e-QuipThe Diaconal Blog

 

Caring for God’s Creation – Part 1 of 4

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments
Image by YLawrence from Pixabay

Over the past six months, Diaconal Ministries’ staff have read and studied the book “Earthwise; A Guide to Hopeful Creation Care”. Initially when we started this book, I thought to myself; I’m not really sure why we are taking time reading about a topic that we likely know enough about and probably all agree upon anyway. How will this book help us and, in turn, help deacons learn and grow in their ministry? Aren’t we all doing what we can? Don’t we all agree that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1) and that just as Adam was given ‘charge’ or dominion over the earth to take care of it, we are also obeying that commandment the best we can? As followers of Christ, aren’t we all striving to be excellent earthkeepers? As we worked through the book and had some wonderful discussions, many of these musings were (shamefully) silenced and I prayed more than one prayer of gratitude for never voicing these aloud. (Oops, well, I guess I just did!) Much to my surprise, in reading this book (as well as other articles in The Banner, on The Network and the DoJustice blog, and just following the news of today), I was shocked at how polarizing this topic has become! So when we wrapped up our book study last week and went around the table sharing our ‘top learning’ from this book and what we will change in our life as a result of reading this book, my initial responses were, “SO MUCH!” and “EVERYTHING!” respectively.

As followers of Christ, aren’t we all striving to be excellent earthkeepers?

What is Creation Care?

But seriously, it did cause me to pause and think about my life and how I have ‘treated’ and cared for God’s creation. I also thought about my childhood and ways my parents and church modeled creation care to me and my siblings, if at all. So let me share a bit of my story with you:

Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money. We lived in a modest two-storey home. (I may have called it a shoebox more than once) with my parents and my three sisters (yes, 5 women and 1 guy!). We each had to share a bedroom and one bathroom – we even shared bathwater! When something broke, we fixed it. When we couldn’t fix it, we bought second-hand. If something could be used twice (or thrice!) it certainly was. For example:

  • yogurt containers became an economical addition to our Tupperware cupboard;
  • milk bags (the clear pouches) were our ‘Ziploc baggies’;
  • clothes were hung up on the clothesline outside to dry and handed down from daughter-to-daughter (and repaired and patched as needed);
  • a schoteldoek (Dutch for ‘dishcloth’) was our napkin at dinnertime. (We even travelled with a pre-moistened schoteldoek – in a sealed milk bag of course – as Wet Wipes certainly weren’t even an option!);
  • we had a lovely vegetable garden in our good-sized backyard with the composting bin appropriately placed in the corner, surrounded by killer bees and greedy flies;
  • canning and freezing were just a regular part of our seasonal routine and our fruit cellar was stocked with food – imagine that!

At the time, I figured my parents made these choices out of economic necessity. They had a mortgage and bills to pay, four daughters to put through Christian school, and old cars to maintain. While this was likely part of why they did what they did, I also knew that my mother vehemently opposed wasting a crumb of food – or anything for that matter. She truly knew how to stretch a dollar. Her upbringing has a lot to do with it, she says. But it was also so much more that that. Whether they knew it or not, I had two parents who lived out the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repeat.

This, in big and small ways, impacted me. Growing up, I began to appreciate all God had given to me, to us. My ears and eyes began to open. While I may have cursed a few of those awful hand-me-downs and the lukewarm, cloudy bathwater I had to slip into (ew, right?!), I also remember understanding how to be careful with the resources I had and to be less wasteful. One year I even took my own money to protect an acre of the rainforest through the World Wildlife Fund. I wanted to do my part in helping creation and everything in it to survive and thrive!

