A Look Behind the Leader: Chris Lyons

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in People

Lyons ChrisChris Lyons paused when asked about misconceptions Protestants may have about music in Roman Catholic churches. “I’m not sure if they all realize that we praise God along with them,” remarked Lyons, music coordinator at St. John Vianney (SJV) Catholic Church in Wyoming.

“Although we praise God in our own ways, I’m thinking they respect our ways and I know I respect theirs.”

Lyons is a lifelong Catholic, raised in St. Isadore Church on Grand Rapids’ northeast side and a graduate of Catholic Central High School.

She’s been directing the choir at SJV for the last seven years, but was a long time choir member at the parish before that.

“I just know I’m very happy to be here,” she said.

Christians in Business – Salon Owner Turns Pain Into Purpose

Written by Amelia Rhodes on . Posted in People

CasieWhen Casie Thelen, of the Lowell Hair Studio, was in first grade, two things began to shape her. She had a dream of becoming a hairstylist, and she was held back to repeat first grade. “I really struggled with feeling not smart, and that shaped me,” Thelen said. But God had a plan to merge her dream and her pain into a beautiful calling.

After high school, Thelen followed her dream and enrolled in beauty school in East Lansing. She returned to her hometown, Lake Odessa, in 1999 to work at her uncle’s salon. “My uncle was a role model when it came to being a stylist and running a salon,” she explained. During her years in his salon, Thelen learned how to care for clients from the second they walked through the door. “He taught me to greet each customer with a warm welcome and offer them something to drink. He kept a very professional, clean, and organized salon.” She didn’t realize God was preparing her to one day open her own salon. “I was happy to just rent a chair. I never thought I’d own a salon.” She developed a steady clientele in the small town until 2011.

Because of her childhood pain of feeling not smart, Thelen was aware how many people don’t feel confident in themselves. “People really do tell their hairdresser a lot,” she said. Her mission became to bring out people’s best from the inside out.

Woman of Influence: Debi Pflug

Written by Amelia Rhodes on . Posted in People

Debi PflugDebi Pflug, of Personal Ponies, believes that God gives us many blessings – including the blessing of animals. During college, Pflug set aside her dream of being a teacher upon discovering that teacher graduates were unable to find jobs. She switched her major to hotel management and worked in the hotel industry in Washington state for a few years. But God resurrected her dream and gave it a creative twist in His timing.

After Plfug and her husband John moved to Florida, she got a job as an aide in a special education classroom. Pflug enjoyed the position so much that she returned to college and obtained her masters in special education from the University of South Florida. At the same time, Pflug also enjoyed a hobby of showing old English sheep dogs. She began taking the dogs into the classroom and discovered that her pre-k students with speech challenges showed marked improvement after interacting with the dogs. “The dogs could reach the kids in a way I couldn’t,” Plug recalled.

After meeting a new friend at the humane society in Clearwater, Florida, Pflug started taking her two ferrets and dogs into nursing homes. Thus began Pflug’s journey into pet therapy. She got involved with Pet Partners, which was one of the first certified agencies for therapeutic animals.

A Look Behind the Worship Leader: Caryn Boelema of Westview CRC in Grand Rapids

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in People

Boelema CarynEarly this year Caryn Boelema was prepared to retire from her role as church music/worship leader at Westview Christian Reformed Church.
In fact, the church on Grand Rapids’ west side actually posted a job description and began searching for a replacement.

But now the veteran music director finds herself still serving at Westview in a growing ministry with all sorts of new musical possibilities.

“I did so much soul-searching and praying about it – I felt a ‘calling back’ I’d guess you say,” said Boelema of what led to her return.

With the blessings of the church council, she took the summer off and this fall began her part-time duties with the help of a music department assistant.

“It’s so exciting to be here - the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing,” she said of the energy found in new songs, new volunteers and new musical ventures.

Meet Chris Reyes

Written by Ann Byle on . Posted in People

ChrisReyesChris Reyes has a long history of life-affirming work, starting 30 years ago when she and her new husband, Raul, read “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” by Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop. That book opened their eyes to what was going on the world with sanctity-of-life issues including abortion.

“That was the beginning of a journey we didn’t know we were on,” said Reyes, who was recently named as director of the Alpha Women’s Center, located at 1725 S. Division Ave. in Grand Rapids. “The Lord awakened a passion in us.”

The couple soon became part of the founding board of a pregnancy center in St. Petersburg, Fla., which opened two years later. Raul Reyes became president of the organization, with Chris Reyes volunteering for a decade and eventually accepting employment there for three years.

