Ash Wednesday/Lent Reflection


Ash Wednesday is the first day in the season of Lent, the time in the church year that prepares us for Good Friday and Easter. Each year we gather together to be reminded of our need of salvation, repent of our sins, and receive the sign of the ashen cross on our foreheads to be reminded of God’s great salvation.  

If you are unable to join us for this special time, please note that we will be available at the church on Wednesday from 9:00am until 1:00pm if you would like to receive prayer and the imposition of ashes in the sign of a cross on your forehead.

Also, as we move into Lent, we want to take this opportunity to remind you that this is a season in which self-reflection, prayer, and repentance are appropriate. Each year, we encourage our congregation to fast during the 40 days of Lent (February 10 through March 26). 

The fasting could be for a meal, a day, or a longer period of time. Perhaps it's a certain kind of food; maybe a certain form of media (Facebook; cable news); or maybe an attitude to give up (being judgmental; negativity; complaining). 

Whatever it is, we exhort you to use this season wisely to grow closer to God, grow in self-awareness, and grow closer to your church family. Let someone know what you want to fast from and ask them to keep you accountable. We promise you that this transparency can bring radical positive change into your life. 

Prayerful Dependence and Giving


Every December we ask you to remember Good News as you prepare for year-end gifts, and each time you miraculously show up. Last year in the month of December we received almost $115,000.00 that helped launch us into 2018 -- which, by the way, was the most generous December ever in the history of our church.

You may not know it, or maybe haven’t realized it fully, but we’re a growing congregation (generosity, attendance, membership, baptism, ministry influence, missional communities, etc...) with growing needs. This past year has just been a year of immense faithfulness from our great God, a real reminder of how awesome He is, and how much He continues to do for us, His children.

As we look into 2019 we have no reason not to expect more of God’s faithfulness for us as a congregation. We’re entering into 2019 with a prayerful dependence that He’ll keep showing up in ways that only He can show up. Would you consider joining us in preparing for whatever it is that God has for us?

This December we have two goals: 25 New Online Regular Givers and $125,000.00, which will allow us to say yes to all of the amazing things that God has in store for us. These two goals allow us to enter 2019 confidently, with an increased base of support for continued ministry. How many more people will be added to our fold as they experience their salvation and new life in Jesus? How many more people will say yes to joining Jesus in the work of renewal at Good News? How will the Spirit work in our hearts in these next months?

This is our work of prayerful dependence as a congregation: “God, do anything you want. Amen.” If that prayer is true, and which it should be, there is no limit to what our God can do.

Because He Lives,

Dr. Brandon Morrow, Lead Pastor

You can give the following ways: Online, Check by Mail, Sunday Offering, Stocks, Planned and Estate Giving

2018 Pastor's Annual Report

In the past year we have heard countless stories of people who have joined our community and expressed their thankfulness to be a part of what God is doing at Good News, and they’ve shared with us their stories of how God is making them new. Those stories are represented here through so many names, numbers, and exciting things that are happening at Good News.

In 2018 we have over 200 visitors, people who have walked through the doors of Good News for the very first time, and out of those 200, and among those who have been with us, we have welcomed 31 new members, a highest, ever, in the history of Good News, and the cool thing is: we’re not even done with the year. In addition to those 31 new members, we’ve celebrated 7 infant baptisms, and 15 adult baptisms, and others who are also showing interest in following Jesus in baptism. In 2018 we’ve worked hard towards helping others take their next step in following Jesus, in the fall of 2018 we have rebranded and relaunched our membership process, which was formerly known as Foundations, and have launched Growth Tracks, which has gone through (3) successful rotations and have helped our people take their next steps in growth. In 2018 we’ve seen our Sunday service attendance grow by 13% over last year, and on one of my favorite days out of the whole year, we welcomed almost 800 people to our Easter services.

This year we made the decision to focus the majority of our time and energy on being a church that makes disciples who make disciples, and we do this primarily through our Missional Communities. In 2018 we started three new missional communities, with one of our missional communities birthing two new groups, and one starting from scratch, helping connect 44% of our congregation into a missional community, which is a 12% increase from the summer of 2017. Out of those missional communities we have witnessed couples grow in their emotional health, awareness of where God is working, and have seen people take monumental steps in their faith as they teach and lead others from within their missional community. What happens in the missional community does not just stay there, instead we have families who are developing new, healthy rhythms of prayer, study, sabbath, and worship -- some of these families are breaking generational patterns of discipleship and discipling their children for the very first time.

In 2018 we’ve blossomed beyond our local impact and have become a regional training center through events like: The Global Leadership Summit, Empowered to Connect, and the IF: Gathering. In addition to being a regional training center, there have been many exciting developments on our own home front. In 2018 Good News and its men’s ministry launched its first ever Men’s Retreat, hosting almost 30 men for an intense dive into life together and life in the scriptures. The Men’s Group has been a recurring brightspot throughout 2018.

