1944-2020 Celebrating over 75 years of Ministry
Meredith Drive Reformed Church intends to be a warm, positive, and caring body of God’s people, providing an environment where all persons, unimpeded by barriers of class, gender, or ethnic background may worship, witness, study, serve, and grow united by a common faith in Jesus Christ as Living Lord and Loving Savior.
We are continually being reformed according to God’s Word, and empowered and gifted by God’s Spirit. We seek to proclaim the good news of Christ by word and deed, through witness and action, both in our community and beyond so that others also may choose to worship God, acknowledge Jesus as personal Savior and Lord, and seek to serve Christ in the world.
Together we look forward in hope to that glad day when “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” —Philippians 2:10-11
In 1944, a group of passionate individuals formed our congregation to share the love of God with their neighbors. Since then, the faces have changed but our focus hasn’t. As we celebrate our 75th anniversary, it is important to acknowledge the growth and challenges we’ve experienced over time, yet remember that our vision remains unchanged.
In 1944, representatives of the Beaver Heights Federated Church met with the Church Extension Committee of the Pella Classis to apply for admission into the Reformed Church of America (RCA). The classis helped this new RCA Church purchase 12 acres of land. In 1944, thirty members from Beaver Heights Federated Church, ten members from other churches, and fourteen members who joined by confirmation of faith began worshiping at the new Reformed Church named Meredith Drive Reformed Church. In 1945, an old unused church building in Guernsey, Iowa was purchased for $500.00. In February of 1946, a group of over one hundred men from the churches in the Pella Classis met to dismantle the building and move it to the current Meredith Drive Reformed Church site where it was erected. The church was dedicated December 22, 1948. 125 new members joined the church between 1944 and 1956 while Rev. Edward Huibregtse was pastor.
When Rev. George Muyskens came in 1956, women’s and men’s ministries were started. His wife, Arlene, started a music ministry. In 1958, with an annual church budget of $10,000, the project of renovating the sanctuary was undertaken. The men of the church replaced the discolored ceiling with white acoustical tiling and painted the walls. In 1959, the congregation undertook the project of raising $3,100 towards the purchase of a new piano and organ. At the same time, First Church, Pella presented MDRC with a generous gift to be used to purchase new pews.
In the spring of 1960, the Classis agreed to help the congregation build a new sanctuary and convert the former building into Sunday school rooms. There was a new emphasis on Sunday school and Christian education. Construction costs for the new sanctuary were $78,625. The first service was conducted in the new sanctuary (which is currently the Family Life Center) on July 2, 1961. During the five-year period between 1956 and 1961, 101 members were received. A strong emphasis on benevolence giving started during Rev. and Mrs. Muyskens ministry before they left in 1968. From 1962 to 1968, 168 members were received.
Rev. Carl Van Farowe came in 1968. Barb Van Roekel has been a part of the Music Ministry since 1968. She has been the director, accompanist and continues to play the organ at Meredith Drive on Sundays. A second Sunday service was started in 1969. In 1971, the church added a new education wing, a fellowship hall and kitchen. This wing now houses the church offices (2nd floor) and before the 2018 flood, the Grow Zone (basement). Bethel Bible Studies were started. Rev. B. Edward Baker joined the staff as Minister of Youth and Education in 1973, Greta Van Hemert started a preschool that year, and guitar music was first introduced in worship.
Rev. Stanley Vandersal came in 1977. Rev. Phillip Doeschot joined the staff and started a ministry at Drake around 1979, and he served until 1984. In 1981, Rev. Vandersal and Rev. Edward Baker resigned to take other positions in the RCA. There was congregational unity during this time of senior pastor vacancy with long range planning initiated. Small groups were started as there were no Sunday evening services. Robert Vandepol, MSW, was hired to serve as Director of Family Life in 1982. The need for more sanctuary space was determined. The Reaching for Tomorrow I project was launched to pay for the cost of the new sanctuary with funds beyond the normal budget.
In 1984, Rev Anthony Vis accepted a call to be senior pastor of MDRC bringing his vision and preaching gifts. Members began celebrating God’s work in the new sanctuary which cost 1.2 million dollars in 1985. A lay member of the congregation, Jane Brown, joined the staff in 1986 as Director of Children’s Ministries and Congregational Care Ministries.
