Rebuilding God’s House: Midwest volunteers help Florida congregation make repairs and improvements

Date Posted: 
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Volunteers from “up north” are encouraging the revitalized ministry underway at North Dade Community Church (NDCC), an RCA congregation in southeastern Florida.

With pastor Newton Fairweather leading, NDCC has found new ways to connect with its community, and its ministries are growing. But NDCC’s 1970s-era building needed a lot of work, and the congregation didn’t have the resources to make repairs.

“I've always enjoyed serving on work projects like these—getting my hands dirty and at the same time connecting with people,” says Craig Slings. When asked to lead a work team to help at North Dade Community, Slings was eager to go. He’s worship and arts director for a campus of Faith Church in Dyer, Indiana.

NDCC draws its members from the community where the church is located, which is low-income. Slings says that as he and the five others in his group visited South Beach and Fort Lauderdale, just a mile or two from the racially diverse community where the church is located, they were struck by the extreme contrast in wealth and lifestyle.

Of their work on the church, Slings says, “I was amazed at what we were able to accomplish. The team rocked; we had great workers and had fun while we were at it.

Serving on this trip was a blessing to us. It’s good to get out of our own little world and serve God in other places.”

Slings says he’s also grateful to have made “a great connection” with Newton Fairweather. Slings says that he, Fairweather, and Charlie Contreras, another Faith Church pastor who went on the trip, stay in touch and encourage each other in their ministry roles.

Fairweather says, “Though NDCC was a part of the RCA for almost 40 years there has always been a feeling of being the strange relative that shows up at the family reunion—a feeling of distance. All those feelings began to change when, in the summer of 2013, a group of people led by David Kool, Dale and Audrey Vredeveld, Charlie Contreras, and Craig Slings showed up at our doorstep offering to help with whatever needed to be done to our worship center.”

Kool is president of Great Lakes Urban, a non-profit organization that supports and plants RCA and CRC urban churches and ministries in the Great Lakes region. The Vredevelds are a retired couple from Fair Haven Ministries in Hudsonville, Michigan, where Dale serves as missions coordinator. For the last two winters, the Vredevelds have parked their fifth-wheel trailer at NDCC for a few months and set to work. They’ve been joined at various times by 27 volunteers from Fair Haven, along with the six from Faith Church.

The volunteers painted the church building inside and out, including the sanctuary and all the classrooms (NDCC runs a preschool). They cleaned and repaired bathroom fixtures, replaced a tile floor, painted the restored the playground surface and equipment, replaced the floor in the sanctuary, fixed plumbing and windows, retiled two bathrooms, and covered a well. They even rewired the sanctuary.

“At first there was a sense of caution, and questions,” says Fairweather. “But as time passed, as we broke bread, laughed together, talked together, the people of North Dade and our guests began to get to know each other.

“During that summer of 2013, the people of North Dade and these friends from the North connected through a common cause of rebuilding God’s house: both the physical structure of the church, and the fellowship of believers that serve the same God.”

“I’ve come to realize how important relationships like this are,” says Slings. “Churches aren’t supposed to be islands to themselves. We need to partner together to better serve God’s kingdom and mission.”

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