A leader next door.

A leader next door.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Roots: Geneogical, Cultural, Religious, Social-Economic

To know me is to know I am connected to the Brandt and VanderSlacht and Dekkinga and VanderVeen family trees.  It is also important to know that my roots are in both the Seceder (1834) and Doleantie (1886) movements and migration, and that my ancestors were poor farmers who eventually found themselves in the woods and cities and now in the digital world.  Here is an outline of my story.

Maternal Grandparents: Brandt Family Tree

  • Marinus Brandt (Kapelle, Zeeland, Netherlands) Jacoba Smit (Kapelle, Zeeland, Netherlands) married (1866).  Jacoba gave birth to Abraham Brandt (1869).  The family emigrated in 1887 to Holland, Michigan.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapelle.
    • Marinus and Jacoba lived in Holland for about five years, then bought a farm in Allegan County that was divided in two by the Black River (which, ironically, ran close to my boyhood home).  Marinus was Zeeland Township's highway commissioner in the early 1900's.  Then they moved to an 80-acre farm in Vriesland.  In 1906 they sold the farm and built a house in Grand Rapids Township, on East Fulton Street, on land given them by their oldest son, Adrian, a successful banker.  They joined Third Reformed Church.  However, when Third Reformed Church moved away from using the "common cup" at communion, he and Jacoba joined Dennis Avenue Christian Reformed Church.  (Dennis Avenue later became Mayfair CRC, and my wife, Jill, and I attended there during the first 19 years of our marriage.) 

      • Abraham Brandt and Maggie Kok married, and Maggie gave birth to Allie Brandt.   Allie Brandt was my maternal grandmother.

        • Abraham was a successful small farmer in the Vriesland area.  Unfortunately, in his early forties he fell off  the barn roof.  He never fully recovered.  Yet his daughter, Allie, my grandmother, not being one of the older children, was given the opportunity by her family to attend and graduate from Calvin College (1912).  She was subsequently hired to teach elementary-aged school children.  But tragedy struck again:  Abraham learned he had cancer.  He died at age 48 (1917), leaving his large family to fend for itself.  After her father's death, Allie quit teaching to work on the farm.  (Of note: the Brandt family gave her younger brother, Gerrit, the opportunity to attend college as well.  He graduated from Western Michigan University, played minor league baseball for the Cincinnati Reds, coached at Ferndale High School for many years, and was inducted into the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame (Class of 1990).  (I graduated from Calvin College in 1982 with a degree in English; I graduated from WMU with an MBA in 1985.)

Maternal Grandparents: VanderSlacht Family Tree

  • Sytze Spaanstra (Achtkarspelen, Friesland, Netherlands) and Aaltje VanDerLeest (Achtkarspelen, Friesland, Netherlands) married, and Aaltje gave birth to Sapke Spaanstra.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achtkarspelen

  • Klaas VanderSlacht (Achtkarspelen, Friesland, Netherlands) Jitske Frieswyk (Achtkarspelen, Friesland, Netherlands) married, and Jitske gave birth to Jacob VanderSlacht.  See:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achtkarspelen.

    • Jacob VanderSlacht and Sapke Spaanstra married.  Sapke gave birth to Nicholas VanderSlacht.  Nicholas was my maternal grandfather.

      • Jacob and Sapke (Sarah) emigrated to West Michigan in the 1880s.  It seems they were always poor, and they moved around a lot.  I'm not sure which was the cause and which the effect. 

        • Nicholas and Allie married in 1918 in Allendale, a year after Abraham, Allie's father, passed away, by a justice of the peace, presumably because their church in Bauer was without a pastor.  At the time Allie was teaching again and Nick was working in Haas's grocery store in Bauer.  Mr. Haas encouraged Nick to become a mortician and offered to pay his way through mortuary school.  But Nick wanted a farm.  So Nick and Allie bought a farm on 64th Avenue between Bauer and Blendon.  But then came the Depression and they  lost the farm.  They then rented a farm from the Wichers family of Zeeland. (This was likely the same Wichers family who operated a bank on the corner of Main and Church and who were involved in leading Hope College--my current employer [2013].)   Nick also worked for the WPA and for Reitman Builders, indicating he was a good carpenter, to make ends meet.  They eventually bought a farm on 84th Avenue and some other land near Barry St. and 88th Avenue.

          • Allie gave birth to Alma.  Alma is my mother.  Unfortunately, Nick passed away when he was 56 and my mother was just 16.  Allie never remarried and stayed living at the farmhouse on 84th Avenue.  Many years later, she would sell the farmland to buy a house in Zeeland (1969; I was 10 years old at the time.)   

            • Here is an abbreviated biography of my mother, Alma VanderVeen:

Paternal Grandparents:  Dekkinga Family Tree

  • Kornelis Zwart (Houwerzijl, Groningen, Netherlands) and Gertrude Hoeksema (Houwerzijl, Groningen, Netherlands) married, and Gertrude gave birth to Henrietta Zwart.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houwerzijl.

    • Henrietta was the only person in her family to emigrate.  One reason she wanted to emigrate was not to have her daughter work on a farm.  Oftentimes, when village girls turned 12 years old, they worked for a rich farmer.  Unfortunately, some of the girls mysteriously became pregnant. 

