Erin Knight

“How could we say ‘no?’” Gateway CRC responds to need for homeless shelter

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(Pictured Above: Larry, one of the shelter’s guests who has also started to regularly attend Gateway, sitting in the church gym.)

This month, guest blogger Monica deRegt will be writing a 3-part story on the Extreme Weather Shelter opened up by Gateway Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia. 
Our theme for December has been “Helping Without Harming” and we hope this story inspires churches to trust God and follow Him into their communities, despite the risks and the unknowns, in order to be a light in this world.


When Gateway CRC (Abbotsford, BC) designed their new building over a decade ago, they knew they wanted it to be a facility that could be used by the broader community. They planned for a large auditorium with a suitable stage for concerts, a spacious banquet hall for rentals, and they kept the original gymnasium and classrooms that were part of the old school building, to be used by groups within and outside of the church. What they didn’t envision was receiving an urgent request on a cold December day in 2016 for additional space to accommodate homeless men and women living in their neighbourhood.

When Jesse Wegenast, director of 5 and 2 Ministries, a local organization that ministers to homeless people, approached Gateway, he was hesitant at first because he had been turned down by every other church he had asked up to that point. But, desperate to find space for 30 beds for people who needed to get out of the cold as soon as possible, and knowing Gateway was a large facility, he decided to take his chances.

Within a week, Gateway’s gym was transformed into an Extreme Weather Shelter that remained open for over 70 nights during a long, cold winter. 5 and 2 Ministries operated the shelter and provided the staff, along with support from the City of Abbotsford. Gateway provided the space, warm meals every night for the guests, along with custodial services and other needs as they arose. In 2017, Gateway took over and managed the shelter on their own, with guidance from the Extreme Weather Shelter Action Committee of Abbotsford, and funding from BC Housing.

So how did it all come together? It wasn’t without its challenges, some of which are still being ironed out as the church heads into the third winter hosting the shelter, shared Gateway’s Executive Pastor Marcel deRegt. Because this ministry arose out of an urgent need, none of the typical ministry planning and preparation took place.

“But how could we say ‘no?’” deRegt asks. “We are the church, this is what we are called to do as believers.”

“But how could we say ‘no?’ We are the church; this is what we are called to do as believers.” 
Pastor deRegt

So, they said yes and decided to figure it out as they went. The learning curve was steep as most Gateway members had very little experience with homeless people prior to opening the shelter. There was some fear and misgivings, a lot of eye-opening moments, as well as a few frustrations. But mostly there was a genuine desire to help even if everyone didn’t know exactly what to say or do. Many responded in the only way they knew how – with food. Empty crockpots stacked up beside the church mailboxes each morning were a testament to the dozens of meals that members would drop off each night. Some members volunteered to sit with the homeless people in the evenings. A group of people came together early on Christmas morning to share a pancake breakfast and Christmas gifts with the shelter guests.

When Gateway took over the management of the shelter in 2017, more planning and paperwork needed to happen. DeRegt and the rest of the staff and council worked closely with the local Salvation Army and BC Housing to sort out funding and other details such as bylaw changes, as well as hiring a coordinator to oversee the program and manage the volunteers.

Lasting relationships have been formed with some of the guests, and hearts and lives have been transformed within both the congregation and the shelter. 

Last year, the shelter provided a dry bed and a warm meal for over 450 individuals. But more than that, lasting relationships have been formed with some of the guests, and hearts and lives have been transformed within both the congregation and the shelter.  


Monica Kronemeyer deRegt is a freelance writer and Academic Counselor at Abbotsford Christian School. She lives in Chilliwack, BC, with her husband and three children.

Webinar Addresses Helping that Helps at Christmas (and beyond!)

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Christmas is almost here! I’m sure you didn’t need that reminder (at all!). Costco shelves and dollar store aisles have had their Christmas supplies out since October, if not sooner. Churches and charities have been busy planning and promoting their Christmas programs and ministries for a while now. Social media has been buzzing about who deserves our time and money this year (and who we should avoid). While this can be the most wonderful time of the year and a time we are all feeling just a little bit more charitable, it can also be the most overwhelming. Many not only want to find the perfect gift for their family members and friends, but also want to give back – to their community and those who are less fortunate.

Over the past year, World Renew and Diaconal Ministries Canada have teamed up to lead a workshop called, “Helping Without Harming”. This workshop helps participants learn how to alleviate poverty and injustice through effective engagement in their local and global communities. It encourages churches and charities to discover how food banks, deacon funds, short-term service trips and other benevolent activities can be more impactful and meaningful.

Last Wednesday, December 5th, Wendy Hammond, Church Relations Manager for World Renew (US), along with Andy Ryskamp (CRCNA Diaconal Ministry Initiative, US) and Ron VandenBrink (National Director for Diaconal Ministries Canada) hosted a webinar called “Helping That Helps at Christmas and Beyond.” This timely (and timeless!) webinar was insightful and helpful to those who attended. One participant thanked the panel and remarked that this webinar was a “good reminder to work WITH people rather than FORthem” if we truly want to see lasting change.

This webinar was a “good reminder to work WITH people rather than FOR them” if we truly want to see lasting change.

