New Pastor for Pella OPC church plant

Schiebout familyPastor Zech Schiebout was installed as the minister of Hope Reformed Presbyterian Church, an OPC church plant in Pella, IA, on October 26, 2017. Although illness and losses initially brought the family back to the town where Zech grew up, God provided this new avenue of ministry.

Rev. Mark Vander Hart, Associate Professor at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, IN, led part of the service. He preached from 2 Corinthians 4:7 on “God Shows His Treasure in Jars of Clay.” He spoke about the glory of this treasure, the humility of the container, and the excessive power of God.

He explained an ancient practice of hiding valuables in clay jars and described the gospel as the “gem” and precious treasure that Christians have. He told Pastor Schiebout, “It is the glory of this message that has been given to you to announce.” He encouraged the congregation not to view their new pastor as either “Superman” or “a miracle worker,” but to encourage him in his task. He concluded by emphasizing how the power of Christianity lies not in God’s people or ministers, but in Christ as the head of the church.

Rev. Edward Jensen, pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Des Moines, whose session oversees the Pella church plant, officiated the installation vows.

Rev. Chris Moulton, a seminary classmate of Zech’s and pastor of the Reformation Presbyterian Church in Sheboygan, WI, gave the charge to the new pastor and to the congregation. He read from Ecclesiastes 1 for both charges, focusing on different verses and aspects. In his charge to Zech, he emphasized the importance of verse 3’s question regarding the profit of a man’s labor. “I pray that you will have many years of fruitful labor,” he said, “but before you know it, Zechariah, it will all be over.” He stressed how the only thing that will remain will be the gospel of Jesus Christ. He charged the new pastor, “Preach the gospel.” Rev. Moulton concluded with the last part of 1 Corinthians 15, urging his brother to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work. Then his labor will not be in vain.

In his charge to the congregation, Rev. Moulton noted life’s cyclical patterns and repetitive nature, but how Christians can rejoice in God’s providence through all that. Even with a “new-to-you pastor,” church members can expect a certain level of consistency and repetition because “the same crimson thread of Jesus Christ runs through page after page of Scripture.” He encouraged the people to be as patient and loving to the pastor and his family as they would like him to be with them. Finally, he urged them to be “faithful plodders” along the road to glory on which God has placed them.

Pastor Schiebout is a 2009 graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary and previously served the Gospel of Grace Church (ARP) in Springfield, MO. His position at Hope is not yet full-time. He works about 40 percent of each week for Hope Church and about 60 percent for Eagle Electric (a family business).

Zech and Rachelle Schiebout met in Pella and never anticipated living there again, but they’re enthusiastic about the ministry. “My wife and I love the people of Hope Church and are excited to serve them. I never would have guessed we’d be living in Pella, IA, again, and I would have passed out if someone had told me a few years ago that I would be pastoring a church in a ‘churchey/Christianized’ place like Pella, so our being here is nothing but God turning my plans upside down.”

He realizes that despite Pella’s plethora of churches, many within the community need to hear the gospel. “We want all the hurting, broken, suffering, abused, cynical, abandoned, anxious, lonely and hopeless people (sinners like us) with whom we come into contact to find the same healing and hope in the good news of Jesus that we have found.”

Hope began in 2005, under the church planting efforts of Rev. Chuck Muether, who now serves as Director of Advancement for Heidelberg Theological Seminary. The church has seen changes in membership and meeting location since its early years. John Fikkert, an ordained Teacher in the OPC who attends (and sometimes preaches) at Hope and serves on the overseeing session, believes organization is on the horizon.

In its goal toward becoming self-governing, the church has elder candidates but not elders. Not being fully self-sustaining, it cannot pay its new pastor a full-time salary. But the hope is to meet both goals in the near future. “I actually think we are close on both counts,” he said. “Prayerfully, and by God’s grace, I think things could pull together in the next year or two.”