      • Kornelis Dekkinga (Dokkum, Friesland, Netherlands) and Henrietta Zwart married (1880).  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dokkum.  Henrietta gave birth to Gertrude Dekkinga (1914).  Gertrude is my paternal grandmother.
        • The Dekkingas emigrated to West Michigan in 1925.  Life in America was tough.  The Dekkingas bought a house in Grand Rapids.  However, during the Depression, they lost it, then purchased a farm in Portage, near Kalamazoo, from a rich farmer and lost that.  When they moved back to Grand Rapids, they were still paying the rich farmer.  Gertrude went to work as a domestic to help pay the bills.  Fortunately, she worked for an attorney, who discovered that part of the Dekkinga's troubles were due unethical and illegal behavior on the part of the farmer who had sold them the farm in Kalamazoo. For some reason they were still paying on the mortgage even though they had deeded the farm back to the rich farmer.

Paternal Grandparents:  VanderVeen Family Tree

  • Roelof VanderVeen (Winsum, Groningen, Netherlands) and Frouktje DeVries married.  ("Vander Veen" means "from the peat."  Peat is partially decomposed wetland vegetation that was dug up and burned in stoves.)  Roelof emigrated to in 1880 but then immediately returned back home, believing that life was too difficult in West Michigan.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winsum.  Frouktje gave birth to Henry (1892).  Roelof was a very religious man.  Roelof was also a farm hand.  One day, when Roelof was about 60 years old, Roelof asked the farmer if he could go to the village to vote.  The farmer wanted to know who he was going to vote for.  Roelof said "Abraham Kuyper."  The farmer said "No."   Roelof voted for Kuyper anyway, after which the farmer told him he didn't need Roelof's help anymore.   After he was released by the farmer, Roelof got a job selling milk and butter going door-to-door in the village.  Frouktje, whose parents died when she was young and therefore never went to school, rented out rooms to help make ends meet.  (As a college student and professor at Calvin College, I be indoctrinated into Kuyperian Calvinism.)
(Kuyper was minister, journalist, theologian, politician, social change agent, leader of the Anti-Revolutionary Movement [in response to the French Revolution and the secularization of Europe due to the Enlightenment].  In 1886 he led an exodus called the Doleantie ["grieving ones"] from the state-run Dutch Reformed Church. The followers of the Doleantie eventually joined with the followers of the Secession of 1834, an earlier rebellion led Hendrik DeCock [whose followers included Hendrik Scholte and Albertus VanRaalte, two friends who became rivals and competitors for immigrants when the former chose Iowa [Pella] and farmland and the latter Michigan [Holland] and forests for the economic sustainability of their followers [see: http://www.theleadernextdoor.org/2013/12/albertus-vanraalte-vs-hendrik-scholte.html].  Kuyper was elected Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901-1905.)

  • Henry emigrated to Holland, Michigan in 1912, at age 20, against his parents' wishes, because they didn't like America.  In fact, they tried to get him to stay by enticing him with a small savings account. Why did he go?  To follow his girlfriend.

  • Martin VanderBeek (Winsum, Groningen, Netherlands) and Grace __________ (Winsum, Groningen, Netherlands) married.   Grace gave birth to Martha VanderBeek.  The family emigrated to Holland in 1912.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winsum.   In Holland, Michigan the VanderBeek family lived at 120 W 13th Street.  About the time Henry arrived, Martin passed away.  Henry moved in with the family and started working at the Holland Furniture Company as a common laborer, along with one of Martha’s brothers.  (Holland Furniture Company was owned by John VanderVeen [not related]).   

    • Henry VanderVeen and Martha VanderBeek married (1913).  Martha gave birth to Ralph VanderVeen (1914).   Ralph is my paternal grandfather.   
      In 1914 and Henry and Martha moved to 452 Harrison Avenue.

      In 1914 my grandfather, Ralph, was born.

      In 1916, when Ralph was two years old, Martha died from tuberculosis, which at the time was sweeping the nation and the world.

      One of Martha's brothers was Gerhardt.  Gerhardt had a son named, Martin, after his grandfather.  Martin and Ralph were not only cousins, but friends. 

      Shortly thereafter the VanderBeeks moved to California (Ripon area/San Joaquin Valley), as did many other people of Dutch origin and the Kuyperian persuasion from the United States and the Netherlands, and Ralph lost a close friend and relative to economic opportunity.  The VanderBeeks bought a large tract of land, cheaply, before water was brought in.  (There experience seems to be in contrast to the experience of the migration of many others after the dust bowl years and depicted famously in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.)  On that tract of land, the VanderBeeks grew almonds and grapes and started a road construction company.  (Martin would come to Michigan to visit my grandfather Ralph's family about every 10 years.)

      A short time after Martha died and the VanderBeeks moved, Henry married Jennie Bouwman—who had been his housekeeper during Martha’s illness and after her death.  Henry and Jennie had two girls, Ruth and Frieda.

      Henry worked at the Holland Furniture Company his entire life.  Like many of his contemporaries of economically poor Dutch ancestry, he was a common laborer.  Like many people whose family members worked as farm hands for rich farmers in the Netherlands, Henry had to learn how to work in a factory for wealthy Americans, some who were Dutch.  Because of this, I surmise that like his fellow laborers, in 1920 he was forced to take a 10 cent per hour pay cut.  Industrialist George Hummer had declared a 10 cent per hour pay decrease for workers at West Michigan Furniture Company, stating that other companies in Holland would soon do the same.

