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Featured Articles

Big Ticket Shifts Festival Dates

4Kac center stage at BTFFor King & Country performed at a previous Big Ticket Festival In what could be termed a "proactive" move, the organizers of the Christian music Big Ticket Festival (BTF) in northern Michigan have moved the calendar for their event from June to Labor Day weekend.

"The way it's going right now, most all of the major events in June are being cancelled or postponed," noted festival director Drew Spanding of actions to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

"We were blessed to have the last weekend of the summer still open here (Otsego County Fairgrounds in Gaylord), giving us the flexibility to move the dates," said Spanding.

Holland Couple Emerges as a Musical Duo

Lady  GentlemanNecia and Jon Ornée are Lady & Gentleman His band AG Silver went on hiatus eight years ago. But singer-songwriter Jon Ornée finally has another musical enterprise. And he didn't have to go far to find a new collaborator.

Jon and his wife Necia have formed Lady & Gentleman, a pop-folk-rock duo which has already debuted its first new song and music video. And they've just released a follow-up tune.

"I just can't not write music," said Ornée, 38, of his artistic orientation. "I've written a lot of songs that are relatable to everybody, but now they impact my own family," noted the father of two.

Master Arts Theatre Goes “Off Script”

Van Bruggen TimothyMAT executive director Timothy Van BruggenLike many other non-profit organizations, Master Arts Theatre (MAT) has been scrambling in the wake of non-essential business closings and shelter-in-place guidelines, thanks to the coronavirus.

One of the casualties: the faith-inspired company's spring production of "Enchanted April" will not take the stage.

"We had a beautiful cast and had just started rehearsals," noted MAT executive director Timothy Van Bruggen. "It's one of the most touching plays I've ever read."

The theatre group, with offices/performance space in Byron Township, had already been forced to cancel its March 20-21 Lenten presentation of the play "The Seven Last Words of Christ."

Movement West Michigan Serves to Unite Christians to Combat ‘stubborn’ Spiritual, Social Problems, including Coronavirus Pandemic

Cutline No. 1-8Lynn Kotecki: “This is about relationships, this is about trust, it’s about authentic conversation.”Lynn Kotecki, executive director of Ottawa County-based Movement West Michigan (MWM), believes in the power of unity.

"What the Movement is attempting to do is unify the Christian body," Kotecki says. "He (God) told us 2,020 years ago to come together. It can take us a long time to learn. And everything our Lord tells us is to come together and we're doing that. The key is: Can we continue and sustain that relationship to move forward to transform the community."

MWM's vision is to have every community in West Michigan flourish spiritually and socially. Leaders serve as the catalyst to spiritually and socially impact their communities through rigorous research, uniting prayer, unified local leadership and powerful collaboration between diverse sectors.

Local Duo Offering Kids Weekly Learning Videos

kevinkWimee, a popular robot-like character who visits schools with creators Kevin Kammeraad and Michael Hyacinthe, is making his video debut just in time for kids to tune in from home. Wimee's mission is "helping kids build vocabulary skills through creative storytelling."

"We were scheduled to do 100 workshops featuring Wimee and the book 'Wimee's Words,' but Covid-19 hit and we had to suspend our engagement directly with kids," said Hyacinthe, CEO of Wimage, LLC and a veteran working with veterans at Habitat for Humanity. "So, we developed a web series that continues to engage with kids while schools are closed."

Worship the Focus of Collaborative CD Project

Marialke Nate-1Nate MarialkeNate Marialke is standing on the edge of a new creative venture.

"Resound" is the title of a five-song CD collection crafted by Marialke and worship leader colleagues.

"Water's Edge Worship is really a family of worship leaders and (song)writers, explained Marialke, worship arts leader at Central Wesleyan Church in Holland. "And our church is kind of the hub for that right now."

Leaders from at least ten churches around the world are connected to Water's Edge, although just area artists are part of the new live recording.
The all-original release is the second for the working group, which issued a studio project "Forever Overcome," three years ago.

The songs were to be formally introduced in a CD release concert this month at Central Wesleyan, although that has been put on pause by COVID-19 virus concerns.

Terry’s Picks for April 2020

EVENTS2Here's the column in which your faithful West Michigan Christian News writer usually surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month.

But one of many persistent effects of the coronavirus COVID-19 is: for the entire month of April there are simply no events appropriate to the list that I can be sure will go on as scheduled.

So the "April Picks" headline is a misnomer.