-Webinar participant

You can find the webinar here. Feel free to share it with your church ministry teams and members, your diaconate, your family and friends or anyone you think of. All will benefit, especially those we are striving to help this time of year.

For those with further questions, the following resources and tips were offered up later on in the webinar:

  1. For CANADIAN CRCs;
    1. Find or host a local HWH workshop! The next workshop will be held in Edmonton in January, 2019, with the next one happening in Nanaimo, BC in early February,2019;
    1. Several books can offer practical help: The When Helping Hurts book series, Toxic Charity, Charity Detox;
    1. Contact your local Diaconal Ministry Developer and he/she can help with these conversations;
    1. Visit Diaconal Ministries Canada’s website and go through our Community Engagement resources.
  • For US CRCs:
    • Find your local Diaconal Conferences or email Andy Ryskamp for assistance;
    • Look for organizations to collaborate with that have a “Helping Without Harming” mentality.

Resources mentioned in this recording:

Diaconal Ministries Canada

Lupton Center

The Network (Deacons Section)

Healthy Principles of Community Engagement for the Local Church – handout

Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development (Myers, 2011)

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself   (Corbett and Fikkert, 2014)

World Renew Gift Catalog

Somethin’ to Shout About – Our Diaconal Ministry Developers

Posted by | Equipping Deacons, Job Opportunities, Uncategorized | No Comments
(Pictured AboveHarvey Buit (r) with Bill Groot-Nibbelink, listening and learning at the annual DMD Retreat in January of 2018)

 

One of the greatest assets of Diaconal Ministries Canada over the last 17 years has been its network of Diaconal Ministry Developers, or DMDs for short. DMDs are men and women of all ages who are experienced in diaconal work and are available to help deacons understand their role and work out their calling in their church and in their community. In a nutshell, DMDs are encouragers and coaches, and throughout the year, they aim to connect with every diaconate in every Christian Reformed Church across Canada and are available to assist churches in any way they can.

Harvey Buit became a DMD in Classis Alberta North in 2014 and had the opportunity to work with churches in Central Alberta for the past 4 years. During his time as a DMD, Harvey’s impact was meaningful and widespread. Jessie Edgington, a Northern Alberta Diaconal Conference consultant, told us how appreciative he was of Harvey’s faithful service and how he enjoyed their work together. “Harvey has been a valuable servant to the work of the office of the Deacon within Classis Alberta North. He has faithfully worked to connect the diaconates of the central parts of Alberta, to bring words of encouragement and teaching and he has shown the importance of connection to a larger body by his faithful example… His humble, faithful service has been appreciated and will be missed.” 

Harvey has faithfully worked to connect the diaconates of the central parts of Alberta, to bring words of encouragement and teaching and he has shown the importance of connection to a larger body by his faithful example.

As Harvey is now ready to ‘hang up his hat’ and transition into full retirement, we asked him to share about his experience and here is what he wrote:

Could this job be for me? That’s what I thought when I read the announcement in our church bulletin. Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) was looking for a Diaconal Ministry Developer in Central Alberta – right in the area where I live. I was at a point in my life where I had retired from my full-time job but was not able to fully retire so the part-time work seemed like it could be a good fit. But the last time I was a deacon, Diaconal Ministries Canada did not even exist yet, at least not in Alberta, so how could I be qualified? I thought. So I asked God and my wife about it and then kind of let the idea go.
It wasn’t until a while later a member of our church came to me and said I should apply as he thought I would be the right person for this kind of work. God definitely answers prayer though people sometimes!
The four years of being a Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD) has been meaningful work for me. I discovered what DMC is all about and how it works hard to equip deacons and I also met many wonderful, dedicated people along the way. Meeting with the nine (9) individual diaconates in my area to encourage them and share DMC’s information and resources was something I enjoyed. While organizing and putting on workshops didn’t always come easy to me, I learned a lot over the years. Our yearly DMD Retreat/gathering was a highlight and it always encouraged me to keep going.
I am excited to enter “full-time” retirement to be able to begin the next chapter in my and my wife’s life. We hope we will be able to do some traveling and also volunteering. I will miss all the wonderful people I’ve met and the various DMC events and gatherings, but am grateful to God for this opportunity and that He used someone in my life to nudge to me to say “Yes!”.

Harvey working with a World Renew DRS Team.

We can’t say enough about how grateful we are to Harvey for his years of dedicated work and his willingness to learn and grow in his role as a DMD. We know many churches were blessed by his work. Tyler Guppy, a deacon from Woodynook CRC in Lacombe, Alberta, shared this with us: “It was abundantly clear that Harvey not only wanted to empower and educate Deacons, but he also sought to make an authentic personal connection in his coaching role with Deacons. His focused work as a Diaconal Ministry Developer has had a strong, positive impact on many throughout our denomination.” 

Ted Vander Meulen, a deacon at Wolf Creek Community Church, agreed. “I’ve had contact with Harvey for the past two years since I became a deacon at Wolf Creek Community Church. I appreciated his dedication to the job, his willingness to meet with and offer guidance to the diaconates and his unassuming and thoughtful demeanor.” Chris and Anna van Haastert, deacons at Rimbey CRC, echoed this, sharing how thankful they were for all of the time and commitment Harvey invested in his role as their DMD.

