News & Events

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]

Meet our New Board Member for BC Northwest!

Posted by | Creation Care, Doing Justice, News & Events, Uncategorized | No 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!!!

Classis Learning Event Proves Worthwhile

Posted by | Equipping Deacons, News & Events, Uncategorized | No Comments

On Saturday, November 18th, churches from across Classis Chatham gathered to answer one burning question: Was it time to retire or revitalize their Diaconal Conference. The learning event was titled “The Deacon’s Role: Moving from Standard Version to Revised Standard Version”. A group of about 60 participants gathered at Grace CRC in Chatham to listen, learn and give their input.

Some of you may be asking, “What is a Diaconal Conference anyway?” Article 75b of the CRCNA’s Church Order states: “The Classis shall, whenever necessary, assist the churches in their ministry of mercy. The Classis themselves may perform this ministry when it is beyond the scope and resources of the local churches. To administer this task each classes shall have a classical diaconal committee.” Though not as common as it once was, a Diaconal Conference is an association of diaconates who represent churches within a classis (a group of churches within a geographical area). They gather together to promote and build the church’s ministry of mercy. A diaconal conference would normally take part in:

• promoting mutual learning opportunities for the diaconates within a classis
• providing training for new deacons and leadership roles for deacons in the church
• stimulating support for existing community ministries, especially Operation Manna’s partners
• encouraging diaconates to search for new ministry opportunities
• promoting international relief and development work of World Renew
• communicating with classis on a regular basis where and when possible

So now you may be wondering, ‘But isn’t that what Diaconal Ministries Canada is already doing?!’ Well, yes, we are! DMC was organized by deacons, for deacons, so that the ministry and leadership role that oversees the ministry of the church could be thoughtfully equipped and supported, and resources shared. Much time and effort has been put into listening to deacons and developing a wide range of materials and events to help them fulfill their callings as leaders in the church. Most of this work is done primarily through our Diaconal Ministry Developers (DMDs) who are experienced in diaconal work and are available to help deacons, as encouragers AND coaches.

Something that has impacted our work was a significant change that took place at Synod 2015 when some important principles for diaconal ministry in the 21st century were approved. That 2015 Task Report addressed the role of deacons in congregations and communities as well as the role of elders. Read the full report here. (For more information on the importance of what happened there, check out our blog post from September 2015 here.)

So this is why we gathered in Chatham. The Diaconal Conference of Classis Chatham has begun to wrestle with the implications of this report on their leadership role and their churches. And they are not alone. Conversations are happening all across Canada and also south of the border. Here at DMC, we hope to help YOU shape the answers to this question.

During our morning together, we looked at the history and role of DMC as well as the role of our Diaconal Ministry Developers. We shared what was happening within the churches and their surrounding communities to find common through-lines and themes. All of these stories and ideas and insights were put up against the mandate of the Classis Chatham Diaconal Conference to help the group discover if the mandate was still relevant and could adequately address the needs of the Classis.

By the end of the day, we had covered a lot of ground, met some new friends, and learned a lot of new things. While it would be wonderful to say everything was accomplished in this one, half-day gathering, it was realized that more work was yet to be done. The proposal moving forward was for Classis Chatham Diaconal Conference to host a smaller follow-up meeting in January or February, 2018, to discuss the information shared and collected on November 18th. Once again, DMC will help to facilitate that discussion, with the goal of formulating some longer term plans.

During our morning, five (5) table conversations took place to help evaluate the role of a Diaconal Conference in Classis Chatham

For those of us who have read a bulletin announcement or been handed a pamphlet about an upcoming seminar or training event, we can probably agree they are easy to dismiss and/or ignore. Life is full and one more day away from home, especially early on a Saturday morning, can be unappealing and almost dreaded. So DMC Staff were delighted to hear positive feedback from those in attendance. Many were appreciative of the gathering and commented that “the day was great even in just being together” and that the “interacting was rich” and “engaged the participants”. They saw much value in exchanging ideas and hearing what was working in the various churches/diaconates. One complaint we received was that it should have been a full-day meeting(!).

So, what about YOU?

Would your church or Classis see value in holding a similar gathering? Do you have some ‘hot topics’ you’d like to discuss? Are you wrestling with the value and purpose of a Diaconal Conference? Do your deacons need training on some specific matters like finding your church’s or Classis’ passion or making benevolence policies or orientating new deacons? Let us know how we can support you along in this journey at Classis or at your local church.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

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.

“Ministry in Mayhem”: this year’s Ancaster Day of Encouragement

Posted by | Engaging Community, Equipping Deacons, News & Events | No Comments

“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!

Saying “Good-bye”

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Hans asks me how I’m doing as he walks in to the office where I am working, casually dressed, with an easy, relaxed smile on his face. This is usually the way Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) staff interact with Hans. And on this day, it’s almost like we are about to start talking about what we’re working on; it’s almost like nothing has changed. Except that it has. It was only a few weeks ago that Hans completed his last day with DMC. And a week before that, I had the opportunity to sit down and reflect with him on his tenure as National Director of DMC.

The last 15 years at DMC has been characterized by Hans’ dynamic yet steady vision, which was consistently supported by the Board and had already begun to develop years ago through his experiences. Under Hans’ leadership, DMC clearly articulated its purpose to walk alongside Canadian CRCs sent to join God in His work of reconciliation, transforming communities into places of shalom. And diaconates have an important leadership role in that, Hans maintains, as long as they are able to reimagine themselves as something other than simply an administrative body.

