Photo: Diaconal Ministries Canada
“Home With a Heart,” an outreach of Immanuel CRC, Hamilton, Ont., was supported by Operation Manna.
Photo by Diaconal Ministries Canada

The Operation Manna (OM) program of Diaconal Ministries Canada has been helping churches establish vital community ministries across the country for over 35 years, and the impact on churches and communities has been felt far and wide.

In recent years, staff and committee members of Diaconal Ministries Canada began dreaming and praying about how this program could extend its reach and have a more distinctive, imaginative, and descriptive name to go with it.

They recognized that  people in the denomination still associated Operation Manna with World Renew, where it began as a food-drop program in Korea. (For a brief history of OM, click here). And for some reason it wasn’t on a lot of churches’ radar; “many CRCs just didn't know about it,” explained Tammy Heidbuurt, OM program director.

So a decision was made in fall 2018 to pursue a full rebranding of the program.

“We truly believe God was part of this process from the beginning, and we are excited to share this news with the world!” said Heidbuurt.

As of March 1, 2019, the Operation Manna program will be called NewGround. The overall focus of the program will remain the same -- that is, NewGround will continue to partner with churches across Canada to help them roll up their sleeves and break new missional ground, nurturing Spirit-led ideas into healthy ministries that bear everlasting fruit.

“We believe God is always at work and calls churches to follow him into their communities to share Christ’s transformational love with each and every person. Cities and neighborhoods should be [renewed] and blessed through the social action and thoughtful, cultural engagement of local Christians,” said Heidbuurt.

Four key activities make up the NewGround program:

  • Community Opportunity Scans to help churches identify the assets, skills, resources, and potential partnership opportunities available in their community.
  • Community Ministry Support to provide coaching, networking, and resources (including grants) to equip churches to partner with those in their community and break new ground by starting sustainable ministries and programs.
  • An Annual Youth Justice Initiative to connect young people with the deacons in their church in order to expose an injustice in their community and find innovative ways to address it, with the help of grant funding and coaching.
  • Deacon Scholarships for deacons and/or diaconates who wish to pursue “new ground” learning – via books, videos, workshops, etc. – focused on their work.

Rachel Vroege, Diaconal Ministries Canada’s regional ministry developer in western Canada, summarized the revamped program this way: “NewGround is all about connecting the gifts of our churches and deacon leaders to the ministry opportunities in our cities and local neighborhoods.”

What is even more exciting, according to Vroege, is that the updated and expanded grant and coaching program will also help reach a new generation of justice seekers.

“NewGround will inspire hope for transformation and growth in the lives of young people passionate about serving in their community,” she said.

Heidbuurt agrees and added, “NewGround will enable churches to be courageous and creative with ministry opportunities in their community.”

Historically, the OM program was funded through a one-time offering, typically held the first Sunday in May, by churches across Canada.

This offering will still happen, but as the program extends its reach and breaks its own “new ground,” Diaconal Ministries Canada will also be seeking other revenue streams to support its expanded activities.