Living the Love: New church connects in Kalamazoo
Fabulous. That's the word pastor Wes Tillett uses to describe the launch of Voyage Church in September.
"There was an overall spirit of love and joy—a spirit that persists to this day," Tillett says.
The launch included lots of people, lots of smiles, and lots of support from parent churches Haven Reformed Church and the Bridge, both RCA congregations in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Voyage is located in adjacent Oshtemo, in a building vacated by the disbanding of Fourth Reformed Church in December 2012.
"We sense God has specifically called us to minister to our neighbors right around us," says Tillett. "There's a surprising pocket of suburban poverty here—almost half are young, single, poor, often with kids, without much education."
A few people from Voyage have been meeting weekly to prayer walk a modular home neighborhood next to the church. Over the last nine months, they've built relationships, prayed with people, hosted a block party, and delivered homemade pies and cookies.
"In the summer one family we connect with told us their first-grade son was really looking forward to the start of Voyage Church [in September]. Sure enough, as Voyage has gotten started, that family has been attending more and more faithfully, with the first-grade boy usually dressed in his Sunday best and leading the way.
"We want to experience God's love in such a deep way that it transforms our lives bit by bit," Tillett says. "And as part of that transformation we will share God with others.
"Our mission is 'live the love,'" Tillett says. "Our distinguishing characteristic is the way we exhibit grace and diversity. Racially, generationally, socio-economically, we are quite diverse. It's something we celebrate. It's something we believe exhibits the kingdom of God in a tangible way--profoundly different people finding profound unity in Jesus Christ."
Voyage is also connecting with people through word of mouth, personal invitations, community events, and by volunteering at a local elementary school. "We are partnering with Communities in Schools to positively affect the lives of the students in greatest need there," Tillett says. Volunteers from Voyage tutor students at the school, and a Voyage life group "adopted" a family from the school to bless them at Christmas.
"We are excited and grateful to live the love in tangible, local, significant ways."