One-year-old Deve emigrated with his parents from Trinidad to Canada in 1969. They settled in Ottawa and the city was Deve’s home throughout his childhood and teenage years. His parents were of Hindu background, but Deve never embraced the religion himself. When he was about 11 his parents divorced. These were difficult years for him, shuttling back and forth from one parental home to the other, and then further upheaval as both parents remarried.
Highschool was not a good time, and his behaviour led him to difficulties at home and a disdain for the effort required to graduate. Partway through grade 13, he dropped out. After a series of unsatisfying jobs, he returned to high school the next fall. His old friends were now either ahead of him or had also dropped out, and God used new Christian friends to put him on the road to faith in Jesus.
A Boring Testimony Impacted Deve’s Life
Before long, he was invited to youth group. It was there that he heard the testimony of one of the church’s pastors. As Deve listened to the pastor recount circumstances of his life, he was struck by how different his own choices were in similar situations. Where there was an opportunity to choose a good path or a bad path, the pastor had repeatedly said ‘no’ to the bad choices because of his relationship with Jesus. Deve knew that he himself had chosen ‘yes’ in similar circumstances. The pastor had grown up in a Christian family, and had, what some might call a boring testimony.
“I found the very blandness of it compelling,” says Deve. “I wanted to dismiss it, but it stuck.”
He continued going to the youth group and then added church on Sunday mornings. “I was investigating Jesus and the Bible. I asked myself if who I was, was the person I wanted to be.”
“After about 6 months of this my girlfriend said, ‘You know enough, it’s a matter of making a choice.’” This was a huge challenge for Deve and he vividly recalls considering it very carefully. He thought, “If I follow Jesus with my life it has to be everything. What does it mean to follow with everything I am?” He knew it was a profound choice…and, after days of wrestling with it, alone in his room, he made that decision.
With the decision made, a significant spiritual battle had been won. He drank in the Word of God and stayed focused on Jesus. He remained living at home with his father and stepmother, but his faith in Jesus led to difficulties as his Hindu-background father and Muslim-background step-mother grappled with the differences in both religion and culture (God has brought healing to these relationships over the years). And given the problems he had caused them in the past, his father correctly wondered if this was ‘for real’.
Called to Full-Time Ministry
After high school, Deve spent a year at the University of Ottawa, but God was nudging him in the direction of future full-time ministry. While listening to the pastor speak one day he felt God say to him, “You are going to do that when you are that man’s age.”
The pastor was 37. At youth group he heard about Briercrest Bible College and with a desire to know more, learn more, he enrolled and drove out to Caronport, Saskatchewan. Besides course work, during that year he had his introduction to mission trips, going with a team to a First Nations Reserve. On his way home at the end of his first and only year at the college, he was in a serious car accident, but walked away, unharmed…another reminder that God had something in mind for him.
Back in Ottawa, he returned to the Metropolitan Bible Church and was now in the College & Careers group. After returning from a 3-month mission trip to Spain, he met Amanda in 1992. After a year of dating, they were engaged and then married in February ’94.
Deve and Amanda moved to Sarnia to be close to Amanda’s family and Deve accepted his father-in-law’s offer to manage his computer store. As they settled in they began to look for a Bible-teaching church home where they could serve. Deve had experience teaching high school students. At Sarnia EMC they found what they were looking for and the friendliness of the congregation drew them in. They became involved and God opened opportunities for Deve to use his teaching gift.
One particular weekend, in the Fall of 2000, he was away in New York fulfilling an invitation to be a guest speaker at a retreat, when God sent a renewed sense of call to ministry and he thought to himself, “What am I doing – not pursuing what God has laid out for me?” Upon arriving home in Sarnia he and Amanda had a talk. It was not news to her, this call of Deve’s, and she was in agreement. It was going to require further education and they began to look into it. Deve was interested in earning a Masters from Briercrest Seminary, but he hadn’t finished his undergrad. He audited some courses and Briercrest evaluated these, took into consideration his lay ministry experience (youth and international students), and invited him to enter the program. They intended to make a move to Saskatchewan when Sarnia’s senior pastor approached Deve to ask if he would serve on the church board. Upon hearing that they were about to move away, he returned a second time and asked if Deve would be willing to talk to the Search Committee about applying for an Associate Pastor role.