Harvey’s focused work as a Diaconal Ministry Developer has had a strong, positive impact on many throughout our denomination.

So there you have it! Because of the time, energy, and care our DMDs put into each church they serve, they truly are DMC’s greatest asset. They play an essential role in propelling the mission of DMC to inspire, empower and equip every deacon in every church as they animate their congregations to join in God’s transforming work. Harvey will be greatly missed and we wish him God’s richest blessings in his retirement!


So… What About YOU? 

Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) is looking to fill vacant positions in western and eastern Canada and we are hoping you will heed the call! These part-time positions come with compensation and full training. Is this something YOU’D be interested in? Perhaps like Harvey you’ve heard about this role and you’ve put off finding out more.

If you are feeling the pull of the Lord’s leading, please contact the DMC office at dmc@crcna.org or 1-800-730-3490 for more information and to connect with one of our Regional Ministry Developers. We’d love to share what this exciting role is all about!


Will You Help Us Do More?

Our DMDs are a vital part of how DMC is able to fulfil its mission and mandate! And as you read above, their impact is powerful and has lasting effects on churches and individuals. Our DMDs do their best to see diaconates (and churches) thrive in the areas of community engagement, stewardship, and mercy and justice.

Because our DMDs do such important and valuable work, we honour that by providing compensation and full training to them. In order for us to continue to do that well and also to grow our team of DMDs, we need people like you to partner with us today. You can make a one-time donation OR become a monthly donor to help us continue our mission to inspire, empower and equip deacons through our DMD Network – so that every single community across Canada sees and experiences the transforming love Jesus Christ our Lord!

Many People Float on the Periphery

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Following our theme of “Loneliness” this month, Anita Hogeveen shared this blog post with us, which was originally published on December 18, 2017, on her blog.

Anita is one of our fabulous Diaconal Ministry Developers from Eastern Canada and she writes with grace and compassion and authenticity.


The church community did not let her be her. She let them be them but they did not let her be her. Her family was not accepted for being them. Her family was supposed to be something else. And it felt like they couldn’t make the grade. She couldn’t accept the nuanced put down any longer. The lines of non-acceptance are subtle, as to be almost, but not quite invisible. She could not shake this feeling. Lonely in a crowd. Lonely in a place that was supposed to show love and acceptance. Floating on the periphery. Many people float on the periphery.

I missed her in church so much a tear came to my eye and I felt a bit of nausea. It wasn’t the message that brought on the missing. I wanted her in that empty seat beside me so I could lean over a bit and ask her what she thought of whatever was being preached. I wanted to share a chuckle, a common understanding of what was going on. The chair remained empty. My tear dried up. The service went on. The missing stayed.

I am having coffee with a friend. She spoke about faith. Her faith is strong. She spoke about church community. How difficult it is to be welcomed in, for her. Two churches in the last eight years. Felt pushed towards and left at the perimeter. Maybe it’s me she ponders. Maybe I don’t follow the party line well enough. It’s not fun on the periphery. Maybe church is not for me.

I had lunch with friends. Friends from a long ago past life. It was fun to catch up. Two of us spend time talking outside the restaurant, in the cold…for a long time. As we catch up, our conversation turns towards the hurt church folks put onto the family. A broken family. Single parent. Kids. There was help but also judgement. Tuck your head in and take it. Hurt on hurt. A young child knowing judgement. Set apart. Lonely. Didn’t know why, not then, not totally then. But knew that something wasn’t right about their family.

I have felt all of these emotions for different reasons in each church I have been a member of, but not when I was very young. Maybe all members float on the periphery.

Many people often float around the perimeter of the “in” circle. There are circles within circles within circles. Cliques form. It happens. Like people with like ideas with like families with like…

Gather together.

Outsiders have a hard time permeating through the walls. Conversation and jokes revolve around times spent with each other. Ingroups. Outgroups. In churches. In all kinds of communities. Inclusion. Exclusion. All kinds of social systems struggle with ingroups and outgroups. There are those who are members of the inner circle, middle circle and the periphery. We invite others in but we don’t really mean for them to join us just the way they are. Nope. We want those we invite in to be just like us. Without knowing it or being purposeful we think of people other than ourselves, as ‘not quite making the grade’. The outside dirt is what we see first. We see the inside dirt later. We all have inside dirt and outside dirt. We attach labels. I do it. Then we try to pray the dirt away. The inside dirt and the outside dirt. Fix ‘em. The dirt is anything that doesn’t match what we consider acceptable behaviour.

Church spaces, places, should be different. I want church to be a different community.

Are they? Accepting-hospitable spaces? A place to belong?

We invite others in but we don’t really mean for them to join us just the way they are. Nope. We want those we invite in to be just like us… Church spaces, places, should be different. I want church to be a different community.

I think about the tattoo on my arm: mee leven. The hand writing is mine. My parents spoke about mee leven. It’s Dutch, meaning “with living”. I remember my mom telling me that we live together in community. When I look at my arm it is a powerful reminder of my life’s purpose. It is a reminder of what my parents wished to instill in me. They did not aspire to have power over others nor for others to have power over them. They prayed for life to be lived, side by side. Together. Not separate. Not alone. Not an us and not them situation.

