In July 14 people from the young people’s group of Beaverdam Christian Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Mich., traveled 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to a growing church plant in Bangor, Maine, for a week of physical labor and community building. The blessing, said Rev. Jonathan Fischer, current pastor of the 12-year-old New Hope Church in Bangor, was “for us to experience not just the capital ‘C’ Church but our denomination, and to build little connections and little bridges so that we’re part of something—not only the universal Church, but we’re also part of this network, that’s really valuable.”
Fischer said being on the geographic edge of the denomination and having a congregation made up of members with few historic ties to the CRC makes it easy to feel removed and disconnected, “even though the denomination has had such a role in nurturing us as we were planted and growing.”
The teens in Hudsonville specifically selected a church to serve that was far from Michigan. “We always try to pick a place that is culturally a bit different than what the kids experience every day,” said Rev. Tyler Wagenmaker, pastor of Beaverdam CRC, one of the leaders on the trip. The congregation, with 135 years of history, was able to fund the trip and take care of their own needs for the week as well as to finance the work projects they undertook. Fischer said that made a big difference. “They brought crockpots of food and organized everything that way . . . and certainly the work was a huge blessing, particularly because they came with materials and a budget.”
New Hope Church meets for worship at Penobscot Christian School, where the Hudsonville group stayed during their working visit. Between July 10 and 14, landscape and improvement projects were carried out at the school, at homes of some church members, and at a community pregnancy center.
Beaverdam CRC has held eight such service projects in the past, visiting churches in Mississippi, New Jersey, and more, every other year since 2000. “We try to intentionally seek out a church and work with a church because that’s where people in that local community are connected to God’s kingdom in a concrete, tangible way,” Wagenmaker said. “So if we can do something to help out the local ministry of the church, we figure that’s probably the best way to have a long-term, positive impact on the community.”