Dordt College News

Dordt students serve 11 PLIA mission locations

April 16, 2008

During this year’s spring break this year, 89 Dordt College students served on 11 PLIA (Putting Love Into Action) teams with the college’s student-run mission outreach program. This year’s sites included Atlanta, GA; Camden, NJ; Cary, MS; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Grand Junction, CO; Jackson and Mendenhall, MS; Neon, KY; Shiprock, NM; and Toronto, Canada. The PLIA trips took place March 13-22.

The goal of PLIA is to share Christ’s love with people in diverse communities; challenge participants to adopt a more service-oriented lifestyle; and to assist and encourage the growth of ministry centers with which they work.

Atlanta PLIA Group
On the Atlanta, GA, PLIA team were (seated, from left) Lisa Vanden Bos, Grand Rapids, MI; Theresa Holzhauser, Ottumwa, IA; Holly Hooyer, Sioux Center, IA; Peter Walvoort, Oostburg, WI; (standing) Adrianna Oudman, Wheatfield, IN; Tonia Zwart, Sioux Center, IA; and Tasha Nikkel, Sully, IA.

The Atlanta PLIA group worked with Atlanta Youth Academy, the Luke Project, Bright Futures, Bethlehem Senior Center, God’s Farm, and Set Free Ministry.

Over the course of a week they helped at a school carnival, assisted in school classrooms, spent a day painting, cleaned a storage room, led craft and exercise activities at a senior center, picked up trash, helped prepare for summer camp, and worshiped at a homeless ministry.

On their first night in Atlanta, a tornado ripped through the area less than a half mile from where they were staying. “We didn’t have a radio or a T.V. and all the windows were stained glass, so we couldn’t see out and we really had no idea that there was a tornado,” commented Tasha Nikkel. “We were on the third floor of the church, which was not a safe place at all, but it was amazing to see how God kept us safe.”

Another team member, Theresa Holzhauser, said the best part about the trip was the people they had the opportunity to work with. “They were so open and honest about the way of life in the city and how terrible it was, yet they also shared the hope that they had through Christ and how powerful prayer has been in forming the ministries that they are a part of. They modeled what it is to find a strong need in this world and to give your whole heart to serving it.”

Both Nikkel and Holzhauser noted that the Bright Futures after school program was a real eye-opener, run by a dedicated husband/wife team that served neglected kids by feeding them meals, taking them to the doctor, etc. “They care for the kids in every way possible and totally rely on God to get them through. They have tremendous faith and given their entire lives to furthering God’s kingdom,” said Nikkel. “Seeing the faith that a lot of the people of Atlanta had to have through everything they are going through made me see how a lot of times I just have to trust that God will make everything okay, I just need to hand it over to God and let Him show me the way.”

Camden PLIA Group
On the Camden, NJ, PLIA team were (front, from left) Megan Pothoven, Kellogg, IA; Jake Kloet, Salem, WI; Justin Struik, Sully, IA: Andrew Raih, Sioux Center, IA; Leah Wolthuizen, Sheldon, IA; (back) Melanie Dykshoorn, Abbotsford, BC; Michelle Smith, Cedar Rapids, IA; and Megan De Groot, Sunnyside, WA.

The Camden PLIA team volunteered in schools and after school programs of Urban Promise, a non-profit organization that serves inter-city kids in the poorest city (and among the most dangerous) in America. They helped in classrooms, worked in the after school program, cleaned out the school’s basement, mulched the playground, painted, and wired the school for new internet hook-ups.

Leah Wolthuizen noted that they also had the opportunity to talk with residents of Camden, and as a group discuss the struggles they saw. “I think it may be safe to say that this week stretched us further than expected because of what we saw and experienced,” commented Leah. Their group struggled with the fact that their work would not bring about a huge change, but by working with the children one person at a time, they will have hope for a better future.

Megan De Groot said that in addition to working with the children, she enjoyed the people on the team, as well a side trip to New York City, where they had time to sightsee and build friendships.

Cary PLIA Group
On the Cary, MS, PLIA team were (front, from left) Anna Schutter, Manhattan, MT; Laurissa Boman, Manhattan, MT; Laura Dykstra, Edmonton, AB; Katherine Gorter, Holland, MI; (back) James Kats, Hudson, SD; Sam Fopma, Lynnville, IA; Dustin Biel, Lacombe, AB; and Cory De Wit, Hull, IA.

The Cary PLIA team served at the Cary Christian Center, where they shingled roofs, painted, built a deck, tutored, babysat, sorted clothes for a thrift store and worked at other ministries the center offers.

Anna Schutter (from Montana) said getting to know the people in the south was fun “because they are EXTREMELY friendly!” They volunteered alongside a high school group from Canada, which also added to the fun. On the way to Mississippi, they stopped at St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. Schutter said that this PLIA trip challenged her to act on and be bolder about what she believes. “It was a humbling experience.”

Chicago PLIA Group
On the Chicago, IL, PLIA team were (front, from left) Elizabeth Friend, Zillah, WA; Abby Berkompas, Sunnyside, WA; (middle) Becky Love, San Marcos, CA; Julie Van Boom, Fort Saskatchewan, AB; (back) Joseph Slegers, Orange City, IA; Zach McCoy, Grove City, MN; Jeremy Nederhoff, Sioux Center, IA; and Natanael Moreno, Fairmont, MN.

