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Sprague: Get on Board Defeating Nov. 8 Proposal 3

Jim SpragueJim Sprague: Proposal 3 is “dangerous and far-reaching.”The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June to overturn Roe v. Wade has
unleashed a seismic stir to action in the pro-life camp.

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-South Carolina) has introduced a bill that would
ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Closer to home, the Michigan Supreme Court has approved putting Proposal
3 on the November 8 ballot, which would enshrine abortion in the state
constitution if voters adopt it. Such a law would be a 180-degree turn from a
1931 law that banned abortion, except to save the life of the mother. Michigan
Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher ruled however the Michigan
Constitution's due process clause is expansive enough to cover reproductive
rights and thus blocked that law.

Walking In The Way of St. James

bridge trailWhether through countryside or in cities, the Camino de Santiago is a demanding pilgrimage.Amy Wiseman's customer service job drained her, especially during the pandemic. "If there's anything that can douse your faith in humanity, it's seeing the worst in people," recalled the Grand Rapids woman.

Her own business start-up had added to her burden and kept her busy seven days a week. "I had no balance, wasn't happy in my work and was burned out," she sighed.

Degage’s $7.5 Million Expansion Opens

degageDégagé Ministries in the Heartside neighborhood that is for homeless people, recently opened its first completed section of its renovated campus. The $7.5 million "Building Dignity Through Christ" capital campaign is at the Northwest corner of Sheldon Boulevard and Cherry Street in downtown Grand Rapids.
The first phase includes:

• Relocating the organization's main entrance away from the congested Cherry/Division corridor to the more pedestrian-friendly Cherry/Sheldon intersection.
• An expanded dining room to serve 90,000 meals a year (50% increase in capacity, from 120 to 180 seats).

Homes Giving Hope Receives $7,481.00 for Men’s Home

bovenRockford-based Homes Giving Hope, a Christian nonprofit Sara and Brian Boven and Kay Wood co-founded for persons with disabilities, recently received $7,418.00 from Wolverine World Wide's Rockford area retail show store Rockford Footwear Depot.

Over the course of one month, the Footwear Depot raised this money by offering a discount to any shopper who made a $5.00 donation. One shopper at a time added up to a generous gift that will help cover the operating costs for the recently opened men's home.

First-of-its Kind in Michigan Graduates Inmates

inmateThe Calvin Prison Initiative, a partnership between Calvin University, Calvin Theological Seminary and the Michigan Department of Corrections, recently graduated 40 inmates who received bachelor's degrees while behind bars.

The first three graduating classes (Class of 2020, 2021, and 2022) from the Calvin Prison Initiative program received their bachelor's degrees during a commencement ceremony held inside the confines of Handlon Correctional Facility, in Ionia. The ceremony included those who received their associate degrees, the first-of-its-kind in the state of Michigan.

Guiding Light Promotes Elve to Executive Director

elveGuiding Light has promoted Brian Elve as its new executive director. Formerly
the Recovery program director, Elve will lead a team of 26 and set the strategy
and direction for the nonprofit organization in his new role. As executive director,
he will be responsible for the operational effectiveness, financial stability,
fundraising initiatives and the overall success of the organization.

Preuss Tapped as Marantha Bible’s Executive Director

preussChris Preuss has been tapped as the next executive director and president of Norton Shores-based Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference. Preuss spent most of his career with General Motors where he served as their global vice president of communications. He also served as the chief marketing and communications officer of Aptiv (formerly Delphi) and most recently led a business network of agency brands that supported the Ford Motor Company around the world.

Traumatized Afghan Refugees Receiving Help, Love From Area Agencies

Cutline No. 1Esther Fifelski: “I do see this as God’s work.”Tourists exploring countries they've never been to take pleasure in encountering people and cultures unlike their own. But for refugees fleeing their homelands, traveling internationally is often an unsettling experience.

Such is the case for Afghans fleeing their motherland. They arrive in the United States traumatized and confused, often carrying with them all they own in a suitcase.

And now with the war between Russia and Ukraine, another wave of refugees will likely arrive in West Michigan.

