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Featured Articles

Festival of the Arts Includes Faith-Inspired Music

 Koller Jordan235Jordan Koller performs at Festival at 12:30 p.m. Friday  The 46th annual Festival of the Arts comes to downtown Grand Rapids the weekend of June 5-7. And church music ensembles and other faith-based artists will again be on stage amidst the all-encompassing variety of musical expression.

     “We loved playing at Festival last year,” said Steve Bacinski, guitarist with the Christian modern rock band Thirsty Ground.

     Thirsty Ground is back again in 2015, performing at 3:45 p.m. Fri. June 5 on the City Stage on Monroe Center at Ottawa Ave.

     Thousands of persons milling around the Festival grounds grow into hundreds of thousands over the three-day event. A music performer trying to attract passers-by and then holding an audience isn’t easily accomplished.

WAR International Battles the World’s Underbelly of Human Trafficking with Hope

war235WAR International founder and president Becky McDonald stands near jewelry “Monique” made. Monique previously worked in a red light district of Grand Rapids. She had no resume to list her employable skills. WAR International hired her through its pilot program that gives Monique the opportunity to repair and design jewelry.When customers make a purchase online, at a home party or at one of three Women At Risk (WAR) International’s boutiques, they’re not just buying handcrafted products. They’re enabling at-risk women and children to find freedom from human trafficking. And with their freedom, they gain what previously was not within their grasp: hope and a future.

Human trafficking is a euphemism that illustrates the underbelly of one of the world’s most heinous of sins. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines it as a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people that forces them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

WAR International’s founder and president, Rebecca “Becky” McDonald has another term for it: a heart problem entrenched in avarice.

Faithful to God’s Calling, Qualified to Offer Advice

johnwilliams235Bishop John Williams holds a page of his handwritten memoir.Tucked inside a worn leather briefcase is the handwritten autobiography Bishop John H. Williams started when he was 35 years old with the uncomplicated title, "My Life." He turns 81 June 2.

A key reason his memoirs remain a work in progress is because Williams keeps chugging along fulfilling pastoral duties.

"I'm going to be faithful to the command God has given me," Williams said, who is the father of eight children, grandfather to 15 grandchildren and most recently a great-grandfather. His wife of 31 years, Catherine, died a year ago.

Destiny calling

Williams said he was 10 years old living his hometown of Coahoma, Miss., when he received the call to ministry.

More to Hear From Laura Story

Story235A little known fact about singer-songwriter Laura Story: She once was a student at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“I was there for one semester and got homesick and went home,” recalled Story, 36, from her home near Atlanta. Ga. “But I loved it up there…. it was beautiful.”
(Story returns to Grand Rapids on May 16 – details below).

New Music Review: Fruit of the Spirit

Reynolds Ben and Barb  CD cove235jpgIt's possible that you may never have heard of Ben & Barb Reynolds, a couple from the Grand Rapids area.

It's more likely you have heard of their son Ken Reynolds, an associate pastor of worship at the huge Resurrection Life Church in Grandville. He's a songwriter, producer and recording artist as well as a worship leader. And he lovingly offered help to his parents in putting together this project.

Major Concert Tours Scheduled for West Michigan

Tomlin235Tours by leading Christian music artists Chris Tomlin and Newsboys are coming to West Michigan in November.

Newsboys' "We Believe tour...God's Not Dead" stops Nov. 6 at Grand Rapids First, 2100 44th St. SW in Wyoming, a church which has one of the area's largest worship auditoriums.

Newsboys and lead singer Michael Tait scored one of their biggest hits ever several years ago with "God's Not Dead." The anthem was the title song of the popular "God's Not Dead" film which also featured the band in an on screen role.

Heartside Ministry: A place for homeless to belong, to be loved, valued

hm235Heartside Ministry Executive Director Andy DeBraber stands next to some of the artwork displayed in its art gallery.Mention the word “community” and many people think of backyard barbecue get-togethers, white picket fences and manicured lawns. Say the same word to those who frequent Heartside Ministry at 54. S. Division Avenue in Grand Rapids, and the word takes on a different meaning.