In 2001 Deve became Associate Pastor at Sarnia EMC. He began work on his Masters at Briercrest also in 2001, primarily by distance education, but flying out to Saskatchewan occasionally. In 2006 he graduated with a Masters in Christian Leadership from Briercrest, the same year he was ordained with EMCC.
Understanding God’s Bigger Agenda
Wanting to work out some more ‘God stuff’, Deve felt a need to broaden his understanding of God’s bigger agenda…what He was doing in and through other people groups in other countries. His research led him to Portland Seminary and he began work towards their Doctor of Ministry in Global and Leadership Perspectives degree (2012-2016). Again, he completed the requirements from home, and went on annual global experience trips to Hong Kong, Mainland China, South Africa and England. During these trips he met with Christian leaders in ministry and the marketplace, and learned from these believers in their own contexts. “This was an invaluable help to me, and has shaped how I serve the church family,” says Deve.
“This is What I Said You Would Do”
As we fast forward through the years Deve and Amanda in 2020 have been serving at Sarnia for 19 years. After the senior pastor moved to another province in May 2005, Deve stayed on for 11 months before leaving for 4 months, giving the congregation space to determine God’s leading as they sought a new pastor. In September 2006 he returned as their Lead Pastor. It was during this time when God brought the reminder, during his 37th year, “This is what I said you would do.”
Deve’s passion in ministry is teaching. He longs for people to see God’s truth come alive in their lives. “The life Christ has given us needs to be evident in how we serve,” Deve emphasizes. “There is a humility in that. To realize, it’s not me, but it’s the life of Jesus demonstrated in the life of individuals and the church family.”
On a Journey Together
Deve and the Sarnia congregation are on a journey together, seeking to be people that God will manifest His life in and through. The congregation has been willing to make adjustments to things they have done a certain way for years.
“We look at what we are doing, press pause, and then we ask ourselves, ‘how does this fit in God’s mission?’ We are learning that when the mission of God comes first, we become a stronger church.”
There are kingdom transitions in other areas too, such as moving from: Giving to Generosity, Telling to Listening, Planning to Preparing, Reacting to Responding, and Rest to Relationship. With these new kingdom perspectives being put into place within the church, they are engaging with their community, and globally, relying on the Spirit as they move to bring the mission, message, and mercy of Jesus to all. “With mission at the forefront, we consider our entire budget a mission budget.” Their church building is widely used by the community for all manner of sports activities, camps, and classes. Whenever the congregation runs a function they figure out how to extend it to include others. They support ministries in South Africa, Philippines, and El Salvador with their presence, finances, and prayer.
“We are building relationships and are learning how to live generously, with no strings attached. We rely on God, and depend on His Spirit.”
More About Deve & Amanda
Deve and Amanda raised two children, Jarrett 23 and Aynsley, 21. Throughout their upbringing Amanda chose to stay at home with the children to provide regular structure in the midst of the unpredictability of their Dad’s schedule. Many children learned to play the piano through Amanda’s instruction in those years. They look back, humbled by God’s provision for their needs in many different ways. Both children are going into their 4th year of university – Jarrett in Environmental Management and Aynsley in Global Development. When Deve has free time he loves family outings. He enjoys being outside, particularly by water. He is a recreational runner, likes watching sports of all kinds, and finds enough hours each month to appreciate the companionship of 4 or 5 good books.
Connect with Deve About Community Engagement/Global Engagement
As an Enrich Facilitator Deve would welcome an opportunity to connect with you if you would like some help considering fresh ways to engage your community, or if you’d like to explore kingdom transitions in your context. Visit emccenrich.ca for more ways Deve might be able to assist you as you seek to fulfill God’s mission where you serve. Talk with Deve by phone, online, or in person.