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Pastor John Hoekwater held a Christmas Eve service in a north Chicago coffee shop, not in the nearby building where his congregation, Many Peoples Christian Reformed Church, rents space for worship on Sunday mornings.

Many of the church’s members were out of town for the holidays. Gathering in The Common Cup coffee shop made sense, especially since the service would be particularly for community members—people who are elderly or poor, people with mental disabilities, and those dealing with drug addictions—who had no other place to go.

Many Peoples was founded in 2001 and was helped on its journey for several years by Christian Reformed Home Missions, which has increasingly put its focus on helping churches to do mission in their neighborhoods.

“Many Peoples is a good example of a church that sees its neighborhood as its mission field,” said Peter Kelder, a Home Missions regional leader for the Chicago area. “They have partnered with their neighbors in a variety of ways and shown compassion for people and a zeal for justice.”

Among the church’s ministry efforts has been turning an unused greenhouse in the local public school into a working greenhouse at which young people can work. Many Peoples Church also coordinates a partnership with the school so that the greenhouse helps support A Just Harvest, which provides meals for up to 200 people every day.

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