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Featured Articles

Conference to Focus on Ministry of ‘Illusionists’

Magic scarf God is LoveDuane Laflin makes a scarf magically appear from a “secret message scroll” Magician/illusionist Duane Laflin has performed at secular venues on five continents and had extended runs at some of our nation's great "magic" theatres.

But he's also used his craft to share his faith and deliver a Christian message at mega-churches like pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback congregation in California as well as small churches "in the middle of nowhere."

Now he's organized an Oct. 22-23, 2021 conference to educate and equip Christian magicians/illusionists to use their slight-of-hand and other skills to advance the gospel (see details at the end of this article).

"I want to bring the things I've learned to people who want to do ministry," said Laflin from his modest "Grand Magic Theatre" storefront in downtown Colon Mich. "Teaching is a big part of what I do these days."

FPA to perform C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Great Divorce’

nbFellowship for Performing Arts, a nonprofit New York City-based production company producing theatre and film from a Christian worldview to engage a diverse audience, returns to live theatrical performances in Grand Rapids at DeVos Performance Hall Saturday, Nov. 6, at 4 p.m., with one performance only of the hit national tour of C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce."

This updated and expanded version of the original production features four actors portraying 22 vivid characters. They take a strange bus trip from hell to the outskirts of paradise, where they are given an opportunity to stay or return to hell . . . forever divorced from heaven. The choice proves to be much harder than imagined. And it all takes place in 90 minutes!

Faith leaders urge Kent County BOC to support KCHD mask order

nbThe Kent County Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships team recently attended a special meeting of the Kent County Board of Commissioners work session, urging them to require students in pre-K through 6th grade students to wear masks while indoors at school.

"We are gathering to support our (Kent) County health officer, Dr. Adam London, and the Kent County Health Department's order requiring pre-K through 6th grade students to wear masks while indoors at school," said Khary Bridgewater, coordinator for the Kent County Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Team. "As leaders in the faith community, we continue to work alongside our health care providers on the frontline of this deadly pandemic by serving the sick, comforting the suffering and burying the dead. We applaud the extraordinary work of the Kent County Health Department in serving all members of our community, including our children."

Hospice provider to construct Grief Support Center

nbFaith Hospice is currently raising funds to construct a community-based Grief Support Center at its Trillium Woods inpatient facility in Wyoming. The new Grief Support Center will be better able to serve staff, patients, and the general community. As well, the new space will allow Faith to expand bereavement services, give staff a home base to find support, and enhance training and education for better care. Learn more here: https://faithhospicecare.org/grief-support-center/.

Demand for senior living prompts senior services expansion

nbDemand for senior living services drove Holland Home to undergo a $5.5 million expansion project at its Breton Woods campus on 44th Street near Breton Avenue in Kentwood. Completed recently, the new facility will provide an innovative 19,000-square foot, 15-bed assisted living unit and a 5,400-square foot activity center with a gym and exercise area. The privately funded single-story assisted living unit will be a much-needed addition to the two existing assisted living buildings on the Breton Campus. Each of the existing structures, built in 2015 and 2017 respectively, contain 15-bed units. Meanwhile, as more seniors incorporate iPads, apps and online shopping into their daily routine, they are increasing their risk of online scamming. To help residents understand all the traps and help with password and technology security, Holland Home is offering free educational classes to better equip residents on how to identify and avoid online scams.

Nonprofit starts construction on $10m campus renewal

D.A. Blodgett-St. John's broke ground in mid-August on a $10 million multipurpose facility near the organization's Knapp campus in Northeast Grand Rapids. When finished in late 2022, the new building will serve as the campus cornerstone, as it integrates all children and family services under one roof, an intentional move to improve outcomes for the 7,000 children and families it serves annually. Locating all services onto one campus will save the organization $2 million over the next two decades

New Shoots of Evangelism, Leadership to Soon Sprout for GVSU Students

gvsuRev. Scott Stark: “The microchurch initiative allows us to have another pathway of leadership ministry.” Green shoots of evangelism and new leadership prospects will soon sprout for Grand Valley State University (GVSU) students.

The Christian Reformed Church in America campus ministry intends to first train GVSU students, with the goal of eventually getting underway microchurches, says Rev. Scott Stark, director of campus ministry at GVSU.

"Microchurches, as we define them, take complex things and make them as simple as possible but they're not simplistic," says Stark. "I'm talking about small communities of people — 5 to 30 people — that are centered around the person of Jesus Christ. They're started by believers but are often designed missionarly in order to welcome de-churched or unchurched people either with shared interests, characteristics, location, and vocation."