      The Vogelzang family (founders of Vogelzang Hardware) knew the VanderVeens quite well.  William Vogelzang told me a story about the time in the 1920s his father watched my great-grandfather ride past their store on the corner of Washington Avenue and 18th Street on his bike with a can of paint he purchased from another hardware dealer in downtown Holland "just to save 10 cents."  (The Vogelzangs eventually operated a hardware store there, too, on the corner of College Avenue and 8th Street.)  My great-grandfather never owned a car.

      Another gentleman, whose name I've forgotten, told me another story.  At 16th Street Christian Reformed Church  (CRC), on the corner of 16th Street and Maple Avenue, Henry assisted in helping raise money for Holland Christian School.  He'd go around asking for quarters.

      The late Gordon Spykman, religion professor at Calvin College, told me he taught catechism in 16th Street CRC when he was a young intern. My grandfather was the elder in charge of education.

      My parents told me yet another story about my great-grandfather. Even though he was a leader in the 16th Street CRC congregation, he used it jokingly claim it was acceptable to drink wine as long as it was Christian Brothers brand wine! I now understand why. It must have been good for his heart.

      When his church (16th Street) decided to relocate on the outskirts of town, near the new Holland Christian High school facility, Henry and Jennie, even though they were very social people, decided to join a church closer to their neighborhood.  They joined Maple Avenue Christian Reformed Church.  (Years later, wife and I attended Holland Christian High School.  Many years later we would attend church services in the same building.)

      In 1959, my birth year, Henry retired from the Holland Furniture Company, after working there for 47 years. He was 67 years old.

      In the early 1960s, I remember holiday celebrations on New Year's day.  Each of Henry's grandchildren would receive a can of smoked almonds that came in a box from California.

      In 1967, at age 75, Henry died in his sleep, the same year my grandfather Ralph died, also from a heart attack, at the young age of 53.  I was 8 years old.

      • Ralph VanderVeen and Gertrude Dekkinga married.  Gertrude gave birth to Ken.  Ken is my father.  As an adult, Ralph worked in the Wooden Shoe Factory for many years, then at Heinz as a electrician. Unfortunately, Ralph pass away at the young age of 53 (1967; I was 8 years old at the time.)  My grandmother, Gertrude, took a job at Heinz to help make ends meet. 

        •  Here is an abbreviated biography of my father, Ken VanderVeen:

THE Leader Next Door

From Michael Gerson's "The Power of Christmas."**

It is easy to downplay or domesticate the Christmas story. The whole thing smacks of squalor and desperation rather than romance — the teen mother, the last-choice accommodations, the company of livestock. Whether the birth was accompanied by angel choirs or not, it was certainly attended by buzzing flies.

If you ascribe eternal significance to these events, they are theologically and socially subversive. Rather than being a timeless Other, God somehow assumed the constraints of poverty and mortality. He was dependent on human care and vulnerable to human violence. The manger implied the beams and the nails. To many in the Roman world — and to many since — this seemed absurd, even blasphemous. Through eyes of faith, it appears differently. Novelist and minister Frederick Buechner sees the “ludicrous depths of self-humiliation [God] will descend in his wild pursuit of mankind.”

In the story, politics plays a marginal but horrifying role. King Herod perceived a vague threat to his power and responded with systematic infanticide.

But the incarnation has unavoidable social implications. If the deity was born as an outcast, it is impossible to view or treat outcasts in quite the same way. A God who fled as a refugee, preferred the company of fishermen and died as an accused criminal will influence our disposition toward refugees, the poor and those in prison. He is, said Dorothy Day, “disguised under every type of humanity that treads the earth.”

This birth and life had an entirely unpredictable historical outcome. The proud, well-armed empire that judicially murdered Jesus of Nazareth exists only as a series of archaeological digs. The man who was born in obscurity and died an apparent failure is viewed as a guide and friend by more than 2 billion people. Our culture — its history, laws and art — is unimaginable without his influence.
Which brings us back to the meaning of power. It is unavoidable for citizens to argue over the definition and limits of religious liberty. But Christian influence is not expressed in the grasping struggle for legal rights or political standing. It is found in demonstrating the radical values of the incarnation: Identifying with the vulnerable and dependent. Living for others. Trusting that hope, in the end, is more powerful than cunning or coercion. The author of this creed sought a different victory than politics brings — the kind that ends all selfish victories.

Or so the story goes. “The night deepens and grows still,” says Buechner, “and maybe the only sound is the birth cry, the little agony of new life coming alive, or maybe there is also the sound of legions of unseen voices raised in joy.”


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rebecca Currey

Seeking God 

by Carolyn Zander

Seek God and live. You don’t want to end up with nothing to show for your life but a pile of ashes, a house burned to the ground. God will send just such a fire, and the firefighters will show up too late (Amos 5:6, MSG). Rebecca Currey is seeking God and living.

During her time at Hope College, she was an architect and design intern with Haworth, a student consultant with CFL’s Student Consulting program, a sorority member, a director of  BeHope: The Rwanda Project, the Pull, mission trips, Dance Marathon and a woman whose heart was tugged by God in a deeper way her senior year. She graduated from Hope College in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management with Minors in Communication and Leadership.

She traveled to Rwanda for two weeks with BeHope. The team sought to restore hope to those affected by the genocide through seeking sustainable solutions to equip the people with skills, resources, community, support, and dignity. It was a picture of reconciliation for Rebecca.

“Why does the New York Times publish just a small side column paragraph about the genocide that affected so many people?” she asked. It’s easier to see the 1,000,000 orphans in Rwanda as a number in a paragraph rather than 1,000,000 individual kids who have a name and a story.