It is clear from the way in which Hans talks about it, that becoming a deacon at the age of 40 made a difference in his life and helped to develop his passion and vision. At the same time as he was beginning to feel less fulfillment in his chosen field of accounting, he was, as a deacon, doing more than simply those administrative tasks: he was connecting with people from the community who came to the church looking for help. This fit his gifts well and God used these experiences to encourage him to attend Calvin Seminary in 1993 and serve with World Missions in Honduras and Costa Rica from 1995-2001.

Hans’ time in Central America would provide a different lens through which he would view the church in Canada. As he witnessed oppression and poverty alongside of the growth and development of missional communities in Honduras, he recognized a profound role for the church in pursuing holistic ministry. In this context, distinctions between elder and deacon, missionary and development worker mattered far less than the pursuit of justice and mercy with the marginalized and poor.  In the Canadian context, however, he also saw a role and opportunity for deacons to be catalysts for community engagement. But it was not just about the deacons –the health of the church seemed to him to be directly proportional to the effectiveness of the diaconate.

All of these experiences and learnings would bless DMC as Hans became National Director in 2001. By that time, the groundwork had been laid for a centralized mission which, conversely, was strengthened by decentralizing DMC staff and Diaconal Ministry Developers to better serve the churches coast to coast. A national, classis-based model was beginning to be realized. By 2002, Board members stretched across the country and DMC was focused on finding Diaconal Ministry Developers to serve each classis.

This was the first of a number of significant changes in DMC and the CRC that happened during Hans’ tenure. DMC contributed its voice to the conversations on the changing view and role of deacons. Women increasingly brought an important dimension to diaconal work as the full gifts of the body were being represented in leadership. As churches increasingly felt called to their local communities, Hans appreciated how they also began to take the risk of the Community Opportunity Scan as a tool for community engagement. And, more recently, the Diakonia Remixed report was not unfamiliar to Canadian deacons because it had already been the language of DMC. When Synod affirmed the report, the work of many deacons across Canada and the work of DMC was also affirmed. Finally, DMC also began to give intentional focus to the area of justice and to help churches understand how fundamental it is for deacons and churches to love their neighbours in concrete and visible ways, look deeper than charity to seek out the root causes of poverty and marginalization in their communities.

While DMC’s focus on justice, for example, is the kind of thing often seen as a measureable indicator of success, it is also the unmeasurable things that take good measure of Hans’ years as National Director of DMC.

At his recent retirement party, staff celebrated how Hans was a thoughtful, engaged and gentle servant- leader. He had a unique ability to be a strong administrator yet remained flexible to accommodate new ideas. He thinks deeply, lives his convictions, encouraged his staff and gave them the freedom to use their gifts. One of his most appreciated characteristics is that he relational and caring: the culture of DMC has been deeply impacted and strengthened by his person, experiences and abilities. We are grateful to God for his character and leadership.

So when Hans walks into the office where I’m working, I put aside my work and give him a hug, grateful for the opportunity that I have had to work with him and grateful for the great gift that Hans was to DMC and to the CRC in Canada.  And that is one thing that will not change.

DMC Announces Next National Director

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Dear Friends of DMC:

This year marks a significant transition for Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC).  After serving for more than 14 years as the National Director of DMC, Hans Kater will be retiring as of June 30th.  We cannot express enough thanks for his wise and gracious leadership which has been a constant blessing for our organization and to our staff, board, committees and partners. Under Hans, DMC developed from its early inception state into a cohesive ministry with a strong staff team.  This team daily serves our churches and communities with clear vision and purpose. As a board we will miss Hans’ insights, encouragement and humour around our table, yet we are incredibly grateful for the ways God has been glorified through his many years of faithful service.

Looking ahead, we are delighted to share with you that as of August 1st, Ron Vanden Brink (photo above) will be joining DMC to fill the position of National Director.  He grew up in Edmonton where, after graduating from high school, he worked for nine years as an electrician.  He then attended The King’s University College in Edmonton, and later graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Ron gained ministry experience by serving Cornerstone church in Salmon Arm, BC (1994-2003) and New Hope church in Calgary, AB (2003-2006).

Ron and his wife Monica reside in Kelowna BC, have two grown children and are grandparents of three children. They are members of The Well church plant in Kelowna, where Ron has served as a pastor for the last nine years.

With an excitement for the future of deacons in the CRC, a heart for diaconal ministry and a desire to see communities transformed in Christ, Ron has sought to be faithful by responding to the Lord’s call to this new challenge of National Director.   We are eager to see how God uses his particular gifts in this role as he brings his unique perspective and joy-filled personality to the work of Diaconal Ministries Canada.

As an organization, we covet your prayers always, but even more so now during this time of leadership change. We ask that you specifically pray for our exceptional staff team who have been working closely together for many years.  We recognize that this time of transition is bittersweet as we bless and send Hans on to his next kingdom adventure. Yet we are confident that God has been leading this process and are thankful that He has been preparing Ron to continue the good work of DMC under our unchanged vision and mission of Transforming Communities in Christ by Engaging Communities, Equipping Deacons and Living Justly.  Ron can be reached by contacting the Diaconal Ministries Canada office at 1-800-730-3490 or by email at rvandenbrink@crcna.org.

With gratitude for your ongoing support and our partnership in Kingdom service,

Melissa Van Dyk

Board Chair

(photo: Ron Vanden Brink, DMC’s new National Director)