If I meet someone I’ve met before or someone brand spanking new, it is my choice to “get curious”. Get to know them. I may not get them. It doesn’t matter if I get them or not. I do get that kindness, acceptance and belonging far outweighs whether I get someone. Kindness, acceptance and a place to belong don’t form cliques. Don’t push people to the periphery. I don’t want to live in clique space. In clique space I might have to cover up “my weird” and paper over all my dirty little habits so I can belong. I need to be my authentic self. I choose to work at offering acceptance to everyone no matter what stuff they bring with them. It is for everyone…belonging. If you don’t understand something about another don’t make it your practice, your ritual, to judge first and ask questions later. Get curious and find out what’s going on. What is at the heart of what the other is expressing or going through. Judgement in word, deed or body language is a habit, a ritual. It is practiced. It is unconscious. Something done for many years without thought. Unrolling the habit or ritual is accomplished by putting another habit or ritual in it’s place.

Life is hard. Life in community is less hard. Include don’t exclude. I try to remember other people are a reflection of me. I am a person. All people are persons. Just like me. Walk life alongside others.
I do not want to spend time in reflection of my own prejudices.

Life is hard. Life in community is less hard. Include don’t exclude. I try to remember other people are a reflection of me. I am a person. All people are persons.

I reflect on what I do when I meet people. I try for respect, kindness, acceptance, and ‘you are worth it’ kind of attitude. When I become aware of those pieces that I haven’t sorted out yet in my lousy attitude, it is my job to work on them. Put on new habits and rituals.

Christmas is just around the corner. Christmas has been a time of great joy and great sorrow for me over the years. I hold in tension joy and sorrow at this time of the year. If I am honest, I hold in tension joy and sorrow most of the year. I am the tightrope walker. Striving for balance. Learning to stand above and beside the joy and sorrow that life is all about. Holding joy and sorrow on my inside and on my outside. For me, Christmas is Jesus and the blueprint he laid out for me. He respected, loved, accepted and gave all people a place to belong. Christmas for me is also about presents (given and received) and relationships. There is complete joy in the knowledge that Jesus arrived in human form, human – like me. There is joy in knowing that extravagant gifts were given and received in strange places to celebrate His birth. There is joy in knowing that each breath He drew showed me how to love without condition. To love without expecting others to be some unknown “something”, a particular pattern, that they cannot be or don’t have a blueprint for. This unconditional love is freeing for me. It means I can care for all people no matter their past, present or future. I just have to be me. I am not good at being someone else. I expect this is the same for everyone. I have tried to be someone else. When I am someone else, I cannot hold the tension, I keep falling off the tightrope. It’s best to be me.

I like the Jesus blueprint. I am reflecting on how he did life, mee leven, doing life together.

Photo Credit: Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

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I stumbled upon this quote the other day while I was doing some research on loneliness.

“It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.” ~Albert Einstein

While at first this may seem utterly impossible, and perhaps even absurd, I wondered how many people would agree with this statement. This quote came rushing back to me the other night when I went to go see the new movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” with a friend. For those who don’t know, this movie is a bio pic about the band Queen, which was around in the 70’s and 80’s. I was super pumped to go and had to promise her I wouldn’t belt out the tunes during the movie. (Don’t laugh! That was super hard for me!!)

This was quite the film! Even if you aren’t a superfan, I think you would enjoy it. Queen’s rise to fame was fairly quick and was mostly due to their unique sound and desire to take risks and mix musical genres into masterpieces. Their music has stood the test of time and Freddie Mercury will forever be remembered as an engaging and brilliant performer. While many of us left the theatre with our fists pumping in the air and with an even deeper appreciation for this band, I couldn’t shake the other pervading thought this film left me with: how lonely Freddie Mercury was. The band, and especially Mercury himself, had captivated the world and they pretty much had it all: fame! fortune! fans! Millions of people loved them and would have given their left arm to meet them. Mercury was the life of the party and was always surrounded by people, and yet, the makers of the film showed us how utterly and dreadfully lonely he was despite his success.

Loneliness can be experienced by anyone; male or female, young or old, famous or forgotten, rich or poor. 

I know this shouldn’t shock or startle me as much as it did. We’ve heard plenty over the last few years about other famous people who struggle, or have struggled, with loneliness. (People like Madonna and Robin Williams, just to name a few.) I guess for me, seeing that quote from Einstein and seeing this movie all within 2 weeks of each other was just a thought-provoking reminder that loneliness can be experienced by anyone; male or female, young or old, famous or forgotten, rich or poor.

So this month let’s unpack loneliness a bit. Let’s talk about our own experiences with it. Let’s talk about those in our churches who struggle with it and look to you, as deacons, for help and comfort. Let’s talk about people in our communities who may be experiencing loneliness and share how we can minister to them. Let’s try to look at some of the root causes of loneliness. Let’s discuss its connection to mental health. Let’s find out what the ‘cures’ could be.

Perhaps talking about it is the first step in helping others.

