Monday, November 4, 2013

2nd Annual Christmas Shoppe is getting closer!!

     Urban Family Ministries will host a 2nd Annual “Christmas Shoppe” with a very intentional mission. We want to “Give the Gift of Dignity”. Many of the families served through Urban Family Ministries have become accustomed to the “Adopt a family” world. While the intentions are noble, for our families, it enhances dependency and entitlement. The receiving families receive gifts at Christmas time from complete strangers. In this case, the families offer no initiative, no effort or sacrifice to purchase the gifts for their own children.  Usually, they don't even have to wrap the gifts because the generous people who purchased the gifts take the time to wrap and tag the gifts even.
Last year store items
     To empower our families, we have ended our “Adopt a family” program and started a Christmas Shoppe. This store is set up completely with donations by people who want to give gifts to a family in need at Christmas. These new items, which have been purchased and dropped off at the Urban Family Ministries office, will then be priced much lower and purchased by families involved in our programs.
     The pricing of items range from 10-15% of the ORIGINAL/STICKER price on each item (i.e – a $10 Candyland board game would be marked at $1.00 for our families to purchase.) Our families will come to the store at selected times, shop and even be rung up on a real cash register. Once items have been purchased with their own money, they have an opportunity to wrap and tag the gifts in the office before taking them home. Comments we heard last year sounded like this….
“Are you doing the store next year again? Now that I know what you have, I’m going to save more money for next year’s store!” - single mom of 5
“I did not have enough money to shop at the stores. I was able to shop with a small amount of money in the Christmas Shoppe. It made me feel good to shop, buy things for my kids, wrap them and then have gifts under the tree for them on Christmas.” - a single mom of 3
“The store was a tremendous blessing to my family. I wasn’t going to be able to buy gifts this year for my kids but you helped make it possible!” - single mom of 3
Last year's store items
     Our families want to be able to purchase gifts for their children with their own money, just like everyone else does. Their ability do this will begin to erode the dependency and entitlement so many of them don’t realize entraps them. They want to be able to enjoy watching their children open up gifts on Christmas morning with great anticipation over something they sacrificed for, but going shopping in the “general” sense of the word isn’t possible on their income. This store allows our families to have some pride when their children open their gift on Christmas morning.  The parents will ensure better care for the gifts given when it is their money purchasing the items. It allows our families to experience the same emotions as other parents when they watch their child open a gift they worked hard to purchase.

Our teens helped with pricing and set up.
The result of the change from Adopt a family to Christmas Shoppe will:

  1. Bring about restoration of dignity to our families by their purchasing their own gifts.
  2. Begin to destroy the cycle of dependency and entitlement.
  3. Allow all proceeds to be reinvested in UFM programs that equip and strengthen these and other families in our community.
If you would like to help with this store, you can:

  1. Purchase new items from the list below.
  2. Return them to the Urban Family Ministries office by December 4th.
  3. Sign up to help families shop at the store between December 16-20th.  Help them shop, wrap and be in community with our families.

Any questions, please call Peggy at the Urban Family Ministries office (616-365-9009) or email her at


* Winter hats (adults)
* Gloves (adults)
* Coats (kids and teens winter coats, adult fleece zip jackets)
* Boots (kids and teens)
* Snow pants (kids and teens)
* Packs of Underwear (kids and adults)
* Socks (kids and adults)
Customers to our first store.
* Slippers (kids and adults)
* PJ’s (kids and teens)

Toys & Hobbies
* Art sets
* Craft kits
* Tech Deck toys
* Remote Control vehicles
* Baby Dolls (please consider purchasing multi-cultural dolls to closer resemble our families)
* Handheld electronic games
* DVD movies (family and animated)
* Skateboards and Rip sticks
* Scooters
* Board games-family based (Connect 4, Chutes and Ladders, Don’t Break the Ice, Monopoly, Life, Checkers)

* Pans
* Dishes (settings of 4)
* Glass sets
* Mixing Bowls
What a bargain! 
* Utensils
* Paper Towels
* Toilet Paper
* Laundry Supplies (detergent, baskets, fabric softener)
* Tools (basic household sets)
* Nail Polish and Make up
* Bath towels
* Cleaning Supplies
* Pillows
* Twin Sheet sets
* Backpacks
* 10 Ride Bus Passes
* Candles
* Hair accessories
* Jewelry

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Loving Big!