The People of West Michigan Need Not To Fear!

fear8In this time when the world is plagued by fear and is searching for something they do not have, we believe we have an unusual opportunity to lead eyes upwards, and we want to take advantage of the opportunity.

We have multiple billboards in high traffic locations with the message of hope. Please pray that people that see these billboards will discover new peace in Christ.

Virus Affects Christian Concert Scene

Newsboys UnitedNewsboys United’s concert in April was one of many postponed or cancelledUsually the announcement looked something like this: "To ensure the safety of our fans, we're announcing the postponement of the remaining dates on the_____ tour effective immediately. We are working diligently to reschedule dates as soon as possible, and we will notify ticket holders immediately of the rescheduled dates."

That was the exact wording used by the promoter in the cancellation of the Newsboys United "Greatness of Our God" tour, which had been scheduled April 18 at Fair Haven Ministries in Hudsonville.

That was just one of a host of concerts – both Christian and mainstream – postponed or outright cancelled in the effort to fight the spread of the Corona virus (COVID-19).

Revisiting Martin Luther’s “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague” Re COVID-19

rex99Dr. Rex M. RogersMartin Luther was one of the greatest Christian reformers, the man who in 1517 called the Roman Catholic Church to account by posting "95 Theses" on Wittenberg All Saints Church door.

But enormously important as this is, though, Luther should also be remembered for his actions and thoughtful response to the dreadful Black Plague – and what his wisdom suggests for us today in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the 1300s, the Black Death, also called the Bubonic Plague, swept across two continents, eventually killing half the population of Europe in a short span of four years. Between 75 and 200 million people died and it took nearly two hundred years for the population to return to former levels.

During the 15th and 16th Centuries, various epidemics took more lives in the known populated world. And worse, the Black Death proved episodic, meaning it would die off only to resurge later.

In 1527, the plague came again, visiting Martin Luther's hometown, Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was instructed to leave by his university elector, but he stayed to minister to the sick. Days later, several around Luther had died, while his pregnant wife and others in his household became ill. Thankfully, they survived, as did Luther, but he was asked, even challenged, about the decision he made not to leave ahead of the epidemic.

Upcoming RandyDon Academy to Shepherd Youth Pastors in Servant Leadership

raydonRandy DonGiovanni: “If there’s ever a time we’ve needed youth pastors, it’s today.”Randy DonGiovanni knows youth pastors of all denominations face similar, uphill struggles. That's what makes the upcoming RandyDon Academy essential.

"I feel leadership today is not being taught in the correct way because everyone wants to be a leader, everyone wants to be a pastor, but no one wants to ... do the biblical principle of serving," says DonGiovanni, who's worked in youth ministry for over 30 years in a variety of capacities and is ordained with Resurrection Life Church in Grandville.

Chonda Pierce: Humorously Speaking Her Mind

chonda headshot 11DcT4Q- 2Please Note: The Chonda Pierce event scheduled for Saturday 3/14 has officially been postponed. Promoters are working diligently to provide a new date ASAP, please hold on to your tickets as they will be honored at the new date. If you cannot attend the new date, refunds can be obtained by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Chonda Pierce has revealed the secret to her decades-long run as one of the nation's top faith-based comedians.

"Every time I leave my house I kind of always know how I want the evening to end," she said of the approach to her stage show which treads into hilarity yet retains a relevant message. "I've always worked from the ending first. So I start writing the material and work backwards to the beginning. We've done that for 25 years."

Throughout her career Pierce has shared with audiences bits of her own life journey, which includes bouts with depression, family estrangement and the death of her husband in 2014 following his long struggle with alcoholism. Yet woven through is humorous and hope-filled encouragement.

"My story is my story, there are aspects of it that will always show up," she said.

Upcoming Gilda’s LaughFest

Sapp HenryHenry Sapp Comedy veterans and newcomers alike are joining in on the fun at this year's LaughFest.

The annual West Michigan comedy festival was created by and is a benefit for Gilda's Club Grand Rapids, a non-profit that offers free support programs for cancer victims and their families. (This year's festival is March 5-15; www.laughfestgr.org

And area residents - the stage-savvy Henry Sapp and upstart comic Abbie Lemke - are both performing at various LaughFest events.

Terry’s Picks for March 2020

EVENTS2West Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for March:

Lakeshore Couple Invents New Game to Create Connection

rankDana and Chip Brown noticed that technology—in their own family and across society—is preventing people from connecting. Rather than conversation, there are constant phone checks, games, and responding to emails and texts.

