Dordt College News

Eleven PLIA mission teams serve during spring break

March 30, 2006

This year 119 Dordt College students used their spring break to serve on PLIA (Putting Love Into Action) mission outreach teams. The teams this year traveled to Birmingham, Alabama; Center, Denver and Grand Junction, Colorado; Inez and Neon, Kentucky; Cary and Mendenhall, Mississippi; Camden, New Jersey; Shiprock, New Mexico; and Carmel, New York.

Each year, PLIA participants hit the road for 10 days with three goals in mind: to share Christ’s love with the people in whose communities they work; to challenge participants to adopt a more service-oriented lifestyle; and to assist and encourage the growth of ministry centers with which they work. Split into van loads of 10-11 students, teams travel to culturally diverse ministry locations across the U.S.

On the Birmingham team were (front, from left) Lucas De Groot, Oskaloosa, IA; Andrew Friend, Zillah, WA; David Attema, Edmonton, AB; Josh Van Schouwen, Sioux Center, IA; (back) Trisha Fynaardt, Oskaloosa, IA; Dianne De Wit, Rock Valley, IA: Joanna Noordhof, Lacombe, AB; Karlynn Viss, Smithers, BC; Elisanna Bell, Farmingdale, NY; and Rachel Ooms, Edmonton, AB.

The Birmingham, Alabama team stayed at the New City Church in downtown Birmingham. They helped the church in a number of different projects, including landscaping their gardens, cleaning out a large storage room, installing shelves and organizing that rooms contents. The PLIA group also helped move computers and other office equipment and furniture to another building for a new ministry that is being implemented.

“It was wonderful to work with the people here and to experience their hospitality,” said Karlynn Vis of their week in Birmingham. Not only did we serve the people in Birmingham, we also learned some of the history of the area and learned a great deal from the people we were working with. I think that we had a wonderful group of people on our team and that made a big difference for the entire week. We also worked with some amazing people in Birmingham.”

On the Camden team were (front, from left) Becky Lancaster, Cedar Rapids, IA; Melanie Wierda, Abbotsford, BC; Heather Kooiman, Smithville, ON; Rachel Rozeboom, Manhattan, KS; (back) Craig Horstman, Arlington Heights, IL; Josh Cheney, Gig Harbor, WA; Sharon Scheur, Cedar Rapids, IA; Brian Matthews, Palos Hills, IL; Andrea Dykshoorn, Abbotsford, BC; Ephron Poyer, Barrouallie; and Jake Van Dam, Manhattan, MT.

The Camden, New Jersey PLIA group did repair work at Urban Promise headquarters and school, as well as helping children in the classroom and after school programs. The PLIA team was told that in recent years Camden has been rated as the city with the highest crime rate per capita in the United States. Urban Promise ministry is striving to help underprivileged children in Camden reach their potential.

Kooiman said working in the school was a challenge, as many children came from broken homes that lacked discipline. “But after working with them for a couple days you get to know them and care for them. You start to see that Jesus loves these children, and that loving them is showing love to Jesus.” The inner-city was an eye-opener for Kooiman, who was also surprised to find interns from Kenya and Malawi coming to the U.S. to volunteer there.

Becky Lancaster worked with a fourth grade class at Camden Forward Elementary, teaching science, math, Bible and helping with a skit for Heritage Day. “I was really amazed at the work that God is doing in such a sad and seemingly hopeless place,” remarked Becky. “Even though it is a really stressful and difficult job to teach those kids, the teachers there do it with a smile and joy. It was a really encouraging time and makes me want that same joy in the love of God in my life.”

On the Carmel team were (front, from left) Johanna Flikkema, Manhattan, MT; Becky De Boer, Orange City, IA; Vanessa Patino, Sheboygan, WI; Connie Du Mez, Brookfield, WI; Lisa Elgersma, Sanborn, IA; Jessi Rieken, Stanwood, WA; Megan Moore, Redmond, WA; (forming the initials for New York) Joel Pilon, Bothell, WA; Jeremy Mills, Fulton, IL; Jacob Van Houten, Canby, OR; and Jeremiah Kats. Boise, ID.

The Carmel, New York team worked at the Children’s Bible Fellowship Camp, a summer camp for inner city kids, where they did some cleaning and repairs. They also did some evangelizing on the streets of the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn by handing out Christian tracts.

“Every one of us got out of our comfort zones and really connected with the people, talking about having a relationship with God and connecting to a church,” said Vanessa Patino. “It was amazing to see the diversity in religions and ethnic backgrounds in the streets of New York. We underestimated how fortunate we are and how good we have it as well.”

The team also ministered to the homeless by handing out lunches and connecting with them in conversation. “There really are some amazing people out there!” remarked Patino. “I really enjoyed this mission trip because it truly challenged each of us to question why we believe in what we believe … everyday we encountered people that didn’t like us or had a negative attitude towards our ministry, but as a group we only grew stronger.

Jessi Rieken said they encountered “a little bit of everything” during their daily urban evangelism efforts. Jeremiah Mills added that his first experience with street evangelism has left a permanent impression: “God definitely stretched me a great deal during this trip. He gave me courage and strength, so that I was able to walk up to these people and begin spreading the good news. It was an amazing trip and I felt so blessed to be there and experience the things I did.”

On the Cary team were (front, from left) Zack Pappuleas, Gig Harbor, WA; Branden Kooiman, Brandon, WI; Travis Hoekstra, Chino, CA; Chris Wyenberg, Winnipeg, MB; Mark Wikkerink, Duncan, BC; (back) Ashley Prins, Foremost, AB; Tracy Klemme, Nevada, IA; Diane Feucht, Puyallup, WA; Tina Heilman, Orange City, IA; Melanie De Graaf, Leighton, IA; and Jessica Assink, Walnut Creek, CA.

The Cary, Mississippi group re-shingled and painted the outside of an after school activity center for boys, cleaned and painted a family’s trailer home, fixed a bathroom, and worked in the Cary Christian Center thrift store.

Tina Heilman, a nursing student at Dordt, also had the opportunity to go on a home visit with one of the volunteers. Together they visited newborn babies and their mothers to help teach good parenting skills and reduce the infant mortality rate. “That has stuck with me,” said Heilman. “A lot of the moms were my age … it’s very common for girls to be unmarried and have one or two children.

Mark Wikkerink assisted the Dordt College communications department video crew, taking photographs for use on promotional materials for the Cary Christian Center.

Both Wikkerink and Heilman were most impressed by the friendliness of the people and how they verbalized their faith. “The area we were in was the complete opposite of northwest Iowa, but the people were just as friendly, open, and accepting of us as those here. I was also impressed by the workers at the Christian center, and the amount of work they do for those around them,” said Wikkerink.

On the Center team were (front, from left) Suur Yakubu, Makurdi; Kim Taylor, Brampton, ON; Kim Klein, Sioux Center, IA; Dayna Vreeken, Caronport, SK; (back row) Leah Radde, Cologne, MN; Kara Peters, Denver, CO; Tom Dykstra, Lake Worth, FL; Dan Steenbergen, Red Deer, AB; Andrew Tacoma, Falmouth, MI; and Jody Van Zanten, Pella, IA.

The Center, Colorado group went to Redeemer Ranch, a boarding school for boys with behavioral problems which is owned and operated by Del and Gwen Groen. While there, the group worked on both the main facility and staff housing, with jobs including plumbing, electrical work, clearing out a garage, sheet-rocking, steel roofing and painting. The group also interacted with the boys from the ranch.

“They made the experience even greater,” said Kim Klein. “The boys there really opened my eyes to how hard the world can be and what trials a lot of teenagers encounter in high school.”

“Our group had a lot of fun getting to know each other better and we worked really well as a team,” commented Jody Van Zanten. “The fact that Del and Gwen have given up so much to follow God’s call is what made the biggest impact on me. Their hospitality, hard work, and trust in God is amazing.”

On the Denver team were (front, from left) Jason De Stigter, Colorado Springs, CO; Kyle Rietema, Hanford, CA; Elijah Palmer, Norfolk, VA; Sam Zylstra, South Holland, IL; (back row) Amanda Arkema, Pella, IA; Emily Schoenfelder, Dimock, SD; Tricia Hessing, Oskaloosa, IA; Karen Klynsma, Hospers, IA; Kay De Boom, Sioux Center, IA; Leah Wolthuizen, Sheldon, IA, and Dana Dunn, Sioux Center, IA.