The congregation meets in the Memorial Building on Pella’s square. Sunday school for children and adults is at 9:15, followed by morning worship at 10:15. Evening worship begins at 5:30. Pastor Schiebout teaches a leadership group for men. And the group hopes to develop strategies to serve and reach the lost. For more information, visit the church’s website.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 11 & 12 of the January 19, 2018, issue of Christian Renewal.


Pella’s heritage: Broken teacups and blooming tulips


canalDuring the first week of May, 300,000 tulips in beds lining streets and filling parks of Pella, IA, usually bloom. Whatever the condition of blossoms, local people celebrate their Dutch heritage with an extravaganza of colorful parades, folk dancing, interesting exhibits, and delicious food. Copious amounts of food. Visitors can feed their inner child with funnel cakes, cotton candy, and sno-cones. Ethnic foods range from walking tacos to egg rolls. But highlights for those who graze their way through the three days are distinctly Dutch delights like poffertjies (tiny custardy pancakes), stroopwafels (small round waffles with syrup layered between), and vet bollen (deep-fried dough balls filled with raisins and covered with sugar). Pella bologna can be purchased in many forms, including on a stick. And tourists wait in long bakery lines to buy pastries, especially almond-filled Dutch letters, shaped like an S.

Each year, over 100,000 people flock to Pella’s Tulip Festival to eat the food and see the sights. A successful festival depends in large part on thousands of local volunteers who do everything from donning authentic costumes and scrubbing streets to pushing their babies through the parade in antique buggies. Generations of families carry on such activities as treasured traditions.

baby-paradeMany participants descend from Dutch grandparents or great-grandparents who settled in the area. A few trace their lineage to Dominie Scholte, the minister who led about 800 immigrants to America in 1847 to escape famine and religious oppression in the Netherlands. The colonists determined to name their New World settlement Pella, based on the Decapolis city where Christians found sustenance and refuge when fleeing from Jerusalem in the first century.

Most of the Holland Colony camped outside St. Louis, while Scholte and two other men scouted for a suitable site in Iowa. The three selected a spot on the fertile prairie between the Skunk and Des Moines Rivers and purchased 18,000 acres at about $1.25 per acre (land in the area now can sell for $6,000-8,000/acre).

Many of the families initially lived together in a large shed constructed for shelter. Some stayed in sod houses for two winters, until they could afford to build more permanent homes. A few, like the Scholtes, moved into cabins purchased from previous inhabitants.

Scholte’s wife, Mareah, may have been the most reluctant settler. Accustomed to a more genteel life, she found it difficult to adjust to pioneer living. Although an accomplished woman, she is remembered for crying over broken china. Only a few items of her prized blue and white Delft survived the voyage. The remaining pieces paved a path from the family’s original cabin to the two-story house Scholte built to assuage his wife’s longing for her old home.

windmillAlthough the Scholtes are often idealized, they were flawed people. But the biblical record repeatedly shows how God uses broken people for His purpose. We are jars of clay—often cracked—through which the light of Christ shines by His grace (2 Corinthians 4:6–7).

Not every settler agreed with Scholte’s theological convictions. Some refrained from joining his church, believing that it did not follow the church order adopted at Dort. Later immigrants of similar beliefs joined with earlier settlers in establishing the True Dutch Reformed Church in 1866. The first congregation of its denomination west of the Mississippi River, this church became the First Christian Reformed Church, which still exists, and from which Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) and many other local and far-flung Reformed congregations sprang.

Nearly half of Pella’s almost 30 Christian churches remain Reformed in theological perspective. They embrace doctrines of grace often summarized by the TULIP acronym: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance (or better, Preservation) of the saints. When it comes to the Reformed faith, you could say tulips bloom year around in Pella.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 18 & 19 of the June 15, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

Conference on the Heart in Pella

A. Craig Troxel
A. Craig Troxel

The annual fall conference at Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, IA (November, 2014), explored the crucial question, “Where’s Your Heart?”

