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Breaking New Ground

Couples for Christ held a Christian Life Program in Toronto, Canada. This was no ordinary Christian Life Program (CLP). It was extra special and carried much more significance and much more meaning. In the words of Rev. Donald Pond, the charismatic Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Evangelical Church; “This is breaking new ground, blazing a new trail.”

Indeed it was, as history was made when the first Christian Life Program ever to be conducted by CFC in a church outside of a Roman Catholic one. It may well go down also in the record books of Emmanuel Lutheran Church as the first joint cooperative efforts with a Catholic Jay community in Canada. It is also an outstanding example of ecumenism at work.

A melting pot, Toronto's multi-cultural make-up is clearly evident among the CLP participants. The CLP has crossed not only religious and racial lines but those of age, gender, social and economic barriers.

Venue for the historic event was the Luther Hall of the Emmanuel Lutheran Evangelical Church at Victoria Park Avenue in the East Central part of the newly-formed mega city of Metropolitan Toronto. The church occupies the northern section of an eight-storey structure that also houses the Emmanuel Manor, an apartment housing facility for seniors. The program was slated to start at 7:30p.m. but Luther Hall was abuzz with activity at half past 6 as service team members set up the hall for the CLP. Music provided by members of the East Chapter Music Ministry greeted everyone that entered the hall and each song added progressively to the excitement. Hopeful anticipation was very much evident not only on the face of Ricky Cuenca, CFC Country Coordinator for Canada but also on those of Pastor Donald Pond and Terry Hutchings, Chairperson of ELC parish council. Likewise, the contagious excitement generated by the historic event was manifested in the presence of CFC leaders Jun Reyes, Ontario Cluster Head, Ed Hilario, Ontario East Chapter Head and other CFC family ministry members who filled the hall to capacity.

The program started at 7:30 p.m. with the music ministry leading and coaching the participants in the singing of CLP songs. By the time Ricky Cuenca led the opening prayer 15 minutes later, the air was fully charged with joyful excitement and anticipation that most people, if not all, must have felt the Lord's Presence through the Holy Spirit. Ricky was his usual dynamic and fiery self as he delivered the Orientation talk. Ann Galvin-Garside gave the talk on “God's Love.”

Pastor Donald Pond and wife Diane, and ELC Parish Council Chairman Terry Hutchings and wife Phyllis warmly welcomed Couples for Christ and CLP participants.

Lively group discussions carried well into the merry fellowship period. Dae and Emma Martin are the CLP Team Leaders; assisted by Mario and Zeny Raon.

This CLP is historic not only for going beyond denominational lines, but also for crossing age, gender, social, racial and economic lines. The participants and facilitators reflect the multi-cultural make-up of Toronto's demographics in particular and of Canada in general. There is a happy balance of participants from the Lutheran, Catholic, and other churches.

Of the 11 couples, 3 are Caucasians and 8 are Asians, mostly Filipinos; 5 couples are Lutheran and the rest are Catholics.

Of the 7 handmaids, 3 are Caucasians and 5 are Filipinos; 4 are Lutheran, 3 are Catholics and one is Pentecostal.

Of the 3 singles, one is a Filipino female and a Catholic; the other two males are both Lutheran, one is Filipino and the other Afro-Canadian, plus one Filipino servant who is Lutheran.

Most of the participants are working while a few are already in their retirement. One handmaid participant attended the program with her granddaughter, who promised to invite and bring along her parents which could give CFC Ontario its first 3-generation family of participants in a single CLP. It is living proof that CFC is all about “Families in the Holy Spirit Renewing the Face of the Earth.” For that is exactly what brought about this CLP at the Emmanuel Lutheran church. Family members inspired by the Holy Spirit worked with other members of the family.

It all started with Conrad and Hope (Mapanao) Mina's persistent prodding and urging of her relatives to attend the CFC Christian Life Program. Hope's persistence finally paid off when her father, Leo Mapanao, together with her sister Faith with her husband Chito Navarro went to the CLP at St. Lawrence Parish in Scarborough, Ontario.

Convincing the father to attend the CLP was not an easy task for Hope Mina. Her father is not only a very upright and spiritual man, but also a Deacon at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church. Her sister Faith Navarro, who has been the organist at ELC since her early teens, shares that she ran out of excuses not to attend the CLP.

But God's plan and God's work it was. Leo Mapanao together with daughter Faith and her husband Chito completed the CLP. They must have liked the work being done by CFC and its family ministries that another daughter, Grace, completed the CLP at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Markham, Ontario. Mommy Mapanao and the other daughter, Charity and her husband Sunil are participants in this CLP at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church.

Deacon Leo Mapanao and his family played a very pivotal role in bringing this work of “uniting all believers in Christ, transcending differences of creed, ritual and policy” into reality.

Hopefully, this new ground and new trail will lead to more areas of work for CFC; geographically, as more Canadian provinces and territories are evangelized and laterally, as more brothers and sisters in the other Christian denominations are reached and touched by CFC's work and programs. Couples for Christ together with Emmanuel Lutheran Evangelical Church have broken new ground and have blazed a new trail in its mission work in Canada.

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