Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Guest Post from Board Member, Deb Blacquiere

I can hardly believe that my time on Heartside Ministry's Board is coming to an end in December. The past 6 years have been full of learning experiences, eye-opening presentations, and stressful-yet-exciting decisions. While I may have been a mere "numbers person" and joined the Board to further my career, I quickly realized that was not the reason why I continued to serve on the Board. And I will continue to do so until the bylaws force me out in December!

As a fellow board member would say, "we've come a long way, baby!" and I'm so thrilled to have been even a very small part of the immense positive change that this Ministry has and continues to make in our wonderful downtown of Grand Rapids. I love our city, I love our people, and I love that this ministry focuses on the internal needs of the spirit and soul - giving them the power, confidence and tools to succeed and grow.

If anyone is or may be interested in volunteering their time and talents to this Board, I would highly encourage it. This was my first Board experience and yet I felt appreciated and essential to the team. Please let me know if you have any interest as I'd love to chat with you about it!

If you have never heard of or want to know more about the Ministry, check out the website at or watch the below video for a tour! (in person tours available as well, message me or our hard working Chief Executive Director Rev. Andy DeBraber to set something up!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Loving Our Neighbors

Hopelessness stands at our door here every afternoon when we close.
And every morning when we open, hopelessness returns.

Dear Friends,
As much as we wish that would change overnight, we know that growth is often slow and steady. We know this in our own lives. Sometimes the way we grow is two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes it is even one step forward, two steps back. And every once in awhile we take a big leap.

The director of a partner agency we work with recently wrote on Facebook:

Many times the people we work with are their own worst enemies. Their choosing            mechanisms are "broken" or impaired and they are not able to make good choices. Today, we had the opportunity to move two men out of a horrible living situation and into better housing, but they are choosing to stay where they are because they are used to it.

For many of us, this is hard to fathom. When a choice is presented that would, from our perspective, obviously make life better, why would people choose otherwise?

Just this week, a woman came to talk with me about how she was abused over the weekend while sleeping under a bridge. She is someone we have helped twice in the past year and a half to get into housing. But once housed, she makes these "broken" choices that get her evicted. She was honest about her mistakes in losing her most recent housing. "It was stupid," she said, "I know."

Growth. Slow growth - honesty. She used to blame someone else for her problems. Now she takes responsibility. So she comes back to ask for help again, hoping as much as we do that it sticks this time.

We talked. We prayed. And then she went to our Fiber Arts Studio to knit her life back together again.

"You know, Heartside Ministry is my safe space in all of this," she said.

That's what you, our supporters, do here at Heartside Ministry every day.

You create that safe space for the man who comes to me every few weeks telling me outlandish stories about "the Yellows" who are out to get him. In the middle of telling me about these aliens, he also tells some profoundly prophetic truths about the injustices of our world and the value -- or lack of value -- we place on certain people because of the way they look or act or the skin they were born into. And then he goes into the computer lab to write his friends and look for an apartment.

You also make life better for the woman who will likely never get a job because of mental illness. She lives in a group home and comes to Heartside nearly every day. She's long been an artist with us, creating watercolors that are at times whimsical and at times incisive.

This past year she joined our literacy class. She was as faithful in class as the day is long. She worked hard at it. She barely passed at the end. Most measurements of "success" would track whether she got a job or started working toward her GED. No, she didn’t. And she won’t. But was her life improved because now she can read at a slightly higher level? Yes. Are we as a society better off because she can read at a slightly higher level -- and feels better about herself as a person? Yes!

What you provide each day here at Heartside Ministry is a place where people can grow through education, art, advocacy, faith, and hospitality. You indeed create the environment where people can blossom. And where people do blossom.

Yet you also hold a space here for those dormant periods, those times when the bulb is in the ground and there is no evidence of growth, those times when the field is left fallow. This is the safe place, the sanctuary, where people know they can come and be welcomed even when they are not where they want to be, even when they know they are making "broken" choices, even when no one else will welcome them in.

In many ways, we are the end of the line for our neighbors. They have burned most other bridges. In order to continue as a place of radical hospitality for all people, we need you. We need you and your love of our neighbors here. We need you to provide hope and keep hopelessness at bay.

Please take a moment right now and Donate and help to extend hope and
healing to our neighbors in their moments of growth as well as moments of “broken” choices.

And then hold us and our neighbors in your thoughts and prayers. Because sometimes grace does break through in amazing ways.

In deep gratitude,

PS: You might have heard… we have a new project on our hands! Acting on our strategic plan, Heartside Ministry has secured a new facility that will better serve our neighbors, both in the present and in the long-term. You will be hearing more from me in the coming months about how you can help. In the meantime, we really need your support this summer.