Ministry Stories

Father First | April 7, 2017

Alvin Gray, Program Director

In Father First – our Wednesday evening program for fathers in the neighborhood – we are
intentional about creating cohesion, accountability, and insistence on engaging responsibly in the community. Our approach begins with recognizing that we should, in all our dealings, seek “Father” (God) first, as a way of honoring God’s ability to provide us with a permanent solution to our temporary condition. We use scripture as our foundation. Then, we focus on problems that are within our ability to solve, especially as it relates to parenting and family. We know that our community is faced with an ever-increasing population of children that suffer fatherlessness. Our response is, that in spite of the situation, we will seek to find a way to Father First, rather than deciding not to get involved.

The name of the program provides us with an acronym which helps to guide our parenting journey and our lives in general. We are working on being mindful that good fathers are Faithful, Available, Teachable, Honorable, Essential, and should be Resourceful, while engaging in Fun, being Intuitive, Respectful, Strategic, and Trustworthy. We are currently engaged in self-discovery with the use of As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, based on Proverbs 23:7.

This program has been fun, challenging, and rewarding. A few of us have had breakthroughs in our families that we attribute to collective prayer, transparency, authenticity, accountability, and the camaraderie we’ve been blessed with. We’ve decided we don’t like to consider ourselves as participants in a program, as programs have a beginning and ending; we like think that we are participating in perpetual ministry!




Delicious Hospitality | February 26, 2015
Cheri McClain-Beatty, CRC & Food Pantry Manager

Our 2014-15 Grand Valley intern, Lindsey, set up a Wednesday pantry delivery service for our neighborhood. Some families use the service on a temporary basis with variables such as weather, sporadic vehicle problems, a recent illness or surgery, to name a few. Some families need this service on an ongoing basis because of poor health, no transportation options, family care needs and many other variables. 

    My first delivery this week was to a mom of five. Her two youngest, age two and three, showered me with hugs as I entered and as I left. The next delivery was to a family of two, an older Hispanic woman and her middle-aged, mentally-challenged daughter. 

     Sometimes I recognize the house or name and sometimes it is just a wonderful surprise. This was the latter. Climbing the long and steep steps to their second floor apartment, I passed two landings, each with three to four pots of very healthy rosemary, orchids, hens and chicks and cactus stretching toward the sunshine. 

     Being warmly invited into the small, neat apartment I was caught in the delicious hospitality of this sweet family. The mother and I talked about plants and weather and food, me in my broken Spanish and understanding and she in (what seemed to me) her rapid-fire Spanish, as the younger woman sat shyly smiling and holding her mother’s hand. Over a carefully prepared cup of coffee, I sat enjoying this rich slice of life by just sitting across a table.  



The Other Way & SpringGR | March 23, 2015


SpringGR3The Other Way is partnering with SpringGR to offer our neighbors the opportunity to develop their business ideas. Training, mentoring and networking are designed to restore entrepreneurial roots to the local neighborhood. The 11 week program will help budding entrepreneurs in Westown turn their ideas into thriving sustainable businesses.



Meet our newest staff members! | March 19, 2015

2015-03-13 Megan for web

Megan Emigh is our Volunteer Coordinator and Fund Development Coordinator. Megan is part time (20 hrs a week) and organizes our volunteer needs and all the people and groups who inquire about serving alongside our staff as volunteers. She also helps research grants and connects with groups who could help us meet our budget needs.

Megan graduated last April from GVSU with a degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration, with an emphasis in Community Development, and a minor in Spanish. She volunteered in our food pantry during her junior year at GVSU. “I gained deep respect for The Other Way’s approach to community development . . . We are all, together, working towards improving, loving, and sustaining a community we care about.”

About her spare time, “The epitome of fun for me is having great conversation with people I care about over good food or coffee.” Megan is also in her third year of volunteering with Young Life where she walks alongside students through the highs and lows of high school and absolutely loves it. She is a pretty adventurous eater. “I love trying local restaurants around Grand Rapids – Ethiopian food, Mexican food, and sushi are some of my favorites.”

2015-03-13 Cheri for webCheri McClain-Beatty is our Community Resource Center (CRC) and Food Pantry Manager. Cheri is part time (20 hours a week), overseeing the CRC staff and all the workings of the Food Pantry. She manages all our pantry’s incoming donations, outgoing product to our neighbors and the full staff of pantry volunteers.

Before coming to work at The Other Way, Cheri has worked as a pre-school teacher, medical secretary, children’s clothing designer and a graphic designer. As a member of Servant’s Community Church, she currently serves as a deacon. “I love my west side and am passionate about serving my community.”