God has blessed us immensely in 2018. Through the generosity of Good News, we hope to see December 2018 result in our best-ever financial year, hoping it tops a record breaking 2017. This summer we received our largest summer offering ever, totalling over $36,000.00, which helped pave the way for global missions as we’ve developed into a sending congregation as we prayed for the Popken family who recently moved to Hawarden, IA; we’ve built partnerships with Back2Back Ministries in Mazatlan, Mexico; supported Megan Struthers in her trip to Honduras; and have watched KC and Samantha Livermore catch a missionary heart for the people of Mazatlan, Mexico. That special offering has also paved the way for reaching families and kids from hard to reach places through the development of our sensory room and in equipping each room with sensory needs. To our current knowledge, we are the only church in our area to offer this type of support to families and kids in need.

Good News has faithfully modeled what James 1.27 says is “pure and undefiled religion” through our support of Kaden’s Kloset, which recently was nominated for the Valero Charity Award in Hartley, IA. It’s through ministries like Kaden’s Kloset that we’ve seen Good News members, and folks outside of our congregation, bring the healing and hope that only Jesus can provide.

Our heart for loving and serving people is becoming more and more known throughout our community. Most recently, Celebrate Recovery outgrew their space, and moved into our sanctuary on Tuesday nights. CR continues to be a beacon of hope for many in our area and we’re thankful for the passion they share in continuing that ministry.

In 2018 we made a step of faith to not continue in Wednesday evening children’s programming, but instead working towards whole-family and whole-community discipleship through missional communities. Not only have we seen our missional communities increase in participation by 12%, we have seen steady attendance in our Junior High and High School Wednesday night student ministries, where over 50 kids are involved in peer-to-peer discipleship every week.

One of the greatest joys in 2018 was the hiring of our new worship pastor, Brennon Kok, and welcoming him, Jordyn, and Elijah into our family. Since hiring Brennon our worship team has developed a songwriting team and we’re over 3/4 of the way finished with our first ever Good News worship album, with all original music written by Good News worship team members.

I am incredibly thankful for the amazing staff we have in Anthony Parrott, Kelli Achenbach, Steve Petty, Brennon Kok, and many don’t know this, but we’ve adopted Tina Vande Hoef and Jeff Berkland as one our own, only adding to the richness of the Good News Staff. I’m incredibly thankful as well for our discerning leadership team and executive team who works tirelessly behind the scenes, without a whole lot of thanks, for the ministry of Jesus and for all of you. The congregation is more loved by those groups of leaders far more than they realize.

Above all else, we’ve seen an amazing movement of the Holy Spirit at Good News. Supernaturally, God is up to something here and we are more than delighted to pursue more of what He has for us. In 2019 we’re looking for an increased year of faithfulness as we continue to respond to Jesus and His call of discipleship in the life of our church.

XSeed: A Growing Capacity for the Kingdom

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and all of these things will be added to you.” // Matthew 6:33

  • 5 recent baptisms.
  • Two great services.
  • The upcoming KidZone.
  • The Tabernacle.
  • Kaden’s Kloset.
  • Missional Communities.
  • Community Table.
  • Mazatlan Missions Team.
  • Wednesday Night Reunion.
  • Our Prayer Room.
  • Celebrate Recovery.

Those are just the quickest things I could think of when I considered what it meant to, “seek first the Kingdom,” or what it means to follow Jesus and grow in His Kingdom. Those are tangible expressions of what it means to lay down our desires and pursue wholeness in Christ’ name.

Good News is a church that passionately pursues the ways of Jesus, and in doing so, the Lord honors His promises generously. Weekly, I hear the stories of life change, healing, prayers answered, and so many reasons to celebrate the goodness of what God is doing through His Son. We’ve exhibited what faithfulness looks like in our denomination, and within our region. Even more than that, the Lord demonstrates His faithfulness. Several times, even in my relatively new start, I’ve found myself speechless at the Lord and His sheer awesomeness, having to almost reel my jaw up from the floor.

We’re entering into a time and season of increased faithfulness. We understand clearly the demand before us: the evangelization and discipling of the nations (Acts 1:8, Matt 28:19-20, Mark 16:15). That looks like a huge mission, but there’s one thing I’m 100% confident in: the Lord’s faithfulness to see that through. It is by His absolute power and authority that the nations will bow, by His sovereignty that many will accept the nudges of the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and through Him we will see the restoration of all things. I’ve never been more confident in God’s faithfulness.

God is unrelenting in answering His promises.

We can grow in faithfulness.

Yup! We’re a growing congregation that demonstrates obedience to the Lord, but oh, how much more we could be faithful, oh, how much more we could demonstrate our obedience, and oh, how much more we could lean on the integrity of God and His capacity to exceed our expectations.

Just as the Lord exceeds our expectations in His generosity, we want to exceed our capacity for that to. This December, we’re asking you, Good News Community Church, to give over $150,000.00 during the month of December. Our generosity, and capacity to give is rooted in acts of worship that stand in reflection of how much we know God to have given us. Let me remind you of this: He gave you everything.

Why $150,000.00? Throughout a typical month, we receive somewhere in the range of $45-55,000.00, and it’s worthy celebrating that in years past Good News is able to increase its’ stellar giving in December by an additional $40,000.00+, pushing us towards the $80-90,000.00 range at December end. We praise God for that!

By giving a total of $150,000.00 in the month of December, we’re asking the Lord to ramp up His promises, trusting that we’ll be prepared for His goodness.