Speaker A. Craig Troxel, pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Wheaton, IL, and Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA, shared wisdom from his upcoming book on the subject.

“My book is a biblical and practical exposition of Scripture’s most used word (“heart”), which conveys the unity and complexity of our inner nature, and particularly what we know (our mind), love (our desires) and choose (our will). It explores the significance of this complexity for how we understand our sin, and ultimately, how we understand the renewal of our hearts by Christ in his work as a prophet, priest and king.”

The conference included meetings on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and evening (with a soup supper between those two lectures), and during the church school hour on Sunday morning. Dr. Troxel also preached at Sunday morning’s worship service.

Barb V. and Dr. Troxel
Barb V. and Dr. Troxel

Dr. Troxel began his presentations by showing how the Bible describes the integrity of the inner person through the comprehensive term “heart,” which is used over 900 times in scripture.

“When you see the word ‘heart’ in Scripture, think ‘all the heart’ and keep the totality in view,” he said. “Our use should be grounded in Scripture.”

Troxel’s lecture on knowing discussed the mind of the heart, the sin of “knowing better,” and Christ as the prophet of the mind. He noted that the word ‘heart’ is not only the most popular, but also the most misused when “pitting head against heart.”

“The heart is very cognitive,” he said. He cited multiple biblical texts about how the heart “comprehends mind” and encouraged hearers not to put “heart and mind in tension” or feel as if they must “choose between heart and mind.”

The session on loving explored the desires of the heart, the iniquity of “perverted love,” and Christ as priest who corrects and consecrates our desires.

“What do we hunger and thirst for?” asked Dr. Troxel. “What receives the best of our thinking and energy?” Referring to Matthew 5:8, he defined “pure in heart” as a heart without mixture, not divided or distracted by other loyalties, evidenced in “undivided devotion to each other” and “dedicated to serve God with singular purpose.”

He said, “Christ wants his song to be so beautiful in our hearts that we won’t want to hear anything else.”

His talk on choosing described the will of the heart, our rebel choices, and Christ as king who enables us to make obedient choices.

“Even a decision to sit it out is an act of the will,” he said. In contrast to the hardened heart (fat, layered, calloused, insensitive, stubborn, proud) of a stiff-necked person, God desires the broken and contrite heart (tender hearted, sensitive, bending to God’s will) of a humble person. The submissive heart finds courage and is strong in the Lord.

Dr. Troxel with his daughter and her husband
Dr. Troxel with his daughter and her husband

His final presentation touched on keeping the heart by the power of our Lord-Protector through what you see and hear.

“Orchestras all begin concerts the same way, by tuning. Cars need tuning. Our hearts fall out of tune,” he said. “We need to open God’s word, asking, ‘Search me and know my heart. Show me. Where’s my heart?’ The smallest sin can cause big trouble. It all starts in the heart.”

In a later interview, he explained that his interest in the comprehensive character of the heart was piqued by his preaching on Psalm 51, when he noticed the “cluster of words” used for sin (sin, iniquity, and transgression). That experience coupled with his concerns about “anti-intellectualism in the church” and an “ongoing interest in the Puritans” fueled his intense study regarding the biblical concept of heart.

“Last of all, I think also my feeble and disingenuous efforts at self-examination moved me to drill down further into this area,” he said. “In one sense, I regret doing so because the results have been painful.”

“The significance of this study is that only by knowing the heart can we get at our real motives, or pursue sincerity and avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy, or learn how to grow in sincere repentance, faith and renewal, or encourage our fellow believers with greater clarity, or become more honest and helpful in our communication in marriage, or improve in our shepherding insights as leaders in the church,” he said. “These are the benefits of knowing and watching our hearts with greater insight.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 17 & 21 of the December 17, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Short meeting for URC Classis Central US

Pablo and Verenisse receive congratulations.