With the Taliban retaking control of Afghanistan, people are being forced at a record pace to flee their country. As the U.S. armed forces rapidly withdraw from Afghanistan, more than 18,000 Afghans who served alongside the United States are in grave danger and at risk of retaliatory attacks from the Taliban.

Major Fall Concerts Already Scheduled

WilliamsZach Zach WilliamsTwo major Christian concert tours are coming to West Michigan this fall and are scheduled in the same venue.

Singer-songwriters Zach Williams (Sept. 18) and Tauren Wells (Oct. 23) are coming to DeVos Performance Hall in downtown Grand Rapids.

The country-style Williams has proven to be a popular concert and Christian radio attraction, and performed last fall in the Mercy Health Center in Muskegon. In 2020 he won a Dove Award as Artist/Songwriter of the year. His best-known songs include "Chain Breaker" and "Rescue Story."

Several Christian Music Artists Featured at GR Festival of the Arts

Festival 2022 logoSinger Denise Frye was raised on music of the church.

"My brothers, sister and I sang in a family gospel group," said the Grand Rapids woman of her legacy with the vocal ensemble Wings of Faith.

Now at the upcoming Festival of the Arts, Denise will be featuring her solo vocals with a performance at 4pm Saturday June 4 on the Fountain Stage downtown as part of the annual city festival.

A Renewed Outlook

Senabandith rehearsesTiffany Senabandith rehearses before a performance at a Christian conference l PC: Indirah Michmerhuizen Tiffany Senabandith calls it the darkest time of her life.

"I didn't want to live anymore, but I knew I could never end it because I had too many responsibilities," recalled the Zeeland woman of her feelings around five years ago.

"I felt trapped in a world I didn't want to live in."

But through counseling, prayer journaling and supportive relationships, the 37-year old married mother of three has rebounded with a new outlook. Tiffany is exercising her gifts, helping to lead worship at her church and has resumed her promising songwriting.

"I really have a heart to reach out to people who may be going through the same experience and offer a word of hope," she said.

Call For Prayer and Peace Following Lyoya’s Shooting

crccrcThe Executive Director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America says the shooting death of Patrick Lyoya by Grand Rapids police has hit him hard.

Once again, a routine traffic stop ended with the tragic death of yet another young, Black man," said Colin P. Watson, Sr. "This time, though, the community is Grand Rapids, Mich. This is my community — a community that is home to many Christian Reformed congregations and members; a community where the CRC's denominational ministries are housed and many staff members live; a community that many believed to be more safe, more idyllic, and more crime-free than some others that have been in the news lately.

ICCF Has New Name

iccfInner City Christian Federation has a new name: ICCF Community Homes. The name better communicates the organization's longtime vision to create vibrant communities in West Michigan with connected neighbors, housing justice and abundant opportunity.

"ICCF has explored a name change multiple times throughout the years," said vice president of Advancement Michelle Covington. "We revisited the possibility in earnest in 2020, consulting with neighbors, partners, staff members and volunteers to better understand our community's perception of ICCF and its work. These conversations showed us that the ICCF name is recognized in Grand Rapids, but does not communicate well the role we play and the work we do in our neighbors' lives."

Music, Spirit Elevates Worship-full Event

Furtick preach crowdA nearly full Van Andel Arena responds to the message of Steven FurtickThe concert/worship dynamic continues to thrive, as exemplified at the "Elevation Nights" experience April 27 at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.

The tour featuring Elevation Worship, the music team from the multi-site Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, highlighted the nearly sold-out house with an eager crowd of more than 10,000.

And Elevation pastor Steven Furtick came along, preaching a message from Mark 5 about the healing of the woman with "an issue of blood."

Was it worship? Was it a concert? ...A spiritual pep rally that touches on both elements? Some local observers offered comments (below) on the presentation.

Report: Christianity World’s Most Persecuted Religion

persOpen Doors USA figures that 360 million Christians last year lived in countries where persecution was "significant," the Grand Rapids-based think tank, the Acton institute reports.

Roughly 5,600 Christians were murdered, more than 6,000 were detained or imprisoned, and another 4,000-plus were kidnapped. In addition, more than 5,000 churches and other religious facilities were destroyed.

