As children of the light, we desire to present Jesus Christ to others by showing God’s love for the world and promoting justice and peace for our neighbors near and far.
Contact the church office for more information on how to get involved!
Camelot Community Partners
CCP is a coalition of area churches and organizations. The partners are Crossway Community Church, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, House of God, Ada Bible Church/East Paris Campus, COS, Ridge Park Charter Academy, and West Michigan Friendship Center. Its mission is to the surrounding community which consists mainly of lower-income and refugee families. Its goal is to show God’s love and help people get to know him. The partners’ efforts have included ice cream socials, block parties, hat/scarf/glove giveaways, basketball camp, and Vacation Bible School.
Camelot Community Partners meet every other month for planning. Discussion revolves around past and future events and ideas for new and interesting ways of touching lives with Christ’s love. In the coming year, CCP is looking forward to continuing this mission and ramping up for all the various events. Pray that Christ continues to use us to reach out to our neighbors, letting them know that they are also part of His community.
COS Community Garden
The overarching Story in the Bible begins in the Garden of Eden and ends in a city lined with fruit trees. The trees’ leaves are for the healing of the nations. If you garden with us at COS, you’ll get a little taste of how God uses the earth to bring people together.
The COS community garden began in 2010 as a way for native English speakers and refugees learning English to learn from each other. Over the years we’ve had gardeners from Bhutan/Nepal, Bosnia, Burma/Myanmar, Canada, the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Myanmar, Peru, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and the U.S. We’ve learned you can eat sweet potato leaves and plant beans in clumps. Some plants that look like weeds to Americans are prized as food in other cultures. And the Bosnian word for tomato sounds like the English word paradise. When 4×8-foot plots are available, we assign them to people who promise to tend them at least once a week. Even though everyone grows their own plot, gardeners often choose to share produce. Contact Joan Huyser-Honig for more information.
COS Food Ministries
One in eight Americans faces hunger every day. COS provides in two ways.
Stationary Food Pantry Managed by Ellen Westrate and operating in the COS building, the pantry routinely provides help to 45 households. Open on Mondays from 10:30 am -12:30 pm and Wednesdays from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm, several volunteers assist with stocking and organizing the pantry shelves. Cascade Meijer graciously invites COS to participate in the Simply Give campaign; these contributions provide nearly all funding for COS’s Stationary Food Pantry.
They will be able to meet you at Door E of the church to assist with giving food, personal care items, and hand-crafted face masks.
Mobile Food Pantry (MFP) COS purchases 5000 pounds of surplus fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and bakery goods for COS distribution in the Church of the Servant parking lot on the first Saturday of each month at 10 am (Check the calendar page to confirm dates). Twelve out of a roster of 50 volunteers assist in the food distribution each time. Flint & Stephanie Sackett, Greg & Kate Snow, Deb Wood, and Dan, Jacob & Marji Voetberg coordinate the ministry. If you are interested in giving to the Mobile Food Pantry, you can find more information here.
The United Nations World Happiness Report for 2015 includes this comment about the kind of civic action we need worldwide: “…raising individual skill levels and creating an educated citizenry.” Isn’t that the long track record of ESL instruction at COS? Yes, in part. Many people have found friendship here and language skills. We come to know our students well, and we think, more often than not, that we are the closest American English speakers that our students know.
Friendship ESL at COS draws 80-100 students a week in good weather, less in winter. Students come from every continent, all the major faiths, and all ages (presently late teens to late 80s). All who come are welcome, and children are welcome in the nation’s preeminent church nursery here at COS. We offer occasional citizenship test preparatory classes and specialized (seasonal) classes on trauma healing.
About two dozen tutors staff four sessions a week, each session with six classes ranging from Pre-literate to Advanced. New tutor volunteers and substitutes (ready to teach any level) are very welcome. We also welcome high school-age young people and college students to come, teach, assist a tutor, or mentor individuals. These opportunities are full of relational possibilities and educational challenges. For young adults still in school, Friendship ESL is an excellent opportunity to show college and graduate school admissions officers that you are engaged with people from everywhere.
