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Women of Influence: Dawn Scott Damon

Newman 376Job Title: Lead Pastor of Tribes Church; author, speaker, and life and leadership coach

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.

A Look Behind the Leader: Glenda R. Williams

williamsGlenda WilliamsWorship during this COVID-era has affected church worship leaders and the people they serve in surprising ways. Even those online.

"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."

Terry’s Picks for May 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 month of May 2021

Wedgwood Partnerships Leads to Xander Bunnies

Capture114West Michigan Cookie Cutters Haircuts has partnered with Lavender Life Company to give back to kids in residential care at Wedgwood Christian Services.

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.

Grey Appointed Assistant Superintendent of Catholic Schools

Capture113The Office of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of
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.

Holland Home Keeps Residents Active With ‘Exergaming’

Capture112Senior services provider Holland Home, a nonprofit that's committed to follow Christ's teachings and examples in all that it does, is keeping older adults healthy and connected to their communities throughout the pandemic with exergaming.

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.

New Book Offers Students Hope During Lockdown

Capture111Zeeland Christian School teacher Carla Zastrow said a new book is teaching students lessons about forgiveness, joy, and hope during the COVID-19 lockdown. Titled "At Psalms School/En la escuela de los Salmos" and presented in Spanish and English, the book is especially geared to help young people better understand and pray the Psalms.

Mentorship Program Receives $1.3 Million Grant

nbGeneration Spark is an intergenerational ministry strategy that pairs young adults (ages 16–24) with mentors (adults ages 45 and up). Hope College began the mentorship program in 2017. Through a one-on-one relationship, students and mentors work together to identify and solve real-life problems in their church or community. This model allows both partners to learn from each other, to make a difference in their church or community, and to develop skills in leadership, critical thinking, and problem solving. There is also an emphasis on calling, faith, and prayer.

Michigan Chapter of Pilots for Christ Provides No-cost Flights to Critical Care Patients. ‘Our Mission is to Share the Gospel’

pilotsLike her husband Tim, Lori Layne is a pilot who is Christ driven.When Lori and Tim Layne decided some 17 years ago to seek a mission-ministry they could join abroad, the response was momentarily jarring: They were considered too old.

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.

Creative Couple Making Entertainment, Ministry Connections

Kevin and Kristen Collier portraitKevin and Kristen Collier Kevin and Kristen Collier are knee-deep in various media ventures all created to serve Christians in the arts. And to help spread the word.

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."

“A Place to Belong” Returns

Mark Leech portraitMark Leech in front of the revamped stage at Skelletones Skelletones, the former safe-haven, all-ages downtown Grand Rapids concert spot that provided an outlet for young, faith-based bands, fans and others, is readying an encore.

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."

Terry’s Picks for April 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 over the coming month.

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.

Coats That Transform into Sleeping Bags Handed Out

nbMel Trotter Ministries recently teamed up with Empowerment Plan and Chevrolet to hand out to homeless people 150 coats made from upcycled materials that transform into sleeping bags.

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

Jenison Pastor to Serve as Director of Candidacy

susanRev. Susan LaClear, discipleship and care pastor at Alive Ministries CRC in Jenison, has been tapped by the Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church in North America to serve as director of Candidacy. LaClear has served on the Christian Reformed Candidacy Committee for the past six years. This synodically appointed standing committee sets ministry standards and oversees the nurture and training of persons preparing for ordained ministry in the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

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.

Seminary President: Veer From ‘Either Or’ Thinking

veerCalvin Theological Seminary President Jul Medenblik cautioned pastors and church members in a recent email to veer from "either or" or" thinking during the ongoing days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"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.

Hand2Hand Purchases Former Grocery Store

handtohandCheri Honderd, founder and executive director of Hand2Hand, a Christian nonprofit that has provided food to children on weekends since 2008, announced it has purchased a former Aldi grocery store in Jenison. The 15,600-square foot building at 306 Chicago Drive will house its headquarters, training and packing space and warehouse. Building renovations are projected to be completed by midsummer.

