This is a celebration week for Barb and I. Fifteen years ago this week, I first set my foot in the BC Legislature. It was a fuzzy vision that I couldn’t shake! Last week, I walked the halls on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, doing there what I used to do in Victoria.
If this was only my story, the journey from BC to Ottawa would be pretty amazing. But God is much bigger than just me and my story. He‘s given us a team of Spiritual Care Providers who share the vision to provide excellence in spiritual care to Canadian political leaders that stretch from BC to Quebec City (plus one other province that goes public on Friday!). They are hard working, faith-filled coworkers and colleagues who are dear friends who feel like family.
Add to that a team of almost 100 volunteer Prayer Coordinators, Prayer Writers, and over 8500 Prayer Partners. The most important members of our team are our donors and financial partners. None of this happens without you!!
What follows are memories of our past and updates that point to our future.
I can’t tell you the exact day that the ‘idea that wouldn’t go away’ took root in my heart and mind, but I do know that it was on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in August of 2004. I’d been working through a personal study of Bible characters like Joseph, Daniel, Esther and Nehemiah and had been looking for the ‘one thing’ they held in common that set them apart from their peers, and then, I saw it.
The ‘one thing’ was that God had placed them in the lives of leaders and used them to influence the destiny of nations. If not for Joseph, the world would have starved to death. If not for Esther, Hamaan would have exterminated the Jews. God used Nehemiah to champion the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, with the King’s permission and on his credit card! Daniel served multiple kings and was regarded as a wise man who solved complex problems. He was so valuable to the Empire that he survived multiple purges of the King’s advisors.
My response was, ‘God, that’s amazing! Who does that today?’ That question was a tipping point moment for me and became the moment the ‘idea that wouldn’t go away’ took root in my heart.
Thirty months of thinking, praying, running from, and finally running towards that vision took place between my ‘aha’ moment and the day I set foot on the ground at the BC Legislature. I had so much to learn about faith, faithfulness and, far too often, my faithlessness before I was able to take the first steps towards what was in my heart.
Reinhard Bonnke summarized what I was learning this way. ‘When you do business with people, you need money. When you do business with God, you need faith. Faith is the currency of the Kingdom of God.’
One of my favourite chapters in the Bible is Heb 11. Each early verse begins with ‘By faith,’ and then the writer names the character and their faith exploits. While I don’t presume to qualify with the many whose names are written there, I’ll say this, ‘By faith, Tim and Barb sold their house in Kamloops, loaded their earthly possessions into a U-Haul and followed God into a journey they didn’t fully understand at the time.’ One of our most crucial lessons was that obedience was more important than understanding.
We rented a house in downtown Victoria because buying was too daunting. We paid our rent in full for a year to ensure we would have a roof over our heads if things didn’t work out like we hoped and prayed they would.
I’ve never prayed harder than I did in those early days. There was so much at stake for our family and our future. To borrow an expression from a dear friend and former pastor, we prayed, we worked, and on the days we were most afraid, we believed that God would make a way forward! Seven months after moving to Victoria, we took possession of our Victoria home and got the keys 14 years ago today!
We’re still walking out an incredible journey that is equally terrifying and exhilarating. There are days it takes our breath away, and there are days when it feels incredibly overwhelming and challenging. Through it all, we have tasted and seen the goodness of God. We wouldn’t change a thing!
The second Tuesday in February is always Throne Speech day in BC. To help me launch the ministry, a friend and recently named Cabinet Minister invited me to be his guest for the 2007 speech. I don’t think there’s another province that does the Throne Speech as well as BC does! There are cannons, military bands, a parade, an inspection of the troops and a good representation of protestors hoping to make their point. When you combine that with pink blossomed trees, daffodils and crocuses, it’s in a class of its own.
Shortly after I was seated in my gallery seat, I peeked around the pillar that blocked half of my view and noticed two leather-covered chairs on the main floor and whispered to my guest, ‘what do you think you have to do to sit down there?’
