Mary and Mark De Jong own a greenhouse business in Pella, Iowa. But God has called them to nurture far more than just flowers.
The couple has worked with youth at Faith Christian Reformed Church for more than 30 years.
“When we adopted our two children, we became very aware of the need for our church family’s support,” says 69-year old Mary. So when the De Jongs were asked to be youth leaders, they agreed.
Mary isn’t concerned about the age difference between themselves and the youth they serve.
“We’ve taken a kind of grandparent role. If you care about and spend time with—and feed—young people, you connect with kids who may not fit in otherwise.”
“They keep us young and energized,” she added.
A few months ago, they undertook an important challenge: coming up with new study materials that would engage the youth.
Both Today and Groundwork are produced by ReFrame Media, the English outreach of Back to God Ministries International. Groundwork is a weekly conversational program that unpacks the richness of God’s word with particular insight for today. It is produced in partnership with Words of Hope.
At first, Mary wasn’t sure about the theme of the study: The Seven Deadly Sins. “I didn’t really know what this was all about, but researched more, and began to believe that it would be good for the kids to be equipped with knowledge of the seven deadly sins.”
The De Jongs discussed the study with their church’s adult small group leaders, who agreed it could be an important study for youth. In fact, they decided Faith CRC’s small groups would benefit from studying the same thing as the youth.
Mary contacted ReFrame Media and received the audio and e-book versions of the study, which can be downloaded on Groundwork’s website.
“We’ve had some wonderful discussions on the topics, especially pride, greed, and anger,” Mary reported.
“Most people—youth and adults—didn't really know what the seven deadly sins are. We need to be equipped, because these sins are deadly and affect our relationship with God."
When studying the lesson on “envy,” one of the young people noticed from the reading in Matthew that, “Pilate knew it was because of envy that the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus killed.”
Another young woman mentioned that she was not aware of how these seven deadly sins were affecting her personally. “It made me more aware of their effect on me.”
If you are interested in learning more about ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’ and their biblical antidotes for either personal or group studies, download the free audio podcasts and e-booklet here.