In contrast to the September meeting of Classis Central US of the URCNA—which ran out of time to discuss the four overtures on its agenda—the March 3 & 4, 2014, meeting was the shortest in most delegates’ memory. A contributing factor was an abbreviated exam with a prompt decision. Another reason was that discussion on five overtures was not protracted. But the primary factor was the unusual absence of credential requests for advice, which can be a time-consuming activity conducted in executive session.

Delegates voted to revise the agenda in order to accommodate the candidacy examination of  Pablo Landázuri on Monday evening. Because he’d already sustained the other six portions at the September Classis meeting, this exam consisted of only two sections. Rev. Jacques Roets (Redeemer URC in Dyer, IN) examined Pablo on Bible Knowledge and Rev. Simon Lievaart (Doon URC in Doon, IA) questioned him regarding Confessional Knowledge.

The consistory of Faith URC in Beecher, IL, supervises Pablo. Following the time of questioning, the Faith URC consistory determined, and Classis concurred, that he had sustained the areas of biblical and confessional knowledge.

Pablo later reflected, “My main thought is that God, once again, has shown me how his fatherly hand works in all situations. I have had the great privilege to have the time to study the Scriptures and the Three Forms of Unity in a detail that I wouldn’t have had in any other situation, for which I am thankful. Also, I have learned that the result of a Classis examination is not only an intellectual exercise, but a spiritual one by which God has molded me and shown his will for the future. This is a very comforting feeling.”

Since June of 2013, Pablo has been serving an internship at Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, IA. He has assisted Rev. Doug Barnes in a variety of pastoral duties, regularly taught fifth grade catechism, provided Spanish instruction at a local Christian school, led Bible studies in Spanish for some area families, and frequently preached at Covenant or other churches. His wife, Verenisse, volunteered in the Spanish language immersion program at Pella Christian Grade School.

Classis decided to waive Pablo’s ordination exam, should he accept a call within Classis Central US. That is likely, given that Covenant Reformed Church has been working to develop a Joint Venture Committee to support his work when he returns to Ecuador.

Rev. Barnes said, “We’re delighted at how well our brother did on his examination. Our Council plans to meet within the next few days, in part to finish laying the groundwork for holding a congregational meeting to extend a call to Pablo. Lord willing, we hope to ordain him before his return to Ecuador in June. There’s a lot to do between now and when the Landázuri family leaves, but we know that God is entirely able to ensure that it all gets done well. We urge the churches to keep Pablo and his family, along with our Consistory, in prayer as we seek God’s help in bringing a strong Reformed witness to Quito, Ecuador.”

Classis met earlier than its regularly scheduled date in order to vote on five overtures prior to the deadline for synodical materials. Three came from Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, one from Covenant Reformed Church in Kansas City, and one from Grace URC in Waupun, WI.

Revs. Spencer Aalsburg, Bradd Nymeyer, and Keith Davis enjoy a break.
Revs. Spencer Aalsburg, Bradd Nymeyer, and Keith Davis enjoy a break.

The first overture from Pella would request Synod Visalia 2014 to editorially revise Classis credentials. URCNA Church Order stipulates that Consistories delegate two of its members to attend Classis and Synod meetings, but the approved classical credential uses the word “council” rather than “Consistory.” This overture requests editorial revision of the current classical credential to replace “council” with “Consistory” throughout the form. After little discussion, the overture passed.

A second overture from Pella and the one from Kansas City both suggested the appointment of a synodical committee to study the matter of resignation. Brothers from the churches made clear that neither had been aware of the other’s work on the overtures. Classis delegates considered the two overtures separately because each had its own nuances.

In discussion regarding the Pella overture, concerns were expressed regarding adopting a blanket approach that failed to consider each unique situation of individuals. After some discussion, the overture passed with only a few dissenting votes.

The Kansas City overture generated more discussion, related primarily to terminology. Several brothers felt uncomfortable with the word “desertion,” which was used in this overture. Rev. John Vermeer said, “It sounds like the word already is presuming culpability.”