Combine that noticing with both of their creative experiences working with Disney, and they came up with The Rank Game, a brand-new game that "is about you and your people," said the Browns.

The Rank Game features cards listing four items to be ranked in order of preference by a Ranker. Guessers record their guesses as to the Ranker's order, getting a point for each correct answer. For example, one card says Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter so the Ranker ranks which he or she likes best to least, with Guessers trying to guess correctly. A new Ranker ranks for the next round, and so on.

Show Up in Your Own Story, Debut Author Says

remorBeth Fisher learned the hard way how to show up in her story, to be who she was created to be. Now she shares her journey and offers encouragement in her debut book, "Remorseless: Learning to Lose Labels, Expectations, and Assumptions Without Losing Yourself."

"I had to fight my whole life to be who I knew God created me to be, to not succumb to assumptions," said Fisher, who lives in Ada. "I spent so much time defending who I was. Turns out God knew all along who I was."

One of her dreams was to write. The desire was always there, but the timing was not. It took her daughter Olivia encouraging her to do what she always wanted for Fisher to take a sabbatical from her high-powered sales job. Fisher thought the request to spend time with her during Olivia's post-college gap year was facetious.

"When I asked her why, Olivia said that this was probably the last time we'd live together as a family so maybe I could stay home and write my book," said Fisher, which she did. It released last month.

Local Colson Center Mission Director: Need to ‘re-evangelize’ Church Still Essential

chuckcolsonChuck Colson went from being Nixon’s hatchet man to Christ’s ambassador. The late Chuck Colson was a hard-charging man before and after he became a Christian.

It's the "after" that convinced Colson how vital it is for Christians to make an impact in the public sphere. And although he died nearly eight years ago, his life's focus is all the more important, says Jeff Rogers, director of mission advancement for The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Rogers is based in the Grand Rapids area.

Colson is perhaps best known for serving as Special Council to President Richard Nixon, and was once known as the 37th President's "hatchet man." Colson, who served seven months in a federal prison for obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal, was not the same man when he became a Christian in 1973, according to Rogers.

Pat Barrett and His “Good, Good Father”

Barrett Pat studio2020"I'm at the mercy of the moment in my songwriting," said Pat Barrett, 35, during a recent phone interview.

His first consideration: "What do I need to sing right now about what I'm walking through in life?" posed the worship leader/recording artist.

"And if (the songs) end up helping people in some way like they've helped me, it's wonderful."

That's how his signature praise anthem "Good, Good Father" emerged from his creative process.

The song, with its can't-miss chorus hook, was a result of a session with co-writer Tony Wood. "It came along at a time we needed to see God and ourselves in a healthy way," Barrett said.

Bestselling Authors Launch New Books at Story Hour

LittleMole8Children's story hour at Baker Book House plays host to two top children's authors, both with new books to share. Crystal Bowman and Glenys Nellist will be at the bookstore on Thursday, March 19, at 10:30 am to read from their new books with Easter themes.

Nellist, who lives in Dearborn, is author of "Little Mole Finds Hope," newly released by Beaming Books. It is the gentle tale of Little Mole, who is feeling bad inside and doesn't know why. His wise mother realizes he needs hope and takes him on a journey to find hope in a flower bulb, bare branches, and a chrysalis.

"I wanted to explore the idea that there is hope but sometimes it's hard to find," said Nellist. "Hope is found in the dark places like a bulb under the soil. It can be found in the darkest places."

Trauma Survivor’s New Book Offers Help, Hope, Healing

addictedPaula Jauch's past threatened to undo her. Her childhood filled with neglect, abuse, addicted parents, learning struggles; her teen years in a gang and as a young mother of two; her years in an abusive relationship. By age 21, she had three children and was struggling to survive.

Then one day she shut herself in the closet of her home in Las Vegas, Nevada, and contemplated suicide. Her son, age 6 at the time, opened the door and cried, "I hate you, Mommy. All you do is cry." It took a child's honesty and nudge from outside herself to cry out, "If you are real, I need to know you now!"

God came to Paula Jauch that day and changed her life. Not immediately and not without lots of work on her part, but today Jauch is a different woman intent on helping others overcome their pasts.

Mel Trotter Ministries Partners with JC Films for Movie to be Filmed in Grand Rapids

Cutline No. 1Mel Trotter Ministries in downtown Grand Rapids is partnering with a faith-based production company to create a film tentatively titled "One Life at a Time." The movie's focus is to give God glory and tamp down the misconceptions of homelessness in West Michigan.

