The following article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 15 of the June 29, 2011 issue of Christian Renewal.
After two and a half years of vacancy, Doon URC (Doon, IA) will welcome its own pastor at the end of June.
The church called Simon Lievaart (a 2009 graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary and a Canadian citizen) in July of 2010, and he sustained his Classis Central US ordination exam in September of 2010. The process was delayed when United States immigration authorities denied his visa request early this year. After prayerful consideration, a decision was made to re-apply for the visa.
For nearly a year, therefore, members of the Doon URC have been randomly checking the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, to see if a decision had been made that would allow Mr. Lievaart to come to Doon and serve as the church’s pastor.
“After talking periodically to our state representatives we quite honestly were feeling a little discouraged,” says Doon URC elder Clyde Lems. “The timing was taking much longer than indicated on the United States Immigration website and the representatives continued to monitor the case, but had done what they humanly could. But God knew the case and its timing and our need more than any of us.”
On May 23 a member discovered that the case had been marked “Post Decision Activity” and Mr. Lems says, “There was much celebration at that time!”
After receiving confirmation of immigration approval, Simon and his wife Jodi visited the US Consulate in Vancouver and finally obtained Simon’s religious worker (R-1) visa, which is temporary and will need to be extended at a later date.
“Jodi and I were filled with joy and relief when the visa finally came through,” he says. “We thank the Lord for opening the doors that had been shut for so long. Why it had to be this way, we do not know, but we are glad we can trust the Lord’s timing.”
Mr. Lievaart sees advantages for the churches in Lacombe and Doon. He explains that the timing actually works out quite well for the newly established Parkland South in Lacombe since it anticipates the arrival of Rev. Barry Beukema this summer. And even though the Doon church has been vacant for so long, it will now receive a pastor with two more years of more experience than originally anticipated. It has also been a time of growth for the Lievaarts.
“For my family and me, it was an opportunity to be used by the Lord for a brief time, to mature, to be challenged and to be encouraged through serving the congregations in Lacombe and Ponoka and working with Rev Ramkissoon. There are many blessings to count,” he says. “We were truly blest by the communion of the saints and have a renewed appreciation for the prayers of others. We are so thankful for the prayers offered by many parishioners and many churches across the URCNA.”
The Doon congregation appreciates the prayers of the saints as well.
“Praise God for answered prayer!” says Mr. Lems. “Even though we often experienced some doubts and discouragements, we continued to agree that God’s timing is perfect. We have appreciated the ministers that we have had as pulpit supply over the past years, but now we look forward to having the consistency of a pastor who will minister to the needs of the congregation, while faithfully preaching the Word and administering the sacraments.”
Mr. Lievaart conducted his final services in Lacombe (Parkland South URC) and Ponoka (Parkland URC), AB, on June 5 and preached in Lethbridge (Trinity URC) on June 12.
“It was with heavy hearts that we said good-bye to the brothers and sisters in the Lord that we have grown to love over the last year, but it was also a joyous occasion,” says Mr. Lievaart. “The ordination is a day we are truly looking forward to. It is a day we prayed for prior to seminary.”
The Lievaarts expect to arrive in Doon sometime before June 29, 2011, when the ordination service has been scheduled. Members of area congregations are invited to attend.