Bulthuis & Crew Poised for Benefit.

Bulthuis Glenn w Hark UpGlenn Bulthuis, shown here performing with the Hark Up HornsSinger-songwriter Glenn Bulthuis has done plenty of benefit shows in his 44-year concert career. But his upcoming Oct. 22 performance with his band the Tonedeafs and Chris Hansen's Brass has special meaning for the veteran musician.

"These two organizations (Manna Media and Turning Point Missions) are close to home," said Bulthuis during a recent interview.

Both of the non-profit ministries are headed by members of his Oakhill Presbyterian Church on Grand Rapids' northeast side.

Movin’ On Up For Ministry

Monroe completed sanctuaryThe Monroe Church worshiping at its new homeIt wasn't a long walk. But it was one to remember.

On a mild late-summer Sunday, the congregation of Monroe Community Church (MCC) of Grand Rapids, MI began worship at one location, took a walk and then finished worship down the street.

It was goodbye to its old home and hello to a new one.... just a few blocks down Monroe Ave. NW.

Pastor Jim Boer led his congregation in saying good-bye.

Persistent Newsboys Back on the Road

Newsboys balconyNewsboys (from left), Jody Davis, Duncan Phillips, Jeff Frankenstein, Michael TaitJeff Frankenstein of the Christian pop-rock band Newsboys is primed to go from pandemic isolation to the concert trail.

"We probably tour more than a lot of bands and we're used to being in a different city every day," said the keyboardist during an interview from Nashville, TN.

"From there to going nowhere for 16 months....I had always wondered what that would be like," he said.

Spending time at home with family was a good thing. In fact, Jeff and his wife Jennifer had a "pandemic" baby during the interlude – their fourth child. "I didn't have to worry about missing the delivery day," he smiled.

Terry’s Picks for October 2021

nbThis is the column in which West Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events in the coming month. Here are a several possibilities for October....

Art of Faith at Art Prize

Jan Maureen and the fear breakerArtist Jan Maureen and her Art Prize entry “The Fear Breaker”Jan Maureen Nosakowski refers to herself as an artist who happens to be a Christian, rather than a "Christian artist."

"I guess there are some people in the world who are turned off by the phrase 'Christian artist,'" she said from her southeast Michigan home. "But really, I couldn't do any of my art without Him (God).

Her inspiration is exemplified in her Art Prize exhibit "Safari Series" – four related pieces on display at the lobby of the 234 Market Apartments venue in downtown Grand Rapids (Art Prize runs through Oct. 3 – more info at www.artprize.org).

Jan Maureen (the name she often uses professionally) is a mixed media collage artist and uses various mediums in her two-dimensional work.

A New Stage For Master Arts?

master arts LobbyTim VanBruggen of Master Arts Theatre (center) shows onlookers the lobby of their prospective new home.Master Arts Theatre (MAT) executive director Tim Van Bruggen paused while giving a tour of what could be his organization's new home.

"The square footage of this lobby is bigger than our current auditorium," he told onlookers.

"That's a terrible statistic, but it's also funny," he smiled.

The faith-based theatre company has an inside track for a move to the relatively spacious Central Christian Church in the 2500 block of Leonard St. NE near the I-96 expressway.

Four "test-run" August performances in the prospective space were successful with full houses and also drawing a wave of financial donations.

But a sale is not a done deal. A purchase deadline from the soon-to-be-closing church looms and there are zoning matters which Master Arts currently has under consideration.

A Landmark Unity Festival

Tammy TrentTammy Trent sang and shared her story at the 20th Unity FestivalThe Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon completed its 20th anniversary with a look back and a look ahead.

And also with some words recalling its co-founder and avid supporter Roger Eikenberry, who passed away July 26 at the age of 74.

Included on this year's concert bill were two artists who performed on that very same stage 20 years ago.

It was 2001 when the newly-formed Alive on the Lakeshore organization took a giant step of faith and led in the planning and production of that first, three-day, August festival at Heritage Landing along Muskegon Lake.

Please Join Us

glennDear Friends:

Manna Media is partnering with Turning Point Missions (TPM), a nonprofit Christian outreach, for a concert event. TPM is a ministry we love, "TPM exists to provide clean safe drinking water to the people of Haiti and beyond, while introducing them to Christ."

If you have not seen their work I would encourage you to visit their website: www.turningpointmissions.org. Together we are planning a fun evening for you on October 22, 2021. It will be great to get together with friends and enjoy an evening of entertainment. Glenn Bulthuis and the Tonedeafs will be playing the music of the Beatles and more for your enjoyment.