As I’ve grown, my parent’s example has stayed with me, but, alas, convenience (and laziness??!!) has also slowly crept in. I diligently read and follow our region’s recycling, composting, and garbage regulations. I still try to pick up litter when I see it. I even have a few yogurt containers in my cupboard for leftovers. BUT! I use paper towels AND a schoteldoek. When the boys were young they shared bathwater, but we all take our own showers now. I re-use some milk bags… but also buy Ziploc baggies. I’ve purchased Tupperware AND Gladware. I don’t have a garden in my tiny backyard because my aboveground pool and hot tub take up most of the room. I’ve always meant to install a clothesline outside, but just haven’t gotten around to it and I wouldn’t want pool water splashing onto my clean clothes… Oh, and my fruit cellar? It’s pretty much a storage room – for STUFF – not food. And the list goes on.

While we may be abiding by the 4 R’s and becoming more aware and appreciative of our beautifully and wonderfully made world, is there more to being a good earthkeeper than that?

So How Are We Doing?

Now while I may be abiding by the 4 R’s and becoming more aware and appreciative of our beautifully and wonderfully made world, is there more to being a good earthkeeper than that?

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” -Gen. 2:15

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” -Rev. 4:11

Are we “worshipping” and serving created things instead of giving glory and honor to the Creator?

This month the Christian church will celebrate the “Super Bowl” of holidays: Easter! Around the same time, more than 193 countries around the world will celebrate another important holiday: Earth Day. While all Christian churches will celebrate the one, what about the other? Is Earth Day just another gimmicky, “Hallmark” holiday? Are we “worshipping” and serving created things instead of giving glory and honor to the Creator? Are we putting the Earth and its needs before humans and theirs? Are we more concerned with being “politically correct” than we are in proclaiming truth and grace? Are we falling prey to extremism or becoming an alarmist instead of trusting God and His sovereignty over all creation?

Earth Day aside, perhaps the better question to ask ourselves is how are Deacons living into their mandate to “be prophetic critics of the waste, injustice, and selfishness in our society, and be sensitive counselors to the victims of such evils… and in all your ministries help us participate in the renewing of all things even as we anticipate its completion when God’s kingdom comes”? Do deacons see Creation Care as part of their stewardship mandate (Time, Talents, Treasures, AND TREES) and leading and equipping their churches? If, as followers of Jesus, we truly believe that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1), what does that look like lived out in your diaconate, your church, your individual homes, and beyond?

This month let’s talk about some of these hard questions and challenges we face. If you have a story or experience you’d like to share, please contact Erin, our Communications Coordinator – she’d love to hear from you! Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll look at Creation Care in your home and church, in your community, and in our world.

Diaconal Ministries Canada Breaks New Ground!

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments
NewGround Program Banner

Here at Diaconal Ministries Canada, we believe God is always at work and He calls churches to follow Him into their communities to share Christ’s transformational love with each and every person. Cities and neighbourhoods should be impacted and blessed through the social action and thoughtful, cultural engagement of local Christians. Through its Operation Manna Program, Diaconal Ministries Canada has been helping churches establish vital community ministries across the country for over 35 years. More than 140 local ministries have been started or expanded through an Operation Manna partnership, most of which are still thriving today! Praise God!

Cities and neighbourhoods should be impacted and blessed through the social action and thoughtful, cultural engagement of local Christians.

A wise man once said (okay, it was Walt Disney!): “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”  So while we celebrate the meaningful impact Operation Manna has had, the conversation regarding changing the name and updating the program’s activities has been going on for over 10 years.

While it has been hard to measure the program’s strength and significance within the general Canadian CRC ‘population’, Diaconal Ministries’ staff and Operation Manna Committee members have looked at the amount of money that was coming in through the yearly offering, the number of churches who were applying to the program, as well as numerous conversations with churches and deacons over the years.

It appeared that some churches and its members were confused about what Operation Manna was, what it did, and/or who it was for, as well as its connection to Diaconal Ministries Canada. Some seemed to still associate Operation Manna with World Renew where it began in the 1960’s and continued until Diaconal Ministries took it over in 2001. (This would explain why a few cheques for Operation Manna are still being sent to World Renew each and every year! I kid you not!). Others believed it was some sort of food program, given its name and history. On top of that, as Tammy Heidbuurt, Program Director, points out: “Diaconal Ministries Canada has had such a great resource to support new ministries [through Operation Manna], but many CRCs still don’t know about it!” (To read a more detailed history, click HERE!)

