Dordt College News

PLIA groups serve during spring break

March 26, 2003

Nearly 140 Dordt College students used their spring break this year to serve on a mission team with Dordt College’s mission outreach program P.L.I.A. (Putting Love in Action). The groups traveled to 12 locations, serving in the following ways:

Shiprock N.M.: This group helped out at the Bethel Christian Reformed Church, as well as volunteering to do yard work and odd jobs, such as stripping and waxing the floors at the church, weeding the flower gardens and binding hymnals. They also worked around the parsonage, built a greenhouse, and put up fencing. The home of a couple from the church was also dry-walled and insulated courtesy of the PLIA team.

“ PLIA was a great experience,” said Erin Hoekstra, who was on the Shiprock PLIA group. “I got to know some new people really well and help other people out at the same time. It was neat to see how we can put our love in to action. I think that it is something that we should do more of.”

The New Mexico team included Katie Kroese, Micah Schreur, Emily Philippus, Janean Swager, Jennie Van Velzen, Froukje deJong, Erin Hoestra, Tami De Jong, Aaron Shupe, Allen Hubers and Paul Olsen.

Birmingham, Ala.: This team worked with New City Church and the Center for Urban Ministries, painting the lower level of the building that housed a nursery and Sunday school classrooms. Some team members also painted a house for a church member. In the afternoons they volunteered at Price Elementary in an afterschool program called STARS, where they helped kids with their homework and also just played with them.

“Part of our program there was to learn about the cultural/racial tension in that area and learning to work towards reconciliation between cultures,” said Adrian Vandenberg.PLIA Groups

Amy Nugteren commented, “New City Church and the Center were founded to make their vision of racial reconciliation a reality. In everything they do, the leadership exudes a contagious passion for serving God that is incredible. They made the effort to show us what a Biblical view of racial reconciliation is, and how we can help in achieving it. I know that seeing their passion profoundly affected the way I view my own purpose in life, and I know the rest of my team felt the same. She said the church emphasized being intentional, and the entire team realized that being intentional would completely alter the way they acted, both in Birmingham and back at Dordt. “I pray that my PLIA experience is something I'll never forget, and that I'll be able to implement what I learned in my own life,” said Nugteren.

“I learned that we all need to have some kind of vision statement for our lives,” added Esther Cooper. “This was a hard topic for me to look at but I believe that I was able to understand what my vision was. The pastor here told us his motto and I think I will use that when I develop my vision statement. "Love God, work hard, and treat everybody right!" I become very close to God on this trip and learned many different things about teammates. While we were out on the streets, walking to the showers or just having a good time, there was always a moment where we were evangelizing. I believe on this trip we reached about five homeless people, two of whom we bought some food. It was a great experience.”

Mike Elders added that the whole PLIA experience was an inspiring one. “It was amazing to see how strong the presence of the Lord was in the members of the church and the church itself. The vision of the church was very clear and it was made clear by the actions of the church. They were very intentional in their reconciliation of different races, ages, cultures, classes, etc. I hope to continue the passion that the New City Church has for the spirituality of Birmingham at Dordt College and everywhere that I go.”

“When I first considered going on PLIA, I was really excited because I have a heart for missions,” said Sheila Otness. “But after awhile, I wasn't sure if this was something God was calling me to, and I also was wondering if I really wanted to give up the rest and relaxation part of my spring break. But God called me to serve on PLIA, quietly pushing me to apply and trust in Him. I am so glad that I went. I made some wonderful friends with people from Dordt that I didn't know before. I also was exposed to a predominately black community for the first time. It made me realize just how special each one of us is to God, not matter what our skin color is. While we all have predjudices, my heart and mind cannot comprehend blatant racism. As I sat holding a little girl, I looked down at my white hand on her arm and realized, "Oh yeah, she is black." It was heart-warming to be able to share the unconditonal love of Christ; the condition of our skin doesn't matter.”

The entire Birmingham team consisted of Alicia Mulder, Adrian Vandenberg, Sheila Otness, Amy Nugteren, Esther Cooper, Sharon Schreur, Sarah De Hoog, Natalie Draayer, Nathan Johnson, Mike Elders and Matt Ruter.

