A couple from Somers helps New Covenant Christian Church in Fort Dodge rock the community.
"Reaching Out with Christ in Kindness," the church's outreach program, gets help from Janice and Andy Birkland whenever work must be done. It's just one of the programs that capture the couple's attention.
Many other programs get help from the Birklands, who say they consider being members of New Covenant church one of the best decisions of their lives, well worth the 40-mile round-trip.
Andy and Janice Birkland attribute their 47 year marriage to a firm belief in God and strong prayer life.
Friends invited the couple to attend New Covenant back in 1988 when the church was new, and they got involved immediately.
"It was a small church, so everyone had their jobs to do," Janice Birkland said.
"There were 40 to 45, maybe 50 people attending at that time," Andy Birkland added. "Now, I think, we're running about 350 with the two services."
The church, he added talked to the couple's spirit.
"The messages that we were hearing were what we needed to hear to meet our spiritual needs," he said. The church pastor, the Rev. Mike Carmody, was young at the time, but "he was really awesome, and he still is awesome."
New Covenant Christian Church started at 1229 S. 26th St., but now operates in the former skating rink at 3318 Fifth Ave. S. A small piece of the roller rink floor was left for posterity.
The Birklands are one of four couples on the church's SHARE team. Through SHARE Iowa, people can purchase bags of groceries at discount prices. There are no requirements for purchasing.
"It doesn't matter what your income is," Janice Birkland said. "All you need is two hours of volunteer work. I take care of the registration when people come to order. Andy delivers to Deer Creek." He also helps out with worship services at the Deer Creek Apartments sponsored by the church.
For each of the Birklands, finding a spot in church activity is important.
He helps with a men's group called All the Kings Men, and she works with Women of Wisdom, the church's women's group.
"The church's philosophy is people centered, purpose driven,"Andy Birkland said. "That's what they go by."
He said he likes to work with people, leading them to Christ, he said, adding, while the church's programs serve the community, they also draw people to Christ.
The couple both are involved in monthly leadership training meetings and they're in charge of hospitality, greeting everyone who comes to a service, and seeing to the needs of guest speakers. They also are involved in the church's efforts to get grade-school children away from trick-or-treating on Halloween by offering an alternative group activity involving inflatables and games.
Several life groups are offered at New Covenant, made of people with similar interests. The Birklands are involved with groups who play cards, eat out and do scrapbooking. Other groups include a football group, a prayer shawl group and a motorcycle and camping group. A prism group does different kinds of art and it's that group who made the cross on the altar.
"Any kind of group, if you want to lead it, you could, just to get more interaction with people," Andy Birkland said.
Driving from Somers to Fort Dodge for church doesn't bother the couple, they said.
"We love our church," Janice Birkland said. "We like what it stands for. It was just like this was where we were meant to be. We felt at home."
Andy Birkland agrees. "There is a saying 'It's worth a drive for a church that's alive,' and we feel that our church is alive to meet our spiritual needs," he said. "Yes, it is a commitment when we could go right here in Somers."
New Covenant's co-pastor, the Rev. Janis Carmody, can't say enough about the Somers couple.
"The Birklands touch lives one by one," she said. "They drive quite a distance to attend services here, plus they don't seem to miss any special events or act of service our congregation takes part in."