The movie will be produced by JC Films and filmed entirely in Grand Rapids. It will star Dean Cain, best known for playing Clark Kent/Superman in the TV series "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman."

Magic in the Church?

Flom Justin circular cardsJustin Flom "You wouldn't think magic and that kind of entertainment would be done in church circles," admitted Justin Flom, a world-class magician who has "Christian magic" shows in his repertoire.

Flom, just 32, has appeared internationally, on network television, concert/entertainment tours and at large corporate events.

"But when I'm in a church I use magic to communicate a lesson, kind of the same way Jesus used parables."

And so he does, even though his "stories" contain elaborate slight-of-hand effects and quicker-than-the-eye manipulations.

"My church shows are family-friendly and a wild, fun time," he said. "But there is a special moment when I get to talk about why I do the things I do and what I believe."

Visual Art in Worship: A Model of Collaboration

Jupp ReginaArtist Regina Jupp was a presenter at the Calvin Symposium on WorshipArtistic expression in the church is often associated with performing: music, dance or drama.

But the visual arts – painting, sculpture, use of fiber, cloth and linen, photography, graphic arts, etc. - also come into play in glorifying God and emulating his creativity.

And Regina Jupp knows – that in the church - a collaborative effort is key to the process.

"The more people involved the better," said Jupp, a Chicago-area artist and church/non-profit consultant..

Calvin Gospel Choir Celebrates South Korea Trip

Calvin U gospel choir partuicipate in Korean church worshipThe Calvin U. gospel choir participates in worship in a South Korean church "Our motto in this group is that it's not just a choir but a worship experience," said Nate Glasper Jr, director of the Calvin University Gospel Choir.

And Glasper and his singers have taken that motto to new heights after completing a 15-day performing trip to South Korea. They returned Jan. 20.

"In all the places we sang it was ministry and it was worship," said Glasper, 36. "We sang at 11 worship services; and to sing and engage in congregational worship was probably the major highlight of the entire trip."

More than 30 singers from the choir participated in the tour, held during the University's academic interim. Although their itinerary was well-planned, there were several impromptu moments.

Year-round Woodland Drive-In Church Welcomes People to ‘come as you are.’ 50th Anniversary Planned in June

wood1Pastor Traci Parker holds a photo depicting where Woodland Drive-In Church was once located. Wind, ice and a fresh powdering of snow greeted worshippers during a recent Sunday morning that made driving to Woodland Drive-In Church a bit of a white-knuckle experience. But that didn't stop hearty souls like Solomon McSwain from getting out of bed and giving God praise.

"I chose the drive-in church because it's outside and it gives me a peace of heart," says McSwain, a Grand Rapids resident who's been attending the drive-in church for about a year. "My sister introduced me to the drive-in church. And the first time I went here, I fell in love with it so I've been coming here ever since."

Marvin Sapp’s Next Project In Sight

Sapp Marvin and kids at Grammys Jan 2018Marvin Sapp (2nd from right) and children Marvin II, Mikaila and Madisson at the 2018 Grammy Awards Grand Rapids native and former local pastor Marvin Sapp is recording his next album at his new church home.

The Chosen Vessel Cathedral in Ft. Worth, Texas will be the site for the project, which is aiming for a Feb. 21, 2020 recording session.

"This recording is special to me because I'm doing it in my new home – literally and figuratively," said Sapp, 52, in an earlier interview.

Crowder Gets Into A (Winter) Jam

Crowder D. Van Andel 2019David Crowder opened for MercyMe last October at Van Andel ArenaDavid Crowder likes to glean musical knowledge from a variety of sources. And the singer-songwriter – who headlines this year's Winter Jam tour – has discovered a way to get more of his original songs into his limited stage time on the multi-artist concert bill.

"I've learned from the Reach Records guys down here in Atlanta...like Lecrae and Andy Mineo...they're able to run through like 20 of their songs in 15 minutes," said the Crowder of the faith-based hip-hop artists.

"It's all about how to truncate songs and hit spots that feel the moment, get the high points and move onto the next one.

It's a technique he said he'll use in this year's tour which opened Jan. 10 and comes to Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids on Jan. 19.

Music and More Targeting West Michigan This Year

Daigle Lauren seatedLauren Daigle visits Van Andel Arena in March Few observers can recall such a crowded wintertime Christian music concert schedule this season with all the national artists coming through West Michigan.