Although Rev. Harold Miller expressed the belief that the overture primarily spoke to the issue of a person already under discipline, Rev. Bradd Nymeyer felt that was not clear. After another concern was expressed relating to possible legal ramifications, the delegates amended the overture with a question relating to that matter. The revised overture passed, but with many dissenting votes.

The third overture from Pella requested clarification of the status of the Three Forms of Unity and consisted of two affirmations that delegates considered separately. The first called for Synod to affirm the Three Forms of Unity as they appear in the 1976 version of the Psalter Hymnal. The second called for Synod to affirm the “substitute statement,” which appeared as a footnote in the 1958 version of Belgic Confession Article 36, “as part of its confessional binding.” Rev. Barnes explained that the footnote had been approved by the CRCNA Synod of 1958, but the temporary footnote was used while awaiting feedback from other Reformed churches.

The first affirmation passed with a few negative votes, while the second passed without dissent. The above four overtures will now be forwarded to the federation’s Stated Clerk for inclusion on the agenda for Synod Visalia 2014.

The overture from Grace URC in Waupun requested revisions to Classis Rules of Procedure and consisted of three requests, considered separately. The first would allow the Clerk to update the Rules of Procedure when changes are made to the Church Order that require revision of corresponding citations in the Rules, as long as he reports such changes to Classis. The motion was adopted. The second suggested the Clerk remind consistories that seminarians under their care be encouraged to attend Classis meetings at which candidacy exams are scheduled. That motion was defeated. The third suggested changing the word “delegate” to “member” at two points in the Classis Rules of Procedure, and it passed unanimously.

While a total absence of request for advice is extremely rare, this doesn’t mean that the churches are not dealing with many pastoral concerns. It simply means that no consistory felt the need to request advice at this time. Some have recently moved beyond that point and others have not quite reached that point with discipline problems.

DSCN3722Before lunch, delegates finished their business: re-electing Rev. Jody Lucero to serve on the Missions Committee, continuing the Clerk’s current $1,200 annual remuneration, appointing the consistory of Sioux Center United Reformed Church to supervise the Classical Treasurer, and electing elder Martin Nuiver (Faith URC in Beecher, IL) to serve on CECCA.

Redeemer URC in Orange City, IA, convened this meeting, but had asked Covenant Reformed Church in Pella to host it. Rev. Todd De Rooy served as chairman, Rev. Doug Barnes served as vice-chairman, and Rev. Talman Wagenmaker is currently Classical Clerk.

The date for the next meeting of Classis Central US was set for September 15 & 16, 2014. Covenant Reformed Church of Pella, IA, is next in rotation to host and convene.

A slightly edited version of this article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 13 & 14 of the March 26, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Prayer for All Seasons conference in Pella

Bruce & Rochelle De Bruin chat with Rev. Steel
Bruce & Rochelle De Bruin chat with Rev. Steel

The Heidelberg Catechism calls prayer the most important part of thankfulness. Many Reformed church orders list prayer as the primary responsibility of the minister, elder, and deacon. Yet few North American churches participate in corporate prayer as much as Christians in other parts of the world.

A conference on “Prayer for All Seasons” at Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Pella, IA, stressed the importance of prayer in developing a more intimate personal relationship with God, but also emphasized the crucial role of corporate prayer in the growth of the church.

Rev. Ron Steel, Eastbridge Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Mt. Pleasant, SC, spoke on the evenings of November 1 & 2, 2013, about the power, purpose, problem, and pattern of prayer.

Speaking about the power of prayer, Rev. Steel immediately captured audience attention with statistics showing that as many as 30% of all Christians who’ve ever lived have been converted since 1990. He cited specific examples from countries in Asia and Africa and indicated that Christianity is growing nearly everywhere except for Japan, Australia, Western Europe, and North America. The common denominator for church growth is corporate prayer.

He stressed its importance and effectiveness through several biblical passages, noting especially that the first word of the Lord’s Prayer is “our,” which conveys the community of corporate prayer.

