By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
The route to becoming the pastor of Castor’s Evangelical Missionary Church was by no means a short one for Brent Siemens.
Siemens, who has been the pastor in Castor for five years as of the middle of May, conducted his first official sermon at the church on his birthday in 2016.
“It’s been special,” said Siemens.
“It’s been a (lot of) learning.”
Though becoming the pastor in Castor was Siemens’ first stop post-seminary, it was by no means his first ministry. In fact, Siemens came to Castor indirectly through India.
Before he attended seminary, Siemens took a four-year Intercultural Studies degree in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and then spent 10 months working with youth in the populous country. His time there left such an impact that after he graduated, he went back again when he was 25, spending around another year there.
“For two years off and on I was in New Delhi working with street kids,” said Siemens.
While there, the non-governmental organization he worked with focused on education, housing programs, helping with employment, and it also hosted vacation Bible schools.
“(We would) do (the Bible school) with street kids on Saturday afternoons,” said Siemens.
“They would live under a train bridge in New Delhi, where they would have shanty-homes set up consisting of tarps and cardboard. About 50 people would live in this slum near where I lived. It was a rough environment.”
During his time there, he was with a non-governmental organization founded under the Mennonite Church.
“I did these (vacation Bible schools), played games, and helped with literacy,” said Siemens. “It leaves an impression, encountering that much poverty. It gives me a soft spot for people who are poor or disadvantaged. I found (living in India) broadened my world view.”
Still, Siemens didn’t just work while he was there.
One summer he was able to continue his own education, taking part in Hindi language studies at a school in the Himalayan Mountains, where he spent six weeks to beat the summer New Delhi heat. In addition, he made some friends while in India, doing some trips with them.
“I went for a Muslim Festival (of) Eid on a couple of different times,” said Siemens.
“One time I went to a friend’s village. (I spent) 60 hours on the train. (I had) a second-class bunk. Our compartment was full of people.”
According to Siemens, the train compartment designed for eight people had 30 to 40 people crammed in it, with many people sharing the limited bunk space. On arrival in the village, Siemens says it is like stepping back in time.
“We bathed at the well, and hoped no one was looking,” said Siemens.
“It’s like going back in time 2,000 years.”
One of the challenges Siemens had while India was often being ill.
“(I was) often sick with ‘Delhi Belly,’ just throwing up a lot,” said Siemens. “It’s a common experience in New Delhi for foreigners to get sick. It was because I couldn’t resist the foodstands on the street. It all looked so good.”
Still, like all good things, Siemens’ time in India came to an end.
He returned to Canada, and enrolled in seminary, again on the coast. As he completed seminary, the position for a pastor at the Evangelical Missionary Church came open, which he found out about through his brother, who lives in Donalda.
“(Evangelical Missionary Church member) Jim Culham sometimes speaks at my brother’s church, and my brother found out (from him) that the church in Castor was looking for a pastor, so I applied,” said Siemens.
“I’m enjoying the things I am learning about the pastoral life, and the challenges and the diversity of the work. It’s not always easy.”
Siemens, like everyone else in today’s world, has had to make some changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the reduced capacity at the church, in addition to the Sunday services, he has also been doing weekly devotional videos posted to the church’s Facebook page every Friday.
As for plans for the future?
“(Right now, I’m trying) just to get through COVID,” said Siemens.
“(I’m) helping people grow in the spiritual life, and loving God. I would still like to see something start up for the young people in the community. COVID-19 has really derailed that dream.”