#16 – Introducing our BCMB Executive Board Moderator: Perseverance & Lessons Learned ft. Sharon Simpson

 In

You have to open up a space in your life – that was a day’s work gone – open that space up and ask God, “How will you let me walk into it?” I don’t think that you can have that kind of impact in people’s lives, if you don’t have some, like, literal time and give the people the feeling that – if you need me, if you’re in that situation, I’m here for you. I think when you have a posture of curiosity and interest, people like that. You know, I think about the people that I like being with the most, they’re interested in me. They’re interested in the things that I’m doing. They ask questions to follow up and, you know, so I’ve looked at that and I think I want to mirror that in my life. I want to be a person that’s interested in another person, that finds out something. ~ Sharon Simpson

Many of you have not had the opportunity to meet our Executive Board Moderator, even though she has been a part of our team at BCMB for some time now and you have likely seen her on stage at some of our past Convention AGMs. Join Rob Thiessen as he walks with Sharon Simpson through some of the experiences that have shaped her life. We hope to give you a small window into the heart of the woman who is an integral part of our leadership.

TOPICS INCLUDE

  • Great beginnings
  • Some tough times in ministry
  • Some surprising means God has used to His glory
  • How putting yourself  ‘out there’ in an authentic way, can be a blessing
  • The value of investing time and love into other people

SHOW NOTES

#16 – Introducing our BCMB Executive Board Moderator: Perseverance & Lessons Learned ft. Sharon Simpson
BCMB Pastor to Pastor Podcast

 
 
00:00 / 43:41
 
1X
 

TRANSCRIPTION

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Sharon Simpson:
You have to open up a space in your life - that was a day's work gone - open that space up and ask God, "How will you let me walk into it?" I don't think that you can have that kind of impact in people's lives, if you don't have some, like, literal time and give the people the feeling that - if you need me, if you're in that situation, I'm here for you. I think when you have a posture of curiosity and interest, people like that. You know, I think about the people that I like being with the most, they're interested in me. They're interested in the things that I'm doing. They ask questions to follow up and, you know, so I've looked at that and I think I want to mirror that in my life. I want to be a person that's interested in another person, that finds out something.

BCMB Intro:
Welcome to the BCMB podcast. Pastor to Pastor, this is a podcast by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. We want to help equip and encourage pastors, churches and anyone else who wants to listen in and be more effective in their ministry.

BCMB Intro:
This is Episode 16, introducing our BCMB Executive Board Moderator, Sharon Simpson.

Rob Thiessen:
All right. Hey, everyone, it's Rob Thiessen. The BC Conference - What am I? I'm the BC Conference Pastor. And just really welcome you to our podcast here. It's Monday morning, rainy, Monday morning in October. And I'm very excited to have, in the studio with me today, Sharon Simpson. Sharon, you are our British Columbia Mennonite Brethren Executive Board Moderator.

Sharon Simpson:
That's a long one.

Rob Thiessen:
Yes. Which is like the chairperson. And you have been in this leadership role, well you've been serving with us for, I don't know, like three or four years now and giving leadership over this past year and it's just, it's been a delight to get to know you, to hear the many stories. And ever since we started the podcast, it's been on my mind to think, "oh, I'd love to interview Sharon and have her be able to share some of the lessons of her life" and some of your experiences in sharing the Lord. So maybe let's just give a direction. You can let us know a little bit about yourself and your journey and, yeah, introduce yourself to to the family.

Sharon Simpson:
Sure. Thanks, Rob. I appreciate that. And it's been a really good time working alongside of you. I think we've been going for a little bit over a year. And I really have learned a lot about leadership from you, Rob, about faithful leadership, Christian leadership and pastoral leadership. It's meant a lot for me to see that in action. And we've gone through some difficult things and walked together through that and I've really appreciated that.

Rob Thiessen:
Okay. You're starting out with affirming me, which is a part of your leadership gifting. Maybe you'll talk to us a little bit about that later. How important encouragement is, but thank you for that. Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah. Well, somebody in BCMB said to me, where did you come from? Like, did you just come out of nowhere?