Rebecca was offered a job at OneHealth Solutions upon graduation. The idea of working at a start-up organization appealed to her, and she became the first employee! She works with corporations to help employees make healthier choices which results in lowered insurance costs and individuals leading healthier lives.

Once Rebecca joined City Life Church in January 2012, she began asking herself the difficult questions such as “If a non-believer did my job, would it look any different?” Rebecca realized it will cost her to be like Jesus, but it cost Him more.

Rebecca didn’t have a background in leading children’s ministry, but the City Life staff saw her leadership skills and love for children. They asked her to serve on the leadership team and as the Director of Children’s Ministry. Rebecca is also pursuing a M.A. in Ministerial Leadership at Wesley Seminary.
City Life is an inner-city church plant that shattered and changed Rebecca’s view of success. When Rebecca trains volunteers, she focuses on two goals which are to keep the kids safe and to make sure they feel loved.

At the end of the day, if the kids are both safe and loved, it’s a success. “The Gospel looks different when you interact with the least of these,” Rebecca shares.

One of the proudest moments in Rebecca’s life involves a family at City Life who adopted seven foster children, and is in the process of adopting their eighth child. One of the children who is seven-years-old and calls Rebecca her “best bud” was baptized this past Easter by her adopted father, who leads worship at the church.  What a beautiful picture of redemption!  It is such a beautiful picture of Rebecca’s story as well.  He adopted her into the family, and now she is working for the Kingdom.

Working for the Kingdom, Rebecca is seeking to find that thing. That thing that when people ask you what you are passionate about or what you care about, you point to that one particular issue such as human trafficking, homelessness, or adoption. She is envious of people who know what their thing is, but what she does know is that God is preparing her for ministry in many ways. Maybe, Rebecca’s thing is really just to seek God and live.  And maybe that is all any of us really need to know.

Chanda Miller

Leading Across the World 

by Olivia Volkmann

Throughout her life, Chanda Miller faced many challenges; one that continued for several years was the question on what she considered ‘home.’

Chanda Miller was born on October 23, 1947 in Hastings, Nebraska. She attended Hastings College in Nebraska. She met her husband, Russ, in college. Russ and Chanda’s relationship quickly turned into love, marrying their senior year spring break of 1969. Unfortunately, their honeymoon was cut short when Russ was called for leave to fight in the Vietnam War. With Russ gone, Chanda taught ninth grade English for a short period of time with a bachelor’s in English Education.

Two years after marriage, Russ and Chanda were blessed with their first and only child, Shawn. The new military family moved to South Dakota living on a military base. In 1972, Russ was finished with the military. He began working for a financial services company. Twelve years after graduation, marriage, and a son, that Chanda decided to go to law school. Although it was uncommon for women to go to law school, Chanda was accepted into the School of Law at the University of South Dakota in 1981, and graduated with her law degree in 1984.

After graduation, Dorthy Law Firm offered Chanda her first job as a lawyer. She worked for three years with Dorthy Law Firm, before the Miller’s left South Dakota to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1987.
In 1989, the Miller’s moved following Russ’s financial service company to Des Moines, Iowa. Chanda was more than pleased when she made a decision to combine her love for teaching and law. She was given the opportunity to be a full-time professor of law at Des Moines Area Community College teaching covering the many aspects of law. Life as she knew it was perfect. She had no preparation the night Russ came into the kitchen with the news moving across the country. After making the decision that would change their lives drastically, they were going to take on Indonesia, Asia for Russ’s company’s establishment.

Before moving, the company placed Chanda and Russ through language training. This became beneficial for Chanda, she said, “There is nothing more respectful than speaking their language as a foreigner even if you are learning. You are able to speak about differences, develop relationships, and become a part of something as a whole.”  With such an adjustment in the culture, language, and way of life, every day was something new. It was the job opportunity to be a part of the S.S.E.K Law Firm that Chanda found the answer to her prayers. Taking the position for the orientation foreigners, she improved young lawyers general skills and English. Through this job, she came to love Indonesia.

After three years, in 1998, Russ and Chanda moved to Beijing. Chanda was more than ready to take on the new challenge of adapting to a new lifestyle; however she was unable to continue teaching when her parents became ill. However, Russ was able to come back with Chanda, and commuted to China for ten years.
Chanda retired in 2001, moved back to Holland, Michigan, and took care of her parents and adjusted being with her newly married son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. In 2011, after thirty years working for the financial services company, Russ was able to start his own company, integrating American companies wanting to go international, and continuing to do so today.

Today, the Miller’s home is in Holland, Michigan. Since 2002, Chanda takes pride in Holland Teen Court as Teen Court Coordinator. Along with Teen Court, Chanda participates in bible studies, volunteers at her church, and contributes in local communication teams.

After having the chance to call so many places home, Chanda sees these past homes as acts of leadership, “recognizing needs and opportunities and viewing them as ways to serve,” is what living life as a leader represents. Ross and Chanda moved with life as it came. They were able to be complete foreigners and be leaders.

“A leader doesn’t sit back and wait, he or she is proactive and willing to be accountable. Being a foreigner I saw the difference in that Americans are less likely to take responsible for their actions. We need to look in the mirror and not think of other country’s system as wrong or right, but think of it as different or sometimes, better.”

Mike VanDoornik

Leading by Mentoring

by Evan Telzerow

Mike VanDoornik grew up in West Michigan. But he didn’t want to stay here.

