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Featured Articles

GR Church Switches to Green Energy

CapturesolarIn July, Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids installed 126 solar panels on its roof as it switched to renewable energy.

The project is expected to keep 5.4 million pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere - the equivalent of 7.4 American homes being taken off the grid or the carbon sequestered by 3,000 acres of forest in a year, explained Nate Dierlam, a church member who spearheaded the project.

75 Mile Walk to Support Growing Hope Globally

nbGrowing Hope Globally (GHG) co-founders Bev Abma and Ron DeWeerd will walk 75 miles throughout West Michigan to raise support for GHG, an organization they both founded in 1999. The walk will begin with a send-off at First Reformed Church in Fremont on Aug. 11 and will culminate with Dairy Day at Nutrient Ag Solutions in Wayland on Aug. 21. The public is invited to join the walkers or participate in one of the events being planned along the way.

Van Harten selected as U.S. Congregational Ministries director

CapturevanhartenLis Van Harten was recently named permanent director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America's U.S. Congregational Ministries. The positions oversees the denomination's ministries including Chaplaincy and Care Ministry, Disability Concerns, Diversity, Faith Formation Ministries, the Office of Social Justice, Pastor Church Resources, Race Relations, Safe Church Ministry and Worship Ministries.

Hope College: funding addresses social needs in Holland

nbAs part of the "There's No Place like Home" initiative, an $800,000 grant has been awarded from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Established in February 2020 and administered by Holland-based Hope College, three new community-based partnerships will allow the college's faculty and students in the arts and humanities to work collaboratively with local organizations to provide service and learning opportunities for those at Hope.

Terry’s Picks for August 2021

EVENTSThis is the column in which West Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events in the coming month. Here are a few possibilities for August...

Christian Concerts Gearing Up For Fall Season

EVENTSIt may seem premature to offer a fall calendar list of Christian concerts in West Michigan. But there's one that represents a "breakthrough." making it especially noteworthy.

For the first time in 13 years, the Allegan County Fair will host a Christian concert on its main stage during its September fair schedule.

In a June letter to area churches, fair executive director Saree Miller officially announced a concert line-up of Casting Crowns, David Crowder and Phil Wickham for Thurs. Sept. 16.

Perhaps it's simply part of the post-pandemic surge in live music events. But nevertheless it is significant addition for the area's largest county fair, which dates back to the 1800s.

Gender Fluidity and Divine Design

Rex-2017b-300x242Dr. Rex M. Rogers Gender fluidity is the cultural soup du jour.

It's the latest craze that's morphed beyond political correctness to indisputable orthodoxy. Dissent is not permitted. If you ask questions, based upon common sense, biology, a few thousand years of human history, or even religious conviction, you're a bigot, a hater.

Proponents (especially activists) of gender fluidity believe biology is not destiny. In their view, biological sex is mutable, something "assigned" at birth. One's "real sex" is determined by one's feelings about gender, conveniently presented as an ever-lengthening spectrum of choices (some social media are offering 112 gender choices).

For proponents or activists, (most people struggling with gender dysphoria are not activists¹) there is a clear set or steps a person should pursue once they self-identify with a gender that does not align with their biological sex.

Wedgwood Fundraiser Exceeds Goal

nbThanks to sponsors and golfers, Wedgwood Christian Service's 36th Annual Charity Golf Classic raised over $190,000, exceeding the event's fundraising goal by over $10,000. The money will go toward the organization's 100% donor-funded Transforming Services. Even with an afternoon rain shower, the event was near capacity with 348 golfers on both the Valley and Ridge courses.

"We are moved by the generosity of our sponsors and participants," said Vivian TerMaat, Wedgwood's chief advancement officer. "Coming out of 2020 we were unsure to what level people, businesses, and organizations would be willing and able to be a part of the Charity Golf Classic, but it is clear that our community values this event and cares deeply about individuals and families who are navigating mental, emotional, and behavioral health challenges."

President of Calvin Resigns

le royThe president of Calvin University announced he will resign following 10 year's at the Christian Reformed Church educational institution. Michael Le Roy said it was a hard decision for he and wife Andrea to make, but "fleeting moments" with a family of young adults and aging parents who need more care makes it the right time to return to the Northwest to be closer to family.