Written By: Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator for DMC


Do you have a story about loneliness you’d like to share? Email Erin today and she’d love to chat. Your story could help someone who is suffering themselves OR who is trying to help someone they know.


Partner with us! Diaconal Ministries Canada works hard to provide leadership, training and resources to deacons across Canada. Help us serve you better by donating today!

 

 

Why Praying With Others Works

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In September, we spent some time learning about prayer and devotions as part of your “regular” Agenda at a Deacons’ Meeting. In our post “A Diaconate that Prays Together, Stays Together,” we laid out why prayer is a vital part of the ministry deacons do and how praying together can actually make a diaconate more effective. While it seems counterproductive to spend time praying instead of ‘working’, we discovered together that prayer IS work, and even better: PRAYER WORKS! Prayer helps us know God’s Will more clearly AND it increases our love – for God and for our world. (If you need a refresher or reminder of this point, take a look at our blog post from Sept. 13 before reading further!)

In our follow-up post, we talked about Praying with Expectation, aka faith. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, click here.

Prayer helps us know God’s Will more clearly and it increases our love – for God and for our world.

For our final post in this month’s theme, I want to look a little more closely at the importance of praying WITH OTHERS. Our hope at Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) is that deacons will not only be a working group in our churches but will be a community of believers who love and care for one another, for the church AND for their community.

Corporate Prayer is Helpful

There’s a wonderful story in the Gospels which talks about a few friends coming together to help bring their friend to Jesus for healing. These friends were so convinced that Jesus could help their buddy out, they were going to get some face time with Rabbi if it was the last thing they did! Because of their sheer determination and faith, Jesus healed this paralyzed man – both physically AND spiritually! (See Luke 5:17-26 for the whole story.) There is something so beautiful about people coming before God in faith with a common purpose. While we are not able to physically bring our hurting friends before Christ to receive His healing touch, we can do so through PRAYER! And we know He will help them. “Prayer may be countercultural, invisible, and difficult. It’s also truly helpful.” (Megan Hill, Helped by Prayer)

Megan Hill, author of Praying Together, says it this way: “In prayer together, we join in the praises and laments and supplications of our neighbors, carrying their burdens and blessings to the throne, lending them a hand to lay them before the Lord.”

“Prayer may be countercultural, invisible, and difficult. It’s also truly helpful.”

Hill also points out, “It’s not only people who have had similar experiences who can love one another by prayer. Those who sit in comfortable pews in suburban American can pray for persecuted Christians on the other side of the world. And those who are in chains can pray for those who are free to proclaim Christ. The healthy can weep with the sick, and the sick can rejoice with the healthy. The lonely can rejoice with the married, and the married can weep with the widows. This is love.”

In his article “The Benefits of Praying Together”, Jonathan Graf reminds us that “churches that do not pray together still minister in whatever ways they can, given their resources, abilities, and sacrifices. But churches that pray together begin to see the miraculous power of God at work in their midst. It goes beyond what they can and should do into what God wants to do through them.” [emphasis mine]

“And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.” 2 Corinthians 1:11 

Corporate Prayer Grows our Faith 

Jonathan Graf also reminds us that “faith grows as we pray together. Here’s how it works: Maybe I personally am going through a tough time. In the midst of it, I try to pray with trust and faith, but it is difficult because I only see the issue. If I go and pray with others, however, what happens? As I listen to others pray with more faith than I have, my faith grows.” He goes on to say that the more you pray together with others, the more your faith will increase as well as the amount of miracles in your church and ministry. Which in turn will increase your faith, which will likely result in more prayer!

Think back to the friends who lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof. What faith they had initially! But imagine how their faith increased when Jesus did what they hoped for and knew he was able to do! What a celebration to experience that together as a group!

Corporate Prayer Brings Unity and Understanding 

What Megan Hill says above leads us to our next point. In Matthew 18:19-20 we read, “Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” While we may come to the table with different hopes, dreams, opinions, and ideas, what binds us together is that we approach Jesus together as His followers, under His lordship and in His strength, and we pray in His name alone. If Jesus is our focus when we pray, we are coming together in agreement and Jesus promises He will be there. The more we do this, the more we begin to let go of our own personal desires and dreams and start to open ourselves up to what God wants. Praying with others will always pull you away from personal preferences into what’s best for the entire body.

If this happens, faith AND ministry can truly grow!

Praying with others will always pull you away from personal preferences into what’s best for the entire body. 

Pray Without Ceasing 

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16

If you haven’t done so already, we encourage diaconates to begin incorporating prayer into their monthly meetings. As we said above, diaconates will find a greater level of effectiveness when their purposes are centered more on God than on themselves and their tasks. Jessie Schut acknowledges this in her book, “Beyond the Agenda”: “We recognize that your group has an agenda to follow and tasks to accomplish. We propose that these tasks will be done more joyfully, with a greater sense of purpose, and with more satisfying results if your working group is a community of caring people who support each other. And in the process, your group will move beyond the agenda to become a model of Christ’s body here on earth.” (pg. 7)

DMC has a couple of great resources to help you incorporate prayer and scripture into your monthly meetings, even for those who feel uncomfortable or uneasy about praying in groups. Check out our Devotions in Your Diaconate handout and our Growing as a Community of Deacons brochure.

