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Featured Articles

The DOCK Clothes Middle, High School Students with Christ’s DNA

Cutline No. 1-3dockSteve Roobol: “We show them the love of Christ by sharing the love of Christ.” Alexander "Xander" Szocinski became entwined with the tendrils of friends and fun when he started hanging out in his sophomore year at The DOCK, a year-round ministry at 4669 S. Division Ave. in Wyoming that's across from Kelloggsville Middle School.

"They have just about any board game you can think of," said Szocinski, a 2016 graduate of Kelloggsville High School. "Uno; that's the one I played the most with friends."

Szocinski stayed involved with The DOCK after high school, volunteering for a year where he says it helped him hone a work ethic. He also ran The DOCK's candy store for a time.

"Yeah, I was the candy man, that's basically what they called me," said Szocinski, who's a dishwasher/busser at a Mr. Burger Restaurant in Wyoming. "I had kids daily ask, 'When are you going to open it?'"

Terry’s Picks for July 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for July:

Steven Malcolm Includes GR Hometown on New Tour

Malcolm Steven kneeling outdoors-1West Michigan native Steven Malcolm was making final preparations for his upcoming, five-week hip-hop tour which includes a July 26 date in Grand Rapids.

"Due to all my upcoming traveling, we gatta find a new home for our dog," he posted to his social media followers in late June. "If anyone is interested in a 2 yr-old pitbull (fully trained, neutered and gentle) HMU (hit me up)."

No doubt by now Malcolm, 28, and his wife Teaira have found a caretaker for their pet at their Kentwood home. But the national Christian recording artist is also readying his on-stage program as headliner for the "Tag Team Tour" with his longtime performing partner Mark (the Baddguy) Evans II and special guest Maddie Rey.

"If I don't lose my voice every single night or wake up sore the next day...this tour wasn't lit enough," Malcolm noted of his performing enthusiasm.

Summer Reading Programs Flourishing at Baker Book House

bakerChildren and adults still have time to sign up for summer reading programs at Baker Book House, the leading Christian bookstore in West Michigan. Readers can register through the middle of July for the programs that have readers earning prizes based on hours read or books read.

More than 1,500 youngsters have already signed up for Read. Set. Explore!, with the store forecasting 2,000 registrants by mid-July. This is up from 1,500 last year, 1,200 the year before, and 800 the year before that.

"We want to have the best summer reading program in town," said Josh Mosey, Children's Product Buyer and director of Ready. Set. Explore! and the adult program. "We want to reward kids and adults for reading. If we can help kids develop a love for reading, they'll read their whole lives."

Faith Hospice Memorial Service, Counseling Enable Grief-stricken People Walk Back into Life

Faith Hospice No. 1From left: Faith Hospice bereavement manager Janet Jaymin enabled people like Sandi Veenkamp stay grounded in life and in the Lord.Sandi Veenkamp has walked through the valley of the shadow of death. But then, the Cascade resident discovered anew the anchor in her life that got her through the deaths of her husband, mother, brother and sister-in-law.

"I have a picture of the Lord reaching down and hauling somebody out of the mire and that was what He was doing all along (for her)," said Veenkamp. "There's no doubt in my mind the Lord was walking with me. I sit down in the morning and invite Him in mind, body and spirit."

World stretched

Veenkamp's world was stretched to the hilt when her husband of 48 years, Nick, died in June 2017 due to prostate cancer and a heart-related condition. The anguish didn't stop there. A week later, her brother and sister-in-law were killed in a traffic accident. Then in January 2018, Veenkamp's mother died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease complications.

Hillsong and Friends Lead Arena-Sized Worship

Brock MackMack Brock Hillsong UNITED heads the platform on its latest arena tour across the U.S. And even though the world- renowned worship music ensemble comes packing a huge stage show, worship is still the goal.

"It's a great production and (Hillsong) has a great team and it looks amazing," said Mack Brock, one of the guest artists on the tour. "In fact, if you were just observing it, you'd think it's an amazing show. But in the moment, it feels like worship."

The Hillsong Church, begun in Australia and now with campuses around the world, has a musical arm which is perhaps the leading source for modern worship music used in many contemporary churches.

Anthems such as "What A Beautiful Name" and "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" are standards in the modern worship catalog.