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
And that's kind of interesting because in some ways, yes, I did not come from a Mennonite Brethren background. I grew up in what was then the General Conference in the Mennonite Mennonite Church Canada and went to MEI here in Abbotsford as a kid. And I went there because I wasn't doing well in public school. My parents were afraid for me and my choices and so, came to MEI and had what I would consider, like, the most foundational biblical sound teaching of my life. I don't have a Bible college background. I didn't go to seminary. I don't have those pieces in my journey. So a lot of what I learned, I learned when I was a teenager at MEI. When I was in grade eleven, I had Wally Sawatsky and Leo Regear, who were principal and vice principal, ask me if I would run for Student Body President. And that had not occurred to me. And when I look back now at that invitation, I think that was maybe the first time that somebody outside of my family was starting to see within me a gift in leadership. And I did run for student body president. And that was something that I did in grade 12, which was, you know, an interesting time. I mean, I don't know that I accomplished very much, but it was the start of of leading.

Sharon Simpson:
I went to university after that and got very involved with what was then, Campus Crusade for Christ. That was the first time I had been discipled. I had a woman that met with me every week. We did what - you know, I look back and think, wow, it was crazy! - every week we went out and shared the four spiritual laws all over the University of British Columbia, and then I've done that at the University of Alberta, Manitoba. People have opinions about that. I learned how to share the gospel succinctly and kindly and found out that there are people that like to talk about those things anonymously, that will open up their life if they have a chance to have a conversation and never see you again. And that was interesting to me to learn that, the lack of acknowledgement, that they don't want to talk to me the next day if they saw me in the hall, if they were a stranger and they had really revealed something about their life.

Sharon Simpson:
My husband, Gary and I, we were on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ for 12 years. At the end we were at the University of Calgary and I had my four little kids. I was running a daycare and our house was an open house. All university students that were part of our group or any of their friends could do laundry at our house. We had 60 university kids through our house every weekend. It was...(*laughter*) I liked it, it was fun. I liked what they were learning. I liked knowing what they were learning...Yeah. We moved back to British Columbia and Gary became a pastor and we had some really hard pieces of our journey. And it was then that I began to recognize some of the hard times of leadership I had experienced in my years in Christian ministry and started to face some of those things that were really, really wounding and continued to hurt me.

Rob Thiessen:
What were some of the lessons you feel like, you know, that settled in your heart through through those hard experiences?

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah, I... I think that courageous conversations with people and being able to just decide that no matter what the outcome is, I need the conversation with that person. So that did happen for me. And I think the 'no matter what the outcome is', is the part that is the depth of trying to find that trust in God's way that he has for my life. You know, that each of us has to find, God has a way for my life and He IS the one that is guiding my steps. And those conversations - being on the side where, you know, I had no power or... yeah, no power and trusting God that he would be faithful to me in my life.

Rob Thiessen:
That's, like, a huge lesson or learning that you're describing there, that you went through hard and hurtful experiences and - like, people have choices then, when those things happen, they can decide, like, how they're going to respond to that, right? And a pretty common response is withdrawal. People have been wounded.

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
Now I'm going to pull back and I will never do that again or I will never let myself be hurt that way again. But you described a different response. You decided in your heart, that you would have hard conversations, that you would not let something just go.

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
That's a profound lesson.

Sharon Simpson:
It was really hard. Like, I don't want to pretend, in any way, that those years were simple. And I think about other people who maybe are walking in that journey and, you know, when you're not used to having conversations like that - especially on the scale that I was involved in at that time - I did not know how to have those conversations well and there would definitely be feedback that, you know, I wasn't necessarily kind-spirited in all of the things I said, or able to really function well. I just knew that I had to move, take a step, but, you know, with withdrawal... Gary and I went for a few years where we did not have any leadership in ministry. We were at the Promontory Church plant. We live up in that community in Chilliwack and Brian Wiebe was there, he was giving Gary opportunity to preach. And I'll be honest, I never went to a church service. I only ever worked with the kids. I thought, kids are safe, kids are good. And it was my... there was some withdrawal. Like, it wasn't like I was just bouncing around, ready to do the next thing.

Rob Thiessen:
Right.

Sharon Simpson:
And then when I started my own business, I had two business partners. And we had worked with Christian organizations in web development, online communications. And I just said, like, these Christian conversations and the way that the expectations are in the Christian community, are just too hard. Everybody wants everything for free. We can't make any money. Let's just make a point blank policy - we don't work with Christians. So, that's just like - How's that for withdrawal? So, part of that was, you know, longing to be part of the bigger community when we had been part of a Christian organization for SO long. How do I explore and, you know, connect with the world?