The 2021-22 academic year will be Le Roy's last at Calvin. "I intend to fulfill my duties with integrity and to give my full attention to the advancement of the institution's mission and Vision 2030 in the time that remains," said Le Roy. "I want the community to know that the board has been very supportive of Andrea and me throughout our time at Calvin, and I have full faith and trust that the board will manage this transition well. I have been blessed to work with an excellent team of leaders during my time at Calvin, and I believe that they will be committed to a seamless transition to new leadership.

Moreno-Riaño Selected as Cornerstone University’s President

MorenoThe Cornerstone University board of trustees unanimously appointed Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño as its 12th university president. Moreno-Riaño succeeds Dr. Joseph M. Stowell, who retired this month after 13 years.

Moreno-Riaño joins Cornerstone after serving for over seven years as executive vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. There, he was also a tenured professor of government.

The selection of Moreno-Riaño comes after a six-month, nationwide quest coordinated by executive search firm Carter Baldwin. The exploration produced 70 viable candidates, which, after extensive interviews, was narrowed to three names, of which the board unanimously chose Moreno-Riaño.

Safe Haven Taps Rachel VerWys as Executive Director

r ver wysRachel j VerWys has joined Safe Haven Ministries as its executive director. She possesses an array of nonprofit leadership experiences over the past 20 years. She most recently served as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of SEE Human Trafficking Coalition and chairs the Kent County Area Human Trafficking Coalition. VerWys was named one of the Top 50 Influential Women in West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal in 2020 and received a Diversity Award from Wedgwood Christian Services in May 2021. As a student at Calvin College, she volunteered at Ramoth House, which later evolved into Safe Haven Ministries, bringing her career full circle.

Safe Haven offers comprehensive domestic violence services throughout Kent County, Michigan. Our 24/7 hotline number is 616-452-6664. We offer emergency safe shelter, nonresidential programming, and education & prevention for the entire community.

Wedgwood Recipient of Youth Advisory Council Grants

nbThe Grand Haven Area Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council, Ionia County Youth Advisory Council, and Wyoming Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council have each selected Wedgwood Christian Services as a recipient of their annual grants.

Each area Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is made up of local teens who review all grant applications and select recipients based on the organization or project's impact on youth in their community.

The grants from each YAC will support the Children's Hope Annual Fund which makes it possible for Wedgwood to provide 100% donor-funded Transforming Services, including: Recreation & Wellness, Prevention, Manasseh Project Outreach, Employment Training, and Chaplaincy & Young Life.

Holland Home Executive Receives Home and Hospice Care Award

flietstraHolland Home Executive Vice President for Home and Community Based Services Carolyn Flietstra was inducted into the Michigan Homecare and Hospice Association Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was inaugurated to honor those individuals who have excelled in the home care and hospice profession, those who bring honor and recognition to the MHHA and those who inspire and mentor individuals and students to consider or continue their careers in home care and hospice.

This recognition comes as Flietstra has announced her retirement this year, leaving behind a legacy of exceptional leadership in the home health care profession.

Big Tickets Returns

BTF photo lineup 2021GAYLORD - After taking a COVID year off – as did nearly every major live music event – the Big Ticket Festival (BTF) is back in 2021 with a two-day array of music in a new July weekend slot.

"We hedged our bets a bit on when everything would be clear," said the Christian festival's president Drew Spanding of plans made months ago when pandemic restrictions were still in force.

"The July 9-11 weekend lined up with when the (Otsego County) fairgrounds were available."

With a shorter than usual timeline to produce and promote the festival, BTF nevertheless has come up with a fine artist roster. Front and center is singer-songwriter Zach Williams. The award-winning artist and his pack of forceful songs were the most listened to catalog on Christian radio last year.

Terry’s Picks July 2021

EVENTSThis is the column in which West Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events in the coming month. Here are a few possibilities for July:

Summer Music Series: Making Room for One More

Beechwood right rearCory Asbury opened the WOW series with an indoor concert at Beechwood ChurchA venue change for one concert series has led to the creation of another.

The move of the Worship on the Waterfront (WOW) Sunday music series from Grand Haven to Holland gave the impetus for another series to spring up in Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium.

