Nuestra Casa – The Gathering Place

Judy Van Dyke – Good Samaritan Ministries

There are approximately 200 vacant homes in the central city of Holland, Michigan. The home at 253 West 15th Street has been sitting vacant for the past 12 years. Two years ago the home was given to the church across the street, New Community Fourth Church (NC4th). Good Samaritan Ministries (GSM) has been working in partnership with NC4th and Maple Avenue Ministries to do community transformation in this neighborhood. Judy Van Dyke, the Neighborhood Connections Director has been leading an Advisory Team consisting of neighborhood stakeholders and supervises an AmeriCorps member, Raul Garcia as the neighbors, Community Guy. Raul applies Asset Based Community Development methods in this neighborhood to bring people together around things they care about. Raul and the church began listening and dreaming with the neighbors about what they would like to see happen to this deteriorating, vacant home. They soon learned that their shared vision was to create a community center for the neighborhood with an efficiency apartment above to establish a central place where neighbors could connect, share information, skills, resources and knowledge.  Nuestra Casa – The Gathering Place was the name they chose to reflect the diversity and desire of the neighbors to meet in this place.

Over time the church and neighbors learned that they couldn’t move forward because the cost was too great to renovate the home. Their dream was put on hold until a group of women  from Women’s Day of Service walked into GSM and asked the question, “We are celebrating our 10th anniversary of doing community volunteer projects and we want a challenge this year…something that would have a lasting impact on our community. Do you have any ideas for us?” Immediately thoughts came together to have this group of 100 or more women walk with the neighborhoods to begin renovating this home into a community center. The neighbors could begin to dream again.

Plans are underway and progress is being made on the home. The church and neighbors went in front of the City Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals to receive a conditional use permit to have a community center. A steering committee has been formed to work on program development, construction, coordinating volunteers, fundraising and communication. Neighbors are working on interior home demolition, developing a volunteer database, planning a yard and bake sale, working on program development and creating a blog. Today there is energy and new life starting to take shape in this home. A bike ministry and Community Garden are already happening at Nuestra Casa. It will be exciting to see this Extreme Makeover unfold.  This home will be a neighborhood place of life, hope and belonging for years to come.

Former Car Dealership Becomes New Church

Siouxland Press, June 10, 2009

Former Car Dealership Becomes New Church: Brings New Services to Orange City

By Renee Nyhof

As visitors cross the spacious, carpeted entryway, they may still feel as though they entered an empty car dealership.

Yet, as they pass a nursery and a kitchen on their way to an area full of padded chairs that faces a stage with three large screens hanging above a cross, what comes to mind is a church.

But, the new sign outside the former Midland Ford-mercury dealership in Orange City located at 1005 8th Street SE, reads “Community Center” more prominently above the words “Living Water Community Church.”

“The location is really both,” said Rick Droog, current chairperson of the Ministry Support Team for Living Water.

In fact, the church had its first official worship service in September of 2007. Yet, it was not until March of 2009 that the Classis Heartland recognized Living Water as an independent church belonging to the Christian Reformed Church of North America.

A statement by the church reads, “The church equals people more than the building. Living Water existed when it met in the Town Hall, Northwestern College or in the park.”

As a result, the building is a community center that happens to have a church meet in it every Sunday explained Droog.

“Because the goal of the church is to be an asset to the community, we call the building a community center because we want it to be used by the people in the community for a wide variety of activities,” said Droog.

Acticvities-in the building that can hold up to 325 people-include weddings/ wedding receptions, training classes, dances, youth activities, graduation celebrations, etc.

“We’d like for the building to be a place where people can grow and work together; in the building we can build community,” said Droog.

Yet, the community center wouldn’t exist without the church.

The plans that began the new church emerged from members of Calvary CRC, also located in Orange City, in June of 2007. The members were discussing the church’s need for more space; according to Droog, those discussions included having multiple worship services or a possible expansion project for Calvary.

Yet, another option Calvary thought of was to sponsor a daughter church. So, a committee began comparing renovations costs for Calvary versus starting a new church.

But, if a new church were to come to the area, how would it be different than all the other churches already in existence? That was the largest question the committee had to tackle according to Droog.

“We’re blessed in the county to have so many churches and people of faith,” said Droog. “Yet, there are people that don’t go to church, that don’t know Christ in the area. We felt that many churches still go by the policy that if they leave their doors open, the non-church goers will just come. So, we believed that if a new church were to start in the area, it would need to be more interactive with the community; we wanted to be a ‘Missional’ church.”

Droog described being “Missional” as not focusing on “bringing people in” to Sunday service. Instead, Living Water wants to be a church that has members who want to intentionally share their lives and faith with everyone and in all that they do.

Having such a great, functional building to fit the community’s needs, which fits with the church’s main goal, could be nothing but a blessing from God according to Droog.

“Our facility is more multifunctional than we could have hoped for,” said Droog. “I just have to say again that we hope it’s a great asset to the community.”

Currently, Dr. Thomas Wolthuis, a professor of Theology at Dordt College, serves the church on a part-time basis while the church continues to receive applicants for the fulltime pastoral position.

Sunday worship services are 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

For more information about Living Water Community Church, visits to the church are encouraged but the best contact is either Droog (737-2786) or Amy Vande Vegte (737-2342). Questions can also be e-mailed to [email protected]