Contact Friendship ESL Coordinator Mark Fackler for more information on volunteering.
Prisoners in Christ Restorative Justice Team
Prisoners in Christ (PinC) is the prison and restorative justice ministry at COS that has roots with Ken Andree and Troy Rienstra as explained in Nicholas Wolterstorff’s book Beyond Imagining (2022): “work with prisoners was embedded in the DNA of Church of the Servant from its very beginning.” (pg. 60). In the 1980’s Ken Andree, along with Len Sweetman and others from Classis Grand Rapids East churches, was instrumental in the creation of Criminal Justice Chaplaincy, which merged with 70X7 Life Recovery in 2018.
Church of the Servant endorsed a partnership with one of its incarcerated members, Troy Rienstra, in 2004. The following year the CRCNA approved a restorative justice report for implementation in the churches. For the first 12 years, the major focus of the COS Christians for Prisoners & Prisoners for Christ (CfP/PfC) was on working with Troy and others directly impacted by prison – inmates and returning citizens. After a few years, the name was changed to Prisoners in Christ (PinC). In partnership with other community organizations, especially Living Water Ministry Network, PinC facilitated CONTACT – Creating Our Network of Trust, Accountability, Collaboration, and Training and held weekly meetings in the homes where returning citizens lived. In 2008, in collaboration with Prison Congregations of America and Classis Grand Rapids East, Pastor Rich Rienstra founded Celebration Fellowship Prison Congregation at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia.
In 2016, when Troy was released from prison, the PinC team focused on a vision of a Network for Real Change. Before the pandemic hit, and while Troy had a job with Safe & Just Michigan in Lansing, ideas were coming together for a state-wide project of entrepreneurship training, small business startups, and cooperative housing. As of 2021, there have been detours and challenges, but, thanks be to God for new members on the PinC and fresh ideas, such as the monthly Restorative Justice suppertime conversations that started in the fall of 2022.
We invite COS members and all interested persons to join us on the journey toward a restorative, beloved community where together we “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly” with God and one another. For more information, contact Arend VanderPols, Patrick Campbell, Lynette LaBine, Rich Rienstra or Carol Rienstra by emailing email@example.com or calling 616-724-6772 (Carol). Learn more at: https://prisonersinchrist.org/
Refugee Support Team
In the past two years, COS has co-sponsored 27 refugees with either Bethany Christian Services or Samaritas. RST’s help has included providing travel funds for family reunification for asylees as well as assistance in adjusting to life in America. This includes helping people with household goods and clothing, transportation to appointments, bicycles, driver training, help in finding employment and just being a friend to newcomers. It has often meant assistance in working through the complex process of bringing other family members to the USA.
RST welcomed its first arrival for the new year on October 6, a single Sri Lankan male from Thailand. Initially, he will live with our Sri Lankan family in Burton’s Landing. RST anticipates 9-12 more refugees in the next 12 months. RST members are also active members in the BES community. RST always needs volunteers who can help with any aspect of refugee resettlement. Contact Joel Westmaas if you would like to serve in this way.
Ridge Park Charter Academy
Ridge Park Mentors meet for an hour each week with a student at Ridge Park Charter Academy. The friendship and encouragement of an adult outside their family can significantly reduce a student’s risk of academic failure. COS is beginning its 10th year mentoring Ridge Park students. This fall COS has been joined by three Camelot Community Partnership churches. Our hope in joining forces is to have a larger pool of mentors available, ensuring that no child who is referred for mentoring this year will go without.
Mentoring usually involves some tutoring, but mostly we encourage and build a friendship with a young person. Mentors have found these friendships to be rewarding. Students look forward to their time with us and usually reward us with a big hug. We ask that mentors commit to one school year, but many mentors have continued with their student for more than one year. You meet with your student during the school day, so you need a schedule that allows for that. Meeting times are arranged by you and the child’s teacher. We need some new mentors this fall and currently have one child who is waiting for a special friend. If you love being with young people and think you may be interested in becoming a mentor, contact Pam Plantinga.