"Love is motion, love is action. love is freedom, rest, and passion." ~ Andrew Osenga
Heidi loving on a family's little one.

As a single 27 year old woman, I do wonder if I will ever get to love someone in such a way, then I realize that God did not create me to love just ONE person. He created me to love as He loved me, which, is far beyond what I imagine myself capable of doing.  However, I do know something about myself that I will state here without any intention of being conceded or pompous, I love BIG. I love fast and love hard and risk ALOT.  Many of those I love, can not love me back. Often our relationship begins with that unrequited love being acted out as my heart gets stomped all over. This can be seen in a variety of relationships I've held - friends, acquaintances, guys, family, students, co-workers, etc. 

John Perkins said, "When you look into their faces, you get a glimpse of the face of God." He was referring to the people we serve, the people we meet on a daily basis, and the people we already know and care for.  This changed my perspective on the way I love. As a follower of Christ I don't have the option to love selectively.  I don't get to pick and choose who is worthy of love;  because I am human, I play favorites, but even that's been something that I was called-out on this past year.  How can I say "I love you" to three different people yet clearly show love to only one in that group.  That doesn't match up and proves me a liar.  

(I wonder what my life would look like should I choose not to love. What an empty world that would be. I'd be friendless, jobless, and homeless. I would be without the very reason(s) for which I work and live each day. I would be lost. What a fearful thought.) 

God's created me to love big and deal with hurt and rejection with some ease. Does that mean I don't hurt, absolutely not. I've been hurt and have experienced rejection in ways many don't know or haven't experienced, but I know it could have been much worse.  People have left by choice, by someone else's choice, on good conditions, on bad conditions, suddenly and over the course of time.  I've experienced loss (which could be a whole separate entry) which causes me to question my capacity to keep loving. Why love when it will only lead to hurt?  Because Christ first loved us and served as the perfect and ultimate example of love shown through a life of sacrifice for the good of others….for our good. 

He was constantly choosing someone other than himself. 

Jesus sought the broken, he didn't EXPECT the broken to come to him yet,  He was unable to walk through a town unnoticed. His reputation preceded him wherever he traveled. Loving well, did not go unnoticed, but drew the lonely, rejected, poor, hurt, sick, wounded, messed up people into his presence.  

Three more loves Heidi loves BIG...

Loving big leads to hurting big but think about all the ways God's protected you from deeper hurt? Each time I feel rejected I remember that I serve a God who's greater than it ALL, that He loved me so much that He'd allow me to experience hurt and brokenness, but He walks before and behind, leading me and covering me along the way.  While it may not be EASY, God makes loving BIG 100% worth it, every time. 

~guest author, Heidi, staff

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

God Moments...

Have you ever had an experience that did not rationally make sense? I mean, we all have crazy things happen to us every day;  like trying to go in the exit-only door at your local Meijer store,  putting the ice cream in the refrigerator and finding it the next day, or leaving the plastic cover on the lasagna that you put in the oven to cook.  (Not like that ever happens in my life)

Imagine a room full of 5 and 6 year olds that normally are busy moving, talking, and sharing while you try to tell a story.  Those very same 5 and 6 year olds suddenly fall silent, are sitting still, and seem to be frozen in time while you share something that God would want each of them to understand and remember.  Amazing God Moments set off an alarm in my head. It’s important we take notice of such experiences and thank God for those special moments.

