Northern Lighthouse September 2009 Update

Dear Churches of Heartland Classis,

It is with great joy in my heart that I write this letter to you. The Northern Lighthouse continues to experience the joy of seeing God transform the lives of many. For some, it is a new hope in Christ as they come out of a past of broken lives and relationships and for others it is a new hope and purpose as they come to the NL and are given the opportunity to use what God has given to them for ministry.

One example of this is Terry Perkins, who himself has come from a past of brokenness (including drugs, divorce and loss). Terry has been a follower of Jesus for some time, and as a mature follower of Christ is serving as an elder. Terry also serves as the overseer of our marriage counseling and preaches as part of our preaching rotation; in both of these ministries he has expressed a new found freedom to serve Christ in an area of his calling.

Another exciting part of the ministry is that we have recently started teaching “The Story of God” during our second service. This teaching covers some of the key stories in the Bible over 22 weeks. It is taught in story format (about 10 minutes) and the rest of the time is left for people to dialog about the story. It is amazing to see the insight, questions and understanding that come of this; people are free to raise questions about God and the story during this time. I am amazed how so many are engaged with the story and the ways that Theology is coming alive.

As part of teaching sin, salvation, and service we recently started “Servant Sunday” on the 5th Sunday of ever month. For this we are working with a local Lutheran church and going out in the afternoons to bless the city of Lincoln. August was our first attempt at this and the results were very positive. It was a unifying and God-glorifying event for our church and the recipients. We were able to clean up and fix up a man’s home who has heart troubles, do renovations to a Christian community house, move a member of our church, clean and do repairs at our church, and serve at the Mission Distribution Center. Servant Sunday ended with a combined meal and worship service in the park.

In working with Home Missions, we are identified as a “Cluster” and hope to see multiple churches and ministries started in our local area. Currently we are working with nine pastor and future ministry leaders to develop each other in the 5 C’s (Christ, Calling, Competencies, Character and Community). This is with the help of a Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Grant from the denomination. We also are working with over 20 team leaders who are all a part of the NL family and oversee teams that are necessary for the fulfillment of our vision to be a place of Acceptance and Direction. This includes equipping them for the role of Encouraging, Recruiting, Discipling and Supporting those that serve on their teams.

The Re-Integration Program (RIP) was recently featured on the local news highlighting its success in helping inmates transition into contributing members of Christ’s body (this video should be on the NL web soon). It is a growing and life transforming ministry to inmates and many others who have struggled with addictions.

Although we know that God is the one who does this work and the one who has provided for this work there is no doubt that all the churches of Classis Heartland have been faithful to the call given to them to support the planting of new churches in their geographical area. It is as a result of your faithfulness to that vision that we have been able to make it through the past ten years of ministry.

I hope that you can see that great things are happening with the NL and we want to share those with you as a means of thanking you for your support. We also want to let you know that there is still a continued need for your church to partner with us as we continue to develop as a ministry and as we seek to start others. Although our giving has increased locally we still need to look to others for their partnership in this ministry to fulfill the vision God has given to us. As a means to partner with us we would like to offer several ways we see this happening.

  • Evangelism 21: Each of the churches of Classis was sent a letter by David Best about his heart to come and share with churches the training that he has received and the practices that he is implementing in the development of Oasis. Not only is this a possible way to bring evangelism training to your church it is a means to help support David and the work that he is doing in Waverly.
  • Pulpit supply: In the years past we have come to many of the churches in Classis to fill the pulpit and to share what God has done here. We are still willing and happy to do this in the way that would best serve you and that would allow for us to share what God is doing here in Lincoln. We ask simply that an offering be taken for the Northern Lighthouse.
  • Shepherd Training: Pastor Sam Keyzer has developed an 8-hour seminar that covers the 5 C’s of leadership as developed by Malcom Webber and Strategic Global Assistance (Abiding in Christ, Transformation of Character, Loving relationships in their various Communities, Development of Competencies, Clarifying one’s Call). This training has already been done in Sibley with great results.
  • Offering: If your church has already or would like to consider a pledged amount or would be willing to take an offering that would also be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again for the years of support. If you have any questions about this letter or the ministry that is taking place in Lincoln please feel free to contact me at 402-805-2667 or email me at .

Thanks for your partnership.

