When Rev. Daniel Habben, pastor at St. Peter’s, in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, was asked to write for Forward in Christ magazine, “I thought they got the wrong Habben,” he said, laughing. “My wife is the writer of the family.” After being assured that he was, indeed, the right Habben, he graciously accepted the invitation to be the new writer for the Thought for Today devotions. His series, which begins this month, focuses on the depth of God’s love for us and our responses to it. He says the idea for his devotions came from a variety of experiences, including growing up in Japan and serving a congregation in Canada for more than a decade.
He was born and raised in Japan while his father served as a missionary there. Habben says the cultural differences between Japan and North America are “as wide as the Pacific Ocean,” and that includes religion. In rural areas, people are very superstitious and some still participate in ancestor worship. Habben remembers his father talking about the mission work being hard and slow because many people don’t know anything about the Bible. So his family spent a lot of time making personal connections, building relationships and inviting people to Bible study.
Habben came back to the United States to train for the ministry, and after he graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, he was assigned to St. Peter’s. He has been serving the small congregation for the past 16 years. Although St. Peter’s has hosted large outreach events that attracted several hundred community members, few have showed up in church afterward. “Sometimes it takes years to get new people in the door,” he says.
Habben thinks this is partly because of multi-culturalism, which is prevalent throughout the Canadian culture. “That idea, that your culture is just as good as mine, spills over into their philosophy and religion,” he says. “Mission work can be difficult, because people think it’s okay to be Christian — as long as you’re not serious about it. In that respect, I think we’re a generation ahead of where the United States is heading.”
He hopes to touch on that idea in his devotion series. “As Christians, we need to be serious,” says Habben. “Let’s not be Sunday Christians. It’s not just part of your life, it is your life. I’ll be looking at how we sin and take things for granted. But God grants us forgiveness and gives us the power to live our lives the way he wants us to. I just really want to look at depths of God’s love for us and marvel at that.”
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Author: Alicia Neumann
Volume 103, Number 05
Issue: May 2016
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