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Featured Articles

Take the Dare, Don’t Compare

danseabornI once heard someone say that if you always compare yourself to others then there are more opportunities to make excuses. When I heard that, I thought how true that statement is when it comes to evaluating your marriage, family and your life in general. It's so easy to either boost yourself up or tear yourself down depending on your perspective.

Area Concerts to Feature Dove Nominated Artists

Battistelli235Dove Award nominee Francesca Battistelli comes to West Michigan Nov. 21Looking over the nominations for the 2015 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, it appears that West Michigan will get more than its share of concerts from award-winning artists.

Nominees in the major Dove categories were announced earlier in August at a Nashville press conference. Award ceremonies are set for Oct. 13.

Artist of the Year is considered the most prestigious award, but there are also categories of top artists in the genres of contemporary Christian, gospel, Southern gospel, and best new artist.

CD Review: “Sparkle” by Jasmine Hurtado

Sparkle235Local teen talent Jasmine Hurtado has issued a new inspirational-pop CD titled "Sparkle." She hosted a special release concert in July at Resurrection Life Church in Grandville.
The bouncy title song expresses the desire that her faith would "sparkle for all the world to see."

The mixture of uptempo and ballad selections includes a side trip with "One Word" and its shades of a country-folk beat! Also differing in approach is the closing "Bought By Blood," with its ethereal background vocals.

Iranian’s Thirst for Truth is Quenched, Now Works so Muslims can Embrace the Gospel

Rahi Solanti 235Rahi Solanti works full-time spreading the gospel in Farsi on two websites he oversees.Rahi Solanti is a seeker of truth. Correction, make that he was a seeker of truth.

Following an intense, personal search for truth, Solanti embraced six years ago the eternal salvation Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross makes possible. His life has not been the same since.

Now, he's works full-time at Seventh Reformed Church, 950 Leonard St. NW in Grand Rapids where Dr. Tim J. R. Trumper is the senior minister, to do his part in helping to shepherd Muslims living in Iran and elsewhere to accept the good news of the Gospel.


captive235"Captive", premiering September 18, is a movie based on a true story and on the book "Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero", written by Ashley Smith. The movie stars Kate Mara as Ashley Smith and David Oyelowo (Selma) as Brian Nichols.

The synopsis for the movie says it is a fact-based thriller about a single mother, battling drug addiction, who is randomly taken captive in her Atlanta apartment by a man that just broke out of jail. It was in April 2005 that Ashley Smith made headline news when she managed to talk her way out of being held hostage by the alleged courthouse murderer, Brain Nichols, after he held her captive for seven hours. She was a 26-year old widow and mother of a six-year-old girl.

“Cross” Music Event Highlights Area Christian Artists Ministries

At Foot of the cross Ty Gonzalez 235Ty Gonzalez performs at last year’s “At Foot of the Cross”Chris Moore had to do some faith-walking to launch his vision for "At the Foot of the Cross."

"I've kind of learned on my faith journey to take a step forward and see what happens," he said of his musical venture. "But doors just kept on opening and opening and I just kept moving forward."

The first "At the Foot of the Cross" was held two summers ago in a field outside his Easton United Methodist Church in Ionia. He gathered a variety of area Christian music artists and church worship teams for a day-long concert celebration held outdoors in front of a giant cross on the church grounds.

Living Threads Entwines Memory Quilts with Overseas Support

Living Threads 235 No. 1(l to r) Living Threads founder Jill Dannenberg and operations manager Michelle Grabill. When Living Threads founder Jill Dannenberg receives the garments once worn by a deceased loved one that will be used to make a memorial quilt, it's handled with tender loving care.

"When people bring us their clothing, it's sacred material," Dannenberg said. "The volunteers are not allowed to bring that material home. When they're completed, the memorial quilts become a conversation piece because the quilt makes it comfortable for people to talk about the one they lost."

City on a Hill Makes Possible for Ministries to Shine Light, Usher in Good Deeds Locally, Worldwide

City on a Hill Cutline No. 1City on a Hill is 100,000-square foot building constructed in stages located at 100 Pine Street that formerly was the Zeeland Community Hospital.Zeeland-based City on a Hill (COH) is a sprawling, 100,000-square foot building that is home to dozens of ministries that may have not been birthed into existence had it not been for this Christian nonprofit that in earlier times was Zeeland Community Hospital.

There are around 40 tenant ministries that lease space at COH that find the competitive rent rates easier on their budgets, which in turn, is intended to enhance their ability to meet the physical, emotional, educational, spiritual or medical needs of people locally and worldwide. It's a wide birth of ministries that operate independently of one another.