“One of the hardest parts of being homeless is being judged,” said the Rev. Andy DeBraber, Heartside Ministry’s executive director for the last three years. “They’ve been marginalized and pushed away from a table or tables of families or churches.”

Financial Infidelity

finThe headline "Financial Infidelity" is not as grabbing as say, "Marital Infidelity." News about a married man or woman getting caught in an extra-marital affair garners far more attention than news about a married man or woman getting caught in an extra-marital "financial affair" which involves hiding money or purchases from their spouse.

And though financial infidelity doesn't seem quite as shocking as marital infidelity, the effects can be just as devastating. According to a study conducted by CESI Debt Solutions, over 65% of Americans hide cash from their spouse. The study also indicated that 80% of all married people make purchases in secret from their spouse, and one fifth of the respondents admitted to having a credit card their spouse knows nothing about. The study also reported that one out of two people in the survey feared their spouse would leave them if they knew how much they were spending.

Band Gets Tulip Time Welcome

    The Neverclaim235 It’s a good thing that singer-songwriter Jeremiah Carlson likes tulips.

     That’s because he and another member of the Christian alternative rock band The Neverclaim are coming to Holland to take part in the Tulip Time celebration.

     The music artists will be riding on the JQ-99 float in the Sat. May 9 Muziekparade, doing a meet & greet and unplugged music set at Lemonjellos, and joining in a Sun. May 10 worship service at a Holland area church. (see details below).

4Fires Bridges Native American Culture with God, the Creator

peters235The sacred herbal blend known as the Knick-Knick symbolizes lifting prayers to God the Creator.White puffs of smoke drift upward as the Rev. Mike Peters uses a white eagle feather to fan the Knick-Knick, a sacred herbal blend of spearmint leaves, red willow bard, sage, sweet grass and the bayberry bush.

The smoldering herbs are a symbol of the prayers sent to the Great Spirit, or in the case of Peters’ ministry, the Holy Spirit.

Peters tells the dozen or so people gathered in a circle that the Knick-Knick and Revelations 8:4 have a symbiotic bond: “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God's people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.”

Terry's Picks for May

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area’s faith-based arts, entertainment and conference events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for May:

Ordination Marks New Chapter in John Smith’s Ministerial Life

smith1(left to right) Bishop John Williams places a clerical collar around Rev. John Smith’s neck.When he walked into Living Word Christian Center in Southeast Grand Rapids on a recent Sunday afternoon, Dr. John W. Smith's black clergy shirt was unbuttoned at the top. Later, he left the building wearing a clerical collar.

Wearing the collar signals a new chapter not only in Smith's life but also with the presbytery that ordained him and the ministry he now serves under Bishop John Williams.

As such, Smith has found himself juggling several ministerial balls.

Charity Recycling Fair for Good Causes

rycleA charity event seeking recycling materials is scheduled for Saturday, May 2, from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m. at the Corinth Reformed Church, 129 100th St. S.E. in Byron Center. The event requires a $5 entry ticket with the chance to win one of several prizes including a new grill or giant water slide.

The funds raised will go to Zoe Waters, a World Mission project to supply clean drinking water to many people. The funds will benefit the Buist Food Pantry as well.

Christian Concerts on the Way to West Michigan

sidewalk 235Sidewalk ProphetsConcerts by major faith-based artists such as Third Day, Matt Maher and David Crowder have already rolled through West Michigan this spring. And more are on their way.

The popular Annie Moses Band returns to the area at 7 p.m. Fri. May 8 at Grace Community Church, 3500 New Holland St. in Hudsonville.

The ensemble brings its "American Rhapsody" program with music from composers such as Gershwin, Copland and other American originals. Their acoustic-based music (with fiddle!) is a pleasure for fans of multiple genres. General admission tickets are $15 and available via www.itickets.com

Base Camp Guides Vulnerable Grand Rapids’ Urban Children with God’s Love, Relevant Lessons

basecamp1Caitlin Jackson (left) said it’s important for volunteers to be consistent in their attendance.Ty Davis doesn't have to think twice where his life would be today had it not crossed paths with the urban ministry, Base Camp, when he was 14 years old.

