When we arrived in Fort Saskatchewan in September of 1982 to begin our first ministry assignment, I wanted to be there for a long time, also realizing that the time would probably come when I would have to leave. But how would I know? I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t get an engraved announcement from God saying something like “Hear ye! Hear ye! I have decreed that the time has come for My servant Len Bachiu to leave Fort Saskatchewan and go to . . .” So, without an engraved announcement how could I be sure that God had indeed decided that we should move. In early 1988, a little short of six years into the assignment I began to feel some discomfort.
I had learned so much in these five and a half years, but I had an overall feeling of malaise. I had learned a lot about both the art and science of preaching. I learned some of that through some rather disastrous mistakes. There is nothing quite so humbling as standing behind the pulpit and publicly apologizing to a family in the church that I had deeply offended by my heavy-handed way of dealing with a concern I had. I did apologize and the potential rift in our relationship was healed. One man in the church said they were like the church in Berea that Paul had declared was more righteous than the one in Thessalonica because they checked everything he said to make sure it squared with the scripture. I learned to check and double check everything I said to verify its biblical authenticity.
I learned a lot about practising the discipline of personal devotions. At first, I was what I called a “white knuckle” Christian. I would come out of my office and sit in the front pew determined that I was going to have a wonderful devotional life or would die trying. I had a stack of resources that I would use, but I learned that spending time with Jesus didn’t have to be that stressful. It was okay to relax and just chat with Him and try to hear what He might want to say to me.
The popular pastoral wisdom of the early 80s was that pastors shouldn’t make deep, lasting friendships in their churches. When they left a church, they left it. Oh, they would still talk with their former parishioners, but they wouldn’t maintain long lasting friendships. After all the people had to transfer their loyalty to a new pastor when the former took another assignment. No pastor wanted anyone in the congregation to feel that someone was getting preferential treatment from him so real friendships were avoided. I wasn’t very good at that. Winnie had married late in life and never had any children of her own so she sort of adopted us into her family. By definition pastors don’t regularly take weekends off. That meant that most Mother’s Days were spent with me in Fort Saskatchewan and my mother 850 kilometers away in Assiniboia. We spent many of these special days with Winnie both while we were in the Fort and then when we took other pastoral assignments.
When we came to Fort Saskatchewan Carilyn was an early teenager with ringlets. Over the years we retained a wonderful friendship, and she still calls me Pastor Len. By the way, there is no title that is more sacred to me than that of Pastor. The relationships forged in the heat of a pastorate are not easily undone, nor do I feel they should be.
But as 1988 progressed, so did my feelings of discomfort. Maybe I should look at another assignment. One day my District Superintendent called me and asked if I would be interested in taking on a different assignment. Was this God speaking to me? I didn’t know, but I felt I couldn’t ignore it.
Iona, our four children and I drove the hour and a half to Rimbey to interview with the board of the Rimbey Church of the Nazarene. The interview went well, and the board said they would like to recommend my name to the congregation as a potential pastoral candidate. When the congregation voted they gave us a unanimous call to join them as their new pastor. It was hard to say good-bye to the only congregation I had ever pastored. The pain of leaving was tempered with this new challenge I would be facing. We packed up our belongings in a couple trucks and moved our family from a small city just outside a large city to a small town in the middle of nowhere. I have said that Rimbey isn’t the end of the world, but on a clear day you can see it from there.
I quickly settled into small town life. I had been raised in a town about the same size as Rimbey. Daily I would walk to the post office to pick up the mail. This ten-minute walk would sometimes turn into an hour or more as I saw people I knew and stopped for a short chat.
I very much remember my first Sunday and the first message I preached in Rimbey. I knew how people in the Fort would react when I preached, and these people reacted completely differently, and I thought I had just made the worst mistake of my life. I felt I had died on the stage, but then I realized that I would have to learn how this group reacted and received my messages. I hadn’t died on stage, they just reacted differently than I had come to expect.
Transitions can be hard, but they can also bring new optimism and joy. We had begun a new chapter and I was looking forward to what his new chapter would hold for me. I had to continue keeping the Son in my eyes.