first disciples did this in Samaria so that the believers there would receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17). I remembered the apostle Paul’s reference to the time the elders (the Presbytery) laid hands on Timothy. I remembered when the ministers of Oak Ridges Presbytery laid hands on me at my ordination in January of 1998.

Moving to Nassau Bahamas feels like a new start, and so this personal re-commissioning seemed quite appropriate. It was most meaningful for us to have such close friends extend this special blessing.

One couple arrived later on in the evening and I was sorry that they missed this aspect of the evening. As we said good-bye at the door, my friend who arrived late handed me a gift and we went on our way. As soon as I got home, I opened the gift. It was a small 2nd edition book written by 19th Century theologian, Horatius Bonar, and on the inside cover my friend had written out the Aaronic blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26:

The Lord bless you and keep you,

The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.

This was the same blessing sung at my final service at St. Giles Kingsway on May 16. On that emotional day, we felt blessed as we said good-bye to our congregation here. On May 16, the blessing was connected to our leaving. What we experienced last night, felt slightly different. It felt as though we were being blessed in our going. It felt like we were being blessed, not for what we had done in the past, but for what we had yet to do.

With 12 days left before we move, I am so grateful to be able to say that I am not merely ready for Nassau, I am not merely excited for Nassau, but I am blessed for Nassau.

For everyone who has prayed for us in this transition, I sincerely thank you.

Overwhelmed.

Today I said “good-bye” to a congregation I love dearly. I’m still struggling to process the myriad of emotions I’m experiencing. One thing, however, is clear: I am overwhelmed.

I am, in part, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the move from Toronto to Nassau, Bahamas, and all of the details which go with that.

I’m also overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity shown by so many. The last time I opened a stack of cards this big was on my wedding day. I am sincerely touched and humbled by the kind sentiments contained within these cards. I was also hugely moved by the tributes and generous gifts given, not only to me, but also to Allie and Anya as well.

I am overwhelmed by the love demonstrated to my family today. Allie and I have shed many tears in anticipation of our move to Nassau. This morning we witnessed a reciprocal response of profound emotion. The people of St. Giles Kingsway and The Well are my friends, but what I experienced today transcended even friendship. What I witnessed today was a massive expression of gratitude from a group of people who have progressed in their relationship with Jesus Christ. The Gospel has made a difference in the lives of many here. I feel so blessed to have played a role in that.

I will remember May 16, 2010 as long as I live. It was a painful day (saying good-bye), but it was also a day filled with encouragement. More importantly, I believe God was glorified. Both services were absolutely packed. The people appeared attentive to the Word and sang songs of praises with great enthusiasm. It was a delightful and inspiring gathering to be a part of.

I expect that I will remain overwhelmed for quite some time. I am truly humbled by what happened here today. And I am so grateful—grateful for the gifts, the kind words, and the wonderful people of St. Giles Kingsway and The Well.

I will remember my 8 years of ministry here with much fondness. I will remember the people of this congregation with much affection. And I will always give thanks to God for giving me the privilege of serving this fine community of believers.

This morning I closed out a 5 message series (“Parting Words From Your Pastor”) with the message “Contend Earnestly For The Faith” (Jude 3). I hope it was a fitting final word.  In the event you would like to hear my final message at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, the audio is provided below.

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