DELTA – snapshots of faith
BY PETER BIGGS
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The municipality of Delta is home to around 100,000 people that live in three distinct communities : Ladner, Tsawwassen (sometimes referred to as South Delta) and North Delta. Annicis Island is also part of Delta and includes a busy dock, that specializes in car import ships with thousands parked there.
South Delta is a place of wide open natural beauty with Boundary Bay to the south and the Strait of Georgia to the west. It’s distinct geography is further enhanced by it’s northern boundary being the Fraser River.
The area is popular with bird spotters, and hikers. Environmentally Delta has unique areas.
Largely unseen from the road, is Burns Bog, an ecosystem covering around 8,600 acres. It is globally unique because of its chemistry, form, flora and large size, being the largest undeveloped urban land mass on the West Coast.
Delta’s south coast of Boundary Bay and Mud Bay also offers sanctuary to birds and wildlife. It is a beautiful shoreline park and includes a little bit of sandy beach and a lot of logs to sit on, with picnic tables, toilets and a large plaground for children to play in.
• Major roads intersect Delta and cross the Fraser River. Hwy 91 goes north to either to Richmond/New Westminster. Hwy 99 goes east / west to the 4 lane Massey Tunnel.
• The Alex Fraser Bridge opened in 1986 spans North Delta and Annacis Island. According to an announcement last January, a new lane will be added to this busy six land bridge along with a counterflow system. This will require a slight narrowing of the existing lanes and removing the shoulders. More than 119,000 vehicles use the bridge every day.
• The Massey Tunnel tunnel is the source of some controversy with the most affected Councils seeking to address the daily congestion differently (Delta opting to go with a 10 lane bridge replacement and Richmond the possible twinning of the tunnel).
The previous Liberal government already had started site preparation to replace it with a costly $3.5 billion 10 lane bridge, however the NDP has put the project on hold and ordered an independent technical review.
The Massey Tunnel is the only road tunnel below sea level and the lowest road surface in Canada.
• Boundary Bay Airport has recently been upgraded, with two runways and an air-traffic control tower which operates seven days per week.
• BC FERRIES busy Tsawwassen’s terminal opened in 1960 and located at the end of a 2 km man-made causeway.
The terminal handled 73,698 vehicles a month and a total of 2,,657,074 passengers in 2017.
According to the 2016 Census Ladner’s population (22,193) only increased 0.1 percent. Tsawwassen (21,588) similarly only increased 0.7 percent since 2011.
Delta Church’s Pastor Jeff Beck observed in the 17 years he has been in North Delta that lots of people have moved out to the Fraser Valley. “With their increased house value they ‘cashed out’. When I arrived here churches were larger, but almost all the N.Delta Pastors have also moved out,” Beck shared.
Ladner is surrounded by water or Agricultural Land Reserve thus development is limited, however a number of Ladner residents describe the many new condo developments, and feel that even in the last year the population is visibly growing.
Bordered next to Surrey on the east side of Scott Road (or 120th Street) and south of 96th Avenue, North Delta people feel a strong distinction with Surrey. It’s population is estimated at round 54,000.
North Delta has around 18 churches. With a couple of exceptions almost all are around 120 or less /week in size. They include small Chinese and Fijian congregations.
Sunshine Hills Church’s Pastor Tom Gardner comments “We very definitely do not feel part of Surrey and there is quite a community pride. North Delta has quite a high presence of visible minorities”. Around 20 percent of his congregation are from visible minorities.
Wayne Driedger, Pastor at New Hope Christian Church shares, “I’ve been here just 18 months, but do feel North Delta is very unchurched. The southern part – Sunshine Hills is wealthier, with a significant Chinese presence. In the north where we are, it has more of a South Asian presence,” he said.
Pastors enjoy a high degree of camaraderie, with 12 or so of us (including some from just over the 120 Street border) meeting monthly.”
Mark Johnson, of the Evangelical Free Church agrees with Driedger and adds, “people from our churches happily attend each other’s programs, it’s great!” His church hosts the North Delta Food Bank every other Tuesday, with 100 or so using it.
