My life, your life … our experience!
The first blog post by Aydan Schat, Camp Leader at OM 2017 Partner Camp Shout.
My name is Aydan Schat. I’m the Head Counsellor at Camp Shout, an outreach ministry in the form of a day camp, run by Jubilee Fellowship Christian Reformed Church. My job is to plan activities and recruit campers for 4 weeks of camp, ensuring that it’s a fun and safe place for the campers we’re entrusted with.
I first worked for Camp Shout 4 years ago. I worked as a counselor, helping to lead the activities each day. I absolutely loved it. I got to play with kids and lead activities and I got paid for it. It was the dream for 16-year-old me. So I came back all of the following years.
In those years, Camp Shout has undergone some huge changes. It has grown in attendance, in the amount of planning required, and has added new job positions. In those same years, I have also undergone some huge changes. I’ve gone to university. I’ve become more aware of the realities of the world. As a result, Camp Shout is no longer quite the same “play with kids and get paid” experience for me. It is something much greater. Camp Shout is a chance for me to impact the lives of children with all kinds of different stories, to get to know them and to care for them. There is so much good that can come out of it. And I still do get to play with them. It’s just way more than that.
I’m excited for this year at Camp Shout. I’m excited to see the impact that we can have on campers’ lives, as well as the impact they have on ours.
Aydan Schat is working this summer at Camp Shout, a 2017 OM Partner and Grant recipient.
Calvin Williams of MY House in British Columbia, was one of the participants, of MND 2017 and offered some encouraging feedback after the days’ workshops:
“I was very impressed with the quality of teaching and interaction that was presented at the Networking Day. I was impressed at the high regard that the CRC and ministries represented had for justice work and how it is integral in God’s mission. I felt encouraged that there is a large representation of believers from a mainline church that are as passionate about God’s justice for the “least of these” as I am.
The presenters offered clear scriptural support for justice work and brought our attention to passages of the Bible that traditionally have not been associated with justice work. We were lead through really appropriating Scripture to our calling and daily work. This was affirming.
I learned a lot about Appreciative Inquiry and how it can be used to connect with our participants and address problematic issues. I used it in the week I returned back to work with great results.
During the Networking Day, I also made some connections with other ministries who are involved in areas that I want our ministry to expand into. We look forward to connecting with the other ministries further as we continue to develop.
Thank you for the opportunity to attend the Networking Day!”
Ministry Networking Day 2017 was held on May 26th, 2017. For more information about Ministry Networking Day learning opportunities visit the DMC website.
Diaconal Ministry Developers (DMDs) are encouragers and coaches for deacons. They are experienced in diaconal work and are available to help deacons understand their role and work out their calling in the church and its community. Recently Tammy Heidbuurt connected with two outgoing DMDs about their experiences connecting with CRCs in Classis Hamilton and Classis Chatham.
What did you enjoy most about being a DMD?
Dorothy (DH): definitely the friendships I have been able to make along the way! Friendships that are based on the common desire to serve God by serving those in church and community
Doug (DV): What I enjoyed most, was I think, having a front-row seat to the Lord’s work through dedicated leaders. It’s such a blessing to see people eager to make a difference in churches and communities; an eagerness that fans into flame, passion for ministry and serving deacons.
What have you learned in the role about deacon’s work?
DH: every Christian is called to deacon-work. To love your neighbours, offer compassion, promote justice, advocate for the less fortunate, to be a good steward, and to live life in a way that others see the breathing, living presence of Christ in you.
DV: this ministry is definitely never “one-size-fits-all”. Each diaconate strives to make sure its ministry is meaningful to its own church and community.
Can you share a story or meaningful experience you had with a diaconate while being a DMD?
DH: I visited a diaconate once where the conversation focused on the many opportunities that are often presented when responding to specific needs of the people in their community. Not long after that visit, one of the deacons from that diaconate called me and asked what kind of questions the should be asking a community member who was in financial need (they were scheduled to meet that individual later that same day). I ended up joining them at that meeting at a coffee shop. We had a great visit and I was so encouraged by the desire of that deacon to meet the needs and to build relationships in an authentic, caring, respectful manner with the people in their own community.