An additional $60-70,000.00 does this:

  • Helps prepare the way for a full-time Worship Director in the Spring. Currently we have around 800 people who visit us throughout a given month.

  • Increases our capacity to reach more children in the name of Jesus as we can exceed our plans for the KidZone, and a budding Sunday morning children’s experience. We experience over 150 different kids throughout a month.

  • Funds a growing (35+ people) Celebrate Recovery ministry where people are being freed from addictions, and equipped to lead others. Celebrate Recovery is outgrowing their current meeting space.

  • Grows our global footprint in Global Missions in areas like Mazatlan, Mexico and beyond. In 2017, Good News sent 12 missionaries for boots-on-the-ground missions. We have an interest list of 30+ people for our next trip.

$150,000.00 is not a large amount in the eyes of the Lord, but it is a monumental step for Good News as we grow together in planting seeds of faith, and trusting in the Lord’s faithfulness. This amount is just the tip of what we believe God can do.

Here’s what we need from you:

  • Pray. Ask God how you need to exceed your current giving and faith to meet the expectations of His Kingdom.

  • Dig deep. The greatest reflection of worship, as it pertains to what God has done, is when worship costs us something. May we grow in our worship from a place of sacrifice.

  • Give. We don’t exercise our obedience in the hopes of seeing God’s faithfulness without action. We can’t have the second step (the revelation, the beauty), without taking the first (faith, trust).

We’re praying for many exciting things this December and beyond! We can’t wait for you to partner with us as we see how the Lord exceeds our expectations and grows our capacity for His Kingdom.

With Love,

Brandon Morrow, Lead Pastor

We’re nearing the end of a phenomenal series called

We’re nearing the end of a phenomenal series called, “The Neighboring Life,” where we’re learning what Jesus said about the fundamental aspect of discipleship: neighboring. Neighboring is so easy you should be doing it. “Easy,” is a tongue-in-cheek way to describe the difficulty of discipleship, because anything worth doing will certainly come with some trials, and neighboring is definitely an act that will require lots of faith.

I began my inaugural sermon in discussing the word, “SAY,” where we’re learning to be bold and blunt witnesses by allowing God to speak through our testimonies. We ended our time together with this simple challenge: we can neighbor better.

Better is a preferable word to use, say, rather than “good,” or, “bad.” The word, “better,” shows us that we’re always a work-in-progress, still with some flaws, that wants to be more because of what Jesus has done for us. The best version of ourselves in Jesus is incredibly ambitious, and while we don’t do the brunt of the transformation work, there’s some room for us to contribute.

In learning to neighbor better, as well as sharing our stories, perhaps the most important development is the art of conversation. We must be better conversationalists.

Below is an excerpt from The Neighboring Life: Study Guide, pg. 111

To have better conversations and share our lives, we need to ask better questions of each other and our neighbors. “What’s your name?” “What do you do?” are good starting places but Jesus was always asking way more interesting questions than that. Here are some easy, but better follow up questions we can ask one another to get to know each other and share our own stories.

  • How did you end up in ______________(insert your state or city)?

  • What was your best day ever?

  • Where did you grow up?

  • What were some of your hobbies as a kid?

  • What do you like to do for fun now?

  • What’s one of your dream vacations?

  • How did you meet your wife/husband?

  • What’s one of the best gifts you’ve ever received?

Those are excellent primers for better conversation. They’re beginners for deeper neighboring that will hopefully result in life transformation. Albeit, those questions aren’t all that you can offer your neighboring relationships. Over time we can learn to be attentive to when the Spirit wants to use our own experiences for a moment of healing, clarification, or further discussion. For example:

  • Marriage and parenting

  • Work and vocational change

  • Family related illnesses and/or loss

The better conversationalist you can become will mean that you learn to not only listen to your neighbors, but also to the voice of the Spirit, who will push you to be witnesses to what God has already done in your life. Remember, look for the victories of Jesus, the most apparent times when God has been at work.

I suspect there’s much work to be done. Soli Deo Gloria.

Brandon Morrow

Hiring Updates

Lead Pastor Update
Over the past 3 weeks, we have been receiving applicants for the position of Lead Pastor of GNCC. We're excited to let you know that in such a short period, over 70 qualified folks have applied, and the amazing team at Slingshot Group have prayerfully discerned that list to (currently) 6. Those 6 have already been thoroughly vetted, interviewed, and prayed over by Slingshot. They have now turned over their names and candidate profiles to the hiring team here at Good News.

Your hiring team has been carefully reviewing each candidate profile and will begin initial interviews quickly. They are excited about the list of candidates--qualified candidates from across the country with experience in leadership, teaching, discipleship, and missional outreach. 

Please continue your steadfast prayers for the hiring team, Slingshot, as well as our candidates as they enter into the interview process with us. Pray that God's will would be made clear; that everyone would have discerning minds and hearts; and that we are open to where the Spirit is leading us next.

Worship Director Update
As you know, I transitioned from the Worship Director of GNCC to Community Formation Director last fall. Since then, our worship team has been shepherded by a remarkable group of leaders: Lisa Drost, Carry Miller, and Jon Miller. The worship team as a whole has been leading us week after week by providing our congregation with catalytic experiences with God. 