The 35-year-old Grand Rapids resident is certain he would not be looking forward to celebrating 10 years of marriage in October with his wife, Juanita. His sons, Tyler, 7, and Justin, 5, would not be students at Grand Rapids Christian Elementary, and his family would not be attending One Church Empowerment Center church in Grandville.

Stewardship Is About More Than Money

stewardshipStewardship" is a Christian jargon word. It's part of Church culture.

There's nothing wrong with the word. In fact, it's a good and useful one. But in my view stewardship has been pigeonholed by the Church, co-opted for one purpose at the expense of others.

Generally, when Pastor announces he's going to speak on "Stewardship" his topic is money...or more specifically, giving. And people run for the exits.

Crowder Offers a “Front Porch” View on New Tour

crowder235On his previous tour, singer-songwriter David Crowder went for the feel of a rural front porch.

"That's the sound we were going for," noted the artist from near his Atlanta-area home of his mix of acoustic instruments.

But now, with his "Neon Steeple" tour, Crowder, 43, has taken the next step – construct an actual front porch for his concert stage set. (Crowder comes to Ridge Point Community Church in Holland on April 17 – see info below).

New Music Review: “Y.W.N.T.M.D.”

BeaconLight235In late April, Grand Rapids area native Beacon Light (aka Brandon Clahassey) will issue his third rap/hip-hop collection, "Open Eyes." He's already released one of the new songs, "Y.W.N.T.M.D."

The beats and lyrics come fast and furious in the tune, which repeats the theme represented by the title letters: "You Will Never Turn Me Down."

This is not about getting turned down for a job or a favor. Rather, it's about refusing to turn the volume down on sharing God's biblical truth.

Woman of Influence: Marjory McClure, Wonderfully Made

Marjory PictureIn 1992 Marjory McClure, of Wonderfully Made, was inspired to develop a faith-based childbirth education program after overhearing nurses discussing such a program at a childbirth education conference. "From 1992-1996, I was busy raising a family, but I compiled information and began to transform the traditional childbirth program to Wonderfully Made," McClure explained. The Wonderfully Made program includes all the elements of a traditional childbirth program, but weaves in spiritual elements with scripture, prayer, and meditation.

McClure recalled how she had taken childbirth prep classes for her two pregnancies. "I felt some of the things in the classes instilled more fear than confidence in me, and I felt something was missing." As she began to develop the Wonderfully Made program, McClure wanted to incorporate the joy and sanctity of childbirth into the program bringing in the component of God's presence in labor and birth.

Worship the Focus of All Sons & Daughters

All Sons and Daughters live shot235All Sons & Daughters (David Leonard, left, and Leslie Jordan, right)The band All Sons & Daughters works hard at creating a worship environment wherever it performs.

And on the group's current tour, the players are taking along their church pastor.

The worship band, connected with Journey Church in Franklin, Tenn. brings its "Night of Worship and Conversation" to Life Church in Grand Haven on April 9 (see info below).

Marketplace Ministry Counsels People with God’s Wisdom

Rob Ellis235Rob Ellis has been director of Marketplace Ministry for seven years.Rob Ellis, director of Marketplace Ministry, flips through the New Living Translation of the Bible so he can read out loud a certain scripture from the Old Testament.

"Get all the advice and instruction you can," Proverbs 19:20 reads, "so you will be wise the rest of your life."

Ellis knows there are a number of people who need a rudder to guide them through life's challenges and heartaches. That's why Marketplace Ministry is here.

"There are a number of people who have not learned this yet," Ellis said.

