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:
- Change pushes us to grow – personally, professionally, emotionally, and/or spiritually.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- We’ve recruited some highly skilled and passionate Diaconal Ministry Developers to our team!
- 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!
|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: email@example.com.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21)
[Photo by TK Hammonds on Unsplash]
Now while Frankie Goes to Hollywood may get credit for our title above, it actually goes back to a verse in 1 Corinthians 14 (RSV): “Make love your aim…” and the ever-popular verses from the previous chapter as well:
“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (The Message, vs 3-7)
In the Form of Ordination for Elders & Deacons (2016), we read that “Deacons serve by leading and equipping the church to minister to its members and the world in a rich diversity of ministries, awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy, seeking justice, and collaborating with God’s Spirit for the transformation of persons and communities. In imitation of Christ’s mercy, deacons teach us to love God, our neighbors, and the creation with acts of generous sharing, joyful hospitality, thoughtful care, and wise stewardship of all of God’s gifts.”
Did you see it? Did you see that that one, vitally important word? It’s small, but so significant. It’s the word that anchors that entire first paragraph. What is it?
Before we continue talking about engaging with our communities, let’s get one thing straight: if it’s done with the wrong intentions, It. Will. Fail. While this may seem obvious because hey, ‘we love because He first loved us’ and all that good stuff, let’s take a minute to just realign our hearts and minds, and our motives. If churches aren’t creating and executing their ministries out of a place of genuine love and care, people will quickly become ‘problems to solve’ and our ministries will become solely needs-based. Doing the work of a deacon is not about putting people on a conveyor belt and having them go through your “system” in order that they leave a satisfied customer and hopefully never need your help again.
So we’ll say it again, MAKE LOVE YOUR GOAL!
If churches aren’t creating and executing their ministries out of a place of genuine love and care, people will quickly become ‘problems to solve’ and our ministries will become solely needs-based.
Good, so now that we’ve got that straight, let’s move on…
HOW DOES A CHURCH BEGIN ENGAGING WITH THEIR COMMUNITY?
STEP 1: FIND OUT WHERE GOD IS AT WORK!
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: in order to effectively reach our community, churches must FIRST see where God is already at work. Yes, folks, this is true: God is, and always has been, moving and working in your community. The beautiful part is that churches get to JOIN HIM!
Take a minute and read (or re-read) our recent blog post entitled “Listening to Our Communities,” where we were reminded HOW to discern and discover where God is moving and working. If we only focus on meeting the needs of those we aim to serve, our ministries will fall flat. Even Jesus didn’t meet every single need. Instead, He remained faithful to the mission God gave Him and followed His Father’s leading, even amongst the pestering of the people and even his own disciples! Jesus took time to get away and ‘check in’ with God, through times of solitude and prayer. Remember that all we do to build God’s kingdom here on earth begins and ends with PRAYER. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14.
This leads us to our next point.
STEP 2: GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD!
In that post mentioned above, we touched on ways to get to know your community. Sociologist James Hunter writes: “Faithful presence in the world means that Christians are fully present and committed in their spheres of influence, whatever they may be: their families, neighborhoods, voluntary activities, and places of work.” In other words, to faithfully engage the world means we must be fully present within it. Every church has a unique location – within a city and, even more specifically, in a particular neighbourhood in that city. If we look close enough and pay enough attention, churches can discover that most have a well-defined identity and many of the neighbours will have common interests. Showing that your church cares about what’s important to them is one of the best ways to engage with your community. Each church must devote time thinking about what their neighbours value, what they spend their time and resources on, and ways you can build relationships with them through those things.
For example, for churches close to a city’s downtown core, there will likely be events like street fairs, art shows, music festivals, park cleanups, and community yard sales that draw the community together. Churches in these neighbourhoods could engage with their neighbours by having church members volunteer for these events, host booths, allow attenders to use your parking lot or washroom facilities, or be part of the planning or committee meetings. This could also open up the door to invite the community to some evangelistic-type events at special times of the year, like Christmas!
If your church is in a lower-income area, your neighbours’ biggest concerns are likely to be some of their most basic needs: food, shelter, jobs, transportation, education. Your members might help meet some of these needs, and thereby gain neighbours’ trust and attention, through soup kitchens, clothes closets, literacy programs, and such.
