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Building hope in our own backyard: two congregations take mission trips into their community.

Veronica Scott of Chatham, Ont., hoped the gift of a motorized wheelchair would give her the independence she desired. Unfortunately, she had no wheelchair ramp in her house. For five years, Veronica sought help from local agencies to no avail. She had almost given up hope.

Veronica's life changed when she was chosen as the recipient of our "Backyard Mission," a joint project of First Presbyterian Church and First Christian Reformed Church in Chatham.

Over the course of two days, several dozen friendly and hardworking volunteers built a wheelchair ramp for Veronica and made a number of repairs to her house and property We scraped and painted sections of the house. New siding and eavestroughs were installed. Repairs were made to Veronica's front porch and landscaping was done. Much to Veronica's delight, we built a decorative fence. Our hardy volunteers also cleaned up around the yard and everything was hauled away in a dumpster.

While onsite we visited with Veronica and her family, getting to know them and exchanging stories. Veronica's sisters told us: "We just can't believe this is happening! It is so wonderful because Veronica is a very giving person and now people are giving back to her."

We. watched Veronica take her wheelchair out of the house for the first time. We were all thrilled!

The idea for our Backyard Mission came after my wife Jodi and I travelled with our youth group to mission projects in the United States. These were great experiences, but they were costly and involved only one group of people. After some reflection, we decided it would be more cost effective, and involve more people in our church, if we did similar projects in our own backyard.

Now in our fifth year, we make exterior home repairs, free of charge, for deserving homeowners in our community. Mark Labadie, a good friend and contractor, serves as our onsite manager. Mark lends his expertise to the jobs we tackle, and gives generously of his time, tools and advice. Materials for our projects are donated, or sold at cost, by businesses in Chatham. The project is now led jointly by Barb Sargent from First Presbyterian and Deb Grootenberg from First CRC.

The Backyard Mission is a blessing in so many ways. Most importantly, we are helping our neighbours in the name of Jesus Christ. It's also a lot of fun! And our partnership has forged a friendship between our congregations. We look forward to co-operating on next year's project.

I encourage you to try a similar project in your community.

Rev. Mike Maroney is minister at First, Chatham, Ont. To find out more, visit or email

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Title Annotation:MISSION; First Presbyterian Church and First Christian Reformed Church's Backyard Mission
Author:Maroney, Mike
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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