News & Events

DMC and World Renew Collaborate on “Helping Without Hurting” Workshops

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Diaconal Ministries Canada and World Renew have collaborated a number of times to lead an interactive “Helping without Hurting” workshop, most recently in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

At that event, DMC’s Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD) in that region, Jean deBeer felt that participants “left the workshop enriched and challenged to ask themselves if [the ministry] they were doing or supporting was ultimately something that provided more than just the immediate relief of a perceived need, but actually something that is relationship-building and inclusive to community.”

Jean feels “quite passionate about issues relating to poverty” and was determined to clear any barriers in order to bring the workshop to Saskatoon. She also felt the timing was right. A few years ago, Jean, along with her fellow DMDs, had been given the book When Helping Hurts to read and discuss at the annual DMD gathering.  “It definitely stuck with me,” says Jean. Because of her conversations and meetings as a DMD with the deacons of Bethel CRC and Sonlight CRC, she also perceived that it was the “right time” for them all to learn more about how to address poverty.

World Renew’s Co-director Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo and DMC’s National Director Ron Vanden Brink facilitated the workshop, which was attended by members of the CRC, and the local Mennonite, Catholic and Baptist churches.  Participants were challenged to engage their community, considering assets and not just needs. One church was hoping to take what they learned and do a Community Opportunity Scan. Overall, the workshop was informative and challenging. As Jean put it, “we are all more aware of the need to go beyond providing immediate relief!”

The next workshops are scheduled for March 2, 2017 at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in Langley, BC. and March 4, 2017 at East Hill Community Church in Vernon, B.C.

“Ministry in Mayhem”: this year’s Ancaster Day of Encouragement

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“The CRC, and the church in general, is so much bigger than our own congregations. Great to get that larger perspective and be encouraged as we go back to our own community.”

The Day of Encouragement (DOE) is all about perspective. It is, as this participant said, about “that larger perspective,” the Kingdom of God, and how God is at work in our communities. It is also about perspectives: sharing your own and learning from the perspectives of others. As perspectives are widened and deepened, participants at the DOE are equipped and encouraged to go back to their communities and find “ministry in mayhem.”

And that was the theme at this year’s Ancaster DOE held Saturday, October 15 at Hamilton District Christian High School. Pastor Willemina Zwart (Good News Church, London) gave the keynote address and those who came found her “very inspiring” and were encouraged by “her enthusiasm and her love for the messiness of life.”

doe-1The numbers of registrants were down, but that did not diminish the blessings of the day. Over 40 gifted leaders facilitated workshops that participants found “very pertinent to [their] church life right now” and that gave them “new insights.” For some, the fellowship, networking and the connedoe4ctions with others were the most encouraging part of the day.

It was a day of blessing. It was a day of sharing. It was a day of encouragement. No matter what area of ministry participants are engaged in, there is something or someone to speak into it. And along the way, maybe some perspectives were changed by what was experienced. For one participant it meant that she was “gonna dare to let more mess happen” in her church. Praise God that the Spirit is alive and at work, challenging and shaping members of the CRC in Canada.

Were you there? What is your perspective? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Saying “Good-bye”

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Hans asks me how I’m doing as he walks in to the office where I am working, casually dressed, with an easy, relaxed smile on his face. This is usually the way Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) staff interact with Hans. And on this day, it’s almost like we are about to start talking about what we’re working on; it’s almost like nothing has changed. Except that it has. It was only a few weeks ago that Hans completed his last day with DMC. And a week before that, I had the opportunity to sit down and reflect with him on his tenure as National Director of DMC.

The last 15 years at DMC has been characterized by Hans’ dynamic yet steady vision, which was consistently supported by the Board and had already begun to develop years ago through his experiences. Under Hans’ leadership, DMC clearly articulated its purpose to walk alongside Canadian CRCs sent to join God in His work of reconciliation, transforming communities into places of shalom. And diaconates have an important leadership role in that, Hans maintains, as long as they are able to reimagine themselves as something other than simply an administrative body.

It is clear from the way in which Hans talks about it, that becoming a deacon at the age of 40 made a difference in his life and helped to develop his passion and vision. At the same time as he was beginning to feel less fulfillment in his chosen field of accounting, he was, as a deacon, doing more than simply those administrative tasks: he was connecting with people from the community who came to the church looking for help. This fit his gifts well and God used these experiences to encourage him to attend Calvin Seminary in 1993 and serve with World Missions in Honduras and Costa Rica from 1995-2001.

Hans’ time in Central America would provide a different lens through which he would view the church in Canada. As he witnessed oppression and poverty alongside of the growth and development of missional communities in Honduras, he recognized a profound role for the church in pursuing holistic ministry. In this context, distinctions between elder and deacon, missionary and development worker mattered far less than the pursuit of justice and mercy with the marginalized and poor.  In the Canadian context, however, he also saw a role and opportunity for deacons to be catalysts for community engagement. But it was not just about the deacons –the health of the church seemed to him to be directly proportional to the effectiveness of the diaconate.