The Denver, Colorado PLIA group worked at Mountain View Community Church, which is also a child care center during the week. They painted a kitchen, a portion of another room and playground equipment; raked lawns at the church and parsonage; and laid carpet in two classrooms. Other group members partnered with Brothers Redevelopment to build a ramp for a disabled child and paint the outside of an elderly lady’s home.

“I think the thing that sticks out to me about the week in Denver is the energy and passion of Pastor Karl, the minister at the church where we stayed,” said Amanda Arkema. “He was always on the go doing things for his church and the day care center … he gave all he had to the church. One of the things that always caught me off guard was the way he jumped right into prayer: he would be talking to us like normal and the next second be praying to the Lord. I thought this was really cool because it was probably the closest thing I’ve seen to living a life of constant prayer. He also challenged us to consider partaking in a congregation that would need as much help as his did when we graduate from college. This is something I have not considered before, since one tends to look for the congregation that serves you and not the one that you can serve.”

Karen Klynsma said she was particularly touched by the testimony shared by a man known as Guitar Jimmy. “He was an atheist for 40+ years, was homeless, a drug addict, an alcoholic and was in gangs when he was younger. He came and told his testimony of how he was loved into the faith and made us all see that the homeless are just children of God with a problem.”

Group devotional time was also a part of the trip. “Just to learn from each other and get to know each other better through our faith was an amazing way to connect to each other,” said Arkema. They also had the opportunity to go to Rocky Mountain National Park, Red Rock Amphitheater, and downtown Denver.

Grand Junction
On the Grand Junction team were (front, from left) Andrew Shupe, Elkton, MI; Aaron De Bruin, Oskaloosa, IA; Kevin Franje, New Sharon, IA; Jason Wyenberg, Winnipeg, MB; (back) Alison Kok, Randolph, WI; Jessica Klopstra, Lacombe, AB; Katie Smies, Oostburg, WI; Sarah Koelewyn, Hanford, CA; Amy Groen, Renville, MN; Anita Hoogland, Longmont, CO; and Mary Davelaar, Bigelow, MN.

The Grand Junction, Colorado team volunteered at New Life Christian Reformed Church, where a previously Lutheran church building is being renovated for their use. The PLIA group painted exterior trim, the youth group room and bathrooms. They also used jack hammers to break up an old sidewalk, and dug a trench for concrete to be laid for a new one. Electrical work and installation of a projector screen were also accomplished, and the group spent one day at a homeless shelter, where they served a meal.

“My PLIA experience was awesome,” said Katie Smies. “I really enjoyed everyone in my group, and I was thankful that we could be used to serve the Lord in Grand Junction.”

Sarah Koelewyn said the people at New Life greatly appreciated their work and the gratitude that they expressed made the work worthwhile. Kevin Franje was also impressed by the openness of the church congregation. “They were so thankful and were willing to do whatever they could to help us, whether it was working or making food,” remarked Franje. “I think that I got more out of my PLIA experience than the church we were trying to help.”

“It’s amazing how God can work through a group of eleven people in such a small amount of time to produce lasting results and friendships,” added Aaron De Bruin.

Throughout the week, Amy Groen said a theme emerged, of “getting stuck.” Said Amy, “We got stuck in the bathroom painting little stripes all week, our van got stuck in the mud one day, we were stuck/lost when we tried to get around the city, and other things. This reminded me how we often get ‘stuck’ in our faith as well. We just live our routine lives and forget about truly living out our faith and growing with each experience every day. God does so many amazing things but we just get ‘stuck’ or forget to look for them. I was challenged to realize how blessed I am to have the opportunity to grow in my faith and how blessed I was to go on this trip.”

On the Inez team were (front, from left) Joel Wiersma, Randolph, WI; Chad Nibbelink, Sioux Center, IA; Ben Werkhoven, Monroe, WA; Dan Van Ruler, Sioux Center, IA; (back) Karina Marcus, Prinsburg, MN; Rochelle Braunschwieg, Randolph, WI; Theresa Holzhauser, Ottumwa, IA; Veronica Eekhoff, Sioux Center, IA; Kristen Vanderwal, Enderby, BC; Alicia Brouwer Escondido, CA; and Krista Van Essen, Edgerton, MN.

The Inez, Kentucky PLIA group worked with Appalachia Reach Out, where they helped out in the thrift store, with site maintenance work and did outreach to kids and teenagers in the area.