Terry’s Picks: April 2015

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

*"Undaunted"- The annual Easter drama at Blythefield Hills Baptist Church in Rockford is based on the true-life story of the Jim Bowers family, the West Michigan missionary family whose plane was shot down over Peru in 2001. Several family members died in the mistaken-identity attack. The story is told as an uplifting musical testimony to the faith that sustained them. Performances are at 7 p.m. April 2-4 with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 4 in the church at 6727 Kuttshill Dr. NE. Tickets are $5 suggested donation and are available on line via www.bhbconline.org/easterdrama. Call 866-9597 ext. 134 for more information.

Embrace Parenting

children235I recently watched a TV segment called, "You Can Love Your Children
but Hate Parenting." It was based on an article that appeared in New York magazine about this concept of loving your children but not parenting.

I think there is some truth in that statement, even though hate is kind of a strong word. Most parents would never admit to it—publicly at least. It seems almost unthinkable to confess that you don't always like parenting. I mean what kind of parent doesn't enjoy every minute of changing diapers, stepping on toys, cleaning up vomit, listening to a temper tantrum or running after a two-year-old with a fork in her hand? The answer is every kind of parent! There are minutes, hours, days, weeks and even months where parents would trade their role of caregiver for sewer cleaner.

A Look Behind the Leader: Rachel Fuller

Fuller Rachel235     Rachel Fuller of The Well Church and Training Center says her church is all about family.
   Rachel is director of worship at The Well. Her husband Matthew is assistant pastor, and her mother-in-law and father-in-law Kathy and Michael Scott are co-founders and co-pastors of the congregation.

     “Our heart and vision is to restore families and people really feel a part of family when they come to The Well,” she noted.

     Originally beginning as a house church, then sharing a building with another church, The Well now has its own facility – in a storefront along Breton Rd. SE just south of 44th St. SE.

Photo Exhibition Engenders God’s Peace, Contentment

Dianne Carroll BurdickDianne Carroll Burdick loves her work as a photographer.Photographer Dianne Carroll Burdick has a certain affinity for landscapes and Michigan-grown food. And since it's the beginning of spring, it's a perfect time to share it with others.

Through May 1 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 47 Jefferson Ave SE in Grand Rapids, Carroll Burdick has on display 60 hand-colored prints that are from two of her books.

A calming presence

The response from people clearly indicates a calming presence reflected in God's creation that resonates with people who live in a hurried society.

Musical Battle With A Twist

 ThirstyGroundPic235Steve Bacinski, Billy Hirt, Justin White, Michael Engel.     The Battle of the Bands, a friendly competition-fundraiser for Algoma Christian School in Kent City, is back again this year – with a new wrinkle.

     “This year we’re having fan voting,” said Rob Guerin, coordinator of the March 28 event to be held at Kent City Baptist Church (see accompanying details).

     “The voting is done with a phone app we’ll share at the event,” he added.

Do You Believe? is the Best Faith-based Film I have seen

dyb235It occurred to me while watching "Do You Believe?" at a press screening that I was watching the best faith-based film I had seen. This movie, which opens nationally on March 20, has all the right ingredients to make it work in a powerful way. For one thing, the acting is top notch. I have seen too many Christian films that fall short on the production and quality side.

2nd Chance School Will Harness at-risk Teens thru God and Horses

horseRon Silverman has reached a purchase agreement with Calvary Assembly of God church shown here.Ron Silverman is discussing the future of his faith-based school for at-risk teens when suddenly he stops in midsentence to watch 16-year-old Ty Sturgis adeptly slip a harness around a colt.

"Look at that," Silverman said, with obvious pride in his voice. "Six months ago he didn't know the front end of the horse from the back end."

Ty's life has improved beyond knowing equine skills since he started living with Silverman and his wife, Patti, in June when the Kent County Juvenile Court granted the Solon Township couple power of attorney and permanent custody of the teen.

Benefit Concert Set For Summer Praise Series

Carpenters Cross live shot225Carpenter’s Cross is one of the bands to perform at the March 28 benefit.Richard Moll has already planned this summer's "Praise in the Park" Sunday night outdoor music series in downtown Rockford.