All of these experiences and learnings would bless DMC as Hans became National Director in 2001. By that time, the groundwork had been laid for a centralized mission which, conversely, was strengthened by decentralizing DMC staff and Diaconal Ministry Developers to better serve the churches coast to coast. A national, classis-based model was beginning to be realized. By 2002, Board members stretched across the country and DMC was focused on finding Diaconal Ministry Developers to serve each classis.

This was the first of a number of significant changes in DMC and the CRC that happened during Hans’ tenure. DMC contributed its voice to the conversations on the changing view and role of deacons. Women increasingly brought an important dimension to diaconal work as the full gifts of the body were being represented in leadership. As churches increasingly felt called to their local communities, Hans appreciated how they also began to take the risk of the Community Opportunity Scan as a tool for community engagement. And, more recently, the Diakonia Remixed report was not unfamiliar to Canadian deacons because it had already been the language of DMC. When Synod affirmed the report, the work of many deacons across Canada and the work of DMC was also affirmed. Finally, DMC also began to give intentional focus to the area of justice and to help churches understand how fundamental it is for deacons and churches to love their neighbours in concrete and visible ways, look deeper than charity to seek out the root causes of poverty and marginalization in their communities.

While DMC’s focus on justice, for example, is the kind of thing often seen as a measureable indicator of success, it is also the unmeasurable things that take good measure of Hans’ years as National Director of DMC.

At his recent retirement party, staff celebrated how Hans was a thoughtful, engaged and gentle servant- leader. He had a unique ability to be a strong administrator yet remained flexible to accommodate new ideas. He thinks deeply, lives his convictions, encouraged his staff and gave them the freedom to use their gifts. One of his most appreciated characteristics is that he relational and caring: the culture of DMC has been deeply impacted and strengthened by his person, experiences and abilities. We are grateful to God for his character and leadership.

So when Hans walks into the office where I’m working, I put aside my work and give him a hug, grateful for the opportunity that I have had to work with him and grateful for the great gift that Hans was to DMC and to the CRC in Canada.  And that is one thing that will not change.

DMC Announces Next National Director

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Dear Friends of DMC:

This year marks a significant transition for Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC).  After serving for more than 14 years as the National Director of DMC, Hans Kater will be retiring as of June 30th.  We cannot express enough thanks for his wise and gracious leadership which has been a constant blessing for our organization and to our staff, board, committees and partners. Under Hans, DMC developed from its early inception state into a cohesive ministry with a strong staff team.  This team daily serves our churches and communities with clear vision and purpose. As a board we will miss Hans’ insights, encouragement and humour around our table, yet we are incredibly grateful for the ways God has been glorified through his many years of faithful service.

Looking ahead, we are delighted to share with you that as of August 1st, Ron Vanden Brink (photo above) will be joining DMC to fill the position of National Director.  He grew up in Edmonton where, after graduating from high school, he worked for nine years as an electrician.  He then attended The King’s University College in Edmonton, and later graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Ron gained ministry experience by serving Cornerstone church in Salmon Arm, BC (1994-2003) and New Hope church in Calgary, AB (2003-2006).

Ron and his wife Monica reside in Kelowna BC, have two grown children and are grandparents of three children. They are members of The Well church plant in Kelowna, where Ron has served as a pastor for the last nine years.

With an excitement for the future of deacons in the CRC, a heart for diaconal ministry and a desire to see communities transformed in Christ, Ron has sought to be faithful by responding to the Lord’s call to this new challenge of National Director.   We are eager to see how God uses his particular gifts in this role as he brings his unique perspective and joy-filled personality to the work of Diaconal Ministries Canada.

As an organization, we covet your prayers always, but even more so now during this time of leadership change. We ask that you specifically pray for our exceptional staff team who have been working closely together for many years.  We recognize that this time of transition is bittersweet as we bless and send Hans on to his next kingdom adventure. Yet we are confident that God has been leading this process and are thankful that He has been preparing Ron to continue the good work of DMC under our unchanged vision and mission of Transforming Communities in Christ by Engaging Communities, Equipping Deacons and Living Justly.  Ron can be reached by contacting the Diaconal Ministries Canada office at 1-800-730-3490 or by email at rvandenbrink@crcna.org.

With gratitude for your ongoing support and our partnership in Kingdom service,

Melissa Van Dyk

Board Chair

(photo: Ron Vanden Brink, DMC’s new National Director)

The Freedom Climb: Getting Uncomfortable for God’s Precious Children

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In July 2014 I had the privilege of travelling to Colorado from my home province of Saskatchewan. There I joined about 70 other women, from 6 different countries, for “The Freedom Climb”!  We summited 7 mountains, each of them over 14,000 feet elevation, in 4 days. We were dizzy from the altitude, with aching muscles and blistered feet. However, we were also filled with joy, gratitude, and an overwhelming sense of God’s presence.

Why would I, a stay-at-home mom to 3 preschool children, choose to do this?  Because by participating in The Freedom Climb, I have the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of women and children around the world who are suffering in ways that I cannot begin to imagine in my comfortable life. Our climb up the mountains is symbolic of the difficult, treacherous climb to freedom faced by victims of human trafficking around the world today.

