OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries

Helping to Train, Encourage &
Connect Deacons
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

The Latest

Meet Your Fellow Deacon: Jack Frahm

Meet Jack Frahm, Deacon, Covenant OPC, San Jose, CA

Jack Frahm admits that some aspects of being a deacon are a struggle for him. Sitting down to talk to people is outside of his comfort zone. “I’ve really had to grow as a deacon by taking the time to build relationships with people—to actively listen. It’s so much easier for me to ask, ‘what’s the problem and how do I fix it? Let’s do it.’ And sometimes that’s not what’s called for. It’s more of a need for a shoulder to cry on.”

Jack has lived within 30 minutes of the same place for over 30 years—somewhat ironic, since in his teens he couldn’t wait to move away and explore! “I grew up in Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church on Leigh Avenue and lived a block away from the church. My parents’ house was just down the street so we would often walk to, church, and functions at the church and I remember thinking as a kid how I just couldn’t wait to get out of the Bay Area. I wanted to travel!” Obviously, God had other ideas.

Growing up, Jack admittedly gave his parents a run for their money; adopted when he was five years old, he pushed the limits of his parents’ Christian, loving, guidance and at 18, Jack found himself in serious trouble with law enforcement. His father reassured him, “You’re my son, and we’re not going to abandon you.” That was a turning point in Jack’s life—a pivotal moment. Soon after, Jack made a public profession of faith at 20 years old. Jack married his wife, Michelle, 25 years ago and they have three children, Caleb, Ethan and Grace; the boys in college and Grace, a senior in high school.

Jack has been serving as a deacon for nearly ten years at Covenant OPC, San Jose, California. Even before officially being ordained as a deacon, he felt drawn to helping, “[Going] to the church workdays, helping to clean up after committee meetings, ushering, doing all the different little things that you can [to] help at church and then an elder comes along and taps you on the shoulder, ‘have you ever considered being a deacon?’ And so it kind of just seems like a natural outflow of how I feel, that all church members should be relatively active with their local church. Doing things, helping in any way they can. I’m kind of a handyman; ‘Jack of all trades’. I often get teased because I’m mechanically inclined and if something is broken, I’d rather fix it, rather than throw it away. I think the gift that God has given me is wanting to fix things and a willingness to just jump in and figure it out.” 

Covenant OPC is no stranger to outreach in their community. For several years, the deacons at Covenant led the church in ministry to the downtown homeless community until lack of participation made it impossible to continue. Since then, the deacons then began leading the church toward working with a faith-based ministry called, CityTeam

Through CityTeam, Covenant OPC has adopted a low-income housing community in an apartment complex. Covenant supplies all the food for a year and the congregation hands out food in the hopes of creating some relationships. Jack and his diaconate is encouraged, “We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve had to turn some church folks away that want to help. We get 20 or so folks from our congregation who want to participate in the program. This ministry began during the pandemic, and like many other things, has been a challenge. The model for the program is a sort of marketplace where folks come down from their apartments, come through and pick things up from the table, offering an opportunity to interact and share the gospel. With the pandemic, we’ve had to alter and deliver boxes of food to apartments; ring a doorbell and wait the few minutes hoping that someone will come to the door while we’re there so that we can talk.” 

“The challenge has been in how to take it to that next level of making sure that the gospel is presented. Please pray that the opportunities continue to grow and continue to be fruitful. There are now other churches that want to partner with us to help at this food pantry, and if it gets to the point where we have 30 or so people, we may be able to open another pantry. We could possibly serve two different locations!”

Covenant’s four-man diaconate is made up of diverse backgrounds, which lends itself to healthy conversation and decision-making—even as meetings have been restricted to meeting virtually. Jack, Miguel Alvarado, Steve Trigero and Juan Valle don’t always agree, but Jack says they work well together and he’s thankful for them.

Jack has been encouraged in his diaconal service at the generosity of the congregation and their willingness to try to help folks. But Jack also admits, from time to time, he is more discouraged than encouraged, giving him an opportunity to pray for wisdom in how to better serve.