Moments later, my Cabinet Minister friend came out on the floor to do a bit of a walkabout. It was pretty clear that he was looking for someone. When he scanned my gallery section, I gave him a big wave. His eyes got wide, and he began to motion that I should come down and meet him at the door. I arrived at what I later discovered is called the Golden Gate. My friend was standing with a man dressed in a formal black suit, wearing a colonial hat and a sword on his belt. He was introduced to me as the Sergeant at Arms, who had an important question for me.
‘Reverend, we need your help. We’ve been unable to reach the minister scheduled to open our session in prayer today. Would you be able to help us?’ Fortunately, my theological training included a lesson on being ready to preach, pray or die at a moment’s notice, so my immediate answer was yes! After my reply, he invited me to follow him down what I remember as a dark hallway. My friend walked beside me, threw his elbow into my ribs and instead excitedly proclaimed, ‘We know who’s really in charge today, don’t we, Tim?’
With my best ‘deer in the headlights look, I nodded in the affirmative while I watched the Sergeant’s robes flap in the wind as we hurried down the hall. It was a full-on Hogwarts moment!! We went directly to the Speaker’s office, where I was asked the same question again. I responded with a hearty, ‘Mr. Speaker, I’ll be happy to serve!’ He followed with, ‘Very well, follow the Sergeant.’
The Sergeant took me through a revolving door, and my immediate, rather unspiritual moment was ‘Holy Cow! I’m on the floor of the Legislature!’ He gave me some quick instructions on where to stand and sit. (He pointed at the chairs I was wondering about earlier.) Finally, he told me my prayer needed to be 45 seconds or less. Fortunately, my theological training also included a course on praying quickly, so I was good to go!
My Cabinet Minister friend returned just as members came through the same door that I did. He stood beside me, introduced me as his constituent and told them that I was coming to Victoria to set up a ministry specifically to help them.
In the months that followed, he took great delight in introducing me as the Legislative Chaplain to anyone with a heartbeat! My favourite moment was when we walked into an office where the language was rather ‘colourful.’ He cleared his throat, called the member by name and said, ‘that’s no way to talk in front of the Legislative Chaplain.’ Without batting an eye, she turned to me, apologized and repeated what she had just said, but without swearing. I still laugh when I think of that!
The magnitude of what happened for Leading Influence that day underscored that God was not just WITH us but that He had GONE BEFORE us to prepare the way. In the early days, sorting out how we would do what God had called us to do was often overwhelming. Remembering what God did for us on our first day filled us with hope, faith and courage to face the days that lay ahead!
Our vision has always been to provide excellence in emotional and spiritual care to every Canadian politician, but we’re not exactly an ‘overnight success.’ Apart from some limited admin support, I mostly worked alone for the first half of our history. That changed in the fall of 2015 when Jason Goertzen joined our team. Before working together, Jason and I were friends and fellow baseball dads, which made his addition to our team an effortless transition. Jason immediately shone (and continues to shine) in his work with BC MLAs, and I knew that his arrival would allow me to plant our work in Toronto.
I’m married to my best friend, and it still surprises me that we even entertained the idea that I would commute to Toronto for several weeks at a time while the Legislature there was in session. It was no small sacrifice, but God showed his faithfulness to us in so many ways!
On my first week in Toronto, I got invited to come along to ‘Plowing Match.’ Plowing Match is an agricultural event set up in a farmer’s field in rural Ontario. In theory, it’s about who can plow the straightest furrow with either horses or a tractor, but it’s an excellent time for politicians to mix with rural voters and have a bit of a road trip.
On the morning of our trip, Barb called me to say that while she’d been praying for me that morning, she heard God say that I was going to face a Goliath that day and that when I did, I needed to run towards it in the same way David did. I tucked that away for future reference and went on with my day.