As a child, since he was not very good at athletics, Mike thought he had to succeed in the classroom.
Mike attended Hope College.  He graduated from Hope in 1957 as an English major and went to Western Seminary right after and graduated there in 1960.  Mike chose seminary because the church valued music, it was affirmative, and he was blessed with being a good public speaker. Once he graduated, he found a job­-­-a job nowhere near Holland, Michigan.

The East Coast—New York and New Jersey—was his new home for the next 22 years.  There he went from country to city, rural to urban.  He preached in downtown New York City and was the associate there—nothing special he says.  Not preaching as much but still working within the church.

The first twenty years were difficult for him. Mike was always told he was a good preacher but he always felt he still needed to do better.  Growing up, Mike felt pressured to please his parents.  He was the kid who was into music not sports.  He worked very hard to please them in everything that he did but never had that affirmation from them.  So, as Mike was preaching, he felt he was never pleasing his Heavenly Father.  Truly by the grace and love of God, he was blessed to have a wonderful wife who loved him and cared for him and pushed him to go see a counselor.  Although he had mentors in college who were his professors, his counselor in New York City was a hero, a father figure, and a lifesaver.  He was so thoughtful and gentle and truly cared for him.  “He saved my life” Mike said.

After twenty-two years in New York and New Jersey, he headed back to the mitten and came to Holland.  He was the head pastor at Trinity for just over 10 years.  The previous pastor had wanted nothing to do with the remodeling of the church.  This was brought to his attention even before he was granted to position that it was his responsibility to bring back the issue to the congregation and start raising funds for the remodeling.
Once the church raised the money they started a whole new building instead of remodeling the old church.  With building the new church, they lost about 100 members.

Years after the new building was built, Mike started to clear his mind and focus on relationships and what role he was having on people’s lives.  Mike was always bad at memorizing names with faces until he started taking an initiative.  He was one of the head people of the church and he wanted to learn who his congregation was and know a little about their families.  Mike went from being mentored to mentoring.  Mike explained, “It was such a fulfilling time in my life.”

He grew by helping others grow.  He believes leaders lead by example and that we can do this no matter what position of leadership we are in. Back in West Michigan, Mike is taking his knowledge of leadership and Christ to those in Freedom Village by preaching once every few months and helping others grow.  He still seeks to lead by example.

Glenn Lowe


by Sara DelBene

A natural born leader, Glenn is accessible and genuine with his leading.  Glenn’s life was never quite mapped out, but in a sense each different leadership role fell into his lap.

As a child, Glenn was very independent and he always felt his calling was to be a leader, yet he felt he lived in his older brother’s shadow. One of Glenn’s major life events was his decision to go away to college.  Living in New Jersey, the choice for Glenn to go to college at Hope was an eye opening experience and helped mold him.  This gave Glenn the chance to step out of his older brother’s shadow and allowed him to be his own person.  Leaving everything familiar and everything he knew, Glenn did not have much of a choice except to become a leader in this new place where he knew no one.

His freshmen year at Hope was a bit of a challenge for him.  Although the first year was miserable for Glenn, he made a choice to no longer feel this way.  He saw no other option but to become a leader and to turn his experience around.  After college, Glenn had multiple jobs throughout his life journey, but learned valuable lessons from each job.

One of Glenn’s least favorite jobs taught him a very important lesson for his future jobs.  He learned he could not work somewhere he was not passionate about its work.  He also learned that he should always turn negative experiences into positive ones, which he believes to be part of his calling.  Through this job, Glenn learned that fundraising is something he truly believes in because he loves to provide resources to others that they cannot always attain for themselves.

On the other hand, his favorite job was so because of the people he worked with.  Glenn met multiple people that he viewed as admirable leaders.  Each one of these people he mentioned always had a strong sense of integrity.  Integrity, Glenn believes, is the most important quality a leader should have.

Not only did Glenn learn things from his least favorite and favorite jobs, he continues to learn things at his current job as a director of development at Resthaven.  He has learned from a fundraising perspective that relationships are extremely important.  Fundraising is conceptual, in that people cannot necessarily touch or see exactly what they are donating to.  In order to make a difference, Glenn’s job is to develop relationships and help people relate through personal experiences with his fundraising projects.

Glenn has learned that being passionate about what he is doing, loving his surroundings, and building relationships with others all are components that have made him into a successful leader over the years.  He continues to reinvent himself over his life journey.  As Glenn does this, he takes pieces from each experience in his life and turns them into positive aspects that he can learn from.

Judi Smit

Trusting in God’s Plan 

by Luisa Burgess

Judi Smit grew up in a non-Christian home.  One day Judi was invited to church by a friend.  While she was there she could tell that there was something bigger present.  This was her first experience of God.  For Judi, church was a whole new world.  It changed the way she viewed her life and she wanted to share it. Judi began to attend youth group and go to camp.  The first camp she attended took place at Hope College.  There she accepted and asked God in to her life for the first time.  Judi continued to attend different youth events.  She learned about God and showed her the diversity in His Kingdom.

Judi was married and she and her husband decided to start a family.  She had three sons.  The first one was healthy but the other two both had muscular dystrophy.  Her second son had a near death experience as a young boy and from there on Judi’s life changed significantly.  Judi had put her second son in a stroller and left him outside while she was doing some work inside.  While inside she heard a voice that told her to go outside.  Judi ran outside and her son had toppled forward in the stroller and was being suffocated by the tray on it. He was too weak to hold himself up.  By the time she got outside her son was already blue.  Luckily, her husband, who had always been a lifeguard for some reason, did CPR.  Meanwhile, Judi prayed in earnest.