Area Ministers Receive ‘Shot of Love.’ Vaccine Will be Offered to all Michiganders Age 16 and Up Starting April 5

nbLeaders from 50 Kent County congregations volunteered to roll up their sleeves recently and received a "shot of love." Their solidarity was intended to show their communities they are walking the talk by receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the West Michigan Vaccination Clinic at DeVos Place, which is a collaborative effort of Kent County, Spectrum Health, Mercy Health and Vaccinate West Michigan.

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.

Dramatic Turns on the Easter Message

Magnify Olympi surrenderThis year’s Magnify Church’s drama highlights an Olympic heroTwo of West Michigan's largest churches are offering some drama in their Easter weekend programs.

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."

Sus Manos Gleaners CEO: ‘We Want People to Know the Food is Not Coming From Americans’

san2The barrels of dehydrated produce Sus Manos Gleaners sends to countries where hunger is widespread always arrive with labels affixed to them. It's the Georgetown Township's Christian nonprofit way of communicating its deepest priority.

"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."

Exploring the “Heart’s Wasteland”

Guerra Joe on stoolJoe GuerraWhen Joe Guerra read Isaiah 43:19, something clicked.

"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?"

Women of Influence: Beth Fisher

BFisherBeth FisherJob Title: Chief Growth Officer at Mel Trotter Ministries

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.

Creative Gifts Refreshed at “The Well”

Bruins Kathy preferred image“The Well” founder and conference co-director Kathy Bruins "Christian creatives" can look forward to the quenching streams of learning and inspiration at an upcoming spring conference in Byron Center, MI.

"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.

Losing a Language of the Christian Faith

rex99Dr. Rex M. RogersChristians are losing the language of our Christian faith.

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.

GL Secures New Iron House

glm99Kentwood, Michigan, March 1, 2021 – In response to increased demand for its addiction recovery services, Guiding Light has secured a new Iron House in the City of Kentwood – its sixth sober-living apartment building.

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.

40 Years and Counting: ‘God has kept us continually dependent on Him and expanded our vision.’ Elementary Teacher to Retire Full of Gratitude

pot2From left: Superintendent John Booy and 4th-5th-grade teacher Mark Van Zanten. “God went beyond what we could have imaged,” Booy says.After four decades of teaching hundreds of students, 4th-5th grade educator and co-founder of The Potter's House school, Mark Van Zanten, has decided the 2020-21 school year is his last. He's made his decision with heart full of gratitude.

"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 Joins Guiding Light’s Board

hiltonKyle Hinton, a licensed marriage and family therapist addressing trauma, substance abuse, behavioral health and mental health, has joined Guiding Light's board of directors.

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.

Homeless Shelter, Degage’s Featured Life-size Photos of Homelessness

nbDowntown Grand Rapids homeless shelter Dégagé Ministries and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.'s World of Winter event recently offered Project Hope, a public exhibition at nine sites around the downtown Grand Rapids area that featured life-size photos and stories of homelessness and hope from Dégagé patrons.

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.

CRC Church Denounced as White Nationalist Congregation

crcThe Christian Reformed Church in North America Synod in 2019 decided Christ the King Reformed Church in Charlotte, Mich. should be deemed a heresy for being a white nationalist group that teaches Kinism.

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.

Wedgwood Hosts Discussion on Pandemic’s Effects on Families

wedgeWedgwood Christian Services hosts an online panel discussion on March 23 at 4 p.m. that discusses the ongoing challenges local kids and their families face due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel includes: Dr. Heidi Cate, Superintendent of Integrity Educational Services; Nicole Hansen, YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids’ District Executive Director of Community Engagement & Youth Development; Eric Payne, Grand Rapids Chief of Police; Chris Rivera, Director of Wedgwood’s Substance Use Treatment Services; and Dr. Joel Sanchez, Wedgwood Christian Services’ Psychiatrist. Maranda of WOOD TV8/WOTV 4 will moderate the discussion. For more information and to register, visit wedgwood.org/sot.

Music Ministry Behind The Walls

WJ  ChuckWayburn Dean (l.) and wife Janae with Chuck Colson of Prison FellowshipA focus on prison ministry provided the inspiration for a new album by West Michigan singer-songwriter Wayburn Dean.

"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.

