A church in northern Ontario, Canada, will celebrate a grand opening the first weekend of October.
Riverside Community Church in Swastika, Ontario is three years old but will hold its first service in its new facility on October 6. Originally the home of a public school, Riverside has been renovating the space since Pastor Pete Naylor and his wife Jenita gained access to building keys in May. Riverside used to meet in the Swastika United Church building but was forced to find a new location when the church closed after 100 years in existence.
A grand opening event for Riverside’s new facility will be held on November 15 and 16. The building will serve as both the church and community center–a place for families to gather for activities, day camps, kids programs, and more. The Naylors believe it’s a prime way to reach their community.
And while the community center will house various avenues for ministry, there is one project especially near and dear to Jenita’s heart.
Since September 2013, the Hope Boxes program has ministered to families experiencing grief through miscarriages and infant loss. Hope Boxes are meant to do what the name reflects: provide hope to hurting hearts. Each box includes a Bible, journal, a book about hope, local resources and info about grief and loss, CDs, and other small gifts, including a handwritten note from a mom who has also experienced infant loss.
“Our goal is to help families navigate the grief that is often isolating and silent,” said Jenita. Volunteers from Riverside and other churches in the community gather to assemble the boxes, and since fall 2013, nearly 100 boxes have been distributed at local hospitals, clinics, and funeral homes.
Jenita considers her work with hurting families an important ministry. Pete and Jenita have two beautiful daughters, Mikayla (6) and Ayda (3 ½). But she has lost five babies through four miscarriages (one set of twins).
“You really don’t understand what the loss of a child is all about unless you’ve been there,” said Jenita. “I felt alone and isolated in a world where everyone seemed to get pregnant and have lovely stories while I had empty arms.”
There’s another plus to the new facility and space: Hope Boxes can be assembled and will also house meeting space for women needing support after a miscarriage. This focus of the community center will be known as the Hope Centre, where families can join a support group or meet one-to-one for counsel and encouragement.
Donations for Hope Boxes are pouring in and the demand for the gifts is increasing. Requests for Hope Boxes are increasing throughout Canada.
“It’s been exciting to see the Lord open door after door for more support for families who experience the loss of a baby or child and the ability to share the love of Christ in a very challenging situation,” said Jenita. “God is good and moving in Canada!”