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One Day Closer To Summer

The coldest darkest days of the year always make me think, if not reverie the summer. I guess with my work organizing the AOTS (As One That Serves) Youth To Camp Project I have found that it is the best time to start thinking about the summer and organizing your troops to see how many youth that you can help go to camp.

A lot of service clubs want to help out kids by sending them to summer camp but they don’t usually think about it until April or May when the camps are already being booked for the summer. I think it is always good to have a little reminder this time of year, about how powerful one week at a summer camp can be for a child.

I spent two summers as a camper at a United Church camp. It was just one week but I can still remember every little detail; the crackling fire on the overnight, the singing at the meals, the moving vespers, the swimming and canoeing, the dynamic counselors, the cabin rivalry and all of the full camp activities.

The experience left such an impression on me that I had to go back for the Counselors in Training program the next summer. I was then a volunteer counsellor for two years and then made it to staff counselor. I didn’t want the experience to fade away too soon so I came back as Games Director and Tripper.

What a fantastic learning experience this was for me and I have memories and friendships that will last forever. Not only did I learn to be a leader and teacher but I also learnt about myself and my spiritual growth.

Being a youth now a days is a lot harder and challenging than years ago. They are bombarded by media and television and movies and music. It is a fast paced society and the youth of today know a lot more about the world around them than we ever did.

There is a real need for good old fashioned community grounding in a camping setting that allows them to sit back and look at the world without all of the computer games and internet filling in every extra minute they have.

Is there anyone out there that has some inspiring camping experiences as a camper, a counselor or just helping out your local camp? I would really like to hear your stories.

Who and What are the AOTS?

I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about this wonderful organization. The men of the United Church AOTS (As One That Serves) Men’s Clubs have been a big part in the Men’s Ministry in the Church and have been a little too modest to wave their flags so-to-speak.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions that have been asked over the years.

What is AOTS?

AOTS is a men’s service club that is affiliated with the United Church of Canada, but is open to all men on a broad ecumenical basis. AOTS aims to promote fellowship, deepen the spiritual life of men, and develop an effective program of Christian service. In fact, AOTS stands for “As One That Serves”, which is taken from the statement by Christ: “I am among you as One that serves.” (Luke 22.27).

Although the goals of AOTS are taken seriously, club members enjoy the camaraderie of sharing, supporting, searching, studying, and serving together. AOTS fosters a good time for a good cause, mixing the social with the spiritual, as men of the church.

Where Did AOTS Begin?
AOTS was born in Vancouver in 1923. The first official club was formed that year by Dr Herbert Riggs, a physician at Kerrisdale Methodist (now Ryerson United Church). The concept spread quickly to other churches and communities on the West Coast, then steadily across the country. By the mid-fifties, there were close to 10,000 members in Canada and Bermuda. For more information of the history of the AOTS movement, contact the National Office.

Where is AOTS Today?
In the early years of its existence, AOTS, although recognized and encouraged by the church, was an independent organization. Currently, the National Association of AOTS Men’s Clubs is officially integrated into the structures of the United Church of Canada. There are over 60 active clubs meeting and serving in communities across the country from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland and there are even more individual members as well.

What Do AOTS Clubs Do?
The format and style of an AOTS club varies with the size, location, and make up of the community and the home church. Each is geared to the interests, needs and concerns of its members. A typical club meets monthly for dinner or breakfast—this might include an interesting program or speaker, devotionals, and a discussion of on-going service projects. The club is likely to be involved with several community outreach and church-related programs. Some examples:

  1. Visiting shut-ins
  2. Supporting the local food bank or transitional housing organization.
  3. Providing leadership for youth activities in the church.
  4. Helping with the upkeep of local camps and sponsoring underprivileged campers.
While they may serve an obvious practical purpose, AOTS projects promote fellowship and this “hands-on” approach inspires laymen to become more involved in the church.

Is there anyone out there involved in Men's Ministry that has some examples of projects that they are working on?

Temptation and the Christian Man

As Christian men, how can we live our faith without compromise in a world full of temptations? Can we maintain ethical standards in business and personal integrity in our social lives, when external pressures and internal forces are constantly enticing us away from the Christian life?

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

As Christian men, we think that it should be easy to follow the words of Jesus and have absolutely no problems with temptation. We should be able to function effectively in the world without compromising our faith.

Temptation is all around us and whether we realize it or not we are making those decisions every single day.