Churches that find themselves in the suburbs surrounded by lots of young families may find their neighbours’ lives revolve around their kids. Churches here may want to host some events throughout the year that provide activities for the kids and expose neighbours to the gospel. Vacation Bible School, an annual Easter Egg Hunt or a free Community Picnic could provide opportunities to not only get to know your neighbours, but for these people to get to know you/your church and start building relationships.
Engaging with your community will need both strategy and effort, especially when your church’s members don’t necessarily live there. Finding ways to show your neighbours that your church cares about the same things as they do will help you build long-lasting and genuine relationships with your neighbours. This is absolutely essential if your church is going to make an impact in your surrounding community.
Showing that your church cares about what’s important to your neighbours is one of the best ways to engage with your community.
These first 2 steps are echoed in the story we posted last week about Meadowlands Church in Ancaster. This church desperately wanted to engage with their immediate neighbourhood but were having trouble finding common ground with them. It wasn’t until they started praying to God, intentionally and specifically, that a window of opportunity opened up. God’s answer to their prayer was nothing they would have ever guessed or imagined themselves, but that really shouldn’t surprise us, should it? In the Bible we see God do this time and time again, and perhaps you’ve experienced this in your own personal life too. When we say “Yes” to God, we don’t always know where He’ll lead us, BUT we know He will guide and sustain us. (Psalm 55:4) Take a minute to read their story and how God is working in them and through them to reach their neighbourhood in Ancaster. It’s important to note that Meadowlands’s goal isn’t to just ‘fix the problem’ of vandalism, which they likely couldn’t do anyway. That’s the best part of this story: instead of letting that stop them, they have decided that it would be more important and impactful to simply bring the surrounding neighbours together to show them that the church CARES about what they care about and that they want to work together for a better community!
They’ve made LOVE their goal! 😀
STEP 3: GET DOWN TO BUSINESS
Perhaps you are like Meadowlands Church and you are having trouble finding where God could be opening doors or understanding what is really important to your surrounding community. In order to assist churches, Diaconal Ministries Canada has developed a hands-on, practical tool called a Community Opportunity Scan (COS). A COS is a comprehensive process of discovery that will open doors to exciting possibilities for churches to engage in their communities. First and foremost, a COS is an exercise in LISTENING and DISCERNING; it will not only identify needs, it will also affirm the unique gifts and assets in the community and in the church. Through a COS, churches will get to know the people, organizations, resources and needs of their community first-hand. With this information churches can discern opportunities to…
- Create awareness of local issues
- Engage in community partnerships
- Evaluate existing programs
- Begin new initiatives
Churches can explore Diaconal Ministry Canada’s COS Tools and Resources page on their website and discover how they can begin to learn more about their own church neighbourhood and community. DMC is able to provide support and consultation to churches conducting a COS. Beyond this, churches that are ready to start or grow a new community ministry can receive additional funding, consultation and resources when they apply to become an Operation Manna Partner.
What About YOUR Church?
Where is your church at in the journey of engaging with your community? Have you just begun to seek where God is at work? Have you started praying intentionally for God to open up doors? Does this work get ‘assigned’ to a committee in your church or are all of your members on board with living missionally? Has your church done a COS and it’s gone nowhere and you need a re-boot or some help? Has your church done a COS and now you are ready to get down to business but you need help? Does your diaconate struggle with animating your congregation to go out and love their neighbours?
This story was adapted from Pastor Ken Douma’s presentation at the Day of Encouragement in Edmonton, AB on Saturday, November 4, 2017. Pastor Ken is the lead pastor at Edson Peers CRC*, in Edson, AB.
A couple of years ago, Pastor Ken got a phone call from Natalie Walker, Director of the West Yellowhead Pregnancy Care Centre (WYPCC). Natalie shared that the Centre was in serious financial trouble as a grant that they counted on for a good portion of their budget had fallen through due to a change in eligibility requirements. On top of that, the local economy had crashed and their donations were way down. They had just had an emergency Board Meeting and let go one of their full-time staff and reduced their Hinton office to be open by appointment only. They had $100.00 in the bank. The future of the Centre was very much up in the air. Ken’s church, Edson-Peers CRC, had always financially supported the Centre, but they needed something more than the usual support. This is when they turned to Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC). Ken and Natalie spoke to Rachel Vroege, the Regional Ministry Developer for Western Canada, and asked if DMC’s Operation Manna (OM) Program would be able to help them out. Rachel encouraged them to submit an application to the OM Program and WYPCC was approved as an OM Partner in 2017.
