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Thursday, December 28, 2006

First Post!

Hello Family and Friends! How are you!?! I miss all of you! Things are well here in Clio, Michigan. In fact, there great! My job is excellent, my friends are close, and there's food in my belly. No worries! Thanks to everyone for their support and interest in this next chapter of my life. I value every one of your opinions. I want to use this blog site as an opportunity to communicate with family and friends. I think it has plenty of advantages over conventional e-mail. First and foremost, you can check it at your own leisure, and not have another e-mail get lost in the masses (don't forget about me though, haha!). Another advantage is the on-going discussions/comments that can be made via the site. My, how far two tin cans connected by a string, have come!

Anyways, this first blog is a "set-up blog." A filler-blog, if you will. I have to let you know how I have made the decision to go to Africa this up-coming summer. First of all, after years of searching for a church that fits my personal Christian Journey, I have found one! The church I attend in Grand Rapids, Keystone Community Church, will always be home to me...but this one is feeling more and more like family. Especially after becoming quite involved in the church. First of all, you probably want to know the name. Its called New Covenant Free Methodist Church, located in Clio, Michigan.. Here's a link:

www.cliochurch.com

You can visit that at your leisure. It's a fantastic church that I have made new friends at quickly. I volunteer at the coffee shop located in the front of the church. Any of you who know me well, know that I worked at a coffee shop for 4 years during college. That has made the coffee gig quite a breeze. Also, I have been playing guitar with the church band located in the entrance of the building. We have been playing Christmas music lately, but also find time to re-create some Miles Davis of John Co
ltrane (which isan't half bad either).

The Church
has had ties with the South Africa area for some 7 years now, and it recently, by God's will, started it's very own church in Swaziland. Here is a picture of where we are headed. In fact, over Labor Day weekend this past summer, they did a live video "first communion," with the Swazi's new church and ours back in Michigan...all via- satellite. How cool is that? It really caught my eye, and I felt drawn to help the African people. More about that in just a second... So here I am with a new church, a new job, and a new life. I live alone in an a quiant little appartment with all my gadgets and gizmo's. Much of my time is spent working at the T.V. station, playing guitar, lifting at the gym, coaching soccer, or staring at my new snowboard and wishing for snow! Gotta love Michigan ;-) My latest journey is heading to Africa for some Missions work with New Covenant Church.

It was a grueling application process where 45 people applied from the church, and only 12 positions where available to head to Africa (because of transportation issues in the actual country). There where refference forms that family and friends filled out for me. (By the way, thanks to all of you who did that for me. It meant a lot!) And I finally recieved a letter of acceptance. Here is a picture of the original 12. Something that has recently been a blessing is that we just found out that more transportation has been arranged in the area, and they have now accepted EVERYONE that applied to trip! (A new picture of the whole group will be posted A.S.A.P.) How amazing! Clio, Michigan U.S.A. will be represented by 25 people, taking time from there lives, to spread the love of God in Africa! You see, we are traveling to a very remote area of Swaziland. Transportation is VERY limited down there. We originally only had 2 vans to transport people...More means of transportation are being made available. How cool is that! God is listening...and I feel so privaledged to be a part of his will. I am not traveling to Africa for any evangalistic aspect. In fact, I have absolutely no intentions of that at all. I want to show my love for God through my service to others. At New Covenant, we learned about Tithing. Not only money, but our time and our abilities in the name of the church. It was an interesting quote that our pastor shared with us one Sunday that really struck a chord with me. It is actually a quote from Gahndi:

"The best way to find yourself, is to loose yourself in the service of others."

I think this quote is so powerful. I want to live my life like this. I think Africa is a good start. Did you know that there is estimated to be 143 Miliion orphans in the world? 43 Million live in Africa! This number is increasing daily due to the AIDS Pandemic sweeping through the country. In fact, in some countries of Sub-Sahara Africa, 46% of the general population is HIV positive. Here is a picture of a bracelet on my wrist. This is the ONE bracelet.
I will not remove this before my trip to Africa. It is my reminder of the unity and purpose of this trip. (If you see me without it, for whatever reason, make sure to ask me where it is...hold me accountable!) Let us not forget the faces of poverty and disease in this country. We've all heard....well, now lets do something about it. Here's a great website that has a lot of information concerning this issue:

www.one.org

I want to be the liaison between this troubled country and yourself. Let me open your eyes. Follow me through this journey. It won't be something any of us soon forget
.

