By: Rieneke Helder | November 11, 2022
Living justice. Loving mercy. Serving Christ. These words are the slogan of World Renew Canada, an international development organization based in Burlington, with partners and staff in more than 30 countries worldwide. This year, World Renew celebrates its sixtieth anniversary: sixty years of seeking to faithfully live out these words that have undergirded their mission.
Peter Bulthuis, Constituency Relations Team Lead at World Renew Canada, is energetic, passionate, and filled with nothing but excitement at the idea of sharing stories about what he gets to be a part of with his work:
“I connect communities in North America with the work of World Renew. This includes churches, schools, and donors, so that folks in North America have a good sense of what World Renew does. Yes, I help to coordinate a financial foundation for World Renew, but a large part of [my job] is also building a community of prayer over us so that World Renew can do what it has to do. People will donate to, as well as connect and engage with, something that they feel is important to them. We must share with people the importance of what we are doing for the kingdom and for the renewal of the world—hence our name.
“A large portion of the Christian Reformed Church in Canada started with immigrants from The Netherlands in the 1950s. Not long after that, in 1962, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee was started in both the US and Canada, eventually renaming it to World Renew. As much as the CRC tradition grew up with World Renew, I also grew up with World Renew. Later on as a teacher, I would always use the CRWRC as a great example of what development and disaster response ought to be.
“The best part of my job? The inspiration that I see when people around the world live into their God-given potential. We have the chance to walk alongside them, inspire them, and be inspired by them. I get to be part of something significant that God is doing.
“The more that our work is contextualized in both truth and culture (a dynamic tension to be sure), the better. This world has been impacted by sin, and we need to counteract the impacts of sin to bring the full gospel of God, the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Disaster response, development, and justice are all related, but the way we interact with and respond to these areas must be different. In cases of disaster response, justice may look like bringing a cup of cold water to the thirsty. It is important to distinguish, however, between disaster response and development. In the case of the latter, our work may look more like drilling a well with a community which decided that a well was a priority.”
Confusing disaster response with development is like giving someone a diploma without actually requiring them to go to school. In the short term, they may be able to secure a job quickly and earn what they need to live day-to-day, but quickly it will be apparent that they do not have the required learning to sustain themselves for long. To develop rather than distribute quick material goods when the issues are deep-seated and systemic is, ultimately, to prioritize the dignity of the individuals you are trying to help. That is how one does healthy, productive development work that engages the whole person and promotes their specific flourishing.
Redeemer alumnus David Schuurman spent time as a World Renew student delegate during his undergraduate degree. As an international development major, Schuurman encountered World Renew eager to gain experience in his field and engage with the work they do. For Schuurman, the organization was just as excited to collaborate with him and make an opportunity work out:
“More than most other organizations I’ve interacted with, World Renew has a big heart for making it easy to get readily involved with them. For anyone who has an interest in learning, not just about international development but about other topics like awareness of other cultures and helping people well, they do a really great job in making themselves available.
“[Additionally,] World Renew exists very thoughtfully in what they do. Getting involved with them means learning more about what it means to be a good global citizen. They don’t care about flooding your brain with donation requests or their propaganda. They just want to make good global citizens.
“I started getting involved with them in high school, where some friends and I fundraised around $20,000 for World Renew’s gender and justice program in Nigeria (as well as in other places). Once I became the student delegate at Redeemer, I would set up booths on campus, talk about what World Renew was doing, and occasionally stop by the office. One year I had the opportunity to join the justice leadership trip, where I got to participate in advocacy work in Ottawa with World Renew and Canadian Foodgrains Bank. I ended up leading the trip another year. They helped me to plan a conference we called ‘Learn to Serve,’ which took place at Redeemer and had about eighty or ninety students in attendance. One of the last things I did with them was spend two months in Amuria, Uganda with World Renew for my program’s internship.”
Schuurman is not the only young adult that has collaborated with them, and he definitely will not be the last. World Renew values the perspective of youth, believing that they bring a lot to the table.
“All of us, irrespective of age, are called to do God’s will,” Bulthuis shared. “That is, to live love, be merciful, and be just. Locally, provincially, globally—it’s all important. There has never been an internship that we felt did not go well; there has always been a wonderful reciprocal relationship. Anytime someone wants to apply, our response is, ‘Let’s see if we can make it work.’”
There is much potential for more overlap between the communities of World Renew and Redeemer. With both organizations being based in the greater Hamilton area, a relationship between the two is both natural and beneficial. When asked what that relationship between the two might look like going forward, Bulthuis emphasized the internship opportunities there might be for Redeemer students.
“Internships can be many things,” he shared. “They are normally in the office, but they have also been longer and away from North America… We very often find places for people if they want to do it. Since we are a global organization, it is not as though someone can volunteer five hours a week in, say, Mozambique; our work is in other countries. Prayer, fundraising, learning—those are the kinds of things that young people can do.”
Regardless of denomination or experience, World Renew is eagerly anticipating more Redeemer student engagement. Schuurman encourages, “Just because it’s a ministry of the CRC does not mean they only hire or work with those who are part of CRC churches; they are very non-exclusive in that regard.”
To get involved or learn more about World Renew and the work they do (or to wish them a happy sixtieth birthday!), reach out to Iona Buisman, Peter Bulthuis, or Rieneke Helder, your current World Renew student delegate.