Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

London Outreach: A Labour of Love

Written by Rev. H.A. Bergsma
For several years Mary Overduin, a member of the Free Reformed Church of London, Ontario, has been engaged in an outreach ministry. This work is particularly aimed at visiting elderly and infirm people in the London, Ontario and area hospitals, health centres, retirement homes, and nursing homes. This outreach ministry is unique for our Free Reformed denomination, although such similar work has been carried out in our sister churches in the Netherlands.

London and area, including St. Thomas, is a particularly good area for this kind of work because of its many hospitals, health centres, retirement homes and nursing homes.

Members of various Free Reformed congregations and others who were aware of Ms. OverduinÕs talents and expertise in evangelism and counselling the elderly, lonely, and infirm, nurtured the plan for this work several years ago. Her former labours as mission worker in South Africa and in Guatemala had fitted her for such outreach. The result was the formation of a committee, called London Outreach, consisting of members of several congregations, to organize and seek funds for Ms. Overduin to carry out full-time outreach ministry. The London Outreach committee stands under the direct supervision of the consistory of the London Free Reformed Church, which also hosts its quarterly annual committee meetings.

In order that London Outreach operates in a responsible way and is accountable for its activities, the committee has a chairman, a secretary and a treasurer. Under the supervision of the consistory of the London Free Reformed Church, the committee subscribes to a mandate for its operation and a mandate for Ms. Overduin.

Ms. OverduinÕs mandate is spelled out as follows.

1. She will be occupied with bringing the Good News of the Gospel to elderly, sick and lonely people.

2. This will be done in Nursing Homes, Long-Term Stay Hospitals, Retirement Homes and private homes, to people outside of our denomination in the London area.

3. She will conduct Bible studies in Nursing Homes and wherever the opportunity arises.

4. Her approach toward the Word of God shall be in line with the Reformed persuasion of the Christian faith.

5. She will minister to clients recommended by the CCC (Christian Counselling Centre).

6. Her knowledge of the Spanish language should be used to the utmost among the Spanish speaking community.

7. She will give work reports to the Committee at each board meeting.

8. She will write a report in each newsletter and is responsible for issuing and mailing the newsletters in English and in Dutch.

Opportunities for Service
Since its inception, London Outreach has met with warm approval from area hospitals, health centres, retirement homes, and nursing homes. Ms. Overduin has recently accepted an invitation to become part of the spiritual directorÕs board in one of the retirement homes. This enables her to expand her influence for more biblical help to people. It has opened doors for Ms. Overduin to reach out with the Scriptures and with advice to people who are in need. Her regular visits to residents and patients have been noted with appreciation, and Ms. Overduin has even won the confidence of those with a secular mentality.

Because of her regular presence she has also been given the opportunity to participate in medical and spiritual seminars that keep her up to date on new developments. Recently she took part in several seminars called the ÒDearness Palliative Care Educational Opportunity.Ó It grappled with the question, ÒWhat dying people want,Ó and presented sixteen needs of the dying. Her work provides her, therefore, also with wonderful opportunities for training to qualify her for this work.

Ms. Overduin is much involved with leading Bible study groups in several care residences. Her past experience on the mission field is very helpful and she finds the Bible studies edifying for herself also. There are other occasions when she will sit down with an individual and read a Bible story, or a chapter from some wholesome book. I know of at least one instance where an individual eagerly awaits the weekly visit from Ms. Overduin in order to hear what the next chapter of the book is all about.

Recently I interviewed Ms. Overduin and asked a number of questions.

Question: ÒAre the people appreciative of your work?Ó
Ms. Overduin: ÒMany of the people are very appreciative of the work. As one gets to know them they are waiting for the visit, and I often get comments like: Your visits lift me up spiritually; you made my day; I am so glad you have come. Even the people who are beginning to get more confused show their happiness by the way they smile and show their eagerness when I come. When I had to tell one lady that I would not be able to come the next week because of a meeting, her reaction was: ÔBut that is what I look forward to all week!Õ Ó

Question: What is your greatest fear or concern about your work?Ó
Ms. Overduin: ÒI would say my greatest fear or concern about the work is that I cannot always reach the people with the Gospel and that I am not clearly presenting it to them. I am concerned that even though I bring them the Word, they do not understand and are not saved. There are quite a number who think they are Christians because they have never done anything really bad, or others who say they believe in God, but at the same time do not keep His commandments or also worship saints and the Virgin Mary. Although they listen there seems to be no change.Ó

Question: What have been some of the greatest moments in your work?Ó
Ms. Overduin: ÒSome of the greatest moments in the work happen when people who first did not want me to read the Bible and pray with them, then start asking for it, and seem to be looking forward to it. Also, when people start showing more interest in the Word and I can actually have good discussions and a Bible study with them.Ó

So you see, the work of Ms. Overduin has impacted many people already during the short period of three years that London Outreach has been in existence. By the grace of God she has been able to do this labour of love with enthusiasm and zeal.

Of course this full time labour of love requires financial support. This comes from individual donations and from people as far away as the Netherlands. Several of our churches have pledged regular financial support for this cause, and it is hoped that more of our churches can assist in such financial support.

London Outreach also publishes a quarterly newsletter, which consists of a meditation written by one of our pastors, a report of Ms. OverduinÕs activities, and a financial report of donations and expenses. It would be a wonderful gesture of support if each consistory would permit these quarterly newsletters to be distributed, perhaps by means of a bulletin insert, or placed in the mailboxes of the members of the congregation. Lastly, and certainly not least, please remember this labour of love in your prayers, and so share in this work.

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