DV: I remember when a deacon-chair asked for help with some training for his diaconate (plus others in the same area). During the initial meeting, we enjoyed a deep and meaningful time of brainstorming ideas and coming up with concrete plans. Through the meeting, the emails afterward and the training-gathering that eventually took place, it was amazing to see the Lord weaving the details together. We were deeply blessed by an informing and uplifting evening of encouragement and true equipping.
What would you like churches to know about DMDs and their work?
DH: I would love for churches to become more aware of the resources that they have readily available to them through their very own Classis DMD and through the DMC organization. DMDs are there to assist them and to encourage them in their acts of service in the local church and community ministry. They are an effective avenue to help share the amazing testimonies and acts of services that are happening across Canada, that when shared, spur on others to also act and serve.
DV: Simply put… DMDs love to bless churches. They have access to a wide variety of resources and are ready, willing and able to adapt those resources to any church’s specific needs. I hope the churches take the time to appreciate the deacons’ role in equipping all members for works of service. Sometimes in the Reformed tradition, we feel embarrassed about not being able to evangelize/share the gospel with words. While there certainly is a learning curve for us worth climbing in the area of (spoken) evangelism, let’s remember that Christian deeds speak in powerful ways that the watching world is sure to notice…and so, let’s join the momentum the Holy Spirit has been generating in and through deacons and people in their networks (like DMDs)!
DMC gives a big thank-you to both Dorothy Heidbuurt and Doug VandeKamp for their wonderful work as DMDs, and their ongoing ministry in the CRC. Many blessings to you both Dorothy and Doug!
Doug has accepted a call as a Pastor, from First CRC Brandon (in Classis Lake Superior). Dorothy will be focusing on her full-time work as a support worker.
Dorothy Heidbuurt Doug VandeKamp
Did You Mean These Neighbours, Jesus?
By Trixie Ling
In the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke, a lawyer put Jesus to the test by asking a bold question – “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The lawyer already knew the answer written in the Law, which is love God and love your neighbour. Not fully satisfied with the answer, he followed up with an honest question, “And who is my neighbour?” I have been thinking about this simple yet challenging question as I encounter others in my daily life, work, church and neighbourhood. I am confronted with the truth of Jesus’ teaching in the parable about how to be a good neighbour who shows love, compassion, and mercy to others.
In her book City of God, Sara Miles writes about her diverse neighbourhood in the Mission District of San Francisco and offers some deep reflections about the kind of neighbour she is: “Like the lawyer who challenges Jesus, I often wished to weasel out of responsibility, hoping to calibrate who, precisely, was my neighbour; how much, exactly, I was required to love which people. I didn’t always love my neighbour the drunken gardener, or my neighbour the rich gentrifier, or my unknown neighbour in the yellow house. And I really dreaded the parable’s implication that I could be saved by what they had to give.”
I admire Miles’ courage in confessing how we often struggle to respond to God’s call to love our neighbours as ourselves. We might not know our neighbours or even like our neighbours, but we need to hear God’s call and allow it to guide our faith and actions to love our neighbours on the streets, in schools, at work, in churches, and in our own neighbourhoodsEvery Wednesday night at my church, I work with volunteers to organize a community dinner where we cook, eat, and share food and stories with our neighbours, friends, families, and strangers. It is a vibrant scene of kids running around the room, someone playing the piano, volunteers chopping vegetables and preparing the meal, and people having coffee and conversations in multiple languages as they wait for dinner. There are singles, couples, and families from all walks of life connecting over food around a table. The faces of our neighbours include many refugees and asylum seekers, who live next door at the Welcome Centre, a transitional housing and support centre serving refugees and immigrants.