The new "Praise by the Pier" debuted June 13 at the downtown location along the channel. More on that in a bit.

Meanwhile, the Grand Haven waterfront space came open when the WOW weekly concerts featuring national Christian music artists found themselves dealing with tighter restrictions in accommodating its growing spectator numbers.

"It was a succession of reasons," said WOW coordinator Kathleen Bobeldyk of its decision to change venues. "From working with city officials, we saw the look of this year's concert area would have been totally different."

Church Concert Series, Outdoor Facilities, a “Gift” to Community

drones eye view of amphitheatreA drones-eye view of the new amphitheatre at Ridge Point Community Church in HollandRidge Point Community Church east of Holland wanted to offer a gift to area residents.

And its new summer concert series is only a part of it.

"We have this large property here and we wanted to complete it with features for the community," said series coordinator Vicki Ekdom.

A concert-style amphitheatre (built behind the church's main building and the site of its current "Music in the Backyard" concert series) is only one of the outdoor features on the church's 160-acre campus.

A capital campaign nearly two years ago raised funds for the church to finish landscaping and other work on the church grounds. The result is completion of a mini-sports/recreation complex: basketball and pickleball courts, an outdoor discovery play place and play structure, Frisbee golf, fire pit, and mountain bike and other nature trails.

"It's a beautiful piece of property with all stuff that the community can just come and enjoy," Ekdom said. The concert series is a natural invitation for residents to come and see the new amenities.

Christian Organization Statements— Doctrinal, Lifestyle, Position—Then and Now

rex99In my other earlier life as a Christian educator, I remember Christian organizations or ministries including churches, colleges, camps, missions, para-church organizations, etc. nearly always possessing and periodically citing key, foundational statements.

Doctrine, Lifestyle, Position
These foundational statements are carefully written expressions of:
   • theological understanding = doctrinal or faith statements,
   • employee behavioral conduct = lifestyle statements,
   • ethical perspectives on contemporary issue = position statements.

Christian organizations, especially denominations, sometimes also issued:
   • declarations for statements about current issues,
   • policy or social statements regarding broad issues,
   • resolutions or social messages addressing specific issues, or
   • proclamations for significant announcements.

Myth Buster: PRC’s Day in Lansing Brings Truth to the Fore

prc1CEO of the Pregnancy Resource Center of Grand Rapids Jim Sprague and medical services director Karley Wood were among those who met on the Capitol lawn with community partners from around the state and state lawmakers to highlight the work carried out by pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes and adoption agencies. Think of Jim Sprague as a myth buster.

The CEO of the Pregnancy Resource Center of Grand Rapids met with state lawmakers in mid-May for the Empowering Women, Strengthening Communities event.

Coordinated by the Michigan Catholic Conference and Michigan Family Forum, adoption agencies, maternity homes and pregnancy care centers — more than 30 organizations from across Michigan — showcased the essential services they provide to pregnant women, new moms and adoptive families in their communities.

Sprague and PRC of Grand Rapids' and medical services director Karley Wood took the opportunity to inform legislators and the public about the good work the PRC has been doing since it was founded in 1985.

Sprague addressed the House of Representative's Health Policy Committee about the benefits that all pregnancy resource centers in Michigan bring to residents of the state. Many representatives are prolife, but others are skeptical of PRCs.

Terry’s Picks June 2021

nbThis is the column in which West Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events in the month of June. Here are just a few of them.

A Look Behind the Leader: Jared Heddens

Heddens jared portraitHeddens leads worship at South Harbor Church in Byron Center.The task of leading worship/music in a church is much more than notes on a score or lyrics on a screen.

"There's also the shepherding of people ," said Jared Heddens, worship director at South Harbor Church in Byron Center.

"My real job is to equip the saints. And that's not just a congregational perspective but for my team as well," said Heddens, 42.

His South Harbor worship team roster consists of about 50 players, vocalists and technical folk, although there are usually only five to seven people on the worship platform at any one time. Heddens is in the front on a typical Sunday, but that's actually a fairly small part of his full-time job. "It's about resourcing and equipping teams to do the work of ministry," he said in a recent interview.

And in that process he is developing leaders.

