We Love Windsor is an annual three-day event in Windsor, Ontario. Last year, members of The Gathering stood near the warehouse where the church meets and distributed water and soft drinks at one of the busiest intersections in the city. The simple act of kindness is just one of the ways Garth and Patty Leno, church planters with the North American Mission Board, and their church, The Gathering Windsor, seek to engage the largely unchurched population of Ontario’s 10th largest city.
“We try to take advantage of existing opportunities and create some of our own,” said Garth Leno, pastor of The Gathering Windsor. “Every chance we get, we throw a party.”
The Gathering’s first birthday barbecue in May 2015 was an especially popular event, drawing a packed house of 350 people. The celebration included testimonies, baptisms, and afterward, carnival games and food. The first birthday party was so successful, the church did it again in 2016 and attracted an even larger crowd.
The Gathering Windsor also has incorporated backyard Bible clubs and three weeks of sports and arts camps to gain traction in the community. Though the events are fun, the goal is to create an atmosphere of invitation in a community that, like the rest of Canada, is extremely underchurched, Leno said. In the city of Windsor with a population of 230,000, only one Canadian Baptist church exists, one reason The Gathering plans to plant two new churches in the region.
“We keep looking for ways we can penetrate the communities in which we live, invite people to engage, and to say The Gathering is a really good alternative to what you’ve known as church in the past,” Leno said.
The city’s strong automotive and manufacturing industries and proximity to Detroit, Michigan, have brought families from around the globe to the region, many of whom come from Orthodox, Muslim, Buddhist, Catholic, or Hindu backgrounds. As people find their way to The Gathering, they are exposed, some for the first time, to simple worship, passionate prayer, and strong Bible teaching—a commitment that is paramount to the mission of The Gathering.
“There is a real hunger and a deep need for good Bible teaching in our city. In the early days that was the big draw—open Scripture and let God speak through His Word,” Leno said.
After first outgrowing the Lenos’ home and then rented spaces, The Gathering is now looking for a permanent location. They ask for prayer in discerning where God wants the church to be located in the long-term and the financial costs associated with a perma-nent location.
Most of all, Garth and Patty seek prayer for the members of The Gathering to truly learn how to live life on mission. “Pray our people will become everyday missionaries. Some have lost the urgency with which we started the church, so pray that the Lord increases our sense of urgency in reaching lost people with the gospel.”
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