South African entrepreneurs overstay honeymoon in Canada
Seventh generation pastor launches university-based churches after feeling God’s tug
Mar 26, 2013

VANCOUVER (NAMB)—Victor and Candice Thomas landed in Vancouver, British Columbia, promising they’d never stay—that was five years ago. They arrived in 2007, so Victor could start a four-month stint as a researcher at Simon Fraser University—what Victor called an extended honeymoon for the newlyweds. His study focused on environmental science and poverty. But the young South African entrepreneurs found a new calling in Burnaby, a quick train-ride from downtown Vancouver.

Three weeks before they were to return to Cape Town, Thomas walked the Burnaby campus of Simon Fraser, his eyes seeming to open for the first time.

“I saw these students with blank looks on their faces, and I started to tear up. For a South African male that’s not cool,” Thomas said. “It was as if God was saying, ‘Isn’t this the poverty I’ve called you to?’”

REACHING STUDENTS Missionary Victor Thomas (left) speaks with Simon Fraser University student Kyle Meeking. The Point Church reaches many students on the Vancouver university campus. NAMB photo by Susan Whitley
From a family with seven generations of pastors, Thomas told his friends he’d never be a pastor. And indeed he’d stayed true to this for more than two decades, though he always served the poor alongside his dad. He also started a company consulting on construction projects in environmentally sensitive areas.

“Life was good back in Africa,” said Thomas. “I’d just hired a friend and we had several big contracts. We’d never intended to stay in Canada.”

As God began to draw the Thomases to the work of The Point Church, a long drive with then-planter of The Point, Kelly Manire, sealed the decision.

“He told us he was moving on,” Thomas said, “and that he wanted me and Candice to take over.”

The Point, a Canadian National Baptist Convention church, had started years previous, but had dwindled to a small Bible study. Taking over The Point would amount to a relaunch of the church. As Thomas saw it, this also meant launching additional campuses in Coquitlam and in downtown Vancouver.

Thomas is just one of several church planters serving in the greater Vancouver area, and is helping to achieve the vision of Send North America: Vancouver. Send North America is the North American Mission Board’s strategy to mobilize and assist churches and individuals in hands-on church planting and evangelism throughout Canada and the U.S.

The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 3-10, 2013, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®, provide support for Thomas’ work and missionaries who serve on behalf of Canadian and Southern Baptists in North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s offering theme is “Whatever It Takes—Reaching the One.”

“Giving to Annie is essential to help church planters plant the Gospel in North America,” said Thomas. “Financially helping us to plant the Gospel in metro Vancouver, by starting new churches and helping us with outreaches, is critical.”

The Point, which initially started as a university church, has grown to reach the surrounding communities in Burnaby, Coquitlam and Vancouver.

In the beginning a dozen people would show up for Bible studies. But as the Thomases realized the potential for reaching surrounding communities of families, they started a Sunday morning service. Now, during the Sunday service about 40 attend in Burnaby, nearly half of them students. Today across The Point’s four sites more than 90 people gather for weekend services.

“That has continued to grow as we’ve hosted community festivals,” Thomas said. “When God broke our heart for the city it was for the whole city, not just for Burnaby Mountain.

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