We recognize two things about the worship ministry: first, that this amazing team has been 100% volunteer led; and secondly, that they need leadership energy poured into them in order to continue forward with excellence. We've been caught in an in-between place, however, recognizing the need for worship leadership, but also knowing that we were in the middle of a hiring process for a lead pastor.

With all that in mind, the Leadership Team of GNCC has approved a full-time, temporary (four-months) worship director position beginning as soon as possible. We think a full-time temporary position will allow us to continue to offer great worship experiences each Sunday while we engage in outreach and evangelism at the Tabernacle; and also give our future lead pastor the flexibility necessary in making staffing choices moving forward. 

A hiring team comprised of Annette Bernier (elder), Carol Keizer (deacon), Lisa Drost (worship leader), Jesse Orttel (member-at-large), and myself has already been working in putting together a job description and application which we will be sending out to local Christian colleges and qualified candidates we are already aware of. We will let you know once the job posting is live, if you are aware of any candidates you would like to send that direction! 

I personally want to thank this congregation for their exceptional character and behavior during this time of transition. Many congregations see a slump during pastoral transitions--but not you! Engagement, giving, and service in and outside of the church has been on the rise. The church is not a phone number to call during office hours; it's not an address--it's you all! And you have been revealing Christ's character during this time. Thank you. 

Peace to you all,

Anthony Parrott
Community Formation Director & Transition Leader

Pastoral Transition Update - We're Live Folks!

We know that many of you have been asking about how the pastoral transition and search is going. We haven't said much because there hasn't been much to tell - until now!

You may remember that in March a representative from Slingshot Group came and met with Pastor John, our staff, and our hiring team in order to get to know GNCC, our region, vision, and culture. From those meetings, Slingshot put together an extensive profile of our church, our area, as well as a job description for our next lead pastor.

When we read the first draft of that profile, the hiring team said aloud - "We want to be part of that church!" It was so encouraging to have an outside ministry professional come to our church and note how Spirit-filled and healthy our church leadership and congregation is. We are especially grateful to Pastor John Messer for his role in preparing our church for a healthy transition.

Anyway, the good news is that the search is now on! Slingshot, on behalf of GNCC, is now searching nationally for our next Pastor of Vision, Teaching, and Leadership. The church and job description is live at their website.

This is now a time where we wait and we pray. Slingshot will now take the many dozens of applicants and prayerfully bring that down to a reasonable number of candidates for GNCC's hiring team to do a first round of interviews with. Slingshot estimates that it will be around 2 months before we begin to receive names for our first interviews. So be in prayer for the representatives of Slingshot, those applying, and our own congregation as we eagerly await God's plan to unfold.

If you know of someone who should apply, please be sure to send them to Slingshot's website (or the "Hiring" tab at since Slingshot will be doing all initial screening and interviews. 

We will let you know when we receive our first set of candidates to interview and any updates along the way. 

We actively and eagerly await God's plan together.

Anthony Parrott (on behalf of the Hiring Team)
Transition Leader
Good News Community Church

Pastoral Transition Update

We are continuing to keep our congregation up to date on our Pastoral Transition and search. Here's what's happening now.

This past Thursday your Leadership Team affirmed a search team and a search firm to help guide our process. The search team is made up of:

Terry Miller (chair) (Executive Team)
Ryan Cunningham (Executive Team)
Wade Weber (Executive Team)
Rick Ahrens (Executive Team)
Mary Sloan (elder)
Jamie Hicks (deacon)
Jeff Berkland (member at large)
Tina Vande Hoef (member at large)

Any questions or input can be directed at

The search firm that we are hiring is Slingshot Group ( Slingshot will assist us in finding the best candidates that are qualified and called to lead Good News in its next years. 

The search team has its first meeting this Wednesday and will begin the process of crafting a job description and scheduling a time for Slingshot to visit GNCC and get an understanding of culture, values, and vision. 

Be in prayer for the exciting days ahead, as we see what God is already up to and join Him in it.

Pastoral Transition Update

As you hopefully know by now, our Lead Pastor John Messer has accepted the call to be the Executive Leader of the Regional Synod of the Great Lakes of the Reformed Church in America. We wanted to give you an update on where things stand in our pastoral transition.


Pastor John’s last Sunday with us will be March 19 and he will begin his new position on April 16. He and his wife Lynette will use the intervening time to make the move from Spirit Lake to the Grand Rapids, MI area. Please be in prayer for them as they sell and buy homes and take care of all the necessary details in making the move. Plans are underway to honor Pastor John and Lynette for their many years of service and dedication. We’ll let you know how you can take part in thanking them in the weeks to come.


Anthony Parrott has agreed to serve GNCC as its Transition Leader while we search for a new senior pastor. Practically, this means Anthony will serve as “chairman pro tem” of the leadership team, provide spiritual and leadership guidance to the congregation, as well as serve to uphold GNCC’s mission, vision, and values. Please be in prayer for Anthony and his family during this season of increased responsibilities and transition.


Finally, the process has already started to put together a hiring team and choose a firm to assist GNCC find and interview the best possible candidates to lead our church. We will update you with specifics once they are approved by our Leadership Team.

