Pastor Gary DeHaas, Interim Board President
I moved back to Vermont in 2017 to pastor a local congregation. It had been 30 years since we last called Vermont home. We noticed many changes but perhaps, not as many as other places we’ve lived. The beauty of the landscape, the rugged individualism of the natives, and the indifference toward church attendance were much the same. I eased back into the culture and church ministry knowing this was the place God had sent us, and we were grateful for it. Remembering how important community is, I immediately began looking for and praying over service opportunities beyond my local church. Reaching out with gospel-driven care for my new community was important to me. So not long afterwards at a pastor’s gathering, I learned of a need for board members for Branches Pregnancy Resource Center. Sensing the tug of God on my heart to help direct “…a community where women and facing pregnancy and relationship decisions are transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and empowered to choose abundant life for themselves, their children, and their families,” I offered my service.
As I met with then President of the Board, Ben Whittinghill, I learned of the heart and work of Branches PRC in the Brattleboro community. I learned about the great need for supporting women who were pregnant and in need of support. I heard about single mom’s in need of help as they raise their children. I recognized the economic challenges they faced and the need for essential items like diapers and clothing. I listened with interest as a ministry to men was explained as a dream for the days ahead. To hear about the Learn to Earn program and the other mentoring opportunities driven by volunteers was exciting to me. And all of this was coming from a desire to see people transformed by the love of God through Jesus Christ. This is a ministry on the front lines of God’s kingdom work, and I wanted to be a part of it! But, what would this look like?
Transition is dreaded by many and change is avoided at all cost. But not me, that’s not the way God wired me. I embrace Scriptures like James 1:3-4, “…because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I embrace God’s Word in 2 Peter 1:5-8, “For this very reason,(participate in the divine nature and escape corruption) make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You see, in life, complacency and keeping things ‘as-is’ is a sure path to mediocrity. It leads people into a rut which, as the saying goes, is just an open-ended grave. This is especially true of our spiritual lives and our ministry for God’s kingdom.
Little did I know 3 years ago what this would look like for Branches PRC. Consider these changes…a men’s ministry is established and is staffed by volunteers, meeting one-on-one with clients. We have many new volunteers, many of which are younger to carry on the work for generations to come. A new Client Service Manager has come on board and we’ve increased her hours. The board of directors has had some turnover as God brings fresh faces and new perspectives to the center. The job descriptions of both the Client Service Manager and Executive Director have been reworked to better serve the needs of the center now, and in the future. And we are currently searching for a new Executive Director.
With God leading the way, this season of transition will continue but likely, at a little slower speed than recent years. I find strength from Hebrews 12:1-3:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.“
I am privileged to be a part of what God is doing in and through Branches PRC. And I am excited to see what God will do in and through Branches PRC in the days ahead. I believe He has raised it up and uniquely formed it for ‘such a time as this.’