For Carol Van Ess-Dykema, the work of World Renew is quite simple: loving the world through more than just words. In Van Ess-Dykema’s estimation, that work has always hinged upon partnership with church deacons, both in North America and throughout the world: “Not everyone in the church is called to be a preacher or to be an elder,” she said. “World Renew gives opportunities to people called to be the hands and feet of Christ.”
Daughter of Lou Van Ess, World Renew’s first director, Van Ess-Dykema remembers World Renew from its early beginnings in 1962 as the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. Over the years, she recalls World Renew’s active love coming in all shapes and sizes, and she remembers longing to join in that work.
Upon earning her master’s degree at the University of Michigan during the 1970s, Van Ess-Dykema eagerly accepted a World Renew assignment in Honduras. Based in Tegucigalpa, Van Ess-Dykema worked to respond to Hurricane Fifi and grow local literacy initiatives. During her three-year stint, she also discovered the power of ecumenical cooperation between the Christian Reformed, Moravian, and Presbyterian missionaries in Honduras.
Together, deacons from the local churches worked with World Renew to meet the immediate disaster needs of the Honduran people. Over time, the deacons helped World Renew transition from disaster relief work to community development programs so local families could find opportunity through farming, small business development, education, health, and most importantly their faith. Except for a brief time during the 1980s to collect data for her doctoral dissertation for Georgetown University, Van Ess-Dykema didn’t return to Honduras until February 2020, this time as a member of World Renew’s Global Volunteer Program. She hoped the trip would help her discover how the country had changed and what the work of World Renew there now entailed. She wasn’t disappointed.
“I saw the realities that Honduras is currently facing,” she said. “We learned about unemployment, migration out of the country, and about the gangs who are destabilizing communities where World Renew is trying to work. But World Renew continues to have an impact because it still leverages partner relationships with churches. It still prioritizes the local people’s expertise and knowledge.”
Van Ess-Dykema’s trip reminded her that World Renew has endured because of a commitment to the local church and God’s people. Through the church’s faith and support, communities around the world have found real hope by embracing a love in action that runs deeper than words.