Please know that we are optimistic about the months to come and truly believe that GNCC’s best days are ahead of it. We know that God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), therefore we are filled with hope and trust. For as we are often reminded, God is God and we are not. God’s got this, brothers and sisters.

For Everything There Is A Season . . .

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." That's true for the planet; for families; for individuals; and even for churches.

God is calling Good News into a new season as well. Pastor John Messer has accepted the call to become the next Executive Leader of the Regional Synod of the Great Lakes. The Reformed Church in America is made up eight regional synods throughout the U.S. and Canada. The Great Lakes Synod is made up of 226 churches throughout Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Georgia. 

Pastor John will continue serving GNCC full-time through March 2017, with a transition period lasting through mid-2017, when he and Lynette make the move to Grand Rapids, Michigan. A specific transition plan is still being drafted and will come together in detail in January, in coordination with GNCC's own executive, leadership, and staff teams, as well as the RCA.

We believe that this call affirms Pastor John's gifts as a leader of leaders. Pastor John has stated that this is a move that he can make "with confidence," which means that we at GNCC can also be confident in the plans God has for us. 

Please celebrate with us as we recognize the work that God has accomplished through Pastor John over the years; as well as pray for GNCC as we look forward to what God has in store for us next. 

My Pretty Bad Idea

So this past Sunday, I had what I thought was a pretty good idea.

I knew that we would be introducing The Story to the GNCC congregation during the worship service. I also knew that we'd be doing pre-orders on the books and figuring out people's interest in groups and the material. My "pretty good idea" was that I - by myself, alone - would be the one at the signup table so I could meet everyone who was interested myself.
That was the bad idea.

I felt like Lucy Ricardo trying to package up an infinite amount of chocolate on a conveyer belt that wouldn't stop. The amount of people signing up for books and materials was just intense! 

Obviously this is a good problem.

We are so glad to already hear your commitment to reading The Story, joining groups, and discovering how your story fits into God's Story. Dozens of you have already made the commitment to read The Story from September through May.

I wanted to let you know that right now we have a variety of classes, small groups, and Missional Communities that are meeting throughout the week to learn about The Story. 

If you aren't part of a group already, or haven't taken the chance to join one, I want to encourage you to do that today.

All of the groups meeting days, times, and places are available at our fancy-schmancy new groups website, where, with a click of button, you can join one of our groups. 

If you pre-ordered a book, they will be packaged up for you and ready to go at the Tabernacle this Sunday. If you need to pick one up still, they will be there available for purchase!

Make the commitment to read The Story. Join a group. Have your life changed. 

What If? A Testimony by Jamie Hicks

Jamie Hicks shared her testimony at our July 17 service. Here is what she shared:

In order to share my what if story, I have to tell you a little about my past. It isn’t easy to tell and it won’t be easy to hear. But it is a path God chose when he knit me in my mother’s womb. In her 10th grade, unwed womb.

Psalm 139:13 - For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Have you ever wondered why you are here?

I have many times.  As a child growing up in a home with alcohol and drug abuse, as well as mental illness, I often wondered why God gave me the parents he did. I wondered why we didn’t have more. I wondered why it seemed like nobody cared.  My Mom and Dad divorced when I was four and my earliest memory was of domestic violence.  My story should have involved DHS but the 80s were much different than today.  My 2 sisters and I were raised by my bipolar alcoholic mom and heroine addict step father.  

Our house was volatile and uncertain.  We were often hungry and left alone while our parents went on long trucking trips.  I cared for my sisters and was frequently told that I was a mistake. We were expected to do chores perfectly and behave perfectly.  Needless to say, I was grounded all the time.  No child is perfect, least of all me. Because of our home life, I was picked on mercilessly at school.  Bullying was an every day occurrence for me.  I was poor, had divorced parents, and was super smart.  That should have been a blessing but as a child was just one more thing that set me apart from my classmates.  I just wanted to be normal.  What if this wasn’t my real family? What if God made a mistake and this wasn’t my life?  Maybe some nice people were missing me and would come for me.

Psalm 4:1 - Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God.  Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

I prayed many times that God show me who my real parents were or that he would rescue me somehow from my situation.  You might ask how I knew to talk to  God? How did we meet?  Every other weekend my sisters and I  went to our Dads house and experienced love and acceptance from our grandparents, aunts and uncles and father. I was baptized in the Methodist church as an infant and our Dad drove us to Sunday school every other week, without fail. He often woke us up to the Styx Hallelujah Chorus.  

I met Jesus in a little church Sunday school class and began a lifelong conversation with him in about 2nd grade. Interestingly, on opposite weekends, our mom made us walk the ½ block to the Presbyterian church and go to church and Sunday school there too.  Those churches were filled with Christian people who were kind, encouraging and shared the Word with me and my sisters.  My school was also filled with encouraging, kind adults who showed me love and acceptance. Perhaps God heard my prayers after all, even if I didn’t think so at the time. My parents were the ones God chose for me.  But he was my first Father.

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew, He also predestined.

What if my hurt and pain were meant to be used for good? Had he blessed me with intelligence so that I could share what I learned with others? I have been blessed with a gift for learning.  I have always loved to read and have an amazing memory.  This is useful when playing trivia games and also in science and math.  I was my class Valedictorian in spite of many obstacles.  I was given tuition scholarship to community college and most of the way through my master’s degree. 