This very thing happened during the winter session of Super Saturday.  I had been teaching on the importance of the armor of God.  Each week we covered a different piece of the armor.  We were studying the helmet of salvation.  The children were sitting in a circle on the floor learning what salvation is and why it is important. Then the questions began.  A hand raised, “Miss Jen, why did Jesus stay on the cross if he was God?”  Silence fell on the room, eyes staring at me, mouths quiet.  Wow.  I was able to share that Jesus loves us so much, even when we mess up, that he stayed on the cross so one day when we were willing to accept his love and forgiveness, salvation would be available to us.  Did he have to stay on the cross and die that painful death? No, but he chose to because his love for us it that strong.  I shared that all we need to do is confess a sin and it is forgiven.  I was able to tell them that nothing is too big for God.  Hands shot up even before others were finished posing a question. They were eager learners.  Ears were listening and God was at work.  Praise God that we have those moments! 

I found out later, that the young man that had started asking questions had seen tragedy during the weeks leading up to this.  I am so thankful that Urban Family Ministries is there for the kids that have questions; there to willingly point the children and families that God so loves toward the truth. I am so thankful for such apparent God Moments.  Isn't it great that sometimes crazy, unexplained moments happen for God’s good? 

~ guest author, Jen S., volunteer

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

God Chooses a Few....

I love how God is always working through others to change my perspective which always results in peace of heart and mind….

It was several weeks back, and Alf Clark was preaching the Sunday evening sermon at Calvary.  I must admit that it is truly an effort for me to make this service after working a 6-day work week, volunteering at Super Saturday, attending the first service at Calvary, and then heading off to Kent Community to escort residents to their worship service.  Now, it was about 12:30 p.m. Sunday, and I just wanted to be selfish with the rest of my day….but Alf was the speaker, and if you've ever heard him preach, you understand.  I had also told my fellow volunteer, Gina, I would be there, so there was no backing out. 
Chris with one of her favorite 5 and 6 year olds.

Saturday arrived and I had no hot water, and I didn’t even want to look in the basement.  Yep, a big old flood and a plugged drain.  I spent 7-8 hours Saturday snaking out a drain, sucking up water 5 gallons at a time into a Shop Vac, rolling it to the drain (only 1 of 3 rooms is above drain level), lift and tip…27, 58, 76, 94, lost count after 100.  Sunday morning my friend Laurie's husband, Mike, arrived to assist me in getting and installing a new water heater.  Just one problem, my lower back was already on fire from Saturday and there was just me, all 5 feet 1 inch, to help Mike get the new heater down and old heater up my narrow basement stairs (my favorite part was when I was on bottom of the heater and Mike would say, "Chrissie, I gotta let go a minute - you got it?")…Oh, I am so going to pay for this.  I kept thinking, if we finish up soon enough I can lie on a heating pad for an hour or so and be able to move to make it to Calvary by 6:00p.m.  Mike, however, was in absolutely no hurry as his wife was on Day 2 of her colonoscopy prep, and she was not dealing very well with this; thus, he was perfectly happy lollygagging on this particular Sunday to avoid being at home!!

I finally made it to Calvary, praising God for IcyHot Patches and Motrin.  I didn't know what hurt the  most - sitting, standing, or walking, but I made it, like I told Gina I would (of course, after all this, I couldn't even find Gina to sit with!!).  Alf's preaching was so uplifting, and provided a much needed laugh.  Oh my, he hurried down from the platform worried about a strange noise he was hearing as though the sanctuary were going to blow. A woman who works at Calvary went up there to turn off the alarm clock that was used during a drama earlier in the evening. The whole scene was hysterical.  Okay, now for some serious preaching on serving others.  Wait a minute, what was that Alf just said? "God uses the few to impact the many."  Wow, why do I feel so impacted by this?  Is there something specific God needed me to hear tonight?  And suddenly, I understood.