Every Good Friday North Delta churches have a popular joint service.
Ladner was created as a fishing village on the banks of the Fraser River. With a population of around 20,000 it still retains a small town feel. A major feature of Ladner is it’s central Village, a heritage community with wide boulevards, open-air cafes and local shops.
Ladner is the location of the Municipal Hall, police station, and the Delta Hospital. The Delta Museum and Archives are in the centre of Ladner Village, along with a town clock.
Ladner has around 10 churches. Mike Mawhorter is Lead Pastor at Ladner Baptist. “We don’t have an official ‘Ministerial’ but there is a fair bit of good will between Ladner pastors,” he said. On Ladner’s annual ‘MayDays’ celebration 4-5 churches come together local Pastors take turn preaching and they form a joint music team. This joint Sunday morning service attracts 400 or so.
Families with special needs kids…
Ladner Baptist has many young families but also a particular ministry to families with special needs kids called CONNECT. “We train ‘Big buddies’ who have who can then accompany and assist the little buddies (some who have autism, downs syndrome or other physical challenges) on Sundays freeing up the parents to attend the service without worrying,” Mawhorter said.
The church also hosts weekend events for these families and the wider community that have been very successful.
Lee Kosa is Lead Pastor at Cedar Park Church. “There is a high proportion of single family detached housing in Ladner. Visible minorities are low. I do get the sense that our community is defensive to change such as housing densification. My vision is for Ladner to be a place not just that we ‘protect and preserve’ but a place open to share and welcoming to the outsider.” Kosa also mentioned the many Hispanic agricultureal workers in the area. “We actively reach out to them and are examining translation options”. The church also has a support group of a dozen or so for those affected by mental illness.
Similar in population to Ladner, Tsawwassen is a mostly residential bedroom community. It includes the Tsawwassen First Nation Reserve (population 813) whose members have CoastSalish ancestry.
Tsawwassen has seven churches. The largest is South Delta Baptist. It is prominently visible from Hwy 17 at 56 Street – the ‘gates into Tsawwassen’. Paul Park is the newly appointed Lead Pastor. “We see around five to six hundred people each weekend, at our morning main service and evening youth service. Around half travel over from Ladner. I see a huge trend toward the secular and ‘multi ethnicity’”, he said. Park is candid, “in recent days we’ve not seen missional effectriveness, and are encouraging Community Groups and participation in the Alpha Course.” The other larger church is Tsawwassen Alliance. According to Park they enjoy a warm collaborative relationship with both youth groups frequently doing things together.
A note from Delta Mayor Lois Jackson
“You may wonder how and why a devout practicing Christian can enter and remain in politics for such a long time. Politicians, after all, are considered tax collectors by many folks – we are told that the people of biblical times had trouble accepting tax collectors! I view my role in my community much differently than simply a “collector of money”.
I wanted to try to make a better world in which our children could grow and flourish with good deeds and good hearts.
Hopefully I’ve contributed and worked for people in a way which the Good Lord would want me to, helping people where and when I can. My only wish is that I could have done more…”
Delta Christian School
The school has 120 K – Gd 7 students. Bryan Young is Principal. “We are in Ladner and have students mostly from ‘South Delta’, but also a growing number from nearby Richmond,” he shared. Grade 7 students often go onto either Richmond Christian High School or Surrey Christian. “We teach students to have a strong sense of ‘community’ with Food Bank collections and Park cleanups. We are also partnered with an Elementary School in Nigeria,” Young said.
Point Roberts, WA
This tiny peninsula of land located to the south of Tsawwassen is below of the 48th parallel and might qualify as one of the oddest arrangements between our two countries. It is completely cut off from the U.S. Thus being part of the United States, it has it’s own border crossing. It has three gas stations (with CDN prices/litre displayed alongside the US price/Gallon.
Point Roberts has one church, Trinity Lutheran. There is a grocery store, marina, library, golf club and 5 bar/restaurants, however it does not have a hospital, doctor, dentist, pharmacist, or veterinarian. Year around it has a population of around 1500, that swells to 4500 in the summer.