Cheri’s free time is spent with her family, camping, biking, hiking, creating and enjoying fine art and playing the violin. She is a key organizer of Servant’s Community Church’s Summer Fine Arts Camp. Cheri loves just about any kind of soup and Sherman’s Grasshopper ice cream.


2015-03-13 Alvin for web

Alvin Gray is our Program Director. He is full time and oversees all ministry programs and program staff. Alvin will help our fully staffed program team coordinate, dream, facilitate, communicate and serve our neighbors with quality and faith filled programs.

Most recently, Alvin was a Project Lift Coordinator at Brown Hutcherson Ministries and has served as an independent consultant in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion, strategic planning, and other organizational development practices. He has worked in both for-profit and not-for-profit management positions. Alvin has also enjoyed instructing leadership development courses with Grand Rapids Initiative for Leaders over the years.

One of Alvin’s favorite foods is Clam Chowder. “I enjoy fishing, cycling, swimming, running, playing the saxophone and hanging out with my family.” Alvin concludes, “[there is] a welcoming atmosphere that’s generated among TOW’s leaders and staff. I’m excited about what’s down the road for this ministry and I’m honored to be a part of that process.


Ready … Set … Read! | July 30, 2014

Do you remember floating down the mighty Mississippi with Huckleberry Finn? Or waiting with anticipation as the Wolf threatened to “huff and puff and blow the house down…”? Perhaps you uncovered clues along with the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew as they solved each mystery? Many exciting adventures are offered to all ages through the gift of reading.

Eleven Westown families prepared for their own adventures by participating in the Summer Reading Works program (RW) at The Other Way Ministries. They gathered in the Activity Center to read, practice sight words and play educational games.  Thursdays brought the opportunity to attend exciting field trips highlighting this year’s themes, including careers, zoo animals, nutrition, exercise and Michigan.

Sibley Elementary teacher, Mary Engelsman, created Reading W.O.R.K.S  (Working On Reading for Kids’ Success) to better equip children for academic success. RW is supported by the generosity of Keystone Community Church and their caring members who volunteer. Christin Baker (The Other Way Ministries Children’s Ministry) draws on her experience as a former elementary teacher to plan all lessons and activities.

RW differs from other summer programs by focusing on the success of the entire family. Children ages 0-4 participate in educational activities with Keystone volunteers, while their older siblings focus on reading with their parents.

All children work on crafts while parents attend a workshop led by Ada, our RW Parent Mentor. Parents discuss specific goals for their children, how to enhance their children’s reading at home and ways to establish a solid biblical foundation. Everyone in the family is engaged during RW.

The RW summer program has proven to keep children engaged during the summer months. Many children tend to lose essential reading skills during the summer, but these 11 families are making positive strides.

The Other Way Ministries will continue the RW program at Sibley Elementary during the upcoming school year to ensure reading continues to WORK for the Westown community. For more information about how you can become involved, contact Jackie at



Making A Difference In Westown | July 2014

Your Support of The Other Way is making a difference in the lives of children. Each week during the school year, about 20 kids (1st through 8th grade) come to Discipleship Groups (D-Groups). The meeting time begins with a meal, continues with small or large group sessions and ends with dessert! Stacey Baker, Children’s Ministry Manager, and his team of volunteers are passionate about sharing Jesus with our neighborhood kids.

Over two weeks, they watched “Facing the Giants”, a movie that helped kids understand we serve a big God who is able to work through hard situations no matter what. They played quiz games about the movie so the kids paid close attention and were thrilled when they won prizes. One of their outings was to Lincoln Lanes as they loaded up the vans and went bowling.

Stacey says, “As I think through the past few months we have helped kids learn how to handle conflict in a healthier way, develop better study habits to improve in school and helped kids look at uncomfortable situations through a different lens. I thank God for the wonderful privilege he has given me to be part of making a difference in a family’s life.”

Because of your prayer and financial support we have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in Westown. This is affirmed when children say… “Instead of leaving at 7pm, can we stay until 8pm”. It is here we see the church, the body of Christ, walk, talk and act not in the world’s way…The Other Way. Thank you for walking with us to impact Westown in the name of Christ.



Taking Time to Serve | June 2014

Russ and Margo, offering to substitute for a friend, served as volunteers with The Other Way Ministries’ food pantry one summer. They continued to serve periodically, when needed, for about a year.

As supporters of Fair Haven Ministries’ grocery cart ministry, Russ and Margo quickly responded when they heard of the need for more regular pantry volunteers. Initially responsible to stock shelves, they were soon organizing stock, helping to order supplies and coordinating food drives with Fair Haven. Russ and Margo enlist the help of Thorval, Bob, Sandy, Roger and Lynn. Even their grandson Connor gets involved when on school breaks.

