Bev Sesink received his Master of Divinity from Prairie in 1995. He has since gone on to provide a unique and grace-filled ministry in Edmonton, Alberta. He has been the director of the Mill Woods Care Closet for over 20 years, where they provide food and clothing to a diverse multi-ethnic community. Bev puts his faith in action, loving his neighbors by intentionally choosing personal service providers from other faith communities such as Muslim or Hindu. This provides opportunities for him to learn their language, share his faith, and even pray for them.
He has also served at Calvary Community Church for over 22 years. He is part of a three-person Senior Pastoral team that oversees the day-to-day running of their church ministry, sharing the decision-making and oversight under the authority of their elders. This model is effective because there is less dependence on any one individual, even as their lead pastor has been recently diagnosed with leukemia. Their decision to move the church’s Care Closet ministry to become more community focused has resulted in a 100% increase in immigrants using their services.
Where are you from?
I am from London, Ontario, or more specifically east London (i.e. lower income area = the other side of the tracks).
Tell us about your family.
My parents came to Canada from Holland after the Second World War. Because of the war, there was PTSD and emotional scarring. I was the second of four children, the first son. Our family was dysfunctional, with my father at times being abusive and occasionally violent. I met my wife while working in Africa. She only met my parents one time and so did not see my family situation.
Give a brief sketch of your professional or ministry life.
I oversee and partner with staff/volunteers in a number of church and community ministries which provide pastoral care. This includes small groups, Freedom Session, Mill Woods Care Closet, Women’s Care ministry, personal counseling and support, Alpha and our Sunday Fellowship Ministry.
I have intentionally chosen personal service providers who, whenever possible, are from other faith communities (i.e. Muslim doctors, Hindu hairdressers). Because of these choices, I continue to have ongoing opportunities to share my faith and even pray for them at their request. I also shop at a variety of other services (groceries, mechanic, et cetera), taking the opportunity to get to know the staff and where possible encourage them in whatever way I can. This includes sharing my faith, often in part using cards that promote ministries such as I Am Second, The Chosen, What’s After ATX, etc.
I have learned the basic greetings of seven languages used in our community so that I can connect with people who come to our church’s community food and clothing bank (carecloset.ca). Since we focused on being a resource to our Mill Woods community, we have seen a 100% growth in immigrants availing themselves of the food and clothing we offer. All our food products are halal to honor the sensitivities of our Muslim neighbors, graciously donated through our church budget, personal giving by members of our church and community, and by a local grocer. Numerous community organizations (secular and religious) are now referring their clients to us as a trusted source of assistance for people in need, whether it be physical (food and clothing), emotional (listening ear and counsel), or spiritual (prayer, Bibles, etc.).
What qualities do you value in Prairie College?
I appreciate the dedication of the staff and faculty to equip students for ministry in a variety of vocations. I also appreciate their commitment to teach Bible-based courses from a variety of Christian perspectives, allowing for diversity of thought. In addition, I appreciate the staff and faculty’s efforts to get to know students personally, having them over to their homes and being involved in their lives to various degrees. I value Prairie’s desire to holistically develop students – spirit, soul, and body.
What skills did you learn at Prairie and see now as beneficial for your current role?
First and foremost, they stressed the importance of having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I learned the importance of thoughtful, committed, purposeful spiritual, mental, and physical preparation for whatever role I am given in ministry (i.e. preaching, pastoral care, etc.).
What are the skills / principles that you learned at Prairie that have left a lasting legacy in your life?
Do to others what you would want done to you. It is essential to have an ongoing personal relationship with God through Jesus, doing so through a personal devotional life, as well as purposeful ongoing care for my spouse, my children, others, and myself. A specific principle I learned in graduate school is that no one is going to do for you what you can/must do for yourself. In particular, I learned the importance of purposefully scheduling in my calendar time for myself, my spouse, my children, my friends, and any other personal priorities to ensure I keep a balanced personal and ministry life, especially after having almost two burnout experiences. In the process, I have learned that I am not God and never will be.
If there’s one really compelling message you’d like to share with our alumni and friends, what would that be?
Work on your personal stuff! Having been raised in a dysfunctional, abusive, and sometimes violent home, I had a huge backpack full of unresolved issues when I came to Prairie. While I was able to work on them to some degree while at Prairie, I still had much more to work through in the years following. Thankfully with the help of my supportive spouse, counselors, and others, after a 10-year journey of healing I came to a good place in my life from which I am now able to minister to others having had similar experiences. One always should be working on becoming a better version of oneself, which is what I strive to do as a follower of Jesus. Freedom Session is a great resource for helping to make that happen. [This is now offered at Prairie – Ed.]
What makes your ministry effective?
What makes my ministry effective is the much-needed humility to continue to learn from others regardless of age, gender, race, or culture. To have an ongoing effective ministry one must be willing to change. I find the older I get, the less inclined I am to change, yet I force myself to do so. Even now, I am purposefully learning more about Indigenous culture, especially as I increasingly have more involvement with them through our Mill Woods Care Closet ministry.
What is something you would say to a student who is considering Prairie?