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Michigan Congregation Stumbled Into Furniture Ministry


Bob Storteboom recently retired from coordinating a ministry that he almost accidentally started more than 20 years ago. Storteboom had just started as a diaconal ministry coordinator at Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Mich., in 2002, when he got a request from a fellow church member.

“One of the ladies in our church said, ‘My son just moved out. I want a sewing room. I’ve got a whole set of furniture for a bedroom I need to get rid of. Can you take that for me?’” Storteboom recalled.

Storteboom took the woman’s donation, but at the time didn’t know of anyone that could use the bedroom set. About a week later, though, he got a phone call from the pastor of a nearby church, who had just visited a single mother and her son who were sleeping on the couch and floor of their home. The pastor asked if Storteboom could find them a bed.

“I said, ‘Yeah. When would you like it delivered?’” Storteboom said.

Storteboom shared the story of the donation and finding a new home for the bedroom furniture during a commissioning worship service, and after it was over, four more people came up to him, offering to donate their unused furniture. About 140 items found new homes during the first year of Covenant’s fledgling furniture ministry. Four years later, that number grew to more than 1,000 items.

Now more than two decades later, Covenant’s furniture ministry has provided more than 53,000 pieces of furniture and household goods to people in need, including more than 4,500 items last year that were distributed to 552 people. They now work with social service agencies to coordinate deliveries.

Kari Plaisier, the new ministry coordinator, stepped in after Storteboom retired. The ministry has about 30 active volunteers, and other churches in the area have partnered with Covenant to help with distribution. Another 30 people pray for the ministry every month.

“It’s made people who would never participate in church excited,” said Jeff Vanderhooft, who became Covenant’s pastor almost a year ago. “This is something they can do. They can lift furniture. They can organize it in our shed. They can donate.”

In addition to the furniture distribution, the ministry at Covenant offers Bibles to its clients, including in Spanish and large print, and volunteers offer to pray with them as well.

About 130 clients received Bibles last year through the ministry, and another 79 people asked for prayer, Storteboom said.

During the recent Christmas season, the furniture ministry worked with deacons at Covenant to collect donations of household items to distribute as Christmas gifts to people who have been helped through the ministry.

Donations of all new pots and pan sets, bedding, utensils, toasters, and coffee makers crowded a Christmas tree in the church’s narthex to bless the families with whom Covenant had made a connection.

The ministry has also helped to attract new members to Covenant. One such person, who had come to the United States from the African nation of Burundi, saw a truck with the ministry name on it and not only started going to church at Covenant because of the church’s outreach, but was inspired to launch his own ministry to serve people in his native country.

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