The tour, which includes Brock and Bethel Music lead singer/soloist Amanda Lindsey Cook, comes to Van Andel Arena on June 25 (see details below).

NFL Star Pens New Series for Tween Boys

Rashad-JenningsRashad JenningsRashad Jennings, retired NFL running back and Dancing with the Stars champion, is a man with many talents, dreams, and life goals. Some he's already accomplished—playing in the NFL for eight seasons—and some he's working on now. He created the Rashad Jennings Foundation, focusing on reading education and mentorship, and health and fitness (www.rashadjenningsfoundation.com); he organized a date night that blends his new love for ballroom dancing and his desire to be a marriage counselor one day; and he's written "Arcade and the Triple T Token," first of four in The Coin Slot Chronicles. The second releases later this year (https://www.arcadelivingston.com).

Jennings was in Grand Rapids recently for several events and to visit the offices of Zondervan, publisher of his new series. In the first book, Arcade is given a golden arcade token necklace that grants him the ability to time travel into the past and even into his future. He and his sister Zoe and a few friends have a lot of problems to solve!

317 Coffee is Rooted in Christ’s Love, Passion to Support Missions

Cutline No. 1-3Kelly Irish: “It’s been a joy to pull this place together.” Walk into 317 Coffee and you can immediately discern this is not a customary coffee house.

Yes, the expected products and related accoutrements inhabit 317 Coffee, 3424 Chicago Dr., Suite 101 in Hudsonville: coffee, expressos, hot chocolate, teas, sodas and smoothies are available for sale, as well as some goodies to munch on for good measure.

The shop is populated with tables and chairs, a padded church pew and a sofa where people can chat with one another, relax or surf the internet inside this cozy 1,000-square foot building where sunlight bathes its interior.

In a rush? A drive through window awaits.

Festival of the Arts Includes Faith-Based Efforts

The Growing Roots 2019Scott and Lisa Barry are The Growing Roots With churches hosting food booths and performances by area Christian music artists, the annual Festival of the Arts in downtown Grand Rapids is sprinkled with the talents of the West Michigan faith community.

The 2019 festival (Fri. June 7 through Sun. June 9) is the 50th year for the event, which has grown from two stages and a handful of food selections to a multi-faceted arts celebration. In years of favorable weather it's drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors over its three-day weekend. (Official lists of artists, food booths, activities and a map are available at www.festivalgr.org. All musical performances are free).

The diversity and curiosity of the casual listeners is noted by the performers – even from the stage. "It's an amazing feeling to see people intent on walking by, and to watch as your music captures them," said Lisa Barry, who with husband Scott comprises a Christian folk/rock/Americana duo called The Growing Roots. "You can see them perk up, stop walking and turn in your direction," she said of new connections to be made with audiences.

The Growing Roots performs at noon Sunday on the "Backdoor Pop Up" stage, just to the south of the Kent County Building on Calder Plaza.

Terry’s Picks for June 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for June:

Hymns Anchor New Book By Local Author

George BrainardGeorge Brainard with his new book on hymns George Brainard's investigation into great hymns of the Christian faith led him to some surprising finds. And they've ended up in the Grand Rapids native's new book, "Public Domain" - a fresh look at some of the "golden oldies" in our church hymnals.

For example, there's the story of beloved hymn-writer Fanny Crosby.

"I think most people knew that she was blind," he said of Crosby, who wrote the lyrics for "To God Be The Glory" and hundreds of other stately hymns.

"But she memorized huge chunks of scripture by the time she was 15, wasn't saved 'til she was 30, and didn't start writing hymns until age 40."

Brainard included three of Crosby's hymns in his new book, which features more than 60 songs grouped by theme into 10 categories.

All of the hymns are in the public domain (thus the title of the book), which means they are old enough to no longer have copyrights. The most recent hymn in the collection is Thomas Dorsey's, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," written in the early 1930s.

"That song was Dr. Martin Luther King's favorite," Brainard noted. "It was performed at his memorial service in 1968."

The oldest song in the book? "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" which dates to the 16th Century.

As Seasons Turn, Music and Inspiration Follow

Screwtape Letters perf shotActor Brent Harris (left) as Screwtape with his slavish demon in the play “Screwtape Letters” coming June 15. Here we are well into spring and most of the way to summer and the concert calendar is filling up quickly.