I rode out to the two-day event with a new friend and several of his colleagues. When travelling with politicians, you can expect that the conversation will be political. At one point along the way, the frustration with a particular political situation boiled over for one of the guys in the back seat. He went into a rant about the opposing party weighted with a word that starts with ‘F’ and probably required a language warning. I began to laugh (probably because I was nervous), and he assumed I was laughing at him. He responded with, ‘So, Tim, what’s your gig anyway?’ The car went silent, and at that moment, I knew that Goliath was in the back seat while we were speeding down the 401.
Taking a very deep breath, I said, ‘I lead an organization that provides emotional and spiritual care to Canadian politicians. We do that because we believe that leaders who are well supported emotionally and spiritually provide better governance than those who aren’t.’ After another prolonged silence, he replied with ‘That’s ‘blanking awesome!’ It wasn’t the time to say, ‘I can’t believe you just said that out loud,’ but I wanted to!
When we got to the hotel, my friend pulled me aside and said, ‘if you want to just stay at the hotel, I understand.’ I replied with ‘are you kidding me? I’ve heard all those words before; I’d cut my arm off to be here!’
That night, I walked back to the hotel with my new friend, and he asked again what I did. As I explained it more fully, he replied, ‘I get it. I was schooled by Jesuits. It’s a good thing that you’re here.’ We remain good friends!
God used those two days as a catalyst to launch our work in Ontario. I commuted for three years. In the summer of 2019, Charlie Lyons joined our team to serve at Queens Park. Like Jason, he is shining in his role, and I’m thrilled to see how well he is serving both members and staff there.
We’ve had some epic moments where we saw God do the things that only God can do over our 15 years, but the best part about our story isn’t limited to moments. The best part of our story is the people who have stepped up to help us build what Leading Influence/Appui de Pointe has become.
Our first donors invested in a fuzzy vision that was untested and unproven. Our first board members signed their names to our founding documents, officially tying themselves to our vision and stated purposes.
We have an incredible team of Care Providers that I’m honoured to call friends and valued colleagues. I’ve already mentioned Jason (BC), Charlie (ON) and Heather (AB). In 2020 we added Grant and Anne-Claire (QC) a year TO THE DAY that Charlie agreed to join our team. Adding Grant and Anne-Claire allowed us to create a French identity. In Quebec, we are Appui de Pointe and PrionsQuebec.
Jim (LeadWell) joined our team to launch and lead our leadership development course. Fred (SK) also joined our team in 2020. Renee joined to serve in (MB) in 2021.
Stacy joined our team to provide administrative support in 2019. We didn’t know we’d won the lottery when she said ‘yes to the laptop,’ but we are so thankful that she did! She makes us better in every way! Chrissy (QC) and Matt (NB) provide social media support in both official languages.
I’m thrilled that on our 15th birthday week, we can announce that Andrew Holm is joining our team to serve in St. Johns. It’s an honour to have you with us, Andrew!
We’ve learned a lot in the past 15 years about serving and caring for leaders. We’re adding leadership coaching and mental wellness training to our repertoire to increase our impact and outcomes across the nation. Our LeadWell course prepares Kingdom leaders to serve in the political arena before they get there. We’re about to start using a modified version for leaders already in office, which will produce immediate benefits!
Some of you reading this are regular donors. Some of you are periodic donors. Some of you have never considered supporting our work financially. Today, I’m asking you to consider helping us to prepare for the next 15 years. We have chaplains who need help while they raise their support. We have behind-the-scenes opportunities that we can’t talk about yet, and we have a nation that desperately needs leaders who are well supported emotionally and spiritually.
Here’s how you can support our work. Go to https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/9317 to give by credit card through our CanadaHelps platform. You can designate to a province/project or give to the LI/AP general fund. You can also give via e-transfer by using firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to provide us with your email and any instructions in the message box.
Thanks for your support, generosity and partnership! To quote Caleb in Numbers 13, ‘We should go up and possess the land, for surely we can do it!’