OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries
Helping to Train, Encourage &
Connect Deacons
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 The Latest

Crates for Ukraine Update

 

The Beard family from New Hope Christian Fellowship in Elizabeth City, North Carolina reached out to the OPC Refugee Ministry Subcommittee for financial support as they planned to participate in the PCA’s “Crates for Ukraine” program. The family has dear friends in L’viv, MTW missionaries, who have been serving for several years.

Aimee Beard was excited to have a way to help, “Finally, there was something tangible we could do to help our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. Knowing the need was urgent, I started reaching out to local churches and friends in our community and the help began to pour in. Many were happy to help and especially so because several know [our family friends] personally. A handful of pharmacies and private physicians allowed us to purchase items at cost through them. We have a friend at Harbor Presbyterian (a supporting church) who is a paramedic and he reached out to the county to see if they could help. The county also allowed us to order medical/wound care items at cost through them. The process has truly been a beautiful thing to witness.”

“My initial goal was twenty crates. That was before all the support started to come in. We have already filled 70 crates, but I am expecting we will reach 80 by the time our last round of couriers leaves. Incredible! God is so good. It is amazing what He can do with a simple, ‘yes!’ We have a total of nine couriers who have all registered and purchased airline tickets.”

Aimee’s daughter, Callie, expressed interest in accompanying the team to Krakow after a family friend had to bow out of the trip, and more volunteers were needed. The OPC Refugee Ministry subcommittee considered this request and, in the end, were glad to be able to pay the remaining cost of an airline ticket for Callie at the cost of $1701.00. Thank you to all of those who donated to the Ukraine Crisis Fund and enabled this young woman to be able to participate in this important program.

An email from Aimee after their trip spoke of the success of their trip, “All crates made it to Krakow. Our final courier team arrived Wednesday with all 47 of their crates. All together there were 92 crates that were sent over from our community here in Northeast North Carolina. Praise the Lord for his faithfulness and blessings. He had his hand in every part of this entire mission. So many moving parts and details that only He could orchestrate. It is amazing what He will do with a simple yes.”

“We saw the warehouse where all the crates are stored until the team drives them to L’viv. The Ukrainian/Polish/English church service on Sunday was neat. It was great to see our friends from L’viv and the rest of the team. You can tell they are tired and are looking forward to a time to rest and reassess the situation before winter.”

Crates for Ukraine was an initiative started by the MTW L’viv Team in June of this year to address the war time aid needs of Ukraine. MTW (PCA) took the initiative in this effort and invited the OPC to join in their efforts. The OPC was privileged to be involved in this way.

Crates’ mission was simple: The Ukrainian Church and their national partners desired to provide personal and humanitarian aid from the hands of churches in the U.S. to the hands of churches and displaced communities in Ukraine. Churches, communities, or families were invited to pack a crate and send it to Ukraine via Krakow, Poland.

The Ukraine church in L’viv received and is processing these crates and sending them to the neediest communities and churches of Ukraine. MTW was able to utilize the 15 churches throughout Ukraine to network and resource the needy communities. 

Here is the latest data on the Crates for Ukraine initiative.

A few quick facts:

  • 1,315 crates were delivered to Krakow.
  • 186 Couriers brought aid.
  • Over 250 churches participated from over 100 cities and 21 states. 
  • 15 churches in Ukraine received/processed aid.
  • Over 115 locations have received aid or have in turn become aid distribution points.
  • Aid processing continues to reach the most needy and vulnerable.
  • 100 crates went to newly liberated villages (Lzyum and Kharkiv region) and our partner churches.
  • This Ukraine Aid Map will be updated weekly with more detailed delivery information. 

Many have asked about future aid initiatives. A possible “Crates for Christmas” initiative is in the works. We will update as information about that become available.

You can find out more about the efforts to help in Ukraine by listening to The Reformed Deacon episode where David Nakhla interviews MTW’s Ukraine Country Director, Jon Eide, and by reading the September 15 issue of the “Crates for Ukraine Update” from the PCA’s Mission to the World.


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Meet Your Fellow Deacon: John West

What is the role of a deacon? What is his primary responsibility in the church? Most likely, the answers many deacons and church members may generate in response to these questions will contain, if not solely focus on, the notion of “service”—service in the church, for the church. John West, deacon at Mid Cities OPC in Bedford, Texas, would agree. However, he would take it one step further. Calling his fellow deacons to a higher order of service than merely performing the tasks required in the local congregation, West claims that it is the deacon’s duty to “cultivate an environment in the church that is conducive to the entire body serving one another and the outside world.” Deacons are to set the standard of service within the Church.

John West has served as a deacon in the OPC since 2019, but previously served a longer stint in a non-OPC congregation. Resultingly, he has spent many years of his life caring for the needs of the local church, as well as thinking about how he can best serve the church in his role. Over the years, his perspective has certainly evolved and been strengthened. Speaking on the significance of the diaconal office, John asserts, “The deacon is the cornerstone of service in the church. It is what I would hope all men would aspire to be. If you want to serve the Lord in the body, then really think hard and long about why you aren’t a deacon. The ability to serve is the gift the Lord has given us.”

Notably, John’s transition to the OPC also impacted his view of diaconal work, as he previously served in a church where mercy ministry largely emphasized long-distance, short-term work. “In the OPC, diaconal work is focused on serving the body. It is ongoing and sometimes it is messy, but it is encouraging to get to see the fruits of your local, long-term efforts,” John says. He continues by saying, “The people who need help aren’t always outside your building—they are frequently inside your building. I feel drawn and compelled to minister to them first.” 

