Winnipeg Church Touches the World

  Horizon Weekly | 18 March 2020

By Karen L. Willoughby

WINNIPEG, Manitoba—“It’s in the DNA of Garden Park Baptist Church to be missional,” Terry Desaulniers says.

Though his education and experience are in accounting, Desaulniers has been pastor since 2012 of the church started by Bob Shelton in 1985. Shelton today is the Send City missionary in Calgary.

Garden Park Baptist from its beginning gave 10 percent of undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program.

The Cooperative Program—CP—is Canadian Baptists’ unified giving plan to fund local, national and international ministries.

“I knew from the original documents in the church’s history regarding the Cooperative Program that it was always 10 percent, though in time it had dropped to 5 percent.” Desaulniers told Canada’s Horizon. “It started out being a church that was missional, wanting to reach out, and I wanted to get back to that.”

The first-time pastor led the church to increase its CP giving by 1 percent a year until it was back to allocating 10 percent.

When asked why it was important to the Garden Park congregation that they be part of spreading a Gospel witness through the Canadian National Baptist Convention, the pastor responded, “We can’t all go places but with CP we can be a part of what God is doing through it.

“The idea of the Cooperative Program is that we can do more together than any of us could do on our own,” Desaulniers said. “Being part of CNBC, there’s support when you need it, encouragement when you need it, and being a smaller church, to be part of something bigger than we can do is always encouraging.”

Garden Park members love to hear missionary speakers share their testimony, and they’re avid readers of Horizon, the pastor said.

“They’re curious to see where God is working,” Desaulniers said. “They love to watch God work. Knowing they are a part of it is encouraging to them because they don’t always get to go themselves.

“It was kind of hard when Horizon went electronic, because so many didn’t have access to it electronically,” the pastor continued. “So, we print it out for those who don’t [have access].”

Desaulniers was not a Christian when he left his native Winnipeg to study accounting at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota. There he met and married Dawn, a committed Christian from Belgrade, Montana, who became a special education teacher.

The couple moved to Virginia, where they both found employment. In time at the Southern Baptist church they attended, he became a Christian as a result of his wife’s Christian example, Desaulniers said. While in Virginia he frequently prayed for someone to share the Gospel with his family and friends in Manitoba.  

“We both felt the call to pray for someone to go and preach the Gospel in Winnipeg, and lo and behold, it was us, to share with my family,” Desaulniers said.

The couple and their two daughters, since joined by a son, became active members at Garden Park Baptist and in the church’s youth ministry.

He led the youth to participate in two missions endeavours. The first was local, to do odd jobs at a women’s shelter and at an area park, “to get them used to serving,” the pastor said. The second was to lead the program for youth one year at the CNBC annual Convention that was in Saskatoon.

The pull to ministry became strong, and by 2010 Desaulniers left his full-time accounting job for part-time ministry directing the youth at Garden Park Baptist.

The previous pastor of Garden Park Baptist resigned in June 2011. In January 2012 Desaulniers was named interim pastor. In time, the “interim” was dropped and now he is affirmed every year as the church’s pastor and sole staff member.

Today, about 70 people participate in Sunday morning worship at Garden Park Baptist, and many of those are involved in local ministry:

Once a month, church members prepare and host a soup kitchen in rotation with other churches. Throughout each month, members gather specific food items for a co-op that teaches healthy cooking in an aboriginal community. One of the young people he taught when he was youth pastor is now leading the youth ministry at Garden Park Baptist.

Last Christmas Garden Park Baptist produced a dinner theatre that had a sold-out 80-person attendance on each of two nights.

Conceived and directed by the pastor’s oldest daughter, Danielle, now 24, the church members/actors—some in first-century costumes, others in modern-day attire—kept looking through the audience, who were sitting at round tables, and up on stage for a missing baby.

“The baby is the reason for the season,” the pastor explained, adding that the script was from “It was a fun thing, with a message: Jesus is the reason for the season.”

A five-course spaghetti dinner that started with spring rolls completed the evening that “exceeded all expectations,” Desaulniers said.

Taking advantage of the seasonal effect known as “cabin season,” Garden Park Baptist provides an annual camping ministry each July that takes place at Birds Hill Park, some 20 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

“We worship out there and fellowship out there, and sometimes baptize in the lake,” Desaulniers said. “It’s a relaxed time away from the busyness of life when we draw closer to God and to each other.”

That strengthens and inspires the congregation so when they return to their normal lives, they’re better equipped to reach out to the diverse populations who have moved into the north-west Winnipeg neighbourhoods surrounding the church.

“We have to figure out how we can effectively share the Gospel with the people who now live here,” Desaulniers said. “There’s no greater joy than seeing someone come to know the Lord and then growing in their faith.”

Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for the Horizon.



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