More recently, the conversation was picked up again as Diaconal Ministries’ staff and the program’s committee were ready to expand the program to help churches love their communities AND build into leaders of today and tomorrow. So in the early Fall of 2018, it was decided that the time had finally arrived to help clarify the purpose of the program and break new ground! We are excited to announce that as of March 1st, 2019, the Operation Manna Program was renamed NewGround.

“NewGround is all about connecting the gifts of our churches and deacon leaders to the ministry opportunities in our cities and local neighbourhoods.” -R. Vroege

The NewGround Program will continue to partner with churches to start or grow local community ministries. Brand new to the program is a Youth Justice Initiative and also Deacon Scholarships. Rachel Vroege, Diaconal Ministries’ Regional Ministry Developer in Western Canada, summarized the revamped program this way: “NewGround is all about connecting the gifts of our churches and deacon leaders to the ministry opportunities in our cities and local neighbourhoods.” Vroege goes on to say that the updated and expanded grant and coaching program will now help reach a new generation of justice seekers and inspire them to get involved in their communities. Heidbuurt agrees and adds that she hopes NewGround will enable churches and its members “to be courageous and creative with ministry opportunities in their community.”

The program will continue to be funded through an annual offering held in CRC’s across Canada, but as the program continues to break ‘new ground’, Diaconal Ministries will be seeking other revenue streams to support its expanded activities.

We hope you will join us in celebrating our updated NewGround Program! Visit our NewGround page or click on the video below to find ways YOU can get involved today.

Is It Making A Difference? – Gateway’s Extreme Weather Shelter, Part 3

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

(Pictured above: A pictures taken of outside the shelter. There are no signs, but this “homeless cart” gives evidence of its presence. These carts start to arrive a few hours before the shelter begins some nights. Photo Credit: Monica deRegt)

This is the final article in our 3-part story on the Extreme Weather Shelter opened up by Gateway Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Here’s the first article if you missed it – and the second one.


The Extreme Weather Shelter operated by Gateway Church has offered over 160 individuals a dry place to rest this winter. So, is it making a difference? For some guests, like Larry (you can read his story HERE!) the experience has been life-changing. For others, there is no way of knowing what impact, if any, the shelter has made, other than a one-night reprieve from the cold, wet streets of Abbotsford. Is that enough?

The same could be said of the impact on the congregation. There is evidence of community and relationships developing; attitudes are being challenged and sometimes transformed, and deeper conversations are beginning about faith and justice, homelessness, and poverty. But there has also been opposition; people who worry that we are enabling the homeless. Others struggle with the fears and risks that come with opening their building to individuals who may be involved in dangerous and unpredictable activities like drug addiction, violence, and untreated mental illnesses. And some members are concerned that hosting the shelter will negatively impact other outreach efforts. Is it worth it?

The truth that many of the volunteers have discovered is that homelessness – for those who live it and for those who try to help – is a messy journey with no easy answers.

The Shelter’s sleeping area set-up for another night

“It’s not just about Christian love and all of that,” says volunteer Dianne Mulder, in answer to the question of what advice to give to other churches considering hosting a shelter. Mulder and her husband, Al, decided to help out at the shelter to try to find their own answers about why people are homeless. They have learned that the answer is different for everyone, and that a dry place to sleep makes a different impact on each person. Some are more appreciative than others. “It’s not going to solve the problem; it’s just going to help in a small way. It’s brutal and it’s real and you are dealing with people who don’t think like you.”

Houweling believes the shelter is making a difference, not just to the homeless, but to the church as well.

Gord Houweling, who had a cup of coffee thrown in his face the morning after his first night volunteering at the shelter, shares a similar sentiment.  “It is easy to preach ‘turn the other cheek’ but it is difficult to practice when there is absolutely nothing in it for you.”

