Leaving a Legacy of Leadership and Love

After 13 years of ministry, Tammy Heidbuurt is moving on to pursue her passion of community development in a local non-profit bike shop.

For many in the CRC in Canada, the name Tammy Heidbuurt is a familiar one. Tammy served with Diaconal Ministries Canada for over 13 years as a Regional Ministry Developer for Eastern Canada, as well as the Program Coordinator for NewGround (formerly Operation Manna), a program of Diaconal Ministries that helps churches love their community.

Just before Covid-19 hit, Tammy had put forth her resignation in order to take a role as the Director of Business Development and Community Partnerships for New Hope Community Bikes of Hamilton, Ontario. Shortly after, because of the pandemic and all of its uncertainty, Tammy stayed on Diaconal Ministries’ staff (in a part-time capacity) until the middle of June, when she was finally able to begin her role with New Hope Bikes.

Looking Back

As Tammy reflected on her time with Diaconal Ministries, she admits she still remembered the first deacon ‘training event’ she held. “Sitting in my car in the parking lot of Orillia CRC, reviewing in my head the content of my (first) presentation, I was distracted with how nervous I felt,” Tammy shared. “I called “my boss”, Hans Kater, the National Director of Diaconal Ministries at the time, who gently gave words of encouragement and prayed with me.”

Tammy leading a classis-wide deacon training event at Bethany CRC in Fenwick, ON.

In those early days, Tammy recalls spending time tagging along with co-worker, Pam DeWilde, as Pam met with churches to talk about the Community Opportunity Scan or to meet with NewGround partners (then Operation Manna). As the years went on, Tammy remembers so many other meaningful encounters and experiences. Holding the annual Ministry Networking Days with NewGround Partners full of stories of love and generosity that brought tears and the annual Diaconal Coaches gathering.  

“My role in supporting churches has given me the opportunity to work with a tremendous amount of amazing deacons (and outreach team members) in many communities in Canada (specifically from Manitoba to PEI),” Tammy said. “From rural to urban, small town to suburban, and everywhere in between. I met with them in their churches, in their homes, and even their barns. We talked about ways to engage in their local community, how to strengthen partnerships, ways to help others while offering dignity, where to find resources, and how to mentor new deacons.” 

To the deacons she worked alongside, Tammy had this to say: “You taught me about your community, about leadership, about commitment, and you demonstrated such creativity in your ministry endeavours. When I thought that I was done working with churches, when frustration about momentum or discouragement due to challenges made me want to give up, I would inevitably meet a deacon or group of deacons who would inspire me with their passion, their commitment, and their honest and gentle hearts.”

Leaving a Legacy of Love

Deacons and pastors were equally eager to share about their experiences with Tammy, which was no surprise to co-worker Erin Knight. “I’ve had the privilege of attending a couple deacon training events with Tammy,” Erin said. “She brought an energy to her role that is contagious. I see the way she inspired and encouraged deacons in their role and I have heard many comments on how helpful she has been to their church and diaconate. Tammy saw deacons as leaders and worked hard to help them discover their strengths and assets and find ways to partner in their communities to bring Christ’s love.”

One former pastor still recalls his shock and delight in having Tammy travel all the way up to his church in Thunder Bay to offer them support and help them move forward in ministry.

A former pastor of New Street CRC in Burlington, ON, also shared his appreciation for Tammy’s work in their church a number of years ago. “When I was at New Street in Burlington, I remember the way [Tammy] partnered with us to get Shifra Home [which is still thriving today!] off the ground. [Her] joy and passion was evident and infectious! [Tammy] left a mark on many communities and [she will be] sorely missed.” 

Board member and fellow NewGround Committee Member, Mike Prins, also shared his gratefulness for the legacy Tammy left in communities across the country. “Thank you for the way you have given and given to deacons, churches, communities – to think of the work you have helped to instigate and grow and multiply! God be glorified!”

Leaving a Legacy of Leadership

The staff of Diaconal Ministries, including the Diaconal Coaches who worked closely with Tammy over the years, had much to say about Tammy and her impact on them.

Ron VandenBrink, the current National Director of Diaconal Ministries, recalls his transition from church planting and how Tammy helped to make it as smooth as it could be. “Tammy was always ready to help go the extra mile. She has been the “face of the organization” (especially in Eastern Canada) for many years. Her ‘can do’ attitude, creativity and flexible work style will be greatly missed.”

Karla Winham, Diaconal Coach in Eastern Canada, echoed Ron’s words. “Tammy was the first person I met at Diaconal Ministries, back around the time when I was starting to toy with the idea of a career change. Through her calm and accepting mentorship, I came to realize that working in a ministry organization might actually be appealing. Tammy’s leadership over the past few years as a Coach really helped shape my understanding of diaconal work and my own ministry passions. I will miss her stable presence!” 

Other coaches also expressed deep appreciation for Tammy’s pursuit of justice, her compassion for the vulnerable, and the way she encouraged and equipped them in their role. 

Co-worker and friend, Samantha Bondy, summed up Tammy well: “Tammy is such a wonderful gentle soul. She is the picture of humility! Her best quality is being able to appreciate anyone for exactly what they are bringing to the table (without societal comparison to what it “should” be). When you are in the presence of Tammy, you know what your worth is – and it is insurmountable. It reminds me of the words of Paul when he is writing to Philippi: “Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3-4). It is like Paul was writing about Tammy (‘be like Tammy!’). Tammy deserves all of the blessings the Lord can provide as she moves on to bless another community with her humble and dedicated faith to lead others to the Kingdom!”

While Tammy’s resignation was received with much sadness, the staff of Diaconal Ministries are thrilled she is able to pursue her passion for community development in her own hometown.

Deacons and friends of Diaconal Ministries: join us in celebrating this new role for Tammy and praying for many successes and blessings for her in her new environment!