Even back in my darkest, evil-living times, God led me towards serving others.  I can't seem to grasp, with all the needs out there, with so many people who have nothing but time on their hands, and with all the time we spend serving ourselves, why so many people can't spare a couple hours a week to serve others.  I know I'm wrong to think these thoughts and that it is absolutely none of my business what anyone else does.  Still, being weak and human, I find it shameful how more and more self-serving our society is becoming. 

Alf stated, "God uses the few to impact the many."  It was one of those moments when God spoke right into my heart - that, in spite of my many failings and shortcomings, God still picked me to be a part of the few.  So, thanks to Alf's sermon shared on an evening when I really wanted to stay home, I will never again look at others living only for themselves in the same light as I used to.  I will feel a bit of sadness for them that they are missing out on being a part of the few.  

~guest author, Chris, volunteer

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Night to Remember...

Jewelry? Check! 
Shoes? Check!
Dress? Check!

As I readied myself for the WCSG Father/Daughter Banquet, I couldn't help but wonder how "ma girls" were doing.  Last year, I had the pleasure of attending this Daddy/Daughter date night with my dad. Few months after the banquet, some UFM teens were talking to Mr. Dan, a faithful volunteer staff member, about the event, commenting on how they wish he would take them to the banquet in 2013.  Dan approached me shortly after his conversation with the girls asking if I'd be willing to help make this happen. 

 On Friday, April 12th, Dan escorted Mikela, Miracle, and Sarah. Luke, another volunteer, escorted Jaira and Ashari, and my dad, Dave, escorted Deshownna and me to the WSCG Father/Daughter Banquet. Each of us has a different "father" story, but this evening we were escorted by three incredible men who simply wanted to treat us all like princesses.

We rode to Hudsonville in a UFM 15 passenger van, and sashayed into the Pinnacle Conference Center in Hudsonville.  Ok, so we're not the "sashay" types, so some ran, some wobbled in on stylish heels, and the men walked coolly to the door.

The girls were all dressed to the nines in pretty dresses, cute shoes, and accessories to match. The men looked dapper and Mr. Dan wore a fancy new suit!  We met at the UFM office to snap some photos and hop in our "sweet ride."  The girls were all a flutter with anticipation.  After arriving at the event site, we found our table, got comfy and stared around the room. What fun it was to see all the dads and their daughters enjoying time with each other.  Not a frown to be seen.  

Dinner was served. A fancy dinner.  We had multiple forks and cloth napkins.  The girls were so precious as they navigated their way through this high-class affair.  We ate our salads and rolls, and waited for the main course.  The presentation was lovely, Hawaiian chicken, green beans, and mashed potatoes smothered in a Hawaiian pineapple sauce.  We dug in…but, hungry as we were, for some around the table, the fancy food did not meet their expectations, so they ate cake and rolls and salad all the while making hilarious, disgusted faces as the rest of us finished our meals.

Jason Castro, American Idol season seven fourth runner up, was the entertainment for the evening. The girls talked through much of the concert, commenting on his musical style, other people's outfits, the decorations, the food, etc.  The little girls, ages 10 and 11, tried hard to stay engaged, but the music just wasn't their style.  At one break when Jason was introducing his next song, we heard noises that sounded like radio interference. My dad and I looked down and saw that Jaira and Ashari were laying underneath a chair watching Spongebob Squarepants on someone's cell phone.

At evening's end, the emcees announced that all ladies would receive a flower as they left.  All of the girls were excited. After snapping a few more photos, we made our way to the door.  As the girls  received a carnation from the Cornerstone Radio staff, their faces lit up. Some had never received a flower before so they felt extra special.

As we rode home, the girls chattered about the event, school, friends, and the homework they had to complete over the course of the weekend.  As we left, lots of hugs were exchanged and many "thank-yous" expressed. 

What an incredible experience the evening was!  I am so thankful to be surrounded by incredible students, volunteers, and family and am so very grateful to have shared such a memorable night with such great friends.  