Hampton Receives H.O.P.E. Award Posthumously

Capture12345Dr. Jennifer Hampton, age 48, of the Hope College physics faculty, who was killed in an automobile accident in Holland on March 14, has received this year's Hope Outstanding Professor Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award from the graduating Class of 2021.

The H.O.P.E. award, first given in 1965, is presented by the graduating class to the professor who they feel epitomizes the best qualities of the Hope College educator. This year is the first time that the honoree has been chosen posthumously.

Mel Trotter Launches Renovation Campaign

nbMel Trotter Ministries announced Immeasurably More, a $14.9 million fundraising campaign to fund the construction of a renovated shelter. It has been 54 years since any kind of significant renovation has occurred

Launched in 2019, the Immeasurably More campaign has raised more than $9.8 million over the last year, 66% of the campaign goal. Over 240 community donors, local businesses, and area foundations have supported the campaign.

Hope College Named on of WM’s Best and Brightest

nbFor the 16th consecutive year, Hope College in Holland has been named one of West Michigan's Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. The National Association for Business Resources selected the winners for having the most innovative and thoughtful approaches to human resources. They represent industries as diverse as the automotive, construction, financial, healthcare, manufacturing and non-profit sectors.

An independent research firm evaluates each company's entry, based on various categories, including compensation, benefits and employee solutions; employee enrichment, engagement and retention; employee education and development; recruitment, selection and orientation; employee achievement and recognition; communication and shared vision; diversity and inclusion; work-life balance; community initiatives and strategic company performance.

Degage Ministries’ Female Patrons Receives Free Clothing

nbSeventy-five female patrons from Heartside organization Dégagé Ministries recently received free clothing and accessories thanks to donations from the nation's largest social selling apparel company.

Dégagé's Open Door Women's Center, 144 Division Avenue South in downtown Grand Rapids, had women's clothing company cabi provide up to five articles of free clothing or accessories to 75 women. The endeavor is funded by the Heart of cabi Foundation and is part of Heart of cabi Foundation Week, where cabi stylists from around the world host donation events to support women in need in their communities.

Love N Grace Healing Centers Receives Grant

nbMuskegon-based Love N Grace Healing Centers, a nonprofit for adults and children that teaches them how to overcome life's hurts with scripture, prayer and Jesus Christ, has received a $4,675 grant from Community Foundation for Muskegon County to support its Empowered Kids – Go Pro and Grow program.

Rev. Debra Yonkers, executive director of Love N Grace Healing Centers, said the funds would be used to build resilience in students suffering from adverse childhood experiences and the extra trauma brought on from the COVID-19 pandemic. While meeting in schools was limited, the grant will allow students to receive tools and care virtually. More information is available at https://lovengrace.org.

"Now we can reach the students that desperately need care from any school whether they're at school or at home," Yonkers said.

MercyMe Returning to Grand Rapids

MercyMe tour posterAs the pandemic gradually loosens its grip on scheduling of large-gathering events, major concert tours are slowly returning to venues around West Michigan, including Christian music artists.

The inspirational pop-band MercyMe is joining the chorus with its 30-city fall tour that stops in Grand Rapids on November 5 (details below).

The award-winning band comes with a new album – "inhale (exhale)" – and its hit song "Say I Won't."

Women of Influence: Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom Grier

DGrierJob Title: Lead Pastor, Pastor of Embracing at Maple Avenue Ministries in Holland

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?'"

Co-founder Affirms Benjamin’s Hope is Fulfillment of God’s Plan for Autistic Adults

Cutline No. 101From left: Dave, oldest son James, Benjamin and Krista Mason. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

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

Upcoming Plant 616 Conference Aims to Raise Temperature on Urban Church Planting in Greater Grand Rapids

Cutline No. 11111111Pastor Chris Hall: “We’re trying to see a movement of new church plants in the urban footprint of Greater Grand Rapids.” Pastor Chris Hall sees the Greater Grand Rapids area bursting with potential when people see themselves as missionaries immersed in the very neighborhoods they lives in.

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.

West Michigan Singer Leaves Musical Legacy

Sterk Bill largerBill Sterk Both fans and friends are mourning the loss of William "Bill" Sterk, singer and co-founder of the area gospel group The Heralders. Sterk passed away on April 5. He was 82.

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?'"

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."
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