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah. And we did that through our clients, which was profound for me.

Rob Thiessen:
Right. Well, that's really... that's excellent to hear you share that. So that just pulls in a window that, hey, this journey towards engagement, to dealing with issues, it's a long journey and there is some withdrawal. There is some, you know, there's woundedness. And then, how do I deal with that? And then pulling back? So I think that's so important for us to recognize, not to beat ourselves up, because, you know, right now I feel wounded and I'm not ready to deal with something. And then you feel pressure, "Oh I have to deal with this right away." And then, oftentimes, we make mistakes when we do that, right? We handle things poorly. So that's really a good learning...

Sharon Simpson:
And finding the balance, too, between Gary and I. Like, he was he was really hurt in ministry. And we were... you know, he was selling cars. It was just unfulfilling - you know, when God has called you to ministry - was unfulfilling and non-functional, in terms of making money. So we were just like, how are we going to continue? Well, he started to express he wanted to go back into ministry. I didn't want that. And I've always thought, you know, I'm a stronger influence on my husband as a pastor than probably anybody else. He's going to listen to me at home telling him, "No ministry. I don't wanna do that." And it was in community, that there was another person who just stood up one day at a dinner we were at, she pounded her fist on the table and said, "God's called you, so you have to just go back!" And I was looking at her thinking, you're like a really, kind of, a quiet person and all of a sudden you got all prophetic here! But if we hadn't stayed in community, if we hadn't been IN that environment, that person wouldn't have been able to speak, you know, into our lives. And that, to me was like, "If you stop your husband from going into ministry, how will you live with your life? How will you do that?" When he got interviewed at Broadway church, they interviewed me too, and asked me how I would be involved in the church. And I can't even - this is true what I'm going to say - I asked if they would like me to attend.(*laughter*) Like, I wasn't really prepared. I spent a couple years on that front pew, crying. Just trying to cope with coming back into a space where people are imperfect and it's got some theological pieces.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
But I wanted my kids to follow the Lord!

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
I didn't want to take my kids out of church!

Rob Thiessen:
Right.

Sharon Simpson:
So something in me... like, I wanted to know for myself again, that God was personal - walking with me, cared about me. And, you know, when you start to talk about sharing your faith with other people, I was reading in some article at some point this year about: the number one reason people don't want to share their faith is because they don't know if it functions for THEM. They don't know if it's working for them. And so, why would I go and tell somebody else, "Well this is..., you know, Jesus is so great. Yeah. Not in my life, but in (*laughter*) yours. He could be your, you know, your savior." In that way, I think that whole exploration for me, was a time of really assessing how much I think Jesus means to me. But I didn't... we never left the Christian community to do that.

Rob Thiessen:
So, obviously, talking about, you know, a time of deep hurt in ministry is - you know, we want to be careful and, you know, it's a public podcast - but, you know, is there a window you can share with listeners, just to understand just a little bit about what were some of the woundings that you and Gary felt like you were carrying out of that season of your life? Were you involved in full time ministry, you know, in evangelism ministry, and then that caused you to feel so disillusioned and and discouraged?

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah, we have two different journeys, like Gary's walk would be a little bit different than mine in that way. I think it was philosophy of ministry clashing. We were really becoming more and more like a church, we had over 100 students that were coming to our weekly meetings at the University of Calgary and they were graduating, they were tithing to us, they were asking to be baptized. Well, we were a ministry that wasn't a church. So, to me, the compelling part of being of a community was starting to grow and that was clashing with the philosophy of an evangelism ministry, where you kind of start people off.

Rob Thiessen:
Right.

Sharon Simpson:
You know, we really planted a church there and that church was thriving. And so, you know, when you go to an organization, and say, "Hey, we're philosophically different." They don't say, "Hey, we're changing."

Rob Thiessen:
Yes.

Sharon Simpson:
You know, so I think that... like, that was hard. That was a hard journey because we believe so strongly in the church, that it was hard to not be able to look at those hundred students and say, "Let's be a church together."

Rob Thiessen:
Right.

