Shalom at Kentwood Christian Church
Duke Gray, a member of Kentwood Christian Church, has a passion to see the church in action. Recently I had a
chance to sit down with him and learn about the surprising way his church connected with Volunteers In Service to
find new and creative ways to serve the community.
It’s clear that you have a heart for the church. How would you describe Kentwood Christian?
Our church is not overly wealthy but the people are very generous. If the congregation becomes aware of a
need or difficult situation, they will do what they can to help. We take seriously the call to be the hands and
feet of Jesus.
Sounds like a compassionate church. How did the church become aware of needs?
We were finding out about various concerns in the congregation from our Prayer Action Teams, which are
teams of people who were available to pray with anyone who came forward after worship. As individuals came
forward, they sought spiritual care but also shared very practical needs—needs for things such as small home
repairs, companionship, or help moving.
How did your church respond?
It was very encouraging to see how the church stepped up to help others. We found a wealth of gifts within
the congregation—we had painters, electricians, good listeners, and people who could bring a home cooked
meal. We were building a directory of people with various skills that were willing to help.
In addition, our church started a ministry called SHALOM, which is a group of us who meet once a month to go
over prayer requests and take action to help.
I’d love to hear a bit more about SHALOM. How does it work?
The SHALOM ministry serves as a liaison between the prayer teams and the elders. When the ministry started,
we took the time to establish our core values by creating an acronym out of SHALOM (S=Servanthood,
H=Humility, A=Accountability, L=Love, O=Obedience, M=Mercy) that would help us remember our purpose. In
addition, we found a verse from the Bible to go with each of these words!
Everyone involved with SHALOM makes a serious commitment to follow through and help when they are able.
In addition, we take time to get to know each other so that when we go out, there is a sense of unity and
fellowship. It’s really about getting our hearts ready to interact with people. We are a spiritual ministry first,
but we also know the importance of meeting practical needs.
It sounds like God’s been at work! What came next?
The prayer ministry was going really well but we wanted to do more. Several of us in the congregation had
a desire to go beyond the walls of the church and find a way to meet the practical and spiritual needs in our
community. We prayed for God to show us a way to expand this ministry.
How did God open up doors to expand your ministry?
Shortly after voicing this prayer, I had a seemingly chance encounter with a financial planner named Jeshua.
Through conversation, I learned that Jeshua was on the board of an organization called Volunteers In Service
(VIS). Jeshua explained how the mission of VIS is to connect churches to people in the community with needs
that weren’t being met by some other organization.
Finding out about Volunteers In Service was absolutely a God thing; the work that VIS does is exactly what our
church had been praying to find. VIS would help us to serve in new and bigger ways.
That’s a pretty amazing story! After learning about VIS, how did your church get started?
Shortly after meeting Jeshua, I met with Dave Ellens (co-director of Volunteers In Service). Dave is a great guy
and we connected immediately as I explained the SHALOM ministry and the church’s desire to serve our
community. Dave was encouraged by how we already had a structure in place and a roster of over 16 people
with practical gifts who were ready and willing to help.
Over the next weeks and months, Dave emailed us about needs as VIS became aware of them. We encountered
people who were shut-ins, people with financial struggles, people who needed a small household repair, and
much more. I would then bring these emails to the SHALOM meetings and see who could help. It was pretty
much, “Who is free on Saturday?”
Tell me about someone you met through VIS.
We met a woman who needed help moving from her house to a smaller apartment. She had lots of stuff and
was attached to keeping it, making the thought of downsizing overwhelming a. Brian, a member of the
SHALOM team, formed a special bond with this woman. As the woman watched many of her possessions being
put in boxes to be taken away, tears began to roll down her face. Brian noticed her sadness and decided she
needed some encouragement. The next thing I see is Brian—who is a big guy and an engineer—giving this lady
a giant bear hug. It was a pretty amazing scene.
This woman made just as much of an impact on Brian as he made on her. We could have just hired a moving
company to get her physically moved. But the compassion and spiritual care that Brian gave her is something a
moving company never could have provided.
Why do you volunteer?
The way I see it, God is at work regardless of whether or not I choose to get involved. So often we place
ourselves in the center of the story, forgetting that God has much bigger plans. In the Bible, we can find so
many examples of Jesus taking care of people in practical ways through healing or providing food and water.
And yet, Jesus would never leave someone without providing them spiritual nourishment as well. I think this is
a great model to follow and something that we try to emulate. I am blessed to serve others and play some
small role in the work God is doing.
Interview written by Staci Kool De Vries.