Members of First Christian Reformed Church in Oskaloosa, Iowa, set out to bless their neighbors this summer with a mission event designed to kickstart love in action. From June 13 to 15 members carried out yard work and simple or more complicated fix-it projects at nine sites around Mahaska County.
“Our prayer for Mission Mahaska was to build relationships within our church and in our community. Our theme was “Love Your Neighbor.” We wanted something for all ages and abilities and that would make it easy for church members to participate,” said Sharon Spoelstra, a member of First CRC who served with five others on the mission’s organizing team.
Spoelstra said they selected the sites through prayer, hearing about needs in the surrounding area and from approaching organizations such as the local senior center to ask where help might be appreciated. In one case, the work carried on through the summer.
“Over the past couple of years, we were made aware of a need at Lakeview Bible Camp. ... If they had a maintenance building, they could empty out other buildings and use them for day camps. We thought this was an opportunity to reach more kids in this area for God. So we started the maintenance building during Mission Mahaska, but it wasn’t complete until July 29. A small group from church continued to work on that as time allowed,” Spoelstra said.
Pastor Jon Spronk participated in Mission Mahaska, leading volunteers through devotions each morning before teams headed off to work sites and dropping in on the various sites to snap photos, lend a hand, and cheer on the work.
“It was a joy to witness a cross-section of our congregation, serving in grand and small ways from a 6-year-old scraping and painting to a 90-year-old fixing a neighbor's picnic table to dozens of men erecting a new large building for a youth Bible camp. … Not only did these projects make an impact in the neighborhood and ministries that were served, but also our church greatly benefited from the fellowship that working alongside fellow church members can bring,” Spronk said.
Spoelstra said the varied tasks, from a bathroom remodel, to make it more accessible for a neighbor living with Parkinson’s disease, to the planting of perennials along a local bike trail, allowed whole families to participate.
Church members Joan and Tony Kunz, who had worked previously on World Renew rebuilding projects in other states, appreciated the opportunity to work together close to home. “This gave us an opportunity to be with people in our own community and reconnect with them and gave us a sense of community involvement,” said Joan. Having worked at the home of an elderly couple nearby, they now have the possibility of an ongoing relationship. “We had wonderful experiences (with World Renew) but then you leave and you’re not connected to your project anymore—you have memories, but you’re not connected to (the people).”
The church hopes to repeat a version of Mission Mahaska every other year.