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As another snowfall dusted the city of Ludington, Mich., Cindy de Jong, the new pastor of Lakeside (Christian Reformed) Church, offered ashes and an invitation this past Ash Wednesday.

Among the Scriptures spoken, de Jong offered, “From dust you were made, to dust you shall return.”

In freezing conditions, de Jong and four other pastors representing seven Ludington congregations joined efforts to reach into their community with Ash Wednesday blessings. A few days before Ash Wednesday, a news article in a local paper announced their presence and purpose in the plaza.

“An older man seemed a little surprised to see us there but grateful for the opportunity to receive the ashes,” de Jong reflected. “As I imposed ashes on his forehead with the words ‘Turn from sin and turn to Jesus; may you have a blessed Lent,’ he spoke God’s blessing on me too.”  

De Jong was ordained at Lakeside church just a few months ago. Lakeside elder Lisa Bradley said, “The experience of receiving ashes street side, in the cold and blowing snow, was new for me. I think what was especially meaningful for me was being able to receive them from my pastor. Our church has been without a permanent pastor for a long time, and seeing her standing on the street, waiting to greet me, was lovely.”

The pastors planned this Lenten outreach at one of their monthly lunches. The idea for the Ash Wednesday outreach sprang from one of the pastors’ experience in New York. Some members of this ecumenical group are also planning a joint Good Friday service.

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