Cary, Mississippi: Team members put siding on a trailer home, painted the inside of a house, helped at a thrift store that is run by the Cary Christian Center, and played with the local kids.

“It was a good experience,” said Joe Tiersma. “I really enjoyed helping out in the community down there. I find going on PLIA is a great way to have fun and do God's work at the same time. Going to Mississippi and working in a black community was a real eye opener. Their way of life is so different from what I'm used to. It was really good. They are some of the most hospitable people I know. Also going to a Southern Baptist church while down there was wonderful, just seeing the love of God that these people have. I enjoyed going.”

Members of the Cary team included Ryan Van Der Bill, Leanne Doornbos, Pamela Zuidhof, Heather Heijerman, Sarah Van de Griend, Laura Ellerie, Kimberly Vis, Joe Tiersma, Nate Murphy, David Versluis and Mark Zwart.

Mendenhall, Miss.: The Mendenhall team interacted with kids at Genesis One School and the people at The Mendenhall Ministry. They were also involved with light construction, working with plants and animals.

This team included Jolene Dykstra, Jeffrey Taylor, Rebecca Reed, Laurel Alons, Amy Vander Top, Janelle Wassink, Daniel Hummel, Nathaniel Van Ee, Nick Van Hooft and Tiffany Boyett.

Denver, Colo.: This team’s trip to help at Bothers Redevelopment was not what they expected, “but God used the situation we were placed in for his kingdom,” said Denise VerBeek.

The weather was wonderful when they arrived at Denver and they had very nice weather in the mountains for their day away. But on Monday night snow began to fall, turning into the worst blizzard Denver has seen in many years. With 40 inches of snow in two days, their van was literally buried and the entire city was shut down. Power was out for roughly 12 hours. Two days later, the Dordt team was able to get their van out and they drove around Denver, digging other people out of snow banks.

Prior to the blizzard, they worshipped on Sunday with very diverse church in Denver and on Monday helped clean the youth center they were staying in and worked with some of the neighborhood children in an after school program. On Friday they worked at Brent's Place, an organization that houses families of children with cancer.

“Over all our plans changed quite a bit from our original idea of painting houses and building wheel chair ramps, but we were still able to bless people in Denver and grow extremely close as a team since we were basically forced to spend all of our time together,” said VerBeek. “It was another wonderful spring break and I am very thankful that I was able to have the experience.”

Members of the Denver team were Denise VerBeek, Brian Van Eps, Julie Bolkema, Lydia Stazen, Lisa Ouwinga, Sheena Van Boom, Amanda Terpstra, Josh Boerman, Eric Gritter, Luk von Meijenfeldt and Rachel Van Driessen.

Packing PLIA vans

Redeemer Ranch, Center, Colo.: This group did minor construction work, painting and scraping the buildings, plumbing, fixing small engines, and cleaning the property. They also interacted with the boys staying at the ranch by playing games, sharing meals, and having devotions with them.

“PLIA was an awesome experience,” said Sarah Matherly. “It was incredible to see how God can bring together 12 people and create a loving and caring community. We grew as a team on the work field, fellowshiping at the meals, and discussing deep issues during devotions.”

Colleen De Groot wasn't planning on going on PLIA, but felt somehow pulled to go. “I feel so very blessed now that the experience is over with. It is a time in my life I will forever take with me. I made amazing friendships with people I wouldn't have ordinarily made friends with, I was encompassed in the beauty of God's creation and I was able to share God's love with others. It was absolutely amazing, to say the least.”

Members of the Center team included James Vande Glind, Melissa Drake, Melissa De Yager, David Van Ee, Donald Van Raalte, George Den Oudsten, Maria Brasser, Rachel Pontier, Stephanie Stiemsma, Coleen De Groot, Sarah Matherly and Jason Debbink.

We Care Ministries, Vicksburg, Miss.: This group fixed a roof, painted, did masonry, cleaning, tutoring and other various construction jobs.

“ I really enjoyed the time I got to spend helping out people who are in a worse situation that I am,” said Mark Wikkerink. “Even though they rarely could give us something in return, seeing their pleased and very grateful faces was well worth the hard work.

Derrick Postma said of his Vicksburg experience, “It was shocking to see how different the lifestyle and their way of life is in the south. I was pleased to know that I was able to help out those less fortunate than us and that Christ could reveal himself through our team.”