Afghanistan took over the top spot from North Korea this year. Open Doors explains that it long was "impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan. Leaving Islam is considered shameful, and Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered. Either they have to flee the country or they will be killed."

New Chair a First for Mel Trotter Ministries

tonjaTonja L.G. Moyer has been tapped to become Mel Trotter Ministries first chair of its board of directors. Moyer is the first African American and only the second woman to hold the position. She has been a trustee since 2009.

"Over the past thirteen years, I have watched the amazing work performed by the staff and leadership at Mel Trotter Ministries," said Moyer. "Their dedication to the homeless population is a tremendous benefit to the social and business fabric of our community and I am honored to now serve in a leadership role as board chair."

Moyer has more than 20 years' experience in Lean Improvement and Process Engineering for the healthcare and manufacturing industries, and is passionate about Mel Trotter's mission of demonstrating the compassion of Jesus Christ to those in need.

Calvin Seminary Revamps M.Div. Degree

mdivCalvin Theological Seminary has revamped its master of divinity (M.Div.) degree, scheduled to launch for in-person and hybrid learning in fall 2022.

The main curricular changes to the M.Div. include renewed program goals and more effective strategies for teaching skills, such as preaching and using biblical languages to interpret Scripture.

The updated program, designed to be completed in as few as three years in person or four years for distance-learning students, has been reduced from 101 to 87 credits. Distance-learning students will complete a one-week residency on campus each semester.

Calvin University Appoints 11th President

boerThe Calvin University Board of Trustees has accepted the presidential search committee's unanimous recommendation and has appointed Dr.
Wiebe Boer as the institution's 11th president.

Boer was born and raised in Jos, Nigeria, to Christian Reformed missionary parents. He graduated in 1997 as a second-generation Calvin student and is married to Joanna Bachew, from Trinidad and Tobago, who graduated from Calvin in 2003.

Boer values his family's historical connection to Calvin University, and he values the global perspective he has gained, having spent much of his childhood and adult life living and working abroad.

New Developments in Reformed-Roman Catholic Dialogue

reformedTwo members of the an Catholic-Reformed Ecumenical Dialogue in the United States are preparing a study guide based on documents that focus on its ongoing ecumenical discussion.

Dr. Ronald J. Feenstra of Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids and Fr. Dennis Tamburello of Siena College in Loudonville, New York, are preparing a study guide, tentatively entitled "Learning from One Another: A Study Guide for Reformed-Roman Catholic Dialogue," which is intended for use in local ecumenical discussions.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, through its Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs is a participant along with the Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, and the Christian Reformed Church in North America. The first round of this Reformed-Roman Catholic dialogue began soon after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which opened the door for ecumenical discussions.

Memories of ‘Bill’

Brownson Dr BillOfficials are planning a May 16, 2022 funeral service for Dr. William "Bill" Brownson Jr., long-time voice of the West Michigan-based radio ministry "Words of Hope" and former seminary professor.

Brownson died in Holland on April 1. He was 93
Following his own seminary training, Brownson served in two church pastorates. Then he came to Holland in 1964 to become a professor of preaching at Western Theological Seminary. He took his pastoral approach to his role at the Words of Hope ministry, which he joined in the early 1970s.

In his years at Words of Hope Brownson anchored hundreds of weekly radio broadcasts and also wrote devotionals for the ministry's printed outreach before his 1994 retirement. Author of several books, he is perhaps most noted for "Billy and Dave," a memoir written with his wife Helen about their life journey with their sons Billy and David, who died in 1977 and 2003 respectively.

Ministries Come Together in ‘The Well’

Victoria-14Victoria Chapin is a local author/speaker/chaplain Victoria Chapin had just received a devastating diagnosis involving her eight month-old daughter Sydney.

"Tumors on her brain and spinal cord," recalled the Zeeland woman of that fateful news nearly 30 years ago.

"I didn't know much about the Holy Spirit then," she said. "But now I know it was the spirit that spoke to me and told me that I was not alone and it was gonna be OK."