Terry’s Picks for September 2021

EVENTSThis is the column in which West Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events in the coming month. Here are a few possibilities for September....

A life restored. AA’s Big Book, Twelve Steps shepherds Grand Rapids man to sobriety

Cutline randyRandy: “I’m a much more peaceful person.”Editor's note: In keeping with Alcoholics Anonymous' spiritual foundation and tradition, WMCN will identify the person interviewed as Randy.

With his flowing white beard and Ben Franklin-style glasses, 60-year-old Randy radiates a peaceful countenance. The reason is as simple as it's profound: the outer man now matches the inner.

Randy gives Alcoholics Anonymous credit for his calmer demeanor and clear headedness. And for this, the Grand Rapids resident readily acknowledges his indebtedness to God.

"Without God's help, I couldn't have done any of it," he says.

Kuyper College WorkPlace Partnership help students get job, degree

CapturekuyperAn initiative Kuyper College recently launched that will start this fall will enable students to earn a degree, work a part-time entry-level job and help pay their tuition. It's the first of its kind in Michigan.

Butterball Farms Inc., and Lumbermen's Inc. are participating in Kuyper College's urban WorkPlace Partnership program, which will launch this fall. "A portion of the student's tax-free compensation will be used to pay down tuition, which when added to additional state and federal grants, can help students graduate with little to no debt," said Dr. Patricia Harris, president of Kuyper College. Under the WorkPlace Partner initiative, class schedules are configured to allow students to work 20 hours each week. Presently the college is finalizing partnership agreements with other Grand Rapids businesses.

Corcoran appointed Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic School

corcoranRyan Corcoran has been appointed principal of Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic School. Corcoran was selected with a unanimous recommendation from the search committee consisting of teachers, parents, the retiring principal and school board members. He most recently served as assistant principal at Saint Thomas for one year. Prior to that, he taught English and theology and coordinated the international student program at West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids. He is trilingual, speaking Spanish and Chinese in addition to English. Corcoran has previously taught in university, high school, kindergarten and preschool classrooms in China; elementary and high schools in Spain; and online adult education for students from around the world. He also has experience teaching special education.

Cause Camp conference set for Oct. 13-15

causeCause Camp, a national nonprofit immersive conference, has added a fall session October 13-15 at the Eberhard Center on the campus of Grand Valley State University's downtown Grand Rapids campus. The conference is presented by Nonprofit Hub and Do More Good following their merger at the close of 2020.

Calvin U. forms presidential search committee

nbCalvin University's Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees has selected a 16-member presidential search committee following the resignation earlier this year of current president Micheal Le Roy.

The committee is composed of individuals with a broad array of experience and gifts who share a commitment to seeing how God's faithfulness revealed through Calvin's new leader.

Hope Network receives suicide prevention grant

nbHope Network, a Christian nonprofit that helps people with disabilities live independently, recently received a $1.4 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. Hope Network will now offer suicide prevention services to 150,000 people across Michigan, which is part of the Zero Suicide initiative.

New Gender Ideology – A Given in American Culture

rexsat7Dr. Rex M. RogersIf you're ready to resist the gender revolution, you're too late.

The gender revolution fight is over, and the new gender ideology has won.

I don't mean we should give up, so to speak. I certainly do not mean we should jettison a biblical understanding of sexuality, and I don't mean we shouldn't speak this truth in love.

I mean: the idea gender is fluid and socially constructed (i.e., immutable, binary biological sex does not exist) is now America's culturally accepted norm. It's a done deal.

Most intellectuals/academics, elite opinion influencers, corporate, and government leaders embrace the new view without question.

Anyone who raises doubts, let alone rejects the new gender ideology, will or can be socially ostracized, cyber bullied, or "cancelled" in the form of a lost job, professional standing, or ruined career.

Present-Day False Prophets Undermine Church and Culture

rexsat7Dr. Rex M. RogersEvery day, present-day "false prophets" intentionally and effectively attack the core beliefs and values of the Christian Church and American culture.

This is a growing existential threat, for Judeo-Christian values no longer provide a "sacred canopy" over American culture. These historic, foundational values are no longer ascendant or respected or even referenced by a vast cross-section of society.

So false prophets now practice their craft with seemingly little resistance.

City Hope GR is ‘church for people of all abilities.’ First service is Oct. 10

Cutline No. a1-12Lead Pastor Dave Vander Woude: “We need to have a community of people with all abilities.”The way Lead Pastor Dave Vander Woude sees it, City Hope GR is a church whose time has come.

This new church plant is getting the word out that it will be a congregation for people of all abilities — meaning those with and without disabilities.