Members of the Vicksburg team included Brenda Janssen, Heidi Link, Missy Hanes, Angie Katsma, Cheryl Deelstra, PJ Van Engen, Kyle Bleeker, Mark Wikkerink, Brian Schiebout, Leslie Larson and Derrik Postma.

Urban Promise Ministries, Camden, N. J.: This team spent their mornings doing community service projects including painting, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and two days at the South Jersey Food Bank/Warehouse. In the afternoon they assisted Urban Promise Ministries with kids in the Camden Forward after school program, helping kids with homework, playing with them in the gym and on the computer and overall "bonding time." The after school program was designed for children to have somewhere to go after school where they are able to get help with their homework and learn more about a relationship with God.

“I felt like my experience with PLIA over spring break really allowed me to see just how fortunate I am to have grown up in the affluent culture I have,” said Eric Pilon. “I also realized, though, that economic standing isn't the most important thing to these kids, loving relationships are and that is something we can all learn from.”

“It was good to be able to be placed in a different environment, in one of the poorest cities in the entire U.S., commented Shelli Halbersma. “It opened my eyes to a different way of life and challenged me to cling to what is everlasting (God's promises) and not what is temporary (material things).” Tessa De Groot added that it was an eye opening experience to see how the people there live and what they live in.

Julie Vanden Heuvel’s reaction to her PLIA trip was, “It was an awesome experience. I got to work with 11 awesome people whom I had so much fun getting to know. It was also a great experience to work in a different culture than what I am used to. Camden is one of the poorest cities in the United States, very different from small Dutch town Iowa. It challenged me to see that although we come from different cultures and have different ways of life, we all share the love of our Savior. And that's what I tried to show these kids, Christ's love, which is what PLIA is all about, Putting Love Into Action. So it is an experience that I will definately take with me for the rest of my life and grow from.”

Tricia Cowherd stated, “It was nice to work with children from a different culture, which helped me have a better understanding of the way they live and how different everyone can be. I also thought this was a good way to reach out to children who just want someone's attention. I enjoyed working with the children whether it was with their homework or playing the different games and activities. The children were very open with me which allowed many relationships to be formed for the one week I was there. I think this ministry is very effective for the lives of all the children that attend there.”

“Meeting new people both in my group and at the site were the things that affected me the most,” said Jody Van Zanten. “The new friendships have taught me a lot already and I had a ton of fun with my group!” Matt Ellerie agreed, adding, “I always love it when a group of peers can get together and serve the Lord. This trip was no exception. We were able to use our gifts and talents in the ways we can best serve others as well as having the opportunity to experience a different culture than our own. God did some work in us and it is Him that deserves all the praise!

Members of the Camden team included Shelli Halbersma, Matt Ellerie, Tessa De Groot, Jody VanZanten, Tricia Cowherd, Chelsea Bierlink, Kristen Rietsema, April Bolkema, Julie Vanden Heuvel, Mark Ten Haken, Eric Pilon and Aaron Klein.

Voice of Calvary Ministry in Jackson, Miss.: This group worked on the shop for the Voice of Calvary housing ministry, primarily painting (indoor and outdoor) and cleaning up.

“It was great to see how God is working through the Voice of Calvary Ministry in West Jackson,” said Brittany Bouma. “I thank God for a safe trip and a wonderful experience.”

Members of the Jackson team were Aaron Van Gelder, Kelly Vander Pol, Liz Friesema, Andrew Kroese, Kristin Koning, Brittany Bouma, Joy De Haan, Diane De Wit, Jevon Groenewold, Steph Greydanus, Don Stenberg and Travis Patten.

Atlanta Youth Project, Atlanta, Ga.: They did yardwork, painted classrooms, organized shutters, scraped a house for painting, did concrete work, tutoring, fellowshiped with a senior citizens group and served breakfast to homeless people.

“ I grew to have a deeper understanding about what walking in faith means to a lot of people who work for these organizations that we volunteered for,”said Philip Van De Griend, one of the team members. “I also see the importance of a supportive Christian community within our team and the greater body of Christ.”

