engaging community

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.

Churches invited to be part of the Restorative Justice Process

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Restorative justice, in its simplest form, is the attempt to make things as right as possible between victims, offenders, and the wider community when some harm or crime happens.  But what does that look like for those of us who work mostly with offenders, the folks who’ve hurt others or caused some sort of harm to others?

Most of my work is with men and women who’ve done federal prison time, and are transitioning into the Edmonton area.  They are trying to write new chapters for their lives, to walk new paths, to live in ways that are not defined by their pasts.  What does it for them to “make things as right as possible”?

Part of the answer, I think, is for faith communities and churches to create safe, welcoming spaces for folks leaving prison.

Every other Saturday, I facilitate a men’s group that usually consists of about a dozen men who’ve done time, and a dozen volunteers who want to support their reintegration. The group provides the space for our friends to explore a new identity, a new story for themselves – one that is not defined by crime, past abuse, or poor decisions.  Rather, through discussions, outings, and – most importantly – eating together, the men who attend can start to heal, seeing themselves as people with a new future.  They can start to ask what it might mean to make things right with the people they’ve hurt.  And when they mess up or take a few steps back, our group is there to pick them up again.

Churches and faith communities are just the sort of places capable of providing this sort of community.  It can be as simple as connecting with a local prison chaplain, reintegration chaplain, or community support program and asking where to begin.

Another important way to empower offenders to “make things right” with the wider community is to give opportunities for them to give back.  Are there jobs that we can offer to former inmates as they make a new start, so that they can provide for loved ones, support themselves, be part of a healthy workplace, and contribute to the wider community?  Are there volunteer opportunities that churches or their partners can offer, so that they can be givers and not just service-recipients?

Finally, churches and faith communities can make space for former inmates in their pews (or folding chairs or coffee shop benches).  Many former inmates long for a sense of belonging.  Churches can offer just that by the simple act of inviting them to church on Sundays, for coffee afterwards, or for lunch at the nearby diner when church is over.  Those simple invitations can be an echo of Jesus’ invitation to “all those who are weary and heavy-burdened,” and can be an opportunity to journey with someone who – like all of us – needs a fellow pilgrim to join them on their way to making things right with those they’ve hurt.

-written by Jonathan Nicolai-deKoning (Rev), Reintegration Chaplain, Open Door Program (The Mustard Seed, Edmonton, AB)

The Open Door Program (participants and staff pictured above) is an Operation Manna partner.

 

“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!

“I chose you!”

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(story reprinted with permission from LIFE Recovery, an Operation Manna partner ministry)

I came to LIFE Recovery with no hope; addicted to crystal meth, homeless and penniless. My only child was not speaking to me, and my mother had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. I was hard, angry and full of hatred.

My mother had tried her best to help me; truthfully, I was stressing her out. Raised in a strong Christian home, I had a strong urge to return to my roots. I had been running for a long time and I was desperate.

At LIFE Recovery I was taught week after week that Jesus loves me. I knew He loved the world. What I didn’t realize was that he loved me as an individual.

After I had been at Life for about two weeks, I got on my knees and asked Jesus to rescue me as I surrendered to His will. As time went by, Jesus melted my icy heart, knocking down the walls I had built so that no one could get in.

I started to shine as I walked in the light. I wasn’t just a rotten apple with no reason to live anymore. My daughter talks to me again, I was able to nurse my mother, I was baptized. I watched my mother decline physically and mentally, staying clean for five months. She passed into her life of eternity on January 16, 2015.

When I came to LIFE Recovery, I had no intention of staying. The only explanation I have is that God led me to Life, planted me there and said “You’re not going anywhere. I chose you!”(written by an alumni client of LIFE Recovery).

LIFE recovery is a Christian residential addiction treatment centre for women, and has been an Operation Manna partner since 2014.

Growing a Stronger Missional Heart

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“Over the last 10-15 years, Bethel CRC transformed from the church ‘out on the highway’ to the church that loves the community.”

This is how Diane Leferink describes what God has been doing in Bethel CRC in Acton, Ontario. Many things have undoubtedly contributed to this transformation, but in 2007, the church started a Community Opportunity Scan (COS) –to find out more about their neighbours and community and to find places and people with whom to partner for the good of the community. Diane was part of the leadership team for Bethel’s COS.

