Wearing the Mark of Mercy

By: Kathrin Veenstra

Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity for quiet reflection and gratitude. Perhaps for some of us, it happens easily between the hustle and bustle of creating a Pinterest-worthy Thanksgiving Dinner, as we spend time with family and friends. Perhaps for others, it isn’t as easy this year, due to a profound loss we have experienced: the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the dissolution of a friendship or community. Sometimes sadness, anger, and confusion can silence the joy, peace, and gratitude.

This year, we lost one of the great evangelical leaders of our time, Tim Keller. His preaching and teaching encouraged us to live out our faith by challenging our comfort zone(s). His gentle perspective called us back from the worldly chaos of self-sufficiency into the knowledge that seeking Christ defines fulfillment. Even in dying, Keller continued his ministry. As he often revealed his raw feelings on what it was like to face death, he recently shared “how it is possible and utterly wonderful to be able to enjoy life in the face of death when God’s reality becomes so deeply impressed on our hearts. He talked of encountering that peace that surpasses understanding when he was about to undergo a major operation. In his final days, he spoke sincerely and confidently of the happiness he’s felt of late, and how this happiness can exist alongside grief. That though we may shed many tears, the comfort and joys of God can still run deep in us and will carry us until the day Jesus brings us home.”[1] Keller’s honest writings of his heart articulate the grace and peace that only Christ can give.  

I am thankful that I was introduced to the writings of Tim Keller and highly recommend his devotional book: “A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs – God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life”. In it, he says that mercy isn’t just the job of the Christian: mercy is the mark of the Christian. This quote just stops me in my tracks. Wearing the mark of mercy is one of the most practical and beautiful ways that we can show the world that we are Christians. Sometimes I overcomplicate it, over-analyze the means by which I show it, or even find excuses why someone isn’t worthy of my mercy. This quote stops the noise in my head.

Wearing the mark of mercy is one of the most practical and beautiful ways that we can show the world that we are Christians.

This past month, members of my home church said their earthly goodbyes to one of our long-time members. So many of us have memories of the servant heart of our brother-in-Christ, Len Tebokkel. To say that the joy of the Lord was his strength would be an understatement. During a hospital visit this past summer, he reminded my husband (a new elder) of the importance of showing up in the lives of the congregation. As a former deacon and elder, Len had visited so many over the years. “We never have enough time,” he said. “We have to make time, and if you don’t have the time to show up – you know, there is a telephone!” His practical approach was marked with mercy in everything he did. He kept it simple and simply served. 

Diaconal Ministries’ NewGround Program has been supporting acts of mercy since the 1940s; many may remember it as Operation Manna. Today we continue to foster relationships between local congregations and community organizations that love and serve in and with their local communities and in particular, walk alongside the marginalized and vulnerable people there. Through community opportunity scans, NewGround gets churches beyond their four walls to engage with their community. Churches identify the assets, skills, and resources that exist and look for the potential partnership opportunities available in their community. Through this, churches work alongside community members, all the while marked by mercy.

This year, Diaconal Ministries Canada has seen a sharp increase in grant requests to their NewGround program. In part, this is because of the success of the program, but more significantly, it is because of the increased desire of churches to engage in their local neighbourhoods. Diaconal Ministries would love to be able to help more churches! Last year, the NewGround Program granted $35,000 to church and community partners – this year, applications to the program have already reached $90,000!

Will you help us help more churches?

On behalf of the entire team at Diaconal Ministries Canada, I would like to wish you a blessed Thanksgiving and thank you for your continued support. As you reflect on God’s goodness and faithfulness, may you be inspired to wear the mark of mercy with humility and boldness.

Blessings to you all!

Kathrin Veenstra

Fundraising Coordinator, Diaconal Ministries Canada

[1] https://ymi.today/2023/05/3-ways-tim-keller-challenged-us-to-live-out-our-faith/