Sharon Simpson:
And so, you know... But other things, like when you're misunderstood or you don't feel like you had an outlet where somebody in authority was taking action, that was meaningful to you. Those pieces, I think, are really challenging. And that might be pretty universal, if the person that has the authority isn't taking action, that makes makes sense. And we felt unappreciated or misunderstood. Not, you know, not that we took, at that time, the right avenues to BE understood. Not necessarily, you know, we just moved.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
You know, and sometimes that's the hardest part, is then when you're feeling that way to decide, I'm going to go and press into that and find out, you know, what's really going on.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. I think that's so helpful. Sharon, you know, it wasn't really on my mind as we were coming into this podcast to share, but there are a lot of listeners, leaders, church members who, you know, have gone through some real trauma and turmoil in - and it maybe has something to do with what you're describing: philosophical differences, directional differences. It's like, there's not a bad person in the story, there's not like a sin issue.

Sharon Simpson:
No.

Rob Thiessen:
But the ball was dropped somewhere and you were left. And that causes real pain that makes you want to withdraw. And again, it's how we respond to those things that really starts to define us. And I appreciate you sharing it was a journey and a part of the journey for you was getting into business. And I wanted to just ask a few questions about that, because you touched on a few things that you did: you ran a daycare, you had a communication business, a marketing business. So just talk to us a little bit about - because that bridges into your faith in the marketplace and I've often heard you talk about the the things, the doors God opened for you in that role. But that's an interesting thing that you said, "I don't want to deal with Christians in that." Maybe you did it out to hurt.

Sharon Simpson:
Oh for sure.

Rob Thiessen:
But what did that open up for you then, in terms of learnings of how God was at work in the marketplace?

Sharon Simpson:
Well, yeah, that was a good time. I had my business for eight years, I had a really great partner. He was a brilliant online marketer way before there was online marketing. Like, I did an open lecture for women who were movie directors in Beverly Hills. There's a long story to how I got there, but I did get there, in the Beverly Hills library and talking to all of these movie directors and giving them the advice of getting a Twitter account, like that was my... like today, that talk is just silly.

Rob Thiessen:
Was Donald Trump there? (*laughter*)

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah, No, it was mainly women. (*laughter*) I spoke to the Women's Steering Committee and for the Directors Guild of America, and that was just an interesting thing the year before and then I got invited back. And in those conversations, I was just always wondering who has God wanted me to meet here? And, you know, there's a huge film market called - I don't know what it's called anymore. I'll look it up - but it's the film market in Santa Monica and I got invited to go with one of the women directors who I had given a free website to, she and I went there. She's African-American. She gave me her pass and said, "it's the end of the 'American Film Market'" (is what it's called). And she's gives me her pass and she says, "why don't you just walk around? Because you should just see it." Well, the pass itself is worth about three grand, so for me to walk around - like everybody was cleaning up - but I walked through that whole Santa Monica hotel and saw the whole global movie industry, how they buy and sell product, came out, walked with her to her car and her husband was sitting in her in her car. And I said, have you been here the WHOLE time? Like, I feel terrible. You've just been sitting here? He says, "Well, I'm not well. I have kidney failure. And I'm just, I'm not well, I can't really be at home. Just been sitting in the car for a couple hours." And I just felt like the Lord said, "Just pray over this man, this man, is it." So I don't know that I had anything to do with the film market or any of that part. That was all just interesting. This was this gentleman who needed a hand from the Lord and a touch of God, and I prayed over him. What happened to that? I don't have a hot clue. I don't know. I don't know what happened with that. He wept while we prayed. When we did eventually start doing clients that were believers again, you know, after five years or so, I had a wonderful client, John Smed from Prayer Current. And he and his team, we did their first website, and that's when I started to really learn about prayer. The power of prayer as you reach out to people, that God touches people through that. I really recommend that whole methodology, but John himself was working in the west end of Vancouver and had all these stories of how he did prayer walks and prayed for and with and over people and... Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, and he's still, John is still very influential with our church planting networks and Multiply and with his teaching.

