Two-decade history of missionary work a legacy of love for Sweets Church team

SWEETS CORNERS—While Sweets Corners may represent a tiny dot on the map of Haldimand, the congregation at Sweets Church has left a large impact on a community in the Philippines that has been the focus of their missionary efforts for over two decades.

That project – called Bodega sa Grasya, or “Storehouse of Grace” in the local Bisayan language – is in a flood relocation area called Calaanan, near Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao. It took root during a 2003 missionary trip to the area by church member Dick DeVries, who continues to lead the project today with his wife Liz as a co-partner. 

PHILIPPINES—In centre are Haldimand residents Pete and Valerie Dieleman, alongside Dick and Liz DeVries, with some Filipino locals ready to unload a container. —Submitted photo.

Liz touched on that initial trip: “Dick observed the many needs there and returned with a strong desire to help. Over the following years, the church sent teams to the Philippines, bringing suitcases full of essential items. Their primary goal was to support churches and communities while spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.”

She said that as the needs exceeded what the suitcases could hold around seven years ago, the team upped their efforts, purchasing some land and sending the first in an ongoing series of shipping containers, filled to the brim with essential items.

As of last month, the team has now sent 10 containers totaling 283,653 lbs of goods that have included:

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  • 390 wheelchairs 
  • 168 bicycles
  • 215 sewing machines
  • 45,462 lbs of books and Bibles
  • 38 computers
  • 12,870 lbs of medical equipment and supplies
  • 29,468 lbs of clothing (excluding layettes)
  • 3,112 lbs of layettes (for newborns)
  • 60,428 lbs of food

Liz also listed hospital beds, wheelchairs, building tools, sports equipment, shoes, toys, instruments, and dried foods as being distributed where they are most needed: “Some containers even included tractors sent to Canadian missionary friends who oversee many churches and an orphanage.”

She noted many containers have been repurposed by the community, with church member George Bouwma handling the construction – a mission house, guard houses, and as areas to store the donations. Liz said this final use “led to the establishment of the mission named Bodega sa Grasya.”

Church members Pete and Valerie Dieleman recently undertook their first trip to the site, spending a month with the DeVries. Pete said it was easy to connect with the local community: “The people from the area … were very kind and loving people; they right away came up to us and wanted to talk.”

PHILIPPINES—Mission member Mark Bos delivers food during a recent mission trip. —Submitted photo.

He called the experience humbling: “We are so blessed in Canada. We have so much. And they have so little. It was wonderful to be able to share with them.”

A never-ending effort, Wesley DeVries, son of Dick and Liz, shared that the group is already preparing their next container to “provide food aid to the island of Mindoro, as this island has been experiencing significant poverty…. In October 2024, another container will be shipped to Cagayan de Oro. We have a team scheduled to go to the Philippines in January 2025 to help distribute these goods.”

Wesley noted the important involvement of area organizations and businesses, including Sweets Corners Church; Niagara Warehouse of Hope, St. Catharines; Sew on Fire, Burlington; Who Did It Club, Simcoe; Westover Layettes, Westover; and Ontario Christian Gleaners, Cambridge.

He concluded, “Many individuals who have travelled to the Philippines with the teams have been greatly encouraged and blessed by the experience of another culture, building relationships, and appreciating the resources we have, which can be shared and repurposed.”

Pete added, “I have a greater appreciation for what we have, and a great respect for the Filipino people who work hard every day to just provide the bare necessities for their families.”

The church promotes their efforts on YouTube, with one video of the delivery of their ninth crate amassing over 53,000 views in six months. Visit their page to see several videos of church members in action.

As a non-profit organization, the group is always on the lookout for donations to help offset their costs. For more information, visit sweetscornerschurch.com/bodega-sa-grasya.