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Featured Articles

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.

Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World

drrexDr. Rex M. RogersIt’s not rocket science to observe that Christianity is losing its influence in the American public square.

Unless you’ve lived in a box the past few years, this statement comes as no surprise.

Then again, it’s an axiom of human behavior that we tend to think “our day” is or was the “Best of times” – fond, if often over-stated memories of our youth - or the “Worst of times” – our bad experiences exaggerated with little perspective on what others have endured, at home or abroad. Historically speaking, we’re generally incorrect on both counts.

Terry’s Picks for Sept. 2019

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian web 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 September:

Fall Concert Artists Bring Award Nominations

Dove 50th logoNominations for the 50th annual Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Awards were announced Aug. 14 in Nashville. And numerous of the honorees are on their way to West Michigan for concerts this fall.

For King & Country, the pop-rock band anchored by the musical brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, takes five Dove nominations to its Oct. 3 concert at L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon. The group has nods for top song of the year ("Joy"), pop/contemporary song ("God Only Knows"), songwriter of the year, pop/contemporary album ("Burn the Ships"), and overall artist of the year.

The band performed last year at the Unity Christian Music Festival, and already is signed to return there in 2020. Tickets for their Oct. 3 concert begin at $20, available online.

Guiding Light Opens Fifth Transitional Iron House

glm7The new Iron House provides an ongoing supportive community for men breaking free from alcohol and drug addictions. Guiding Light took another leap forward to help men break free from the bonds of alcohol, drug addictions and homelessness.

This is Guiding Light's fifth transitional housing facility at 557 Andover St. SE in Kentwood that it opened, known as the Iron House.

Guiding Light purchased the home for $250,000.

The ministry now has the capacity to house 35 men at one time.

Summer Concerts Winding Down on an Up Note

WaterfrontST Building2View from behind the stage: Building 429 performing July 28 at Worship on the Waterfront in Grand Haven Time is running out to get in on West Michigan's summertime inspirational concert opportunities, many of which come in lovely outdoor settings and are presented on a free-will offering basis.

In terms of weekly events, perhaps the one with the consistently highest attendance is Worship on the Waterfront (WOW) in the newly-remodeled Lynn Sherwood Waterfront Stadium in downtown Grand Haven. Thousands gather each Sunday night for a diverse schedule of Christian music artists.

"We've had a beautiful summer down on the waterfront and attendance has been amazing," said coordinator Kathleen Bobeldyk of their seasonal outreach. The setting has been enhanced: a terraced area in the rear portion of the venue has replaced the former bleacher sections. There are no on-site chairs or benches so fans bring their own seating.

Park Setting Inspires Worship

church in park signA sign welcomes Sunday worshipers to Wedgewood Park A Grandville church is keeping a summer tradition it helped begin nearly 30 years ago.

Grandville United Methodist Church offers "Church in the Park" each Sunday, an informal worship service in the outdoor beauty of nearby Wedgwood Park on Wilson Ave. SW.

"I've been to church in the park since it started," said church member Nancy Kitchen, who often serves as a liturgist at the 8:30am service. "I like being outdoors in the summer, and I like the early start, too."

The gathering consistently draws between 40 and 70 worshipers, most of whom bring their own lawn chairs or blankets for the 45-minute service. That number has held true this summer, even through a series of guest leaders in place of the church's on-sabbatical pastor Ryan Weiland. He has now returned.

Terry’s Picks for August 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 August:

Climb a Mountain to Help People You Don’t Know? Definitely, Affirms Wyoming Resident Courtney Lanting

Courtney LantingCourtney Lanting: “Helping people is all that matters. There are a number of ways to raise money for worthy causes. Wyoming resident Courtney Lanting decided she would climb a mountain.

Mount Kilimanjaro in northeastern Tanzania to be exact. At 19,340-feet high, it's the world's 7th highest mountain.

Lanting, 29, scaled the inactive volcano in early August to financially support Carol Springs, Ill.-based Growing Hope Globally's ongoing agricultural training for struggling farmers in Kenya, Africa. She was joined by a small cadre of climbers.

Unity Undergirds Blessing of the Students

prayer778Veruynca Williams: “(BOTS) is a celebration of their incoming school year.” Unity in Christ will take center stage Aug.18 when Christians from an assortment of denominations gather for the annual Blessing of the Students (BOTS).

Now in its 26th year, BOTS is a confluence of students of all ages, clergy, school administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, community leaders, elected officials, bus drives and whoever else may come, to join in the unity of prayer, said Veruynca Williams, who founded BOTS.

Live music, dance and encouraging words are also in the mix.

Prolific Children’s Author Debuts New Book to Celebrate Baby

Wonder Cove High ResGlenys Nellist, author of the Love Letters from God and Snuggle Time series for children, debuts her newest picture book written specially to celebrate the birth of a new baby. "The Wonder That Is You" releases by Zondervan later this month, with Nellist marking the release with several local events.

"I remembered the experience of having my first son, Steven, back in England in 1984. I was overwhelmed but also full of joy," she said. "I went to sleep with Steven in the cot by my bed, and had a dream that I was flying through air in the dark. I flew to the top of a roof and sat there swinging my feet with joy. The moon and stars were twinkling and full of joy too. I felt as if all creation rejoiced with me."