But my grandma Iva has always been quick to tell us, to those who have been given much, much is expected.  What could I do with this gift? My teachers reminded me that my grades were a way to do more.  To accomplish great things and make a difference in the world.  My high school science teacher and music teachers in particular, inspired me to use my gifts to help others.  Mr Brasser didn’t win the state science teacher award for nothing.  He told me to apply at the nursing home at the age of 15.  I loved my first job as a CNA.  The residents were so thankful and so loving. They listened and encouraged me.  The owners of the nursing home encouraged me and the nurses there urged me to take my gift of caring for others to a higher level.  I am still friends with some of them today. I loved helping other people.

Have you ever questioned God’s plan for you? What was my destiny? Unlike many young people today,  I felt my calling early on.  I knew that I was meant to care for others.  I loved nursing school and had my first job as an LPN charge nurse in a nursing home at age 19.  I was on a path towards my dream. I was an adult no longer living at home and knew that God wanted good things for me. I graduated with my master’s degree at age 23 and got my first job as a family nurse practitioner. Was this journey easy? Definitely not.  Did I think I was in control of it? Mostly yes.

My Dad dying suddenly in a work accident when I was 20 showed me that control is an illusion. My infertility and miscarriages after marrying the man of my dreams told me again that I was not in control.  My job being eliminated while on maternity leave showed me again that maybe I was not in charge of my journey. Was I listening? What was God trying to teach me? My first 25 years of life had been filled with loss and sadness.  What opportunities were waiting?

Nothing widens our options like the promises of God.

Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.

This says it all to me.  God promises not to harm me.  He wanted me to have a future and hope.  His Son is my hope.  This is my life verse. I have been blessed with 3 wonderful children and a supportive, kind husband. I have worked in family medicine for 13 years. I have shared my story with many people in times of need and gotten to help thousands of others during sickness and health. I have served in churches in volunteer and leadership roles.

But what if God wants more?

That is a terrifying question.  At 38, I felt like my life was going really well.  My kids are healthy, my marriage is strong.  My faith is unwavering. Until-----I lost my job on a random Friday in March.  Would I praise him in the storm this time?  Had I really learned from past mistakes and experiences? How fitting that the verse following my life verse is this…

Jeremiah 29:12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you.

Following my job loss, I felt helpless.  I was scared. I needed Jesus. I prayed for direction, guidance and again, hope. I prayed daily for a plan.  I am old enough to recognize that I was not in control.  I am wise enough in my faith to be silent in my journey and listen.  But waiting was so hard.  God knew I struggle with patience.  I am a planner.  I am the organized one. 

But He knows the plans for me. 

He knew that my patients would call me and text me and message me, and ask where I would be practicing next.  He knew that Pastor John would bring me this book for our summer small group to read ahead of time and that it would speak to me. He knew that my dream is to provide care for people in a way that makes them feel valued and loved, like a family member.  He knows that His dream for me is even bigger than I ever dreamt possible.  

In large part, this book and a lot of prayer have lead me to the decision to open my own family practice this September in Milford.  Am I scared, sure.  But what has God been teaching me in this storm?  Be bold, reflect light into the world.  That is what I want to do with my life. This is what he has called me to do.  My profession allows me to shine light into lives each and every day.  Helping others in family practice is not just about sore throats or high blood pressure. It allows me to witness to others the power that is found in Christ. 

Our journey is not a destination. 

Mark Batterson says our destiny has far less to do with what we do than it does with who we become. My destiny isn’t just to be a mother, wife, or nurse practitioner.  My destiny is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Destiny is not another accomplishment, it’s a reflection.  May God help me to reflect his best each and every day to those around me. His love, his power, his patience, his joy.

My prayer for you is the same. Perhaps our circumstances aren’t supposed to change, perhaps they are the very thing God will use to change us.  What circumstance is keeping you from your What If?  Don’t let it stop you from reaching your God sized dream! Because really, if God is for us, who can be against us?

Transforming Lives

Written by the Step in Faith Missional Community

Step In Faith Missional Community has partnered with the Community Table at the Okoboji Bible Conference grounds to provide a free meal once a month anyone who would like to attend and eat. They, with the help of others, donate the food, prepare, and serve the meal and then clean up afterwards.

Many lives are being transformed through this process: Step in Faith as they learn to serve as Jesus taught; and the community as a whole as they build relationships with those they serve.

They've been doing this for 6 months and have committed to at least 6 more. Their mission is to build relationships that they may offer the Gospel to those who those who need to hear it either again for for the first time.

As long as I'm alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. Philippians 1:22.

(In Memory of Sally Vander Leest.)

Fasting: Some Things to Know

A Working Definition

Voluntarily and intentionally abstaining from something that is good and acceptable for spiritual purposes…such as prayer, worship and seeking God.


The Point of Discipline

Bodily discipline contributes to spiritual discipline (and other discipline).

The discipline of fasting increases our ability to be emotionally and spiritually disciplined—to say “no” to sin and “yes” to holiness.

It’s like kids learning to eat healthy.  The more they indulge their sweet tooth with sugar and unhealthy foods, the more their appetite will be formed to desire them.  Trying to get a child to eat vegetables when they have been raised on a diet of pizza and sodas is a challenge.  When we engage in the discipline of limiting sugary, unhealthy foods openness to healthier fruits and vegetables is more likely.

What is true about our physical appetites is related to our spiritual appetite.  If we’ve trained ourselves to desire spiritual junk food, our desire for healthy food is diminished.  

One way to train our souls and our bodies to desire good spiritual food is to abstain from the “junk” for certain periods. 

Do you want to break the hold of sin in your life?  Fasting contributes to that.  In conjunction with other disciplines like prayer and silence and solitude, we can find that those controlling desires lose some of their control.  

The focus of fasting is God.  Jesus said “I am the bread of life” and “man does not live by bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

Jesus was speaking to Satan to counter the temptation to glorify himself or glorify Satan as opposed the God the Father, who alone is to be glorified.

Our fasting is also intended to deny glorification of ourselves and the enemy (through any cultural or social temptation) and to glorify God the Father who alone is worthy of our worship.  

Why Fast?

  • For clarity in thinking, feeling, praying, hearing, etc.
  • To eliminate distractions
  • To keep first things first
  • To let go of things that have taken too much control in my life 
  • To identify what has too much control in my life
  • To sort out my desires
  • To be serious about my prayers
  • To subdue my body
  • To stop focusing on myself


Choose a type of fast: from food, technology, TV, media, etc.

Choose a length: half a day, full day, one meal, two days, etc.

For those beginning a fast from food, I’d suggest starting with two meals (breakfast and lunch).  You would eat dinner in the evening and begin your fast immediately follow and fast until dinner the next day, so a total of about 24 hours.

What do I do during my fast?  Focus on God.  Read scripture or a devotional book, pray and turn your thoughts to God.  This is especially important for the time that you would have spent eating, watching TV or on the computer.  Re-focus your time and energy to God.


Good Book on Fasting

Lynn Baab, Fasting: Spiritual Freedom Beyond our Appetites, Downers Grove: IVP, 2006


All I Want For Christmas Is A Little Indifference

Christmas past for me involved wanting that one big present that would be so amazing, so awesomely impressive that the excitement would carry me through at least until my birthday—maybe even until Easter! 

One year the focus of my desire was a big-rig truck that was remote controlled (with a wire running to the steering wheel you held in your hand—this was the 60s, folks) and could be a regular flatbed, a reefer truck or, wait for it…a missile transporting platform that would make GI Joe proud. 

Another year the focus of my desire was a race track that had loop-the-loops and criss-crosses and a jump that was so awesome (when you watched the TV advertisements) I just had to have it!  The excitement from that one would carry me through until July, but my parents apparently didn’t understand that.  Neither of these awesome, life-completing presents ever appeared under our Christmas tree.  And I just didn’t understand.  

It seemed that somewhere, someone had a different idea of what would be good for John: socks, shirts, modest scaled-down (and less awesomely impressive) versions of the dream gift that had become the ONE thing I wanted—that’s all I wanted, just that ONE thing….  I’d be happy to have only one package under the tree.  You could take down my stocking and give me bread and water for Christmas dinner, just give me that one thing.  

I learned all the practical realities of Christmas through those years and beyond.  Realities of finances and the need to buy gifts for all the kids, not just John and the reality that sometimes what’s best isn’t very exciting even though it’s badly needed. Now I love getting a good pair of socks…but when I was ten, a pair of socks under the tree was the equivalent of a lump of coal in my stocking.

Fast forward forty (or more) years.  Now I’ve completely embraced the practical realities of Christmas.  I’ve learned the lessons.  I’ve had to juggle getting nice gifts for multiple people, manage the finances and demands, and learned that practical realities make it almost impossible to give someone that ONE thing that will be so exciting and life-changing.  I’ve become very practical.  And, more than anything this Christmas, I want to go back to the way it was when I was ten.  I want to want ONE thing again, with the same passionate desire and focus I had back then.

I want one thing.  Well, maybe it’s more accurate to say I want to want ONE thing.  I’m not sure I’m there yet but I’m working on it.  In spiritual terms it’s called indifference; being indifferent to all but ONE thing.  It’s a spiritual discipline, it doesn’t happen overnight, it isn’t easy…it takes intentional effort. 

What’s the ONE thing?  The will of God. I want to want God’s will more than anything else.  I want to see His will and desire His will and celebrate His will more than anything else in my life; more than my way, more than “success,” more than popularity, more than acclaim—even more than big-rig or a race track with loop-the-loops.  That’s the discipline of indifference.  To find the place of indifference is not complacency.  It’s not “whatever!”  It’s “nothing but” and the passionate pursuit of that ONE thing.  

That ONE thing will change your life.  Imagine what it would be like to say “God’s will is all I want” and actually mean it!  Imagine what it would be like to place all our other desires and demands in submission to God’s will; our health, our wealth, our successes and failures, our spouses, our children, our businesses…our church?

It will change your life.  This Christmas I’m praying for ONE thing.  I want to want it more and more, but I’m not there yet.  I’d like a little indifference, please.  You can take down my stocking and give me bread and water for Christmas dinner, but please, Lord, help me want your will more than anything else.