“If we are no longer centered by Jesus in prayer, it becomes harder and harder to experience Him in the people we work with. … If you want to do it long term and remain faithful in it, I think it is very important that you ‘spoil’ yourself—spend some good time with Jesus and Him alone. This is the way to prevent burn-out and to remain joyful even when you see so much suffering and pain.” Henri Nouwen

Written by: Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator


Love our resources? Want to see more? DMC is an organization that was created by deacons, for deacons and we work hard to provide timely and relevant resources so deacons can be at their best. While we are primarily funded through Diaconal Ministry Shares that churches across Canada contribute, this income alone does not cover our entire budget or allow us to expand our ministry and increase our impact.

Will you help us so we can continue to provide training and resources to deacons? 

Donate today! Every gift helps and will impact diaconates and churches across Canada as we work together to transform communities with Christ’s love!

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty – October 17, 2018

Posted by | Doing Justice, Uncategorized | No Comments
|Photo Credit: CPJ Facebook page, Sept. 2014, ChewOnThis! event photo

 

One day before the annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Citizens for Public Justice released its Poverty Trends 2018, an annual report on poverty in Canada. In this report, we read that an astounding 5.8 million people in Canada (or 16.8%) live in poverty(!!)

According to the article posted yesterday on CPJ’s website, “Data on poverty rates in Canada are an essential part of understanding the complex reality of poverty. However, in addition to economic measures, poverty also involves social, political, and cultural marginalization, with impacts on self-worth, spiritual vitality, and the well-being of communities. Individuals that face multiple barriers have an increased vulnerability to poverty.” (You can download the full report and/or read the full article here.)

Several faith leaders, from within and outside of the CRCNA, along with volunteers in communities across Canada, took to the streets today to participate in the 6th annual “Chew On This!” campaign to call attention to Canada’s disproportionate and persistent rates of poverty and food insecurity. You can read the full story here.

Ahead of today’s events, leaders from the CRCNA in Canada came together to sign their own Public Statement on The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, including Ron Vanden Brink, director of Diaconal Ministries Canada. Take a moment to read the CRCNA in Canada’s Public Statement and take time to reflect on ways your church and its members can respond. “While the church is unable to provide relief to the hungry masses of the world, it can certainly advocate for systemic reforms that would significantly improve the lot of millions in poverty.” (For My Neighbor’s Good, Synod 1979)

You can also stay up-to-date and find wonderful resources on the CPJ website and/or follow them on Facebook!

Youth Justice Initiative Coming in 2019

Posted by | Doing Justice, Engaging Community, News & Events, Operation Manna | No Comments

|By Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator for Diaconal Ministries Canada

I recently watched the movie Black Panther with my two sons, aged 11 and 13. While I wasn’t exactly filled with enthusiasm to be watching yet another Avenger movie with my kids on a Friday night, some of the buzz I had heard surrounding this movie made me a bit more curious and hopeful. And let me say; all of the hoopla was certainly warranted!! I found myself surprisingly refreshed after watching this superhero action flick. One of the main themes that echoed throughout this movie was that each one of us has a responsibility to make our world a better place; no matter our age, gender, location or economic status. While some will say that that is the theme of EVERY superhero movie – “how can I make a difference and protect the world from the latest and greatest evildoer that comes our way” – I’d say this movie takes that idea/concept one step further – in the right direction.

The world of Wakanda, in which the Black Panther hails from, was a wealthy one in more ways than one and for centuries they had worked hard to protect its culture, its people, and one of its most powerful and rarest resources: vibranium. And so the new king, T’Challa, begins his reign and vows to stay the course. Others in the movie, like his ex-girlfriend, Nakia, think it’s high time Wakanda took a more active role in helping the hurting world around them. If you had something that could help someone else, why would you conceal it, and worst yet, hoard it all for yourself? As the movie goes on, we see why: to keep that something of great value and power out of the hands of those who would exploit it and misuse it for their own wicked desires.

As the movie concludes (Spoiler Alert!), we see the new king embrace Nakia’s vision of bringing hope and healing to a broken world, when and where possible. Near the end of the movie, T’Challa gives us one of the movie’s most profound lines: “In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”

Phew! As followers of Jesus, this message should resonate with us. What T’Challa said is pretty close to the definition of how God calls us to love our neighbours. It’s also a reminder of what JUSTICE looks like: treating those around us as we would like to be treated, believing “We are in this together!” As Christians we, too, have the most powerful and useful ‘resource’ available to us – the Good News of Jesus Christ! We know and believe that living justly and loving our neighbours is not just about meeting people’s physical needs: it’s about relationships! And each one of us is called use the gifts that God has given us to serve others no matter who they are or where they live (or how they live), and to do so with integrity and humility.

“We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”

So what’s my point in all of this?! For over 40 years, the Operation Manna (OM) Program of Diaconal Ministries Canada has helped churches across the country find a way to look after their communities “as if they were one single tribe.” The purpose of OM is to help Christian Reformed Churches start or grow community ministries that seek to bring about sustainable change in individuals and communities experiencing significant needs. It helps them DO JUSTICE! And now… the OM Program is excited to engage youth across Canada to get involved in doing justice too! In 2019, a brand new Youth Justice Initiative is being launched! Teens from across Canada will be encouraged to work with the Deacons in their church as they identify an injustice in their community and share what they are doing about it in a short video. The top finalists’ videos will be made public and will be voted on, with the winners receiving grant money and coaching to help them bring about positive change in their community and beyond.