Sharon Simpson:
Okay. Yeah. I think my perspective was really shifted for me when one of our University of Calgary students came home. He'd been in a Bible study with my husband while he did his undergraduate, but then he'd started working in China, in mainland China, and he came home and he had a visit with us. And I asked him, "How do you know, like, who you should talk to in China if you have all these underground churches and and people are, you know, if they if they say the wrong thing, you know, your church could be found out and everybody could be put in prison - like, how do you have any confidence about who to speak with?" And he said, "Oh! How do you have any confidence about who to speak with about the Lord?" And I said, "I don't know. Should we talk to everybody?" And then, you know, and he said, "Well, I just pray. I pray. Holy Spirit, show me. Is this somebody I should speak with or not? And I have to trust that God is going to guide me in that direction." And I just thought, I don't do that at all. I just think, well Canada, North America, we should just talk to everybody. You know, the person that's pumping gas on the other side of the pump, you know, "Hey, have you heard of the four spiritual laws?" That's the kind of background I came from, to that shift for me to think: I am not the one that's guiding everything. God is guiding. If he takes me to Santa Monica to pray for somebody in their car, that's what I'll do; that's the expression that God has for that person. I will be obedient. Who these people are, they come and go in my life. But that's sort of it.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, that's awesome. So does it also apply, then, to sort of the agenda in a conversation? Because you know, and how do you take, now, a freer approach to the agenda? Do you feel like God is driving you? How do you think about that?

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah. Like, I don't use a four spiritual laws as a means of conversation. And our society is so different. That was 30 years ago. I was in university. I remember never meeting anybody who believed in God. Atheism was profoundly common. Now it's we're a spiritual climate, people want to talk about spiritual things. So, yeah, I would I would say and relationnally. Like, I think about one of my friends. I joined a dragon boat team. I was on a dragon boat team for 11 years. When I became the coach of that dragon boat team, one of the people came up to me and said, "If you ever proselytize, you are off the boat." And I was like, "Okay." She said, "I'm an atheist. You will not be proselytizing us." And in that, I was trying so hard to hear - what is behind all of that for her? She's been proselytized. What does that even mean? It means that she had to sit and endure something she didn't want to endure, from somebody that was giving propaganda at her. It was hurtful, she was angry. She told me, "I'm an atheist. I'll never be other than that. So don't do that." And I said, "That's completely fine. If you try to proselytize me, I'll feel the same way." Like it's like a two way street. Nobody likes that. We don't like having somebody just come at us and tell us how to live our lives and whatever.

Rob Thiessen:
So joining a dragon boat team like that, just that, that's a little out of the blue? Like was that a decision or just an interest thing that you had? Like what was behind that?

Sharon Simpson:
So there's actually two pieces to that. So the first one, was as I was running my business, I was almost exclusively working with men and that had been in my work. I worked for Power to Change early in the 2000s. And every web and online communications meeting, often I'm the only woman in the room. And as I was moving through that, I was trying to give myself as many resources as possible about how to function well in a room that was mostly men. And I found a book called 'One Hundred and Twenty Three Things' or something like 'That Women Do To Sabotage Their Own Careers'. So in that book, it said that they don't know and understand competition and the way that men compete and then their friends and something like that. So it said, if you're athletic, do something athletic. And if you're not, get into chess. And I thought the last thing... I'm not going to get into chess, not interested in that. So I'm not particularly athletic. What kind of a sport could I do? I'm not fit. So I thought, at the same time, a teacher who was teaching one of my kids invited me, she said to me these words, "You look like you'd be good on a dragon boat team." And I said, "Oh, what about me looks like that? I don't think so. I think you're desperate for somebody just to sit on your team or whatever." She invited me to try it out and I did do that. When I was trying it out in the Harrison Lagoon there, that area, the woman on the front of the boat who became my coach later, Shelley, she's, you know, giving us the commands and I'm, like, coping, barely coping to paddle. And we stopped, had a little break, and the woman behind me asked, put up her hand and said, "Can we smoke on the boat?" And I was like, can we smoke on the boat? I am one notch higher than that, I don't have to smoke while I exercise. So (*laughter*) maybe I'm gonna be okay for the team. So those things kind of came together. I joined that team and my goal was to learn leadership. That was my goal. To learn togetherness. To learn what it means to have a goal together. To win together. To compete. To compete against other teams. There's other teams in Chilliwack. Those people on those teams are my friends. To compete against a friend, to be able to come to the end of that driven part, that is part of who I am and be good at the other end. Find my way with a loss. Find my way with a win. This was not a competitive team. So I am, like, recklessly outside of the recreational part of it, but I loved it and I love coaching and I loved that.

