Saturday, September 30, 2006

Passport continued....

It's difficult to get out of this country. Susan and I waited patiently, along with 3 million other applicants, on Monday to get our Passports renewed, and then the window finally opened. Hope was on the horizon at last! But alas, after our careful explanation of how we accidentally washed our Passports again, the agent was unmoved. Looking at us as if we just escaped from prison, she kindly said, "Sorry I can't help you. You are going to need clearance from a higher authority." (I should have told her that we have been approved by God Himself) Then she went away for a long time. After returning , our straight-faced friend announced to me that they could not renew my passport until I could provide proof that I was travelling, my exact itinerary and plans, and when I would return. Even after I would do that, because I am such a high risk it would take 8 weeks to process it. We left somewhat downhearted.

A while later the girl phoned Susan and apologized to her. She said they could do her passport right away but mine was still a problem. We stopped off on the way home to visit my friend James Moore, our M.P. On Monday, we'll go see our friendly agent again with my tickets and itinerary in hand. We'll see what happens.

Monday, September 25, 2006


It's harder than one would imagine to get out of this country. To prepare for my trip to Thailand and the Philippines, I have to update my passport today and get my various shots redone tomorrow. When I returned from Asia last year, I let my passport slip through the wash while safely tucked in my jeans. Then shortly after, when Susan and I were in Barcelona, we had our new passports stolen. Besides the complicated process of travelling through Europe sans passports, we were considered suspect when we returned because of the double reapplication for new passports. Then in the spring, when we returned from Mexico, I did it again (I shouldn't confess too much lest my friends lose all confidence in my leadership ability) Into the wash they ended up again!

So having obtained special documents from our lawyer, saying we are really honest, upstanding Canadians, we're off again to the Passport office to hopefully regain credibility. God bless us!

East meets West

I love it when cultures blend. All marriages are actually a harmonizing of two very different cultures. Every family, as well as each ethnic group, has their own different traditions, behaviours and customs, so when ever two people come together in the intimacy of the marriage covenant, there are more adjustments to make than most of us expect. Then there is the fact that "women are from Venus" which makes the blending process even more interesting and fun.

On Saturday I officiated at the wedding of Chris Ransom and Kirby Chan. It was fascinating to hear about their wedding rituals, beginning with a Chinese Tea Ceremony in the morning. The girls had to begin preparations for the big day before 6 am. It wasn't all over till about midnight.

The wedding was beautiful,and afterwards the guests were invited by the family to a sumptious real Chinese feast. We kept eating, visiting, and celebrating for longer than I can remember any meal lasting. Kirby is always a gorgeous woman, but in Chinese tradition, she wore four different dresses for the different phases of the wedding. Her traditional silk gowns were stunning. Most important, and to me even more lovely than the decore, feasting or clothes, is the deep love that this couple has for each other and there well-rooted faith in God. Their marriage will be a shining testimony of God's love for all of us. May God enrich your relationship with his many promised blessings Chris and Kirby!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

God's little helper

One of the many lessons that I talked about with our church on Sunday, was that we must never forget that we are God's little helpers. We are in desparate need of his constant presence and power. It's far to easy, when you have been a Christian as long as I have, to slip into pride, and to think that we now know enough to get along without God constantly watching over our shoulders.

I used as an illustration, a scene from my own experience, this last week. I was working at Kristy's and Jeremy's home, building an oak mantle for their new fireplace. A few minutes after taking out my tools, along came 2 year old Jordan to help his Papa. Of course I encouraged him as we worked side by side. But the fact is that I really didn't need Jordan's help. Actually he was more in the way than a helper, but he used his plastic tools with sincerity and enthusiasm.

The reasons that I wanted Jordan to work beside me was that I love him so much, and he thankfully loves his Papa. The other reason is even more important--I, along with his parents, want Jordan to grow up to be a useful man and husband. It's my privilege to have him helping the best he can beside me. And that's just like my God. Of course he doesn't need me, but He loves me so much, and wants me to learn how to serve in my circle of influence, so I can one day sit beside Jesus and rule with Him for eternity. I like that!

My friend Lana

Almost 30 years ago, before Susan and I began our new little church that we were to call Northside Chapel, we moved out to Port Coquitlam and settled into a new neighbourhood. It wasn't long before we were privileged to meet one of our new neighbors--a precocious 2 year old named Lana Davidson.