In the section on the purpose of prayer, Rev. Steel defined prayer as “relationship with God,” emphasizing “with” as a proper understanding of that relationship. He said, “We must relate our way into obedience, not obey our way into relationship.”

He spoke of the “practice of the presence” as an awareness of God in every activity. He noted that Jesus described the “essence of fruitful Christian living” as “abiding” (John 15). He said, “You need a brain pickled in the Scriptures and a soul prostrate before the Sovereign One.”

The problem of prayer is that we want to pray because we are created in the image of God, but we can’t pray because “sin is choking our prayer voice.” He said, “Sin stands on our spiritual air hose.”

Rev. Steel noted that prayer isn’t a matter of methodology, but of motivation.

He listed several “prayer resistors” that interfere with our prayers, noting our penchant for “religious fantasies that do not disturb our comforts rather than religious realities that demand we change.” He said, “We are intrigued with God rather than intimate with Him.”

Although prayer can be uncomfortable because it actually intensifies an awareness of our sin, we must “run the gauntlet” until we “come to the place where we see the ineptitude of our prayer life without being overwhelmed.” He encouraged listeners to rejoice in the knowledge that it’s sinners who get to have a Savior: “We won’t accept or enjoy His Saviorhood, if we do not accept our sinnerhood.”

Using several biblical texts, he showed how we have “access to the Holy God Almighty now, like a child leaping into the arms of a dear father.” Prayer is the fulfillment of the ark and “mercy seat” in the holy of holies, but the doorway is an acknowledgement of our acceptance only through the merits of Jesus Christ. We need to be humble. He said, “Self-reliance is the great spiritual problem behind our prayerlessness.”

The pattern of prayer is rooted in Jesus’ teaching to “ask,” which should be done with “an acquiescent spirit.” We shouldn’t fall into the sins of either not asking or asking selfishly. “The heart posture of prayer is intimate, but not irreverent,” he said, “importunate [asking persistently], but not impudent.”

“Intimacy requires honesty,” he continued. “Jesus was honest with the Father. It is the combination of both sincere petition and submissive prostration.” These two elements in prayer strengthen our relationship with God and deepen our faith.

crowdHe concluded the sessions by talking about the biblical pattern of pleading in prayer, using examples from Job and the Psalms, and encouraged hearers to practice writing out their prayers.

At the morning service on November 3, Rev. Steel preached from Genesis 13 and Hebrews 11:8-11 on “Profiles in Prayer: Abraham, the Man of Faith.” He used the example of Abraham to show how Crises challenge our confidence in God, Our choices reflect our character, Our choices yield consequences, and God confirms His commitment to those who cling to Him.

“Christ has been treated as we deserve so we could be treated as He deserves,” he began. He noted that Abraham was “no tower of moral virtue,” and showed how in the Egyptian crisis Abraham failed to pray for guidance, consulting his own wisdom rather than God’s. He said, “He wasn’t called to live naturally, but supernaturally.”

After Abraham returned to prayerful worship, he was able to make better choices. Rev. Steel compared Lot’s choice of the fertile valley with Abraham’s increasing dependence upon God. He said, “When the Lord is your portion, you can hold lightly to the things of this world.” He noted Abraham’s authenticity in contrast to Lot’s “self-serving religiosity.”

Lot’s choice of temporal gain over eternal gain resulted in his loss of all he held dear, wealth and status—even his wife. Rev. Steel said, “The world and its desire pass away, but the man of God lives forever.” He noted the implications of Abraham’s different actions when he “pitched his tent,” but “built an altar.”

About 125 people attended the Friday and Saturday conference sessions.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12-13 of the December 11, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.

Barnes family settles in at Covenant Pella

After a vacancy of 20 months, Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, IA, welcomed its new pastor when Rev. Doug Barnes was installed on August 19, 2012.