Let's look at the summer's arena-sized tour: Hillsong UNITED, with special guests Amanda Cook (from Bethel Music) and Mack Brock (formerly with Elevation Worship) lead a worship-based evening at 7pm Tues. June 25 in Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids. Hillsong has just released a new album ("People"). Tickets begin at around $25. Available via Ticketmaster,  Here's a video preview

MAJOR FESTIVALS

The Big Ticket Festival (June 26-29 in Gaylord, MI) features top name headliners, including Chris Tomlin, For King & Country and Danny Gokey: 60 artists over four days. And there are extras such as "experience tents," comedy, films and a strength team. For tickets online. Visit www.bigticketfestival.com  

Showcase Spans a Variety of Talent

Hark Up Horns Big BandHark Up Horns Big BandAdd a bit of this and that and you come up with quite a variety.

And with the combined talents of the artists from Hark Up and Master Arts Theater (MAT), you might as well call it a "Variety Show."

And as the official title implies – the variety includes everything from "shabby to chic" and will be on display in a program Sat. May 18 (details below).

"Actually, the phrase 'variety show' kind of dates it – we're more contemporary than that," offered Hark Up executive director Chris Hansen. "It's more like the Jimmy Fallon 'Tonight Show.'"

Indeed: included are vocal and instrumental music, sketch comedy, and interview segments led by comedic emcee Chris Knobloch.

Camps Roger, Scottie Offer Kids Overnight, Day Camps that Declare God’s Glory

RogerScottie Cutline No. 1“We believe there’s power in getting kids out into God’s creation,” said executive director Doug Vanderwell. With summer peeking around the corner, parents are on the lookout for fun and meaningful activities their children their can engage in while on hiatus from school. Doug Vanderwell has some ideas.

Vanderwell is executive director of Camp Roger in Rockford and Camp Scottie in Howard City. Both are nonprofit independent Christian camps not affiliated with a church or denomination.

"They're open to whoever would like to enjoy the camps," said Vanderwell.

Terry’s Picks for May 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for May:

New Music Review: “Let The Song Arise”

Hark Up cover art 2019The variety of talented musicians that make up the faith-based arts organization Hark Up have combined to produce a new album of praise and worship music titled, "Let The Song Arise."

The Hark Up Horns and the Hark Up Choir (featuring outstanding soloists Angie Royce, Colin Tobin, Breighanna Minnema and others) place their spin on both modern day and classic musical expressions of faith.

"A New Hallelujah," a Michael W. Smith anthem, includes vocals from both Tobin and Hark Up executive director Chris Hansen. The assembled artists also cover the David Crowder tune, "All My Hope."

Baby Boomers: Remember the haunting beat of "Spirit of the Sky," that late 60s-early '70s, psychedelic-sounding mantra? It also gets the Hark Up treatment.

Casting Crowns Messages Combine Video, Music

Casting Crowns 2Mark Hall (center) and Casting Crowns Casting Crowns has added a "picture story" to its latest record album.

Using the message of each of the new songs, the inspirational-pop band is releasing 11 video segments to tell a through-the-generations story covering five decades in a family's life.

"We thought, let's create a movie that builds around the songs," said lead singer-songwriter Mark Hall. "Not a music video, but about people just living their lives with the songs simply in the background."

The tunes on their "Only Jesus" release offer backdrops for the video segments.

One recently issued video features the song "In the Hands of the Potter." In the storyline, a granddaughter follows in her ill grandmother's footsteps by taking up pottery and art (watch online). It continues the family story established in the previous six episodes.

An “Unrelenting” Easter Message

Last SupperJesus (actor Kyle Warmington, center) and the Last Supper scene from last year’s drama One of the more obscure stories in scripture turns out to have an Easter theme in the latest drama staged by Blythefield Hills Baptist Church in Rockford, set for April 18-20.

"Unrelenting" - the title of the production - describes the love of God, pursuing his people through the lives of Old Testament figures right into the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

"It's a modern version of (the Old Testament prophet) Hosea," said director Vicki Modert, Blythefield's head of worship ministries. Modert and her writing team fashioned the original script.

