Engaging Community

Operation Manna Offering: May 4, 2014

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In many CRCs across Canada, the Operation Manna offering will be held on May 4, 2014.

Operation Manna is a program of Diaconal Ministries Canada. The offering for this program provides an opportunity for CRCs across Canada to support each other as they love their neighbours and bless them through community ministry.

It works like this: the offerings received on May 4 form a fund which provides successful applicants with expertise from staff, support, development help and grant money for community ministry. Each CRC in Canada is eligible to apply to the Operation Manna Program for help and support in creating or growing its community ministry.

For the offering, Diaconal Ministries Canada produces the OM 2014 brochure and a video (posted online on Vimeo, a video-sharing website). These resources help to tell the story of Operation Manna, and to help CRC members learn about the exciting ways their giving directly impacts lives and communities. God is at work! And the CRC is joining Him at work in their communities.

For more information, please visit the Operation Manna section of the website.

Following Jesus in the Community: A COS Journey

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From left: Pastor Dean Kurpjuweit (NEXT Christian Community), Pastor John Luth (Christian Reformed Church of St. Albert), Pastor James Ravenscroft (St. Albert United)

In the spring and summer of 2012, Christian Reformed Church of St. Albert (AB) members began a project to discern how Jesus might be leading us in our community.  The thought of even conducting a Community Opportunity Scan (COS) by ourselves was daunting, so we invited two neighbouring churches (NEXT Christian Community and St. Albert United) to join us.

We developed three inter-church volunteer teams who interviewed a combined total of 14 community leaders and agency staff.  Interview summaries were collated and a final report was written for the three churches. *Another church heard about the COS and did their own community survey in their neighbourhood.

The COS helped us to appreciate the many people in our community who work hard each day to make life better for others.   It helped us to identify themes (mental illness,  housing costs, loneliness) that can help shape our ministries.  And, it revealed a great need in our community, namely the need for a place where those who are dying and their families may receive the medical care and support they need near the end of life.

As three congregations, we recognized that a project of this size was beyond us.  But, we also said that if we had gone into this looking to follow Jesus, we should at least take the next step.  And that is all we have done.   We have sensed strongly that God has been leading the way for us.

An initial meeting for those interested was held at our local hospital in June of 2013, followed by a September meeting and an October town hall meeting to raise awareness and recruit volunteers.  Our local newspaper (St. Albert Gazette) has been instrumental in promoting the cause in our community.  Civic and provincial politicians have also been very helpful.  People have contacted us asking how they could be involved, how they could help, how they could give financially.

To date a Steering Committee has been formed, made up of members from a range of churches and from the community.  The Steering Committee’s mission has been defined:  “Our mission is to establish a space for enhanced compassionate end of life care for community members and their loved ones.”  Five working groups have specific tasks.    We are pursuing incorporation as a society and charitable status.  We have worked hard to maintain contact and communication with key groups in our community.

We hope to learn soon just what shape the project will take, but we are confident the Lord will continue to lead this work in our community.

Written by John Luth, pastor, Christian Reformed Church of St. Albert

Want to learn more about a Community Opportunity Scan? Free resources and guidance are available from DMC.

Operation Manna Partner Profile: Families Living Well Society (FLWS)

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An Operation Manna Partner since 2011, FLWS (in Edmonton, AB) is an initiative that seeks to support single-parent families by providing hope and addressing needs. This post was submitted by FLWS Executive Director Elaine Mulder.

Sometimes when we talk about outreach, we dwell on big things like going on a mission trip, or putting on a big community event or outreach program. But often God works in other ways, through simple tasks or relational, one-on-one ministry.  Sometimes we forget the amazing people who do so much behind the scenes. Janet Toornstra is one of those people.

Janet has been involved with single parents and their children for many years through FLWS. She came faithfully, every Wednesday, to help a single mom feed her disabled son, Chris. It was a big commitment, but it had such an effect on the family.  And Janet does not even know.

Chris is an adult now (pictured above, with Janet), and does not often come to our meetings. Chris’ mom has also moved on, but in a way we never expected. Because of all the support she received over the many years, she is now just starting to attend West End Christian Reformed church services (after more than 15 years of nudging). We know she is struggling, and we know she is now very close to accepting Jesus as her Saviour. We are praying for her. We know it is in God’s hands and that He is caring for her. And it is people like Janet, with their love and little nudges, who helped to plant this seed.

We often think outreach is about helping people, in some physical sense – making pilas, cooking food, sending out flyers, building houses. And, although God commands us to take care of the poor and the needy,  the real command is to spread God’s love and care to our neighbor. It’s a relational ministry that involves a lot of time and commitment.

So when I think of outreach, I think of people like Janet, who showed compassion and love to Chris and his mom, no matter how broken, desperate, poor, mixed up, and socially disadvantaged they were. I thank and praise God for Janet Toornstra and others like her.