But there was more bad news to come. Little did Victoria know that five years later, she would have to tell her three daughters, including Sydney, that their father had been killed in an industrial accident.

Eventually a teenaged Sydney lost her tumor battle. But even after multiple tragic events, Victoria's faith deepened and she now ministers to others through her books, chaplaincy and speaking ministries.

An Easter Tale for ‘Perilous’ Times

Easter Jesus palm SundayJesus (actor Kyle Warmington) leads a Palm Sunday parade in last year’s production at Magnify ChurchThe true story of missionary Amy Carmichael is woven with depictions from Jesus' life in the latest Magnify Church Easter musical, "Perilous."

"(Amy) is a real Christian heroine," said "Perilous" director Vicki Modert of Carmichael - an Irish-born woman who served the poor, abandoned and abused in south India.

She died in 1951 after working in mission for more than 50 years.

Three different actresses portray Carmichael in the story – in childhood, her teen years, and as an adult. And the biblical scenes offer the characters (and the audience) a view of the Easter story.

Rockford Resident Launches Loving Kay Refij Ministry in Haiti Following Trip That Changed Her Heart

Cutline No. 1Porta Schut holding one of the Haitian orphans she fell in love with. Porta Schut remembers returning from her first trip to Haiti in 2016 following a visit to an orphanage. She felt confused and helpless.

"There was something about these (Haitian) children that changed my heart," recalls Schut, who lives in Rockford. "I wanted to hug them continually."

These days, Schut's hugs are expressed in a number of ways. She is the founder of the nonprofit ministry Loving Kay Refij (LKR), which in Creole means "house of refuge."

DeVries’ Grace Explorations Helping Men Reach Mountaintop of Their Souls Through Community, Story-telling. And That Might Even Be Over a Beer

Kevin.DeVries.1Kevin DeVries: “We’re going to dive into the interior of the human soul and we’re basically going to say the greatest journey is always within.” He's scaled five of the seven continental summits, skied the North Pole and searched for the elusive Noah's Ark.

Despite these death-defying episodes in his life, Kevin DeVries, founder and president of Grand Rapids-based Grace Explorations, says the greatest journey is when men reach the mountaintop of their souls by descending to who they really are in Christ.

"Here's the thing: I really don't care about summits anymore, I don't care about elevations, I don't care about the physicality of it," says DeVries. "I'm 54 years old. We're going to dive into the interior of the human soul and we're basically going to say the greatest journey is always within."

Constanza Elected President of the Missionary Society of Catholic Priests

constanzaPaulist Fr. René Constanza, who has served since 2018 as rector of the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Grand Rapids, superior of the Paulist Fathers there and director of the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids, has been elected the next president of the missionary society of Catholic priests. In June, he will succeed Paulist Fr. Eric Andrews, who is completing his second, four-year term as president.

"I am deeply humbled and honored by the overwhelming support I have received from my Paulist brothers," wrote René in a message to his parishioners in Grand Rapids. "Despite the challenging and e xciting task ahead, I feel a pervading sense of peace knowing that the Holy Spirit is the one in charge of our community and its mission. It also is comforting to continue trusting in God who has always placed wonderful and talented people around me in every leadership role I have had."

Dégagé opens Thrift on Div Store

thriftDégagé Ministries recently opened its new Thrift on Div store at 140 S. Division Ave. The store offers new and gently used women and men's fashions and will feature artwork and crafts by Heartside artisans, provide an unparalleled shopping experience and employment through Dégagé's Workforce Development Program.

The store will be open Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as Thursday evenings 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., with the anticipation of additional hours in the spring.

The interior design of Thrift on Div is the vision of Workforce Development Coordinator, Stacy Postma, who has extensive retail and education experience.

Salvation Army of KC Hires Donor Director

curtisThe Salvation Army of Kent County has named Joseph Curtis as the organization's donor development director.

In his role, Curtis will function as the key fundraiser working with donors, prospects, foundations, corporate partners and other community organizations to raise financial and in-kind donations that will advance the mission of The Salvation Army of Kent County.

"My aspiration is to bring people together through newly discovered resources and act as a catalyst for business leaders eager to help foster positive change. That's my life's calling," Curtis said. "It happens to be what I do for a living."

