Today marks exactly one year since we arrived in Grand Rapids to start this new adventure. As I look back the Lord has truly blessed us. Earlier this week, I wrote a letter to the congregation at Faith CRC in Sioux Center recapping God’s work in our lives this past year. I share that same letter (slightly revised) with you here, and thank God for all of you too. Thank you for your prayers and support – we have felt and needed them and continue to need them. To please consider this our thanks to God for all of you:
Today is exactly one year ago that our family said goodbye to many of you and made the 700 mile journey to Grand Rapids driving a minivan and a 26-foot Penske truck loaded with all of our worldly possessions. It has been a year of many changes and a few challenges, but also a year filled with blessings from the Lord.
The Lord has blessed our transition immensely so I want to begin this letter by saying thank you for your prayers, words of encouragement, and support – we do truly thank the Lord every time we remember you. I hope you will allow me to share with you some of the ways the Lord has blessed us in the past year while also updating you on our family.
Zachary and Bethany both had great years at their new schools, which is something we were very concerned about initially. We continue to be so appreciative of Christian education and have been wonderfully blessed by the Grand Rapids Christian School System. In addition to providing a quality Christian education to our kids it has also provided our family with some income as Jessica substitute taught at the elementary school quite often throughout the school year. In fact, she was often requested by several teachers. Next year, Zachary and Bethany will both attend the middle school and they will both now be able to walk or ride their bikes to school. We are praising the Lord for providing for us in this way.
In addition to finding good part-time work, Jessica is enjoying meeting with a group called SoulCare which meets weekly during the school year for Bible study, fellowship, and a time of sharing with each other the joys and concerns of being pastor’s wives. She has also become involved with a MOPS group at our church.
Alex is doing great as well, and is proof that the ‘terrible-twos’ are so-called for a reason! He is asserting his independence regularly and is expanding his vocabulary even faster. He is loving being able to be outside, go for walks or bike rides in the neighborhood, and has already proven himself to be quite adept in the water. He is fearless when it comes to swimming and I think he is convinced that he can breathe under water no matter how often we tell him otherwise.
My first year at seminary was truly a blessing. After some initial hurdles of trying to find the ‘rhythm’ of being a student again, my year finished on a high note by doing well enough in Hebrew to be exempt from the final exam, getting an ‘A’ on my first research paper in over 12 years, and ending with a first-year GPA of 3.8. My knowledge has been expanded and so has my personal library! God has truly blessed my studies for which I am very thankful.
During the school year I volunteer with a Friendship Ministries group (a ministry to individuals who are mentally impaired) on Tuesday nights at a church near our home. I am working with a mentally-challenged young man named Marcus and he’s been a delight to get to know. He isn’t able to talk, but (as many of you know) I do enough talking for the both of us!
This summer I’m interning at Degage Ministries (www.degageministries.org) in downtown Grand Rapids. They provide a number of services to the poor and homeless in the area. My primary work is in their dining room where they offer low-cost and free meals, their ID program where they help individuals who don’t have proper ID’s obtain a legal photo ID, and I lead a small Bible study on Thursday mornings. Degage is a very unique ministry that does some very unique things and I’m glad to be a part of it for the summer.
The rest of our summer plans include taking in some of the sights and sounds of Michigan. We’ve been bike-riding in Grand Haven, visited the shores of Lake Michigan (no fishing expeditions, though!), and are planning to do some camping at some highly recommended campgrounds along the lakeshore. I’m also doing some work in the seminary admissions office which I thoroughly enjoy and have been doing some pulpit supply.
I delivered my first sermon ever on Sunday, May 22nd and felt very comfortable doing so. I delivered it at Seymour CRC which has become our new church home. All of us have become involved in a variety of ways there – Zachary is in Sunday School and Cadets, Bethany is in Sunday school and GEMS and sings in the Children’s Choir, Jessica is in choir, serves on the Nursery Committee, and does some other volunteering, I serve as ‘liturgist’ about once a month and meet regularly with the pastor who is my mentor during my time at seminary, and Alex has his well-deserved reputation as the ‘most fun (read, “craziest”) kid in the nursery.’ In addition, Jessica and I are part of a small group Bible study that meets once a month. Though we miss you all, we are deeply thankful for our new church home here as well.
I’ve preached four times so far this summer and have really enjoyed doing so. It’s been a very affirming experience for me each and every time. I consider it a privilege that the Lord has blessed me with gifts that will allow me to study and preach his Word on a regular basis to His people.
So, I hope you will join my family and me in praising the Lord for his goodness to us. It has been a powerful year of God moving mightily in our lives. Please continue to keep us in your prayers and as we continue to follow God’s call.
I took a class this summer and in it we were asked to talk about a passage that has been meaningful to us. As I think, study, learn, and prepare for a career in ministry these words from Ephesians have sustained me and I want to leave you with them as well, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever. Amen!” (Ephesians 3:20-21). Grace and peace to you all.
In Christ Jesus our Lord,
Michael, Jessica, Zachary, Bethany, & Alex Ten Haken