Band Reboot Renews Faith-Filled Mission

Sanctus Real  standingSanctus Real (from left): Dustin Lolli, Chris Rohman, Mark Gaarlman The very future of Sanctus Real was in question.

The veteran Christian pop-rock band faced a mountain of uncertainty in 2015 when co-founder, lead singer and chief songwriter Matt Hammitt announced he was leaving the group.

"We had seen it coming, but we really didn't talk about it," recalled drummer Mark Graalman during a recent interview. "For myself, I just assumed it would all be done. Matt was such a major part and the signature of the band," he said of the group's history from its mid 1990s start.

But now it's 2019 and Sanctus Real is very much alive. The band has built on its previous catalog, releasing its second full album with new lead singer Dustin Lolli.
The revamped group visits Michigan several times in the coming days- July 27 at a one-day festival in Leonidas and Aug. 9 at the Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon

DcTalk Reunion Tour Coming Into View?

dc talk on cruisedcTalk today (l. to r.) Michael Tait, TobyMac, Kevin Max TobyMac has remained consistent through the years when talking about his former Christian music group dcTalk. An eventual reunion was always in the back of his mind.

"It's not a matter of 'if,'" Toby would say each time this reporter asked him about getting back together.

"It's just a matter of 'when.'"

The trio of artists – Toby McKeehan, Kevin Max and Michael Tait – had a terrific run through the decade of the 1990s: Four Grammy Awards, more than a dozen Dove Awards, and sales of more than 7 million albums.

Upcoming Widows’ Retreat Designed to Equip, Educate and Inspire

Susan VandePol No. 1-1Susan VandePol: “Widows find out they have a calling.” When area widows gather in October for a retreat at the Maranatha Conference Grounds in Muskegon, Susan VandePol will be there to encourage them to embrace a new path in their lives.

"They can expect to be equipped, educated and inspired by their biblical calling," said VandePol, whose husband of 22 years, Los Angeles firefighter Bob Ortega, died in 2005.

Finding their calling

"I start Friday night and close the weekend on Sunday morning on what God's Word says about widows and their place," said VandePol. "Their (widows) stories are so painful to hear but when widows find out they have a calling and take that protocol to their church. They grab onto that."

Since her husband's duty-related death, VandePol is helping families whose first-responder family members died cope with their loss.

Manna Report

ad2Summertime is often a time to kick back and relax, and things sometimes slow down a bit. But, this is not the case for Manna Media this summer!

Someone recently approached us and said, "Every time I turn on my computer, I see your ads." What an encouragement that was to us, and just a confirmation that our digital media campaign is working.

We are sending out our newsletter a little earlier than usual because the news is just too good not to share. Our Manna Media digital campaign launched on May 7, 2019, and today we are excited to report that our ads have appeared on over one million devices. And that means that over one million people have had an opportunity to be confronted with the gospel.

The DOCK Clothes Middle, High School Students with Christ’s DNA

Cutline No. 1-3dockSteve Roobol: “We show them the love of Christ by sharing the love of Christ.” Alexander "Xander" Szocinski became entwined with the tendrils of friends and fun when he started hanging out in his sophomore year at The DOCK, a year-round ministry at 4669 S. Division Ave. in Wyoming that's across from Kelloggsville Middle School.

"They have just about any board game you can think of," said Szocinski, a 2016 graduate of Kelloggsville High School. "Uno; that's the one I played the most with friends."

Szocinski stayed involved with The DOCK after high school, volunteering for a year where he says it helped him hone a work ethic. He also ran The DOCK's candy store for a time.

"Yeah, I was the candy man, that's basically what they called me," said Szocinski, who's a dishwasher/busser at a Mr. Burger Restaurant in Wyoming. "I had kids daily ask, 'When are you going to open it?'"

Terry’s Picks for July 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 July:

Steven Malcolm Includes GR Hometown on New Tour

Malcolm Steven kneeling outdoors-1West Michigan native Steven Malcolm was making final preparations for his upcoming, five-week hip-hop tour which includes a July 26 date in Grand Rapids.

"Due to all my upcoming traveling, we gatta find a new home for our dog," he posted to his social media followers in late June. "If anyone is interested in a 2 yr-old pitbull (fully trained, neutered and gentle) HMU (hit me up)."

No doubt by now Malcolm, 28, and his wife Teaira have found a caretaker for their pet at their Kentwood home. But the national Christian recording artist is also readying his on-stage program as headliner for the "Tag Team Tour" with his longtime performing partner Mark (the Baddguy) Evans II and special guest Maddie Rey.

"If I don't lose my voice every single night or wake up sore the next day...this tour wasn't lit enough," Malcolm noted of his performing enthusiasm.

Summer Reading Programs Flourishing at Baker Book House

bakerChildren and adults still have time to sign up for summer reading programs at Baker Book House, the leading Christian bookstore in West Michigan. Readers can register through the middle of July for the programs that have readers earning prizes based on hours read or books read.

More than 1,500 youngsters have already signed up for Read. Set. Explore!, with the store forecasting 2,000 registrants by mid-July. This is up from 1,500 last year, 1,200 the year before, and 800 the year before that.

"We want to have the best summer reading program in town," said Josh Mosey, Children's Product Buyer and director of Ready. Set. Explore! and the adult program. "We want to reward kids and adults for reading. If we can help kids develop a love for reading, they'll read their whole lives."
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