In a couple of years, after our church began meeting at Lincoln Elementary School, one of the first families to join us was the Davidsons. They very soon became strong leaders . Now Lance and Joyce are among our most valued friends and elders. Meanwhile Lana has grown up!
First she became a leader in Kids church, then in youth, then as a greeter. A few years ago, Lana went on her first missions trip to Costa Rica And she was hooked!

Today, right after church where I had an opportunity to bless her one more time, Lana left to spend a year as a true-blue missionary in Costa Rica. We pray that God will protect Lana spirit, soul and body; anoint her with the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit and enlarge her ministry farther than she could possibly imagine. We love you Lana, my little neighbour!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dancing with the King

Another baby has been born! That's the way I feel when I receive a new book from the printers. On tuesday my 13th book, Dancing with the King rolled of the presses. It is the 1st of three books about the Kingdom of God that will be completed about June of next year.

Dancing with the King is a series of teaching on the subject of our eternal purpose. It's so amazing to me that God, who is wholly self-sufficient, has invited us to sit on the throne beside him. We actually get to play a real part in the eternal destiny of people in our circle of influence. The book opens with a comparison of Cinderella with each of us who have been rescued from slavery and been invited to marry into the Royal family.

September's here

September is my favorite month. To me it's like Rosh Hashanna, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, and a season of great celebration. Summer has been good for me-- it's a rare privilege to be home with Susan almost every evening and we usually take a whole day every week just for ourselves. By the time July comes we are ready for the shift. But September has come and it is time to get into the busy and fulfilling Fall season.

I love Bible Study on Wednesday evenings. This new year we're beginning to walk slowly through the Gospels. A new group of enthusiasts joined me for the first of our weekly studies as we opened up the book of Matthew. The Gospels,which I also teach at our Bible College, are among my favorite Bible Books.

On both Wednesday, at PLBC, and on Thursdays at our church, I'm teaching how to find our life purpose. To me this series is among the most important life lessons we can ever learn. One day Jesus will ask us, "Did you do what I told you to do?" and hopefully we won't answer, "I didn't
even know what you expected of me. I thought I was here just to be happy and have a good life." I'll be making DVD's of the classes that I teach at PLBC so that the course will be available for small groups or use at home.

Then on Fridays I'm doing my very favorite thing--teaching the Torah (Pentateuch) to an enthusiastic class of Bible Students . Along with Sundays and miscellaneous other classes, it takes me a fair amount of time to study and prepare myself, so it's difficult to find the time I need to see people. I try to make my time with leaders a priority.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Taxing the Churches

Last Friday I received the following email from our esteemed councillor in Coquitlam, Richard Stewart, I have included it in it's length here, followed by my response to our mayor, Maxine Wilson of Coquitlam and her team of councillors individually. Following my letter to the mayor and councillors, I have included the replies I have received to date as well as the encouraging final letter from Council member Richard Stewart.

Re: Property Taxes on Churches

To Coquitlam Faith Communities:

City Council is about to review a policy that I believe is unfair, a policy that forces some churches to pay property taxes.

The issue arises because a local congregation undertook a court challenge of a 2004 Council policy, and the court has ordered Council to take another look at the issue.

The Westwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses recently took the City to court to challenge council’s 2004 policy that refused to extend to any new churches the property tax exemption enjoyed by established churches across the City.

A number of years ago, part of the parking lot for the Kingdom Hall on Dewdney Trunk Road was expropriated for the widening of Dewdney Trunk; when the congregation failed to get an adjacent piece of land rezoned to replace the expropriated parking lot, they were forced to relocate. They found an OCP-designated church site on Pipeline, applied for and received all necessary approvals and permits, and built their new building. But in July 2004, after the congregations had moved into their new church, City Council decided that the parking lots of new churches would no longer be exempt from property taxes.

Since 1881 in BC, churches and the land they sit on are exempt from property taxes. But effective 2004, the City will only exempt the land directly under any new church building, as they are required to do under the Community Charter; the rest of the property, including the parking lot, would be subject to tax. For the new Kingdom Hall, this means a tax bill of about $20,000 per year for the parking lot. And, to add insult to injury, since the parking lot is no longer exempt from property taxes, it is also subject to the new Translink Parking Tax.

