It took a lot of persuading, both from his wife and from Pastor Stephen Epp, but Bob finally agreed to join Stephen at the Alberta regional men’s retreat. Bob’s wife agreed to take care of his chores on their farm, and Stephen offered to drive, so Bob had run out of excuses. One of the biggest impacts of this retreat was not the time of fellowship with other Alberta men, any of the teaching, or the worship; it was on the drive back home toward Wiesenthal Baptist Church, when Bob offered to teach Stephen about beekeeping.

Pastor Stephen Epp with his three kids and some of his beehives.

Wiesenthal is the quintessential rural church; the two closest population centers are Leduc to the north (pop: 30,000) and Millet to the southeast (pop: 2,000), both at least a ten-minute drive from the church. Prior to coming to Wiesenthal five years ago, Pastor Stephen had mainly lived in the city. He soon realized he would need to learn new ways of connecting with people, of becoming a part of the community. He began practicing “the simple homesteading things,” like chickens, gardening, and even beekeeping.

These simple acts of homesteading are exactly the kinds of missional activities practiced by NAB pastors and leaders across North America. It is not the gardening or beekeeping in themselves that are missional, but rather it is living incarnationally, connecting with people where they are. This reflects God’s instructions to the Babylonian exiles in Jeremiah 29:5–7 to plant gardens and “work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I have sent you” (NLT). When you give to the Ministry Resource Fund, you are helping, in part, to support the training and Gospel work that encourages and provides resources for this kind of missional ministry.

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On that drive back home from the retreat, Bob invited Stephen to buy a beekeeper suit and come over to his place every two weeks to learn about bees. Soon after they began spending time together beekeeping, a new swarm found their way to one of Bob’s abandoned beehives, so he suggested Stephen take the hive back to his house. That summer, they found seven different swarms of bees, and they brought them all over to Stephen’s house.

Pastor Stephen, Bob, and another church member harvesting honey, with Stephen’s son operating the spigot.

For Stephen, one of the best things about the bees is how they help him connect with other people in his church and in the community. He purchased a second bee suit so anyone who is interested could come over and check out the bees with him. When he wanted to put straw bales around his hives for winter, he talked to a farmer down the street. “To the farmers in the community, it’s been a connection point, because I don’t know a ton about farming, but here I am beekeeping,” he said, “They’ll ask me, ‘What’s going on with the bees?’ It’s created these connection points.”

When he spends time with people where they are, Stephen is seeing God at work. “I don’t have to force God into our community. God is already working in a lot of ways; I just need to become available to see where he is already at work. Part of that is intentionally bumbling about. It’s often . . . where I have run into people where I have some of the best conversations.”

Ultimately, these conversations are just the start of what God is doing, but these relational connections form the groundwork for further Gospel ministry. Throughout it all, the NAB is committed to working with churches like Wiesenthal Baptist and leaders like Stephen Epp through training, resourcing, and supporting them in their incarnational efforts. Would you consider donating $50, $100, or more to the Ministry Resource Fund? Your gift will help churches and leaders across the NAB as they choose to live incarnationally, spending time with their neighbors and communities as Christ’s ambassadors.

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