A Deacon’s Journey of Faith and Service

Photo Caption: At the New Year’s Day brunch, the first celebration of Hope Fellowship’s 25th anniversary

When I came across a job advertisement seeking writers for the Diaconal Ministries’ eQuip blog, I was delighted to learn about this opportunity and immediately applied. As a second-year seminary student at Calvin and a dedicated mother of four, I am genuinely grateful for the exceptional support of the deacons at our church. Their unwavering care and guidance have been a source of strength and inspiration for me as I pursue my dreams. The dedication, love, and compassion I experienced during a time of need was a compelling motivation for my desire to give back in this way. I wrote a previous blog post about my experiences with deacons within our congregation; you can find it here!

In this follow-up post, I wanted to highlight one deacon at Hope Fellowship and share about her experiences being in that role and how it impacted her own life. I hope it will inspire deacons to continue on their journey in this vital role or perhaps inspire others who have thought about becoming a deacon but aren’t sure if that would fit them well. -Amanda Mason

When I reached the point where I had to ask our church for extra help for my family, I met a few different deacons. One that stood out to me was Joan Doorensplett. Joan was a deacon who had visited us a few times. She brought some Costco meals and a bag of small toys for my children during a difficult Christmas season. As a mother of six kids herself, she made me feel normal. Joan didn’t sugarcoat things and always asked me how I was doing. I felt comfortable with her because asking for help takes a lot of courage and humility, but when someone is genuinely interested in making sure you are okay, it helps ease some of the stress. Even though it can be hard to talk about our lives through hardships, Joan never made me feel ashamed of my circumstances during those visits.

Her warmth, sincerity, and honesty are some of her best qualities. Through these interactions and experiences, she not only shined in her role as a deacon but also became my friend, and this ultimately allowed us to bond when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. As my friend, she helped me put a wedding together for me and my husband in a three-month window that allowed my mother to be there as we committed ourselves to marriage in front of our church, our families, and God. She was amazing! This day would never have happened without first having these earlier interactions and building a relationship, and I am eternally grateful for that.

As a newcomer to the CRCNA, I had no idea what the roles of an elder or deacon were until we went through some difficult times. In many ways, I am grateful for the experiences that have brought us closer to our church community. It is heartwarming to see how deacons extend a hand of friendship and show Jesus’ love through serving others with love and compassion. Their efforts to provide much-needed assistance and hope to others are truly inspiring. In addition to their primary role, deacons help with outreach and community events, making a real difference in people’s lives inside and outside the church walls. 

When I sat down to speak with Joan, she shared her story of how she was led to serve as a deacon at our church. Before the COVID lockdowns, Joan used to work as a support staffer at a local high school. As I mentioned, she is the mother of six grown-up children and is also a proud grandmother. She actively participates in our church outreach and food bank program, which we run with our sister church, Zion CRC. Joan was among the founding members of our church and her husband, grown children, and grandchildren are all actively involved. Her extended family has a heart for serving the community inside and outside our church.  Because of Joan’s servant heart, it’s not shocking that she was nominated as a deacon. She accepted the nomination and was honoured to take on a new role and way of serving at our church.

Little did Joan or any of us know, but COVID would happen the following year, changing how we were all used to ‘doing’ ministry work. But not even COVID could stop Joan from serving! There was a local hotel that was housing some families, couples, and singles who had been misplaced. They had little money, little resources, and little food. One of the ways I saw Joan excel in her role was by building relationships with the people living there. She passionately advocated for them and brought them items we often take for granted. Joan wasn’t trying to convert them or get them to come to church; instead, she wanted to be a living example of the gospel in action. Joan’s ability to get to know people and meet them where they are reflects the love of Jesus and the core of our faith – to love our neighbour.

In my conversation with Joan, I had the opportunity to learn more about the deacons and their work in our church. She told me that our church’s deacons each serve a three-year term. This rotation ensures that newcomers like Joan can learn from the more experienced deacons and pass on their knowledge to newer members in the future. The deacons have different roles, with one serving as the chair, others assisting with outreach and finances, and some communicating directly with congregation members. Deacons assist the church as a whole by making use of the congregation’s talents and skills. The devotion and commitment of these men and women to serving their congregations and communities as deacons in their churches truly inspires me.

Joan’s favourite aspect of being a deacon was that she loved helping people and connecting with them. Yet she shared that there were challenges too. She explained that it can be difficult to know when someone needs assistance; some may feel uncomfortable asking for help while others may be too proud. And sometimes we can assume things about people which aren’t true. Joan believes deacons must balance the desire to help others while always respecting their personal lives. Despite these challenges, she went about her work with confidence and grace, always striving to provide support in any way possible. 

Joan eventually went on to become church’s Children’s Ministries Director. Under her direction, several fruitful children’s programs were re-established after the Covid lockdowns were lifted. She was also a significant factor in getting our summer camp back underway! Additionally, she has brought new initiatives that have revitalized our church and forged stronger ties within the community, such as biking and barbecuing and hosting an illumination walk during Advent. 

On top of all this, Joan continues to find time to assist with the Zion/Hope food bank on Thursdays, demonstrating her dedication to outreach work. Her selfless nature and willingness to serve others has always been her strength, which were evident to me when I first met her. 

When asked if she would consider serving as a deacon again, Joan responded with a resounding “absolutely!” Her response demonstrates that not only have those who have interacted with our deacons been blessed, but serving as a deacon is also a blessing. 

Truth be told, each one of us is called to be a deacon; a sacred calling from God to serve others and bring them closer to Him. By stepping into this role, God magnifies our gifts in ways we may not fully understand. If we follow His call to diaconal ministry, He prepares us all for this role. Joan’s response of “absolutely!” reminds us that the deacon’s role can open our hearts to be part of Christ’s renewing work here on earth until He comes again.

Whether working directly in homeless shelters or food banks or lending a hand to fellow members in difficult times, every individual plays an essential role. Every service reflects Jesus’ love in our communities. Joan’s story reminds us that even small acts of kindness can significantly impact people’s lives.

If you are an ordained deacon, know that your work is important and that you are making a significant impact. And Diaconal Ministries Canada is here to help guide you if you need support. If you are considering becoming a deacon, know that this role will put you in the trenches of helping those around you, but it will also enable you to use the skills and gifts that God has blessed you with to work with a group of others who desire to help those who most need it. As followers of Christ, each of us is asked to be His hands and feet and as we bring love and compassion to others. I am confident that if this position did not exist in the CRCNA, the church would be missing a significant portion of God’s heart.

Are you a deacon right now?

Share your story with us! Email our Communications Coordinator today – eknight@crcna.org.