Because existing churches are grandfathered, this policy doesn’t immediately affect my church, and it probably doesn’t affect yours unless it plans to expand in the near future. Nonetheless, I believe strongly that the policy is unfair, and needs to be repealed. Churches already pay for the utilities they use, like water and refuse collection; property taxes pay for a wide range of city services that churches do not use. As well, churches give contribute tremendously to our community in a number of ways, and I believe Council should abide by the spirit of the Community Charter and continue to exempt all churches from property taxes. At the next Committee meeting of City Council (this Monday, September 11), I intend to put forward a motion that Council rescind this policy, and that all churches in the City be exempt from property taxes on both the building and the ancillary land, parking areas, etc. Based on the results of that meeting, the matter will then be put before the next City Council meeting the following Monday, September 18.

I want to encourage residents of Coquitlam to let Council know of the strength of support there is in our community on this issue. I’ve included on the reverse the email addresses of all members of Council, as well as the fax number at City Hall, and would welcome your letters or emails on the issue.

Faith communities have had a longstanding right to tax exemption on their church properties, and I believe we can protect this important right by ensuring that all City Councillors understand how important the issue is for Coquitlam residents.

Yours truly,

Richard Stewart, Councillor
City of Coquitlam
Cell 604-603-4113


September 8, 2006

Dear Mayor Maxine Wilson,

I am writing in reference to your up and coming discussion regarding the taxation of our city’s churches. I’m not sure why this subject would even come before council, considering the strong work that the several thousand church members do for Coquitlam, but perhaps if I were unaware of what churches and other service clubs do, I would question their tax exemption also.

Having served as a pastor in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam for 27 years, and also in leadership of the Tri-City Ministerial Association, I am very much cognizant of the millions of dollars that our sixty Tri-City churches save taxpayers every year. Many people do not realize that churches and clubs function effectively as community centres in the cities.

We provide free counseling, children’s groups, nursery care, daycares, preschools, youth programs, single events, 12-Step groups, weddings, funerals, senior’s groups, sports teams, drug, alcohol and victim care classes, ESL classes, hospice, hospital and crisis care, dinners, groceries and clothes for those in need, assimilation and friendship of our entire populace, as well as spiritual guidance and nurture for thousands of our citizens.

Our buildings alone, save the city multiplied millions of dollars in construction of community centres. They, and hundreds of staff members, are totally paid for by the free will gifts of constituents. The amount of money the Christian church gives to provide services for all of our Tri-Cities is well over ½ million dollars every month. That money is given generously by the thousands of tax-paying adherents of our sixty churches to provide absolutely free community service to every person in our cities, regardless of age, racial origin or income.

This is not to mention that the fallout from crime, alcoholism, drug addiction, family breakdown and other multi-million dollar tax costs are reduced substantially by the work of Christian and community organizations.

Paying no property tax is a small perk which serves to encourage and stimulate the continuation or our service clubs and churches. Thank you Maxine Wilson, Councillors and citizens for your grace and wisdom in exempting churches, service clubs and mosques from paying property taxes.


Barry Buzza
Lead Pastor
Northside Church

'Asmundson, Brent'
Sent: Fri Sep 8 19:46



RE: Taxation of churches

Thank you for your email re: Church Taxation. I know the value of community work done by churches, as Daniela and I have attended your services at the Northside FourSquare Church and have seen the good work that you do. I do not agree with the previous council's decision, but I am going to be away until the 27th of September,I hope everthing works out.
Dear Pastor Buzza,
Thank you for your e-mail. I wasn't on City Council when this policy was enacted. I don't agree with it and will be voting against it when it comes in front of Council in the next few weeks.
I'm fully aware and appreciative of the services and countless hours of volunteer work your congregation and others do for this community. I agree that a tax exemption for your church from the City is one way we can show our thanks for these good works.
I appreciated hearing from you. Please feel free to contact me any time.
Doug Macdonell
Thank you for your letter.
I agree completely that community churches provide an essential service to all our residents and provide many services that benefit our community.
I firmly believe that when official organizations, groups and churches support the community they should be supported as much as possible.
If you would like to talk further about this, please call me at (604) 941-5937.
Fin Donnelly
City of Coquitlam

September 11, 2006

Thank you for your email.

As you may be aware, I was a Mayor and a Council member for 24 years. During that time, we never ever had this problem as far as exempting churches from property tax. It was never an issue during my term. Last year’s Council, which I was not a member of, decided to attack certain places of worship.

