Bill and Ellie Vandervelden met at a Bible study, but it was not until ten years later they went on their first date. He loved scuba diving and she loved ballroom dancing – but their love for Jesus surmounted every difference. For their first Christmas together Bill gave Ellie scuba lessons and Ellie gave Bill ballroom dancing lessons. From that time on, they have pursued both hobbies with great passion.
As they became avid divers traveling the Caribbean the Lord put it on their hearts to participate in reef sweeps – cleaning up man-made debris off local reefs. “In our hearts we knew we were not content to be just non-participant observers of God’s magnificent creation! Our Christian natures demanded us to be contributors to fix things back to HIS unspoiled beauty. Ellie & I became impressed to adopt Hillsboro Inlet basin. We called it H.I.S. ministry because we knew the idea came from God. H.I.S. (Hillsboro Inlet Sanitation) has been our work these years.” states Bill. Their stewardship began seven years ago, and to date they have an impressive record for their volunteer work. Bill continues, “Our catch includes over 10,000 bottles & cans, dive gear, a dozen anchors, furniture and various boat parts. We even raised 3 boat batteries that BoatUS refused to salvage because they called them explosive!”
Bill and Ellie realized what attracted them to this service work on Sunday morning in a sermon delivered by Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale and grandson of Billy Graham. In the sermon Pastor Tchividjian said quotes which solidified their passion for restoration, “The mission of the Church should reflect God’s mission.” “At the end of the Bible, Heaven comes to earth.” “Jesus’ miracles reverse the curse.” “Jesus’ resurrection is the first bit of totally renewed old stuff.” “Missionaries are agents of renewal.” Bill and Ellie got a Gospel-centered perspective on renewal and stewardship.
Bill sums it up as follows, “Renewal was the crux of the matter. We knew we were owners of nothing and stewards of everything. The Gospel had ignited us and was now fueling us. Eph. 2:10 says we were created for good works. God will fix everything we broke. We are employed by God to be repairers and restorers. Years ago we had been inspired by God to clean up Hillsboro Inlet to show others a snapshot of what is coming. Heaven is coming to earth and God has employed Ellie and me to show others what a lively, life-friendly, clean and orderly place Hillsboro Inlet will be when King Jesus returns. We are the model home showing others what home will be like when they move in. We want to renew the things that the devil is misusing. As evangelists we make others wish that the Gospel is true; and then show them that it is! The Gospel is show & tell! But it’s like the little boy on the beach picking up starfish at the low tide. With hundreds of starfish to rescue he picks up one after one and puts them in deeper water. Seeing hundreds dying in the hot sun he wonders if his efforts will make a difference. Picking one up and throwing it into deeper water he knows it makes a difference to this one.”