As the director of the Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Race Relations, I am a product of many answered prayers. Prayer helped mold me for leadership in my early days at Lawndale CRC in Chicago. Prayer supported me as I furthered my preparation for ministry at Calvin Theological Seminary. Prayer sustained me in ministry at Northside Community Church in Paterson, N.J., and in Grand Rapids, Mich., and it continues to sustain me today. Prayer has kept me going because I believe in new beginnings.
I’d like to share with you a recent experience of how God answered prayers for Roosevelt Park CRC in Grand Rapids. As the head pastor, I welcomed the church’s birth in 1994 and presided over its closing in 2015. Within its 20-year lifespan, the church building had seen worship services, baptisms, weddings, and funerals. What would God do with it now that the congregation was disbanding? The members of Roosevelt Park prayed that the Lord would find a suitable occupant with a Spirit-led purpose.
When the final, festive service of Roosevelt Park CRC took place July 26, 2015, I feared the building would sit vacant for a long time. Who wants to buy a 60-year-old church building on the southwest side of Grand Rapids? Apparently, the Lord had other things in mind. There were other people whose hearts and minds had already been dreaming and praying about expansion and growth. The Potter’s House Christian School, next door to the church, had caught a vision. Hearing the church was up for sale, the school supporters believed their prayers for additional space were being answered. And the very next day, the school asked to buy the property.
Fast-forward four years to Oct. 20, 2019: The old church building of Roosevelt Park CRC, originally built for Grandville Avenue CRC, was officially renamed The Potter’s House Chapel. With a joyful open house event, we welcomed old members, school families, and supporters to see the church’s new look. I greeted members who thanked the Lord that their prayers were continuing to be answered as the church was still an anchor in the neighborhood, where 78% of the residents are Latino.
I saw the joy on the faces of people who remembered their baptisms many years earlier. I recalled many children’s and youth ministries, from hip-hop services to holiday plays to professions of faith. I heard the stories of God’s grace and faithfulness through a combined 200-plus years of ministry.
Yes, I am a product of many answered prayers, and I continue to reap the fruits of it five years, 10 years, and even many more years after the initial requests.