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West Michigan Churches Warm Benton Harbor


The efforts of one Christian Reformed woman have helped to bring warmth to hundreds of people in one of southwest Michigan’s most impoverished cities this winter.

Vernon “Tokyo” Guidry helps to unload donated blankets for Forefront Ministries in Benton Harbor, Mich.

(Photo by Denny Bull)

The Warming Benton Harbor blanket drive, begun by Kathy Bull, a member of Gateway CRC in Zeeland, Mich., netted roughly 800 new and used blankets.

The blankets were distributed by Forefront Ministry, a house ministry in inner-city Benton Harbor run by Kathy’s son, Rev. Nate Bull. Since many in the area live without permanent housing or in homes without insulation, the blankets satisfy a real need, Nate said.

“It was a wonderful way to get people into that ministry house,” said Kathy.

“Material goods, if used properly, can help strengthen relationships,” explained Nate, who leads weekly Bible studies at the house. Kathy said, “In order to get into people’s lives you need to fulfill a need. The fulfilling of the need is not the goal. It’s the hook. Then you can share the good news.”

The Warming Benton Harbor effort began one day in October 2011 when Kathy was handing out disaster relief blankets at the Benton Harbor ministry and ended up one blanket short. This experience convicted her to do more for those struggling to stay warm.

Kathy decided to ask her fellow church members for their extra blankets, believing that even her small church could collect 100. She then felt the Spirit leading her to increase the goal to 500. She enlisted the help of other Holland CRCs, including Harderwyk, Calvary, and Fourteenth Street.

What Gateway CRC ended up collecting from churches, businesses, and individuals “was beyond what we could imagine,” Kathy said.

She hopes that others will also use their personal connections: “My prayer is that the warming of a city does not stop with Benton Harbor but that someone reads [this] and says, ‘We could warm Grand Rapids. We could warm Flint.’”

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