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Featured Articles

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.

“Jam” Returning to Van Andel

WJ20The annual "Winter Jam Tour Spectaclular" Christian music tour has once again selected a Sunday in January to visit West Michigan.

Sunday January 19, 2020 is the date the giant 42-city tour comes to Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids.

David Crowder and his band headline the local date. The bearded Crowder performed only recently at Van Andel with MercyMe. Also on stage will be the worship-oriented Passion group, hip-hopper Andy Mineo, hard-rockers RED, singer-songwriter Austin French, and the host band NewSong.

WCSG-FM Wins National Award Amidst Dove Honors

Lemke Hauser WCSG award 2019WCSG-FM executive director Chris Lemke (right) is congratulated by Chris Hauser of the GMA on the station’s Radio Impact Award. West Michigan-based inspirational radio station WCSG-FM (91.3) has received the 2019 Gospel Music Association Radio Impact Award for contemporary Christian radio outlets.

Chris Lemke, executive director of the station, received the honors in Nashville ceremonies as part of the recent GMA Dove Award festivities.

In his remarks during the presentation, Lemke offered thanks to the voting association members.

"This award, of course, is not why we do this," he told the audience, made up mostly of music artists, industry staff and executives as well as media members. "We're prone to say the greater cause is Jesus – that's why we do it, and that would be true. But there's another reason and that's for the listeners. It's the listeners who listen to your music and who sing your songs and who have (them) embedded in their minds and in their hearts."

The non-commercial, listener-supported station is licensed to Cornerstone University and airs on several different frequencies in cities throughout Southwest Michigan. The format features a variety of contemporary Christian music from many of the nation's top artists and for decades has tagged itself as a family-friendly radio voice.

Still Sharing the Story

Trent Tammy closer-upTammy Trent Autumn is among inspirational speaker/singer Tammy Trent's busiest seasons.

"Womens' events most often happen during the fall and spring," explained Trent by phone from her Nashville, TN home. "So now I'm full into my fall schedule and busy nearly every weekend up until Christmas."

A Grand Rapids area native (a mid-1980s Forest Hills Northern H.S. grad) the former Tammy Buffum's promising Christian music career was off and running more than 30 years ago. She and husband/manager Trent Lenderink moved to Nashville to be nearer the industry's recording and touring connections and growing community of Christian music artists.

But things took a tragic turn in 2001 when he was killed in a diving accident.

Manna Café Serves Generous Portions of God’s Goodness

mannaCutline No. 1-5Manna Café founder Craig Witcher: “Our goal is to be a blessing to the community and everybody who comes in.” The late afternoon chatter among customers is lively. Servers bustle back and forth to bring patrons sandwiches, soups and salads or refill cups with steaming coffee. Glasses and plates clink when tables are cleared. Manna Café, in short, has all the makings of a standard restaurant. Except it isn't.

Isaiah 55:2 and John 6:35 are ablaze on the 85-seat eatery's walls. The waitresses' T-shirts have printed on the back "serving goodness from God's creation." The for-sale merchandise made from around the world helps to support ministries near and far.

Christian Environment is Centerpiece of Adult Foster Care Nonprofit, David’s House Ministries

davidshouseDavid’s House Ministries president Casey Kuperus shares a moment with resident Kerry while listening to music on her record player. Nestled in Southwest Wyoming is a seven-acre development where hope and faith dwell for those with development disabilities.

Founded in 1987 by Rev. Jay and Lois DeBoer, David's House Ministries (DHM) provides physical, spiritual, emotional and social care for 40-plus people with developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injuries or mental illnesses.

A full life

The goal is to give them as full a life as possible, according to Casey Kuperus, president of DHM.

"What we're doing is providing care at home and support needed for folks not able to live on their own," said Kuperus. "They all have either development cognitive impairments and many have physical impairments as well. Our goal is that this is their forever home which is sometimes different for other group home models that are out there."

Zach Williams: Story of A Rescue

Williams Zach w wife at 2019 Grammys Zach Williams and his wife Crystal at this year’s Grammy Awards "I'm ready to play some new music and ready for people to hear the new songs," said singer-songwriter Zach Williams. "And to see how God is gonna speak through them and use them."

Those new songs are contained in his brand new album "Rescue Story." And the tale woven by the new collection starts with the title track.

"For me, that's maybe the most personal song I've written...It closely follows my own story,"

said Williams by phone from a concert stop in Lubbock, TX. The anthem cries, "You were the voice in the desert, calling me out of the dead of night...You are my rescue story."

The new song is already a rising fixture on Christian radio.

Another of the tunes is "Slave To Nothing," once again referring to his changed outlook. "People are gonna bring up things about your past," noted the artist. "But God is doing a new work in my life."