Recently, I noticed a new person who started coming to our weekly community dinner. At first she came by herself, then she brought a friend. I welcomed her to our dinner and she shared her story with me – she emigrated from Costa Rica and has lived in our neighbourhood for almost 10 years and didn’t really know her neighbours. She wanted to know who her neighbours are, so she came to our community dinner in hopes of meeting some of her neighbours, including people in our church. I was encouraged by her earnest desire and openness to reach out and build relationships with her neighbours. I am reminded of the gift of being rooted in this diverse multicultural neighbourhood where I live and work, and the continuous call to show hospitality to new and old neighbours.
We all want to know and be known, but sometimes our fears and vulnerability get in the way of reaching out to neighbours, welcoming the stranger, and building real relationships with people who love and care for us. In a society where many people experience isolation and loneliness, we yearn for a sense of belonging and acceptance. As an immigrant myself, I understand and empathize with newcomers to Canada who struggle to settle, integrate, and be part of their neighbourhoods.
What is your vision of neighbourliness? My vision is one of neighbours taking care of neighbours. The stakes are high because we have to be vulnerable, build trust, learn to give, and be humbled to ask for help and receive from others. My hope is to take up God’s command to love my neighbours as my vocation. The word vocation comes from the Latin vocare, which means “to call.” I am called to be present with people, pay attention to needs in the community, celebrate joys and remember sorrows together, and show love instead of fear, apathy, or judgment toward my neighbours.
“My hope is to take up God’s command to love my neighbours as my vocation.”
On an individual level, we can make serious efforts to meet our neighbours and get to know them through shared meals, neighbourhood activities, community gardens, and events in public spaces. On a collective level, we can build welcoming, diverse and inclusive neighbourhoods, and advocate for just policies for marginalized neighbours who experience poverty, homelessness, and discrimination in our communities.
We can remind each other of the parable of the Good Samaritan and aspire to live into the call to love our neighbours. Let us hear and hold on to God’s faithful words: “Love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:9-10).
Anja Attema, the workshop trainer for DMDs and Deacons, focuses on this during the training, addressing benevolence.
Deacons have the opportunity to provide support and help point people in the right direction, but it all begins with establishing relationships. As Anja states, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. When she trains deacons, Anja encourages them to not only ask helpful questions that can reveal some of the root causes of financial burdens but to stress the importance of relationships through their benevolent work.
In order to be successful, Deacons need tools to help address walking alongside their neighbors in benevolence. DMC, along with conducting these workshops, has developed “Guidelines for Benevolence”. These guidelines help deacons to create tools for helping, developing plans of action and identifying partners in their community that can provide assistance.
Head over to diaconalministries.com/resources to access these Guidelines and other various tools as well as to access more information/to request information on future Financial Benevolence workshops in your area.
Ever wonder how an organization starts? Well sit back and take a walk down memory lane with me…
Diaconal Ministries Canada had its early beginnings around 1998 at a Classis renewal gathering in Chicago. Canadian ministry leaders, and folks representing Diaconal Ministries Eastern Canada, Northern Alberta Diaconal Conference, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (now known as World Renew) and British Columbia Diaconal Conference, happened to be having lunch at a local Chicago restaurant. Discussions and conversations began, and soon there was talk about “what If… we form an umbrella (diaconal) organization from coast to coast? An organization that would be responsible for overseeing the training of deacons in the CRC from Vancouver BC. to Halifax NS?” Quite exciting stuff!
Since we were out for lunch, the only paper available was the napkins on the table. Soon these napkins became full blown flow charts with various arrows from east to west and west to east. They included circles, squares, even triangles. Leader’s names were put in the various provinces so committees could be formed; with hope that one day these small napkins might evolve into a national organization.
It was an exciting time and after a few more years of discussions (and maybe some more napkin drawings), in 2001 Diaconal Ministries Canada was formally organized. It has grown to an organization that is the envy of many other CRC agencies.
There are approximately 20 Diaconal Ministry Developers (DMD), representing the 12 Classis across Canada, who take it upon themselves, with the help of staff, to train and build relationships with deacons coast to coast.
Have you contacted your DMD? Click here to find out how.