But Houweling believes the shelter is making a difference, not just to the homeless, but to the church as well, explaining that his own view of the homeless was challenged when he realized he knew the family of one of the guests. “How can this ministry do anything but impact our congregation? Has it changed how we view the marginalized? I would say yes in that at the very least members are talking about it. For those members who have a difficult time accepting this ministry, it is because God is working to help them process how they feel about the marginalized.”

Church members Heather and Aubrey Postma decided to volunteer because they struggled with the hopelessness and frustration of knowing how to help with the enormous problem of homelessness. Both agree that it has been very eye-opening and has changed the way they understand and care about the people living in the homeless camps in their city.

As individuals we aren’t asked to solve all the problems, but we are called to do something to answer the Biblical call to care for the poor and needy.

“As individuals we aren’t asked to solve all the problems, but we are called to do something,” Heather shared, adding that she doesn’t see how anyone could argue against the Biblical call to care for the poor and needy in this way. “Hosting the shelter so that one person stays dry for one night and gets one good night’s sleep is reason enough to participate.”

A BIG thanks to Mrs. Monica Kronemeyer deRegt for writing this 3-part story for Diaconal Ministries Canada.

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


Moving Forward

Through their partnership with BC Housing, as well as with the assistance of several dedicated volunteers, the Extreme Weather Shelter at Gateway Church is here to stay. Each year, the Shelter runs from November 1 to March 31 each year. The criteria used to determine when the Shelter is open is the temperature and weather conditions: 0 degrees or colder (with or without windchill), a posted weather warning (of rain, snow, cold, etc.), and/or if snow is on the ground. If the shelter is opened on a Friday night, it will remain open for the entire weekend (until Monday morning) in order to accommodate the Shelter’s guests. There’s no easy way over the weekend to let guests know if it will be open or not, so leadership at the Shelter feel this is the kindest and simplest way to deal with that issue.

At the end of every season, Lead Pastor Marcel deRegt and Shelter staff take time to evaluate what worked well and what needs improvement for the following year so that they can continue meeting the needs of their guests. While there are members who wonder if the Shelter should be open continuously, from Nov. 1 to March 31, others aren’t sure this is necessary or sustainable, given the amount of volunteers it requires.

Please pray with us for the staff and volunteers of the Shelter as well as the congregation at Gateway Church as they continue to lean on God for wisdom and direction in their pursuit to show Christ’s love and mercy in serving the homeless in their surrounding community.  Pray that grace and understanding abound, both within the givers and those who receive.

Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator for Diaconal Ministries Canada

Surviving Recruitment Time

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

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!”

Yes, yes, we know Christmas is long gone. It’s Recruitment Time! I am sure by now your Church Council has worked long and hard to craft a witty and concise bulletin announcement and that it’s been published the last 3 weeks, with a deadline that is fast-approaching. And I’m also sure by now your Council Chair’s inbox or church mailslot is overflowing with nominations and/or people asking where they can sign up! If that is true, then this article is NOT for you.

But, if like most churches and Councils, you haven’t heard a peep and/or you’re dreading this year’s nomination process, then feel free to keep reading.

No matter what ministry team you lead in the church, recruitment is likely your least favourite task; aka a ‘necessary evil’. Unfortunately for everyone involved, most church leaders don’t enjoy doing it, not many know HOW to do it, and not many are successful at it. If Recruitment were a musical, it would likely be named I Will Survive and would feature hit songs like:

But seriously, here at DMC, we don’t think it has to be that bad! And we’re here to help! So to help you not only SURVIVE recruiting new deacons, but to THRIVE, we want to spend some time this month looking at the Do’s and Don’ts of Recruitment. This week, we’ll start you off with our Top 10 Ways to Recruit New Council Members. It’s a quick snapshot into how to recruit well, year after year. Look it over, and let us know what you would add or take away, or let us know what you’ve tried in your church.


How About You?

So what does your church or diaconate do to recruit new council members? Tell us your trade secrets! Email Erin today or give her a call at 905-931-1975.