Jeff Heerspink

The Bridge Summer 2009 Newsletter: Spring Fund Raisers Appreciated

The Bridge has a strong and passionate commitment – and our unwillingness to compromise that commitment – eliminates most of the funding available from state and federal resources. In that regard, the support of the church and the community is imperative for the survival of The Bridge and its opportunity to share Christ with the women and children who live with us. Our budget needs are met through your ongoing support, but special projects like The Playground Project (see article below) need special funds (nearly $20,000). Several fundraisers were done this spring to help meet the needs of the project. We thank you, on behalf of the children, for your contributions!

Women of God “Arise. Shine.” Conference: “Wonderful!!”

Nearly 300 women attended the first annual Women of God Conference held April 17 and 18 at the New Life Reformed Church in Sioux Center. Women were treated to several meals, worship, powerful speakers, beautiful art displays and outstanding workshops. The conference was organized to bring women of the community together for a time of encouragement, inspiration and rejuvenation. Women who attended agreed that, indeed, it was such an event.

Additionally, the conference served as a fund-raiser for The Bridge. With all thanks to God, the conference netted nearly $5,000! CDs of the keynote speakers Herma Williams, Michelle Christy, and Shari Kastein are available at The Bridge. (Call 712.707.9922 for more information.) Next Year’s conference will also be in April. Plan to attend!

The Playground Project

Money from the spring fundraisers will be used, in large part, to fund The Playground Project. The Playground Project will begin this summer and will include the construction of a protected “backyard” outdoor playground for the kids of The Bridge. It will eliminate a dangerous traffic situation for them and provide a safe place for them to enjoy healthy stimulating outdoor play. The project includes a gated chain link fence, safety surfacing and play equipment. Donations for this project can be sent to The Bridge, PO Box 323, Orange City, IA 51041.

The Red Letter Festival:

On Saturday, March 28, enthusiastic members of the Northwestern College community initiated a festival to raise money and awareness against domestic violence, poverty and homelessness. The event involved students from Northwestern and Dordt College, as well as members from the greater Sioux County area. Events included a sponsored run from Sioux City to Orange City, a bike ride, bake sale, concert, art auction and tamale sale. The event raised nearly $5,000 for The Playground Project!

Unity Box Social:

Each year, all the students of Unity Christian High School in Orange City participate in a box lunch social to raise funds for charities. This year, the proceeds were designated, in part, to The Bridge. Nearly $1,400 was grateful received by the staff at The Bridge. Thank you!

Vacation Bible Schools

Several vacation Bible Schools raised money and collected goods for The Bridge. A big thanks to the kids at Middleburg Free Grace Reformed, Newkirk Reformed and Sanborn Reformed and Christian Reformed Churches! We are humbled by your thoughtfulness and generosity.

The Neighborhood Kool-Aid Stand 

The kids of Nick and Sherri Lantinga of Sioux Center sold Kool-Aid for The Bridge because they ‘wanted to do something to help other people.’ The kids flagged down cars with great enthusiasm for several days with promo signs and irresistible smiled and managed to earn $40.51 for The Bridge.

Reaching Out: Intentionally and Purposefully

It was among the Church’s first acts of compassion more than 2,000 years ago-providing food for hungry families. But yet, for Plymouth Heights Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI, it was being done in a brand new way, intentionally and purposefully. Using an “action play” that was developed with the help of Volunteers In Service , a CFA member, Plymouth Heights CRC saw the distribution of food as a “first stop” towards starting significant relationships in their neighborhood. The church believes that by cultivating these relationships they can invite others to share in a new/renewed life with God.

“We know that God has placed our church in this neighborhood for specific reasons and to do specific things,” said Tom VanWingerden, a member of the church’s Missional Action Team, the team that developed the action plan.

“By understanding what our neighbors wanted as well as what we, as a church, can do well, we decided to host a mobile food pantry.”

Wayne Squires, a Congregational Coach for Volunteers In Service who has worked with Plymouth Heights since 2007, said church leaders realized they weren’t living out their mission of “equipping disciples to become neighbors and inviting neighbors to become disciples.”

“They did real well with events and programs,” Squires said, “but they were limited in their relational engagement. They identified their biggest challenge as relationship in mission. But they also understood that they needed to begin with a serving opportunity.”

The church, in partnership with Feeding America, has recently hosted two distribution events in their parking lot on Saturday mornings. While the first one drew 36 families, the second-on September 26-saw 50 families receive fresh fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and juice.

Before receiving the food, residents were served baked goods, coffee, and juice and were engaged around tables by some of the more than 60 volunteers who came out to help.