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Showing Mercy in One of the Poorest Regions of the World: Karamoja, Uganda

 

by Mark Van Essendelft, OPC Missionary Deacon to Karamoja, Uganda


“Which one of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “the one who had mercy on him.” Luke 10:36-37

In Karamoja Uganda you don’t have to look far for opportunities to “show mercy,” as it is one of the poorest regions in the world.  The constant temptation is to “pass by” like the Pharisee and the Levite, and then excuse ourselves because we are too busy, or someone else should take a turn.  To the extent that the Lord has given us faith, I hope to share with you the opportunities that we have taken in 2021 to “show mercy” in Karamoja in 2021. 
            Sadly, KEO (Karamoja Educational Outreach) has remained closed due to the continued lock down by the government due to covid.  Though many more affluent citizens have continued with online schooling, once again the poor are suffering here in Karamoja. We have kept the teachers on payroll, and Angela has organized their time into weekly instruction, discipleship, visits to encourage struggling, poor and sick church and community members, etc.  The teachers have also been teaching literacy to some of the employees on the main compound.  Recently, the teachers painted the walls and ceiling in the school so it will look very pleasant when the schools do open. We are hopeful the school will open early next year. 
            Leah Hopp has continued to head up the health outreach. In addition to things like hygiene and preventable sicknesses, they have been promoting Covid-19 prevention methods and vaccines in the community.  She has also been doing a research paper in which she is gathering and organizing the statistics from our clinic which will give the Ugandan government and others a better understanding of the demographics of the local community, which to this point no one has done.  
            Chris Verdick has had a busy year between administrating the clinic, gearing up for new clinic housing, recruiting, and hiring new employees, and having a new baby in the home. So far on the new clinic housing Chris has overseen the installation of the perimeter fence, and we hope to drill the bore hole soon and then start construction by the end of January 2022. One encouraging thing is that we have finally, after four years, gotten the title to the land across the road where the clinic is and where the new clinic housing sight is.  We are currently in negotiations with the former owners of the land to sell a portion back to them.  One discouraging thing is that this year we lost one of our prized nurses (who we hoped to see fill more of a leadership role) due to some poor life choices.  The clinic also led a vaccination effort for the staff and community and had 100% of the staff vaccinated by September.
            As far as my work on maintenance, we have mainly kept to smaller jobs this year.  We have dug a trench around the clinic to keep the water away from the building (cracks were developing.)  We have started to fix the cracks in the walls and hope to paint the interior walls early next year. We have almost completed two-bathroom renovations in the main house, which were long overdue. We also fixed some structural issues in the main house due to poor drainage. We have also repaired a lot of the existing fencing on the missionary compounds which is showing its age. This will continue into 2022. A shelter which was started over ten years ago was finished and roofed, and we re-thatched several houses.
            The following are some of the things we have done with the diaconal funds of the mission this year: We helped get treatment for Apuun Paul, a former KEO teacher, who has cancer on his neck.  We have helped a local young man who was shot through the hip get some medical care. Unfortunately, the only way he can be further helped is a hip replacement, which is not possible with the funds we currently have. We helped some orphans that the local church assists to relocate their housing close to their caretaker.  We often help with transport for various reasons, but one notable time this year was bringing a young woman, who is a church member, to the hospital and police after she was raped by a man with HIV.  She is mentally handicapped and is the eyes for her blind mother.  Also, she has a daughter who is about 11 years old who is also the result of a rape. After much work and prayer on her behalf, we have learned that she did not get the HIV and the man has been arrested. Praise God for this!!!
            The farm project was relatively small this year (acres planted), and most of the crops did not produce well due to an extended dry spell during the growing season.  The peanuts we planted produced very well however, to our surprise! The farm project, though it is not a money maker, does give us inroads with the local community. Though many may look at it as an opportunity for mere work, through it we have been able to bring God’s Word daily to people who don’t otherwise come to church, and we have cultivated some sweet relationships which by God’s grace will yield fruit for eternity. 
            My diaconal work with the local church has been challenging at times, but I think is moving ahead. Preparing them for autonomy at the local level is one of our goals, which we made good strides toward. This year the church cultivated a one-acre plot for feeding the orphans and a five-acre plot to help support the local church.  This went very well.  The mercy committee, which is comprised of church members who are voted in by the congregation, meets every Friday.  Being able to send people who are begging from us at the mission to this committee has reduced the begging of missionaries significantly. It is much more effective at discovering and helping truly needy people, because local members know much better the needs of people who come.  By teaching and practice, I have been training the members of the mercy committee on wise principles of helping those in need.  We are in the process of totally separating the church funds from the mission.  (Up to this point all funds have been held by the mission and all accounting done for them.) Starting in January 2022, we hope to implement a cash box system with accounting sheets and double signatures for each transaction. 
            This is a sample look at some of the many ways that the funds from the CDM are spent here in Karamoja.  I wish all supporting churches could read about what God is doing here in Karamoja. The work is slow but sure!  It is amazing how these many small acts of kindness in word and deed bear fruit from often the least expecting people.  All this could not be done without the support of many church members, who I will probably never meet on this earth but share with us in God’s global mission!  I am so thankful for them, and for the involvement of the CDM who oversees this work!  To God be the Glory!