Gateway’s Extreme Weather Shelter – Larry’s Story

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

Diaconal Ministries Canada invited guest blogger, Monica deRegt, to write a 3-part story on the Extreme Weather Shelter opened up by Gateway Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

While writing the last article, Monica felt led to also share this personal story of her experience in meeting Larry, one of the Shelter’s patrons. You might remember seeing Larry’s picture in Part 1 HERE of this series. Also check out Part 2 by clicking HERE!


Larry was sitting alone at a table in our fellowship hall one Sunday in January, waiting for church to start. On the table in front of him was a single rose wrapped in cellophane. I knew he was one of the guests from the Extreme Weather Shelter we host in our gymnasium. I had met him before; he attends our Sunday morning services regularly. Combatting my inner voice that convinces me I won’t have the right words, I decided to go over, say good morning and talk with him.

Larry enjoying a beverage in Gateway’s gymnasium.

Larry turned out to be quite the conversationalist! He shared part of his story with me, explaining why he struggled to earn enough money at his part-time job to cover rent in our town, and how that was what originally led him to our shelter. He has since made a connection with one of our members who helped him find an affordable place to rent. He then complimented me on my freshly manicured nails and I was immediately ashamed and flattered at the same time: how pretentious and rich I must appear to this man, I thought. And yet, it also surprised me that he would notice and take the time to pay me the compliment. He explained, as if knowing I might be feeling uncomfortable, that one of the things he appreciated about being in our church was being surrounded by men and women who value themselves and take good care of themselves. His past was filled with many people who did not make those choices.

“I’ve met some really good, close friends here. Friends that really care about my health.”

Larry has found community at Gateway, saying that he experienced tremendous support through the shelter, where he felt treated like an equal person. Because of that, he wanted to show his support to the church by coming on Sundays to see what it was all about. He enjoys talking and having coffee with the members who come early before the services.

“I’ve met some really good, close friends here. Friends that really care about my health.”

Larry has become a regular face at Gateway’s community events as well. He participated in the Arts and Crafts Fair, selling prints of his beautiful drawings.

Larry is making a difference in the lives of people at Gateway.

And the rose he had with him? Larry takes a flower to church every Sunday so he can give it to a woman who looks as if she needs to feel appreciated. Larry is making a difference in the lives of people at Gateway.

Thank you Monica for sharing this story with us!


Serving a God of Change: Part 2 – Top 7 Reasons Change can be a Good Thing

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

In Part 1 of ‘Serving a God of Change’, we looked at why change can be so hard for us humans and why we tend to avoid it at all costs. But if we’re being honest, I think we can agree that sometimes we DO want change; new things can bring excitement and refreshment. Like that fresh pair of underwear we put on this morning (well, hopefully!). Or changing the throw pillows on our couch every couple of years. Or (incessantly) changing the channel on the tv – my husband is an expert at that! 😉

Change isn’t always bad; new isn’t always unwelcomed. Remember those bible verses we read in our last post? (And trust me, there are way more than just those 3.) Perhaps the first step in embracing change is to change our attitude and perception towards it. Not convinced? Okay, fine, you asked for it!

Perhaps the first step in embracing change is to change our attitude and perception towards it.

Here’s our Top 7 Reasons Why Change Can Be A Good Thing:

  1. Change pushes us to grow – personally, professionally, emotionally, and/or spiritually.  
  2. Change reminds us we aren’t in control. It reminds us of who is Boss and it keeps us flexible, breaking up our (potentially harmful) routines. Routines can be good, ruts never are. God is always at work and God always wants the best for us (Romans 8:28).
  3. Change can challenge, but also solidify, our values and beliefs. Sounds scary, but this could lead to deeper, stronger, and more meaningful relationships – with God and with others – as our love and trust grows.
  4. Change often reveals our strengths—including our ability to adapt in new (and often interesting) ways. It also reminds us to rely on God’s strength. He promises He won’t leave us or forsake us. (Deut. 31:6)
  5. Change can change our perspective. How we view change and its purpose and value can make all the difference. Instead of saying, “If God is in control, why won’t He take this away from me?” we can say, “I don’t know what God is doing, but I know He loves me and has a plan for me.”
  6. Change can make us more compassionate and more loving. When we become “too comfortable” in our own situation, it can be much more difficult to understand what others might be going through. As we look around and see others struggling, we can choose compassion instead of criticism.
  7. Change offers opportunities. Change can present opportunities that can lead to even more opportunities! This could be the abundant life Jesus talked about in John 10.