Though with a renewed vision of who to serve, his outlook on how to serve has also changed. John frankly admits, “I’m not climbing up on roofs anymore. Other people are much better suited for that kind of work.” Yet, one thing has remained the same: “I enjoy working with people; I truly love getting to know the people of the church.” 

Luckily for John, people’s needs generally aren’t limited to roofing projects. In fact, he shared that his work as an Information Technology professional has shaped his service as a deacon. John says, “My work helps me do diaconal work better. I am thankful for my vocation, and I can see how the Lord has used it to enable me to bless the local church.” From broadcasting services for the church to working on people’s computers, and even coordinating the efforts of others in the church to fulfill various areas of need, John’s service to the church is closely connected to his vocational employment. 

Another area of service John has come to love is hospitality. This has only been enhanced by his wife, Suzanne, and her gift for welcoming and caring for others. He says they simply have a desire to love and serve people more than things. Hospitality ministry is a sphere of service John has greatly enjoyed observing and participating in with his local congregation. In recounting the encouragement drawn from specific opportunities he has seen hospitality demonstrated, John shares that of a particularly difficult situation: a dear couple’s loss of a child. However, as John recalls, “it was a very rewarding time for the life and strength of the church as we all had the opportunity to pray for them, serve them, and draw closer to them in deep, meaningful ways. It was a blessing to see that family served and provided for.” That, he recalls, was one of the best times in the life of the church right in the middle of one of the worst. “To see the Lord provide for his people through his people is encouraging because it embodies and constitutes the ordinary means God has ordained for the care of his people,” John says. 

These reflections reinforce John’s professed affinity for “helping people help other people.” John again comments on the responsibility of the diaconate by saying, “We build up the body by serving them, but service doesn’t stop with deacons. We build up the body by encouraging them to serve one another.” Thus, to the deacon, he says: “You can’t do it all, but you can ask for help and usually get assistance from others to do anything. People are eager to serve, they just need a leader. You have the privilege to lead by serving.” To the church member, John provides this simple, yet motivating reminder: “You don’t have to be a deacon to serve your church.”


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The Poignant Plight of the Asylum Seeker

by Pat Hatch, Refugee and Immigrant Ministry Director, PCA Mission to North America

Imagine: 

You work as a lawyer in a developing country, and your work exposes the fact that government officials are raping civilians in your community.  As your work becomes known, you begin to receive death threats.  Not long after, you are beaten, causing permanent partial hearing loss. As soon as you are recovered, you begin your work again, undeterred. But then you get a note saying: “We know where you are, and what you are doing. This time, we will not leave you alive.” This time, you know you have to flee. 

When you arrive in a nearby country, you find out that your homeland government is still tracking you for reprisal. You flee to yet another country, where you go into hiding. 

Eventually you manage to escape to the US on a visitor’s visa, and you begin the difficult process of applying for asylum. For two years you sleep on couches, never far from homelessness. In order to survive, you frequently have to beg for food and shelter.

This is the TRUE story of one of the more than 432,000 asylum seekers* currently in the US. A significant number of them are believers in Christ. Many of them were professionals in their homeland. In the majority of cases, the reason they have had to flee is related to a value that we as Americans hold dear (freedom of speech, religion, political opinion, etc.) Regardless of their previous occupation or religion or ethnicity, they are all persons created in the image of God and of great value to Him. 

From a humanitarian standpoint, they resemble refugees in many ways. But there is no nationwide public/private infrastructure to support asylum seekers while they wait many months or years for their case to be scheduled for a hearing. Unlike refugees, they are not allowed to even apply for a work permit for at least 6 months, and it can take additional months to several years for the permit to arrive. They are not eligible for any safety net benefits. They must survive during this time without any income or access to any basic social services.

The reality is that many have no choice other than to beg food or shelter from any person they might know or meet, or to work “under the table,” in order to survive until their case is eventually heard. This makes them vulnerable to many kinds of abuse (including sexual exploitation.) They struggle with hunger, and homelessness always imminent. Some resort to homeless shelters and may become victims of crime. These hardships compound the severe trauma most have experienced before arrival, as well as their separation from loved ones for the indefinite future, and the psychological burden of being in limbo for an undetermined length of time as they navigate the complex, time-consuming, and unpredictable asylum process. 

Asylum seekers have urgent, very basic needs—particularly sustainable housing and food. But as of 2022, there are virtually no government services for asylum seekers and only about a dozen independent non-profit organizations in the entire country (only a few of them Christian) which are trying to assist asylum seekers with these needs. A total of only approximately 400 beds are available at any given time for more than 400,000 asylum seekers. 

Churches and individual believers have an incredible opportunity to welcome asylum seekers in practical ways and walk with them as they continue their long and arduous journey of finding a new place to belong after fleeing their homelands due to fear for their lives!

To learn more about refugee ministry in the OPC and how your local congregation can demonstrate mercy toward refugees and asylum seekers, visit our Refugee Ministry Page.

*The American Immigration Council defines an asylum seeker in the US as “any person who has fled from their home country for fear of their lives being jeopardized due to their race, religion, nationality, gender, membership in a social group, or political opinion, and has asked the United States to grant them asylum.” 

(For more true stories of asylum seekers, visit https://www.dashnetwork.net/who-we-serve/real-stories-testimonies/).

**For more on the differences betweenrefugees and asylum seekers, visit DASH’s helpful webpage on the topic: https://www.dashnetwork.net/who-we-serve/asylum-seekers-vs-refugees/.


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