“We know that relationships are important,” said VanWingerden. “That’s why we have people at the tables. Even though we want to get to know them just a little bit better, and have them know us better, it’s not an ‘us and them’ kind of thing. We’re all in this together.”

Squires said the church is learning to understand what it means to be a good neighbor.

“They’ve identified that it involves ‘boundary-crossing’ ministry. It means they need to be with people who are different and they need to cultivate friendships in the neighborhood.”

Squires also sees two significant things happening through this work.

“They are working ‘with’ another organization (Feeding America) and they understand that beyond providing a service, they can build relationships, learn from those who are being served, and eventually have those folks serving as well.”

By Wayne Squires and Jim Schepers , Congregational Coaches, Volunteers In Service .

Compound Growth

Compound Growth:

Communities First Association is a professional association. Just as the NACSW is the professional association for Christians in Social Work, so CFA is the professional association for Intermediary level Christian Community Development leaders. An Intermediary level Christian Community Development leaders. An Intermediary organization is a training and coaching organization operating in a specific region. It is an equipping organization, equipping community leaders in how to transform their neighborhood using Asset Based Community Development principles and practices.

Currently there are two primary means for growth:

  1. A Current CFA leader raises up another multiplying leader.
  2. God directs a person who is a multiplier to CFA, someone who is looking for a training and coaching resource, a learning and training group to affiliate with. They typically call for more information. That leads to a site visit and the beginning of a new relationship.

CFA currently has 14 members, and soon there will be 18. How does CFA grow? CFA currently has two program staff. One (George Montoya) works with any potential partners West of the Mississippi, and one (Jay Van Groningen) works with partners East of the Mississippi. “Working with” implies discovering, training and coaching until we agree that there is common mission, vision, and strategic approaches to transforming neighborhoods.

All CFA members share common commitments to:

  1. Contribute and learn with CFA colleagues in shared association venues.
  2. Plan their work using an individualized Results Based Planning process which is made transparent among the members (web based).
  3. Asset Based Approaches to Community Development (ABCD).
  4. Growing additional leaders in their regions (training and coaching in Faith-Based, Asset Based, Community Development).
  5. Growing the number of communities/neighborhoods in their region being transformed using ABCD principles and practices.

The two newest members found CFA. One found CFA at a Christian Community Development Association conference where CFA had a track of workshops that this leader found captivating. Another found CFA via a web based connection, a discussion group of sorts. In both cases they have been building a relationship with CFA for some time and now are ready to be members of the association, giving and receiving with their peers.

These 14 members are currently coaching a total of 270 leaders nation-wide; Their network of partners are transforming 140 neighborhoods and over 400 congregations are engaging in the work of community transformation. God is drawing these leaders into significant, impactful ministry! To view the current members, go to: The Members Page

NECT News Briefs Fall 2009

Community Assessment Workshop At Midland Park CRC:

On September 15 NECT Director Al Santino led a workshop at Midland Park Christian Reformed Church on “Developing God’s Eyes and Heart For Our Community.” He was invited by the Ministry Renewal Team which is seeking to develop pathways to engage the church in the life of their community.

Al discussed some ways of getting to know and serve the community such as prayer walking, community surveys, and participation in community events and organizations. Forty people from the church attended.

Howard Yeaton, a Ministry Team member was encouraged; “We need to walk the walk of developing relationships in the community. We don’t have to do it all ourselves. Church and community resources can be shared for the benefit of the community.”

TRI-BRO Diaconal Network is Getting to Know Their Communities:

Several ministries in the Haledon-North Haledon-Prospect Park New Jersey region have been working together to serve the community at-large with efforts such as English As A Second Language and immigration education and legal assistance. Northeast Community Transformation has been facilitating this collaboration.

In order to better know, serve, and work with their communities the Network has been conducting community surveys. The surveys are designed to be a conversation rather than just a means to obtain information.

Members are being challenged to interact with their community and the ministries will be better able to shape their mission to represent God’s Kingdom in word and deed. The Network ministries include: Bridgeway Community Church, New Hope Community Ministries, Covenant Christian Reformed Church, Unity CRC, El Buen Pastor CRC and Apoyo Community Center.

For more information on Northeast Community Transformation email Al Santino.