~guest author, Heidi, staff

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Call me, Maybe?

There are a select few kids/teens who have my cell phone number.  I do this because I prefer not to be inundated with phone calls on Saturdays (regarding Super Saturday), or any other day of the week for that matter. 

The past week, I've received a few phone calls from one of our teenagers, Keyon, who just called to tell me about his day, and it has been lovely.   

I've known Keyon for a while, and used to think he didn't like me very much.  He can be quite the story teller. Once I “got wise” to his habit of embellishment, I called him out. I learned it was necessary to be very direct with him, and he didn’t always appreciate my honesty. For this reason, he would avoid telling me things and would often respond to my questions with silence.

Through all of this, I think I gained his respect. He realized he couldn't put up a front with me as he had a tendency of doing.   Now, we have good conversations on a regular basis. Rather than constantly being frustrated with the choices that he is making, I see him growing into a solid young man.

About a month ago, while we were talking about my birthday, the following conversation occurred:

Keyon: Miss Melissa.  I want to get you something for your birthday? What do you want for your birthday?
Me: You don't need to get me anything
Keyon: But I want to, what do you want?
Me: I don't know, something you think I'd like
Keyon: A dress?
Me: What? Do you know me at all?
Keyon: [uproarious laughter]

I love that he knows me. (I’m not much of a “dress person.”)  Even with our limited interactions and my perception that I wasn't his favorite person we’ve grown to understand each other on some level.

It's been fun watching him grow from early “teenager-hood” to now.  I've seen him mature quite a lot, and look forward to picking up him and his brothers for Super Saturday.  Usually, each of them has a story for me when they get in the van, and it's fun to hear what they’ve experienced throughout the week and what they are looking forward to.

Keyon has taught me so much about being open and fully present with our kids.  In the past, I may have dismissed his phone calls or stories just because I was tired or busy.  Now I love that he calls, and all that it means when he does.

~guest author, Melissa K, volunteer

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Being Comforted by a Child...

Alf and Malcom

Our theme for Super Saturday this past fall was “Walking With Us.” During the lesson titled “God Never Leaves Us”, I shared a personal story:

When I was a high school sophomore, my family and I were evicted from our home during Christmas break. With such a large family, it was nearly impossible to find a place to stay. A family friend opened their garage to us for a couple nights. It was the middle of winter. While we lay on our beds made of garbage bags filled with our clothes, it felt as though God was nowhere near us. I spoke that thought aloud and my momma immediately corrected me. “God IS with us ALL THE TIME, even when we don’t feel His presence.” 

I asked the kids, “Does anyone know what I’m talking about?” Many raised their hands, others nodded their heads in agreement.  I closed the lesson and we moved on with the evening.

Later, while I was chatting with some volunteers, Malcom, a young man who had hear my story, came walking up. I remember thinking “Why is he standing so close to me?” as if he were invading my personal space. I looked down to see his big eyes looking straight at me.

“Hey, Malcom. What’s up man?” I asked.

“Mr. Alf, I know exactly what you are feeling,” as he looked down and nodded his head lightly. “I know exactly what you’re feeling.”

“What you mean, man?” I asked.

Malcom placed a hand on my arm as if to comfort me and responded, “I know what you are feeling because my family was evicted too, one time.”

WOW! This little guy, maybe 10 years old, was comforting me! Those standing there with me began to tear up at Malcom’s compassion and desire to make me feel better. I looked straight at Malcom and said to him, 

“Yes, you do know what I’m feeling but, God is always there with you. He may have allowed that to happen because he’s preparing you for the future. He’s preparing you for greatness.”

Malcom went back and joined the kids participating in game time, but those few moments he spent with me will be forever held in my heart and mind. God has great things planned for our kids at Urban Family Ministries and I praise Him for continually giving me glimpses of His power and work in their lives.

~Guest Author - Heidi, staff as told by Alf, Executive Director