And a benefit concert set for March 28 should give the series a welcome boost.
"A couple of music groups have stepped forward and offered to help with a benefit," said Moll, founder and coordinator of the series held each summer in the lovely setting of Garden Club Park along the Rogue River in downtown Rockford.

Third Day Ready to “Lead Us Back….”

Third Day hillside235 Mark Lee, Mac Powell, David Carr, Tai Anderson (l. to r.)     The faith-based, pop-rock band Third Day has a new album and a new tour. And lead singer Mac Powell says he couldn’t be more excited about it.

     “We knew we wanted to present something musically different from we’ve done before,” said Powell during a conference call from Atlanta. “We wanted something new and fresh musically and lyrically.”

     The result is “Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship,” a new collection released earlier this month. The first single, the blues-touched “Soul On Fire,” is already climbing Christian music charts and provides the title for the new tour.

Local Author Turns Blog Series into Hands-on Prayer Aid

azAmelia Rhodes remembers the call from a friend who wanted to talk about the events in her life, including a friend’s cancer diagnosis, and to ask Rhodes to pray. Of course she agreed, and added that request to her long list of things to pray for.

“I remember feeling frustrated, guilty and overwhelmed because I wasn’t sure how I could pray for all the needs in my community,” said Rhodes, who lives with her husband and two children in Lowell. “I thought that if I could organize my prayer list into categories, it would be easier.”

Panel Discussion Spotlights Racial Disparities in Infant Mortality

micah225(left to right) Panelists were Sarah MacDonald and Candace Cowling, moderated by Ruqaiyah Rogers-Baraza.Proverbs 31 — speaking on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves — was the framework of a workshop that focused on racial disparities in infant mortality.

Sponsored by the nonprofit ministry, The Micah Center, the seminar was held recently at Hope Reformed Church in Southeast Grand Rapids. The panel discussion drew a capacity crowd who heard there's too wide a chasm between African-Americans' infant mortality rate compared with white babies.

Fast-paced After-school Ministry, En Gedi, Infuses Fun with Values

en gedi 225En Gedi’s logo is known among area students.There’s a loud silence in the hallways of Red Hawk Elementary School in Cedar Springs that quickly disappears when the 2:22 p.m. bell rings to announce the end of the school day. Then, a throng of students exit the classrooms filling the corridors with lively chatter. Not all will immediately head home, however.

An average of sixty 6th, 7th and 8th graders walk to the three rooms that’s dedicated to an after school program called the En Gedi Youth Center, which draws children from Red Hawk Elementary and also from the Creative Technology Academy, Algoma Christian School and home schooled students.

Woman of Influence – Christa Wetzel, Alpha Women's Center of Lowell

christa Wetzel225Christa Wetzel, Executive Director for the Alpha Women's Center of Lowell, always desired to walk alongside people in the midst of their hurts and offer hope, healing, and encouragement. This desire led her to major in criminal justice with the intention of working with youth. She followed this calling with a two-year internship at Alpha Women's Center of Hastings, a four-year stint at a homeless shelter in Holland, a year-long cross-cultural experience working with recovering alcoholics, and eventually a job at the Department of Human Services as a caseworker for the State of Michigan. While working in the Department of Human Services, Wetzel said she missed being able to share Christ and offer practical help.

New Music Review: “Yes You Can” by Marvin Sapp

Sapp Marvin  225West Michigan pastor and gospel music artist Marvin Sapp has released a new song "Yes You Can" from his forthcoming album.

Sapp, 47, is pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church on Madison Ave. SE in Grand Rapids. But he is nationally known for his award-winning music prowess, with several chart-topping songs and best-selling albums to his credit.

"Yes You Can," a hopeful, medium-tempo ballad, had already reached the top 20 of the Billboard gospel music chart less than a month after its release.

Terry’s Picks: March 2015

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area’s faith-based arts, entertainment and conference events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for March:

Project Hope’s Strong Community Backing Enables Ministry to Aid to Those in Need

hope1Project Hope’s thrift store offers for sale clothes, household goods, decorations, furniture and jewelry.Nestled in the largely rural and farming area of Dorr Township is a ministry Annetta Jansen initiated in the 1950s in her basement and garage on 142nd Avenue for people who lacked adequate food and clothing.