World Renew Moves Office to Byron Center

worldrenewWorld Renew, the Christian Reformed Church in North America's international relief and development organization, is moving from its current location in the denominational offices in Grand Rapids to Byron Center. World Renew Canada will remain in the CRCNA's Burlington, Ont. building.

A building has been purchased at 8970 Byron Commerce Dr. SW and is around 10 miles from the CRCNA offices. The idea for the purchase came into discussion after a 2019 recommendation was made by CRCNA U.S. Corporation, owners of the current denominational building, to remodel the existing offices and resize the property.

The timeline of World Renew's projected move was then significantly delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, but the delay resulted in an outcome that is now adjusted to the current pandemic reality.

Guiding Light Opens Sixth Iron Man House

ironhouseGuiding Light recently opened its sixth Iron Man house in the city of Kentwood at an undisclosed location. The home comes at a time of increased demand for addiction recovery services.

Able to accommodate seven men, the four-unit apartment building increases the nonprofit's capacity to house men as they transition back into the mainstream of society after successfully completing the Foundation phase of Guiding Light's Recovery program. In total, Guiding Light can house a total of 42 men in its six Iron House locations.

The apartments are designed for community-oriented sober living and are reserved exclusively for men who have finished four to six months of intensive residential treatment that combines evidence-based practices, life-coaching, therapy, support groups, spiritual direction and other resources to equip men to stay sober and reengage with their family, friends and community.

Master Arts Loses its Pioneer Founder

Pris McDonaldPris McDonaldStaff and supporters of the local Master Arts Theatre are making plans for a life celebration for the organization's founder and long time director. Priscilla (Pris) McDonald passed away Feb. 11 in Florida at her winter home.

"Pris created a legacy of God-honoring creativity, theatre and theatre artists in this community," stated current MAT executive director Tim Van Bruggen.

McDonald became the faith-based theatre company's first executive director in 1987. She had continued to serve as artistic director after Van Bruggen began his duties in 2015. She retired from that role only recently.

People don’t attend church? Meet Stephen Nylen and his devout band of brothers who declare the Gospel week-after-week on the streets of Grand Rapids, regardless of weather conditions

sn1Taking a knee and praying for God’s wisdom and favor before setting out to proclaim the Gospel. The 28-degree nighttime temperature is crisp and chilly, made even colder thanks to a wind chill that makes it feel closer to a frosty 10 degrees. It's the perfect evening to huddle inside and sip a cup of hot chocolate.

But for five men who've gathered on a recent Tuesday at the intersection of Burton Street and Eastern Avenue in Southeast Grand Rapids' Alger Heights neighborhood, the night will take on a decidedly different focus.

Four men have joined Stephen Nylen, an open-air preacher who founded Frontline Apologetics around 10 years ago, to declare Christ's salvation outside, where there are no walls, no order of service and no furnace to keep them warm.

Some of the men that work in evangelistic concert with Nylen — Daniel Cross, Joel VanOyen and Jason Silverthorne — will hold placards with Bible verses printed on them and, when possible, hand out four panel, doubled sided pamphlets with the headline, "Do You Know Jesus Christ" ablaze on it, to those willing to accept them.

Family Gospel Group Continues Its Legacy

Legacy CD coverThe long-awaited “Legacy” CD is now completeThe James Family Singers, a West Michigan gospel music group more than a half-century old, has released a new collection of songs which builds on its distinguished legacy.

"We started taking about this project way back in 2014," said Marvis James, 72, one of several patriarchs in the talented chorale. "We're getting older and we wanted to leave something behind as a musical legacy for the nieces and nephews and others."

So the title of the 11-song CD, "Legacy," is a natural and resonates on numerous levels.

Several of the anthems, such as "The Lord's Prayer" and "Center of My Joy" are songs the family group has performed for decades, yet has never recorded.

That's understandable, since their previous album dates back to 1993.

Recap of January Series’ Messages

jsHere is a recap of some of Calvin University's January Series speakers:

• Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers, of their award-winning podcast Pantsuit Politics  dealing with the history of the welfare system in the United States. They are co-authors of the book, " I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-filled Political Conversations."