Judi’s son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.  She became very angry and sad.  The question of why was always in her mind.  Why did this have to happen to her family? Why couldn’t they be normal? Why had God let this happen? Judi became very depressed and reached a point where she wasn’t sure if life was worth living.  This was a very scary realization for her.  But she wore a very good mask so that no one other than her husband knew about her struggles.  Judi finally decided to go and see her pastor.  When she got there she poured her heart out to him.  He made it clear to her that she was loved.  Judi had been slowly dying on the inside.  From that point on Judi began to make a change in her mentality.  She slowly began to accept what God had given her.  And she slowly learned that she needed to let God have all of the pieces of her.  The process of accepting her situation and growing was a long and tedious process.  From this Judi learned that God may give you roles that you do not want but you must come to terms with Gods will.

Years later, at a retreat, Judi heard a spiritual director speak. She began taking classes at the Dominican Center in Grand Rapids and has now finished and works as a spiritual director.  Judi immediately knew that that was what she was being called to.  Judi made it very clear that a spiritual director is not the same as a mentor.  The job of a spiritual director is to help others learn to seek out God through stillness, quiet and listening.  The focus is on God and listening to and relying on Him.

Throughout all the struggles and joys of her life Judi has focused on God.  By putting her trust in him she has been able to come to peace with all that he has given her.  Through God, Judi has been able to turn all of her struggles into joys.

Tiffany Lumley


by Lucas Rohrman

The life journey that we all must travel through isn’t easy. No one ever said it was going to be easy. If life were easy, it wouldn’t be so rewarding. The experiences we go through in life not only make us stronger as people, but they can also build our relationship with God. Tiffany’s life may have started out in the small town of Plymouth, Michigan but the impact that she has on others through her service is everlasting.

Helping others came naturally to Tiffany, this might have been a personal gift that came from God or from how she was brought up by her mother.  Every paycheck that Tiffany received, she would willingly split and send to her extended family in Mexico.  She knew that her family could use the money more than her and this filled her with joy as she sent them money.  A servants heart was being built up in Tiffany’s body day after day, the thought of serving others made Tiffany’s heart beat fast!

The love that Tiffany acquired for service began to show through her actions as she began to volunteer at many different events.  The smiles that she put on others faces kept her going whether the work was tough or easy.  Whenever certain situations began to get hard Tiffany would remember her family in Mexico, and what her mother had taught her growing up.  Hard conditions began to get easier and easier, soon Tiffany started to search for challenges that would make her stronger as a person.

After graduating high school, Tiffany began her college career at Hope College!  This was an exciting time of her life.  As the years went by in college Tiffany knew that she wanted to major in Psychology.  She really enjoyed being around people and trying to understand their actions and motives.  This trait was most likely brought on by volunteering at many different events through her high school years.

Tiffany also knew she wanted to study abroad.  She had heard so many good things about the life experience of study abroad in a new environment.  Tiffany thought that this would come naturally to her considering she was fluent in Spanish, and she had already experienced so much in her life.

Study abroad was soon over for Tiffany and she couldn’t have been happier.  But after talking with Tiffany about her experience in Argentina, she explained how it as was of the hardest but most fulfilling experiences of her life. Tiffany described how what she thought was going to be a fun-filled trip, turned into a life-long lesson on how to trust in God above all things. The trip was not as enjoyable as she wanted it to be, but she wouldn’t take it back in a million years.

Volunteer Core was known for taking in people based on their talents and desires, and placing them in an area that needed that expertise.  Tiffany’s gifts were needed in Seattle, Washington, and she was more excited than ever to make a difference.

One thing that bothered Tiffany about the move to Seattle was the thought of finding a church.  Tiffany had heard from others that there weren’t very many good churches in the area, and she knew that in order to stay connected with God she needed to find a great church.  After moving to Seattle, Tiffany found a church right away that she loved, and the people were so friendly and loving.  God had shown himself to Tiffany again and she knew her heavenly father had blessed her yet again for her trust in him.

The impact that Tiffany has on others through her volunteering and service has changed the lives of many people.  Tiffany tries to focus on individuals over big groups of people. The one-on-one atmosphere is so personal and moving that she believes it has a bigger impact on people.

Throughout her life, Tiffany experienced many difficult phases, but instead of falling to her challenges, she rose up against them.  This made Tiffany not only stronger as a person, but fortified her relationship with God.  Without God in her life, she wouldn’t be the woman she is today.  God has shown her so much through her life journey, and she knows it’s only the beginning.  Her trust in God will impact people.

Mari Wielopolski

A Not-So-Vanilla Life 

by Levi Adrianson

Going to public school in the South during the first year of forced integration, traveling the world working on product development for an international corporation, serving as Director of Private Brands for the fourth largest food distributor in America – it sounds very exciting right?  Not according to Mari Wielopolski who describes her life as being “quite vanilla.”  This is my summary of her not-so-vanilla life.

Mari was born to John and Esther Kroon on October 14, 1955.  She grew up in a Christian Reformed family in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and went to a Christian school.  The past two sentences are where any form of vanilla in Mari’s life vanishes.  At the age of 12, her dad was transferred to Myrtle Beach which was in cultural turmoil during the first year of forced integration in schools.  Entering a public school for the first time under such circumstances was quite a shock for Mari.  Mari and her family were looked down upon for having different views and even at such a young age she recognized the challenge of breaking society’s norms. After a year, Mari’s father was recalled to Grand Rapids where she finished high school.

