City on a Hill Makes Possible for Ministries to Shine Light, Usher in Good Deeds Locally, Worldwide

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

City on a Hill Cutline No. 1City on a Hill is 100,000-square foot building constructed in stages located at 100 Pine Street that formerly was the Zeeland Community Hospital.Zeeland-based City on a Hill (COH) is a sprawling, 100,000-square foot building that is home to dozens of ministries that may have not been birthed into existence had it not been for this Christian nonprofit that in earlier times was Zeeland Community Hospital.

There are around 40 tenant ministries that lease space at COH that find the competitive rent rates easier on their budgets, which in turn, is intended to enhance their ability to meet the physical, emotional, educational, spiritual or medical needs of people locally and worldwide. It's a wide birth of ministries that operate independently of one another.

Some examples include Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf that communicates the gospel to the deaf of Jamaica; Rick Rack, which provides quality clothing to girls and boys in foster care; Compassionate Heart Ministry, which provides programs and events to youth with disabilities; and a church start named Vertical Church, that draws a weekly average of 200 worshippers.

City on a Hill Cutline No. 2Gary Ellens has been City on a Hill’s executive director since its inception.In addition to serving as a landlord to the four dozen ministries that lease space, COH, located at 100 Pine Street, directly oversees four ministries of its own:

• COH ATLAS (Attain Truth Love And Self Control) is an adult mentoring ministry that partners with area churches to help people struggling with financial and relationship hardships. (616) 748-6017.

• COH Café offers a gathering spot for food and fellowship and, if people wish, Bible studies. On Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m., it provides a low-cost dinner to the community, and provides volunteers a sense of belonging. It also infuses work skills for people with disabilities and those doing community service. (616) 748-6005.

• COH Health Clinic provides free medical care for minor injuries and illnesses primarily to residents living in Ottawa and Allegan counties who are without health insurance or who are under insured, on Tuesday evenings by appointment. It is staffed by doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and social workers who volunteer their time and expertise. A women's health clinic also is provided for the uninsured. To register, call (616) 748-6009.

• COH Hill Leader Renewal offers a furnished room to pastors and ministry leaders for individual time away for personal reflection and spiritual growth. (616) 540-7063.

The original building was constructed in 1956, with additional sections added in the ensuing years.

"We did not have to do a lot of renovating to the rooms," COH executive director Gary Ellens said. "We've been richly blessed."

By "blessed" Ellens also means the tenant ministries that make their home here.

COH's occupancy rate is around 80 percent, said Ellens, and has an annual operating budget of $1 million.

Haven CRC took big step of faith

Credit goes to Haven Christian Reformed Church in Zeeland for helping to make COH possible.

City on a Hill Cutline No. 3Rick Rack develops supportive relationships with girls and boys in foster care and allows them to shop for clothes at no cost to them.An offer was initially made by another organization to purchase the Zeeland Community Hospital. Haven CRC wanted to make a counter offer even though it never intended to purchase the building outright, Ellens said.

A church committee toured the hospital as an option for their church expansion. But instead of finding space for their church, they found their objectives changed and a new direction was revealed.

They began to envision a separate nonprofit organization established at the former hospital site that would provide a new and different ministry center for Zeeland and beyond.

This vision included providing various ministries with more physical space for serving the community while at the same time also expanding how ministries' spent their finances.

The physical space needed for a ministry's expansion could be made available at a reduced rate thus allowing established ministries a means to control cost and new ministries improved circumstances for often-difficult start-ups.

City on a Hill No. 4A diagram showing the ministries that operate at City on a Hill’s first, second and third floors.Church representatives discussed placing a bid on the hospital in August 2005 but by the end of that month, the hospital received an actual bid from another interested party. The Haven CRC council knew it needed to move fast.

A new nonprofit entity needed to be birthed, which eventually became what it's known today as: City on a Hill, which derives its name from Matthew 5:14-16: "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. ... In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

"There where a number of groups talking about how to use the building for ministry purposes and through the structure of Haven Christian Reformed Church, they formed some investigatory teams and those teams began to work on the project but that was couple months before there was a City on a Hill board," Ellens said. "Part of the rational for it came about from the then-pastor at Haven CRC who came from California and knew of the Dream Center which is similar to this idea of City on a Hill."

"In order to make a counter offer, some group had to come together to do that," Ellens continued. "There was no City on a Hill entity at the time so Haven Christian Reformed Church stepped in the gap. Their intention was to buy it to transfer it to City on a Hill. That was still a big step of faith because a City on a Hill board (of directors) had not been formed yet but they were pretty sure it was going to happen. As soon as a City on a Hill board was formed, Haven CRC transferred ownership to City on a Hill."

City on a Hill's bid on the building was eventually accepted even though it was below the hospital's asking price.

City on a Hill took possession of the facility May 31, 2006 with 12 nonprofit organizations onsite.

Soon to mark 10-year anniversary

Now close to celebrating its 10th anniversary, COH defines "success" on an assortment of levels, Ellens said.

"We're successful in the sense that we're helping other ministries to stretch their precious dollars so the light of Christ can shine forth through them," Ellens said. "We see ourselves (COH) as being successful because we own and operate the four ministries and we determine their success because they are meeting the needs of the populations they are intended to serve."

"The City on the Hill board provides low cost space and a desire to be evangelistic in its focus, to be a light in the community, so other ministries could be effective," Ellens said. "So much synergy results when you get a bunch of ministries together so the light of Christ could be shed more brightly."

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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