Film Tie-In “Millennial Tour” to Appear at Unity Festival

Love Collide235Love Collide (Brooke and Lauren DeLeary)Thousands of area Christian music fans are familiar with the annual Unity Christian Music Festival where early each August, you can see top artists such as Matthew West, Third Day and David Crowder. Those three and many more will be performing this year during the festival’s Aug. 5-8 schedule (see www.unitymusicfestival.com for more information).

     But there’s a unique artist spot this year on Unity’s lesser known A (Alternative) Stage, located under the big tent out near the point at Muskegon’s Heritage Landing.

Terry’s Picks: August 2015

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

New ICCF President Possesses ‘Wealth of Experience’

ICCF235Ryan VerWys said he plans to do much learning and listening his first 90 days as ICCF’s president.Starting Sept. 4, Ryan VerWys assumes the leadership helm of Inner City Christian Federation, Michigan's oldest nonprofit affordable housing provider. He succeeds longtime president/CEO Jonathan Bradford, who will retire after serving 34 years in the position.

VerWys said he intends to be quick to listen and slow to speak during his first 90 days in his new job.

Be Careful What You Wish For

tugA mom sits on the couch while her three-month-old nuzzles her neck and squirms uncomfortably trying to find the right spot to sleep. Her two-year-old daughter has just bounded out of her baby brother's room wearing a pair of his pants which of course look like shorts on her. She is wearing nothing else. Her five-year-old, normally very independent, is whining to her dad about not being able to peel her orange, while he's trying to clean up the dinner dishes.

Cooperfly Puppet Troupe Sparks God’s Gift of Imagination at Fuller Avenue CRC

Cooperfly Puppet 1Puppet EdGar Sinclaire with puppeteer Justin Haveman and Kevin Kammeraad get the kids laughing and clapping with the song, “Chocolate.”Despite an overcast sky that threatens a sudden downpour, the chatter among the adults and children at Fuller Avenue Christian Reformed Church's parking lot is lively and buoyant. Soon, they have more to enjoy than the chicken dinner and watermelon that's been served to them free-of-charge, courtesy of the Southeast Grand Rapids church's annual summer Tuesday Family Fun Nights.

Before long, all eyes are on puppeteer Justin Haveman's puppet EdGar Sinclaire. With his bushy eyebrows, bright red fur and ears that stick out to there, EdGar's presence alone tickles children's funny bone, but the laughing swells when the fuzzy puppet starts with a comical song, "Chocolate" that has the kids and adults laughing for joy.

Master Arts Theatre Making Progress in New Director Search

matMaster Arts Theatre, the local faith-based community group which offers a full schedule of annual stage productions, hopes to have a new executive director by this fall.

"We've been actively interview candidates for the last number of weeks," said John Miedema, chairman of the non-profit organization's board of directors. "We've been pleased with the response and the caliber of candidates we've been getting."

Rev. Robert Dean Seeking to be ‘People’s Mayor’ of Grand Rapids

Rev235Pastor Robert Dean said his plans for Grand Rapids if elected mayor includes reducing the city’s $1 billion debt, pave and maintain its city streets and ensure public safety in all neighborhoods.The Rev. Robert Dean, founding pastor of New Life Church of God in Christ in Southeast Grand Rapids, has served as a school board president, city commissioner and state representative. Now he's hoping to add mayor of Michigan's second largest city.

Dean is a mayoral candidate for the City of Grand Rapids. Contenders started to emerge when Grand Rapids voters passed a term limit measure for its mayor and city commissioners. Incumbent Mayor George Heartwell's third and final term ends this year.

Dean has three opponents seeking the same seat: incumbent Second Ward city commissioner Rosalyn Bliss, John George and Willard Lee. If any of the four Grand Rapids candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the Aug. 4 primary election, that candidate will be elected. If not, the top two vote-getters would advance to the November election.

Terry's Picks for July

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

Calvin CRC’s Global Gifts Sells Fair Trade Products to Help Stamp Out Poverty

gg1Global Gifts sells handmade merchandise from around 30 countries.Global Gifts is a retail shop of a different sort.

Step inside its 1,300-square foot store at Grand Central Plaza, 2055 28th St. SE in Grand Rapids, and customers can feast on an array of Fair Trade-certified merchandise made from around the world — around 30 nations total.

Such handmade products are lifting people who live in developing countries out of abject poverty by paying them livable wages for the products they craft.

WOW Kicks off Inspirational Summer Series

WOW235The bleachers were full for the Mark Schultz performance June 28This summer's Worship on the Waterfront (WOW) series at Grand Haven's Waterfront Stadium began Sunday June 28 with a grand success.

"The bleachers were packed and we estimated more than 3,500 in attendance," said Carolyn Manting, music director at WOW's sponsoring church, First Reformed of Grand Haven.

The Sunday evening crowd had assembled to hear singer-songwriter Mark Schultz who has numerous Christian radio hits in his song catalog.

