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Seldom do I read The Banner and come away greatly blessed and encouraged, but with the March 2010 issue I certainly did. Several articles were just great, among them “Studying the Belhar in Iowa,” “The Journey of Grief,” and the piece to be framed by all of us: “Our Great Treasures.” The piece on “True Confessions” was pretty good also.

Keep up this kind of work, and I will read with much anticipation.

—George McGuire
Springville, Ala.

Thank you for “Decoding Our Good News” (February 2010). So often I find myself caught up in jargon when explaining the gospel. This was brought home to me in our GEMS club, when, after a particularly moving time of worship, one little girl came up to me and asked in a concerned tone, “I’d like to let Jesus into my heart, but if I do, will he be able to get out again?” Bryan Berghoef’s article “How (Not) to Talk About God” was also a great reminder. Like the apostle Paul, we need to “become all things to all people, that some might be saved” (1 Cor. 9:22).

—Valerie Van Kooten
Pella, Iowa

In his excellent article “Be Perfect?” (February 2010), Shiao Chong gives us the kind of helpful insight into the Scriptures that we need more of. For many of us, the Bible contains lots of passages that are hard to understand. Well-trained, clear-headed ministers can help a lot. Thank you.

—W.S. Vanderploeg
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Invisible Disability

As the parent of an adopted FASD child, I feel compelled to respond to Joan Rinker’s article on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (“An Invisible Disability,” February 2010).

Rinker described my son perfectly. However, as sad and grief-laden as the article is, my story has a lovely twist: God placed my son into my life to teach me some priceless lessons through the horrific effects of FASD. Through my son, I learned not only to lean on God like never before, but above all discovered the unconditional love God has for each one of us—even during the years I was blamed for nearly all my son’s troubles. My son is a gift from above, but I need my heart near God’s to carry on.

—Theresa Bakker
Townsend, Ontario

I am an obstetrician with subspecialty training in maternal-fetal medicine and complicated pregnancies. That training was at Wayne State University, which has done long-term research into FASD. While it would seem common sense to avoid all alcohol during pregnancy, no science suggests that small amounts can cause injury to fetuses. To suggest otherwise puts undue burden on those who have special-needs kids and who had an occasional drink during pregnancy.

—Dr. Russ Jelsema
Grand Rapids, Mich.

In all my work in child welfare, alcohol was the consistent part of the picture—

I estimated it to be in at least 90 percent of the cases. More sophisticated measures today cite 90 percent of cases as stemming from all forms of addiction, but alcohol is still believed to be the leading cause of family breakdown. And generally other drugs don’t cause permanent damage the way alcohol consumption does. Even a small dent in these numbers would be great and well worth the cost.

 —Jake Terpstra
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Peace Talks

I was heartened to read that both the CRC and the Mennonites agreed on a Remembrance Day service that focuses on all war dead, rather than on only those who have died in military service (“CRC, Mennonites Discuss War and Peace,” February 2010).

According to Johns Hopkins University, the Iraq war has caused the deaths of more than 500,000 children. And that figure does not include the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Americans—men, women, and children—who have been injured and psychologically traumatized.

—Dave Thomas
Paterson, N.J.

Hair Reformers

I would like to tell you the story of “Calvin’s: The Hair Reformers,” whose sign was featured in Punch Lines in the February Banner. Phil, the owner, said that as he considered options for the name, he thought of his beloved dog, Calvin. Knowing the history of John Calvin, he thought of the word Reformed and made the connection to hair.

On a side note, I was puzzled by the following comment with the photo: “[They] spotted this sign in—of all places—Bozeman, Mont.” There are four Christian Reformed churches in the valley and dozens of other churches here as well. I’m not sure why it would be such a surprise to see a sign like this here, but as they say, Montana is the “last best place” of all places.

—Anne Kingma
Manhattan, Mont.

Neglected Training

Christian Reformed World Missions' vision "to walk alongside local congregations" can't happen unless the churches also want that ("Ministry Shares Promote Missions," p. 29, January 2010). The attendance at all three missions-training conferences I attended was atrociously low. CRWM and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee are sending out staff to lead full-day gatherings, but apparently the churches don't see the worth. Encouraging speakers go unheard; excellent workshops, unattended. In my experience, only well-prepared short-term missions teams should be sent out, so come and get training! Delegate deacons and mission committees to attend. See the online schedule at, under Resources: Missions Education & Engagement.

—Rev. Lou Wagenveld
(retired missionary pastor)
Grand Rapids, Mich.