By Kathy DeMott
Lakeland Reformed Church in Vicksburg welcomed Pastor Kent Sanders, his wife Crystal, and their two children in November. Pastor Sanders, originally from California, a graduate of Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, was impressed by the unity that the Lakeland congregation shared during COVID.
“The church family came together to move forward, make difficult decisions in challenging times. I look forward to carrying forth that same resolution to follow Christ faithfully. I am very encouraged and hopeful for the future and look forward to God’s redeeming plan for Lakeland.”
The mission of the church is to worship God and to spread the gospel; following Christ in mission and developing partners in ministry. Pastor Kent said the shared vision of the church is a thrust toward getting back to the basics of Christian living. “During COVID, sacred cows and idols were crushed, a lesson we hope not to forget. There’s a hunger in the world for the truth and genuine desire to know if another way is possible. If we only humble ourselves, I know we can be the pleasing aroma of Christ.”
As a pastor, he believes that “Christ has been loving this city for a long time. If then I only give someone a knowledge of Christ, but don’t shepherd them into this living relationship that exists, I will have failed. To teach a knowledge of God is possible, but to be drawn into an active relationship of grace takes a power greater than ourselves. It takes surrender and a willingness to bear the shame of hope. That maybe Jesus wasn’t lying, maybe he has been reaching out to me in love for a long time. Maybe he’s not waiting to kick me over the ledge into hell, but preparing his arms to embrace me. Maybe it’s a hope worth having.”
This hope in Christ finds expression in being willing to say you are wrong, confessing, repenting and seeking the good of others. Walking in vulnerability and accountability. It is simple, but not always easy. As a church, Lakeland is focused on these disciplines.
Guiding the next generation in these basic principles is Heather Makowski, the new director of Youth Ministries. “Lakeland has always felt like ‘home’ for me,” Makowski said. Growing up, she was involved in the children’s choir, family night, bible school, and youth groups. She helped teach some classes as a young adult, and now as a mother of two little boys, she feels honored to lead the children’s ministries.
Her goal for this upcoming year is continued growth for the children and their programs, which will include outreach to the community, and relaunching Vacation Bible School this summer. She is supported by a “wonderful group of church members” who help to lead the children’s worship classes. Her favorite part of ministry is seeing the children’s curiosity about the bible stories and watching their own relationships with Jesus grow. All families and children are welcome at Lakeland.
Kathy Skippers, Kid’s Hope USA Director, continues to oversee the mentoring program for elementary students who benefit from additional support, encouragement and one-on-one attention from an adult on a weekly basis. Church members volunteer at local schools and build safe relationships which can improve student’s academic and social skills.
Lakeland Reformed Church is also home to the Lakeland Creative Beginnings Daycare & Preschool, licensed by the State of Michigan. “Our program continues to excel as a Kalamazoo County Ready 4’s Program and is also five-star rated within Michigan’s Great Start to Quality,” said new Program Director Sarah Peters.
Summer Erdos has been promoted to school age coordinator and is in the process of receiving her Michigan youth credentialing. The children have enjoyed meeting and interacting with Pastor Kent. The daycare and preschool are open to children ages 33 months (potty trained) to 12 years of age and provide wrap-around services before and after school and during breaks. Sarah loves to work with kids, relishes the funny things they say, and cherishes their “Aha moments” which makes her career very rewarding.
By Kathy DeMott