A contemporary couple's marriage is strained with rumors of the wife's infidelity. Even when the truth comes to light, the college professor forgives her and "buys her back," exactly as God told Hosea to do for his unfaithful wife.

Two Authors Launch Children’s Books at Baker Book House

GoodnewsEasterBaker Book House will play host to two separate book launch parties for new children's books. Best-selling children's author Glenys Nellist will present her new book "Good News! It's Easter" during storytime at 10:30 am Thursday, April 11. And debut author Josh Mosey presents "3-Minute Prayers for Boys" at 6:30 pm Tuesday, April 16.

Family Network of Wyoming Serves Community with Respect

Family Network Cutline No. 1Sandy Jenkinson stands in Family Network of Wyoming’s warehouse area where a variety of where canned goods, paper products and bottled water are stored. When people line up to receive groceries at the Family Network of Wyoming, they receive more than a week's worth of food.

They also experience respect from the cadre of volunteers and two-person staff who keep this Christian nonprofit humming with purpose.

"Most importantly, we try to treat everybody with a little dignity and respect so they leave feeling good," said Sandy Jenkinson, an assistant to executive director Dale Echavarria.

Resurrection in Focus for Andrew Peterson

Peterson AndrewCredit-GilesClement 1521-RetouchedAndrew Peterson (photo by Giles Clement)Rare is the song that ends on a "suspended chord."

But the Andrew Peterson composition "God Rested" does exactly that. And the song provides a hinge-point in the artist's resurrection series showcase, which he brings to Byron Center on Sat. April 13.
.
"God Rested" refers to the literal internment of a dead Christ, and is the last song in a musical prologue. It's the jumping off point to his collection "Resurrection Letters Vol. 1," full of joyful songs of Christ's victory over the tomb.

But a listener is left hanging with anticipation on that final note.

"We are living in a time of that suspended chord," said Peterson, 44. "We know we have a promise of Christ's return but we're in a tension of expectation and longing."

The very next song is "His Heart Beats." Its poignant resurrection depiction opens with the line "His heart beats, his blood begins to flow; waking up what was dead a moment ago."

Michigan Authors Top Christian Fiction Lists for Spring, Summer

michiganReaders looking for Christian fiction to delve into need look no further than our great state of Michigan. Authors from around the state have new releases this spring and summer that offer a wide range of genres and styles for eager readers. The month in parenthesis is the month of the book's release; all books are available at Baker Book House or online retailers.

Local Pair Helps Influencers Find Balance Between Serving God and Building Platform

Influence Front CoverTwo local authors, both working on their first books, faced the struggle many authors face: how to build a platform and serve God at the same time. Publishers are quick to say “Your platform isn’t big enough,” but authors, speakers, and ministry leaders can feel squeamish about promoting themselves and their work in order to collect followers on social media, blogs, and websites.

Shannon Popkin, author of “Control Girls: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible” (Kregel), and Kate Motaung, author of “A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging” (Discovery House), faced those struggles like many authors do. They join forces to take a deep look at platform and following Jesus in their new book “Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me),” which released in January.

“The tension is that if you want to pursue an agent or book contract or get accepted as a speaker at a conference, you have to already have a following,” said Motaung, host of Five Minute Friday, an online community for Christian writers. “But as Christians called to elevate Christ and humble ourselves, how can we be true to our convictions yet put ourselves out there?”

New Music Review: Underdog

Underdog  The gonz  2019The hard-working, West Michigan rap/hip-hop artist Ty Gonzalez (The Gonz) has a new collection of songs detailing his background and determination to share his message.

"Underdog" is largely the story of his life. From his upbringing ("Grand Rapids Made") to his busy schedule ("I Don't Sleep") and his life's musical mission ("Passion"), Gonzalez reveals his heart as he lays out his faith-based journey to serve his Savior.

There are tell-tale local references. A radio clip of the West Michigan Whitecaps baseball championship broadcast opens one of the tracks. Baseball was a large part of life for the Comstock Park native, who played the sport in high school and college and spent a chunk of his youth around Fifth Third Ballpark.

Christian Rap/Hip-Hop Tour Lands in West Michigan

KB  purpleIt's one of the biggest road shows in Christian rap/hip-hop – the Unashamed Forever Tour – back after a six-year hiatus with an all-star lineup of faith-based artists. Headlined by the award-winning Lecrae the tour features a variety of talents all under the Reach Records label.

