Randy Beumer paints a simple picture.
“We all aspire to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.”
In the words of Micah 6:8, Pastor Beumer sees the inspiration behind his Christian Reformed congregation’s support for SPiN Cafe.
“When SPiN was just starting, some members of our church had friendships with people at SPiN. We’ve been preparing the Wednesday night meal here in our church ever since, and taking the food down to SPiN. We’ve been doing it for close to four years.”
Pastor Beumer is quick to pass the credit around for all the work done by church members. Fran Stevens, he says, was key in starting this ongoing commitment to preparing meals for SPiN, and Maryann Rientjes has been Fran’s partner all along.
The crew “likes coming up with new meals, and getting creative with new ways to take care of people. One of the greatest things for me is to see how much our crew enjoys doing this together every week. It’s great fellowship, and they have a great time together, working behind the scenes as a team. They all have this regular time together, providing a hot meal for someone else, and it’s a lot of fun. We celebrate the chance, we feel privileged to have the chance, to be able to help others.”
When his church first started preparing meals, Pastor Beumer went down to SPiN Cafe and got to know people. “This is the ministry of Jesus,” he says, “to care for those in need, clothe the naked, feed the hungry. It’s part of our call to have a gracious response to what God has given us – to spread that kind of favor that we’ve received from God to other people. It’s more than just His word. Word and deed go hand in hand.”
The Christian Reformed Church, in partnership with Oak Harbor United Methodist, took on an extra level of service when the congregation agreed to host the Haven overnight shelter. Beumer remembers a visit from Faith Wilder, board chair of the Whidbey Homeless Coalition, to make an appeal to the church council.
“The timing was right, and we had the space available. The Lord provided a lot of open hearts. We made good connections with the Methodist Church, and we felt we could work together with them.” Beumer acknowledges that some church partnership arrangements don’t work well, but CRC’s church council was confident that this one was well organized. Having another church to work with, he says, really helped to share the load. And now, for nearly two years, The Haven regularly moves between the CRC church on Swantown Road and the Methodist Church downtown.
“We hope there are other churches in line” to share the load, says Beumer. But for now, they gladly continue to serve.
As he continues to discuss community service, Beumer goes back to that humility in the passage from Micah. And he can’t keep from praising his own parishioners for their quiet, low-fanfare dedication.
“We try to see others as better than ourselves. We know we could be there too, in other circumstances. We try to align ourselves with the will of God. People in our church do a lot of things without blowing their horn and trumpeting about it. I’ve been serving here for twelve years and people just keep stepping up and serving, and I don’t always know about it. A crew from our church has been doing laundry regularly at the Haven for two years, on their own time, without being asked, and I didn’t even know… I just recently found out about it.”
Asked about challenges his congregation faces in this relationship, Beumer says “the church sets aside donated funds for this ministry, and our frugal cooking crew finds places that will donate food or provide the best deal, but it’s still a challenge.”
Beumer has a fond memory of visiting SPiN for dinners, and meeting Mary, an older woman who was a regular guest. “She passed away a few years ago,” he says. “But she just wanted to get to know people, have some fellowship in our community. SPiN was a great way for her to connect. She was a blessing. She was lonely, she was on a fixed income, and SPiN provided community for her. SPiN meets more than just a physical need.”
Pastor Beumer and his congregation continue to get reminders of the mutual blessings of their work. In January of 2018, a guest at the Haven had a heart attack and passed away. Church members knew him after he and his friends had attended their Christmas Eve service, so his death struck deep in both communities – Haven guests and CRC members. When the man’s friends asked Beumer to lead a memorial at SPiN, he stepped up without hesitation.
SPiN was packed that day, in that little friendly space, with church members and friends. “It was a privilege and an honor to be there and to help the whole community find closure,” says Beumer.
You can almost see Micah smiling as his lessons – and the blessings – continue to flow.
Oak Harbor Christian Reformed Church is located at: