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Eight 2019 Western Michigan Christian School Seniors Head to Rwanda for a Mission Trip

It’s Powerful to See God at Work in a Different Country & Culture

It is very powerful to see God at work in a different country and a different culture. He works in ways that are unfamiliar to American students and it is surprising and sometimes even uncomfortable.

But at the end of the day, He is the same God to all. Faithful, loving and present! 

This unique realization is exactly what the WMC Senior Service Project is about. Students go alongside ministries in a sustainable way. It’s more about learning and less about doing. It is more about allowing God’s world to change you and less about changing the world.

On May 9, eight WMC seniors set out for Kigali, Rwanda to listen, learn, love and serve. The trip did not start there. God was at work in the hearts and minds of these students months before, and for some, all their lives.

The decision to serve in Rwanda came to students right away because each student had always wanted to serve on the mission field in some way.

Girls in headgear carrying water

Sydney Holtvluwer smiles as she carries water back from the pump during the African Transformation Network “Day in the Life” experience.

Sydney Holtvluwer was the first to sign up in the summer of 2018 when she toured WMC as in incoming senior transferring from Traverse City Christian.

Kaitlynn Summerfield knew in her heart that since the age of 3 she wanted to be a missionary like her grandparents.

Sarah Moorhead wanted to bring the love of Jesus to others and knew this would give her a chance to do that.

Jada Love also had a heart for missions and wanted to see and experience what Christ was doing in Rwanda.

Liz Vos loves working with children and has a heart for special education and wanted to work and serve with children in Rwanda.

Shangfei, Sam, Wang, an international student from China, knew that China has significant investment in African countries and was interested in seeing that firsthand and experiencing a different culture.

Reading books to students at Kigali International Community School (KICS).

Hayden Hubers reading books to students at Kigali International Community School (KICS).

Hayden Hubers signed up early and knew he wanted to share the love of Christ in Rwanda but had to back out when it looked like it would not work to go. And after all was said and done, things worked out for Hayden to come.

Tyler Somers indicated an interest but wrestled with commitments to other activities that he would need to say “no” to in order to go. God laid it on Tyler’s heart to come. 

And after raising, by the grace of God and the generosity of many, more than $9000 through fundraisers and letter writing, we were off…But not before Kaitlynn won a car at the Ride With Pride event at WMC while we were getting ready to board our plane! What a fun send off!

Everything the students did in-country supported existing work and ministry. The money spent went directly to help those involved in the ministry or those benefiting from the work.

What does it look like to go alongside ministries and help in a sustainable way?

  • It is spending time with The Light Church helping with their Saturday Kids’ Club ministering to kids from neighboring villages. This included us acting out Bible parables, helping with activities and praising/worshipping with them. 
Dancing with children at Light Church Kids' Club.

Dancing with children at Light Church Kids’ Club.

  • It is taking part in a Bible study and working alongside the women of DuHope making bracelets. 
  • It is learning about the Sowers of Hope ministry, its Agrifaith work and praying with farmers for all that is being done to share the gospel and farm in the community. 
Praying for the African Transformation Network ministry after working in the "Day in the Life" experience.

Praying for the African Transformation Network ministry after working in the “Day in the Life” experience.

  • It is spending time at African Transformation Network for their “Day in the Life” experience that included walking a mile for water, milking a cow, cutting grass, grinding flour, and weaving a rug. Knowing what is going on inside a clay hut village gives you a different perspective when you see people living that life. It is not wrong, or sad, it is different. 
Milking a cow at ATN.

Kaitlynn Summerfield milking a cow at ATN.

  • It is taking a cooking class at the Women’s Center and learning how to cook from a woman who was a Congolese refugee and is now earning a living wage teaching cooking classes.
Cooking class at the Nyamirambo Women's Center.

Cooking class at the Nyamirambo Women’s Center.

  • It is helping at a KICS Mission School leading Bible lessons, activities, games, crafts and reading to children.
Playing Simon Says with students at KICS.

Playing Simon Says with students at KICS.

  • It is going on safari and seeing God’s creation like never before. At a zoo, the animals are captive. On safari, the visitors are captive as they
    Elephant seen on safari at Akagera National Park.

    Elephant seen on safari at Akagera National Park.

    drive around. It is simply amazing to see wildlife in their natural habitat up close. 

It is learning, listening and loving in a country where God is at work through churches, NGO’s, schools, and ministries.

Sydney, Kaitlynn, Sarah, Jada, Liz, Sam, Hayden, and Tyler were immersed in Rwandan culture and saw first-hand the work God is doing. And they joined that work. They not only gave of their time by working, but they also contributed funds to sustain the work being done.

And they continued the work that WMC began a year ago with the Driesenga family. That work will be continued by the Driesenga’s as they begin their hospitality house ministry hosting groups like the WMC Senior Service Project to go alongside, participate in God’s work and have their hearts and minds changed in the process.

About WMC

Western Michigan Christian (WMC) is a middle school and high school located in Norton Shores, Michigan. Each day we are looking for new and better ways to integrate the Christian faith into every aspect of our school. At every level and in each area, your children will be challenged academically and encouraged spiritually to fulfill their God-given purpose. At Western Michigan Christian it is our mission is to educate with excellence, integrate faith with knowledge, equip students to work and serve Christ in their communities.

WMC is part of West Michigan Christian Schools  (WMCS), a collaborative system of five schools throughout the Lakeshore region, including Fremont Christian (PK-8), Grand Haven Christian (PK-8), Muskegon Christian (PK-6) and New Era Christian (PK-8). The WMCS system works under a “Better Together” philosophy, offering a top-quality PK-12 Christian Education experience and a full scope of academic and extracurricular programs.

If you and your children are not already a part of the WMCS family, please prayerfully consider the PK-12 private Christian education of West Michigan Christian Schools for your children!

CONTACT US today for more information!

WMCS Teacher Tuesday Q & A with Western Michigan Christian School’s Audrey Markel

Teachers are the heart of WMCS!

Every Tuesday during the spring, the West Michigan Christian Schools Collaborative highlights a teacher from one of our five schools.

We have many gifted faculty members who work tirelessly to train up students at all PK-12th-grade levels.

They use their giftedness and teach children how to SHINE and RISE UP to their God-given potential. They shepherd the WMCS students to GROW as Christians and default to leaning on ALWAYS CHRIST. It’s a teacher’s goal to encourage every student to LOVE. LEARN. LEAD.

Celebrating Audrey Markel of Western Michigan Christian School (7-12th grade)

Western Michigan Christian Junior High and High School

Ashely Markel grew up in Texas and then graduated from Ouachita Baptist University where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and in Secondary Education. She went on to earn a Master’s of Science Degree in Educational Theory and Practice from Arkansas State University.

In 2017, Audrey completed her National Board Certification in Grades 6-12 Mathematics. She coached soccer and taught mathematics for five years in West Memphis, Arkansas before getting married to her husband Kyle and moving to Muskegon in 2017 where she taught at Muskegon High School.

Bride flanked by 16 bridesmaids in pastel dresses of blue, pinks and purple

Some of Audrey’s friends in her wedding in August 2017!

The 2017-18 school year was Audrey’s first year teaching at Western Michigan Christian. She teaches middle school math and basic algebra and coaches WMC’s middle school girls soccer team.

WMC MS soccer team and Coach Audrey having an after game snack

Audrey Coaches WMC’s middle school girl’s soccer team.

Enjoy getting to know her a bit more!

Q & A with Audrey

1.  What’s your favorite teaching moment to date?

My most favorite teaching moment to date was probably on the Thursday before Easter 2019. I placed math problems in Easter eggs and hid them around the room. It was so fun to watch them get more excited about doing math problems just because they found them in an easter egg!

I placed math problems in Easter eggs and hid them around the room. It was so fun to watch them get more excited about doing math problems just because they found them in an easter egg!

Math is a content area that requires practice so I always love when students are able to still enjoy their time practicing even if it’s something as simple as doing an easter egg hunt. I especially love it here at WMC because so many of the students will even say “thank you” as they leave class. That means the world to me.

We’ve had long talks about how not everything is always going to go your way, and when it doesn’t, to always try to learn what can be improved upon. From this experience, the students learned that failures and mistakes are excellent teaching moments.

We’ve had long talks about how not everything is always going to go your way, and when it doesn’t, to always try to learn what can be improved upon.

Group pic of Audrey and her students having fun.

6th and 7th-grade lock-in at WMC!

2.   What’s something fun that most people do not know about you?

Most people here don’t know that my favorite food is Indian.

Sampler plate of Indian food.

Audrey’s favorite food is Indian cuisine!

3. What do you love about your job and why?

I LOVE getting to build relationships with people. I love getting to see these students and the staff every single day.

God has blessed us by allowing us to do life with others who are also uniquely created in his image. By seeing each other every single day, we have the opportunity to see so much more of God as we build relationships!

There are many trials that we go through in life and we are not meant to go through them alone.

There are many trials that we go through in life and we are not meant to go through them alone. It is such a gift to walk alongside students and staff and encourage each other to throw off everything that pulls us away from Christ and to continue to run the race of life with perseverance as we near the day of redemption (Hebrews 12:1-3)!

It is such a gift to walk alongside students and staff and encourage each other to throw off everything that pulls us away from Christ and to continue to run the race of life with perseverance as we near the day of redemption (Hebrews 12:1-3)!

Audrey dressed as a hamburger with french fry hat and Ms. Lile a princess in purple holding a toad.

Hanging out with Ms. Lile, a colleague at WMC, at a high school dance.

4.   What’s the best part of your day?

I LOVE morning devotionals with my first-hour class. I have spent my teaching career in the public school setting. It is so freeing to get to openly talk about the light of the world and the LIFE that only Jesus can offer and the relationship that we get to have with God the Father through the gift of Christ and his Spirit!

I LOVE morning devotionals with my first-hour class. I have spent my teaching career in the public school setting. It is so freeing to get to openly talk about the light of the world and the LIFE that only Jesus can offer and the relationship that we get to have with God the Father through the gift of Christ and his Spirit!

I love getting to hear from my students during this time. They are so courageous as they choose to be vulnerable and share with the class how they relate to the devotional, and how they are being challenged and encouraged. Many of them have chosen to share a devotional as well.

It is so cool to have space set aside each day to intentionally encourage each other to connect with our Creator and Savior. I love hearing them pray. I love hearing them share how God impacts their lives and changes their hearts.

I love hearing them pray. I love hearing them share how God impacts their lives and changes their hearts.

After spending time in the Word together, it is such a blessing to then get to see how the Word of God shapes their lives. During this time they have written encouraging notes to staff and family and they seem to really enjoy it.

Class group photo on Pi Day.

Pi Day celebration with 4th hour!

5. How specifically has the Lord gifted you as an individual and how does that help you as a teacher?

The Lord has gifted me with a love of “story.” This has helped me develop relationships with students as I genuinely care about and want to know what God is doing in their lives. 

As relationships are built, it helps me to better understand how to help motivate each student. Having a relationship with students through an appreciation of their story also helps me towards empathy when a student is having a tough day. If a student is acting out it is typically because they are hurting.

As relationships are built, it helps me to better understand how to help motivate each student. Having a relationship with students through an appreciation of their story also helps me towards empathy when a student is having a tough day. If a student is acting out it is typically because they are hurting.

If they have let us into part of their story, it is easier to identify this and then know how to encourage and challenge them.

6. What do you enjoy doing outside of school?

I love spending time with my husband and other family and friends. I also love getting to know more of Jesus by being outdoors in his creation, especially when I get to do that with people I love.

Audrey's husband takes a group selfie while traveling in Scotland with family with ocean view in background

Audrey’s husband takes a group selfie while traveling in Scotland with family in July 2018.

I love learning and I love creating various forms of art. I love being active and working out and doing as many adventures as possible!

Audrey and Kyle sitting in full snowboard gear on a snowy slope with ski lift in background.

Audrey’s snowboarding adventure with fiance Kyle just after he proposed on the top of the mountain. Friends and family were waiting to surprise her at the bottom!

I love to travel and meet new people and try new things and eating all types of food. I love sloths and dolphins and piglets and dogs.

Audrey hugging a sloth in Roatan with hubby behind her.

A dream come true for Audrey! Holding a sloth during Spring Break in Roatan 2019.

7. What’s your specific favorite beverage?

I love coffee! Peet’s is my all time favorite.

Peet's coffee cup

Audrey’s favorite coffee is Peet’s!

As a beloved faculty member, Audrey is a very special part of the heart of WMCS. We are BLESSED and FAVORED to have her as part of our school family!  Join us all in celebrating Audrey and the amazing Kingdom work she does at WMC.

Audrey, in celebration of YOU and Teacher Tuesday, DIBS! On Resale would like to say “Thank You!” with $10 in DIBS! Dollars!

Please check in at the front desk at DIBS! on Resale in Muskegon so they can award you this gift!

Did you hear? GOOD THINGS ARE HAPPENING at DIBS! and $10 goes a long way, so enjoy the shop!

Recently relocated to a new store in Muskegon, DIBS! On Resale opened its doors in 2012 to benefit our local West Michigan Christian Schools (WMCS) including Fremont Christian (PK-8), Muskegon Christian(PK-6), Grand Haven Christian (PK-8), New Era Christian (PK-8) and Western Michigan Christian (7-12).

West Michigan Christian Schools (WMCS) is a collaborative system of five schools throughout the Lakeshore region of Western Michigan, that work under a “Better Together” philosophy, offering a top-quality, PK-12 Christian education experience and a full scope of academic and extracurricular programs. Benefiting from close cooperation and a seamless curriculum, our schools collaborate to formulate strategy and execute the necessary plans to achieve, elevate, and sustain Christian education in West Michigan.

WMCS Teacher Tuesday Q & A with Western Michigan Christian School’s Daniel Garland

Teachers are the heart of WMCS!

Every Tuesday during the spring, the West Michigan Christian Schools Collaborative highlights a teacher from one of our five schools.

We have many gifted faculty members who work tirelessly to train up students at all PK-12th-grade levels. They use their giftedness and teach children how to SHINE and RISE UP to their God-given potential. They shepherd the WMCS students to GROW as Christians and default to leaning on ALWAYS CHRIST. It’s a teacher’s goal to encourage every student to LOVE. LEARN. LEAD.

Celebrating Daniel Garland of Western Michigan Christian School (7-12th grade)

Western Michigan Christian Junior High and High School

Daniel grew up in the mid-west area of the nation, moving around from state to state with most of his time spent here in Michigan. He graduated from Jenison High School in 2009 and received a degree in special education from Grand Valley State University. He originally went to school for video game design, but God had different plans.  After doing some volunteer work with local schools Dan discovered a love for teaching, which led him to WMC in 2018. Daniel is an ESS (Education Support Services) teacher for grades 7-12, which consists of providing students with extra instructional assistance. This help can range from pulling a student from class to re-teach a lesson, to putting interventions in place to help a student learn more effectively, to assisting and co-teaching in classrooms.

Enjoy getting to know him a bit more!

Q & A with Daniel

1.  What’s your favorite teaching moment to date?

My favorite teaching moment would have to be with the school’s robotics team at our first competition.  It was a multi-day competition, and this was our first time doing anything like this. Our first day of competing did not go so well.  Our robot had some bugs in the code and didn’t function exactly how we wanted it to. At the end of our first day, the students were down, and some were questioning why we were even there.

WMC Robotics team group photo at competition.

WMC’s Robotics Team at the first FRC Qualifier in 2019 in Kentwood.

We had long talks about how not everything is always going to go your way, and when it doesn’t, to always try to learn what can be improved upon. From this experience, the students learned that failures and mistakes are excellent teaching moments.

From this experience, the students learned that failures and mistakes are excellent teaching moments. On day two, we bounced back from our initial first-day mistakes and rocked it out, winning all of our matches! 

On day two, we bounced back from our initial first-day mistakes and rocked it out, winning all of our matches!  In the end, we received an award for being the highest ranking rookie team in that competition. The part I love most about this was how the students turned their moods and behaviors around before we even won the award at the end of the day. They learned a valuable lesson that will stick with them–the award was just the cherry on top.

The part I love most about this was how the students turned their moods and behaviors around before we even won the award at the end of the day.

Robot close-up shot

Our robot was designed to extend up to 8 feet tall and had a forklift type mechanism.

2.   What’s something fun that most people do not know about you?

I have a weakness for cats and dogs.  I think my cats and dogs are the most adorable animals ever. I may be a little biased though.

Photo of Daniel's black dog and cat snuggling on couch

Daniel’s pets, Ari and Mew, are both a year old, and they are BFFs!

3. What do you love about your job and why?

The part I love most about my job is helping students realize that they are able to do things that they themselves didn’t realize that they were capable of.

close up photo Daniel Garland and a student

4.   What’s the best part of your day?

The best part about my day is when I get to teach concepts and lessons to students in a different way.  Not every student learns the same way, and I love finding the best way for each student individually.

The best part about my day is when I get to teach concepts and lessons to students in a different way.  Not every student learns the same way, and I love finding the best way for each student individually.

5. How specifically has the Lord gifted you as an individual and how does that help you as a teacher?

The Lord has gifted me with a speech impediment in the form of a stutter.  I haven’t always viewed it as a positive thing in my life and it has led to some difficult situations.  While going to school for Special Education I realized that having a stutter makes it so I understand what some students go through on a daily basis with a disability or other hardship.  My stutter is not as severe as it once was, but I know at least a little bit of what some students are going through.

While going to school for special education I realized that having a stutter makes it so I understand what some students go through on a daily basis with a disability or other hardship.

6. What’s your specific favorite beverage?

Mountain Dew Code Red

As a beloved faculty member, Dan is a very special part of the heart of WMCS. We are BLESSED and FAVORED to have him as part of our school family!  Join us all in celebrating Dan and the amazing Kingdom work he does at WMC.

Dan, in celebration of YOU and Teacher Tuesday, DIBS! On Resale would like to say “Thank You!” with $10 in DIBS! Dollars!

Please check in at the front desk at DIBS! on Resale in Muskegon so they can award you this gift!

Did you hear? GOOD THINGS ARE HAPPENING at DIBS! and $10 goes a long way, so enjoy the shop!

Recently relocated to a new store in Muskegon, DIBS! On Resale opened its doors in 2012 to benefit our local West Michigan Christian Schools (WMCS) including Fremont Christian (PK-8), Muskegon Christian(PK-6), Grand Haven Christian (PK-8), New Era Christian (PK-8) and Western Michigan Christian (7-12).

West Michigan Christian Schools (WMCS) is a collaborative system of five schools throughout the Lakeshore region of Western Michigan, that work under a “Better Together” philosophy, offering a top-quality, PK-12 Christian education experience and a full scope of academic and extracurricular programs. Benefiting from close cooperation and a seamless curriculum, our schools collaborate to formulate strategy and execute the necessary plans to achieve, elevate, and sustain Christian education in West Michigan.