I always opposed this kind of decision and always will.

Thank you,

Lou Sekora, Council Member


I'm pleased to be able to report that at tonight's meeting of Committee of the Whole, Coquitlam City Council voted to accept my motion that churches once again be exempted from property taxes. The new policy is a reversal of a 2004 policy that placed a moratorium on new applicants for a "permissive property tax exemption", effectively denying the exemption to any churches that were not already on the list. If Council ratifies the new policy, all churches, mosques, temples and other "worship" buildings in Coquitlam will be treated equally, and will not be subject to taxation on their parking lots and landscaped areas.

I want to thank all those who sent letters on this subject, as I believe that a significant part of the reason for success in this first step was the number of articulate, respectful, and well-informed emails that Council members received in the past few days in support of the tax exemption.

What's next?

Tonight's vote puts the issue before Council at next Monday evening's Council meeting (starting at 7 pm, and televised on Shaw starting about an hour later). At next week's meeting, the nine members of Council will be asked to ratify the recommendation; if they do (and I hope and pray that they will), all Coquitlam faith communities will once again be exempt from property taxes on their church property.

It's important to remember that the majority (5) of Council members were on the 2004 City Council that adopted the moratorium, and that only six of nine Council members were present at tonight's vote. So the issue is still in question. It would be best if Council continued to receive letters and emails in favour of an equitable tax exemption policy, to ensure that the high level of support remains evident over the coming week. This may also influence other local governments in BC who may be considering adopting something similar to Coquitlam's 2004 policy.

Here are the email addresses for Council:
Mayor Maxine Wilson
Councillor Brent Asmundson
Councillor Fin Donnelly
Councillor Louella Hollington
Councillor Barrie Lynch
Councillor Doug Macdonell
Councillor Mae Reid
Councillor Lou Sekora
Councillor Richard Stewart
Or by mail at Coquitlam City Hall, 3000 Christmas Way, Coquitlam V3B 7N2

If you have any questions about this or other issues before Council, please give me a call.

Again, thank you.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Trace and Sara's Wedding

One of the things that I enjoy most about officiating at weddings is the several weeks of premaital counselling that I and the bride and groom go through together. Trace and Sara came to me several months ago to ask me if I would do their wedding. Both of them had come through recovery in our Higher Ground ministry, and so understood the gripping power of drugs, and also the overcoming power of God's rich love, acceptance and forgiveness. I've found that those who have successfully navigated through recovery for several months have a very deep appreciation for the love and grace of Jesus. This couple certainly does.

Trace and Sara have been delightful to get to know, to laugh with, to cry with, and to see them truly become one. They have already come through some very deep valleys, which have served to strengthen their determination to maintain strong Christ-like roots. I'm thankful for the privilege of knowing them and pray for God's powerful blessing on their marriage.

Joseph's Excellant Bad Day

Three years ago, after I finished publishing my book, Life Purpose, I wrote my first children's book, Joseph's Excellant Bad Day. I actually came up with the story from a combination of true things that had happened in my experiences. When I needed something substantial to teach a class of young children for my Finding my Life Purpose class, I wound the memorieas together to make a story.

This Sunday on September 3, just before school begins we had all the children sit through the entire church service, so I told this story. Thanks to Jennifer Croft for coming with Jacob and me to take the pictures we used in the power-point presentation.

Joseph's story winds around my purchase of a scraggly, near-dead apple tree. Just as I have watched my grandchildren and children mature into the purpose for which they were created, I observed this tree grow from a scrawny branch into a very healthy and prolific fruit tree.

The 7 lessons that I taught my pretend grandson (played by my real grandson, Jacob) are:

#1 God made me to be unique. I was created for a special purpose.

#2 It takes time to become all that God has planned for us to be. There will be fruitful times, as well as seasons when it seems like nothing is happening.

#3 Our purpose is revealed progressively throughout life – like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.

#4 There will always be forces which try and stop us, or keep us from our purpose. We must be alert and ready to fight negative forces.

#5 Dry and difficult times help to press us closer to the place where our refreshment and nourishment come from.

#6 It’s what’s inside, who we are when nobody is watching, that will make us truly successful and fulfilled.

#7 As we move into our purpose, we will not only become everything that God has planned, but people all around us will feel better, and do better, because of us.