Stay tuned for more details in the coming months!

If you have any questions OR if you would be willing to help fund this new venture, please contact Tammy Heidbuurt, our Regional Ministry Developer for Eastern Canada: theidbuurt@crcna.org.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21)

 

[Photo by TK Hammonds on Unsplash]

Prayer/Good Meetings: Praying with Expectation

Posted by | Equipping Deacons, resources, Uncategorized | No Comments

Psalm 5:3: “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” 

In September, we spent some time learning about prayer and devotions as part of your “regular” Agenda at a Deacons’ Meeting. In our post “A Diaconate that Prays Together, Stays Together,” we laid out why prayer is a vital part of the ministry deacons do and how praying together can actually make a diaconate more effective. While it seems counterproductive to spend time praying instead of ‘working’, we discovered together that prayer IS work, and even better: prayer WORKS! 

As I sit at my desk and look outside at a dreary, rainy fall day, I am also reminded of something else deacons (and perhaps all Christians) struggle with: HOW to pray. We’re not referring to the words we choose or the items we pray about, but about with what POSTURE we pray. In that verse above from Psalm 53, it would appear that the author knew exactly what attitude we should have when we pray—one of eager expectation. When we come before God in prayer, we are to believe God will hear our prayers and, once offered, that all we need to do afterwards is wait patiently for Him to act.

Well! That sounds pretty easy, right? We pray and God will act. Period. And yet, why do so many of us struggle with this? When we pray, “Thy will be done”, are we giving God an ‘out’? Are we giving OURSELVES an out!? ‘Well, God, this is what we want and what we think needs to happen in this or that situation, but hey, you know best so we’ll let you take care of it, hopefully sooner than later.’ Does that sound familiar, if we’re being honest?

In the ever-popular verse Jeremiah chapter 29:11, we read that God remembers us and He has very good things planned for us to enjoy. But if we keep reading, we see in verses 12 and 13 something that is perhaps even MORE important, and hopeful: if we take the initiative to call upon Him, pray, and seek His presence with all of our heart, He will listen and be found. There in these verses we are reminded of what our part is: to trust and expect Him to act.

As I sit here and ponder what it means to pray with expectation, I am reminded of a story I read a few years back that’s been shared in various places. (I happened to read it in a Back to God Ministries Daytimer!) It goes like this:

There was a small farming community that had been experiencing a terrible drought. The crops were dying in the fields and everyone was very worried because this was how they made their living. The pastor of the local church called a special prayer service for all the people of the town. He asked them to gather in front of the church and spend some time praying in faith that God would send some rain. Many people arrived and the pastor was encouraged by that. As the pastor was getting ready to begin the meeting, he noticed a young girl standing quietly in the front. Her face was beaming with excitement and then he saw beside her, open and ready for use, was a large, colourful umbrella. 

As he stared at the umbrella, he felt a bit of shame, but was then filled with hope and encouragement. This little girl’s childlike innocence warmed his heart as he realized how much faith she possessed. Everyone had come to pray for rain, but only the little girl believed enough to bring an umbrella. 

“Prayer is asking for rain. Faith is bringing an umbrella.”

Help Us Overcome our Unbelief!

How often are we like the crowd, who pray earnestly for God to act, but don’t fully believe He will or in the way we desire? If you are like this little girl, then God bless you! What would it look like if our diaconate – our churches! – were filled with “little girls” with colourful umbrellas?! That when we pray, we would believe that nothing is too difficult for God and that all things are possible with Him!

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

In Mark 9, we read a story about a man who asked Jesus to heal his son who was demon possessed. The man asks Jesus to take pity on them and heal his son, “if you can.” (Mark 9:22b) Whoa. Who talks to Jesus like that??!! If you can… !!!! Jesus (of course) replied, “If I can? Anything is possible to him who believes.” (vs. 23) Verse 24 says, “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark‬ ‭9:24‬ ‭NIV)

Can you identify with that man? If we look at the entire story, we see that this man had brought his son to Jesus’ disciples and they were not able to heal him. So can you blame a guy for being a bit skeptical? Perhaps he didn’t think it was “God’s Will” to heal his son. Or perhaps he was just being realistic, not wanting to get his hopes up. The fact that he brought his son to the disciples shows us that he initially believed they could do something about it, but upon their failure, his trust was waning. He no longer came with ‘eager expectation.’ What redeems this father’s unbelief is his honesty and his humble request to Jesus: “Help me overcome my unbelief!” (vs. 24). He DID believe Jesus could heal his son and he desperately WANTED Jesus to heal his son. All he needed was eager expectation; that Jesus would hear him, and act. Perhaps there are times your faith, my faith, needs to be stronger. And this, too, is something we can ask God for help with, with great expectation that He WILL answer our prayer.

Don’t Delay – Just PRAY!