There's an average at least one show per week headed our way through the month of April! And that doesn't include local or regional acts or concerts yet to be announced.

Van Andel Arena events include the annual Winter Jam experience on Jan. 19 (headlined by David Crowder, whom we will be featuring soon in a separate article) and singer-songwriter Lauren Daigle on March 12. By the way, Daigle's song "You Say" was recently calculated by Billboard as the No. 2 chart-driven "Hot Christian Song" of the past decade (topped only by Hillsong United's "Oceans: (Where Feet May Fail").

Terry’s Picks for January 2020

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area’s faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for January:

Hand2Hand: Feeding, Blessing and Loving 7,500 Students in 7 Counties

Cutline No. 1-6Hand2Hand founder and executive director Cheri Honderd stands in the pantry Fair Haven Church provides. The weekend can be a very long two days for kids who have little or nothing to eat.

That was the sobering reality Cheri Honderd discovered in 2008 when the Great Recession still had a firm grip on the economy. Honderd learned there were 19 students in Jenison coming to school Monday mornings with their stomachs growling with hunger.

Honderd's awareness led to her founding the Hudsonville-based nonprofit, Hand2Hand.

Since then, Hand2Hand has multiplied its outreach to include feeding 7,500 students with weekend meals who attend 193 schools in seven West Michigan counties, thanks to the partnership muscle of more than 100 churches and thousands of volunteers.

2019 in Review

calendar-31stWest Michigan Christian News presents 2019 in review. Below are links to many of the articles we published during the year, reminding us of the many ordinary people in and around West Michigan who are doing extraordinay things to advance the Kingdom of God.

A Look Back at the Year That Was

calendar page turn-1Well, 2019 is but a calendar-page away from completion. So maybe it's time to share a take on the West Michigan Christian music scene over the last 11 months. Let's see where we've been, and maybe a bit of where we're going.

A Concert Year:

Van Andel Arena hosted several faith-based shows during 2019, included the annual Winter Jam (headlined by Newsboys), MercyMe, TobyMac, Casting Crowns and Hillsong United, plus the recent Christmas show with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. And Switchfoot made a memorable stop at 20 Monroe Live.

New Music Reviews Two New Christmas Season Projects

Born a King  coverThe local ResLife Worship crew (part of Reslife Church in Grandville) has a new three-song collection for this Christmas season.

Church worship leader Ken Reynolds wrote and produced each of the songs. The worship-ful title song -"Born A King"- features vocals by Tiffany Mauer with choral background from the ResLife Choir. The "Come let us adore Him" lyric reinforces the Christmas message.

"Starry Night" is a slower-tempo, keyboard-based ballad, with lush strings courtesy of the City of Prague Orchestra, and added saxophone by ResLife associate pastor of worship Bruce Vanderveen.

Makarios Décor Blessed to Craft Home Furnishings No One Has Seen Before

Cutline No. 1-5Airika and Max Kolenda are inspired to own Makarios Décor. Prominently displayed inside Makarios Décor is a table made of elm wood with the entire Gospel of Matthew inscribed on it. It's an understatement to call the slab of wood a conversation piece.

"I had a epiphany or vision that we need to dive into extremely complex art and bring things into the world no one has ever seen before," says Max Kolenda who owns and operates Makarios Décor with his wife of 8 ½ years, Airika. The couple has four boys, ages eight, six, four and one. "That led us to utilizing lasers to create things."

Makarios Décor's 3,000-square foot retail space is a test store. It's located inside Woodland Mall near the JC Penny anchor. The Kolendas signed a temporary lease that runs through Jan. 21, 2020, according to Max, age 31. Thereafter, the Byron Center couple will decide if they want to have a brick and mortar store year round or seasonally.

Terry's Picks for December 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for December:

Amy Grant-Michael W Smith Concert

agAmy Grant and Michael W. SmithOn his current concert tour, singer-songwriter Marc Martel feels like he’s back home.

“I’ve kept my connections with my brothers and sisters in Christian music and have amazing memories from that time,” said the artist from his Nashville area home.

But it’s especially during the holiday season that he has re-connected with his musical roots - he was selected to join Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith on their Christmas tour this year, coming to Grand Rapids Dec. 5.

After a decade-plus run by his faith-based band Downhere, Martel was shot into the mainstream music world. His calling card was his piercing vocal which is a sound-alike for the late rock singer Freddie Mercury of Queen.