Exodus Place’s 3 Pillars Liberates Men from Hardscrabble Bondages

ExodusPlaceExodus Place president/executive director Robb Munger (wearing blue shirt) have been helping men like John Eaton receive a new lease in life through Christ since 2009.Life has been harsh for John Eaton.

His arms are covered with self-harm scars made by razor cuts. He's lived for a time on the streets, suffered from alcoholism, and has served time in prison. On top of all this, Eaton suffers from Schizoaffective Disorder, a mental illness with psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia such as severe changes in mood, delusions and disorganized thinking.

He's entertained thoughts of suicide. But no more.

His life is on the right track now since his parole officer connected him to the Exodus Place, 322 Front Ave. SW in Grand Rapids, a Christian transitional living center Robb Munger founded in 2009. The nonprofit's 38,000-square foot building previously was a correctional facility.

New Music Review: “ResLife Worship: Higher”

reslifeThe multi-talented choir and other music artists from Resurrection Life Church in Grandville have done it again with another compelling release of lively praise music titled "ResLife Worship: Higher."

Church choir leaders Ken Reynolds and Jonathan Cordero (both associate pastors for worship) have assembled a wonderful collection of songs recorded live that will be profitable for wide church use.

Guiding Light Mission Opens Third ‘Community of Recovery’

glm1Guiding Light recently dedicated its new transitional housing facility at 530 Andover St. SE in Kentwood, which is part of its Iron House program.Guiding Light Mission intensified its quest to help homeless and addicted men regain their footing in the community with the recent opening of its third transitional housing facility.

Guiding Light executive director Stuart Ray, the rescue mission’s board of director members and the Rev. Nancy Claus, chaplain for Porter Hills retirement home, took part in a house blessing ceremony of the building on June 16.

Its name is Iron House

The four-unit apartment complex at 530 Andover St. SE in Kentwood is the third building the rescue mission purchased since starting the transitional living program in 2013 Guiding Light calls Iron House, so named after Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” The other two properties, 520 Andover and 540 Andover, flank the two-story 530 Andover facility.

3 Mile Project Encourages Kids to be Loud, to Belong

3mp1 The outside of 3 Mile Project still resembles the manufacturing building it once was. Inside, the fun begins.Stan Kiste, executive director of the community youth center, 3 Mile Project, says there are a growing number of young people who are disenchanted with Christianity.

"There are barriers they have toward church," Kiste said. "It is perceived as weird, hypocritical or irrelevant. Families have been hurt by the church. And the perception with some churches is it's OK to wait for people to come to see them."

Church Efforts Fuel Food Booths at Festival of the Arts

fest food wide shot235Sandy Baird looked over her church's food booth Sunday afternoon while also keeping an eye on the weather above the Festival of the Arts in downtown Grand Rapids.

"Saturday was very busy," she noted of the bright and sunny skies the day before. "Today is looking more like (last) Friday," she added of breezy, overcast skies that already had shed a bit of rain.

The Latest from Diet Eman

emandietThe first week of June was quite a week for Diet Eman.

The Grand Rapids resident – noted for her part in the Dutch Resistance movement against the Nazis during World War II – was honored by King Willem–Alexander and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands on June 2 during the couple's royal visit to West Michigan.

At Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park the 95 year-old Eman was honored with a performance of a ballet called "It Is Well" performed by Turning Point School of Dance.
The dance was based on Eman's book about her Resistance experiences titled "Things We Couldn't Say."

Mel Trotter Ministries Partners with Nonprofits to Coordinate Holistic Care to the Homeless

Trotter1Mel Trotter Ministries executive director/CEO Dennis VanKampen reads a copy of the Bible believed to have been owned by Melvin Ernest Trotter.Dennis VanKampen recently was appointed executive director and CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries (MTM), a multifaceted outreach to the homeless based in the Heartside district of Grand Rapids. It’s not a job he initially sought. He is grateful the Lord saw otherwise.

As a result, VanKampen’s perspective has since changed since he landed the top job at the nonprofit founded by redeemed alcoholic Melvin Ernest Trotter 115 years ago when it was known as the City Rescue Mission. Also changed is how it will help the homeless and mentally and physically ill find Christ’s hope and healing.

Terry’s Picks: June 2015

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

*Soul’d Out – The Southern gospel quartet performs at 7 p.m. June 5 at Grace Fellowship Church, 735 Buth Dr. NE in Comstock Park. The Ohio-based group, founded by baritone singer Matt Rankin, features a mixture of hymn arrangements and gospel melodies. Soul’d Out performs throughout the U.S. and southern Ontario. The quartet’s most recent CD is “Re-Soul’d, Vol. 3” featuring several medleys and the uptempo tune, “God’s Perfect Plan.” Tickets are $15 and are available online or by phone at 800-965-9324. For more information contact the church online or  616.785.4047.

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.
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