 

On behalf of the Karamoja station,

Mark Van Essendelft             


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A New Podcast: The Reformed Deacon

By Trish Duggan

In November 2021, the Committee on Diaconal Ministries (CDM) launched a podcast focused on the office of deacon, called The Reformed Deacon. It was developed with the local Reformed deacon in mind: to help train him, to encourage camaraderie with other deacons, and to educate a greater audience on the role of the deacon. Episodes will include interviews of local deacons, elders, pastors, authors, and others with relevant experience. The podcast will also share case studies and dig into topics often complex or misunderstood. 

The Office of Deacon 

Perhaps you have heard one or more of the following in your church: I can’t hear the preacher—I’m not sure his mic is even on! I’m sure one of the deacons will get to it. Or, I know that family isn’t really making ends meet. I’ll be sure to mention it to one of the deacons. Or, We don’t have enough chairs set up for Sunday school. I’ll let the deacons know. Or, We’re moving next week. I’ll ask the deacons for help. 

The local deacon’s role can sometimes seem to be a kind of catch-all for many of the physical needs of the church, from managing church facilities to aiding a needy family to everything in between. Further complicating their work can be its sensitive nature, along with complex family situations, distrust from those both inside and outside the church, and even dishonest requests for help. This office requires great wisdom! 

In addition, many OPC deacons may be serving their congregation alone, without the benefit of a colleague to commit to regular times of counsel and prayer. Some diaconates are small and spread thin, with somewhat unclear tasks. So what exactly is a deacon’s job, and how can he be better supported in it? 

Supporting Deacons through a Podcast 

The CDM continues to recognize the need to support the local deacon in his God-appointed work, and it prayerfully strives to meet that need. A unique aspect of the CDM’s approach is its great desire to see local deacons supported not only by the committee, but also by one another. There are, after all, nearly one thousand deacons in the OPC, representing hundreds of years of experience! 

Over the years, the CDM has organized gatherings primarily for deacons (three national summits to date and another one in June 2022) and developed training materials, a resource website (OPCCDM.org), a newsletter (The Mercy Minute), and a deacon check-in program (where deacons are partnered in order to take intentional time to talk one on one and are given counsel and financial support). 

And now, there is a podcast, too. 

In its first episode, Tim Hopper, a deacon at Shiloh OPC in Raleigh, North Carolina, said that he reminds himself often that deacons, too, need to sit at Jesus’s feet. “It’s easy for me to be doing things and staying busy,” he said, “and I’m good at making my lists and getting things done, but that’s what Martha was doing, and our Lord told her she needs to sit at his feet . . . My wife often asks, ‘Are you getting to hear the sermon?’” 

In another episode, Dr. Cornelis Van Dam explained that he wrote his book The Deacon: Biblical Foundations for Today’s Ministry of Mercy because, when he was a pastor, newly ordained deacons would ask for resources on the diaconate. “That question always kind of bugged me,” Van Dam said, “because I didn’t think there was a good holistic treatment of the office.” 

Deacons, this podcast is for you, and the CDM hopes you will benefit by listening. For those who are not deacons, the podcast may allow you to better understand and support your local deacons in their work. When you are able, remember to pray for the deacons and elders in your church as they fulfill their calling. They are likely doing more than what you see on Sunday! 

Look for The Reformed Deacon wherever you listen to podcasts. We’d love to hear from you. What topics would you like to hear on this podcast? Go to: opccdm.org/podcast-feedback or email us at mail@thereformeddeacon.org. Find show notes and links at thereformeddeacon.org. 

The author is communications coordinator for the CDM. 


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