The Chicago PLIA team volunteered at Roseland Christian Ministries Center and also helped renovate homes in the area.

Denver PLIA Group
On the Denver, CO, PLIA team were (front, from left) Luke Kreykes, Sheldon, IA; Miriam McAuley, Alexis, IL; Amber Jelsma, Watertown, SD; Megan Vander Esch, Hull, IA; Jason Brumfield, Kent, WA; (back) Jurgen Boerema, Pantego, NC; Eun Jin Park, Seoul, South Korea; and Jevin Vyn, Ridgetown, ON.

The Denver PLIA team volunteered with Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. (BRI), where they renovated homes for the poor and elderly.

Jackson PLIA Group
On the Grand Junction, CO, PLIA team were (front, from left) Travis Coblentz, Kalona, IA; Natalie Feenstra, Everson, WA; Josh Blom, Pella, IA; Michelle Evers, Lansing, IL; Alex Nykamp, Edgerton, MN; (back) Amber Bennett, Lake Barrington, IL; McKinzie Schmidt, Gordon, NE; and Cora Bonnema, Prinsburg, MN.

The Grand Junction PLIA team did projects for New Life Christian Reformed Church and members of that community, including painting, landscaping cleanup, etc. The group also helped at a Friendship Club for mentally disabled adults.

Jackson PLIA Group
On the Jackson, MS, PLIA team were (seated, from left) Emily Schoenfelder, Dimock, SD; Cacey Byker, Hawarden, IA; Joe Van Walbeek, Blue Grass, IA; Betsy Sapp, Holland, MI; Grace Venhuizen, Burnett, WI; (standing) Janaye De Winkle, Ripon, CA; Kelsey Reitsma, George, IA; and Sara Soodsma, Rocky Mountain House, AB.

The Jackson PLIA team worked with Voice Of Calvary Ministries. They helped restore a 16 acre park by picking up trash, spraying weeds, painting benches and bridges, trimming trees, and clearing away overgrown brush on three sides of the park. “Community members came by giving thanks,” recalls Emily Schoenfelder, because the area was much safer without bushes behind which people could hide. They also painted future office space of the ministry and helped serve a meal at a soup kitchen.

“The team work we had while working at the park was amazing,” said Schoenfelder, who added that they also really enjoyed devotion/reflection time at the end of each day. “At the beginning when our group didn’t know each other very well the discussions were fairly short and only touched the surface. However, as the week went on and we became more comfortable opening up, our conversations and devotion time was wonderful and some great discussions and thoughts were expressed. We also enjoyed the work we did and the speakers each day. We also really enjoyed learning more of the history of the south and trying to overcome many of the stereotypes that be had about the culture.”

Emily said the biggest thing she gained from this trip was realizing that PLIA is not just meant to be a time to serve for one week, it should be a lifestyle. “It is easy to serve, love others, and work hard when you are surrounded by people who all came for a common purpose, but the challenge comes when we return back to Dordt and our communities and how we serve on a daily basis.”

Mendenhall PLIA Group
On the Mendenhall, MS, PLIA team were (front) Ben Van Loon, Jefferson, OR; (seated) Dennis Vander Molen, Jarvis, ON; Carter Clark, Scio, OR; Brent Bonnema, Prinsburg, MN; (standing) Nadji Remer, Tucson, AZ; Nelson Winkel, Waupun, WI; James Bakker, Neebing, ON; Lisa Van Boom, Fort Saskatchewan, AB; and Melissa Vanden Hoek, Everson, WA.

The Mendenhall PLIA team volunteered with Mendenhall Ministries, which includes school facilities, a thrift store, and the Mendenhall Ministries farm.

Neon PLIA Group
On the Neon, KY, PLIA team were (seated, from left) Anna Slagter, Sibley, IA; Leah Hanenburg, Edgerton, MN; Larissa Arkema, Pella, IA; Andrea Senneker, Vauxhall, AB; Jessica De Boer, Escalon, CA; (standing) Ryan Johnson, Cleghorn, IA; Mark De Bruin, Oskaloosa, IA; and Amber Wilson, Redfield, IA.

The Neon PLIA team helped out at HOMES, Inc., an organization similar to Habitat for Humanity that builds equal-opportunity housing for families who are low-income in Kentucky. “For each hour we worked, the government gave $10 towards the project we worked on,” said Andrea Senneker. “One day we helped to finish a retaining wall and spread gravel over a driveway. Another day we took out several small buildings in someone’s backyard and removed the overgrown brush to make it safe for their children. Our last project was helping clean up a house that someone couldn’t make payments for anymore. That included ripping up carpets, cleaning the bathroom, patching drywall, and repainting the interior.”

The poverty there was stunning, said Senneker. “The biggest thing I noticed about Kentucky was the beauty of the countryside, even though most people dump their garbage and sewage into the streams because they can’t afford garbage pickup and septic tanks. There is no economic growth and no opportunity for jobs: this was a little depressing because, even though this area of the country is beautiful, it has no future.” This was Senneker’s second PLIA trip, and she said it has really shown her how important it is to serve those around you so that they can have a better life.

