Calling: To be a prophetic voice and a missionary to the Church
Denise Grier has many titles. She's called lead pastor, prophet, mission liaison, mom, foster mom, board member, Mama D, and Big Mama. She happily embraces each one, stepping into her many roles that allow her to reach into the church, community, and individual lives.
"My prophetic role in the Holland community has been key to bringing in like-minded partners around the church," said Grier. "And I get to pastor the greatest people in the world. I'm so grateful God trusts me and gives me innovation and inspiration in my roles."
Grier spent her first five years in foster care, a time she remembers as abusive and traumatic on many levels, before being adopted at age seven with her brother. She grew up in New York City, but moved to North Carolina while in high school. There she "connected to a church and gravitated to the God who loves me," she said. She asked herself, "How are you going to live your life according to how God has designed you?'"
Hope is sown throughout the 40-acre Benjamin's Hope, a Christian nonprofit in Holland where 30 autistic adults call home.
Planted are a thriving church, a farmstead and an inspired model for those who live there: Live. Learn. Play. Worship.
"The farm is the fulfillment of what God put in my heart so many years earlier," said Krista Mason, executive director of the nonprofit who co-founded Benjamin's Hope with her husband, Dave. Mason spoke during a recent Zoom talk hosted by AMDG Architect.
Mason recounted how she went through an emotional and spiritual metamorphosis when she learned her son was autistic in 1997
Hall is among a handful of other local ministers who have locked arms to help birth a movement of planting new churches among the poor in urban Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Kentwood and beyond. That's a key reason why they're hosting their inaugural ecumenical Plant 616 conference slated for May 26. (See end of story for details.) The seminar is for church leaders who believe God is nudging them to establish new church plants.
They are recalling his clear bass voice that was as deep as he was tall.
Dete Tilma of Byron Center sang tenor with The Heralders for 14 years. He had a long relationship with Sterk both as a colleague and a friend.
"Bill always made us relaxed on stage," recalled Tilma, 68. "When I would play an intro to a song and he wasn't quite ready to come in, he would say 'O Dete, that's so pretty....why don't you play that again?'"
Calling: Help people find healing and positive transformation to become the best versions of themselves, allowing them to live out their God-given identity, vision, and purpose.
Dawn Scott Damon is a busy woman. She's not only lead pastor of Tribes Church, a multicultural church in north Grand Rapids, she's also part of the Freedom Girls Sisterhood, a group of women dedicated to pursuing their freedom in God. Her book "The Freedom Challenge: 60 Days to Untie the Cords that Bind You" helps women find that freedom through study, journaling, and God's Word.
"I hope that people find ways to worship even if they're not in a physical church space," said Williams, worship leader at Kingdom Life Ministries on Kalamazoo Ave. SE in Grand Rapids.
"People are meant to worship in community, but praise and worship is cyclical," she offered. "Your private worship will pour into your public time and vice versa. You should be 're-fueling' either way."
Through a 'Buy-One-Give-One' program, West Michigan Cookie Cutters Haircuts and their customers are providing kids in Wedgwood's residential care with Xander Bunnies, lavender-filled, therapeutic plush bunnies from Lavender Life Company.
Grand Rapids announced the appointment of Sarah Grey as assistant superintendent of Catholic schools. In her role as assistant
superintendent, Grey will oversee curriculum, instruction, technology integration, and professional development for the 31 Catholic schools across the diocese. She will also coordinate school accreditation. Grey has been
serving as interim assistant superintendent since October 2020, following the departure of Jill Annable, who joined the National Catholic Educational
Association as executive director of academic excellence.
Exergaming combines physical activity with computer-simulated environments and videogame features. This included riding nearly 1,400 miles in March and ranking 7th out of 265 CyberCycle teams worldwide. One Holland Home resident placed 4th out of more than 1,300 riders worldwide in February.
Undaunted, the Laynes kept two priorities before them. First, God would find a way for them to serve Him; and second, they would accomplish this work as a couple.
Enter Pilots for Christ International (PFC), founded in 1985 by Rev. William "Bill" Starr. The nondenominational ministry flies critical patients to destinations at no charge. Both Lori and Tim are pilots of single engine prop planes.
The couple is overflowing with activity. They've produced various books and online programs, begun a talent network for faith-based artists, started a Roku TV channel, designed a clothing line and developed several animated and live action series. Each of these non-profit enterprises can be found under their busy Creative Motion website portal, www.creativemotiononline.com.
"It's like we have a whole basket full of stuff and spilled it on the floor," said Kevin from his Grand Haven area office. "We're like a kid with multiple hobbies."
After its ground-breaking run from 2001-09, founder Mark "Mirf" Leech has secured the club's original location and is working toward a September re-opening.
"As time went on I realized that this kind of work resonates at the core of my being, and I've missed it," said Leech, now a church pastor. "And key moments kept pointing me in this direction."
