For years, Bethany CRC in Fenwick, Ontario, was engaged in global missions work. Yet each time their teams returned, they wondered what missions might look like in their own backyard. The church had a huge heart for youth and was already running a summer kids camp. A group decided to host a town hall meeting and, after much discussion and prayer, it was decided they would start by canvassing in various neighbourhoods in the nearby city of Welland, to invite children to come out to a free Saturday afternoon program in a downtown church. The group put their first bus on the road and even picked the kids up. The small group of children who attended those first few weeks basked in the love and attention they received and soon word spread throughout Welland. Rose City Kids (RCK) was born!
As their volunteer base grew, so did their Saturday program! Numbers doubled, then tripled and eventually the driving team knew they needed more support and funding. “In the beginning, we were literally running the ministry with our volunteers’ own pocket change!” shared Sonya Wierenga, founder and executive director of RCK. “When you start a Christian ministry in a community, there’s not a lot of people that buy into it initially. Most donors or grant organizations want to see you have been around for a few years; they want to see success stories and you don’t always have those!”
In 2009, the group heard about Operation Manna (OM) and after several conversations, RCK applied and received a grant for $10,000!
“That was very encouraging,” Wierenga recalls. “The OM funding gave our team incredible encouragement to keep going. We kept seeing God at work and [this partnership] came in at a critical time.”
As time went on, other local Christian Reformed churches began to support RCK, both financially and with volunteer strength.
“We have definitely seen God’s hand at work since we answered His call and the idea [of RCK] was first created,” reflects Wierenga. “The program grew so quickly but the provision of finances and volunteers followed right behind. He has been right beside us every step of the way!”
More than that, Wierenga adds, their team has watched children come from really dark places to discover Jesus as their Saviour and wanting to live for Him. Several teens have been baptized and are now part of a local church. While the team has often been unsure of people’s acceptance of their gospel message, the RCK team has come to realize families and children are very open to God’s Word and are learning new things about Jesus weekly.
One story Wierenga shared was about Monique*, an 11-year-old girl that attended the RCK programs faithfully each week. An opportunity arose to take her and a group of kids to Muskoka for a week. While there, she was placed in a cabin with a few RCK volunteers. Monique had so many questions after chapel about this “Jesus” the team was always talking about. Her life was completely upside down; her parents had chosen drugs and alcohol and Monique took it upon herself to take care of her little siblings. While at camp, she broke down one evening while the band was playing the song, “Lord, I Need You”. She cried out to God: “if you really exist, please wrap your arms around me now!” Monique recalled the feeling of Jesus surround her with His love. In that moment, Monique accepted Jesus as Her Saviour. She returned home from camp and became part of a church family. “She was baptized,” Wierenga shared, “and today, ten years later, her relationship with God, her heavenly Father, is strong and she has made Him the centre of her life.”
From starting with a Saturday kids program 14 years ago, to now offering a variety of free and accessible programs to kids and families in our community all week long, RCK is grateful for the role OM/NewGround played all those years ago.
Wierenga admits it has been an incredible journey, with some hard and challenging days, but seeing God at work in the city of Welland has been amazing.
“My takeaway from all of this is that if you hear God calling you somewhere to be His hands and feet, don’t ignore the call!” said Wierenga. “It’s definitely much easier staying in your little comfortable bubble, but that’s not what we are here to do. My life changed almost 15 years ago, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat! God has been so good!”
“NewGround connects the gifts of our churches and deacons to the ministry opportunities in their cities and local neighbourhoods,” shared Karla Winham, the program’s coordinator. “With NewGround funding and coaching support, churches can start or grow healthy, sustainable ministries that will be a part of their local community for years to come, just like Rose City Kids!”
NewGround continues to help churches grow God’s Kingdom in new and exciting ways through community ministries and partnerships! To find out more, visit: diaconalministries.com/newground.
Churches Need YOUR Help!
All across Canada, there are churches like yours, filled with people who long to see their communities transformed with the love of Christ. Yet many congregations don’t have all of the resources or expertise in order to do that. This is where NewGround can help.
Will you help get even more ministries like Rose City Kids off the ground next year?
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the youth involved at RCK.