Its inaugural service is Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. It will share space with Monroe Community Church at its new location at 1020 Monroe Ave. NW in Grand Rapids.

"The plan is to keep it at 5 p.m.," says Vander Woude. "We looked at different days and times and that's the best time. We'll look at it again in four to six months and if we need to adjust the day and time, we will."

A Look Behind the Leader

Brown Dr. Julie MayflowerLittle known fact: in addition to her flawless English, Dr. Julia Brown speaks fluent Portuguese. But the bilingual Brown transcends spoken language as she brings faith-filled music to her roles as organist and director of music at Mayflower Congregational Church in Grand Rapids.

Born to American-citizen parents in Brazil, Brown developed her love for music from her church choir-director mother and through her own musical studies. She especially loved the grand tones of a pipe organ – something her own church didn't have.

"When I first heard a pipe organ with that wonderful sound I said, 'I've got to learn that instrument,'" she recalled.

Ken Reynolds’ Life and Legacy Celebrated

Reynolds Ken arms liftedKen Reynolds in worship After I heard of the "home-going" of Ken Reynolds on Aug. 7, I immediately felt our loss of a man with great musical gifts – songwriting, choir and musical directing, and worship leading. Ken stepped into eternity after a years-long struggle with cancer, a battle that included numerous treatments and at least one bone marrow transplant. (For memorial information, see below).

He was home-grown in so many ways. Coming of age here in West Michigan, Ken graduated from Wyoming Park High School and Western Michigan University. He spent seven years leading worship/music at Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids, followed by many more years serving at Resurrection Life Church in Grandville.

Hackett Catholic Prep Names New Principal

CapturehackThe Catholic Schools of Greater Kalamazoo and Hackett Catholic Prep have appointed Paul Dull as the high school's next principal, for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Dull joins the Hackett Catholic Prep family with three decades of experience leading schools and serving communities. He holds degrees in Biology, Philosophy and Educational Administration.

GR Church Switches to Green Energy

CapturesolarIn July, Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids installed 126 solar panels on its roof as it switched to renewable energy.

The project is expected to keep 5.4 million pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere - the equivalent of 7.4 American homes being taken off the grid or the carbon sequestered by 3,000 acres of forest in a year, explained Nate Dierlam, a church member who spearheaded the project.

75 Mile Walk to Support Growing Hope Globally

nbGrowing Hope Globally (GHG) co-founders Bev Abma and Ron DeWeerd will walk 75 miles throughout West Michigan to raise support for GHG, an organization they both founded in 1999. The walk will begin with a send-off at First Reformed Church in Fremont on Aug. 11 and will culminate with Dairy Day at Nutrient Ag Solutions in Wayland on Aug. 21. The public is invited to join the walkers or participate in one of the events being planned along the way.

Van Harten selected as U.S. Congregational Ministries director

CapturevanhartenLis Van Harten was recently named permanent director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America's U.S. Congregational Ministries. The positions oversees the denomination's ministries including Chaplaincy and Care Ministry, Disability Concerns, Diversity, Faith Formation Ministries, the Office of Social Justice, Pastor Church Resources, Race Relations, Safe Church Ministry and Worship Ministries.

Hope College: funding addresses social needs in Holland

nbAs part of the "There's No Place like Home" initiative, an $800,000 grant has been awarded from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Established in February 2020 and administered by Holland-based Hope College, three new community-based partnerships will allow the college's faculty and students in the arts and humanities to work collaboratively with local organizations to provide service and learning opportunities for those at Hope.

Terry’s Picks for August 2021

EVENTSThis is the column in which West Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events in the coming month. Here are a few possibilities for August...

Christian Concerts Gearing Up For Fall Season

EVENTSIt may seem premature to offer a fall calendar list of Christian concerts in West Michigan. But there's one that represents a "breakthrough." making it especially noteworthy.

For the first time in 13 years, the Allegan County Fair will host a Christian concert on its main stage during its September fair schedule.

In a June letter to area churches, fair executive director Saree Miller officially announced a concert line-up of Casting Crowns, David Crowder and Phil Wickham for Thurs. Sept. 16.

Perhaps it's simply part of the post-pandemic surge in live music events. But nevertheless it is significant addition for the area's largest county fair, which dates back to the 1800s.

Gender Fluidity and Divine Design

Rex-2017b-300x242Dr. Rex M. Rogers Gender fluidity is the cultural soup du jour.

It's the latest craze that's morphed beyond political correctness to indisputable orthodoxy. Dissent is not permitted. If you ask questions, based upon common sense, biology, a few thousand years of human history, or even religious conviction, you're a bigot, a hater.