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah, so it was for me, but the friendships are so deep when you are involved in something with people, you get into the trenches with people in some way. For the first two years, I was the very back seat with a woman and I said to her, "Why did you join the team?" And her answer was, "I joined this team because my husband had a horrific brain injury and I am not okay with just being in my house every day." She was driving from hope. She is my dear friend. I listened to that and I thought, what if my husband had a horrific brain injury and I was trying to cope? You know, we went through those years that she and I were on the team. Her girls graduated from high school. Her husband danced with her, danced with the daughter. And I - they never thought he could walk! He danced! Like, we celebrated those things, talked about those things.

Rob Thiessen:
This was the years when you were at Broadway already, Gary was pastoring there? Yeah. So maybe in one sense, your decision at the beginning, just to say, "Well I'll attend church" allowed you a little bit of space to involve in the community, be involved in the community. And it seems to me that God really honored that because you've shared quite a bit of stories and I know maybe there's another one that you want to share, you know, just about the relationships that opened up for you that were surprising and the places God took you because you made a decision to live in proximity to people who were outside the church community.

Sharon Simpson:
Well, yeah, like I got a phone call one day from one of my friends on the on the Dragon boat team, and she asked if I would drive in to Vancouver to see her mom, who was living in long term care, to go with her to see her mom. And I said, "I can cancel my stuff" - like I was working on my own business. I could cancel my stuff - "But what is it that we're, like, what is the urgency?" And she said, "Well, I don't really understand it, but she's getting baptized." And I said, "Oh, okay, she's getting baptized!" This is a non-religious background, non-religious family. And I said, "Absolutely. If you want me there for your mom's baptism in a long term care home, I'll do that with you." So we got in the car and as we start driving, she says to me, "I feel so inept." This is a professional woman, just not inept in any way, "I feel so inept in understanding religious things. I don't know what to do. Can you tell me what baptism is?" And, you know, I think we just get so lost in our world when we're deeply into our Christian world, to think that everybody would know what that even would mean. So here she is. We're driving in, we've got the time before the baptism takes place to talk about what it is, what it would mean to be baptized. She doesn't know even who her mom is getting baptized with or what. Like it's just all an announcement. So when we get there, we find out that a previous neighbor of her mother - they were dear friends, lived in a little cul-de-sac together and this lady was quite a bit younger - had named her children after this friend's family as well. So like, really loved them. This lady was working with the Catholic Church in Richmond as a deaconess, doing visitation. And she came into that care home, saw her former neighbors name on a door, went in and began spiritual conversations with her to the point where she's going to get baptized. So we got there. I brought my Bible, I had my video camera. I asked my friend, like, "Would you feel it's appropriate to videotape your mom getting baptized?" And she said, "I don't know?" And I said, "I think it's going to be meaningful to you one day." I brought with me my Prayer Current book, which is The Lord's Prayer, and I met with the sisters, the three daughters, and said, "You know, your mom is making a spiritual decision and she's going to need more from you in these next days of her life, more spiritual material from you. You need to guide her because you're visiting her everyday.

Sharon Simpson:
So I gave them the book and I said, "You can read sections of the Lord's Prayer every day." And I marked them out with the daughter. One daughter put her mom's name on the book and wrote on the front, 'Do not steal' on the front of the book! Had it beside her bed. The priest came. He was speaking Mandarin, everybody was speaking Mandarin. I didn't understand what was going on and there was some real, like a real chaos going on in the room. There were many people in there and I didn't understand it. And I thought, I'm just in the background, I'll stand in the background. I actually got up on a chair so I could videotape from the top, her mom was bedridden and then the priest - I opened my Bible, I was praying over the group - the priest saw my Bible and he said, "You have a Bible. Are you a believer?" And I said, "Oh, I'm a believer." And he said, "Oh, good, oh, good. I need an English Bible, we can't find one." And that was the chaos. So he got my English Bible. He baptized her. He asked her, "Do you follow Jesus?" Like, it was the same questions that we ask in our church when someone's baptized and she gave her public believer's...