Russ and crew2You’ve heard the term “giving the shirt off your back”… this group of volunteers has literally given clothes from their own closets. While talking to a neighbor, Dave, they learned he needed clothing, especially pants. Two of the guys were Dave’s exact size, and, well, you know the rest of the story.

While helping with the recent pantry renovations, Russ was struck by the comments he heard from several neighbors – that people cared enough to come and make the pantry look so nice for them. Russ said:

“By working in the pantry, all of us hope we are the hands, feet, and heart of Christ at work in this part of Grand Rapids. God has given us the ability and time, at this point, to do the work we as Christians are expected to do.”

What began as a favor to a friend, blossomed into a wonderful partnership between the Fair Haven team and The Other Way Ministries.


Let’s Make A Deal | May 2014

Our annual women’s retreat in April was a time to laugh, a time to cry and a time to listen to God’s call. Each year the group includes a mix of those who have been attending retreat for more than 20 years, some who have come a time or two and others who are new. The group of 23 women this year was no different. It was so wonderful to see women walk beside each other even as they are in different places in their personal walk with God.

A retreat theme is chosen every year; usually something fun, but also something to teach the importance of having a relationship with God. This year’s theme, “Let’s Make A Deal!’, helped us see there are many choices we each have to make and how these choices affect our lives.

By playing together and studying God’s Word, we were better able to understand the difficult choices made by people in the Bible.  They made choices which were in their control and had an effect, then and now.  We recognize that as we study God’s Word and He speaks to us, it’s important to not stay put. He wants us to keep moving and growing.  Choose growth, and choose Jesus. Choose to focus on the Kingdom of God and not on the Kingdom of ME. Transformation can only happen if YOU choose to follow God.  As we walk along side each other, God uses us to be an example to one another, which He uses to transform those around us.


Troop 21 Cleans Up! | April 2014

In March, we hosted the young men from Boy Scout Troop 21 in Zeeland for the 7th straight year. They provided dumpsters and muscle for a spring clean-up event.

Potluck Pickup partnered with the Boy Scouts again this year by providing a compactor truck, allowing neighbors to dispose of more refuse than ever before! Although snow was still thick on the ground, more than 60 families took advantage of this opportunity to do some ‘Spring Cleaning’. Leaders and scouts also made pickups at homes and drove around the streets and alleys of the Westside, removing large items.

The group also helped our friends at Servant’s Community Church clean up after a roof tear-off. We are so grateful for these hard working guys and their leaders; especially for their servant hearts.

We also want to thank Potluck Pickup for the generous donation of the dumpsters and disposal. This is an incredible gift to our community each spring!



Westside 24/7 Prayer Initiative

Will you join us in collaborative prayer for our Westside community?

The Bridge Street House of Prayer (BSHOP) is hosting the Westside 24/7 prayer initiative now through April 19, 2014. Individuals, families and small groups from this community will pray during scheduled one hour time slots each week.

We are praying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 3 weeks – praying for the specific needs of our Westside community and for the kingdom of God to advance in our neighborhood.

As we draw near to God, we believe He draws near to us. As He draws near to us, we are praying that God would move in our lives and in our neighborhood in powerful ways; restoring hope and bringing shalom to the Westside! Will you join us in this unified Westside prayer effort? Will you pray – right where you are – one hour each week?

Click here for a prayer guide.

The 24/7 prayer initiative is coordinated by these Westside ministries and churches: Esperanza Covenant, Gold Ave CRC, Servant’s Community Church, The Other Way Ministries and Bridge Street House of Prayer.



Offering Community

The Other Way Ministries Community Resource Center (CRC) has many facets. It is a coffee shop, community center and food pantry. Amazing relationships are created and work is being done in Westown because of the ministry of The Other Way.

The staff of the CRC provides resources, referrals, coffee, conversation, compassion and hope to our friends in Westown. Many of our neighbors are seeking employment, but the challenges of resume writing, on-line applications and computer and internet availability make the effort virtually impossible. For many, working out these obstacles is discouraging; a daunting task. With the help of GVSU Bachelor of Social Work intern, Angela, we have been able to expand our ‘walking alongside’ capabilities.

In the last few months, Angela has helped many neighbors compile their work histories and skills into resume form. Endless hours have been spent looking over a neighbor’s shoulder, perusing the internet for well-fitting employment. The Other Way offers a valuable resource both in accessibility and skill with the work Angela does. Having a sense of purpose, value and independence  are vital to feelings of well-being. We are grateful for the opportunity to help meet such an important dimension in creating healthy and productive families.