Through out this next 6 months and leading up to my departure in July 2007, we will learn TOGETHER, the African culture, what needs to be done down there, and how we can all help. I am working in partnership with New Covenant Church and Compassionate Life Foundation. They are a local based (Michigan) organization. Here is their mission statement:

"Compassionate Life Foundation is a non-denominational organization seeking to be God's hands and feet showing love and compassion to the poor and needy people of the world. Partnering with those whom God directs us to who are already on the front lines fighting the war on poverty, disease, and spiritual emptiness, with a special focus on caring for Orphans and Widows."

Here is a link to the Compassionate Life Foundation website:

www.James127.org

I seek your support both spiritually and financially over the next 6 months. Your support to make this trip possible is an answer to prayers. Sit tight....there is so much more to come. I will post more soon! Please feel free to post comments. Remember, this is a great way for communication! Thanks again everyone! I love all of you.

Derek Van Dam

13 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:46 AM

    Hi Derek, We are very proud of you. God's peace with you as you begin this new adventure. We love you, Mom & Dad

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  2. Derek you're awesome. I am soooo excited for you take this journey. You are going have an awesome experience. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts and seeing pictures on here! Jillian

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  3. Anonymous5:27 PM

    Hi Derek! Finally checked my work email (still on break you know!) and saw your 1st post! How awesome! Joel and I are so proud of you and your ability to accomplish many great things. Can't wait to hear more!
    Solomon is so lucky to have you as an uncle! :)

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  4. Hello Everyone! Thanks so much for your support. I have a meeting with the entire Africa group next weekend. Expect more posts withing a wekk or so!

    Derek

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  5. Tom Van Dam1:00 PM

    Hi Derek, I'm very proud of you for being choosen for this mission trip. This is something you will never regret and it will help to define your entire life. What an opportunity to serve and to give back a little of what had been given to you. When will you know more about your financial requirements? We want to help. Love ya, Dad.

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  6. Missy2:11 PM

    Hey Derek,
    Your blog site is great and your trip sounds absolutely amazing! It definitely shows how great of a person you are to take your time to help so many others! The trip your taking is something I'm sure your family and friends wil never forget about you. It definitely says a lot about the kind of person you are. I'm looking forward to hearing more about it!!

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  7. Hi Derek,

    I just wanted to say hello since we will be working on the Swaziland trip together! I checked out your site from Linda's email. I'll miss next week's meeting, but I think that you were at the Intro to New Covenant class with me.

    God Bless and looking forward to working with you more!

    Vicki

    www.slavite.blogspot.com

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  8. Eric Strickler6:49 PM

    Hey DVD. I must say that you seem very resolute and determined on your "mission" to Swaziland. I admire your resolve to follow through with your comittments, and to make your words into actions once you reach this country that I am sure will welcome your help with open arms. I just got out of a lecture by a man named Omid Safi. He had a lecture on "The Clash of Civilizations" in the present day and age, and the impact that this is having on the citizens of the world. I know that your trip would make him very happy, as much of his lecture concerned the perceptions of different cultures that we are actually in an age of "clashing Civilizations." What he spoke of, and what you are doing gives me hope, as both of these are grounded in the resolution given to all the people of the world by LOVE for their common kin under their one god. No matter that they are Swazi's....they are your brothers, and I am sure they will treat you as such and you will show them your compassion equally.

    With you all the way to peace and justice,
    -Eric S.

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  9. Derek:
    I just came across your blogsite. I went to Swaziland last April with a group of 60. We planted gardens through Heart for Africa. You will love the Swazi people! Warm, loving, gracious, beautiful! We feel we left part of our hearts there and we have sent two of our group back to see how we can keep serving in that part of Swaziland. God WILL use you: your showing up brings hope to the people. I will pray for you and your tripmates. Kathy

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  10. Anonymous3:46 PM

    Derek, your youthful emotion and vitality impress me. I am awestruck at you interests and benevolence with the African nation and their people. It is to be admired...

    It truly shows that your heart is for helping others. This is what the world needs yet misplaces well too often. If only we could all be so willing to communicate our love in this way. "Love thy neighbor as you are willing to love thyself."

    Congratulations on all of your acheivments and good luck with your ongoing journey of not only serving others but also serving your savior.

    Love your brother Joel.

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  11. Hey hope all is going well keeping you in my prayers be safe and come home soon

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  12. Anonymous10:56 AM

    Derek,
    what a wonderful and breath taking story. I love how much heart and soul you've put into the Africa trip! It's wonderful to see people like you trying to make a difference around the world.
    Good luck and Best wishes

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  13. Dear Derek,

    I am a Swazi student studying in the US. With my youtube antics, I ran through the Derek Goes to Swaziland video. On behalf of the Swazi people who are in dire need of your help, I would like to say may the Lord be with you all.

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