Stephen De Wit commented, “We had a wonderful group whose passion for the kingdom was as strong as our work ethic.” Tara Warolin added they were able to serve God by working for others and make new friends at the same time. “It was such a blessing to be able to help others and bring so much joy to their lives. I can't wait for my next PLIA trip,” said Tara.

“The relationships that grew from this trip have been such a blessing. I am so thankful for the time I got to spend with my 10 team members, now my friends, and the ministry directors; they have so much passion for the city and God. It is so encouraging to see others putting their faith into practice and doing things for other people who are not as fortunate. It was such a great experience - one I will think of often,” concluded Deb Schippers, also on the Georgia team.

Karla Hofman had not been on PLIA before, and commented that her experience in Atlanta opened her eyes to a lot of need. “My group was only there for a week, and during that time, we did do a lot. However, it was only a week, and there is still a great deal of help that the city and the people of Atanta need. I am glad that I was able to help. It may not seem like a lot, but it still made a difference in the lives that we did touch.”

The entire Atlanta team consisted of Kristen Walstra, Rick Roeda, Deb Schippers, Sarah Versluis, Tara Warolin, Valerie De Boer, Kristen Nederhoff, Karla Hofman, Philip, Van De Griend, Stephen De Wit, Kyle Van Arendonk and Derek Wassink.

Harambee Center, Pasadena, Calif.: This group cleaned out an overgrown lot, renovated a yard that was used as a dumping ground, cleaned houses and the school. They also assisted with a mailing that went out to 12,000 people from Harambee and worked with an after school program, playing with children, helping them with their homework, and presenting a chapel at the school.

“My experience this year was very different from last year’s experience,” said Jeremy Nelson. “This was especially the case in that some of the things that had gone on last year at this site where not happening any longer. I had the feeling from one of the people in the community that we as a group had been sheltered our whole lives and did not know anything about different cultures in the community. I loved the fact that the relationships that I had formed in this community picked up where they had left off last year. On the whole though my experience was an experience of growth in my walk with the Lord, my understanding of how things are in the inner city, and what how it feels to drop the sight of seeing people for their skin color and accepting them for who they are.”

Nelson added that this experience also helped him grow in the knowledge that interactions with others from different areas of the United States and the World reflect back not only on an individual but also in the way that others view Christians as a whole. “In the end my PLIA experience has greatly influenced my outlook on the communities that I live in and the relationships that I have. This outlook makes me consider the way that I interact with others and whether or not it is appropriate.”

Melinda Van Egmond also commented that she had learned a lot about different cultures on this service project. “It opened my eyes to see that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of our race or past. I realized that God can use me in little ways that may seem small and insignificant to me, but may mean the world to someone else.”

Maria Pencook commented that it was hard to see that so many people have to live with so much less, but it was also an eye opener to see that they are happy with the way they live even if they do not have much, that we don’t need materistic things to be happy.

The Harambee team consisted of Scott Kallemeyn, Erika Hall, Jeannette Epley, Jeremy Nelson, Maria Pencook, Angela Andrawis, Troy Schemper, Rebecca Johnson, Melinda VanEgmond, Jordan Gaiser, Jessica Van Ginkel, Laura Van Mersbergen and Kearsen Boman.

Rehoboth, N.M.: This group removed an old tar-and-gravel roof surface and recovered it with new aluminum sheeting, worshiped in a church the Navajo, poured concrete and finished a second roofing project.

Dena Nicolai commented,"PLIA was a really awesome experience. I loved getting to know 10 new people from Dordt and at the same time, being able to help others through our work. It was really neat to see the influence that churches are having on the people of that area and how racial barriers are being torn down. It was very interesting to see the Navajo/Pueblo/Zuni cultures and how they are integrated into western culture. I also found it very interesting to meet white children who have grown up in the middle of that culture and the way in which that has shaped their lives. It was also encouraging to see the impact that Rehoboth Christian school has had on the area."

“ So often, I picture people as being of a similar culture as the Midwest,” commented Chris De Berg of their time spent in New Mexico. “What a difference. The blessings that we have here are so easily taken for granted. Every time someone rattles off a statement like that, we tend to ignore it; but as I grow as a young Christian man, I begin to see and experience how very fortunate I am to live the lifestyle I have. I would encourage anyone and everyone to participate in an activity like PLIA as the knowledge and experiences gained will last a lifetime.”

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