Deciding on a college was not difficult for Mari.  From 1974 to 1977, Mari attended Hope after falling in love with the school during “senior skip Fridays” with a friend.  Mari loved being with her friends, with whom she created a pseudo-sorority called the Sigma Phi Nothings, and also played the organ.  She graduated in only three and a half years with a double major in Economics and Business and a minor in French.
In 1977, Mari began working for Gordon Food Service while finishing her Master’s degree at GVSU.  After three years at GFS, she moved to Amway to work in the exciting area of international marketing.  She traveled the world overseeing new global product development.  While working at Amway, she met her future husband and began to look for work near him in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In 1987, she married Rick Wielopolski and became senior VP of sales and marketing at Awrey Bakeries. 
She faced the most difficult change in her life when the owner’s daughter committed suicide, and Mari was placed in her previous position.   Not only was she forced to go out and assure customers that it was not a reflection of the business, but she also had to find the internal resolve to stay strong at work.  Despite wrestling with all her personal and work issues, she did not fall apart.  Instead, she said, “I stayed positive and focused on what I could control.”

Starting in 2004, she began working for GFS again and was promoted to Director of Private Brands in 2006.  Mari is responsible for their seventeen private brands which are different from GFS’s national brands.  In the extremely competitive food service industry, Mari’s job is to develop innovative ideas that will set GFS apart from the rest of the industry.  Her biggest and most recent project was re-launching GFS Services brand.

Mari was incredibly surprised when they approached her with this project.  She had no previous experience with the area but was determined to do a great job.  Mari felt quite overwhelmed with the process saying, “I was just so lost.  The only thing I could do was listen to others who knew better than me.”

Mari’s Project Process
  1. Conducted deep analysis of the current offering across multiple departments
  2. Directed small group brainstorming sessions
  3. Met with sales teams to test possible ideas
  4. Implemented viable ideas in time for the GFS spring food show
The spring show was a huge success as her booth was flooded with people excited to learn more about GFS.  Mari does not know if GFS will approach her with another large opportunity, but she was very appreciative that she was given this one.

Although Mari claims to have lived a vanilla life, her life, a not-so-vanilla life, can be characterized by her words of advice, “Be open! Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  Take risks!  Have fun!”

Carol Fritz

Mama Fritz 
by Payton Carty

Carol Fritz is better known as Carol.  Just one minute with her makes one feel at ease.  She is confident, personable, and loving.  Carol is someone that is able to adapt to change, love on people, and believe it’s going to work out.

Carol has been working at Hope for the past 20 years. Not only does she work here, but her husband is the Head Baseball coach.  Hope’s power couple!  She works in the Admissions office and is part of the Integrated Marketing Team. Why does she love the admissions position?  She never meets the same people.
Being part of constant change and constantly meeting new faces brings her joy.  And the Integrated Marketing position?  It allows her creativity to come to life.

While her career has been a huge part of her life, her family is what is very dear to her heart.  Her and her husband have a son, Tucker, who is 14 years old.  Although she has only one son, she has thirty other boys she takes care of: the Hope College Baseball Team. She has made it a top priority to be accessible to the boys of the team.  One player, Ben Pearson, a junior, has her number saved in his phone as “Mama Fritz”.
Carol attended Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Wartburg wasn’t her first pick, but after some minor bumps in the road she ultimately made the decision to go there. As a psychology major at Wartburg, she studied hard.  She also met her future husband in college. Maybe Wartburg wasn’t her first choice, but it led her heart to find the love of her life, Stu Fritz.

After college she knew she wanted to marry Stu, however she chose to live by herself for a year.  This is where she learned who she was and it ultimately made her realize her love for Stu was real.  In the end she was confident when she said, “I do”, and knew if something ever happened she could be okay on her own. She grew as an individual first which in return helped her grow in her relationship with Stu.

Carol is so caring to others; she is a great leader and motivates those around her.  She makes an impact, and sometimes you can’t explain why: you just know.

Jonathan Hagood

The Architect, The Teacher, and The Leader 
by Zach Van Wyk

Professor Jonathan Hagood parents were missionaries so he spent his childhood years in Costa Rica and Chile.  At age 9 he accepted Christ into his life.
In college, Professor Hagood studied to be an architect.  After college he discovered he really didn’t enjoy what he was doing.  His wife noticed that he wasn’t happy and told him to do something different.

So he tried IT consulting, but didn’t enjoy that as much as he would have liked.  His wife then encouraged him to teach architecture.  He wasn’t sure about architecture but knew he loved history.  Hagood was always interested in history and traveling was his passion, so teaching history gave him the chance to do what he loved.

Teaching became the thing that Professor Hagood wanted to do.  He had an interview with Hope College as well as two other small liberal arts colleges.  In much prayer with his family he decided that the Hope community would be a better fit. The rest is history!

A Christian college gives Professor Hagood the opportunity to grow in his faith as well as give him the opportunity to encourage and integrate faith into his teaching.  Hope allows him to live in a Christian Community where he can talk with his colleagues about Christ and be open to discuss it in class.