As two  Christian  women from opposite sides of the political spectrum and as trained attorneys, their goal is to model how people from opposing political perspectives – as well as members of religious congregations – can have calm, grace-filled conversations  about politics.

Guiding Light Names Harrington Board Chair

harringtonGuiding Light has named John C. Harrington chair of its board of directors.

Harrington brings more than 40 years of experience in bank management, executive leadership and business consulting in a number of industries to his new role. As director and principal of Harrington Associates LLC and Harrington & Kieft LLC, his experience in aligning stakeholders, building partnerships and facilitating solutions will be an asset to Guiding Light.

Critter Barn Receives Grant from Reeve Foundation

critterCritter Barn in Zeeland, an educational farm dedicated to teaching about farming and agriculture for people of all ages and all abilities through the miracles in nature found at the farm, was awarded a grant as part of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation National Paralysis Resource Center 2021 2nd Cycle Direct Effect Quality of Life grants.

Critter Barn will use the grant award for purchasing seven adaptive tricycles and five activity chairs with trays from the Rifton Equipment Company, who specialize in designing and producing adaptive equipment for persons with disabilities.

Guiding Light’s Evans Tapped for Service Award

evansGuiding Light Donor Relations Officer Bob Evans has been named one of Senior Neighbors' 16 Over 60 for his engagement in the community and impact on the lives of others. Now in its fourth year, the award program annually selects 16 individuals over the age of 60 in Kent County who have inspired others and positively impacted the community through business excellence and other extraordinary efforts.

For the past five years, Evans' role with Guiding Light has focused on nurturing donor relationships. He helps donors structure their stewardship donations so their contributions can have the greatest impact on individuals who are struggling with homelessness or addiction.

“It’s All About Relationships…”

Gary MatthewsGary Matthews now works with Celebration Ministry Staffing. Now a retired worship pastor, Gary Matthews has turned his focus to helping bring together worship leaders and churches.

This "matching service" is the mission of Celebration Ministry Staffing, a national organization Matthews joined last year after his retirement from Christ Memorial Church in Holland.

"We help churches find worship pastors and help candidates find what God's plan is for them with churches," said Matthews, 65, from his Holland area home.

The Nashville-based agency is less than three years old but already has an established track record in helping place worship directors and other staff in church leadership.

A few weeks ago Matthews and an associate visited a church north of Grand Rapids. They met with church leaders and pastoral staff, determining what the church was seeking and then looking at possible candidates. "We really do a lot of homework," Matthews said.

The Bear Man: A Survivor’s Tale Brings Hope and New Life

Bear Man close upSurvivor of a grizzly bear attack, Jim VanSteenhouse is also known as “The Bear Man”It's difficult for Jim VanSteenhouse to recall many details from the hours following a grizzly bear attack he endured in the Canadian wilderness.
But he remembers losing a lot of blood.

"There never was a point while I was choppered to base camp and then to the nursing station that I didn't feel blood dripping out of me," said the big game hunter from his Houston area home.

"My clothes were shredded and (the grizzly) tore my head up pretty good."

The attack came seven years ago on one of the mossy ridges stretching down from the Mackenzie Mountain range in the remote Northwest Territories. He and a guide were there bow-hunting moose, and were seated next to each other when a huge grizzly came up behind the hunter's right shoulder "at 4 o'clock."

When the bear lunged he remembers muttering, "Lord, here I come."

Dominican Center at Marywood Relocates

marywoodDominican Center at Marywood, a ministry of the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand
Rapids, is moving west down the street from the Marywood Campus at 2025
Fulton Street East to the Aquinas College campus at 1700 Fulton Street East.
Starting Jan. 3, Dominican Center Marywood at Aquinas College opened its
doors to visitors from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. "Come January 3,
2022, Dominican Center Marywood at Aquinas

College will open in what historically was the Bukowski Pastoral Center," said
Prioress Sandra Delgado OP. "This building has been re-formed to house
ministry offices, space for programs and retreat experiences, community gatherings, and prayer."
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