The COS is a process of discovery, a way of affirming the unique gifts and assets in the community and in the church. After listening to the community, the church then begins to prayerfully discern opportunities to partner with their neighbours to share Christ’s love and bring sustainable change. That change might look like an initiative or a program, or it might be awareness and action around an injustice or need. It is, however, always about relationships. Sometimes the church comes through a COS with a clear direction for community ministry. Sometimes it may be less clear, but no less fruitful when it is led by the Holy Spirit.

For Bethel CRC, the COS helped the church make “great connections with schools, agencies and individuals” that they “really didn’t have before or at least not at the same level,” says Diane. “Those COS conversations were really important.” And, she adds, “the good work continues on!”

Bethel CRC is “shining light” and “showing love” to their community. According to Pastor Ray Vanderkooij, the pastor since 2003, the church is “blessed to be having an impact in the community of Acton and beyond.” This impact extends in a special way to the youth of the community. They are involved in an Alpha course in the local public high school. They are also exploring sports opportunities with the youth of the community, creating a community youth group, and engaging the youth in a local mission week in the community. Together they are taking the lead to address the issue of youth homelessness in Halton Hills.

The deacons are also very engaged, continuing to “share in the community, very intentionally supporting the local food bank.” The GEMS and Cadets worked with the Scouts and Girl Guides to lead a food drive. The church is involved in “Food for Life,” and opens up their facilities to the community for meetings and events. The church is also a voice on the Community Support Network for Halton Hills, and its housing taskforce.

These, and other, activities and ministries are working to transform both the church and the community. The COS, says Diane, “really helped to get things going.” Pastor Ray adds that “many individuals make valuable missional impact in their neighbourhoods and in community groups, which is the most exciting to see, and which we are encouraging as we seek to grow a stronger missional heart in our church family.”

 

Want to learn more about the Community Opportunity Scan? Click here.

 

Deacons Challenge Congregation to Participate in Reverse Offerings

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When Rachel Vroege (Regional Ministries Developer -West) from Diaconal Ministries Canada visited the Deacons of Bethel CRC in Saskatoon last year, one idea she presented to us was that of a Reverse Offering.  We were immediately taken with the idea, and went about trying to make it work for our local Rosthern Food Bank.  We explained to our congregation what a reverse offering was, and how it worked.

On March 8th our offering bags were passed around and everyone pulled out slips of paper which had items listed on them as suggested needs for the Food Bank.  The results were amazing and the large amount of items that we took to Rosthern on March 27, 2015 speak to the many blessings we as individuals and as congregation feel we wanted to share. There was excitement in the air!

The Rosthern Food Bank people were slightly overwhelmed by our gift.  They had been running short of stock and as one of the ladies quietly said to me, “The Lord supplies.”  They asked how we had raised this amount of items.  When we told them about the “reverse offering,” the word and explanation quickly spread from one helper to the next.  I can just imagine that there will be a series of Reverse Offerings in the surrounding churches.  Great idea Rachel, and Thank You Lord!

-Jean de Beer, Diaconal Ministry Developer for Saskatchewan

(in the above photo: Bethel CRC Deacons l-r: Karen Jacobi, Liz McLean, Calvin Vaandrager, and Henk Vandenbrink)

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Offering More

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What started as a one-time fundraiser some 40 years ago has become a very popular annual tradition that church members look forward to every Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving1Hebron CRC in Renfrew, Ontario held their first Thanksgiving Day auction as a fundraiser for the Calvinette (now GEMS) program. It was so popular that congregational members suggested that it take place  every year…and so an annual tradition was born.

Each Thanksgiving, members donate everything from homegrown produce to home-baking, handmade wooden articles, jams, jellies, preserves and craft items to be auctioned off. Everyone enjoys bidding  against each other to win the item of their choice. It is a good time of fellowship and fun.

Thanksgiving 5Each year, the money raised is donated to different charitable organizations connected to the church or community. This event has raised thousands of dollars for many deserving  recipients and has blessed the church, its members, and the recipients of the money raised. We hope and pray this will continue for many years to come.

-submitted by the Renfrew deacons