Michigan Church Responds to Local Violence

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More than 80 people from the area around Coit Community Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., recently pledged to do what was in their power to curb violence in their community.

Participants in the “Stop the Violence” breakfast wear green bandanas in solidarity with women who have lost children or grandchildren to gun violence.

It happened at an awareness-raising “Stop the Violence” pancake breakfast hosted by several men from the church.

A member of the Coit Community youth group was recently shot in the stomach a few blocks from the church, and another who grew up at the church is incarcerated at the Kent County Jail facing murder charges.

“[The violence] motivates men to get on the front line to do what we can in a prevention ministry,” said pastor Jerome Burton. “Only God’s gospel can change hearts, but we are agents of reconciliation.”

The breakfast was a partnership with several local churches and organizations, including Mothers on a Mission and Ridgewood CRC in Jenison, Mich. Mothers on a Mission is a group of parents and grandparents who have lost children to gun violence in Grand Rapids.

Participants were invited to sign their name to a large poster committing to join the movement. Everyone was encouraged to keep a porch light lit at all times as a testimony and measure of crime prevention.

Event organizers Chuck Skala and William Lugrand emphasized that this is not just a one-time event for awareness-raising. They are now conscious of the ways their Cadets boys’ program can provide positive role models to youth.

Burton pointed to Skala and Lugrand as leaders and fathers in the congregation and models for youth. “They need to lead younger men, calling them to account. We need older men teaching younger men how to be men,” said Burton. Skala and Lugrand now lead a Bible study for 14 men on Thursday evenings.

“The breakfast was great,” concluded Lugrand, “It will become a regular thing.”

About the Author

Noah Kruis is the Banner's regional news correspondent for classes Grand Rapids East and Grand Rapids North.

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