New Christian Reformed pastor comes to Houston hoping to encourage healthy relationships and unity in the church and community.
Coming from Winnipeg to pastor at Houston Christian Reformed Church, Pastor Martin Vellekoop says he and his wife Cindy didn’t expect to end up in place like Houston.
“Cindy and I just really talked to the Lord about it,” said Vellekoop, adding that things really fell into place in Houston – including Cindy’s grade one and two teaching job at the Houston Christian School – which made them feel that Houston was where they were being led.
Having lived in cities their whole life, coming to Houston was a bit of a culture shock, but they have been pleasantly surprised by what Houston does offer.
“It’s not a big city, but there’s more here than meets the eye,” said Vellekoop, pointing out how well-kept Steelhead park is, how nice the Leisure Facility is, and how friendly the people are.
Vellekoop has been involved in ministry ever since university.
After getting a Calvin College Bachelors degree in classical history and a degree from Calvin Seminary, Vellekoop went with his wife Cindy to Japan with Christian Reformed World Missions to plant churches there, he said.
Preparing to stay in Japan, Vellekoop and his wife spent a couple of years in language school, as well as going to a few different parts of Japan for internships, he said.
“You can’t learn Japanese like you do here. Here we are taught to question… if you are questioning a teacher there, it’s sort of a sign of disrespect,” said Vellekoop, adding that learning Japanese was just a lot of memorization.
“I did end up writing a sermon,” said Vellekoop.
It took him six weeks to write and get edited and then he was able to go around and preach, he said.
After being in Japan three years, personal reasons brought Vellekoop and his family back to Canada.
Since then, Vellekoop pastored in several different places – Pembroke, Ontario; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Maple Ridge, B.C. – and also spent a year and a half getting licenced as a facilitator for healthy congregations at the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center before going to Winnipeg and then Houston.
“I have always been intrigued with how people get along or don’t get along,” said Vellekoop.
“For me as a Christian that’s really important… Jesus prayed that – he prayed that [the church] would have unity, so I think that’s important,” he said.
But for now, Vellekoop says he is still getting to know the Houston CRC congregation and “learning their dance steps.”
“I’m kinda the new partner here, and I’m not here just to teach a new dance when I haven’t even learned what the dance is,” said Vellekoop.
Then, after figuring out how things work here, he will begin to work together with the church to figure out what God wants them to do, he said.
It will probably involve a lot of different things, including loving and listening, coming alongside and sharing the love of Christ, said Vellekoop.
In the next five to ten years, we will be working together to figure out how to be a Houston CRC community and how to be part of the Houston community, he said, “because Houston is bigger than the Houston CRC.”