John Buttrey

Love You Can See 
by Paige Fawcett

John Buttrey sees God every day. Whether it’s a rainbow, sunlight reflecting off the surface of the water, a child’s laughter, a good conversation with a friend- John see’s God in the natural world. Growing up, John saw God in the natural beauty of creation. However, after reading a book while at college by Martin Buber, a Jewish Rabbi, John learned that God can also be found in relationships. Wherever there is an exchange of trust, respect, understanding and acceptance, God is present. This belief sparked John’s passion that would permeate every aspect of his life from then on- people.

In speaking with John, it’s obvious to see that his passion is people. He believes in pursuing respectful and loving relationships with all people in order to seek and honor God. John, like God, does not discriminate. John finds joy in people’s differences and uniqueness and is continually reaching out in unexpected ways to love others and form meaningful relationships with people whom may be different than him.
Professionally, John exemplifies this passion. While John is a retired pastor of the United Church of Christ, he never excludes others who follow different walks of life or faith. The United Church of Christ is known for being open and accepting of new ideas, but John stepped up and did things that were unheard of in the 1960’s. John helped organize a Good Friday service with his church along with the members of one of the Lutheran Churches and the Catholic Church. While these three different sects are so different, they were all able to come together for one service and worship God together as Christians. Also, John was placed in the position where he, as a Protestant preacher, was asked to speak and organize a wedding along with a Catholic priest in a Catholic church. While some people may question this kind of integration, John thinks nothing of it. John has an immense love for others, and he truly exuded this love throughout his life.

In 1994, John’s church went through a movement to become “open and affirming.” This meant that everyone was welcome, regardless of one’s age, gender, race, age, sexual orientation or mental ability. This movement was voted on by the congregation and passed by a margin of 88%. This movement introduced big changes within the church, but in the best way possible. Whenever John was criticized for welcoming such types of people into his church, John would turn around and ask the nay-sayers why they felt these people should be turned away. The Bible talks about homosexuality in seven different passages, yet talks about reaching out and loving others in over 400 passages… which issue do you think God wants us to pay more attention to?
This “issue” of disagreement between church members became a nonissue, as the people who were truly against this change left and new members began increasing quickly once they heard about this church being “open and affirming” to all. John continued to open his doors to all walks of life and invite guests from other faiths to come and speak at his church as well. John continued to create loving and meaningful relationships with all types of people, because that’s where John believed God was present.

After retiring in 2002, John continues to stay active within the community and surrounding churches, and John continues to live out his passion of loving and including others. John seeks God in the natural world, by seeing his work in nature and the great outdoors. John’s actions continue to be a natural presence of God- John’s actions are a way for others to see God’s love.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Camden Brieden

Thomas Friedman says the world is getting flat.  From 1492 to 1800 countries went global.  From 1800 to 2000 companies went global.  Now individuals are going global. What does that mean?  We live in a networked world.  More and more information is available for free.  There are more and more opportunities for entrepreneurs--the people who can do things with ideas.  Maybe an example will suffice.  Let’s listen to Camden Brieden’s story.

“At age 15, I was intrigued by the stock market and the stories of entrepreneurial companies.  When my father allowed me access to my college fund, I used the money to help me learn the basics of doing research and stock trading.  Soon I experienced the adrenaline rush of making and losing money in a short amount of time.

“After making some lucky bets on Ebay and Starbucks, I was eager to learn more.  I devoured book after book, learning everything I could about market indicators and how to evaluate a company within an industry.  My infatuation for the market led to day trading and then to options trading.

“During my freshman year at Hope College, I became consumed by the market.  The stress of trading began to affect my studies and I was unable to focus on pursuing my long-term goal of getting into medical school.  I liquidated my portfolio and dreamed of investing in a local company with some of the proceeds.  I wanted to find a company to invest in that would combine my passions for business and medicine.
“To pursue my dream, I began attending networking events. I met my first business partner, Phillip March, at a networking event sponsored by Lakeshore Advantage.  At that time, Phillip was CEO and lead engineer of DO-Engineering, a medical device firm located in Zeeland.  Phillip and I exchanged business cards and a few days later exchanged ideas.

“One of his ideas was a non-evasive DVT pump to help protect people from blood clots of the legs.  Another idea was completely unrelated to medicine, yet also on the forefront of a technology-related trend.  Phillip wanted to pursue alternative energy by building Michigan’s largest wood pellet plant.  Because I had learned how to do research in my stock-trading days, I was able to perform the necessary due diligence.  I learned that wood pellets can be used for heating residential homes and businesses, creating savings on heating bills of up to 50%.  Wood pellets are made from the waste of managed forests and land clearings, and excess saw dust from lumber yards and saw mills.

“After obtaining a loan, we moved forward in selecting a location in Holland and procuring the necessary equipment.  I was 19 years old when we started Michigan Wood Pellet Fuel, LLC.  It took us 12 months to build Michigan’s largest wood pellet manufacturing facility, capable of producing over 70,000 tons of wood pellets annually. I was involved with managing the operations of the company, drafting financial projections, hiring employees, creating a sales team and marketing strategy, assisting certain building and contracting projects, and developing partnering strategies.

“In pursuit of our partnering strategy, I invited executives from a German company that was planning to build several wood pellet plants across the USA.  They were very pleased with the quality of the plant and offered to purchase the entire company. I think I learned as much from selling the company as I did from starting and building one.

As more and more individuals get connected into a single global network, we have to adjust our thinking.  Forget about attracting countries and companies.  Think about attracting, educating, and retaining creative and collaborative individuals.