Dr. Cornel Venema, under whom Rev. Barnes studied at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, and Rev. Spencer Aalsburg, a close colleague of Rev. Barnes, led most of the morning worship, while the newly installed Rev. Barnes concluded the service.

From 1 Peter 5:1-11 with a focus on verses 1-4, Dr. Venema spoke on “Shepherding God’s Flock.” He described the shepherd’s role, readiness, and reward. He first urged members of the congregation to pray for their pastor: “Out of your own bitter experience as a congregation, you go down upon your knees, and you beg God the Father that he would supply you, by means of this your undershepherd, with the care and keeping that this dear flock of the Lord Jesus so desperately needs.”

He encouraged the pastor in his role to feed and guard the flock as a shepherd who leads the sheep in green pastures and “guards them against predators, against whom they are defenseless.”

“If I am to be a representative of the Good Shepherd who went all the way down, deep down to the bitter death, the painful death of the cross, out of the love where with he loved us,” he said, “God forbid that I should treat one of his little lambs in any manner incompatible with the Shepherd whom I represent.”

Dr. Venema spoke of the readiness of Christ, who took the form of a servant: “We too are called, all of us, to humble ourselves…. You pray the God of all grace that he perfect, establish, strengthen you and all of us. Don’t point the finger. But pray God that we too in the flock would care deeply for each other as members of this holy flock, cherished and loved of God in Christ.”

The reward for undershepherds and all of us will be when the Chief Shepherd appears and says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Here is the crown of glory that does not fade away.”

“We all will stand in the presence of our king to whom we must render an account of our stewardship,” Dr. Venema concluded. “Isn’t that wondrous to imagine? That when our work is finished…there stands the Great Shepherd ready to acknowledge the work that we have done in his name.”

Dr. Venema also presided over the first section of the installation portion of the service, reading the Form of Subscription followed by the vows of the minister and the congregation. Rev. Aalsburg gave the charge to the minister, based on 1 Timothy 4:6-16, and the charge to the congregation from Romans 10:14-17. A double mixed quartet sang, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” as an offertory. Rev. Barnes concluded the installation service by pronouncing the benediction.

Rev. Doug and Grace Barnes have six children. Grace grew up in Florida and northwest Iowa as the daughter of Rev. Ralph Pontier. Having been raised in the UnitedMethodistChurch in western Pennsylvania, Rev. Barnes was introduced to Reformed theology at GenevaCollege, where he and Grace met and both joined the RPCNA. Rev. Barnes graduated from Mid-America Reformed Seminary in 2004 and subsequently served in the Hills URC (MN) for eight years.

“Moving to Pella was an adventure in trusting God’s guidance,” he says. “Grace and I had owned two homes prior to taking up residence at the parsonage in Hills, so we knew how long it generally takes to buy a house.” He explains that they made a “whirlwind trip to Pella, praying fervently that God would lead us to the place He had prepared for us.” After a long day of looking, they had narrowed the possibilities down to two. The next day they purchased a home that he says “has proven time and again to be perfectly suited to the needs of our family.”

“Of course, God’s timing and provision were evident at every turn—from the house to which He led us, to the kind welcome we’ve received from the church family, to the warm welcome our children have received at their new school,” he adds.

“Moving from Hills was one of the hardest things we’ve had to do as a family—ever. We truly felt that we were leaving our family, and we shed many tears on our final Sunday evening. But we’ve been shown time and again that we’re where God wants us to be, and we pray that He will continue to use us—despite our weaknesses—to bless the church here in Pella. Meanwhile, we’re tremendously eager to see whom God has in store to serve our wonderful brothers and sisters in Hills.”

“As a community, Pella has enjoyed many blessings from God, for which we are thankful,” says Rev. Barnes. “It also presents some unique challenges that should drive us to our knees in prayer.”