One of those artists is KB (Kevin Burgess, pictured), who says the roster comes together under a cohesive theme.

"It's about the eternal aspects of our existence and what we do that impacts that," said KB, 30, from Nashville. "There's a universal message about being unashamed, and I think every artist in their unique way is beating that drum."

There will be plenty of on-stage collaborations as well as some solo time. "We've put together something special that a lot of folks will enjoy," he promised.

They're off to a good start – the first two weeks worth of shows were sold out in major markets such as Houston and Atlanta.

Terry's Picks for April 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for April:

Musically Weaving Their Way

Big Daddy Weave table shotMike Weaver (center) and Big Daddy Weave Mike Weaver said his band's new music fits hand-in-glove with the artists' renewed outlook.

"A lot of things were hitting us, but this has been like the Lord saying we've turned the corner," said the lead singer of the inspirational-pop group Big Daddy Weave.

It's been nearly four years since the band issued its last album. But after a stretch of life challenges, their new ballad "Alive" has been released and will be followed by an entire new collection later this year.

"This is a season of rest, even as we're touring," said Weaver, 43, on the phone from Nashville.

Big Daddy Weave comes to Hudsonville for a performance on March 29.

Degage Ministries ‘excited’ to Launch $6 Million Project

Degage New Building Cutline No. 1An exterior rendering of Degage’s construction project.More space to shelter distraught women. A larger dining room. A surgical recuperating area. And a new kitchen to bake more of those hard-to-resist Pauls' Mom's Cookies.

Degage Ministries is moving forward with plans to expand services to the area's homeless and low-income families, made possible by a $6 million construction project.

"We feel strongly that God is calling us to this bigger role and now is the time," said Marge Palmerlee, Degage's executive director. "We need to be able to address those immediate needs and not have people sleeping in their cars, on the street and under bridges. We're excited to be able to address those needs that have been identified in our community that is vital for health and welfare."

Construction will start in the spring and take about a year to complete. The goal is to keep serving people during construction, Palmerlee said.

"The plan is to not have to shut down," she said.

More to “The Breakup Song” Than Meets The Ear

Battistelli Francesca - Main Press ImageFrancesca Battistelli performs March 24 in Holland Singer-songwriter Francesca Battistelli wondered how listeners would react to "The Breakup Song."

"I loved that it caused them to think...where is she going with this?" she said of the anthem on her latest album.

No, it's not the story of a past relationship or any kind of romantic entanglement. Instead, it's a musical statement rejecting fear and its undue influence in a determined believer's life.

The song's music video  with more than 10 million views, depicts a phone call in which the artist tells fear that "you don't own me" and "the no vacancy sign on my heart is lit up."

The New York native showcases the song on her tour which comes to Holland, Mich. on March 24.

“Church Basement Ladies” Return For More

Rise Up O men - threesomePastor Gunderson (center) deals with both Carl and Mavis in “Church Basement Ladies: Rise Up, O Men” Attention church basement ladies everywhere. The men are about to engulf your territory!

That's the humorous premise of "Rise Up, O Men," the sixth installment of the popular stage musical-comedy series "Church Basement Ladies."

"The roosters have invaded the henhouse," smiled executive producer Curt Wollan from a stop in Palm Springs, CA.

The production comes to Byron Center's Van Singel Fine Arts Center on March 26.

The setting is familiar to long time fans: East Cornucopia Lutheran Church in rural Minnesota back in the 1950s and 60s when church basement kitchens were a social hub with their own pecking order.

Starlight Ministries Helps Transition Grieving People on the Road to Healing

Starlight No. 1From left: Gwen Kapcia, director of program development and a certified thanatologist and executive director Bev Thiel say the goal for Starlight Ministries is to serve as a path through people’s pain so they can see God working in their lives.Greg and Jolynn VanWienen's 10-year-old son Seth was killed in November 2007 when a car struck him while he was crossing a road.

It was the death of their son that birthed in 2009 the Hudsonville-based Starlight Ministries, a Christ-centered peer-to-peer support nonprofit that meets people where they are in their pain without judgement. Starlight also has an outreach in the Muskegon area. Meetings are held at area churches in both locales.

