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Rev. George Heartwell, mayor of Grand Rapids, Mich., recently talked with students and staff of Calvin Theological Seminary about his leadership journey and his work with churches and community organizations.

Heartwell told the story of his unlikely journey from successful mortgage broker to pastor to politician.

He was on a safe and secure career track in the financial world when he went to Haiti on a mission trip that changed his life. After finishing seminary, Heartwell took a position at Heartside Ministry, an organization that serves homeless people in the core of Grand Rapids. Eventually, he became a city commissioner and has been mayor of Grand Rapids for the past five years.

Asked to evaluate the impact of the church on the city of Grand Rapids, Heartwell spoke passionately about the church’s ministry of mercy, manifested by a host of food pantries, ministries for the homeless, and volunteerism in scores of nonprofit organizations committed to addressing the needs of the poor.

At the same time, he challenged the church to be more passionate in its call for justice, to confront those in power—including the mayor—to seek justice for all, and especially to advocate for the most vulnerable members of society.

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