Virgil and Dorothy Dykstra joined the staff as Directors of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in 1987 which eventually led to the expansion of the Mission Ministry. Rev David Sikkema joined the staff as Associate Pastor of Adult Education and Missions in 1987 and served for ten years. There was a growing interest in local missions including Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC), Moulton Schools, and Trinity Meals.
MDRC started to contribute to Habitat for Humanity in 1989 with a $200 donation. Support for this organization grew and teams began to help build homes and host wall builds. MDRC has given over $165,000 and many hours of help over the years.
MDRC and the RCA planted Westview Church in Waukee. They began worshiping in their new church building in June of 1993.
The decade of the 1990s was a time of growth in programming and membership. Small group bible study participation was strong and emphasized three things: Word and Scripture learning, relationship growing, and serving. Outreach activities included the Moulton Reading Program, Prison Ministry, Women of Faith, and Promise Keepers for men. Cheryl Lowe became the first full time paid Director of Music in 1992. Blended worship was introduced to morning worship and overhead screens were used to project scripture, music, and announcements. Children’s ministry added 5 new staff members in 1993 to lead ministry and care for nursery, preschool, primary, and 5th through 8th graders on Sunday mornings. High school ministry was led by Dave and Brenda Applegate. Sunday evening choir was available for 4-year-olds through 6th graders and Wednesday night programming was available for 1st through 8th graders.
The Reaching for Tomorrow II campaign was launched and in 1994, the three story educational wing at MDRC was completed. Programming for all ages in the congregation grew with the new space provided. The north parking lot addition was completed in 1990 and the south parking lot was expanded in 1995.
Seeing the need for social interaction and spiritual connection among women of the church, Marilyn De Roos volunteered to start a Women’s Special Event team in 1995 . This team planned four annual key events a year and it continued for eighteen years.
Jane Brown started confirmation classes in the mid-1990s including mentoring confirmands. The role of Elders and Deacons was expanded under her leadership and an Elder Care Ministry Team was approved by the congregation at the annual meeting. The Elders helped provide oversight of congregational needs for those hospitalized, home bound, in nursing homes, or needing support while going through a challenging time. The Deacons took on oversight of the expanding benevolence fund distribution and twenty percent of the annual church budget was and still is allocated to benevolence. There were three Sunday morning services in 1996. Also, in 1996, Jeff Vande Kieft was hired to serve as business administrator overseeing the budget and facility needs. The Endowment Committee was established in 1997 under the leadership of Jeff, with the philosophy, policy, and purpose of the Endowment Fund determined by the Consistory. It was established to assist members in discovering, developing, and using their gifts for ministry and service. From 2002 to 2019, 283 individuals received endowment scholarships, totaling $149,751. Additionally, fifteen mission scholarships listed in the amount of $71,177 were distributed.
Under the leadership of Larry and Marge Madole, MDRC’s first trip to Pignon, Haiti took place in 1997 with a small group of students. Adult groups soon joined this ministry building schools, a church, dorms for workers, and remodeling a hospital.
Haiti Vision Mission began in 1998 by a small group of MDRC members who had a deep desire and clear calling from God to serve the central plateau region of Haiti by providing medical eye care. MDRC supported Haiti Vision Mission through prayers and finances. Many MDRC members served on the twenty mission trips over seventeen years.
As a teaching church, internships were offered to young people planning a career in Christian service. Students who did their internship with MDRC included Mike Van Rees, Melinda Berenyine Csinady from Romania, Jay Braband, and John Garbison. The parish nurse program was started. Rev. James Koopmans served as Minister of Evangelism working with the local international community in 1998 and 1999. Rev. Carl Van Farowe returned to MDRC to lead Senior Adult Ministry.
In 1998, MDRC and the RCA committed their support to starting a new church plant; Prairie Ridge, in Ankeny, IA, with 25 MDRC members transferring to Prairie Ridge.
Rev. John Sherrill and Rev. Sarah Beaver joined the staff in 2000. After her ordination in 2001, Rev. Jane Brown transitioned to a new role as a full time Pastor and continued to lead Children’s Ministry and Adult Care Ministry.
MDRC was named an “Excellent Church” in a nationwide study in 2001. The study director, Paul Wilkes, stated, “These churches we found are simply wonderful places to be. They not only take care of their members and the newcomer, but reach out generously into the world. I am absolutely amazed with the abundance of goodness and greatness that was found.”