Starlight initially started as a balm solely for grieving kids, but its focus soon expanded to other ages, said Bev Thiel, Starlight's executive director.

"It started for just kids but within a few short weeks the parents were all waiting in the other room supporting each other while the kids were in group so they added the adult group right away," said Thiel.

Artist Dealing With Life Elements

Toby Mac fedora and Tshirt"Evidently we just can't get enough of Grand Rapids," said singer-songwriter TobyMac, on the phone from near his home in Franklin, TN.

He's returning to West Michigan March 10 with his "Hits Deep" tour at Van Andel Arena (details below). That's barely a year after performing there to a sold-out crowd. Plus his visit last September during the Luis/Andres Palau CityFest. "We love us some Grand Rapids," Toby grinned.

But this time he's coming with a new album, "The Elements," released last fall. His previous project, "This Is Not A Test," came in 2015.

Terry's Picks for March 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month.

Here are three highlights for March:

PRC’s Cradles of Grace Nurtures Sense of Community for Single Moms

Cradles of Grace Cutline No. 1In the foreground stands Marissa Gonzales, Pregnancy Resource Center’s support manager and behind her, Beverly Zahl, PRC’s client services director. The women affirm Cradles of Grace is a bridge for single mothers to find the strength of community. They have chosen life instead of abortion, yet for many pregnant women and single moms the question that still looms over them is: what now? The Pregnancy Resource Center's Cradles of Grace (COG) has some answers.

Meeting weekly at different times and locations in the Grand Rapids area, COG affords pregnant woman and single mothers an opportunity to realize the strength that comes with being a member of a community of like-minded people.

Gatherings start with sharing a provided meal while their children are taken care of, followed by Bible studies, goal-setting strategies, and encouragement for healthy life choices.

Forgiveness, Like No Other Power On Earth

forgiveYour son steals the family car and eventually calls three weeks later from three states away. Your spouse has been unfaithful. Your pastor absconds with several thousand dollars of your church's funds. You are the focus of a slanderous attack that undermines your reputation. Your business partner finds some way to cheat you, legally, and walks away with your investment. Your father or mother have been gone for two decades, but you're still haunted by the memory of how one or both wronged you.

The "normal" response pattern to any and all of these circumstances might include disbelief, hurt, anger, bitterness, and maybe vengeance. Some people might even argue that such emotions are justifiable and understandable.

People expect a certain amount of "righteous anger." It's a part of our American code of individualistic ethics. Kill or be killed. Hallowed self-defense. John Wayne rides again.

Comedian Returns to His GR Hometown

Michael Jr. 2019For comedian Michael Jr., it's all about coming home.

"I get to come to my hometown – my brother and sisters are all around the area and it's gonna be great," said the Grand Rapids native from his home near Dallas, TX.

Michael brings his "In The Moment" comedy tour to Grand Rapids First Church on Sunday March 3 (details below).

It's right here in West Michigan where the Ottawa Hills H.S. grad honed his comedy chops – his second ever "club" date was in the old Comedy Den in Cascade Township.

The Mixed Blessing of Multiple Versions of the Bible

bibleMultiple versions of the Bible are now a part of the landscape. Perhaps we're used to it, and perhaps not? In any event, it was not always so, and I'm not sure we've yet figured out how to navigate this ever-changing terrain.

I was raised in a Christian home—in the best sense of that phrase. I was regularly taken to church before I was born, and much more after that, so thanks to my parents I've been attending Bible-believing churches for over sixty years. This doesn't make me an expert on all things ecclesiastical, and certainly does not mean I always choose well and wisely. Far from it. But maybe like some of you it makes me "experienced," and thus reasonably adept at detecting changes over time.

Honor Brings More Opportunities for West Michigan Resident

Sapp Henry 2019Henry Sapp has begun yet another journey. This month the Kentwood resident was named a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network fellow. And in March he embarks on an 18-month program of instruction, mentoring and practical experience in the foundation's efforts to create transformational change toward a more equitable society.

"This is an opportunity for some intense training and skill-building, said Sapp, 48, of the fellowship honor.

After some initial inquiries Sapp decided to apply for the program, which was in line with his current involvement with area non-profits – including the Better, Wiser, Stronger boys' mentoring organization.