I remember that summer day when I was travelling with some friends in the US. I was the only Canadian in the car and, as we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, my friend proceeded to give me a short list of conversation topics to avoid during the meal.
You see my friend and his wife had pre-decided that they were going to avoid any topics that were sure to spark debate and highlight the presence of entrenched ideological divisions within the group.
I assured my companions that I was quite naive about America’s hot button topics and so would not knowingly threaten the delicate balance that was trying to be maintained. I then proceeded to rave about how Canadians did not find themselves so polarized about such issues. “In general,” I boasted, “we Canadians are able to agree to disagree over a warm cup of Timmies and with a maple syrup smile.”
Alright, so that’s not exactly what I said, but you get the gist.
When I reflect back on that experience, I am embarrassed about how naive I was. There were, in fact, Canadian specific issues that were creating deep-seated divisions among Canada’s citizens/nations. I just was not aware of them.
I think it’s now safe to say that Canadians are not immune to the social and political issues that are polarizing groups in the United States. There is a prevailing climate of division around justice issues surrounding refugee settlement in Canada, Islamophobia, and oil pipeline expansion.
The question is, how do people who are called to love their neighbours [and enemies] (see Matthew 5:44) engage in matters of difference, as opposed to avoiding them? How do we create safe spaces in our church communities for dialogue to flourish with the hope that the division gap will become smaller?
Jeanette Romkema, Partner and Senior Trainer at Global Learning Partners offers the following fantastic tips in her blog, “Tips for Entering and Staying with Tough Dialogue.”
- Be genuinely curious.
- Don’t enter to “win.”
- Talk less, listen more.
- Use good questions for understanding.
- Ask head and heart questions.
- Be gentle.
- Prepare yourself.
- Stay humble.
I encourage you to read the whole article, so you can obtain practical ways to enter one-to-one dialogue with those whom you may be in disagreement with.
One-on-one dialogues are helpful, but I think the health of our church communities is at risk if we don’t consider how we will create space for polarizing issues to be discussed.
The Quakers have the time-worn tradition of engaging in a community dialoguing technique that they call scrupling. This was and still is a way for Quakers to engage with a difficult problem or issue as a community. “Scrupling is not an argument, a debate or a panel discussion – but a serious conversation to seek a way forward,” (Read more here). It was the method used in 2010 to discuss the erosion of democracy in Canada by the Harper government and the method used a century prior when discussing slaveholding.
As a facilitator who regularly convenes people in learning spaces to discuss topics and issues that make most people cringe and uncomfortable, I know it is crucial to the health of a community for people to feel that they have a safe way and space to process the difficult issues No matter how divisive those issues have the potential to be. Not speaking about them can lead to the adoption of entrenched positions that over time fray our bonds to each other and encourage the dehumanization of “the other.”
Paul’s warning to the Galatians is timely for the North American church today: “but if you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out, or you will be consumed by each other” (5:15, ESV). The remedy is love (see 5:14), and it is through speaking the truth in love, that the Body of Christ grows in maturity (see Ephesians 4:15).
To make a commitment to stay at the communication line and speak the truth in love, whether we find ourselves intimately connected to the issues or distant from them, is just one of the ways that we live as ministers of reconciliation and work towards authentic unity in our communities. It is this authentic, gritty, non-conforming, diversity loving unity that Christ says will demonstrate to the world that He was sent from the Father (see John 17:21).
So in 2017, it is clear as day to me that Canadians do not agree to disagree with a maple syrup smile. What is not yet clear is whether Canadians and more specifically the CRC church, will respond to this growing climate of polarization with the age-old “nothing’s wrong here, everything’s fine,” or with compassion and a commitment to lean into the tough spaces.
Questions to Consider:
- How might not creating space for tough dialogue harm your congregation’s health, impact the wider community?
- What healthy and robust communication practices does your local congregation have for dealing with the difficult issues of the day?
- What can you do to encourage spaces for healthy dialogue in your church community?
- What resources/tools/support would you need to accomplish the above
– Bernadette Arthur, CRC Race Relations Coordinator