MDRC membership continued to grow and space again became an issue, and after much prayer, discussion and discernment the congregation agreed on a second campus, The Bridge, which first met in the Johnston High School Auditorium. After steady growth, and completing the Journey In Faith campaign, the current Bridge building was completed in 2005. Children’s Ministry added new staff at The Bridge on Sunday mornings.
Rev. Sarah Beaver accepted a call to another RCA church in 2002. Rev. Jill Ver Steeg joined the staff in 2003 to bring leadership to adult education. Rev. John Sherrill accepted a call to an RCA church in Michigan in 2007. In 2008, Marv VandeKieft was hired as Executive Director of MDRC, responsible for finance, administration, operations, facilities, etc. He retired in 2013. In 2010, Rev. Jon Nelson joined the MDRC staff to bring passion and leadership to outreach.
Brenton Brown was hired as the Music Ministry director in 2007. In addition to directing the adult choir, he wrote and directed several musicals that were presented at The Bridge. In 2013 Brenton transitioned into the Executive Director position to manage the budget and facilities as well as continuing his work in the music director until 2018 when he focused only on budget and facilities.
The years 2012 to 2015 were years of transition for the church. Rev. Tony Vis retired after 28 years leading the church forward in spiritual growth, numeric growth, and mission. Rev. Jane Brown retired after 28 years of service, twelve as an ordained staff pastor in full time ministry. Rev. Jill Ver Steeg and Pastor Jon Nelson led the church through this time of transition.
A downtown ministry center and weekly worship was launched in partnership with the Willkie House in 2014 and continued for three years under the guidance of Rev. Isaiah Nengean.
All MDRC members were encouraged to attend a focus group held in homes. Each group was invited to have an honest conversation, led by a church leader who guided the group through a series of questions to determine the opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of our church, and prioritize ministries most important to members. The administrative board selected a transition team of 8-10 members to review, tabulate, and categorize every reported questionnaire. The team met for one year to help determine the qualities needed for our next lead Pastor. Rev. Randy Blumer was called to be the interim minister from 2013-2014. In 2014, Rev. Jon Nelson left to take a position at Central Reformed Church in Oskaloosa, Iowa. In 2015, Rev. Jill Ver Steeg accepted a leadership position in the Reformed Church of America in Holland, Michigan.
Rev. Suzanne Vogel was called to be the next interim Pastor from 2014-2015. In 2015, Rev. Suzanne Vogel was selected as our lead Pastor. Her strong leadership and vision gifts were a valuable asset during this time of transition. In 2015, Rev. Bep Reeves was called to lead Kid’s Ministry and Rev. Josh DeKok was hired to lead Student Ministry. In 2016, the administrative board determined that each campus needed its own pastor, set of elders, and worship team. In 2016 Rev. Gary Hanson was called as the Meredith Drive campus pastor and in 2017 Pastor Jonny Craig was hired as The Bridge campus pastor. Many activities such as Bible studies, Kindred, Pillars, and outreach opportunities are common ground activities encouraging participation from both campuses as we are one church worshiping at two locations.
In 2019, Pastor Sara Gregory joined staff at MDRC. Sara is a recent Fuller Seminary graduate and a child of the church. She leads a group of young adults of the congregation through small groups, classes, seminars, events, and activities. Sara’s other pastoral focus is to minister to young adults in the Des Moines area that do not have a church home.
Wednesday kids and student ministry meet at separate campuses to accommodate space. The preschool continues to offer vibrant and excellent ministry at both campuses. Adult Ministry continues to offer weekly classes and small groups. Outreach initiatives with local schools including Meredith Middle School, Hoover High School, Jensen Elementary, and the recently launched Summer Meal Program have been well received by the community. MDRC has been recognized as a “Mission Impact Partner” to the RCA since 2008 for $2 million in given to the RCA for global missions. In 2018 the Des Moines Area Religious Council named MDRC their “Faith Partner of the Year” for the generous donation after the flood and continued support of their mission in the Des Moines area. Welcoming neighbors to celebrate occasions on our property has been met with excitement. The Live Nativity, Trunk or Treat, and summer parties have allowed the Church to help spread the grace and good news of God.