Already this month, slowly but surely, concerts and other events are opening up around West Michigan. Later spring and summer look even more promising. Here are a few to consider for April.
The coats are manufactured by parents experiencing homelessness in an effort to help these individuals achieve financial stability and independence for their whole family.
The initiative is part of a larger eight-city road trip, where Chevy and EP will deliver more than 700 coats to cities across the Midwest and Northeast.
Parent company General Motors is Empowerment Plan's longest standing corporate partner and has provided more than $1 million in funding as well as in-kind materials such as plastics and insulation to recycle into the coats
LaClear says she has appreciated her time serving on this committee and has learned many valuable lessons under the leadership of the current director, Rev. David Koll, who is planning to retire at the end of June 2021.
"Every church needs to develop their ministry in ways that fit their context and follow the unique calling that God has given them," wrote Medenblik, who served as a pastor for 16 years. "As I have listened to churches and pastors who are stressed by the challenges of ministry in a pandemic, I am concerned that many are confronting 'either/or' thinking.
"For example, those who are not ready to fully return to in-person church gatherings are sometimes labeled by others as "not trusting God enough" or letting the government tell us how and when we worship.
Staff from the Kent County Health Department, Spectrum Health, and Mercy Health Saint Mary's administered 100 vaccines to faith leaders who are leading volunteer efforts to vaccinate the socially vulnerable in Kent County.
Faith leaders likewise are committed to registering their members and community residents for vaccination. Over the next eight weeks, they will expand this work to include canvassing vulnerable neighborhoods across Kent County to register community residents for vaccination at local clinics.
Both Central Wesleyan in Holland and Magnify Church in Rockford have added theatrical elements to several presentations, with fresh looks and deeper insights into the meaning of the season.
At Magnify (the former Blythefield Hills Baptist), worship arts director Vicki Modert says the script for the musical/drama "Olympic Surrender" continues the story of sprinter Eric Liddell following his victory at the 1924 Olympics. Liddell's true-to-life triumph was popularized in the 1981 feature film "Chariots of Fire."
"We have labels that say 'in Christ name,'" says Jim Paauw, Sus Manos' board president and CEO. "We want people to know the food is not coming from Americans. We want people to know this is what Christians do in Christ's name."
"It struck me that a lot of time we miss the things God is trying to teach us because we focus so much on the problem at hand rather than trusting His solution," said Guerra, a local Christian singer-songwriter and worship leader.
The biblical verse begins, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"
Calling: Helping those who are undervalued, underserved, and under-resourced
Beth Fisher worked for 25 years in corporate sales, helping organizations automate their business processes. She loved it, but always felt a little pull elsewhere. Part of that pull pushed her to write her first book, "Remorseless: Learning to Lose Labels, Expectations, and Assumptions Without Losing Yourself," which came out in March 2020.
"A 'Christian creative' is a person who has been given a talent or gift to use for Kingdom purposes to glorify God," said conference co-director Kathy Bruins.
The April 23-24 conference with its "Quench" theme may be just the catalyst needed to take a creative leap.
Three years ago Victoria Chapin attended her first ever arts conference. "Not only did I learn valuable information for my creative journey, but I was moved spiritually," she said. The Zeeland, MI woman was so enthused she volunteered to be on the planning team for this year's event.
This is happening in the public square and one could argue it's happening within the Church.
What I mean is, easily recognized and often used words and phrases that express Christian values are rapidly disappearing from everyday life. Vocabulary or analogies drawn from Scripture that were once common currency in American culture are at the edge of extinction.
Why does this matter? Well, if language is lost, our ability to communicate our ideas, values, and theology are lost. Our influence is lost. Our capacity for sharing and our ability to perpetuate the faith are lost.
The four-unit apartment building will increase 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. Remodeling work will soon begin on the newest Iron House, which will accommodate seven men.
The purchase was made possible by a generous gift of nearly $260,000 from a longtime donor who strongly believes in the Iron House model of supportive living as key to long-term recovery success.
"So many mornings I would get up and say, 'I love my job. I love my job,'" says Van Zanten, known throughout school as "Mr. Van" who turned 70 years old earlier this year. "I've got this fire in my belly. I can't wait to be here. I view myself as a rabbi. I'm learning myself. I just show them Jesus. There's so much to understand about His love, His compassion."
Another of the school's co-founders, Superintendent John Booy, isn't ready to call it quits.
Hinton brings 30 years of experience working in mental health services and serving in leadership roles in higher education, nonprofit work and community involvement. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, Hinton helps individuals work through a wide range of issues and create a new lifestyle of hope, health and life-changing opportunities.
Dégagé hopes to educate more of the Grand Rapids community on issues related to homelessness, as well as provide stories of hope from those the organization serves. Project Hope was on display through Friday, Feb. 26.