A Look Behind The Leader: Andy Donaldson of The Ridge Covenant Church

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in People

DonaldsonExplaining his heartfelt sense of calling, Andy Donaldson said that he first ventured into music just so he could help lead worship.

Now the West Michigan native is worship leader at The Ridge, a developing church plant on Fruit Ridge Ave. NW in suburban Grand Rapids.

And he continues to develop his skills on a variety of fronts.

“I know from a musical standpoint I’ve grown a lot in the past year of being here (at The Ridge),” said Donaldson during a phone interview.

“Part of that has to do with being able to ‘read’ people in worship – to see what they’re responding to,” he said of the worship leader role he began in the fall of 2012.


Woman of Influence: Jane Bareman

Written by Amelia Rhodes on . Posted in People

bareman_janeJane Bareman has experienced God's surprising provisions not just in her role as Executive Director of Adoption Associates, Inc., but also in her personal life.

Bareman graduated from Calvin College with a math education degree and a minor in psychology. "I enjoyed psychology, but didn't have aspirations for working in that field," Bareman said. But God knew the plans He had for Bareman, and that minor degree has taken a major role in her life.

Satellite Church Ready for Lift-Off

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in People

CaldasLeoLeo Caldas is excited to be in on the ground floor of a brand new worshiping community.

The Brazilian native and local college student is the worship leader for the launch of the Wyoming satellite campus of Kentwood Community Church (KCC).

“I started at Kentwood as a volunteer, and then an intern and then was officially hired for this new position,” said Caldas, 22, a worship arts major at Grace Bible College.

The first worship at their facility - the former Wyoming Adult & Community Education. building at 2950 Clyde Park - is at 11 a.m. Sun. Oct. 6.

Christians in Business – CPA Counts Faith and Family First

Written by Amelia Rhodes on . Posted in People

MauriceFor Maurice Benoit, of Benoit and Associates, choosing finance as a career was an obvious option. “In high school, accounting was an easy grade, and 30 years later I’m still here in accounting,” Benoit said.

While working with numbers is something he enjoys, for Benoit, the finance business is more about the relationships he builds with clients. “It’s about helping people navigate through successes and tough times. I see it as a coaching role – whether it’s correcting, cheerleading, or celebrating with a client,” Benoit said.

Benoit and his wife Kathi worked 10 years for a local company that became part of a national accounting firm. In 2005 the parent company got out of public accounting, and as a managing partner Benoit was given the choice to go with a national consolidator or buy the local book of business and start his own firm.

Christians in Business – Photographer Focuses on People

Written by Amelia Rhodes on . Posted in People

JohnsonTwenty years ago Dan Johnson, of Dan Johnson Photography, began photographing weddings as a means to pay his way through college. After graduating, Johnson continued the business in addition to his full-time job at an area church. Eventually, he traded the photography business for weekends with his wife, not realizing that photography would one day return to become his full-time profession.

After the birth of their second child, Johnson once again picked up the camera to provide a way for his wife Jodi to stay home with the kids. The rest is history. In 2004 he licensed the business and expanded into portraits, adding a studio in the basement of their home. About a year later, Johnson purchased a studio in Grandville and made photography his full-time profession.

A Look Behind the Leader: Ben Beltman

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in People

BeltmanBenBen Beltman’s greatest challenge is something like a balancing act: leading his church’s music/worship ministry within the diversity of the congregation’s modest-sized membership.

“We have doctors, homeless people and everything in between,” noted Beltman of the range of socio-economic classes at the church on Grand Rapids’ near west side.

Even with responsive readings on the sanctuary screen, consideration must be given to those who may be illiterate and thus excluded.

“There are many challenges like that,” Beltman noted.

His part-time position includes responsibility for leading music and a volunteer worship team. He also is in charge of technical aspects such as audio, video and on-screen support.

Radio Personality Guided by Ministry: Sabrina Fairchild finds new faith outlet

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in People

FairchildSabrina So far, Sabrina Fairchild’s radio career has been “up and down the dial.” But after two decades of broadcasting on a half dozen different West Michigan stations, Sabrina is settling in to her new role as morning show co-host on contemporary Christian JQ-99 (WJQK 99.3FM).

“When I got this job, it was like…I’ve arrived! I can say ‘Jesus’ on the air,” said the southeast Michigan native. The first Christian formatted station on her resume, she shares the weekday morning JQ-99 microphone with co-host Ace McKay. The newly-paired team began in April.

Although she can now freely share about God and matters of faith with radio listeners, she testifies that her faith carried her through challenging times at previous jobs.


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