What does a multiethnic church from Philadelphia, Penn., have in common with a suburban church in Salem, Ore.? Both churches have discovered the answer: a lot.
Philadelphia drama team performs at Oregon vacation Bible school.
Recently a team of eight people from By Grace Alone Christian Reformed Church in Philadelphia visited Sunnyslope Christian Reformed Church in Salem to help with its annual vacation Bible school and to serve a local shelter for people who are homeless.
Last summer a team from Sunnyslope went to Philadelphia to assist with its Business Boot Camp for middle schoolers.
The “Salem-Philly Connect” was the brainchild of Sunnyslope’s pastor Rob Toornstra and his wife, Amy. “From the beginning, we wanted this not just to be a service project—it was vital that this be a learning trip, with a goal of understanding urban community mission work,” Rob explained. “We felt that if we could bring members of our church up close and personal with urban CRCs, that might help our church expand our vision for community ministry.”
“The beauty of our model, I think, is that it was conceived as a partnership,” continued Toornstra. “We were equal partners who had a great deal to learn from one another. We were so different in so many ways—racially, economically, ethnically, and in ministry style—yet we gained so much from working together.”
“They are so gifted in many areas like drama, music, and leadership that it is a tremendous blessing to partner with them,” added Amy.
By Grace Alone’s pastor, Gabriel Wang-Herrera, agreed. “We were blessed as we interacted with the children and youth, [but] what we experienced most profoundly was the love of Christ through our family at Sunnyslope,” he said. “I would wholeheartedly recommend an exchange like this to other Christian Reformed churches—it serves to bring all of God’s people together to continue to advance the kingdom of our God.”