A Cross-Cultural Worship Journey

Simpson Jeremy studio shotRev. Jeremy Simpson was a guest preacher recently at Maple Ave. Ministries in Holland.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).

Local Pastor Still “Igniting” Radio Airwaves

JR Kishen abnd Sherita EdwardsPictured are “Ignite Radio” co-hosts JR Pittman (center) and Kishen Newton (left) with on-air guest, Grace Christian University professor Sherita EdwardsGrand Rapids pastor JR Pittman has a multi-faceted ministry. At least one of them includes a hot beverage: "Coffee with Pastor JR."

"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."

Let the Spirit Move You, Along with All That “Stuff”

Stocks. Bonds. Home. Cottage. Valuables.

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.

MTM Unveils Mobile Shower Unit

nbMel Trotter Ministries recently unveiled its new three-stall mobile shower unit, which will allow those experiencing homelessness to receive not only a hot shower, but dignity and compassion as well.

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.

Dégagé Ministries Names New Executive Director

degDowntown Grand Rapids homeless shelter Dégagé Ministries has named Thelma Ensink as executive director following the retirement of longtime executive director Marge Palmerlee.

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.

Terry's Picks February 2021

EVENTSThis is the column in which West Michigan Christian New writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. This one goes beyond February to some events set for later this year...

Dignity Dwells at Homes Giving Hope for Special Needs Persons

rock1Homes Giving Hope is in Northeast Rockford.Nestled in a copse of trees in Northeast Rockford is a 4,000-square foot home where dignity resides.

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.

Local Ties to New Film on Trafficking Plight

Trafficked movie posterThe new movie filmed in Michigan highlights the issue of human traffickingIt doesn't take long for actress Sophie Bolden to recall her most challenging scene in the film "Trafficked: A Parent's Worst Nightmare." It was the very first day of shooting for the movie, which was completed here in Michigan.

"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?

rex99Dr. Rex M. RogersWe ask, or we are asked, many questions in life. Among the most important questions we engage might be, “Will you marry me?”

In a traditional sense, ladies wait for men to “pop the question,” and guys think her first thought was, “Yes,” when actually, it probably was, “Well, it’s about time!”

Or maybe the guy is a cautious one, so he sneaks up on the issue, asking, “If I ask you to marry me, will you?” He dips his toe in the water to see what her reaction might be before committing.

But either way, we probably agree these are more important, life-changing questions than “What do you want for dinner tonight?”

There are at least two other questions in Scripture that demand our response.

Behind the Closing Doors: (part 2)

Rev Andrew DeBraber at frinal serviceRev. Andrew De Braber addresses an empty sanctuary at the final service at Comstock Park Cong-UCCRev. Andrew DeBraber had a calm and rather solemn look as he rose to begin this special church worship service.

"Hear and believe this good news," he said. "Our help is in the name of our God who is continually making and re-making heaven and earth."

It was the opening of the closing service of Comstock Park Congregational-United Church of Christ.

Sunday November 22, 2020 was the official end date for this historic church on Lamoreaux Dr. NE whose roots go back more than a century.

Two Area Pastors Offer Readers New Books

Mike Head ShotRev. Michael WittmerOne retired pastor and one newly-minted pastor have each written new books that offer readers both information and inspiration.

Rev. Michael Wittmer, newly named as pastor of Cedar Springs Baptist Church, has recently released "The Bible Explainer: Questions and Answers on Origins, The Old Testament, Jesus, the End Time, and More," published by Barbour.

The full-color volume is packed with 250 questions that answer just about every question possible about the Bible, from "When did God create the world?" to "What is the Abrahamic Covenant?" from "What do we know about Jesus' early years?" to "What is faith?"

Where Does Your Spiritual TripTik Take You?

vernbCouples spend decades doing everything together until declining health prompts a move into an assisted living facility. They take turns caring for one another as their health ebbs and they prepare for their final journeys.

As a spiritual caregiver for Emmanuel Hospice, Pastor Vern Bareman regularly visits couples in this situation. His conversations with spouses of patients who have recently died can swing from profound grief to gratitude that the struggles have ended.

"Some of our patients are ready to go, while others are fighting to hang on to life," Bareman says. "Coming to terms with letting go can be hard for both patients and their families."
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