In summary: we serve a GOD OF CHANGE. This is how God created His entire world – including us. Each day the sun rises and we have a new day. Four times a year we mark a new season (whether we like it or not!). Even the cells in our body are continually dying and being replaced! Since the beginning of the world God has been actively doing a new thing. Change isn’t always a bad thing! What we must remember, though, is that no change is good change without God in the picture.

Every day is an opportunity for change to reveal incredible and amazing things [as we] allow ourselves to be drawn closer to Him and to the plans and purposes He has for our life.

Marni Montanez

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

Marni Montanez shares this wonderful insight about this passage from Isaiah: “Our eyes must be watchful and our hearts open and expectant for the changes God is bringing into our life. Our God is the ultimate artist and He loves to create. He brings victories and transforming power into each situation we welcome Him into. What else can we be, but grateful for His tireless ministry to us? Every day is an opportunity for change to reveal incredible and amazing things and in these changes we allow ourselves to be drawn closer to Him and to the plans and purposes He has for our life. This is indeed good news. We must be willing vessels ready to face the head-wind of change and move forward in the renewed hope that God presents to us daily;  If we don’t our lives will become stale and intolerable.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

Here at DMC, we strive to follow God and trust in Him as we push forward to break new ground in order to help deacons and churches across Canada live out God’s calling on their lives. Here are just a few exciting things we’ve been working on:

  1. We’ve begun some wonderful collaborations to better equip and resource deacons and churches:
    a. We are working with Christian Stewardship Services to offer deacons and churches helpful and up-to-date resources on stewardship and benevolence, with extra funding coming from the CRCNA to support these efforts;
    b. Along with World Renew, we are offering a workshop “Helping Without Harming” to educate and encourage local churches and organizations to address poverty and injustice in their communities;
    c. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Climate Witness Project to help communities and churches respond to God’s call to love their neighbour and care for creation, focusing on these four key areas: Energy Stewardship, Worship, Education, and Advocacy.
  2. A National Benevolence Training Program was piloted in a couple cities across Canada. This program, developed and led by Ms. Anje Attema, will help deacons move from “handing out money” to partnering with people to bring about lasting and meaningful change in their lives and situations.
  3. We’ve recruited some highly skilled and passionate Diaconal Ministry Developers to our team!
  4. We have fully rebranded our Operation Manna Program and are excited to make an announcement at the end of January 2019, so stay tuned!

We serve a God of change, who goes before us, beside us, and behind us. He can do some pretty amazing things in those moments, if we let Him and if we continue to follow Him. So here’s the challenge – for us, for deacons, for churches: embrace the changes! Remember this as you put on a fresh pair of underwear each day: Change is good if God is in the change. Sometimes it’s necessary… sometimes it’s uncomfortable (at first)… but we never have to go through it alone.

 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Will You Help Us Continue to Extend our Reach?

In order to accomplish what we’ve listed above, and so much more, WE NEED YOU! Will you partner with us so can continue to inspire, empower, and equip deacons and churches across Canada in new and refreshing ways? Your prayers and financial support are critical for Diaconal Ministries Canada to help deacons and churches flourish so that every community can be transformed by the love and good news of Jesus Christ. Find out more here!

