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A unique collaboration between Sunrise Community Church in Austin, Texas, Stephenville Christian Reformed Church in Stephenville, Texas and a Dordt College Putting Love In Action (PLIA) team has resulted in chickens and a chicken coop to help homeless people in Austin.

“We had a Dordt College PLIA group that came down to Austin for Spring Break,” Pastor Mark Hilbelink of Sunrise Community Church said. “It was our first time working with PLIA and one of the girls from the PLIA team happened to be from Stephenville, Texas. We’ve worked with the Stephenville CRC before, but they’re 3 hours from us and part of a different Classis so even though we’re nearby, it’s kind of a distant-close.”

Anya Kalsbeek, the PLIA student from Stephenville, was thrilled by how well the partnership worked out. “In hindsight, I can see how powerfully and thoroughly the Holy Spirit worked throughout the planning and execution of this service trip. When my co-leader and I began coordinating the exact service work that we would be doing while on PLIA, we had no idea how well all the pieces would fall into place. My home church has interacted with Mark's church in the past, but not to this extent.”

Stephenville CRC was originally only asked to provide a meal for the PLIA team while they worked in Austin, but they ended up also donating travel-sized toiletries for homeless people, building a chicken coop, donating four chickens, and providing a truckload of soil and fertilizer for Sunrise’s urban garden.

“We’ll use the chickens and the produce for the homeless ministry and to help the kids—most of our kids come from food deserts where they’re not used to vegetables and how to cook them. It was actually a really good combination of their resources and ours—their assets and our assets,” Hilbelink said.

Pastor Brian Tarpy of Stephenville CRC felt strongly that this kind of collaboration can only make both churches stronger. “Getting involved in another ministry that’s doing different things than you are has rewards, lasting rewards. Seeing how ministry is done in their context can help us to see how maybe we could organize a meal or organize different outreach activities. Their creativity sparks our creativity. This particular collaboration will only grow in general,” he said.

Members from Stephenville CRC traveled to Austin to make and serve a meal for the PLIA team and participate in a worship service, during which the donated chickens were brought onto the stage when the offering was taken.

“I can't emphasize enough how much God worked in us and through us throughout the PLIA Austin experience,” Kalsbeek said. “Only by God's grace could a random group of college students be pulled together, get to Austin from Iowa, and team with two different churches and the homeless to work on a chicken coop and other service projects for a week without completely falling apart. It wasn't through my efforts that this service trip turned out so well, but rather it was God using his people to pour his love into a marginalized population that desperately needs love.”

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