A 10-year-old boy’s life was tragically cut short on the rainy night of November 2. Daniel Sluiter was walking home from family night activities at Westwood Christian Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Mich., where he had been attending the Cadet boys’ club.
Daniel was with his brother and two friends when he ran across the road and was struck by a car at around 8:05 p.m. Police indicated that the 52-year-old driver was not under the influence of any substance.
A Cadet leader happened upon the scene just after it took place and notified church leaders. Mike Koetje, the pastor at Westwood, said that he, the youth director, and the Cadet coordinator went to the hospital to minister to the family.
The Sluiters do not attend Westwood Church, but the congregation showed immediate support through prayer, time, finances, and counsel.
The accident reminded Westwood’s children and youth ministry leaders just how much of an impact they have on the kids’ lives. “It [was] impressed upon us to pause and see how life is so brief,” Koetje said. “And our interactions do matter in whatever way we are able to bring Jesus to others.”
In the last couple of years, Daniel’s dad, Walter Sluiter, began bringing his sons to a local church on Sundays and Tree of Life School in Kalamazoo. Daniel had been heading down a troubling path and dealt with anger issues. “He came so far at [school]. This was the year he was doing academically beautifully and was spiritually very solid in his beliefs,” Walter said.
The night of the accident was just the third week that Daniel attended Westwood Cadets. “He loved it there. He was eager to go,” Walter said. “His last words to me were ‘We’re leaving to set up the tables [for the dinner], Dad.’ He wasn’t just going for the food or the dodgeball.”
Koetje was impacted by Tree of Life’s influence on Daniel's life and the brief time that those at Westwood were able to love and minister to him. “It’s just so clear that when Jesus says to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ that really implies not just a global neighbor, but actual people in your local community or neighborhood,” Koetje said. “People you can rub shoulders with, interact with, and build a relationship with, modeling Jesus Christ with actions and words.”
Westwood CRC hosted the funeral service on Monday, November 7. Family, friends, classmates, teachers, first responders, and strangers alike filled the pews to celebrate his life. Sluiter finds comfort in the fact that Daniel had accepted Jesus in his heart and chose to be baptized last summer. “I know where he is now,” Walter said.