Living in a Place Called Trust

A lady was sunbathing when a little boy in his swimming trunks, came up and asked her, “Do you believe in God?” Surprised, she replied, “Yes, I do.” Then he asked “Do you read your Bible and pray every day?” Again she said, “Yes!” By now her curiosity was piqued. He sighed with relief and said, “Okay then, will you hold my money while I go swimming?” (Source: “Confrontation” by Gordon Curley) Trust is crucial to the Christian life – we practice trust in God each day. But did you know God trusts us too? He entrusts us with many things, including finances. So how can we honor God and prove trustworthy with them? One way is by choosing to support ministries that are impacting others for Christ. This could be through a one-time charitable gift, or by including a ministry organization you trust in your Will. You can even support ministries you love like The Other Way Ministries from your Roth IRA. Now is a wonderful time to do that too, thanks to new legislation that extends the IRA Charitable Rollover. While this is a non tax deductible gift, it still allows you the wonderful benefits of donating tax-free.

For a FREE copy of our special bulletin “One Giant Leap in the Journey of Faith” simply check the box on the enclosed reply card or contact Jackie Koning at The Other Way Ministries at (616) 454-4011 ext. 5112 or – or bless your family today with a God-honoring Will


Troy’s Journey

Troy began his journey at The Other Way as a volunteer through CAP (a re-entry related program) in July 2013. At that time, he was also volunteering with our partner organization SWAN (South West Area Neighbors).  Troy was a valuable member of our team during the renovation project of the Activity Center. He has also helped with a variety of other neighborhood projects, snow removal, unloading food trucks and organizing food in our pantry.

For two months Troy has been giving between 50-70 volunteer hours of his time in the community.  After many hours of volunteering and connecting with people through the Community Resource Center, Troy was able to find affordable housing in our west side community.

Troy also became involved with the Proud Fathers program, where he was able to connect with other men who shared common issues about family. Troy shared about his family, about life’s good and sometimes tough choices in being a father. He graduated from the 12 week program on December 12, 2013.  He was able to find the support he needed during this transitional period of his life to take these positive next steps.

Troy’s growth and leadership skills have gone “above and beyond” here at The Other Way. His work ethic and skills have been noticed by many others in our community. Troy recently interviewed for a position and began employment on February 10, 2014. This has been a blessed journey, from volunteering through CAP to decent housing to the Proud Father’s program to graduation to employment. To God Be The Glory!


Activity Center Renovation

In 2012 we successfully completed 3 major renovation projects and building upgrades!  As a result we have a new Business Office, an upgraded Community Resource Center that includes an expanded Food Pantry and launched the very first Wellness Center in the Westown community.  These major upgrades have attracted more neighbors and created dynamic working spaces for our staff.

Currently we are renovating our Activity Center which is located at 704 West Fulton.

In order to meet the growing demand for educational opportunities within our community, centered around topics such as marriage relationships, parenting, language training and financial management, we plan to make structural changes within our Activity Center that will provide additional space conducive to a variety of activities.  Other benefits from this change include:

•  Creation of a Child Development Center in the basement in order to provide excellent care of children 0-5

•  Paint throughout the interior and exterior would provide a ‘fresh’ new look

•  Parking Lot resurfaced

•  Kitchen upgrade to accommodate growing programming

•  New flooring would better accommodate meals and space for exercise classes

•  Appropriate technology upgrades (projectors, screens, sound system, etc.)

•  New spaces designed for both teen and women ministry use

•  Changes would maximize current spaces and create new functioning spaces for programs


Parks Alive

This summer we formed a partnership with the Parks & Recreation Department & Friends of Grand Rapids Parks to come alongside Westown Commons Park in a more official way.  In July over 60 neighbors (including 12 Proud Fathers and the accounting department for Rockford Construction) showed up to spread new wood chips, repair and paint the park benches and weed and trim bushes. The YES teens mowed the park through the summer and in return for their work the Parks & Recreation department supplied 2 new grills and a new bike rack.  The Proud Fathers installed the grills and we christened them with a cookout.  The park has never looked better!  The YES teens and Proud Fathers also participated in a design charrette for the park and will be developing a 5 year park plan to ensure that Westown Common Park continues to be a great public space for our neighborhood families.



You’re Invited! 9th Annual Fall Fundraiser

Join us TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2013 for our 9th Annual Fall Fundraiser
“Celebrating God’s Provision”

The event begins promptly at 7pm at The Salvation Army Kroc Center (2500 South Division, Grand Rapids 49507) on Grand Rapids’ South East side.

Our Fundraising goal: $70,000.

Delectable desserts will be served.

Please reserve your seat(s) by September 27 by contacting Jackie at 616.454.4011 ext 5112 or by e-mailing You can also let Jackie know if you would like to bring guests and/or fill a table.

Event includes a brief program, desserts, music and opportunity for support.

We look forward to seeing you there!