John is the pastor at our home church, Renaissance Baptist Church in Brooklin. He’s married to the lovely Janine and together they have three beautiful daughters, Jordan, Justine and Jessie. The way their family takes on the challenge of leading our church is admirable.
John is a great example to our congregation… He’s a leader who cares about relationships and challenges us to address deep longings in our relationship with Christ. He’s quick to humble himself in front of others, not allowing us to place him on a pedestal that was never created for him. He allows God to speak through him and directly to the hearts of his listeners, especially on those mornings when I’ve walked in with way too much emotional baggage and he reminds us to leave it at the feet of Jesus and to allow God to refresh our souls. He’s been an invaluable spiritual mentor for our family life and for parenthood. Luke met John at the Renaissance men’s retreat and appreciated his wit and dry humour almost immediately. It was important to him to feel a sense of closeness to this men’s group as we started attending the church regularly, and every Tuesday night he would meet with them to pray and be encouraged. It was heartbreaking for Luke to stop going once we left and I know he will miss John and the boys greatly.
Janine is a great example to our congregation as well… She is a kind woman who is always on the lookout for a churchgoer who doesn’t seem comfortable, she will always make that person feel welcome. She loves her girls like crazy and the tight relationship they have in their adult years is a true testament to her gentle and relentlessly loving spirit. She gives her time and her sanity to members of Renaissance, especially the children. She’s always willing to listen to your struggles and offer Godly advice, and she loves to push people out of their comfort zones and into a space where they can blessed by relying on God.
Jordan and Matt have welcomed us into their circle so willingly. Even though Hannah, and Lincoln, have hit each other, yelled at each other and stolen toys, snacks and drinks from one another. (They hugged each other a few times before we left, so I think their feud is over now.) We’ve enjoyed meals together and celebrated birthdays together, they really made us feel like part of their family. We watched them become parents with Hannah, and then we watched them take on the challenge of parenting two children when William arrived. They’re loving and caring, and kinda crazy now that they’re adding a third baby into the mix. (I have three, I’m allowed to say that.) One thing that Luke mentioned to me was that when he met Matt he instantly liked him. There was something about him, a humility that caught Luke’s attention of what a man of God should be like.
Justine and Scott have been a great source of laughter for us. Luke and Scott nerd it up over Star Wars and I gush to Justine about how much I love Francis Chan. We got to witness Justine grow while she was pregnant with Boaz, and we spent many nights praying for his arrival. It was a true honour to be able to watch Justine and Scott embrace parenthood and grow in that role. They’re kind, full of contagious joy and humour, hospitable, honest and lovers of boardgames.
Jessie and Alex, who are also newlyweds, are the couple we never really got to know. I do know that Jessie is fiercely dedicated to her family and to Christ. She often led our church in worship, she has a beautiful voice and shared her artistic side with us. We pray for Jessie and Alex often and I’m very excited to see what God has in store for them.
We will miss the Blackman family for their encouragement, for the true sense of family they cultivated at Renaissance and for their laughter. They never allowed us to feel like a burden, they were always kind and always willing to invest their time in us.