God’s Unconditional Love Flows Through Grand Rapids Volunteers at the El Paso Annunciation House

Cutline No. 1-4Rev. Lally embraced an attitude of gratitude when he ministered to some of the most gentle and loving people while in El Paso, Texas. The Rev. Joachim Lally's love for the least of these had him recently casting a wide net of kindness.

It's the reason why he and four Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters — Chela Gonzalez, Janet Brown, Joyce Ann Hertzig and Mary Kay Oosdyke — were compelled to journey earlier this year to the Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas. Operated entirely by volunteers, the five Grand Rapidians helped welcome for two weeks an influx of refugees from Brazil, Portuguese, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Christmas Is “Coming Home” for Gaither & Crew

Gaither Vocal Band fall2019Gaither Vocal Band (from l.) Wes Hampton, Reggie Smith, Bill Gaither, Todd Suttles, Adam Crabb Singer Reggie Smith is having the time of his life as part of the Gaither Vocal Band.

"Talk about a band of brothers...it's like we're in ninth grade again," beamed Smith, 53, from his Nashville area home.

Smith has been part of the legendary Southern Gospel quintet for nearly three years and worked with them for many years previously. But he still takes inspiration from the group's founder and senior member, Bill Gaither.

"His motor is second to none, and he's been a mentor to all of us with his attitude, creativity and brilliance," he noted of Gaither, 83.

Gaither leads his vocal band and a stable of other music artists in a "Christmas Homecoming" tour which stops at Grand Rapids First on Dec. 5.

New Music Review: Kali Joy

Kali Joy ep cvr 2019Local singer-songwriter/worship leader Kali Joy has released a new collection of songs dealing with life's uncertainty, fear, and faith.
And one of them is a "break-up" song.

Perhaps the most striking selection in this five-song package is the ballad "Anything Like Me?" The meaning is suggested in the song's music video:

Using "flashbacks" from a child's experience, the themes of rejection and self-esteem come right to the present day prompting lyrics such as..."I've been in hiding...If you're anything like me, you need a hand to hold today."

Holiday Music, Drama on the Way…

Hark Up shot from stage to audienceIn composing these Christmas arts/concert previews, I always feel that I'm rushing the holiday spirit. How much earlier than the actual holiday should we launch into the message so quickly overshadowed by all of the season's commercial pressures?

But with several area radio stations and a couple of cable TV networks already churning out full-time Christmas fare in early November, why not leap into the fray and highlight some events which point toward the Savior's birth. (And at the end of the article, check out a new Christmas song!)

Classic Tale Gets New Life on Stage

pilgrims progress illustrationThe seen and unseen combine in “Pilgrim The Musical” It's a side-by-side view of the physical and the spiritual that highlights "Pilgrim the Musical."

"It all plays out on the stage," said Rich Garnaat, director of the local production. "The audience gets to see the spiritual world right alongside the action among the physical characters, and it reveals some beautiful spiritual truths."

The 17th Century John Bunyan novel "Pilgrim's Progress" is one of the more enduring of allegorical depictions of the believer's life. The main character, Christian, is on a journey to the Celestial City (Heaven). Along the way he meets characters (Pliable, Faithful, Obstinate) and must travel through places (such as Wicket Gate and Valley of the Shadow) whose names have obvious metaphorical meanings.

Terry's Picks for November 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. Here are three highlights for November:

GEMS: A Sisterhood Planting Biblical Seeds in Girls

gems1The theme of the United Nations’ recent International Day of the Girl was Unscripted and Unstoppable. Local GEMS girls finished this statement, “The Truth is I am …” Some of the biggest challenges girls face today include bullying, cutting, depression, thoughts of suicide and the stress of body image issues.

It's a far cry from the problems girls faced in 1958 when Barbara Vredevoogd founded GEMS in Grand Rapids as a Christian Reformed Church ministry to young girls.

Sixty-one years later, GEMS is now a nondenominational Christian outreach comprised of 5,200 women serving over 23,000 girls in more than 800 clubs around the world.

GEMS is a sisterhood that relishes getting together. In July, the nonprofit held its annual conference at Calvin University, which drew GEMS leaders from North America and beyond, and included worship, speakers and seminars.

In West Michigan and beyond, GEMS leaders help way finding girls discover God's unchangeable Word. They learn along the way they are loved and valued just the way they are.

A centerpiece of GEMS is its acronym: Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior.
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