Word & Deed ministry expands it borders and broadens its reach

Rick Postma photo courtesy of Word & Deed
Rick Postma
photo courtesy of Word & Deed

Word & Deed has a holistic approach to child sponsorship that addresses the physical and spiritual needs of the entire family. But it is much more than a child sponsorship organization. It also promotes Christian education, orphan care, disaster relief and vocational training as it addresses the spiritual and physical needs of people in the developing world. And it does all this according to biblical principles.

W&D communicates needs and opportunities to North American Christians, while providing accountability and encouragement through partnerships with Christian organizations in other countries. In its work with indigenous organizations, it focuses on the gospel and emphasizes self-sufficiency.

Recognizing its steady growth and increasing network of connections in the Reformed community, Christian Renewal talked with Word & Deed’s Director of Public Relations, Rick Postma, about the organization and its decision to merge with another ministry.

Christian Renewal: Rick, some of our readers may not be acquainted with Word & Deed Ministries or its history. When was Word & Deed organized?

Rick Postma: The Canadian arm was started in 1994 and the US arm in 2001. We work together as Word & Deed North America with sub-committees consisting of board members from both sides of the border overseeing our projects and promotion activities.

CR: Who or what was the driving force behind its organization?

RP: Woord en Daad (Word & Deed in The Netherlands) which began in the 1970s in response to the major earthquake in Guatemala, planted the idea of starting a sister organization in the 1992 timeframe. Key founders of Word & Deed Canada included Rev. Cornelis Pronk (of the Free Reformed Churches) and Bernie Pennings (our Project Director). Key founders of the US arm included Peter Van Kempen and Heidi Pronk.

It was recognized early on that Word & Deed should be a cooperative effort involving like-minded churches and individuals. From the beginning, the board consisted of United Reformed (URC) and Free Reformed (FRC) members with Heritage Reformed, Canadian Reformed and Orthodox Presbyterian board members joining us since then.

L-R: Bernie Pennings, Kara Luiting, John Otten, Heather VanMeppelen-Scheppink, Rich Postma, Hanna Korvemaker, John Kottelberg photo courtesy of Word & Deed
L-R: Bernie Pennings, Kara Luiting, John Otten, Heather VanMeppelen-Scheppink, Rick Postma, Hanna Korvemaker, John Kottelberg
photo courtesy of Word & Deed


CR: How long have you been involved with the Word & Deed team?

RP: I had the privilege of joining in November, 2005. I visited Colombia one week later in what I have called “a tour de force” as far as an introduction to a new job is concerned, including a heart wrenching visit to a home for abused girls just outside Bogota. I haven’t looked back since.

Bernie Pennings, our project director, has been involved since Word & Deed’s inception and John Otten, who ran a hospital in Cubulco, Guatemala, for 17 years before returning to Canada and joining our team is our administration director (he is also project manager for the majority of our Latin American projects).

CR: Word & Deed recently announced its intention to merge at the end of this year with an organization called Children of Light (COL), which is a Canadian charity supporting needy children in Indonesia. In what ways will this merger benefit both organizations?

RP: We have been delighted to welcome a number of organizations to the Word & Deed family over the years. Many readers will recall Adoration Christian Centre (Haiti) joining us in 2011 as well as the St. Luke Hospital Construction Project in the Dominican Republic, earlier this year (CR articles covered both developments).

COL had grown to the point where Andy & Gerda Vandenhaak, founders of the Canadian charity supporting the work, along with their board, realized that it was exceeding their capacity as volunteers to shoulder the workload.

CR: The leaderships of both organizations have met several times and W&D made two investigative trips to Indonesia prior to finalizing merger plans. What led to these meetings exploring merger options and how will the merger work?

RP: Word & Deed’s approach to having other organizations “join the family” includes ensuring that our respective mission and mandate align; that there is agreement on the why/how/who of running projects and that a strong relationship has begun to develop.

When COL heard about Adoration Christian Centre becoming a project of Word & Deed, they approached Word & Deed about doing the same. In addition to the two visits to the field and discussions with COL, a survey was sent to all current supporters of COL and a strong majority indicated their approval of the merger and indicated that they would continue to support the project through child sponsorship. The continued commitment of current supporters was one of the key requirements for the merger to go forward.

As of January 1, 2014, all COL sponsorships and project oversight will be handled by Word & Deed in partnership with the indigenous COL team in West Timor [West Timor is the western half of the island of Timor and is part of Indonesia].

CR: In the past, Christian Renewal reported how Norlan De Groot was able to fulfill a desire for mission work by writing curriculum for Third Millennium while his family remained in their northwest Iowa home. More recently Renewal reported on the creative arrangement Word & Deed developed with Norlan De Groot, allowing him to continue his existing work of writing curriculum for Third Millennium while also performing public relations for Word & Deed. How is that arrangement working out for all those involved?

RP: Word & Deed is very pleased with the arrangement involving Norlan De Groot. We needed someone to help us in the mid-western states and he is a wonderful addition to our team. I met him for breakfast in SiouxCenter last spring [2012] and it quickly became clear that he would be a great fit. After lots of coffee, we came up with the idea of having his work for Third Millennium become a project of Word & Deed. This proposal was approved by both organizations. As a result, he is spending 50% of his time writing theological curriculum for Third Millenium and 50% doing promotion work for Word & Deed Ministries.

[Editorial note: Norlan De Groot has since reported to supporters that he is now spending about 60% of his time promoting Word & Deed and about 40% of his time on the Curriculum Development project.]

