By Rachel Vroege, Regional Ministry Developer for Western Canada
This year marks my 6th year work anniversary with Diaconal Ministries Canada. My position is a mouthful – Western Canada Regional Ministry Developer – but can be summed up in one word – Champion.
When I started on May 1, 2013, I had very big shoes to fill. Henry Bosch, my predecessor, was known as “the deacon guy” in Edmonton where I grew up. Henry was one of the founders of Diaconal Ministries Canada and worked in a dual capacity as the Western Canada Regional Ministry Developer and Northern Alberta Diaconal Conference Coordinator. After his retirement, the positions were set apart and I was hired to fill the Diaconal Ministries’ role for Western Canada.
I discovered very quickly that the best part of my work would be meeting and coaching deacon teams and those with a diaconal heart in the 100+ Christian Reformed Churches in Western Canada. This is where the word champion comes in . . .
To champion means to support the cause of, defend, advocate, and stand up for.
At Diaconal Ministries, we defend the cause of justice and mercy through our Youth Justice Initiative and our NewGround program (formerly Operation Manna) that provides support for many community ministry projects. I have had the privilege to witness and be a part of incredible movements – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada and the Faith and Justice Project. I also participated as Synod adopted the Diakonia Remixed Report and moved to change Church Order to reflect the calling of deacons as champions of justice, mercy, and reconciliation ministries in the CRCNA.
Through our coaching initiatives, I have worked with and been inspired by fellow champions in organizations addressing homelessness, refugees, sex trafficking, creation care, and restorative justice. Some of these fellow champions have passed away and I remember with great fondness John Sneep and Henry Smidstra from our Restorative Practices Committee in Classis BC South-East.
My Diaconal Ministries’ colleagues and our Diaconal Coach network (aka. Diaconal Ministry Developers) also show tireless commitment as they champion their local diaconates and churches and their ministry efforts to care for the vulnerable.
Each day I am inspired by the call to the deacons – to serve in imitation of Christ’s mercy, summoning the church to help relieve victims of injustice, equip the church for ministries of reconciliation and peacemaking, and seek opportunities for advocacy.
In these past six years, I have witnessed the many gifts God has given His people – gifts of leadership, compassion, and faith. Each day I am inspired by the call to the deacons – to serve in imitation of Christ’s mercy, summoning the church to help relieve victims of injustice, equip the church for ministries of reconciliation and peacemaking, and seek opportunities for advocacy.
In other words – to be a champion.