The purpose of the OM Application was not just to get the Centre back on its feet financially. There was a desire to expand the ministry of the Centre to include not just ministering to those who found themselves with an unplanned pregnancy, but to go deeper. Unplanned pregnancies are typically a symptom of a much deeper problem that has often been ignored or put aside. Unfortunately, almost all of the clients at the Centre have a history of sexual abuse of some kind. So part of the OM Application was to receive help and funding to start up a “Steps to Sexual Healing” (SSH) program, a program created by Dr. Doug Weiss. Natalie believed that by being able to offer this program to their past, current, and future clients, the Centre would be able to not only assist in a client’s crisis pregnancy, but also help them find healing and wholeness. The SSH program is in its early stages but is already being used by some clients. The WYPCC hopes it will be something that can be used in the greater community, including the church communities, as well.
The Centre was also seeking guidance to strengthen their relationship with the Edson-Peers Church in order to increase ownership of this ministry. The church had always been very supportive, but primarily in a “hand’s off” way. More than just doling out grant money, the OM Program offers coaching and consultation to our partners. Through this partnership with OM, one tangible way their relationship has been reinforced is that one of the church’s Deacons has now joined the Board at WYPCC.
In order to help the Centre reach the broader community, the church hosted an evening for area churches called “The Talk” to help parents know how to talk to their kids about sexuality and the various issues surrounding it. During this evening, Natalie gave a shortened version of what she presents to local High Schools and area pastors had a panel discussion in which questions by those in attendance were answered. The feedback was good and there is hopes that they can do this again soon and go more into depth on some of the issues of sexual healing. Another area the church is exploring is offering pre-natal classes. Most clients do not take the classes offered in the community because of a lack of support and for fear of being judged. The church is hoping that a couple of their own members who are nurses will be able to connect with Natalie and offer some assistance in this area as well.
While there is much to celebrate, the reality is that there are many challenges facing the Centre and the Edson-Peers Church as they seek to bring healing and wholeness in the area of sexuality and unplanned pregnancy. There is often shame surrounding issues of sexuality and it can be incredibly difficult to break the silence and empower people to be vulnerable. This can be especially true within church communities: statistics tell us that the problems facing our culture are just as real inside the church, so having the SSH Program within the church setting as well would benefit many.
Pastor Ken was also able to share something wonderful that had recently developed. Typically, faith-based organizations like WYPCC get a lukewarm reception from government agencies and social workers at best. However, God has used Natalie to break down many of those barriers and some local social workers have actually started sending clients to her at the Centre. These social workers are even requiring some of their clients to meet with Natalie and her volunteers and go through the programs the Centre offers in order for them to be allowed to keep their children(!!). While this has increased Natalie and her team’s workload, it has been such a blessing to those clients. Praise God!
Here are 2 more stories that Natalie sent to Pastor Ken about people she has been able to help. These stories clearly communicate how the OM Program has impacted this ministry:
One of my clients had a late term abortion. She was approaching her third trimester of pregnancy and decided that she couldn’t do it – she simply could not bring a child into such a horrible world. She decided to terminate the pregnancy at the end of the sixth month of gestation as a gift to her child. When I asked why she saw this as a gift she said that the world was cruel. She had a mother who was a heroin addict (always had been) and who would prostitute my client to men since she was four years old in order to pay for the drugs. She said she wasn’t angry at her mom, that she understood, being an addict herself, what heroin can make you do. My client didn’t want to choose the same thing for her baby and couldn’t be certain that she wouldn’t when she was using. By the time this client came to see us she was pregnant for the second time. Now my client had been clean from drug-use for several months and was ready to carry this baby to term. I strongly suggested she get professional help as this was deep-rooted trauma. I told her all that we could do was listen and that our prenatal program didn’t address all of the hurt that she had experienced. I had really wished then that we had at least something to offer her since she refused to see a professional. She loved our office, there was always a hot drink and warm environment waiting for her. We didn’t judge her; we just talked about pregnancy and she loved it. I’m hoping to get this client back into our office for the Steps to Sexual Health program. It’s exactly what we needed at the time and I’m so thankful we have it now – not just for extreme cases but for everyone who comes to us. Not all of our clients have been sex-trafficked but nearly all of them have been abused. It’s devastating, and if Jesus came to heal the sick and wounded, we the church need to be leading the charge in delivering His hope and light into this unspeakable darkness.
