West Michigan Church Ministers in Big Apple

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Volunteering at a homeless shelter. Serving food in a soup kitchen. Tutoring kids during an afterschool program at an Arab-American school.

This is how some members of Alive Ministries, a Christian Reformed congregation in Jenison, Mich., expressed their faith during a recent intergenerational mission trip to New York City.

A total of 35 people ranging in age from high schoolers to late 50s took part in the weeklong experience dubbed “Alive in NY.” For many participants, it was a life-changing experience that strengthened their faith and gave them a vision of how they can minister in their own community.

“We all came in with some preconceived notions of what homelessness in New York City was going to look like, and I think by the end of the week we had a different image of what it actually was,” said Aaron Bainbridge, a recent college graduate.

For Jana Vander Laan, who was joined on the trip by her 15-year-old son, Trenton, it was her first mission trip. She came away inspired by the people she met who work in the shelters and soup kitchens.

“They get up and do this day after day after day because they love the people of New York,” Vander Laan said. “They love their communities that they work in. They have such a big heart for every single person.”

This is the third intergenerational mission trip Alive has put together. According to Carrie Rodgers, the church’s college and young adult discipleship director, these experiences provide rich opportunities that might not be found in a similar experience limited to high school or college students.

“The depth of conversation, of life experience, of faith journeys, can all come together in a way where everyone is getting to learn from each other, be inspired by one another, and be challenged by one another,” Rodgers said.

College student Danielle Paquette, who also was on a mission trip for the first time, said the experience opened her eyes to similar needs back home. “It helped us realize we can love our neighbor, no matter where we are, and we can translate that back into our own community,” she said.

About the Author

Greg Chandler is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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