The Bottom-Line

Companies striving to succeed in this modern world and strong competition have led to some of the most questionable acts of ethics. It is important for the companies as well as the individuals to stand back and look at the impact of their decision and decide whether it is right or wrong.

Too many people hide behind the bottom-line, doing what is in the best interest for their shareholder or the customer and not using ethics to guide their decisions.

Today more than ever we must strive to do what is right rather than doing what is easiest. The word is getting too small and there is a growing transparency so that no one will be able to hide behind unethical decisions. Many companies have been paying big bucks to reinvent or fix a tarnished image that they have created by these sorts of practices.

Power of the Media

Every day we are inundated by Hollywood beauty and needing to have the newest toys because they make us feel l younger and more popular.

Are we as Christian men going to follow what we are told is right by the media or take the high road and make our own decisions about how the world should be?

When we look at women are we going to judge them based off of what we see in the magazines and on television or are we going to see them as our sisters, daughters and friends. I see my 4 year old daughter playing with boys from daycare as if there are absolutely no differences in the sexes. There seems to be some sort of purity in that childhood innocence that we need to get back. How and when did that change?

Sinning with thought or action is never supposed to be acceptable. God expects us to do the right thing even though we are constantly told by today’s culture sinning is okay.

Giving in to temptation?

There are many examples in the Bible were women are temptations; maybe this has been something that men have been dealing with for a very long time.

The most famous example, of course, was Eve, when she was lured by Satan to eat the forbidden fruit and then tempted Adam (Genesis 3:6). Samson was lured by the deceiving Delilah (Judges 16) and, of course, King David was tempted by Bathsheba. (2 Samuel)

Money was also a frequent temptation in the Bible. Men like Achan in Joshua 7:21, and Judas took money for what they knew was wrong. They both were punished for their sins.

It is good to know and also inspiring that there are several examples of Biblical characters who responded correctly to temptation in the Bible. Abraham refused to accept a reward for service to King Of Sodom after a battle in Genesis 14:22-24. The prophet Elisha refused payment when he performed a miraculous healing in 2 Kings 5:16. Peter also refused a bribe in Acts 8:20: "Peter answered: 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!'"

The Right Thing to Do

When I was a young boy I use to ask myself the question, “what would my Mom say if she knew?” or if it was close to Christmas, “what would Santa say?” When we get older we sometimes need that little “check” to give us the time to be objective rather than acting without thinking or simply following the masses.

The truth is we are all tempted by many things, every day and we have to be strong, take the time to ask ourselves one question: Is it the right thing to do and will these actions hurt anyone?

Is there anyone out there that has fought against temptation and won? I would love to hear your stories or comments.

President’s Report - December, 2009

Providing Abundance... ...what kind of fairness?

The Toronto Conference’s Fall Rally, Providing Abundance ... what kind of fairness?, proved to be quite a surprising event for me.

A day before the event, our keynote speaker, Armine Yalnizyan phoned me to let me know that she had been unable to shake a week-long flu and was probably not going to make it. Clearly, as we talked, it became clear that it was best for her to not even try to make it. So she stayed at home and I got to work sifting through much of the material she sent me that were part of her presentation.

It was a long but enjoyable evening reading through material of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). Ultimately, I was able to pull together some slides and make a presentation on her behalf.

Armine’s focus is on inequality. She acknowledges that poverty levels have gone done in Canada recently while the gap between rich and poor has increased dramatically. The popularly accepted definition of poverty in Canada is Statistics Canada’s low income cut-off; and this is in spite of Statistics Canada’s objections that there is no internationally recognized measure of poverty.

There are fewer people below that low income cut-off; however, the dispersion of income levels continues to grow. And this she asserts is a more effective measure - inequality.

Her work and of the CCPA is about demonstrating how this dispersion is a much better measure of poverty or economic dislocation than the low income cut-off.

Briefly, the wider the gap, the more dramatic this inequality, the less able the institutions of society are to function for the population. This is because those institutions are forced to deal with a population with growing divergent and competing economic interests. As economic power resides in fewer and fewer hands, institutions respond to where that power is more and more. This is true of both the public and private sector. We see this in the public sector as schools in affluent neighbourhoods flourish due to investment and fundraising efforts by parents where schools in less affluent neighbourhoods go without.