The Top 5 Things Gateway Church Discovered Running an Extreme Weather Shelter

Posted by | Doing Justice, Engaging Community | No Comments

Above Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash: (I met Michael in a Boston subway station. I told him I liked his sign. “What matters is what it means to you,” he told me. I asked what it meant to him. “Doing a deed or expressing kindness to another person without expecting anything in return,” Michael said. I love approaching strangers wherever I go. Listening and talking to them teaches you about people and how similar we all are to one another. Just like Michael, we’re all seeking human kindness.)

This is the second article in a 3-part story on the Extreme Weather Shelter opened up by Gateway Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia. You can read the first article here.


When Gateway CRC decided to host an Extreme Weather Shelter in their building three years ago, the staff and volunteers knew there would be a lot to learn. Some were expected – that there would likely be drug issues, and that members of the congregation would have mixed emotions and reactions, and that the needs could be greater than anyone had imagined – but there were other unexpected surprises along the journey, too. Gateway Church wanted to share these learnings with other churches and groups who might be considering a similar venture in their community.

So here they are – the Top 5 things that Gateway Church discovered about running an Extreme Weather Shelter:

  1. The Need for Dry Socks… and more – In addition to space, bedding, meals, and volunteers, it was quickly noticed that the shelter guests had other practical needs, like the importance of a dry pair of socks. Volunteer Coordinator, Teresa Spyksma, was surprised at how many pairs they have handed out so far. Gateway is also in the process of installing a washer and dryer in the church as providing clean and dry clothes for the guests meets another practical, yet important, need.
  2. The Amount of Work and Time – Head Coordinator of the Shelter, Jenny Vanderheide, shared that it took way more hours than she expected to organize all the volunteers, saying it takes about 8 volunteers per night to run the shelter: 5 to provide food and 3 to cover both shifts. Gateway staff have also learned that the shelter work isn’t necessarily over when morning comes. They found that many shelter guests, attracted to the hospitality, did not want to leave in the morning or would find reasons to spend more time in the area. This presented new challenges, but also unique opportunities and lasting relationships, and certainly involved a steep learning curve regarding how to respond in a way that was suitable for the church and for the clients.
  3. The Presence of Drugs – One of the biggest challenges with running the Extreme Weather Shelter is the reality of drugs. While it is somewhat possible to prevent the use of drugs on the property, avoiding the evidence of drug use that comes with it (paraphernalia, needles, etc.) is a bit more difficult. Staff and congregation members have had to learn how to manage this as well as respond to the fears that inevitably go with it. Something else that surprised Spyksma was why homelessness and drug-use seem to go hand-in-hand. “I used to believe that people got addicted to drugs and [then] ended up on the street – homeless,” she remarked. “Now I have learned that it is much more common to have other situations cause the homelessness and once on the street, people turn to drugs.”
  4. The Prevalence of Mental Health Issues – Many of the people who come into the shelter have a variety of mental health issues, apart from addictions to drugs or alcohol. In fact, in many cases, this may be the underlying cause for homelessness or addiction. Supporting these people might be the greatest challenge at the Shelter, according to the coordinators. Dealing with the drugs and mental health has helped the church realize the importance of partnering with organizations who are already equipped to deal with these situations.
  5. The Joy of Building Relationships – Coordinators, staff and volunteers consistently share the same experience – as Vanderheide says, “You become attached to these people when you see them night after night and wonder where they are when they do not show up one night, and hope and pray that they are okay.” Spyksma explains how hearing the heart-wrenching stories when she talks one-on-one with the clients helps her to feel more empathy and love. She says she knows that the clients feel the impact of this as well, as some come in just to sit and chat or to pray with the volunteers after something has happened to them. The relationships being built go both ways, as some of the guests have become protective of the church and have taken sacrificial steps to safeguard the building and volunteers from any perceived danger. Other guests have found housing and job offers from connections with church members, and one gentleman regularly attends Gateway Church on Sunday mornings because of the relationships that are being formed.

The biggest surprise expressed by those involved with the shelter is that they feel so blessed to be part of it.