Few would have blamed Jansen if she chose to wallow in her own troubles. Divorced and responsible for raising five boys and a daughter, Jansen instead elected to pray with the people who accepted her donations.

The Magic of Blending

magicbullet225The Magic Bullet® is a clever blender/food processor invention that is handy for mixing food and liquids. I wish something that easy could be created for blending families, but there’s no magic to it. Although I don’t live in a blended family the way society defines it, I’ve talked to many people who do, and in some ways I believe all families are blended in one way or another.

A “blended” family consists of two people who join in marriage and come to the union with children from a previous relationship to form a new family. Experts say the keys to managing a blended family are communication, flexibility, and respect. It’s not so different for a traditional family who easily mix these priorities up.

Author, Apologist Speaks to Full Crowd at Founders

John Dickson 2014Dr. John Dickson, in Grand Rapids to promote his new book “A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible: Inside History’s Bestseller for Believers and Skeptics,” spoke to a full house at Founder’s Brewing Company last week.

His talk in the Centennial Room of the downtown brewery and restaurant drew about 60 people who heard him address Goodness, Evil and Pity, three key stumbling blocks to skeptics in their search for God. He also took questions from the audience.

In an interview before the event, Dickson, who is from Australia, talked about a wide range of topics.

SON-BEAM Shines a Constructive Light in Developing Areas of the World

Van Drie 225Ray Van Drie is executive director and construction team leader of SON-BEAM International.Ray Van Drie has traveled to Haiti, Ecuador and a handful of other developing countries, but not as a tourist.

The Blendon Township resident said he travels to far-flung areas of the world for reasons that transcend tourists’ customary need to go sightseeing and amass kitschy souvenirs.

Van Drie is the executive director and construction team leader of SON-BEAM International. The acronym means Serving Our Neighbor – Building for Evangelism And Ministry.

L. James Harvey’s Courtroom Drama Presents Facts of Christ Rising From the Dead

res225The inspiration for L. James Harvey’s courtroom drama, The Resurrection on Trial, is due in part to his fascination with the O.J. Simpson murder trial, an abiding interest in the long-running TV series, Law & Order and a fact he learned about the average pew-sitting Christian.

“I saw a study that revealed 30 percent of Christians who go to church on Sunday do not believe Christ physically rose from the dead,” said Harvey. “And the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:17 if we don’t believe Christ arose, our faith is in vein.

Kregel's Best Seller List

February/March Releases


Decision - Wanda Brunstetter
Daughter of the Regiment - Stephanie Whitson
Anna's Crossing - Suzanne Fisher
Harvest of Hope - Lauraine Snelling
Chasing Sunsets - Karen Kingsbury
When Grace Sings - Kim Vogel Sawyer
Love Letters - Beverly Lewis

Worldly Saints Separates Perverted Version of Pleasure from God’s Earthly Good Plan

Wittmer225Michael Wittmer is a theology professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary whose devotional style book is for ordinary readers.Mention the word “pleasure” and some Christians are apt to cast a wary look.

Their cautious gaze often is based on an assumption that a person could be giving into sordid, sinful temptations, otherwise known as pleasures of the flesh.

But, cast in a biblical light, pleasure takes on a fuller, richer meaning when it’s founded on what Jesus meant His people to experience, Michael Wittmer writes in his theologically rich, biblically accurate book, Overcoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life? (Zondervan, 208 pages, $15.99).

On a Mission

missionimp225Growing up, my favorite TV show was “Mission Impossible”. Before the movie series, in the late 60’s and early 70’s it was a weekly series. Jim Phelps and the IMF – the Impossible Mission Force – captured a Columbian drug lord, recovered stolen Russian nuclear weapons, or rescued a captured Israeli general. In sixty minutes (minus the commercials) they saved the world. I wanted to be part of that mission!
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