CR: What other creative efforts has Word & Deed made to promote cooperative work in Christ’s kingdom

RP: While we work with indigenous churches and organizations, we also partner with a number of the missions of our supporting churches. Some examples include an HIV/AIDS clinic in South Africa with the Heritage Reformed Mission and several projects in Ecuador in partnership with Ecuador Missions (an FRC missions group) which also involves MINTS (a URC ministry – Word & Deed pays for building rental, coordinator and materials).

On the promotion side, we now have 21 Business Groups across North America with members from Reformed and Presbyterian churches who support projects and then, when able, visit the projects they have supported. There are now almost 400 businesses and professionals involved in these groups which meet once per year. Several new groups are planned by the end of the year. For more information please see our website (wordanddeed.org).

CR: What plans has Word & Deed made for the future or what possibilities is it currently exploring?                          

RP: Word & Deed has positioned itself with NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches) member churches, at least those who attend the annual NAPARC missions meeting in Philadelphia (the URC, HRC, ARP, OPC, RPC, Can Ref) as a potential diaconal partner in their missions efforts. In a number of cases, this is already happening.

CR: Why should Reformed Christians support Word & Deed?

RP: As implied by our name, the boards and staff of Word & Deed North America are committed to maintaining a focus on the need for those we seek to help to come to know the Lord as their Saviour and for His people to grow in their relationship with Him. Sadly, far too many organizations having begun well have lost this critical focus. This is also reflected in our commitment to employing a biblical methodology and worldview.

Furthermore, Word & Deed also puts a great deal of focus on project sustainability and local leadership. If at all possible, we prefer to see local projects run by local Christians from day one. In partnership with Reformed churches in Nigeria, for example, we have two Christian schools which have grown to a total of 2,000 students. The project was run by local Reformed Christians from day one (local leadership) and after 12 years, is totally self-funded (sustainability) from an operating cost point of view. After we finish funding an auditorium construction project (designed and built by Nigerians), our support will end in 2014 and we will pull away (I often use the temporary nature of scaffolding in a construction project to picture Word & Deed’s role).

Word & Deed is careful not to take the role of the Church but rather partners with the Church by coming alongside local indigenous churches or the missions of a number of our supporting churches.

Word & Deed began in 1994 with one project – funding John Otten in his role as director overseeing a hospital in Guatemala (he has now joined our team as noted elsewhere). Today, we are supporting 53 projects in 12 countries. We, together with our partners and supporters are, and continue to be, astonished by what the Lord is doing. What a privilege to be involved in this work.

CR: If you could convey one final thing to readers, what would you like them to know about Word & Deed?        

RP: In addition to the three areas of emphasis highlighted above, we covet everyone’s prayers that God would bless all the projects to the salvation of sinners and the extension of His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria!

The above interview by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 15-17 of the December 11, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.


Norlan De Groot: Joining deed with word

The Norlan and Julie De Groot family

After more than six years working from his home as a curriculum writer for Third Millennium ministries, Norlan now also will perform public relations responsibilities in the United States for Word & Deed Ministries. The arrangement joins “deed” employment with his “word” work.

God clearly prepared all parties for this unique cooperation. Before Norlan became involved with Third Millennium, he had communicated with Word & Deed regarding any possible public relations openings. There wasn’t one at that time, but Word & Deed contacted him later—after he’d begun working for Third Millennium—and he wasn’t available. In recent years, Norlan has spent an increasing amount of time raising funds, which resulted in less time writing.

“A few months ago, I decided to look for part-time work to help supplement my income,” he told Christian Renewal. “I was hoping to find work with another Reformed ministry that had an international focus. At about the same time, Word & Deed began advertising for part-time help with their public relations functions. I contacted Word & Deed, and it seemed like a natural fit.”

When Rick Postma, Word & Deed’s Director of Public Relations, traveled to Northwest Iowa a few months ago, he and Norlan had an opportunity to sit down together and discuss options.

“We both agreed that the work of Third Millennium and the work of Word & Deed fit well together,” Norlan says. “We just had to find a creative way to work out the details.”

The biggest question during their discussions revolved around how De Groot could raise support for two organizations without confusing people.

“Word & Deed came up with a unique solution,” he says. “Since the work of Third Millennium fits well within the mission of Word & Deed, Word & Deed made my work with Third Millennium one of the many projects it supports. Word & Deed then offered me a full-time position in ‘Public Relations & Projects’ that includes writing for Third Millennium and doing public relations work for Word & Deed.”

Norlan calls the solution a “winning scenario” for all parties. Third Millennium receives his consistent writing contributions, Word & Deed receives his public relations assistance, he receives a stable salary that allows him to focus on his work, and his supporters can continue contributions to his writing work while exploring new projects through Word & Deed.

Since mornings are his most productive writing hours, De Groot works on curriculum for Third Millennium at that time. During his afternoons and evenings, he focuses on public relations for Word & Deed. Even when he travels for Word & Deed, he brings along his Third Millennium curriculum work on his laptop.

It seems that God has allowed him to walk through an open door while staying in the same room.

“I am so excited that the Lord provided this opportunity for me to serve him in new ways,” says Norlan. “When I started with Third Millennium, I was amazed that the Lord created a way for me to serve his Church around the world from a home office in Sioux Center, Iowa. And now he’s done it again. My work with Third Millennium helps churches train a theologically sound leadership, which strengthens their ministry of the Word. My work with Word & Deed adds another dimension by also providing a way to minister to the physical needs of people in the developing world.”

Norlan’s work can be supported clicking on the “Donate Now (US)” link on the wordanddeed.org website or by sending checks to Word & Deed, PO Box 157, Hudsonville, MI 49426. In either case, gifts should be designated for “curriculum development.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 10 of the August 22, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.