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Making a Difference as a Family
Christian families can respond to God’s prompting to make their world a better place. Here’s how!

When families face community challenges, such as a proposed sexual education curriculum that parents disapprove of, or a college that tries to prevent young adults from offering pro-life information to their peers, engagement is not only important, it’s necessary. And it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or resources.

… many Canadian organizations have created resources to help families...take even small steps to improve their neighbourhoods and their world.

Johanna Van Dyk is an Ottawa, Ontario, mom of five children under eight. She remembers recently shedding a few tears while watching a documentary about the dolphin kill in Japan. When her children noticed, they discussed it and eventually wrote to the Japanese embassy together.

Children are profoundly influenced by such activities, says Van Dyk. “Part of our family homeschooling is world issues. So we scan the papers, national and local, and we pray for where the community is hurting or we write letters.”

Parents also benefit from discussing issues of interest with their children and acting on them together, whether cleaning up a neighbourhood playground or responding to the plight of persecuted children in a foreign country.

Social worker Liz John-West and her family live in inner-city Edmonton. When she and her husband Geoff graduated from university and wanted to buy a house, they chose something there that was “very cheap and very old,” partly because they didn’t want to pay a mortgage.

After their three daughters were born, friends told them they were crazy to raise children in such a gritty area. The John-Wests decided otherwise, and have had many opportunities to put their faith into action by responding together to local needs. Once they ran an extension cord from their home to another when the other family had their electricity cut off. Another time, they took on the local park – not letting gang activities, needles or condoms deter them in “making a beautiful face in the midst of chaos.” John-West and neighbours created a committee, got the children involved, and lobbied local government for support. The committee raised half a million dollars, and five years later the park is a destination for seniors and young families.

Thankfully many Canadian organizations have created resources to help families that want to take even small steps to improve their neighbourhoods and their world. Here are some to start with. (Those groups with an * are affiliated with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.)"

Power of prayer

The *National House of Prayer offers a daily parliamentary prayer post. Each day, the profile of a Member of Parliament is posted so that families can pray together for our nation’s leaders and get to know them individually.

Nation at Prayer offers a prayer guide at which provides a list of specific points of prayer for elected leaders and for the nation.

The *Voice of the Martyrs offers profiles and country-specific prayer points. Family prayers may lead some who have the financial means to sponsor a child through organizations such as *World Vision Canada or *Compassion Canada.

What a great opportunity for a child to be involved in making a difference with someone his or her age in another country!

Talking with decision makers

Thinking about writing a letter? Visit www.theEFC.ca/TakeAction for tips on making it an effective one. Letters and emails sent to parliamentarians’ offices are read and noted. Many offices track statistically the number of letters they’ve received on various issues.

Children can write a note or even simply draw a picture. One child’s picture may be seen to represent the concerns of many other voters. That webpage also explains how to draft a strategic petition and determine the guidelines as required by the House of Commons. To submit a petition to some other regulatory body, call their offices and find out the best or acceptable way to submit one.

Many bodies don’t yet officially recognize electronic petitions and only acknowledge those that include an original signature.

Going in person

Don’t be shy about visiting elected officials, whether they are Members of Parliament, city councillors or school board members. Call and request an appointment time and be prepared to be flexible. Bring along a child if the child is old enough and it seems appropriate. Elected officials represent the interests of all citizens. (Find more tips on visiting at www.theEFC.ca/TakeAction.)

What about a rally or a demonstration?

Packing a snack and attending one is often a great way to meet similarly-minded families, collect great information at resource tables, and listen to leading experts speak.

Learning more about the issues

*Crossroads Christian Communications offers a full range of educational programming on important issues of interest.

*Focus on the Family Canada provides a full range of child- and family-friendly resources.

The Evangelical Fellowship also offers a wide range of information and resources.

Faye Sonier is legal counsel at The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Alex Newman is a senior writer at Faith Today.

Originally published in Faith Today, September/October 2010.

 

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