Another one of my clients came from the Philippines for work. She would clean hotel rooms every day at one of the busiest hotels in town. One night she was sexually assaulted at the hotel; apparently a regular occurrence among the Filipino workers. She came to our Centre completely devastated from the rape and also pregnant. Through many meetings at our office she decided that she would carry her baby to term and to parent. I had the privilege of being called to meet her at the hospital shortly after the baby was born and spend the morning with her. She named her daughter Irish, which in Filipino means “Gift from God.” I still see my client and her daughter around town. Every time she stops me and tells her daughter the same thing: “This is Miss Natalie; she is a very special friend of ours” and her daughter always wraps her arms around my neck and squeezes tightly. God is so good! The West Yellowhead Pregnancy Care Centre is a faith-based ministry: a faith-based ministry where the unchurched love to come. What an opportunity to shine a little bit of God’s light into the darkest places of the earth.
According to Pastor Ken, “the Centre is in a much better place than it was the day that Natalie called me, in part because of the support received through Operation Manna. They have recently been able to hire a new staff person ½ time to once again open up the Hinton office for drop-in clients which is a huge part of their ministry. We are excited about how God will use the Centre and how He will use us as a church to be involved.” Pastor Ken shared how grateful he was for the OM Program as it is enabling his church to come alongside this very worthwhile ministry. The OM Program has helped the Edson Peers Church community and the WYPCC form a partnership that will be a blessing to all as they continue to work together!
Praise God that the OM Program has been blessed by so many supporting churches across Canada so that it can be a blessing to those who need it most. Ministries like the WYPCC would simply not exist without the support of many who want to know Christ and make Him known; in their own communities and beyond!
*Edson-Peers CRC is a growing church made up of people of all ages. We value the community of believers God has called us to be part of and also the broader community He as placed us in and we are seeking to find ways to reach out and be a blessing to it in the name of Christ.
MY House is one of our Operation Manna (OM) partners. In partnership with Mission Hills Community CRC, MY House is a centre for vulnerable youth that provides essential services like a place to eat, shower, do laundry and access medical care.
Calvin Williams was one of the participants of the MND 2017 and offered some encouraging feedback after the day’s workshops:
“I was very impressed with the quality of teaching and interaction that was presented at the Networking Day. I was impressed at the high regard that the CRC and ministries represented had for justice work and how it is integral in God’s mission. I felt encouraged that there is a large representation of believers from a mainline church that are as passionate about God’s justice for the “least of these” as I am.
“The presenters offered clear scriptural support for justice work and brought our attention to passages of the Bible that traditionally have not been associated with justice work. We were led through really appropriating Scripture to our calling and daily work. This was affirming.
“I learned a lot about Appreciative Inquiry and how it can be used to connect with our participants and address problematic issues. I used it in the week I returned back to work with great results.
“During the Networking Day, I also made some connections with other ministries who are involved in areas that I want our ministry to expand into. We look forward to connecting with the other ministries further as we continue to develop.
I learned a lot about Appreciative Inquiry and how it can be used to connect with our participants and address problematic issues. I used it in the week I returned back to work with great results.
“Thank you for the opportunity to attend the Networking Day!”
Ministry Networking Day 2017 was held on May 26, 2017. For more information about Ministry Networking Day learning opportunities, click HERE or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you considered the ride?
Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) is a partner in the Sea to Sea tour this coming summer 2017 and we hope you will be riding with us!
Because of DMC’s partnership, you can, by riding, support the Operation Manna program. Interested?
Restorative justice, in its simplest form, is the attempt to make things as right as possible between victims, offenders, and the wider community when some harm or crime happens. But what does that look like for those of us who work mostly with offenders, the folks who’ve hurt others or caused some sort of harm to others?
Most of my work is with men and women who’ve done federal prison time, and are transitioning into the Edmonton area. They are trying to write new chapters for their lives, to walk new paths, to live in ways that are not defined by their pasts. What does it for them to “make things as right as possible”?
Part of the answer, I think, is for faith communities and churches to create safe, welcoming spaces for folks leaving prison.
