Already this month, slowly but surely, concerts and other events are opening up around West Michigan. Later spring and summer look even more promising. Here are a few to consider for April.
The coats are manufactured by parents experiencing homelessness in an effort to help these individuals achieve financial stability and independence for their whole family.
The initiative is part of a larger eight-city road trip, where Chevy and EP will deliver more than 700 coats to cities across the Midwest and Northeast.
Parent company General Motors is Empowerment Plan's longest standing corporate partner and has provided more than $1 million in funding as well as in-kind materials such as plastics and insulation to recycle into the coats
LaClear says she has appreciated her time serving on this committee and has learned many valuable lessons under the leadership of the current director, Rev. David Koll, who is planning to retire at the end of June 2021.
"Every church needs to develop their ministry in ways that fit their context and follow the unique calling that God has given them," wrote Medenblik, who served as a pastor for 16 years. "As I have listened to churches and pastors who are stressed by the challenges of ministry in a pandemic, I am concerned that many are confronting 'either/or' thinking.
"For example, those who are not ready to fully return to in-person church gatherings are sometimes labeled by others as "not trusting God enough" or letting the government tell us how and when we worship.
Staff from the Kent County Health Department, Spectrum Health, and Mercy Health Saint Mary's administered 100 vaccines to faith leaders who are leading volunteer efforts to vaccinate the socially vulnerable in Kent County.
Faith leaders likewise are committed to registering their members and community residents for vaccination. Over the next eight weeks, they will expand this work to include canvassing vulnerable neighborhoods across Kent County to register community residents for vaccination at local clinics.
Both Central Wesleyan in Holland and Magnify Church in Rockford have added theatrical elements to several presentations, with fresh looks and deeper insights into the meaning of the season.
At Magnify (the former Blythefield Hills Baptist), worship arts director Vicki Modert says the script for the musical/drama "Olympic Surrender" continues the story of sprinter Eric Liddell following his victory at the 1924 Olympics. Liddell's true-to-life triumph was popularized in the 1981 feature film "Chariots of Fire."
"We have labels that say 'in Christ name,'" says Jim Paauw, Sus Manos' board president and CEO. "We want people to know the food is not coming from Americans. We want people to know this is what Christians do in Christ's name."
"It struck me that a lot of time we miss the things God is trying to teach us because we focus so much on the problem at hand rather than trusting His solution," said Guerra, a local Christian singer-songwriter and worship leader.
The biblical verse begins, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"
Calling: Helping those who are undervalued, underserved, and under-resourced
Beth Fisher worked for 25 years in corporate sales, helping organizations automate their business processes. She loved it, but always felt a little pull elsewhere. Part of that pull pushed her to write her first book, "Remorseless: Learning to Lose Labels, Expectations, and Assumptions Without Losing Yourself," which came out in March 2020.
"A 'Christian creative' is a person who has been given a talent or gift to use for Kingdom purposes to glorify God," said conference co-director Kathy Bruins.
The April 23-24 conference with its "Quench" theme may be just the catalyst needed to take a creative leap.
Three years ago Victoria Chapin attended her first ever arts conference. "Not only did I learn valuable information for my creative journey, but I was moved spiritually," she said. The Zeeland, MI woman was so enthused she volunteered to be on the planning team for this year's event.
This is happening in the public square and one could argue it's happening within the Church.
What I mean is, easily recognized and often used words and phrases that express Christian values are rapidly disappearing from everyday life. Vocabulary or analogies drawn from Scripture that were once common currency in American culture are at the edge of extinction.
Why does this matter? Well, if language is lost, our ability to communicate our ideas, values, and theology are lost. Our influence is lost. Our capacity for sharing and our ability to perpetuate the faith are lost.
The four-unit apartment building will increase the nonprofit's capacity to house men as they transition back into the mainstream of society after successfully completing the Foundation phase of Guiding Light's Recovery program. Remodeling work will soon begin on the newest Iron House, which will accommodate seven men.
The purchase was made possible by a generous gift of nearly $260,000 from a longtime donor who strongly believes in the Iron House model of supportive living as key to long-term recovery success.