In the private sector a market economy is driven by the laws of consumption and scarcity. We are encouraged to consume. Those who do not have the wherewithal to consume become forgotten members of society. There is less and less institutional focus on their needs because their purchasing power is limited. On the contrary, institutions of society now become armed against providing any assistance to growing numbers of people who are being left out of the economic process. Communities become gated. Economies grow around the concept of ensuring that those who have keep what they have and acquire, with the rest of the population receiving the economic reverberations from this group.

This is a simply explained by looking at the effect on the housing market when economic power is concentred in fewer and fewer hands. Those who have much exert an impact on society by virtue of their ability to outmuscle others economically. They are able, and do pay any price for a home they want. Their enhanced ability to compete for housing drives prices up generally. Every single strata of society below them must respond to the tightening of this market; with those at the bottom economic levels facing the hardest economic impact and damage.

The CCPA does interesting work in looking at relationships over time.

The levels of CEO income to the average income has increased manifold over the past few years. Between 1998 and 2007 the annual income of CEOs went from $3.5 million to $10.4 million. The average wage earner went from $33,000 to $40,000.

A big difference, yes. But how big is big?

Plato told Aristotle that no man should make more than five times what another man makes. J.P. Morgan said twenty times and he was a robber baron. What do we have in the here and now?

Well in that same ten year period the ratio actually increased from and 104 times the average wage earner to 259 times.

All that provided a focus for some excellent audience participation. One discussion focus involved having small groups consider the question.

Which group would you prefer to be in?

Making $100,000 a year while 90% of the people make less than you or $110,000 while 90% make more than you?

This was an exercise in understanding how inequality and not low income levels drives people’s perception and experience of poverty. To be sure most people pick the $100,000 figure.

But all that came after a terrific morning program put on by Beach United Youth, the soulliving group. They put together a Jeopardy quiz for the 80 participants for the one day program. The focus of their program was consistent with our theme as best defined by the scriptural text from 2 Corinthians: 8-15, “The person who had much did not have too much, and the person who had little did not have too little.”

And all this was followed by the have and have not lunch I described in last month’s report. Sharing ensued.

We close the day with a wonderful Jazz Vespers service with the xCentric Jazz band.

Jim McKibbin , National AOTS President

How Do You Measure Success?

There is an attitude out there that Christian Men don’t have what it takes to succeed in the workplace. They don’t have that killer instinct that puts them above the rest of the workforce.

I am here to tell you that this attitude is unfounded and there are success stories all around you.

I am a firm believer that success is not just measured by your career but by a balance between work, family and spiritual growth. This does not mean that you have to sacrifice a great career. This is far to the contrary. The enrichment that one receives from a happy family life and a constant growth in spiritually will help propel your career forward with all of the gust of a great wind moving you forward.

I have had the good pleasure of knowing two very successful people. Don Williams and Craig Watson, of the Stirling Ontario area, whom I believe had that drive for success but would also always take the time to help others before thinking of themselves. I have had the pleasure to see them on a family level as well as witness them putting endless hours into spiritual growth and public service.

Don owned a gas station, then sold cars, became the owner of a dealership, and in the end ran a chain of hotels. He always had the time for the church, his family and his friends and was always grateful for his success.

Craig is the kind of guy that you would start talking to and he would show an incredible and authentic interest in what you were saying. He is a real people person and he was a success in business because of what he put into the people around him and the community. When people wanted a new car they would think of Craig right away because of the strong trust everyone had in him. No one would walk away from Craig without a smile on their face and a sense of satisfaction that they had someone looking out for them.

The truth is that there are a lot of Christian men that have reached this level of success. I think we just have to look around, get to know our neighbour, and see what it is that gives them that drive.

I am indeed a lucky man to have spent time with these two men. If I can grow to be half as successful as these men then I know that I will be truly accomplished.

Integrity and Authenticity

1 Chronicles 29:17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity ...

I thought that this was a fitting verse to start with. Many people can carry on a blog and say what comes to their mind, but not all of them can be secure that their words have passed through their hearts.

It is my hope that this blog will be an example of integrity and authenticity that will help bring you with similar interests together. I hope that we can renew and perfect the high purpose of brotherly fellowship and through this fellowship achieving greater service.

The men of the AOTS have been working hard for over 85 years, to serve the church and community and this will be one of the ways in which we can share some of our thoughts, projects and experience with our blogging.

I know that you will like them as much as I do and if you want to know a little more about who we are and what we do please feel free to check out our website or send us an email.

Welcome all to the AOTS (As One That Serves) new blog.