The Freedom Climb is a project of Operation Mobilization, and the purpose is to create greater awareness and promote significant advocacy against modern day oppression, slavery and exploitation in the world. Participants commit to raising funds and awareness for various projects that specifically prevent, rescue, and restore victims of human trafficking.

During our time in Colorado, we had the opportunity to learn more about some of the Freedom Climb projects from individuals who are actually working in Zambia, Guatemala, and India. Their stories are heart breaking! The need is real! These projects are providing vulnerable women with occupational training so they can have sustainable income; they are providing vulnerable children with a hot meal and help with their homework; they are educating families about options other than ritualized prostitution for their young daughters.  Most importantly, they tell people about God’s love, and the saving grace of Jesus.

The first Freedom Climb took place in 2012 when a group climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and since then the Freedom Climb has taken place in several different countries. 2016 will see the Freedom Climb coming to Canada for the first time! In August 2016, women will be gathering in Fernie B.C. to climb in the beautiful Canadian Rockies.

It has been a joy and an honor for me to participate in the Freedom Climb. I am excited to be climbing again next summer in Fernie.  I believe that by raising funds and awareness through this great cause, I am obeying God’s call to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”   (Proverbs 31: 8-9 NLT)

If you are interested in joining us in Fernie next summer, I encourage you to pray about it, and step out in faith and obedience.  Women of various ages and fitness levels can survive and thrive on the mountains! This is an opportunity to stretch ourselves, get uncomfortable, and be a voice for God’s precious children whose voices are not heard in our world. The links below have more information, including details about registration. I am also available to discuss my experience and answer any questions!

-written by Karen Jacobi, deacon and member of Bethel CRC in Saskatoon, SK

The Freedom Climb: www.thefreedomclimb.net

www.om.org (Registration information about Fernie 2016 under “Events” tab)

Karen Jacobi- Karen_nauta@hotmail.com

The Refugee Crisis and the CRC Response

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The following was sent out by the CRCNA Communications:

With the refugee crisis on many people’s minds, questions have come in to various agency and ministry staff about what the CRC is doing to help.

A number of communication items have recently gone out from our office to address the refugee crisis and how churches can respond to the issue and to the needs of refugees.

To keep you all informed, here is a link to the letter that went to churches throughout Canada: Announcement: Refugee Issues and Resources

In addition, bulletin announcements went to all Canadian churches:

REFUGEE RESOURCES – The local church needs to consider its approach to the refugee crisis. Especially considering Iraq and Syria, we have the opportunity to get engaged. Understand how your church can serve the stranger in your midst by visiting the ‘Refugee Issues web portal’ on the CRC Canada page at www.crcna.org/Canada/social-justice-canada/refugee-issues. There your church will find everything from worship resources to small group studies, an online video for worship settings, and even a doorway to sponsor a refugee.

SYRIA CONFLICT RESPONSE – World Renew is responding to the horrific violence that has torn apart the Middle East and forced millions of people to become refugees. For more than three years, World Renew has been providing food and other assistance to displaced families in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Please help us continue this ministry. Gifts received from Canadians by December 31 will qualify for a 1:1 match from the Canadian government. Call 1-800-730-3490, visit www.worldrenew.net/donate or mail your gift marked, “World Renew Syria Conflict,” to World Renew, 3475 Mainway, STN LCD 1, Burlington, ON L7R 3Y8. Those interested in helping refugee families as they begin a new life in Canada, should contact Rebecca Walker (rwalker@worldrenew.net).

Various news stories have also gone out about the refugee crisis:

Tragic Images Spur Mobilization on Syrian Refugees

CRC Helps to Resettle Syrian Refugees (also posted on CRCNA Facebook page)

Canadian Government to Match Donations for Syrian Refugee Crisis

As well, we have been working with partners of the CRC; the Canadian Council of Churches, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the World Council of Reformed Churches have all promoted our content.

(photo from a workshop and toolkit that seeks to help Christian citizens work with their refugee neighbours for justice. Find out more from the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue)

Meet DMC’s new Justice Mobilizer!

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I’m Dan Galenkamp, the new Justice Mobilizer for DMC. As a recent graduate of Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, I’ve been eager on finding work that incorporates my faith and my enthusiasm for helping others.

I have a real passion for justice and reconciliation. From the humble beginnings of a high school law class—where I learned about the concept of restorative justice—to the end of my time at Redeemer, I have found myself with a keen interest in how I can help those less fortunate and those in need. I recently led a group of high school graduates in a discipleship training program that culminated with a month of volunteer work in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We worked with families at a youth drop-in centre in the low-income area of Belfast, led school assemblies and church programs, interacted with the homeless, and learned how to properly articulate our faith to others.

I have high hopes for the Christian Reformed Church. I believe we have been called to manifest God’s kingdom here on earth, and a large part of this is in the area of justice. To me, the chief responsibility of those seeking justice is to bring about the Lord’s shalom, or peace. This requires reconciliation in our relationships with each other, with ourselves, with creation, and with God to the way they were intended to be.

I look forward to working with the team at DMC to help empower communities and deacons all over Canada.

Connect with Dan at dgalenkamp@crcna.org