When church planters are asked why they went on the mission field, most will say it was because God had called them to take the gospel to the people in another city or country who needed to hear it.
Not so with Pakistani-born Shahid Kamal, the lead planter of South Asian Community Church in Delta.
“I had a burden for Pakistan,” he says. “But because of the persecution, I was forced to leave. I came here as a refugee. Me and my wife, we were serving in Pakistan for 20 years.
I didn’t have any sort of plan to leave. But God brought me here and God opened the doors. Looking back, I realized God used those circumstances to push me from that place to another.”
In 2012, Kamal and his family settled in Toronto, where he served among South Asians as an associate pastor. During that time, he connected with the North American Mission Board, the church-planting arm of the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) and Southern Baptists in the US.
“I came to know,” Kamal says, “that in Metro Vancouver, not many South Asian churches are planted. It’s a large community here. God just put a burden on our hearts.”
Metro Vancouver is home to more than 300,000 South Asians, most of whom live in Delta, Surrey and Vancouver. According to Statistics Canada’s 2021 Census, BC “had the highest proportion of Canadians affiliated with a Sikh religion (5.9%).” It also found that nationally the proportion of the population who reported being Hindu or Sikh had more than doubled since 2001, rising from “1.0% to 2.3% for Hindus and from 0.9% to 2.1% for Sikhs.”
Kamal, his wife, Maroofa, and their four children, finally arrived here in June 2016 and within three months they had planted South Asian Community Church. Today, upwards of 40 people gather for Sunday worship.
“All are brand new, baptized believers who didn’t know a single word from the Bible,” he says. “They are learning and maturing in their faith. At the same time, they are teaching their extended family members and friends.” As well, their church calendar is filled with various prayer, fellowship and outreach opportunities.
“It takes time,” Kamal adds, to convince South Asians to leave behind their multiple Hindu gods and Sikh gurus and instead believe in Jesus Christ. What has made the difference for many have been miraculous answers to prayer.
“One guy asked me, ‘Show me your God.’ And God showed himself to him,” Kamal says. “After five years, he started feeling something different, and he invited us into his home for prayer and praise and worship and thanksgiving.”
“Shahid’s doing some phenomenal work,” says CNBC WestCoast church planting catalyst Paul Wicki, a position he has held since only last September. Before that, he had served with BC’s Mennonite Brethren. What he’s realized, though, is that Kamal’s ministry is much more the rule than the exception within the CNBC.
“What struck my heart about this denomination, that I really wasn’t that familiar with,” Wicki says, “is this multi-ethnic, multi-language emphasis that seems to be very organic and natural.
They seem to have this excitement and willingness to invest in the kingdom however they can and they’re seeing some real growth happening.”
And given the current large influx of immigrants and refugees into BC from all over the world, it’s important that they find churches that can help them adjust to their new homes.
“People, when they come here, are looking for people that look like them, speak the same language, and are from their home countries,” he says. “So, if we have the gospel presence in churches that can reach those people, they’re most open when they arrive.”
“That’s not to say we’re anywhere near to being perfect at it,” says Conrad Au, a second-generation Chinese-Canadian who launched The Common Place in Coquitlam 10 years ago.
“Every ethnic group has some people who want to embrace everything Canadian – language, culture, everything. And yet some from more privileged areas of the world long for things that remind them of home. It’s going to be an ongoing thing until we see Jesus.”
Yet for South Asian Community Church, perhaps the greatest miracle is how the Spirit is now turning people of different ethnicities, languages and religions into one body of believers.
“We have Punjabis, we have Hindi, we have Urdu. We have Fijian-Indians who understand Hindi,” Kamal says. “And everybody is getting closer to one another. In this way, we found that we are one family.”
Paul Wicki gave a brief overview of the WestCoast Baptist Association, since it was formed in 1955.
We currently have 75 CNBC churches (including plants) in BC. In roughly 30 of these, English is the primary language spoken in the services. The other 45 have other languages as the first language, and the majority provide translation into English.
Here are the church plants during the past five years:
- Redeemer Church, Burnaby – English
- New Song Community Church, Langley – English
- Grace City Church, Surrey – English
- Believe Community Church, Coquitlam – English
- Canvas Church, Oak Bay – English
- Dreamers Church, Port Coquitlam – Korean
- Family Church, Port Moody – Korean
- Follow Church, Surrey – Korean
- Clayton Gloria Community Church, Surrey – Korean
- Jesus Vision Baptist Church – Korean
- South Asian Community Church, Surrey – South Asian
- Vancouver Japanese Church, Surrey – Japanese
- Horizon Japanese Church, Kelowna – Japanese
Anyone interested in knowing more about church planting opportunities in Metro Vancouver or who would like to hear how the Send Network could assist your church in seeing growth and multiplication, contact Paul Wicki at [email protected] or www.sendnetwork.ca.