“The Covenant church family has been through some exceptionally hard times in the last year and a half. And whenever the church suffers, Satan is quick to dive in and do whatever additional damage he can. I have no illusions about my ability to heal the church. I’m just a man, filled with weaknesses and limitations and blind spots. But God…is abundantlyable to provide all that the church needs and more! That’s where our hope lies. Nothing that the church here has experienced is too great for God to use for our good. But we have the calling to trust Him completely, even when that seems like the path of weakness.”

“Pray for wisdom and humility for me and for the saints here in Pella. Pray that God would use us to magnify His power, His grace, and His glory. Pray that God would replace pain with Christian joy, division with unity in Christ, and despair with the certain hope of the gospel.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 9-10 of the October 24, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.


I’m literally Laughing Out Loud (LOL) as I anticipate today’s Little One Lost (LOL) launch.

Join me this morning as I participate in an hour of prayer and discussion related to the subject of infant loss on local radio station KCWN (99.9 FM). Interspersed with prayer and discussion, host Evelyn Nikkel will play appropriate music and give away copies of my just released book, Little One Lost: Living with Early Infant Loss. You can listen to the broadcast live from 7:30-8:30 AM by tuning in to 99.9 FM or clicking on the “Listen Live” button at KCWN’s website.

Local folks, don’t forget mybook signing this evening from 6:30-8:30 PM at Branches Christian Store in Pella. The “Thursday Night in Pella” activities have, unfortunately, been cancelled due to the extreme heat. But don’t let that deter you from driving downtown in your air-conditioned vehicle (there should be ample parking spaces available for once). Step into the air-conditioned store and stop by the book signing table. If you read my blog, let me know!

Little One Lost: Living with Early Infant Loss is available online from the Reformed Fellowship online store by clicking on “New Titles” under “CATALOGS” at this page.

It can also be ordered from Amazon by clicking here. News flash! Two new reviews posted on Amazon’s Little One Lost page!

Both Reformed Fellowship and Amazon sites feature the following endorsement from Dr. Marvin Olasky, Editor-in-chief of WORLD:

Helpful for those struggling with the questions that occur and reoccur following infant loss, and hopeful because of Christ, Who loses no little ones.

Purchase price online is $10 plus between $3.50-3.99 shipping. But you can save shipping expenses by purchasing at Branches this evening. Hope to see you there!

Space explorer to visit Branches Bookstore May 3

PRESS RELEASE -Yvonne Anderson works part time as a virtual assistant, but spends most of her time on the planet Gannah, researching her books. Her debut novel, The Story in the Stars (first in the space fantasy series “Gateway to Gannah”) was released last June, and the second is expected to land this summer.

Timing her visit to coincide with the Tulip Festival, the author plans to take a break from her space travels to touch down in Pella, where she’ll be autographing her first book in Branches following the Volks Parade on Thursday evening, May 3, 2012.

Anderson is contest administrator for the writers’ blog Novel Rocket, which was named to Writer’s Digest’s list of 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2008, 2010, and 2011. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, The Lost Genre Guild, and International Thriller Writers, Inc. You can read her wise words on her blog, Y’s Words.

About The Story in the Stars:

Ancient Gannah was well on the way to taking over the whole galaxy, until the people of Karkar engineered a virus that stopped them in their tracks. Now, eight centuries later, the plague has struck again. When the League of Planets receives the distress signal, Karkar-born doctor Pik is ordered to find a cure despite his hatred of the whole Gannahan race. By the time he arrives on Gannah, it’s almost too late; Dassa is the only survivor. And she has a mission of her own. 

Dassa and Pik survive a pirate attack, food poisoning, vicious beasts, and a plane crash. But the hardest part is enduring one another’s company. The Creator who wrote the story of redemption in the stars has commanded her to share it with her reluctant savior. That’s not all He expects of her, but the rest is unthinkable. 


 The Story in the Stars is published by Risen Books and is available from Amazon (Kindle or paperback) or Barnes & Noble (Nook or book). Better yet, purchase your author autographed copy at Branches (which is beside the bakeries) in Pella on May 3!