Sapp was selected as one of 80 candidates from across the country, to help spur the foundation's goal of advancing racial equity and racial healing and creating sustainable solutions.

Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) partners with the Kellogg foundation. CCL President John Ryan was impressed with the high caliber of new fellows.

Local Author Offers Thriller Set in the Future

travisTravis Thrasher has written everything from children's books to suspense novels to cowriting with big stars; he's lived all over the United States as well as Munich and Australia. And now he's settled in West Michigan and written a novel set in the near-time future that pits Big Tech against the forces of God.

"My editor at WaterBrook sent an email to me and other authors asking for proposals for novels dealing with the persecuted church," said Thrasher, who lives with his family in the Grandville area. "I had tons of ideas; this one grew into something organic. It's a standalone, but there are storylines not tied up so there could be other novels."

Thrasher will talk about and sign copies of "American Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith" at 7 pm Thursday, Feb. 21, at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids.

Christian Healthcare Centers Fosters Biblical Approach to Medicine

Christian Health Centers Cutline No. 1Christian Healthcare Centers president and CEO Mark Blocher: “It just struck me that the direction of our culture, the direction of our politics, and what was happening to medicine, was becoming increasingly secularized and frankly paganized.” Mark Blocher, president and CEO of Christian Healthcare Centers (CHC), remembers the feedback he received from people when he kicked around the idea of launching an insurance-free Christian primary care practice.

They thought it was encouraging that a Christian-based healthcare practice would operate without co-pays and deductibles, but instead, a monthly fee akin to paying a gym membership.

But, they added, could it really be done?

"People told us you couldn't do this," Blocher said in a recent interview at CHC, 3322 Beltline Ct. NE, in Grand Rapids. '"You guys are nuts. There's no way that you're going to do this.'"

Now they know better, said Blocher. CHC opened for patients in July 2017.

To understand what makes CHC unlike other primary care centers – both Christian and otherwise – stems in part from Blocher's concerns about the history and current condition of the U.S. healthcare system he says is both secular and pagan. This trend reaches back to when former President Bill Clinton charged his wife, Hillary, to launch in 1993 a Task Force on National Health Care Reform, referred to pejoratively as "Hillarycare."

Asking for Your Opinion

God Is More Idea1We believe the internet is a gift for such a time as this.

Manna Media is working hard to create a series of short videos with a more evangelistic message. Along with that, we are about to launch a pilot digital media campaign combined with a bot strategy. Our goal is to engage with God seekers online by asking engaging questions beginning with phrase What If God Is ______?

God Is More Idea2We have created a web page to send God seekers, and those that really don't know they are seeking God, to a site where they will find a greeting, a gospel presentation(s) as well as a resource page. We are planning media campaigns In our media campaigns where we will target different audiences and will send them to different landing pages geared to individual interests, all within a given location. On the webpage, we will have a list of churches within that target area.

Christian Concert/Arts Events on the Way

Battistelli F  red largerFrancesca Battistelli performs March 24 in Holland West Michigan entered February after a cold and snowy end of January. What more motivation do we need to look ahead to a Christian concert/arts schedule that is definitely warming up?

February has a couple of already sold-out shows – Drew & Ellie Holcomb Feb 11 and NeedToBreathe's acoustic show Feb. 23. But there's more to fill up the calendar.

First let's hit the big stage at Van Andel Arena:

Terry’s Picks: February 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-based arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for February:

Volunteers for Bed-making Nonprofit, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Serve as Jesus’ Hands and Feet

shp From left: Sid Sinnema, Sue Thompson and Aurene Sinnema display the SHP brand and a small version of a bunk bed Sid built. When it's time to call it a day, Jim and Sue Thompson do what many take for granted: They sleep in a bed.

But as Sue discovered early last year, not every child has a bed of their own to sleep in, a fact that motivated her into action when she became the Cedar Springs chapter president for the Twin Falls, Idaho-based, Sleep In Heavenly Peace (SHP).

With 115 chapters in 39 states, the nonprofit rallies volunteers like Jim and Sue to hand-make bunk beds for children ages 3 to 17 who have one of their own. Requests for beds are made through SHP's website, shpbeds.org.
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