MercyMe: Poised for New Music

MercyMe-Press-standing informalAn informal moment with Bart Millard (center) and MercyMe Although staying fairly busy, it's been a while since the inspirational-pop band MercyMe had a top ten hit on Christian radio.

"It's probably good to go 'dark' for a little bit....people are getting tired of us," joked lead singer Bart Millard during a recent phone interview.

But now the Grammy-winning, platinum-selling band is embarking on its "Imagine Nation Tour" which stops at Grand Rapids' Van Andel Arena Oct. 13 .

The band's trajectory was changed with the release of last year's movie, "I Can Only Imagine." The film, bearing the name of the band's signature song, told Millard's life story involving his early estrangement and eventual reconciliation with his father.

It was a surprise hit, grossing $17 million its opening weekend in theatres eventually garnering more than $80 million worldwide.

Devotional, Songs, Offer Path to Healing and Hope

Norquist Becky-2Becky Nordquist There are two main things Becky Nordquist wants grieving parents to know: "Your baby's life matters, and you are not alone."

Nordquist, a wife and mother as well as singer-songwriter/worship leader, has written a new devotional book and recorded two original songs. They're combining to enable a season of comfort and help for parents who have suffered miscarriages or infant loss.

The book carries the title of one of her songs, "Before We Said Hello."

Terry's Picks for October 2019

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

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Showcases the Life of Mr. Rogers,

mrrogerspicMr. RogersI was curious as to how Tom Hanks would portray Mr. Fred Rogers when I attended an advance screening of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I needn't have worried. The two-time Oscar winner captures the spirit of the children's host who emphasized kindness during his years as a TV host. Hanks sounds similar to Rogers without overdoing it—it is a subtle and nuanced performance. His kindness and warmth shines through and even Rogers's widow, Joanne, shows up in the beginning to introduce the movie and says she believes Mr. Rogers would have been very happy in knowing Tom Hanks portrayed him.

Singer Expanding Gospel Music Ministry

Visser JIm 2019Jim Visser Gospel singer Jim Visser has been laying a foundation for his emerging solo music ministry. And the Lowell, MI resident is seeing the fruit of his labors.

"I'm averaging two good weekends a month with my performance schedule right now," said Visser, 55. "And I'm hoping after the first of the year to build on that."

For seven years Visser was a lead singer with the locally-based Faithful Journey Quartet. But as he began to do solo concert dates, he felt God calling him in that direction and last year he officially ventured out on his own. He has already recorded two solo albums, and has done concerts around Michigan and beyond.

“Anne of Green Gables: The Musical” – a play review

AGG 1 Anne and MarillaAnne (Eliana Gonzalez) speaks with a stern Marilla Cuthbert (Pam White) in the Master Arts Theatre production “Anne of Green Gables: The Musical” photo credit: Rae Kruithof Who in the world could ever stand up to the irresistible, irrepressible, red-haired, pigtailed, wide-eyed Anne of Green Gables?

Certainly not her on-stage rivals, challengers and others. Nor anyone in the opening night, full house crowd in Master Arts theatre.

The indefatigable Anne – unrelentingly and lovingly portrayed by young local actress Eliana Gonzalez – won over everyone's hearts with a spirit that took her high above her circumstance. And the audience was happy to go along.

The well-known, early 20th Century story tells of an orphaned girl mistakenly sent to an adopting farm family which had actually requested a boy. The tale has seen several stage and screen adaptations over the years. But this musical version sprinkled with choreography especially highlights the whimsy and emotion of small-town life in the remote Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Band Charts New Waters

Smallbones with DollyJoel (left) and Luke Smallbone of For King & Country share an informal moment with Dolly Parton on the set of their new music video “God Only Knows” You never know where a song can take you.

The pop-rock duo For King & Country, featuring brothers Luke and Joel Smallbone, topped the Christian music charts this year with "God Only Knows." The hopeful ballad from their latest album tenderly tells of the love of God as a resource for the soul troubled by life circumstances.

But then country music superstar Dolly Parton heard the song and it has found a whole new life: a new recording, music video and millions of new listeners.

Trips to S. Korea Hearten Calvin Seminary President

Cutline No. 1-3 calvinCalvin Theological Seminary president Jul Medenblik holds a wooden cross he received while visiting South Korea. Rev. Jul Medenblik is a bridge builder.

Since becoming Calvin Theological Seminary's 7th president in 2011, Medenblik has jaunted to Egypt, Nigeria, China and Indonesia. Earlier this year, he traveled for the 7th time to South Korea.

It's at this country in East Asia where Medenblik met with alumni from Calvin Seminary which is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church in North America, as well as connect with prospective students. The seminary offers five masters degrees, six certificate programs and two doctoral degrees. Distance learning is available.
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