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Churches step out and step up

Taking a step out of poverty.

One bold step that Streams of Faith took in 2020 was its merger with Circles-Grand Rapids. This multiplied the efforts that help 600-700 Kent County families rise out of poverty.


JOHN E. HARNISH

Michigan Conference Communications

Executive Director Kurt Kaechele
In February, 2020, Kurtis Kaechele became the Executive Director of Streams of Hope.

“Despite COVID, we stepped up and stepped out on faith.” That’s how Executive Director Kurtis Kaechele describes the year 2020 at Streams of Hope ministry in southeast Grand Rapids. He says, “We knew this would be a challenging year, but we stepped out believing God was leading us, and our partners have stepped up to help.” During the year, despite the complications of the pandemic, they have added new programs and are reaching about 600-700 families per month through their various avenues of service.

This year they merged with Circles-GR, a ministry of the Midwest District of the United Methodist Church, supported by Michigan Conference Ministry Shares. Circles-GR works to end generational poverty by linking families with “allies” who help people rise from poverty. Other new ministries at Streams of Hope include plans to open a full-time medical center in collaboration with Catherine’s Health Center and Exalta Health Services to serve families in the medical desert in which they find themselves. Another new program is a GED and high school diploma program. All of this is in addition to their on-going food pantry, elementary tutoring, after-school activities, and community gardens. 

Begun by Hillside Christian Reformed Church about 16 years ago, Streams of Hope serves one of the poorest sections of Kent County with the support of numerous United Methodist congregations, including Grand Rapids Cornerstone UMC and others from around the state. 

Medical checkups are done on a weekly basis.
Circles-GR is one of several ministries operating through Streams of Hope, including medical checkups and support for students. ~ photo courtesy Kurtis Kaechele

One way congregations support ministries like Circles-GR and Streams of Hope is by faithful, full payment of their annual Ministry Shares. Rev. Nate Starkey has only been the pastor at Hope UMC in Edwardsburg for six months, so he has barely gotten to know the congregation. But Starkey says, “This congregation had been paying their Ministry Shares long before I got here.  Their faithful commitment has a long history, and I am proud to be joining them in that commitment.” Not only did they pay their 2020 Ministry Shares in full, but Hope Church ended the year with a surplus in their Ministry Fund, despite the pandemic.

Otsego United Methodist Church is another congregation with a history of full payment of Ministry Shares. Their pastor, the Rev. Joe Shaler, came to United Methodist ministry from a Southern Baptist background and has been at the church for 20 years. When he arrived, the church was involved in various mission projects through the Advance Special program, but Joe said, “They lacked a clear focus for their mission outreach.” He helped them see the Ministry Shares as their way of being connected with the global work of the church and to treat that as their first commitment. Every year for 20 years except one, they have done just that. They have also continued to support specific projects like the food pantry in Otsego and sending their youth on mission work trips. Pastor Shaler said, “We’ve come to see this as an essential part of what it means to be a ‘Great Commission Church,’ to care about ministry here in our community, our state, and around the world.” 

Taking a step against hunger. Otsego UMC
Otsego United Methodist Church takes first mile (Ministry Shares) and second mile (EngageMI) giving seriously. Last fall they participated in the Hunger Walk in their community. ~ photo courtesy Pastor Joe Shaler

Streams of Hope is just one of the many ministries in Michigan which receives support from faithful congregations who proudly claim their identity as United Methodists as they do their part in the Ministry Shares program. Circles GR  was incubated by grants from Ministry Shares from the Conference Leadership Council, Board of Global Ministries, and Board of Justice over the years. 

From Grand Rapids to Grand Maris, from Munising to Madison Heights, from Sault St. Marie to South Haven, many congregations have committed to being a part of the world-wide mission of the United Methodist Church. They have stepped up and stepped out in mission through their Ministry Shares and lives are being changed because of their faithfulness.