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Featured Articles

Terry’s Picks for December 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/events in the coming month. Here are a few Christmas themed happenings:

A Look Behind the Leader: Carter Lezman

Lezman carter tightCarter Lezman, worship pastor at All Shores Wesleyan Church in Spring Lake. For the last two years Carter Lezman has been on life's roller coaster.

The worship pastor at All Shores Wesleyan Church in Spring Lake began his new job in January of 2020.

"I came from a church of 150 to one of 800 to a thousand; and from a volunteer team of 20 to around 70," recalled the Kalamazoo-area native. "The pace of work was a lot faster and more demanding," he added.

Then in March of that year came the COVID-19 pandemic. That brought a whole new set of adjustments for the 28 year-old singer-songwriter. From in-person meeting limitations to online streaming of worship, Lezman and his crew had to roll with the punches and keep things moving forward. That's in addition to supervising his three-person staff, organizing and encouraging volunteers, and keeping connections seamless with All Shores' two satellite campuses in Coopersville and Muskegon.

Manasseh Project Based on Conviction the Community has the Power to Fight Human Trafficking in West Michigan

SBDHer boyfriend was sex trafficking her, a term that was not as well-known 10 years ago to staff members of Wedgwood Christian Services (WCS). They are now, which why the Manasseh Project was launched soon after.

"At that point, we had not heard a lot about trafficking in our community," says Nikeidra DeBarge, WCS Manasseh Project coordinator.

Manasseh Project is a WCS outreach dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of young women and men in West Michigan. Through community education and collaboration, and Wedgwood's Manasseh Project Trauma Recovery Center, the Grand Rapids nonprofit provides support and specialized residential treatment services for victims of sex trafficking.

LEAD 24/7 Develops Needed Leadership Skills for Pastors

Rodger PriceRodger Price: “So many pastors become spiritually dry because they were too busy doing God’s work but didn’t have time to hang out with God.”Rodger Price believes being a pastor is the toughest leadership position around. Not just one of the toughest, but at the top of the list.

Compounding the problem is pastors and other ministry leaders are often not taught in seminary what it takes to be a successful, organizational leader.

That's where LEAD 24/7 comes in.

Stories Come to Life at Church Video Studio

Tiny for 316 siteAnimated characters in “Tiny Ocean Tails,” a series from Studio 3:16Kristen Collier was helping two-year old Mila record her lines for a new video cartoon series.

"She wanted to be just like the bigger kids in Sunday School," said Collier of the toddler's role while working in her church video production room. "So (Mila) pressed the button for the microphone and repeated the words after me."

Collier is one of the on-site production managers at Studio 3:16, an in-house ministry of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, a mile south of GVSU's Allendale campus. And she was teaming up with young Mila on a pre-schooler project called "Tiny Ocean Tails."

Terry’s Picks for November 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/events in the coming month – it's a good one for choir music! Here are a several possibilities for November that otherwise might be overlooked.

Pandemic Positives

rexsat7Dr. Rex M. RogersNone of us would pray, "Lord, send us a pandemic." The idea doesn't make sense.

Yet we know God uses adversity to advance his purposes, develop the Church, teach us what we need for the days ahead, and bring glory to himself. God even says we should be joyful in the face of hard times.

     "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know
     that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may
     be  mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).

This occurred to me during Year 2020, our "annus horribilis." What possibly could be good and useful, much less enjoyable about a year – actually a year and one-half and counting – of illness and deaths, slowdowns and lockdowns, masks - vaccines – mandates and controversy, government orders, loss of freedoms, and anxiety?

YWCA is Hire for Hope’s New Community Partner

nbGrand Rapids-based socially conscious recruiting firm Hire for Hope founder Ashley Ward announced its new community partner is YWCA West Central Michigan. Ten % of Hire for Hope's profits will be donated to YWCA to not only empower women who are experiencing domestic violence, but empower and unite all women and eliminate racism. For over 160 years, YWCA has been working to improve the lives of women, girls and communities of color through advocacy, local programming and services.

Calvin Grad Promoted to Rear Admiral

a104Calvin University graduate and Tacoma, Wash. native Dean VanderLey has been promoted by the United States Navy to the rank of rear admiral during a ceremony held at U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Rear Adm. Dean VanderLey assumed command as Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Pacific, and Fleet Civil Engineer, U.S. Pacific Fleet, in August. He leads a team of more than 9,000 military and civilian personnel across seven Echelon IV commands and public works and construction offices in over 40 locations along the Pacific coast of the U.S. and across the entire Indo-Pacific theater.

2022 January Series Speakers Announced

a102Calvin University's 2022 January Series lineup includes New York Times best-selling authors, a renowned theologian, a retired four-star admiral, and a popular public television host, are among an eclectic lineup who will use the power of story to humanize some of today's most important and timely issues. The free lecture series, now in its 35th year, is Jan. 10-28.

Speakers include Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers, co-hosts of the popular podcasts, Pantsuit Politics and The Nuanced Life; Max Stossel, an award-winning artist named by Forbes as one of the best storytellers of the year; Colum McCann, an Irish-born international bestseller who is among the world's foremost storytellers; and Brad Montague, a popular storyteller and creator of the hit web series "Kid President," author of the New York Times bestseller "Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome," and an illustrator whose work is regularly featured in Joanna Gaines' The Magnolia Journal.

Chefs Raise Funds Toward Degage’s Capital Campaign

a103Five Grand Rapids' chefs recently came together for a peak-harvest, five course, farm to table dinner to help reduce homelessness in Grand Rapids. "Breaking Bread" benefited Degage Ministries' capital campaign Building Dignity Through Christ, which has already raised nearly $6.8 million of its $7.3 million goal. Chefs who made it possible were Clark Frain, Terra; Armando Suarez, Rose's; Katy Waltz, MudPenny; Devin Cook, Bistro Bella Vita and Amy Ruis, Apperitivo. Each chef prepared one course of the five course meal, featuring peak-harvest produce.

MTM Launches Podcast

a101Mel Trotter Ministries recently launched a podcast titled Everyday Humanity. It is intended to share stories of life transformation through the compassion and unconditional love the MTM staff demonstrates. Episodes will drop each week on Wednesdays and will include interviews with multitudes of people who have been deeply impacted by what it means to experience homelessness.

Visit: https://www.meltrotter.org/everyday-humanity

Inspirational MercyMe Still Imagining

MercyMe 2 vertical-1Nathan Cochran (center) Bart Millard (right) and Mercy MeIt was twenty years ago that the MercyMe song "I Can Only Imagine" was released to an unsuspecting public.

The award-winning ballad, picturing what it might be like to see a departed father in heaven, soared to the top of both the Christian and mainstream music charts. It was a turning point for the upstart band, establishing a solid recording and performing career that has continued with this year's collection "inhale/exhale" and a new tour. (The tour comes to Grand Rapids Nov. 5 – see details below).

But the inspirational-pop band still lives with the echo from its "imagine" ballad of two decades ago.

"That's certainly a song that is larger than us and that people have taken ownership of," said bassist Nathan Cochran during a recent interview. "It's amazing that we will have that kind of legacy song that will outlive us as a band."

"I Can Only Imagine," written by lead singer Bart Millard after his father's death, spawned the 2018 biographical hit movie of the same name, providing another boost for both the song and the band.

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.
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