Neighbors Supporting Neighbors in Germantown

Penny Meads, along with church and community volunteers, is making a difference in her Germantown, Philadelphia neighborhood. Since January she has been serving as an AmeriCorps Member through Germantown Hope Community Church, which is an NECT partner. However, being a community organizer or “mother” to her Tacoma St. block is not a new role for Penny. She has been a concerned and caring neighbor for the nine years she has been living there. Six years ago Penny started attending Germantown Hope where she has grown in her faith and is now a deacon. The Lord is using her “gift of community” to draw others to Himself and to each other as neighbors supporting neighbors.

Along with faithful volunteers such as Sis, Hanna and Donna, Penny is encouraging neighbors to work together. Flower pots are now seen alongside the row houses. A monthly clean up day has been established. Activities for the children such as a movie night are underway. Neighbors are meeting to discuss street crime issues.

The work is not always easy, as Penny and her team often encounter an atmosphere of apathy, despair and fatalism. Through it all Penny has been persistent, with a passion to make life better on Tacoma Street. She comments on what brings her joy; “Having the people respond and come together…helping neighbors and connecting them to resources…removing the drug trafficking…seeing our young people being productive.”

Pastor Kyuboem Lee comments on the effect of the AmeriCorps program: “Not only has Ms. Penny grown, her supervisor, Scott, another deacon, also has grown in his leadership. Others in the church support the work through prayer and volunteering, especially the other ladies from the community who live on the same block as Ms. Penny. There is a growing awareness in the church and excitement over ministry with the community-and that means a growth in our appropriation of the kingdom life and in more fully living out our mission.”

Working for Justice

NECT & Christian Reformed Campus Ministry sponsored two days of “Justice Action” activities, Friday, November 13 & Sunday, November 15.

On Sunday, April 26, Rev. Ken Vander Wall went to the National Mall in Washington, DC for a “Display of Shoes For Darfur.” Forty-thousand pairs of shoes–symbolic of the 400,000 people killed in the conflict in Darfur (the western part of Sudan) stretched almost as far as the eye could see. God laid it on Ken’s heart to have a similar display in northern New Jersey.

The goal was to collect at least 20,000 pairs of shoes (one for every 20 victims of this horrible tragedy). Colleges, high schools, grade schools and churches in MA, PA, NJ & NY participated. All of the shoes were displayed Sunday Afternoon, November 15 at a location in northern New Jersey. Following the display, all acceptable shoes were distributed to homeless shelters across the nation by Soles4Souls, a nationally recognized charity.

Thanks to all who participated and made this a success!

On Friday, November 13th Al Santino and Campus Minister Ken Vander Wall spoke at Cedar Hill CRC in Wycoff, NJ. They spoke about the need for justice action in our communities and in our world. This spurred discussion of practical ways to be involved in “releasing the oppressed” in the name of Jesus.

An Immigrant’s Pathway of Hope

Northeast Community Transformation has established a partnership with Nachman and Associates, which is providing vital education and legal assistance to our partner ministries and their communities.

Lisbel first came to the US in 1994 as a six year old burn victim through Healing the Children, an agency which brings medical care to poor children throughout the world. Dan and Jule Ann Martin of Covenant CRC, and their children, became Liz’s host family. They cared for her while she made visits back and forth from the Dominican Republic to receive treatment. Indeed, Liz and the Martins had become family. By age 20, with the support of her family in DR, Liz had decided to stay in the US to fulfill her hopes and dreams.

She desired to attend college and study psychology so that she could become a counselor helping people like herself who have been through trauma. However, as the case with many immigrants who are seeking to live fruitful lives in the US, they are subject to a “broken” and often arbitrary system. Liz was initially turned down for her Student Visa for what David Nachman considered no good reason. However through the advocacy of his law firm, the persistence of the Martins, and Liz’s determination not to quit, she was granted her Visa a few weeks ago.

Liz and the Martins attribute this victory to the grace and plan of God. Liz states that she was “wondering what was going to happen but I am now excited, happy and relieved.” She did not lose hope after the initial rejection believing that God wanted her in the US to fulfill her dreams. She also believes that “God did not want it to be easy. If it was too quick, you don’t value it.”

The story of Liz is one example of how NECT’s partnership with Nachman and Associates has helped to create hope and justice for “aliens” seeking to dwell in peace in our land. NECT is also supporting efforts such as ESL, citizenship classes and advocacy for immigration reform along with the Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church. Please pray for and consider participating in these efforts through a financial contribution and by being actively involved as a servant of justice. For more information about NECT’s Justice Education Program, contact Al Santino.


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