Shiprock PLIA Group
On the Shiprock, NM, PLIA team were (seated, from left) Pam Schutt, Crestwood, IL: Rachel Gorter, Otley, IA; Dawn Wieringa, Lombard, IL; Lindy Talsma, Jenison, MI; Maria Verburg, Vergennes, VT; (standing) Nathan Toenies, Randall, MN; Sonya Kuiper, Luverne, MN; and Andrew Shupe, Elkton, MI.

The Shiprock PLIA team worked and stayed at Bethel Christian Reformed Church. At the church they cleaned floors, washed walls, cleaned furnaces, trimmed trees, cleaned up the yard and gardens, swept up and cleaned the pavilion, started work on a greenhouse, painted, sanded wood, shampooed carpets, cleaned the bathrooms, buffed the floors, and vacuumed. They also helped out at a home and on a farm.

While staying at the church, a woman with a two-year-old daughter came looking for a place to stay. She had hitch-hiked from many miles away because she needed to see a doctor at the Indian hospital in Shiprock. They also had the opportunity to meet Irene, a woman with chronic pain. Sonya Kuiper, Pamela Schutt, Maria Verburg, and Dawn Wieringa helped clean her home. “In the midst of all the clutter, I found myself getting so caught up in making sure that we got each room clean, which, in all honesty, might not stay clean for very long, instead of working hard AND listening to Irene,” recalls Wieringa. “She had so many stories to tell us about herself, her family, and her childhood.”

Wierenga said they also appreciated conversations with Pastor John about Navajo lifestyle and traditions. “Our day at the Grand Canyon was also amazing and beautiful,” added Dawn.

Toronto PLIA Group
On the Toronto, Canada, PLIA team were (seated, from left) Joseph Buhlig, Norborne, MO; Amanda Arkema, Pella, IA; Angelina Wikkerink, Duncan, BC; Hani Yang, Yucatan, Mexico; Shaun Vandenbroek, Houston, BC; (standing) Brittney Kajer, Allerton, IA; James Slegers, Orange City, IA; and Sae Mee Lee, Baguio City, Philippines.

The Toronto PLIA team volunteered at Urban Promise, New Life Church, Camp Hope, and Camp Freedom. At New Life Church they painted a large room, hallway, classroom, nursery, stairwell, the loft, and all the doors. In addition, they split into two groups to help at after-school programs for under-privileged kids (Camp Hope and Camp Freedom).

“The most frightening experience was walking the kids home after camp,” recalls Joseph Buhlig. “We were walking through a rough part of town known as the Jane and Finch neighborhood and we passed a couple drug deals. If that wasn’t bad enough, one of the alleys we walked through had a lot of bullet holes in the walls. It made me a little nervous.”

As an agri-business major from a farm, Buhlig said it was hard for him to see poverty and the struggle to survive. “Going to Toronto helped me see that God may be preparing me to find ways to take the surplus of food provided by agriculture in the U.S. to provide for those who are forced to live without.”

“The one thing that I really appreciated about the trip would probably be Peter Kentie. The first day we were there he did a sort of orientation with us to help us get our feet on the ground for the week. In the midst of that he talked about our call to ‘remain in Christ’. Basically what he was wanted to get across was that we are called to ‘be’ in Christ as opposed to just ‘doing’ things for Him. It’s a much greater call to be something than it is to just do the stuff it involves: it is really about your motives.”

Angela Wikkerink was amazed by how the kids opened up to them. “On the last day, we read the story of Jesus’ death. I was leading the story and asked the kids if they understood what the cross meant. They understood that Jesus died to take away their sin, even though they weren’t sure what sin was. We made crosses, signifying Jesus’ death. It was so encouraging to me to know that they had heard of the good news, even if they didn’t completely understand it. We also dyed eggs and the kids blew out the insides in order to dye them. They had a lot of fun with that and it was awesome that they let me help them.”

This group also had the opportunity to check out Niagara Falls, which they described as cold but amazing. “To see an incredible part of God’s awesome creation is always memorable, but on that day I just felt as if God was there,” said Buhlig.

Adds Wikkerink, “PLIA was an amazing way to spend spring break. I don’t think I would have had a better one if I had spent it with my closest friends. Working with the kids and spending so much time with my group has made me realize how quickly you can love someone and how amazing it actually is.”

Summing up the feelings of many who have gone on PLIA, Atlanta team member Theresa Holzhauser says, “PLIA has impacted me by way of opening my eyes to the immense brokenness in our world that we too often ignore or are unaware of. It has stirred my heart and made me become uncomfortable in where I’m at and what I think about. It has helped me to see where there are great needs and developed in me a desire to make myself more aware and to look for any opportunities that I can to serve. It has challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and to serve in areas that I would normally be afraid of. It has made me realize how important it is to reach out to the youth of our world and help them to see that they are loved and they do have a future. PLIA has just opened my eyes in so many ways, showing me how incredibly blessed I am and how I am called to be a servant of the Lord.”

Additional photos are posted here.

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