Rob Thiessen:
Believer's baptism testimony, yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
It was just powerful! I videotaped it all and then it was over. Then I drove home, we stayed for a while, and then I drove home with my friend and she said to me, "I don't know what I would have done... How would we have done that without you there?" And I think well, I'm sure they would have done that without me there, but you have to open up a space in your life - That was a day's work gone. - Open that space up and ask God, "How will you let me walk into it?" I don't think that you can have that kind of impact in people's lives if you don't have some, like, literal time.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
And give the people the feeling that if you need me, if you're in that situation, I'm here for you.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
You know, when my dad died, my dragon boat team came to the funeral. I couldn't believe it! I was like, that's like, oh, I'm looking at the back of the service and there they all are. It's like it's emotional for me to talk about it because of the genuine love.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
And one of the people like, I spoke and my brother and my sister and one of the women said, "I've never seen a family ever before that could actually organize themselves to be that good and kind together." Is what she said and I think, how can I be so far from the world where, you know, I'm in many places where there's just a lot of good. Good - I mean, we're dysfunctional - but good families that are trying so hard, you know?

Rob Thiessen:
That's so good, Sharon, it's encouragement to us. I think for a lot of the listeners, just like myself, when I think about your story and I think, "Oh, so much of my life is preoccupied with church." Right? It's the community of Christ that I'm involved in serving, teaching, problem solving, emergency response and that's fantastic. That is... I love it. And it's the call of a pastor and a shepherd. But what you're illustrating is just also deeply exciting to think about the relationships that open up, where you engage in the wider community with genuine friendship and make yourself available by just doing the things that people are doing. You know, obviously there's challenges in it. But when you go in with Christ with you, doors open up; you know, that conversation that you said started at the Dragon boat. The first thing that was said, "Don't proselytize me." Have you had an ongoing relationship with that person?

Sharon Simpson:
Oh yeah, and I came back this last July to just coach one of our regattas, because their coach wasn't available and - oh, my goodness! - like, first of all, I just love it. So this is not, like, a stretch for me to go and be a dragon boat participant. I really love it.

Rob Thiessen:
When you say 'coach', that means you're the person shouting at everybody to paddle harder?

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
Ok, that's fun!

Sharon Simpson:
I love shouting at people, Rob! (*laughter*) Nowhere in my life are people as responsive as on that dragon boat because you can call, you know, "50 percent" and they paddle, they obey you - in the next stroke, they're at 50 percent and then "100 percent" And boom! The power! You can barely sit on that chair. So she and I went over a couple of conversations. I had said to the women when I was prepping them for the regatta, I told them the week before that nobody that's, you know, drunk or hung over is going to be on the boat. And so they were all flaunting it in front of me, you know, that they had a and an alcoholic drink the night before the regatta started. And she was teasing me... Anyway, so we went over a whole bunch of, like, things that had happened in our years together and yeah, she's a dear friend, you know? And I've always thought to myself, like, when I get invited into somebody's life and they invite me into their space, I'll say yes. And like that woman, for example, had a divorce party. Well, I went. She invited us. I went to her divorce party. I just thought, she's inviting me into her life, I want to be part of her life. Well, that's normal, deep, human relationship, you know? Yeah. And I think the piece about when you have a hidden agenda for people, an agenda that - you know, the Holy Spirit isn't the agenda - It's YOU having an agenda and thinking, "If I don't make the difference in this person's life, nobody will." To release that to God's sovereignty, is the piece that is challenging for those of us who want people to come to the Lord, want them to experience what we've experienced, to let that go and just decide, I'm going to be myself, to the best I can be myself - sincere - participate in the things that my conscience allows me to participate in and not participate in the things that my conscience doesn't allow me to participate in. Being a witness. You know, when Fifty Shades of Grey went around, that book went around our whole Dragon Boat team, and there's a lot of pressure for the pastor's wife to read 50 Shades. That was huge. Whoever could take me down on that, that would be their, like, glory. And so many times I would just say, like, "please respect me. I'm not interested in reading that." "Well, you should read it. You know, and la-dee-da." There was lots of, yeah anyway - pressure. And I just think...Yeah, there are things I did not participate in.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
I mean I never drank in front of - alcohol, ever. And I mean, I'm not a drinker, a real major drinker. Not a major drinker ever, but, you know, I'm not... like I just thought that doesn't help.

Rob Thiessen:
You're not a hardcore teetotaler either, but you just chose not there. To not drink.

Sharon Simpson:
It's not gonna be the place that it's going to benefit the way that they see me or perceive me or think - I'm crazy, Rob! Like, there's lots of stuff I do that's crazy. And I didn't want them to think, "well, that's alcohol induced, Sharon," right?

