Sarah Brooks is excited to work in a tangible way to help fight global poverty.

She is helping to plan next year’s Sea to Sea bike tour with World Renew and Partners Worldwide. From now until the end of the tour, she will be connecting with churches and organizations to create enthusiasm, raise money, and see how different churches and organizations can get involved – and she’s hoping to travel with the group of riders along the way to make sure things continue to run smoothly as they cycle across the continent.

“It’s exciting to be part of something that’s so big…and then there’s a part of it – thinking ‘Alright, I’m going to come into the office today and start contacting churches literally across the entire country.’”

To prepare for her role in such a huge undertaking, Sarah attended the volunteer orientation on November 18 and 19 at the Canadian office of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA). The training was hosted by World Renew and Christian Reformed World Missions, supported by ServiceLink

Sarah was joined by almost 30 other volunteers, staff, board members, and ministry leaders from the United States and Canada coming together to prepare for a variety of roles. Some who attended are planning to do long- or short-term missions overseas; others have recently joined the board or staff of the CRCNA; some are hoping to take what they’ve learned back to their churches to help their members better understand volunteer work both abroad and close to home.

The event proved to be a good connecting place for Brooks. “One of the people I called just last week [about Sea to Sea] came to the orientation… The tour manager as well was able to come along and we were able to connect and to see how there’s people from all different parts of the CRC coming together to set the foundation.”

Volunteer orientations are held twice each year: every fall in Burlington and in the spring in Grand Rapids. Presenters at this year’s fall orientation included current and alumni staff and volunteers.

Topics included worldview, justice and charity, community transformation, intercultural connections, overseas travel, and the spiritual journey of mission trips. In her workshop on transforming communities, former World Renew staff member Jan Disselkoen, talked about the seven elements of transformation, such as shared vision, good leadership, and ongoing learning.

To reinforce the cultural awareness element of the training, organizers hired Karam Kitchen to do the catering for the meal on Friday evening. Karam Kitchen is a new catering company providing “fresh, authentic meals” prepared by Syrian refugee women. Participants were treated to cashew rice, kofta kabobs, fancy pitas, moutabel (smoky eggplant with yogurt and tahini), and tabbouleh salad (grain bulgur tossed with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, romaine, parsley, mint, and lemon).

Before they enjoyed the meal, one of the women who prepared the meal shared  the story of the beginning of Karam Kitchen. 

“CRCNA agencies World Renew and World Missions are dedicated to providing quality, comprehensive training that ensures that our approach to missions is focused on doing justice versus charity and our training providing a foundation for those serving with our denominational ministries globally,” said World Renew Global Program Coordinator Iona Buisman. “One of the best parts of my job is that I get to engage Christians who truly want to serve in ways that bring about sustainability and give dignity.”