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Drive around the small western Michigan community of Byron Center these days, and you’re likely to see wooden signs in people’s front yards featuring a cross, the word “hope” and the numbers “3:16.”

The signs are a mark of Project Hope 3:16, an effort by Heritage Christian Reformed Church in Byron Center, to encourage people and point them to God during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The idea for the project came in early March, as church services and other activities were being canceled. Youth pastor Kevin Van Wyhe was looking for something to keep students in the church’s youth program engaged as they were limited in meeting together.

“I’m used to doing mission trips where you’re always doing stuff side by side, hand in hand, and here we had to think, ‘What could we do in our community to shed some hope and point people toward God?’”

It was then that the idea of creating signs came about, and the word “hope” and the numbers “3:16” came to mind, referring to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“It didn’t require any kind of togetherness to do, but it was something we could do together,” Van Wyhe said.

Van Wyhe created the template for the signs and cuts about 50 signs a week. About 80 percent of the signs are pre-painted, but he also left other signs blank.

“We put it to the congregation and said take one for your yard, to encourage hope, and take one for encouraging students to paint on their own, to create their own designs,” Van Wyhe said.

Word spread about the campaign throughout the community and even outside Byron Center. Some have driven up to 30 miles to pick up a sign for their yard. A United Parcel Service delivery driver saw the signs around Byron Center one day and stopped by the church. “He asked to take one and tape it to his UPS truck,” Van Wyhe said.

As of April 23, about 500 signs had been created, and Van Wyhe planned to continue making more as people in Byron Center follow stay-at-home orders from Michigan state officials.

You can find out more about Project Hope 3:16 with the hashtag #projecthope316 on Facebook.

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