Historical Sketch: Punjabi Christian Fellowship*

A ministry to the Punjabi community in Vancouver was started at Sherbrooke Mennonite Church in 1986. The church had been approached by two Indo-Canadian men who expressed a desire to begin a Punjabi-speaking fellowship. After several months, one of the two returned to India and the other pulled back from the ministry.

A number of the families embraced a charismatic theology and withdrew from the fellowship. The three remaining families approached Jake & Dorothy Giesbrecht, and asked them to serve as their teacher and speaker. They had served as missionaries in India for 25 years and since 1980 had worked with Indo-Canadians in Abbotsford, Clearbrook, and Mission, using Cedar Valley Mennonite Church as their base. Jake & Dorothy started serving in June 1987. Membership reached 12 in September 1987.

At that time, leaders of the Conference of Mennonites in BC expressed the desire to support this ministry and see it flourish. An Indo-Canadian Reference Council was established with representatives from various conference committees. Jake & Dorothy Giesbrecht provided leadership, and Jake & Dorothy began serving as part-time pastors in February 1988. In February 1990 one of the church’s deacons left his wife and family. This action divided the congregation, reducing attendance from 30 to 15.

In 1991, the Evangelism and Church Development Committee (ECDC) of the Conference of Mennonites in BC, Sherbrooke Mennonite Church, and Olivet Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, agreed to support this ministry financially, with Sherbrooke becoming the primary sponsor of the group. The Punjabi Fellowship became a sister congregation to Sherbrooke – having its own autonomy and yet being accountable to Sherbrooke until it was able to form an independent congregation. Rob Sinclair, a part-time worker with Operation Mobilization, served as Associate Pastor of Sherbrooke Mennonite in Punjabi Ministry and Erwin Cornelsen, retired pastor of Sherbrooke, provided additional leadership and served as a liaison with the Sherbrooke congregation.

By 1992 the group had dwindled to basically one family and a few friends. Relational problems between members had continued to plague the fellowship. They began meeting in a home instead of at Sherbrooke. The group basically lacked the appropriate leadership necessary to maintain the church, and, in April 1993, ECDC made the decision to terminate the fellowship. There was a hope that by letting the old group terminate, a fresh start could be attempted in the future.