On the Mendenhall team were (front, from left) Amanda Niewenhuis, Corsica, SD; Ruth Lynch, Spirit Lake, ID; Maria Verburg, Vergennes, VT; Nelson Winkel, Waupun, WI; (back) Chris Garris, Branchville, NJ; Josh Koch, Earlham, IA; Tim Beahm, Remington, VA; Mike Schouten, Sioux Center; Garrett Hovland, Bricelyn, MN; Tom Beard, Decorah, IA; and Jarris Rubingh, Ellsworth, MI.

The Mendenhall, Mississippi team was made up of Dordt Ag Club members, who worked with Mendenhall Ministries. This local organization consists of a church, a Christian school and a 120-acre farm that provides meat, vegetables, and income for the ministry.

While at Mendenhall, the group made improvements on the farm, laid over 2000 feet of water line (to provide cattle pastures with water) and put up high tensile fencing. This region also experienced damage from Hurricane Katrina, so the team assisted with the repair of buildings, picking up corn, and cleaning up brush. Some team members also worked on a house for a family that was a Katrina victim.

“Something that made a huge impression on me was how working for the Lord can be so rewarding, said Chris Garris. “In everything we did the Lord was present and this helped us as a group grow closer.” He noted that while they were at the center, an 18-year-old boy came to stay there because his mother was placed in a battered women’s shelter which could not take him also. “We took him under our wing and included him in everything we did,” said Garris, who added that it was fun to see him open up and become more interested in both them and in God.

“I really enjoyed the experience of just being out on a farm enjoying God’s creation and the warm weather,” concluded Garrett Hovland, who believes the team had a positive impact on the people they came into contact with.

On the Neon team were (front, from left) David Ligtenberg, Ontario, CA; Mark Dykstra, Edmonton, AB; Andrew Kroeze, Orange City, IA; Steve Koning, Jerome, ID; (back) Melinda Griffith, Belle Plaine, IA; Nicole Top, Maurice, IA; Vanessa Bruinsma, Chilliwack, BC; Jackie Miedema, Newmarket, ON; Karyn Zuidhof, Lacombe, AB; Johanna Van Hofwegen, Avondale, AZ; and Dena Nicolai, Edmonton, AB.

The Neon, Kentucky PLIA team helped out with an assortment of tasks, including clearing brush from a mountainside (bushwhacking!), landscaping, insulating a home, shingling and constructing a deck.

“It was a very good and eye-opening experience, being able to see and understand better what others live like, said Karyn Zuidhof. “Neon is a poorer area, and it reminded me how much I take for granted every day. Another valuable part of PLIA was going with other students whom I did not know very well and may not have otherwise gotten to know. The friendships formed and fun we had made my PLIA experience complete.”

Nicole Top said one of the team’s highlights was visiting Coalwood, West Virginia, home of the Rocket Boys featured in the movie “October Sky.” They also spent some time learning to two-step, line dance, and square dance, old Kentucky style. “I thoroughly enjoyed my PLIA experience, especially the people, both on my team and those we interacted with in Kentucky. The rolling hills of Kentucky provided me with wonderful memories and wonderful insights on my life.”

On the Shiprock team were (front) Laura MacMillan, Elmhurst, IL; (first row, from left) Michelle Peterson, Hitchcock, SD; Jessica Wentz,Menno, SD; Jana Groenenboom, Leighton, IA; (back) Lisa Vanden Bos, Grand Rapids, MI; Kelley Jensema, Oostburg, WI; Joseph Buhlig, Norborne, MO; Joel Hummel, Coalhurst, AB; Jamin Hubner, Avon, SD; Nathan De Graaf Leighton, IA; and Sheila De Stigter, Colorado Springs, CO.

The Shiprock, New Mexico PLIA team helped out in that community with painting, planting flowerbeds, etc. Jana Groenenboom painted at the house of a woman and daughter who lived on the reservation. “Their house was very small and had no electricity or running water … they were in extreme poverty; but their faith in God was incredible,” said Groenenboom. “I’m glad that we could help out.”

Amy Groen summed up what many of this year’s PLIA participants expressed upon their return home: “I think PLIA is such a good experience and everyone should go at least once. I know it’s hard to use your spring break--the only time many people get to go home during the semester--to go on a mission trip, but it’s definitely worth it after you come back. You are challenged to step out of your comfort zone and God can teach you so many things when you just say yes to his calling.”

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