Slideshow image

When I’ve gone to camp on Thetis Island over the years, I’ve always experienced it as a special place where the Lord speaks to me particularly through the beauty of creation. 

I experienced this again recently while spending the week with newcomers from Afghanistan - people who’ve experienced so much pain, ugliness, and struggle.  

One morning mid-week, my eye was drawn to a particular Arbutus tree growing out of a cliffside at camp. The beauty and symbolism of this tree has struck me in the past, but I experienced it in a fresh way, as though the Lord had a word for our camp for me to share with our new friends: Beauty adapted to hardship.  

Because sharing with our new friends can be difficult due to language barriers, as well as the sensitivity of sharing about the Lord between Christians and Muslims, I wanted to do this well, and prayed that it would land with them.  

On Thursday, I was given a chance to share a word with the camp at morning devotion, and then again later that night when the whole camp gathered to reflect on the week. This beautiful Arbutus tree,  glowing red in the evening sunset, grows off a cliffside in a way that seems to defy gravity and the need for rich soil. But that’s just how the Arbutus is designed to grow. This reflected what I see in my new friends: a resilient people with a beautiful culture and way of sharing community, clinging to the hope of a new life in Canada after such hardship.  

When I shared this image Thursday, I paired it with Matthew 7:24-27, the parable of building the house of our lives on the rock of Jesus, which I invited a Christian Afghan pastor to read in Farsi. As I shared, I was able to hold up the image of this tree together with the invitation of Jesus. I urged them to take courage and blessed them with the encouragement that God grows beautiful things out of hard situations.  

Afterwards, I was approached by a woman who thanked me and said that her heart was burning as she listened to the scripture and considered the message. A young man then included the image in his closing words to the group, saying we are that tree growing out of a hard place.  

It’s my prayer that the Lord uses this week of joy, beauty and refreshment, to root new strength and resilience in these friends as they continue settling in Vancouver seeking the peace and new beginnings that they long for.  

Mike Bennett 

Site Pastor, Tenth East Van