May 20th passed almost unnoticed as a key day in the transition from Dwayne Buhler to John Hall, the former and new executive director, respectively, of Missions Fest Vancouver (MFV). That was the day signing authority on the organization’s bank account passed from Dwayne to John.
The transition process has been moving along nicely for several weeks now, as the two men worked closely with the board, staff and volunteers, to effect a smooth changeover.
I talked with both Dwayne and John recently, shortly after MFV’s May 15 annual general meeting in Burnaby, where the transition was formally recognized.
Dwayne is a career missionary with 15 years experience in Brazil and Mexico; he led MFV for the past seven years. John, with a marketing, recreation and recruitment background, has a passion to help the church impact the globe with the gospel in new and meaningful ways.
Dwayne is careful about not saying too much about future plans, except to suggest that he and his wife Rhonda’s “love for the Latino people” will undoubtedly play into such decisions.
“We don’t believe that God gave those [Latino] experiences to us for no reason at all,” he said, though that does not necessarily mean another stint in a Latin American country.
“The world has become a smaller place through technology,” he said, adding that it will be interesting to watch – both in Latin America and on the domestic scene – how the ascension of Pope Francis from an Argentinian archbishopric will affect relations between evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics. (As an aside, he noted that one of MFV’s recent past keynoters, evangelist Luis Palau, is on good terms with the new pontiff and speaks well of his goodwill and willingness to build bridges with evangelicals.)
“We have already seen it on a local basis with the Vancouver (Catholic) archdiocese participating” in some congenial ways, Dwayne noted, though “unity is not conformity. It involves the ability to see where there is common ground.” Filipino Christians, who have a long history of co-existence in their own nation can help guide the way, he believes.
“It has been a joy to work with people” – staff, volunteers and attenders at the annual Missions Fest conference ‘under the sails’ at the Vancouver Convention Centre. One of the highlights has been to see an increasing diversity of age and ethnic content among the directors of the organization. At one time, the board average age was in the 70s and was mostly Caucasian. That has pretty much turned around, he said.
For now, the former MFV executive director said there will be some good family time in the Buhler household. Both their daughter, Kayla and son Brett are university students at, respectively, Simon Fraser and Kwantlen.
For John Hall, the move into the executive director’s post has been the culmination of work and faith experiences going back to the 90s. He and his wife, Wei, (of Taiwanese background) met in Ottawa, where he was, among other things, a pastor’s son.
The Halls spent several pivotal years in the 90s and early 2000s developing Eco Outdoor Sports, which has a couple of stores in Vancouver, including one just down the street from Mountain Equipment Co-op on Broadway. They sold that business to his brother-in-law in 2003, all the while preparing for possible mission involvement, which did not work out for health reasons.
Having earned a recreation degree at the University of Waterloo, John returned to school a few years ago at Regent College for a master of arts in theological studies (spiritual theology concentration). He then worked in international recruitment and admissions counselling at Regent, before accepting the offer to become executive director at Missions Fest earlier this year.
John is keen on seeing relationships built between various sectors of the evangelical and broader Christian community that can emerge from the whole missions movement. “There is a better opportunity in Canada for doing so than, for example, in the United States, where there is more ‘tribalism’,” he suggested.