Proponents (especially activists) of gender fluidity believe biology is not destiny. In their view, biological sex is mutable, something "assigned" at birth. One's "real sex" is determined by one's feelings about gender, conveniently presented as an ever-lengthening spectrum of choices (some social media are offering 112 gender choices).

For proponents or activists, (most people struggling with gender dysphoria are not activists¹) there is a clear set or steps a person should pursue once they self-identify with a gender that does not align with their biological sex.

Wedgwood Fundraiser Exceeds Goal

nbThanks to sponsors and golfers, Wedgwood Christian Service's 36th Annual Charity Golf Classic raised over $190,000, exceeding the event's fundraising goal by over $10,000. The money will go toward the organization's 100% donor-funded Transforming Services. Even with an afternoon rain shower, the event was near capacity with 348 golfers on both the Valley and Ridge courses.

"We are moved by the generosity of our sponsors and participants," said Vivian TerMaat, Wedgwood's chief advancement officer. "Coming out of 2020 we were unsure to what level people, businesses, and organizations would be willing and able to be a part of the Charity Golf Classic, but it is clear that our community values this event and cares deeply about individuals and families who are navigating mental, emotional, and behavioral health challenges."

President of Calvin Resigns

le royThe president of Calvin University announced he will resign following 10 year's at the Christian Reformed Church educational institution. Michael Le Roy said it was a hard decision for he and wife Andrea to make, but "fleeting moments" with a family of young adults and aging parents who need more care makes it the right time to return to the Northwest to be closer to family.

The 2021-22 academic year will be Le Roy's last at Calvin. "I intend to fulfill my duties with integrity and to give my full attention to the advancement of the institution's mission and Vision 2030 in the time that remains," said Le Roy. "I want the community to know that the board has been very supportive of Andrea and me throughout our time at Calvin, and I have full faith and trust that the board will manage this transition well. I have been blessed to work with an excellent team of leaders during my time at Calvin, and I believe that they will be committed to a seamless transition to new leadership.

Moreno-Riaño Selected as Cornerstone University’s President

MorenoThe Cornerstone University board of trustees unanimously appointed Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño as its 12th university president. Moreno-Riaño succeeds Dr. Joseph M. Stowell, who retired this month after 13 years.

Moreno-Riaño joins Cornerstone after serving for over seven years as executive vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. There, he was also a tenured professor of government.

The selection of Moreno-Riaño comes after a six-month, nationwide quest coordinated by executive search firm Carter Baldwin. The exploration produced 70 viable candidates, which, after extensive interviews, was narrowed to three names, of which the board unanimously chose Moreno-Riaño.

Safe Haven Taps Rachel VerWys as Executive Director

r ver wysRachel j VerWys has joined Safe Haven Ministries as its executive director. She possesses an array of nonprofit leadership experiences over the past 20 years. She most recently served as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of SEE Human Trafficking Coalition and chairs the Kent County Area Human Trafficking Coalition. VerWys was named one of the Top 50 Influential Women in West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal in 2020 and received a Diversity Award from Wedgwood Christian Services in May 2021. As a student at Calvin College, she volunteered at Ramoth House, which later evolved into Safe Haven Ministries, bringing her career full circle.

Safe Haven offers comprehensive domestic violence services throughout Kent County, Michigan. Our 24/7 hotline number is 616-452-6664. We offer emergency safe shelter, nonresidential programming, and education & prevention for the entire community.

Wedgwood Recipient of Youth Advisory Council Grants

nbThe Grand Haven Area Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council, Ionia County Youth Advisory Council, and Wyoming Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council have each selected Wedgwood Christian Services as a recipient of their annual grants.

Each area Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is made up of local teens who review all grant applications and select recipients based on the organization or project's impact on youth in their community.

The grants from each YAC will support the Children's Hope Annual Fund which makes it possible for Wedgwood to provide 100% donor-funded Transforming Services, including: Recreation & Wellness, Prevention, Manasseh Project Outreach, Employment Training, and Chaplaincy & Young Life.

Holland Home Executive Receives Home and Hospice Care Award

flietstraHolland Home Executive Vice President for Home and Community Based Services Carolyn Flietstra was inducted into the Michigan Homecare and Hospice Association Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was inaugurated to honor those individuals who have excelled in the home care and hospice profession, those who bring honor and recognition to the MHHA and those who inspire and mentor individuals and students to consider or continue their careers in home care and hospice.

This recognition comes as Flietstra has announced her retirement this year, leaving behind a legacy of exceptional leadership in the home health care profession.
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