Every other Saturday, I facilitate a men’s group that usually consists of about a dozen men who’ve done time, and a dozen volunteers who want to support their reintegration. The group provides the space for our friends to explore a new identity, a new story for themselves – one that is not defined by crime, past abuse, or poor decisions. Rather, through discussions, outings, and – most importantly – eating together, the men who attend can start to heal, seeing themselves as people with a new future. They can start to ask what it might mean to make things right with the people they’ve hurt. And when they mess up or take a few steps back, our group is there to pick them up again.
Churches and faith communities are just the sort of places capable of providing this sort of community. It can be as simple as connecting with a local prison chaplain, reintegration chaplain, or community support program and asking where to begin.
Another important way to empower offenders to “make things right” with the wider community is to give opportunities for them to give back. Are there jobs that we can offer to former inmates as they make a new start, so that they can provide for loved ones, support themselves, be part of a healthy workplace, and contribute to the wider community? Are there volunteer opportunities that churches or their partners can offer, so that they can be givers and not just service-recipients?
Finally, churches and faith communities can make space for former inmates in their pews (or folding chairs or coffee shop benches). Many former inmates long for a sense of belonging. Churches can offer just that by the simple act of inviting them to church on Sundays, for coffee afterwards, or for lunch at the nearby diner when church is over. Those simple invitations can be an echo of Jesus’ invitation to “all those who are weary and heavy-burdened,” and can be an opportunity to journey with someone who – like all of us – needs a fellow pilgrim to join them on their way to making things right with those they’ve hurt.
-written by Jonathan Nicolai-deKoning (Rev), Reintegration Chaplain, Open Door Program (The Mustard Seed, Edmonton, AB)
The Open Door Program (participants and staff pictured above) is an Operation Manna partner.
Last May, Canadian CRC congregations were blessed, through the Operation Manna (OM) campaign, to hear the story of how Heartland Fellowship CRC in Chilliwack, BC was getting to know its neighbours and blessing its community through trailbuilding. By giving to OM through the offering, churches across Canada became partners in this exciting project. Recently, Diaconal Ministries Canada asked Heartland and the Chilliwack Park Society to update the churches on what has been happening. Marc Greidanus of the Chilliwack Park Society sent the following update.
Kylie Greidanus, working with the local school district, has created a full day forest field trip curriculum for local elementary schools and has taken many classes into the forest, from kindergarten to grade 3. In addition to hiking, learning about forest succession and the local flora and fauna, the kids most enjoyed their quiet time in the forest, where they are encouraged to draw what they see, hear and smell.
Finally, our society was able to mobilize community volunteers and clear and repair most of Chilliwack’s most popular local hiking trails for everyone to enjoy. A fantastic season! Thank you Operation Manna and the CRC for supporting us in caring for our community!
How might a partnership with Operation Manna help your church in local ministry?
Do you and your fellow church members have a desire to walk with your neighbours? Did you know that Operation Manna has been helping churches establish important and impactful local ministries for more than 45 years?
In 2016 alone, Diaconal Ministries Canada worked with more than 30 churches and ministry partners to help them establish and grow. Heartland Fellowship CRC, in Chilliwack, BC, is just one of those churches. They partnered with their community to build trails through a local forest, which has opened up exciting connections within the community. They’re the feature of a video that we just posted to tell the Operation Manna story. You can watch it here.
But first, here are three ways that Operation Manna can help your church in local ministry:
1. Diaconal Ministries Canada has experienced staff dedicated to the Operation Manna program.
- We provide support to your ministry through prayer, encouragement and consultation (planning, organizing, training, or even providing a “sounding board” for your ideas and vision).
- We connect you to other ministries and churches across Canada involved in similar ministries for learning and sharing.
- We provide excellent tools to help you develop your ministry.
2. Diaconal Ministries Canada makes grant money available to churches for their ministries.
- These grants might be needed to help to start a program or ministry.
- They might also help a church or ministry with limited financial resources be able to partner with others in the community.
- They might help your church develop a current ministry further or to move it in a new direction.
3. As part of our network, your ministry will be given more exposure and promotion in your Classis and across the country.
Looking for more information? You can find it here.
(above photo: Good News Fellowship CRC walks with their neighbours through the ministry of the Indigenous Family Centre in Winnipeg, MB)