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
Cause I like having a lot of fun.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah, sure. No, that's so great. That's thoughtfully responding to the Holy Spirit. Sharon, we've had a good conversation here tonight. I know I want to respect listeners time, but I just think it would be so important to let people know about your work currently, that I know is so important to you and at this stage in life, you're working at Menno Home. Tell us a little bit about your role there and the way that you see serving the Lord in that place.

Sharon Simpson:
So, it's my complete privilege to work on the executive team at Menno Place. I'm the Director of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement. I'm entering my ninth year of employment there and it was a godsend for me to be able to transition from my business into that world and into leadership. That was a gift and I think that that gift came through, again, other people recognizing my capacity for leadership. We're a faith based Mennonite organization, started in 1953. There's 700 seniors and 700 staff and at least 700 visitors. I mean, there's way more than that, but that's, like, to give you kind of a scope. We're the fifth largest employer in Abbotsford. So most of our staff, or a big percentage of our staff, are not aligned to the same faith base as the organization. And that's just impossible to find Christian people who are going to do all of those jobs. We see that as an opportunity to talk about Christian values. Our values, that we wrote out for the staff and for the way that we function as an organization, spell the acronym SERVICE. And each one of the words, like S is 'stewardship'. Well 'stewardship' is a word we understand in the Christian community or we at least hear it. It's not really a word you hear when you're not from that Christian background. So to have those scriptures that support each of the values, to be able to show that to the staff, engage with it and talk about it. I love my job there. I love the seniors. We're there to serve seniors. Without those seniors that live there who need our support, we would have no reason to exist. It's not just a job that, you know, a job for a job's sake. Those people, their needs, ministering to them - they're the reason, the whole reason that we live and exist, right? You think about that. Like, in a church. I mean, the people that are there in the church, those are the reason that you're there. To support them. So anyway, I love that part of it.

Rob Thiessen:
And I hear you talking about and sharing stories now about the residents, the seniors, that you're engaged with. And you have the same approach. You're interested in their lives. You're reflecting, you know, things that God is teaching you, just by sitting with these people and the people that you work with as well.

Sharon Simpson:
I think when you have a posture of curiosity and interest, then people like that. You know, I think about the people that I like being with the most. They're interested in me. They're interested in the things that I'm doing. They ask questions to follow up and, you know, so I've looked at that and I think I want to mirror that in my life. I want to be a person that's interested in another person, that finds out something. And I mean, I write for The Light Magazine, I write a monthly article on seniors and that's been a godsend because, truly, I have to find a topic every month. Most of the time I just walk into the seniors' community, pull out a topic and start to interview people. And they have time and they want to talk. And some of those interesting ones have been, you know, "What advice would you give to the next generation that's raising little kids?" I thought they would be pretty judgmental about how people are raising their kids. No! It's very much an understanding, like, and also, "I'm glad it's not me. I think it would be really hard in this day and age with the Internet and those kinds of things to be parenting." I've asked them about Christmas, "What are the Christmas traditions that are different?" And those things just start conversations that have given me deep insight into life as it was, in a way that helps to reveal things in my life: entitlement and lack of understanding God's provision, you know, things like that, that I'm not so sharp on because I've been raised in an affluent, Christian, safe, country.

Rob Thiessen:
Sure.

Sharon Simpson:
You know?

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah. We're so shaped by the blessings that we all enjoy and take for granted, but it has shaped our lives and yeah, you take a posture of learning. Sharon, you are a person growing in her faith all the time. Your life. Your approach to life. Your approach to relationships. It inspires me. Whenever we're together, I leave thinking, "Wow! There's things to learn from that sister." And we're so grateful for God's calling on your life, your obedience and your willingness to step up in leadership during this time in our family. It's so, so important. And I hope for our listeners, that those that know you personally will be encouraged to keep you in prayer in your leadership role. And for all of us as listeners, that we would take to heart and also ask the Lord to make us curious, available and ready to walk with the Holy Spirit. So thanks for being with us today, Sharon.

Sharon Simpson:
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Rob Thiessen:
Okay. Bye bye to our listeners and look forward to our next podcast together.

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Comments
  • Wally Nickel
    Reply

    Thank you Sharon and Rob for your conversation and leadership. I truly appreciated hearing vulnerable and candid stories from you, Sharon. It gives me a better understanding of who you are and how I can be praying for you as you live and lead in our midst.

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