Written by: Amanda Mason
Pictured Above: Amanda and her family on her wedding day.
The interactions we had with the deacons at our church profoundly influenced my family’s journey toward becoming members of the Christian Reformed Church as they impacted our lives in tremendous ways. Let me share some of our family’s story with you.
My now husband and I were dating and living with our three children at home: two young sons and my step-daughter, who had been abandoned by her birth mother and had recently come to live with us full-time. As a couple, we started discussing how we wanted to find a family-friendly church to help us raise our children with Christian values. Both of us were brought up in different church denominations. My experience was with the Anglican Church, where I often went with my grandmother as my mom was a working single mom. My husband’s story is similar; however, his mom was raising four children alone and joined the Mormon church to which her older sister and family belonged. Both our experiences were very different, and despite us both coming from divorced, abusive families, we still believed in the value of having God in our lives and that of our children. We found a church online called Hope Fellowship in Courtice, Ontario. We liked their family programs and messages: Believe, Belong, and Bless.
But it was not until we lost our third child and I had to make three trips back and forth to the hospital one weekend, passing that particular church along the way, that I felt God beckoning me and giving me the desire to step through their doors. God led us to attend Hope Fellowship for the first time during the despair and heartache of losing our child, but it was the beginning of where He started to work wonders in our lives.
I had no idea what a deacon was until our second year as new Hope Fellowship members, when we were blessed with a new pregnancy. Despite our fear of losing another baby, we knew we now had the support of a whole new church community we now belonged to. However, my twenty-week ultrasound revealed that our daughter was not growing normally. Her head was measuring at the second percentile, and she was smaller than she should have been, which, as you can imagine, is horrifying news to expectant parents. I opened up about some of our family struggles through this experience and asked for help and prayers from our church’s office administrator. I agreed to allow our new church community to help us in our journey. This was when I learned what a deacon was and how they ministered to those inside and outside our church walls.
Deacons offer practical help like “meal trains” for members of the congregation who are experiencing various life circumstances. Things like illness of a loved one, supporting aging parents, and after the birth of a child. They sometimes send cards of encouragement or will stop by with a bag of Christmas gifts when a family or person is struggling. Deacons will also call or stop by and chat, and they will spend the time to get to know a person, both within the walls of our church and on the streets of our city. These are just a few examples of what a deacon does, how important they are to our congregations, and what I have learned about them over the years through my family’s experiences and developing these relationships at my church. I started having more one-on-one interactions with my few deacons at our church after the stress of our last pregnancy with our now four-year-old daughter, Harper-Grace.
None of this would have happened if we had not lost our previous baby. For me and my family, that weekend we lost one child would mark the beginning of something special and be remembered as the start of our becoming CRC members. As I stated above, God would later grant us the miracle of our last child, Harper-Grace. Despite a stressful pregnancy full of thoughts of her being permanently disfigured and disabled, she was born a perfect seven pounds with no signs of what these constant ultrasounds and doctor visits showed—this was a true miracle! My experience with asking for assistance from the deacons and getting to know one of them more personally would later lead to her helping me plan and organize my wedding on our church grounds after my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2019. Although she was no longer an ‘ordained’ deacon, she got to know me well when she served in that role and we had built a deep relationship. Because of that, she shared that she had lost her parents to cancer and she understood how important having my mother at my wedding day would later be to me after she passed – and it was. Having those memories is a priceless gift that I thank God for, as is her help in making that day happen.
My story would have a very different ending if it wasn’t for the support, kindness, and hospitality offered by the deacons, and God’s leading and direction in our lives. God brought light back into our world through the deacons at Hope, who supported us and showed the love of Jesus.
Since losing my mother to her cancer battle in February 2023, I know God’s hand has always been there; from the day we lost our child to now, six years later, as I attend seminary. Through all of these hard and challenging experiences we were led to a church community where we could experience the love of these kind-hearted friends who would walk alongside us, through the ups and downs. My story would have a very different ending if it wasn’t for the support, kindness, and hospitality offered by the deacons, and God’s leading and direction in our lives. God brought light back into our world through the deacons at Hope, who supported us and showed the love of Jesus.
In my journey, I discovered that deacons are on the frontlines of our local churches, each with unique gifts that support and equip our congregations to do all that we do in and for God’s kingdom. These men and women are eager to serve, to get out into the community, and to live out Jesus’ teachings. Some do this by connecting—just getting to know someone or their family or by reaching out to an organization and then encouraging our congregations to get involved there. Some get their hands dirty and show up at food banks, shelters, and on the frontlines. Others are busy organizing fundraisers and fighting injustice. So many areas of our congregation’s life as a community of believers start with the deacons, and in fact, we are all called to be deacons! It’s unfortunate that sometimes the deacons and their role can get overlooked or undervalued.
Neither my husband nor I grew up in the CRC, but it was through these interactions that we were able to see the qualities of what the CRCNA has to offer to our family and the values we wanted to instill in our children. As I learned more about the CRCNA and its history, I realized we are at a time of change in that newer families from all over the world are looking for a faith community that will build into them and support them. I believe they can find that within the CRCNA, no matter who they are or what they’ve done or where they come from. I feel that deacons can play a big role in helping to bring new life and new families into our churches, especially in the areas of fellowship and discipleship.