Kinism opposes interracial marriage and teaches that races should be kept separate in racially pure "religio-ethnostates," supporting white supremacy. The CRC pastor in Charlotte has been dismissed from the denomination for espousing Kinism for many years while he and his congregation were part of the CRC.
"The theme and the message of the songs is directed toward the prison population," said Dean from his Cascade-area home.
"We're addressing their needs, hurts and challenges to encourage them and hopefully bring them peace."
"Faithful" is the title of the new collection, released in January. Dean self-produced the project and co-wrote the songs with his wife Janae. They've been ministering to prisons and correctional facilities regularly for the past five years.
Jeremy Simpson is a perfect advocate for multi-ethnic and cross-cultural worship ministry.
He's lived that role nearly his entire life.
Simpson, 35, is co-director of the Wesley Foundation, a student-based ministry which reaches persons of all faith backgrounds at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
But he has influence in hundreds of churches in his part-time role as a denomination-wide "worship catalyzer" for the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC).
"I just want to be accessible...to meet people and hear them out," said the pastor of Ignite Fellowship Church on Alpine Ave. NW. "I love conversation."
Conversation is a main ingredient in the most public of his ministries. Pittman is founder and co-host of "Ignite Radio," an on-air broadcast with a 10-year history of making community connections as well as spiritual ones.
The two-hour program (heard 3-5pm Sundays on the R&B-formatted 102.5FM "The Ride") continues its mixture of interviews, scripture, and gospel music
"The goal is live radio that's relevant with real people telling their real stories," said Pittman, who co-hosts with Kishen Newton.
"While people share their stories and their journeys, I'm able to sense where it is that the Holy Spirit wants to convey the gospel."
If you're being thorough in planning for your eventual death, you're careful to include it all – right down to which nieces and nephews receive those treasured knick-knacks.
But will your final wishes recognize and reflect the religious or spiritual components that helped define your life?
"It's valuable to have a conversation not only about your stuff, but about the importance of your religion or your spirituality when it comes to end-of-life decisions," Carol Robinson stresses.
The mobile shower unit will be placed at strategic locations throughout the city where hygiene services are most needed. Mel Trotter Ministries, along with community partners including The Other Way Ministries, The Homeless Outreach Team and others feel strongly that being builders of relationships in the West Michigan community is paramount to helping unsheltered individuals with tangible needs such as hygiene.
Ensink brings a wealth of leadership experience with her to the executive role, most recently in positions with Grandville Calvin Christian Schools. Ensink is familiar with walking alongside the marginalized, which began when she was a young girl growing up in South Africa during apartheid and continued when she immigrated to the United States and worked as a paramedic in Grand Rapids for American Medical Response. It was her work as a paramedic that first introduced her to the patrons at Dégagé.
This is where Homes Giving Hope (HGH) dwells, a Christian nonprofit Sara and Brian Boven and Kay Wood co-founded following the Bovens' purchase of the 23-acre property in December 2019 for persons with special needs. The woodsy area includes a former chapel whose downstairs now serves as office space.
"My character (teenager Allison Riley) had just been kidnapped and she's in this new place and was being dragged down a stairway," said Bolden. "I was totally unprepared for how uncomfortable this story would be to put on film."
The trip down the stairway was the easy part. Much more difficult was the uncomfortable weight of the script based on actual true stories of young girls forced into the sex trade.
"Normally, a movie is all pretend," said Bolden, 21. "So even in scary or emotional scenes you can take yourself out of it 'cuz you tell yourself it's not real. But this scene was so many young girls' stories...I wasn't playing pretend anymore."
- Two Profound Questions: What Think Ye of Christ? How Should We Then Live?
- Behind the Closing Doors: (part 2)
- Two Area Pastors Offer Readers New Books
- Where Does Your Spiritual TripTik Take You?
- Multiply222 Takes its Cue From 2 Timothy 2:2: Entrusting Qualified Teachers to Disciple Others
- Behind the Closing Doors
- Benckhuysen appointed director of CRC Safe Church Ministry
- Coalition transforms former Purple East into warming center, overnight shelter
- Back to Work program receives $20,000 grant
- Love is the Way
- Acton Institute: new walls being erected
- Terry's Picks January 2021
- Diversity In Culture and the Church
- Merry Christmas
- Those We Lost in 2020
- Pastor: Need is Great to Bring Gospel to the Forefront of Native Americans
- Seminary President Celebrates 25th Ordination Anniversary
- Wedgwood Christian Services Receives $10,000 Grant
- 2020 – A Year to Remember…. And Forget
- More Than a Thank-you Call: How Guiding Light’s Donor Relations Team Supports its Community as the Pandemic Rages On
- Guiding Light’s The Job Post Relocates
- Good Samaritan Ministries Comes Alongside Homeless in Ottawa County. Pandemic Heightens Need for Housing