Something else the ‘umbrella’ exposes is our lack of trust and/or doubt, or dare we say, arrogance and self-reliance? Why do we wait until the “drought” has begun killing our “crops” – our very livelihood – and our hopes along with it, and then pray for God’s help? We take our problems, we do everything we can to fix them and then, when things look overwhelming and beyond our abilities, we call on God to help us.

While this story has been used over and over again in various articles, sermons, and memes, it is a good reminder to grab our umbrella – our faith, hope & trust – when we pray. We are asked to pray with expectation, rather than suspicion or doubt. To pray in faith rather than in desperation and despair. If we are in a right relationship with God and we have the Holy Spirit living in us – guiding us, leading us, convicting us – then we will know God better and trust in Him to provide what we need, when we need it. Psalm 34:15 reminds us: “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.” And in James 5:16 we read: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” These verses tell us that God hears the prayers of those who put their trust in Him and who have a right relationship with Him and God will use your prayers to accomplish His good work. And not because of how we pray or how often, but because of His great mercy and love! (Daniel 9:18)

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14-15

So next time you pray for rain, don’t forget to grab your umbrella!


HOW ABOUT YOU?

How is your personal prayer life? Do you come before God with an umbrella in your hand when you pray?

What about your diaconate? Could you pray with more eager expectation? Have you done so in the past and seen God move in a big way? Share your story with us!

What about your church? Have you prayed for “rain” and yet, left your “umbrellas” at home? How could your diaconate, and church leadership, equip and empower your members to pray with eager expectation? Again, perhaps you have a story to share where you DID do this and God heard your prayer and acted in His great mercy and love. Let us know! We’d love to encourage other diaconates and churches 🙂

Meet our New Board Member for BC Northwest!

Posted by | Creation Care, Doing Justice, News & Events, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Cindy describes herself as “a sold out Jesus-lover, loved by God and called to bring attention to both the wonders and beauty of what God has created and the horrendous brokenness that we have caused to it – to bring healing to hurting people and hope to a broken world.”

Diaconal Ministries Canada is pleased to introduce you to our newest board member for Classis British Columbia NorthWest, Mrs. Cindy Verbeek!

Cindy was born and raised in Calgary and lived in Alberta until moving to Houston, BC, her husband’s “hometown” over 15 years ago. Together they are raising 3 beautiful souls, with the first heading to college this Fall.

Growing up, Cindy says she had a keen awareness of social justice fairly early on. She remembers arguing with her parents about how “those Russians” (the bad guys in that day and age) were just like most people and were just trying to live out their lives and get their kids to school, make ends meet, etc. Cindy entered university and became involved in environmental issues and then became a Christian and she began to realize that God cared deeply about these things as well. Cindy says she has spent most of her life trying to challenge herself and those around her to live more simply, and to use time, talents, trees and treasures with respect and in ways that benefit everyone, not just ourselves.

Cindy currently works part-time for A Rocha Canada as the Houston Project Coordinator. Her job involves raising coho fry in our hatchery, educating school children about God’s wonderful creation and collaborating with others doing research and habitat restoration in the Upper Bulkley River watershed. Cindy has a passion for sharing the wonders of God’s creation with anyone who will listen and for trying to help Christians understand how caring for that creation is integral to their walk as followers of the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of the universe.

It was a few years ago that, Rachel, our Regional Ministry Developer for Western Canada, came to meet Cindy and later ask her to be a part of our Board of Directors. Rachel had gone to Bulkley Valley in Northern BC to visit the churches there with the local DMD, Bart Plugboer. Bart knew of Cindy and the wonderful work she was involved in so they arranged a day for Bart and Rachel to visit with her to check out the salmon run and beaver dams in the area, go to the lake, etc. Rachel was also able to meet up with Cindy at the A Rocha farm in Surrey to see the farm and what they do, meet the staff and learn about different environmental concerns. After these 2 visits, Rachel knew that Cindy’s passion for justice and creation care, along with her ideas for ministry and church engagement, would make her a huge asset to our Board of Directors.


Cindy believes that caring for God’s creation is integral to our walk as followers of the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of the universe.


While Cindy knew very little about DMC and our work with deacons, she says she appreciated what she read in the introductory documents and felt like it was a good fit. Cindy had worked on the Creation Stewardship Task Force for Synod which focused on climate change, she had spent time in Africa, and she is also someone who has experienced depression and anxiety – “all seemingly random things,” Cindy remarks, “that give me a heart for those who are hurting, a desire to be a voice for those who cannot speak (including the creatures and places God created) and an agent for change in our denomination.” Cindy feels quite passionately that Creation Care and Social Justice are just as important for the church to take part in as evangelism and bible studies. As she puts it, “I am a sold out Jesus-lover, loved by God and called to bring attention to both the wonders and beauty of what God has created and the horrendous brokenness that we have caused to it – to bring healing to hurting people and hope to a broken world.”

In her time on the DMC Board of Directors, Cindy hopes to “be a voice for creation and the most vulnerable and help Deacons and Board Members alike not just write and speak words of support for these topics, but to … explore how God wants them to respond in practical ways [and] be good stewards of their ‘time, talents, treasures and trees’.”

Welcome Aboard, Cindy!!!