Although there has been a lot more learning and work than unexpected, the biggest surprise expressed by those involved with the shelter is that they feel so blessed to be part of it. Spyksma sums it up beautifully: “I had NO idea that I would love this work. I love being able to actively serve this marginalized community and try to show through my speech and actions that they are valuable, worthy of respect, and ultimately loved.”


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.

Serving a God of Change – Part 1: Why Change is Hard

Posted by | Equipping Deacons, Uncategorized | No Comments

Happy New Year!!!

Can I still say that?! How long are we supposed to say this to each other anyway? Can I say it to someone I am seeing for the first time in the new year? If so, this could go onto until June. Is this greeting only welcome the first couple weeks into January? Or is that even too long? And what’s so exciting about a NEW year anyway? Well, lots we think!

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been pondering this quite a bit: what’s so great about NEW things? Why do we even need new things? Why do we need a new year? Why are people so obsessed with change?

Even the Bible is filled with references to “new” things:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘“The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24).

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:3).

Sometimes when we read these verses, our first thought can be What was wrong with the former command? Or Why do we need another new song? I like the old one(s)!

Let’s face it: as human beings, most of the time we don’t LIKE change and even more, we don’t see the necessity for it.

Not many people love venturing off into uncharted waters. We seem to know instinctly that a new way will present both new possibilities and new problems.

Here are a few reasons I came up with as to why this may be:

  1. Change means something has ended OR that something needs to die or change: This one is hard for most of us. As humans, we tend to avoid loss at all costs, even though we know that jobs can end, people sometimes move away, kids must grow up, etc.
    DMC is no stranger to change; over the past 5 years we’ve seen 3 new staff members come on board due to retirements and resignations.
  2. We think change means we were doing it all wrong before: By definition, change is a departure from the past. People who are a part of the current ‘system’ or way of doing things (the one is being superseded) can become defensive. To them, change can mean something isn’t working and therefore what they’ve been doing is all wrong, which, to them, means THEY were wrong.
    When new staff, new Diaconal Ministry Developers, new deacons, etc. come in and start asking questions about resources or the way we do things, it can make us uncomfortable!
  3. People LOVE the status quo: This one continues our thoughts in #2. Change means no longer doing things “the way they’ve always been done” and this can make people feel uneasy. Without understanding why this new change is necessary, some may become defensive or betrayed or even disengage completely.
  4. Change can equal more work and sacrifice: And herein lies the challenge and one of the best reasons to AVOID change – it typically creates MORE work. Not only does it take time away from our ‘regular’ work, but we are certain to encounter inevitable glitches that can happen along the way. I can certainly attest to this one!!
  5. Change can cause ripple effects: Related to #4 above, change can create ripples that are neither anticipated nor desired. The ripples can mean even more changes need to happen or that certain issues will need to be addressed.
  6. People know change brings a new set of possibilities and problems: Not many people love venturing off into uncharted waters. We seem to know instinctly that a new way will present both new possibilities and new problems (aka the ripple effects!). So we put aside the possibilities just so we can avoid the problems. We decide the risk isn’t worth the reward.

So after all of that, why CHANGE? IS it really worth it?

Sometimes change is good, and, like underwear, most of the time change is necessary.

And then it hit me: UNDERWEAR. At a church plant I worked at a few years ago, we did a sermon series on change and we used a picture of a pair of underwear for our series graphics. It certainly drove the point home: sometimes change is good, and, like underwear, most of the time change is necessary. And how do we put underwear on? One leg at a time (well, normally).

So here’s the challenge; for us, for deacons, for churches: welcome the changes! Hear this good news: God is doing some amazing things in those moments.

In our next post, we’ll unpack this theme a bit more, looking at how God is always at work and that, with God’s help, we can be better at embracing the changes He brings. We’ll also give you a sneak peek at some exciting changes and new initiatives coming to Diaconal Ministries Canada and ultimately – to deacons and churches across Canada!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
(Romans 15:13)

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

Posted by | Engaging Community, Uncategorized | No Comments

(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.