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."
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.
"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.
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?"
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."
Correction: the Word of God has a plan that the ministry seeks to birth in others, says Bob Crow, Multiply222's chief development officer.
But each church has its own story.
So it is with Comstock Park Congregational-United Church of Christ on Lamoreaux Dr. NE, just up the hill a bit from West River Dr. The church closed its doors last November, the final chapter in a 110-year lifetime.
Paul Sommer, the church's historian, can fill you in on details. But the meandering story takes a while to tell.
Benckhuysen previously served as professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary. She also taught at the University of Dubuque (Iowa) Theological Seminary and was a campus minister at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
An alliance led by Mel Trotter Ministries and Guiding Light, the city of Grand Rapids and Kris Elliott of Evergreen Companies, has leased space at 250 Ionia Ave. SW in downtown Grand Rapids to accommodate what experts are saying could be as many as 100 adults nightly seeking housing in the coming months.
Work has begun to transform the space, which is the former Purple East tobacco shop, into a warming center and overnight shelter for those experiencing homelessness, many of whom are currently staying in tents in Heartside Park and other locations around the city.
The SpartanNash Foundation has provided a total of $70,000 to the nonprofit since 2016. Back to Work provides a short-term stay for men who are experiencing homeless and seeking full-time employment, along with support for their job searches.
"Thirty years hence, the most momentous thing seared into our memoires may well be the pandemic, not only in terms of the scores who have succumbed to the virus and the attendant misery and suffering of loved ones, but also the unintended consequences of political leaders in their actions and policies to combat it," wrote Sirico.
Certainly, diversity is a watchword of our culture today. One's demography is now destiny. News stories of appointments to government offices lead with the gender, race or ethnicity, maybe sexual orientation of the appointee before they report the professional credentials and accomplishments that hopefully justify the appointment. Identity politics, as it's called, has become a part of the "acceptable narrative" of currently ascendant ideology.
Long before the present-day, actually some two thousand years ago, God ordained something called the church, understood in lower case as a local body of believers (and usually non-believers as well), and capitalized as, the Church, the trans-cultural, trans-country, trans-time Body of Christ, the universal Church, the Family of God.
The faces of many people show the discouragement, frustration, anger and the deep sense of questioning that is in their lives. This makes for good soil to sow seed into during these uncertain times.
*Dr. Rance Allen – The gospel music singer-songwriter was a founding pastor at a Toledo, OH church, yet had a decades-long recording and performing ministry. His first album with his Rance Allen group came in 1972.
One of his long time friends was Grand Rapids-native pastor/music artist Marvin Sapp. Upon learning of Allen's death, Sapp noted that Allen was present at many of Sapp's milestone moments. "From the Stellar Awards giving me an award for (Sapp's song) "Best in Me" to my Inaugural Bishop's Banquet (in Grand Rapids). Every year I came to your church just to celebrate you as bishop, pastor and (your) musically anointed gift." Allen died Oct. 31 at age 71.
"There is next to no knowledge of native life," said Peters, an ordained non-denominational Christian pastor. "The vast majority of Americans never think about Native American issues. Even today, there are several states that have history books that have no mention of Native American history."
No one could list all the events, trips, concerts, gatherings, and other activities both indoors and outdoors which were affected.
Among the casualties were numerous faith-based artistic endeavors. Michigan's two major Christian music multi-day events - Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon and Big Ticket Festival in Gaylord - both were forced off the books until 2021.
What starts as a simple thank-you call from the donor relations team often leads to a deeper conversation, especially during this time when so many are isolated. Donors, it turns out, appreciate the support and the ability to connect meaningfully.
As donor relations officers, Bob Evans, Brad Myers and Steve Pratt are continually engaging with those who give their time, money, resources or advocacy to help Guiding Light achieve its mission of partnering with individuals to fulfill their God-given potential.
The new office offers easier and more convenient access to both job seekers and companies looking to hire them. Located just south of downtown Grand Rapids with access to US 131 and near I-196, the new office has ample free parking.
Homelessness in Ottawa County has experienced an uptick due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making Holland-based Good Samaritan Ministries (GSM) all the more vital.
"We'll intake about 6,000 calls this year and help from 1,110 to 1,200 people through a combination of our programs," says Drew Peirce, executive director of GSM. "All of last year, we helped about 20 families that were at risk of becoming homeless. The last 12-13 weeks, we've helped about 230 families from becoming homeless, and that work continues to grow. We sort of swim upstream and help as many people as we can from becoming homeless."
In the spirit of 2020, let's go virtual for December! Here are a few online possibilities:
The faith-based movie directed by Hope College alum Joel Paul Reisig was supposed to debut in theatres for a run on Thanksgiving weekend.
Then came the Nov. 17 pandemic-induced edict that closed film houses and similar venues for three consecutive weeks statewide.
"It's extremely disappointing," noted Reisig of the lost opportunity. "But it's an important movie. Please consider bringing it into your homes this season."
The film – shot entirely in southeast Michigan – stars veteran actors Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain. But the main character is a firefighter portrayed by Detroit-born actor Nick Vlassospoulos. After losing his wife to cancer and then learning of his young daughter's carcinoma diagnosis, his life descends into hopelessness until a persistent pastor reaches out to help.
Instead, he ministers mostly in a spiritual way, embracing the special role that a spiritual caregiver provides as part of the Emmanuel Hospice team.
Rather than leaning on a medical degree, Bareman and others like him rely on key qualities that spiritual caregivers bring to the table – what he says includes "compassion, empathy, a servant's heart, the ability to wrestle with life's biggest questions and the ability to listen."
In order to proceed with its annual Christmas music production, "Hark Up" is going virtual.
"We've been recording and filming over the last month and everything should be ready to go soon," said Hark Up executive director Chris Hansen.
"A Virtual Hark Up Christmas" will be a combination of studio and on-location video, with narration and even snippets from performances of past years.
It's set to debut at 7:30pm Sat. Dec. 5 .
The opening segment is new. It's a parody version of "You Can't Stop the Beat," borrowed from the musical "Hairspray." "It ends up as 'You can't stop Hark Up,'" Hansen noted of its "continuous shot" video style with dancers and singers.
"Catholic Charities West Michigan's mission is to offer hope and compassion through innovative, collaborative programs. Particularly now, individuals in our community need to know they are recognized as children of God worthy of dignity and respect," said David Walkowiak, bishop of the Grand Rapids Diocese. "I am confident that David is the right person to lead the organization in its important mission."
Donations will be accepted so low-income and homeless residents living in the Heartside neighborhood can purchase gifts for family and friends.
"Pastors have been moved by the pleas of front-line healthcare workers, as well as the ongoing suffering and loss of life of Kent County residents as a result of this virus," said Rev. Khary Bridgewater on behalf of the Kent County COVID-19 Church Task Force. "Our physicians and nurses are risking their lives, working double shifts, suffering through physical, mental, and emotional hardship to care for patients. We want to give them a fighting chance."
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