"So many mornings I would get up and say, 'I love my job. I love my job,'" says Van Zanten, known throughout school as "Mr. Van" who turned 70 years old earlier this year. "I've got this fire in my belly. I can't wait to be here. I view myself as a rabbi. I'm learning myself. I just show them Jesus. There's so much to understand about His love, His compassion."
Another of the school's co-founders, Superintendent John Booy, isn't ready to call it quits.
Hinton brings 30 years of experience working in mental health services and serving in leadership roles in higher education, nonprofit work and community involvement. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, Hinton helps individuals work through a wide range of issues and create a new lifestyle of hope, health and life-changing opportunities.
Dégagé hopes to educate more of the Grand Rapids community on issues related to homelessness, as well as provide stories of hope from those the organization serves. Project Hope was on display through Friday, Feb. 26.
Kinism opposes interracial marriage and teaches that races should be kept separate in racially pure "religio-ethnostates," supporting white supremacy. The CRC pastor in Charlotte has been dismissed from the denomination for espousing Kinism for many years while he and his congregation were part of the CRC.
"The theme and the message of the songs is directed toward the prison population," said Dean from his Cascade-area home.
"We're addressing their needs, hurts and challenges to encourage them and hopefully bring them peace."
"Faithful" is the title of the new collection, released in January. Dean self-produced the project and co-wrote the songs with his wife Janae. They've been ministering to prisons and correctional facilities regularly for the past five years.
Jeremy Simpson is a perfect advocate for multi-ethnic and cross-cultural worship ministry.
He's lived that role nearly his entire life.
Simpson, 35, is co-director of the Wesley Foundation, a student-based ministry which reaches persons of all faith backgrounds at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
But he has influence in hundreds of churches in his part-time role as a denomination-wide "worship catalyzer" for the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC).
"I just want to be accessible...to meet people and hear them out," said the pastor of Ignite Fellowship Church on Alpine Ave. NW. "I love conversation."
Conversation is a main ingredient in the most public of his ministries. Pittman is founder and co-host of "Ignite Radio," an on-air broadcast with a 10-year history of making community connections as well as spiritual ones.
The two-hour program (heard 3-5pm Sundays on the R&B-formatted 102.5FM "The Ride") continues its mixture of interviews, scripture, and gospel music
"The goal is live radio that's relevant with real people telling their real stories," said Pittman, who co-hosts with Kishen Newton.
"While people share their stories and their journeys, I'm able to sense where it is that the Holy Spirit wants to convey the gospel."
If you're being thorough in planning for your eventual death, you're careful to include it all – right down to which nieces and nephews receive those treasured knick-knacks.
But will your final wishes recognize and reflect the religious or spiritual components that helped define your life?
"It's valuable to have a conversation not only about your stuff, but about the importance of your religion or your spirituality when it comes to end-of-life decisions," Carol Robinson stresses.
The mobile shower unit will be placed at strategic locations throughout the city where hygiene services are most needed. Mel Trotter Ministries, along with community partners including The Other Way Ministries, The Homeless Outreach Team and others feel strongly that being builders of relationships in the West Michigan community is paramount to helping unsheltered individuals with tangible needs such as hygiene.
Ensink brings a wealth of leadership experience with her to the executive role, most recently in positions with Grandville Calvin Christian Schools. Ensink is familiar with walking alongside the marginalized, which began when she was a young girl growing up in South Africa during apartheid and continued when she immigrated to the United States and worked as a paramedic in Grand Rapids for American Medical Response. It was her work as a paramedic that first introduced her to the patrons at Dégagé.
This is where Homes Giving Hope (HGH) dwells, a Christian nonprofit Sara and Brian Boven and Kay Wood co-founded following the Bovens' purchase of the 23-acre property in December 2019 for persons with special needs. The woodsy area includes a former chapel whose downstairs now serves as office space.
"My character (teenager Allison Riley) had just been kidnapped and she's in this new place and was being dragged down a stairway," said Bolden. "I was totally unprepared for how uncomfortable this story would be to put on film."
The trip down the stairway was the easy part. Much more difficult was the uncomfortable weight of the script based on actual true stories of young girls forced into the sex trade.
"Normally, a movie is all pretend," said Bolden, 21. "So even in scary or emotional scenes you can take yourself out of it 'cuz you tell yourself it's not real. But this scene was so many young girls' stories...I wasn't playing pretend anymore."
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.
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