Connor and Paul's Bike Ride for Orphans and Widows

Jenni Cunningham, mother of Connor, updates us on Connor and Paul's bike ride.

Over the last two weeks it was shared during announcements about our son Connor and his friend Paul's project to raise money for a house for the James 1:27 Widow and Infant Village in Haiti. The boys and a crew from Good News rode their bikes around West Lake (21 miles) on Sunday, September 21st. Our church wrapped their arms around this mission and helped raise almost $3,000. The boys now have a little over $7,000 to turn in to Global Compassion Network. This $7,000 is enough to purchase one home, ship 10 homes to Haiti, and with a little leftover to go toward a second home.  What a blessing to see our church at work in the world.

Thank you!

The Cunningham's

I Get It, Job

Illustration to Book of Job, William Blake (1780 - 1827)

Illustration to Book of Job, William Blake (1780 - 1827)

I get it, Job.  Sometimes life hurts and we can’t seem to get God to explain why he did it, or at least allowed it.  I get it.  Sometimes our “friends” want to take the shortcut and blame me for anything they can’t understand.  If I’m hurting it must be my fault.  I must have sinned otherwise I wouldn’t be suffering, according to them.  But you know and I know that’s just superficial drivel.

On the other hand, my demand for an explanation is quite arrogant and presumptuous.  I presume that I could understand and should be given an explanation.  But God doesn’t need to justify himself to me.  

Sadly, as I’ve learned through experience, I often do myself more harm in trying to answer “why?” by myself, in the absence of a direct answer from God.  I start to fall into that very drivel that I reject from well-meaning but seriously wrong friends.  I must have sinned.  God must not love me.  It only makes it hurt more and decreases my desire to stay close to God (hmmm.  Do I smell smoke?)

Here’s what I know.  Knowing God doesn’t mean I’ll understand everything about God and his ways.  Sometimes it seems like my attempts to figure out God and come to an acceptable answer to “why?” reveals my tendency to want to know more ABOUT God than I want to actually KNOW him and LOVE him.  

That’s a dangerous place to be.  It’s the place where I get angry at God because I can’t understand why he didn’t fix my best friend’s marriage.  It’s the place where I cannot figure out why God let me (or, according to some, led me to) undergo hardships and sufferings in my life.  If I set understanding the mind and motives of God as the most important priority, I’ve missed the most important point of Scripture.  God doesn’t say that he wants us to understand everything about him, all his motives, all his plans in advance.  He says that he wants us to know HIM.  In other words to have a relationship with him.  When we put have a relationship, loving God, as our first priority, then we begin to see that the answer to the question “why?” is really an indirect answer.  

After his resurrection, Jesus approached Peter, who had abandoned and forsaken him after his arrest.  Jesus came to Peter and didn’t ask for an explanation.  He didn’t demand to know his motives.  Jesus looked Peter in the eye and asked, “Peter, do you love me?”  Three times he asked until Peter was getting exasperated.  The point Jesus was making was not about events, about circumstances or Peter’s motives.  He focused Peter on the most important question.  Do you love me?  So often that’s really the question we’re asking God in our pain; it just comes out as, “why, God?”  Does this mean you don’t love me?  Does this mean I’m bad?  Does this mean Jesus didn’t really deal with it all on the cross?

If I have learned anything through the trials and hardships of this life it is this: knowing and understanding God’s character is more important than knowing and understanding his motives.  And the question I should be asking myself is, “do I love him?”  If I don’t love him, no explanation is going to make any difference in my pain.  If I love him, I don’t need an explanation.  I know his character.  I’ve experienced his love, his compassion, his provision.  So, as much as I cry and shout and beg for answers, I know down deep that the only answer to any question that will make any difference is this, “do you love me, John?” 

I think I get it, Job.

Just to Say Thank You

Kelli Achenbach, administrative and financial assistant at Good News, writes:

A few months ago a woman stopped into the church and asked if she could fill out a Benevolence Request form. She was leaving her abusive husband and needed help with rent and moving as she was relocating out of the area. She was very emotional and told me she didn't know where to turn, but heard from one of her friends that our church might help her. We prayed together and I helped get a food bag to take with her. Our Deacons contacted her and were able to help her.

Last Sunday she was at our church service. She came up to me and gave me a hug and told me she came back to the area just to come to our church service and to thank me and the Deacon who helped her that day. She said she is doing much better and may be moving again to Florida to be closer to her family. She was just so happy and wanted to let us know how thankful she was for us and the help we gave to her when she needed it!

We, God's Church, are making a difference in our communities by connecting, serving, and growing together in Christ!

T-Shirt Fundraiser

Sally Ites, an elder at GNCC, shares this Brightspot:

Good News received a generous gift with a professional t-shirt design by a regular attender of our church. The design was given because the attender witnessed good things happening through God's blessing on the ministry of Good News and wanted to offer their recognition and support. The t-shirt sales have skyrocketed! We are on our fourth shipment of t-shirts to expand color choices and provide youth sizes as well as mail orders! Two pieces of equipment have been purchased for the worship team and staff because of the funds from the church's support of this campaign! Please continue to encourage others to order and proudly display the unique design. What a blessing!