adam-van-der-stoep-squareby Adam Van Der Stoep

Master of Divinity Student, senior year

“Allahhu Akbar” rang throughout the masjid’s (mosque’s) sound system as one of the Muslim men began to melodically chant the adhan, the call to worship. Those attending were about to observe the fard salat, one of the five daily and mandatory prayers, capturing a mere snapshot of the devotion, the tradition, the theology, and the identity of those who practice Islam.

And then there was me.

As the prayer commenced, I remained seated in the back of the now crowded prayer hall, with men pressed in front of and on each side of me. I couldn’t help but smile when I thought through the events that brought me to the masjid that night. The ironic part was that I had just come from a prayer meeting of my own at Christ Community Church (CCC) in Denver, Colorado. It was only three days into my summer internship, and I was smiling because God was already answering my two prayers for the summer. First, that I would be more prayerfully minded and second, that I would have a hands-on opportunity to learn more about Islam.

Be careful what you pray for, I guess!

It all started on the way back to my apartment that night when I noticed that the car in front of me had blown out one of its tires. The driver obviously noticed the rubbery explosion and the vehicle’s extreme rattling, too, so as she pulled off the road, I decided to follow suit and help change the mangled tire. The driver’s name was Fitri and she was a Muslim woman heading to the masjid in which I was now sitting. I had swapped out her tire for the spare and offered to follow her to her destination, hoping in some way to ensure her safety and peace of mind. After we pulled into the parking lot, I stepped out of my car to part ways and wish her well, but Fitri caught me off guard when she invited me to come inside and meet her friends.

So I said, “Why not?”

Well, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, the leader of the masjid, Imam Karim AbuZaid, invited me over to his house for supper.

So again I said, “Why not?”

Imam Karim and I spent the next hour or so traveling to his house and sitting at the dining room table of his home. We shared a meal together while having a wonderful conversation about Christianity and Islam, the Bible and the Qur’an, and of course, Jesus and Muhammad. After supper he invited me to come back to the masjid to watch the Muslim community observe its last prayer of the day and to listen to a recitation from the Qur’an.

So, in “typical me” fashion, I replied, “Why not?”

That whole evening cost about five hours of my time, besides getting a little bit of oil and grease on my hands. It was so worth it. From that evening came friendships with Muslims and opportunities that I would never have imagined possible if God were not in the Kingdom business of answering prayers and spreading the Good News about the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting in Jesus’ name.

The rest of my internship was wrapped around the study of apologetics and making weekly trips to another masjid to be lectured on Islam by the presiding Sheikh there, Dr. Ahmad Nabhan. He kindly and graciously helped me to grasp the Muslim world view, gently responded to my probing questions, and gladly accepted my invitation to come to my church and participate with me in an interfaith dialogue; an event to which I am ever grateful to pastor Bruce and the people of CCC for hosting. They demonstrated genuine Christian hospitality and a love for their Muslim neighbors by opening their hearts and their doors to a conversation as important as this.

This is an important conversation to be having, especially now.

Now is the time to equip our congregations with a deeper knowledge of Islam and the challenges it poses both to our culture and to our faith. Now is the time to exhort our pastors and leaders to carefully and compassionately articulate the scriptural witness and historical person of Jesus Christ. Now is the time to give an account for the hope we have in him.

Now is the time to say, “Why not?”

Join us on 11.29.16 for Giving Tuesday!


At Western Theological Seminary, we are called to raise up leaders in the church.

It costs us $28,705 to educate ONE in-residence student for ONE year, but the student is responsible for just $13,760 (before scholarships).

That’s a $14,945 difference.

The reason we can afford to keep costs so low is because of generous supporters like YOU!

Will you partner with us this #GivingTuesday (November 29) to send ONE student to seminary by raising $14,945?

Together, let’s keep costs low for our future pastors and leaders in the church.

Mark your calendars for November 29th, and give here!




#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

For more information, visit

Hear from student Emily Scatterday Holehan about her call to ministry:

Hear from student Mark Mares about his call to ministry:


Western has become a partner organization of The Big Read – Holland Area this year. The Big Read builds literacy by bringing a community together around one book and the shared experience of reading and discussion. Although this is Western’s first year as a partner, it is the third year of the Big Read in Holland, and over 7,000 people participated in Big Read activities in the Holland area last year. The Big Read’s primary sponsor is Hope College, with assistance from local libraries, the Holland Museum, and several other community organizations.

This year’s Big Read book,
Brother, I’m Dying, by award-winning author Edwidge Danticat, is a multi-generational story of one family’s life in Haiti and the United States. The book serves as a rich celebration of Haitian culture and history and also raises questions about how people with different backgrounds interact with each other in today’s world. One reviewer called it a “warm-hearted tragedy,” and it is rich with stories of familial bonds and love along with injustice and pain.  



Immigration Workshop at WTS

There are over a dozen Big Read activities planned for the first weeks of November in the Holland area. As part of this, Western is hosting an interactive Immigration Workshop at 7:00pm on Monday, November 14, led by the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice and sponsored by Fellowship Reformed Church. The workshop looks at immigration and refugee resettlement in the United States and explores how Christians may engage in these processes. All are invited. 

All Big Read Events:

Nov. 1, 7:00pm – Kick-off at Knickerbocker Theatre. TED-talks on the historical and cultural context of the book.

Nov. 2, 1:00pm – Panel discussion on refugees, resettlement and integration at Herrick District Library.

Nov. 3, 5:00 pm & 7:00pm – Haitian cuisine at Cook Dining Hall w/ Olga Benoit. $15 adults, $10 students.

Nov. 4, 7:30pm – Geraud Dimanche concert of music and dancing, Jack H. Miller Center for the Musical Arts

Nov. 5, 11:00am – Story time with children’s author Anne Sibley O’Brien, Herrick District Library

Nov. 5, 2:00pm – Hands-on Art Workshop at CultureWorks (710 Chicago Dr. Ste 200, Holland)

Nov. 7, 7:00pm – La Belle Vie at the Knickerbocker Theatre followed by Q&A with directors.

Nov. 9, 7:00pm – Lecture by immigration lawyer Sarah Yore-Van Oosterhout at the Howard Miller Library in Zeeland.

Nov. 10, 7:00pm – Poverty, Inc. screening with Q&A by Haitian entrepreneur Daniel Jean Louis.

Nov. 11, 7:00pm – Book discussion at Holland Museum

Nov. 12, 10:00am – Memoir writing workshop with Rhoda Janzen at Herrick District Library.

Nov. 14, 7:00pm – Interactive Immigration Workshop at Western Theological Seminary, Mulder Chapel.

Nov. 15, 7:00pm – Keynote address by Edwidge Danticat in Dimnent Chapel, Hope College. Booksigning afterward.

Nov. 17, 7:00pm – Student exhibition at the Holland Armory

You might not expect someone who has spent decades enjoying the distinctive landscape of New England to jump at the chance to move to West Michigan, but Alvin Padilla did just that.

“When you take into account what God is doing right here at WTS, it is undeniably the right place to be,” says Dr. Padilla. “The energy and passion to embrace what God is doing in the Church is so evident. I sense that God is about to do great things right here, and I simply want to be part of that!”

In July the seminary welcomed Dr. Alvin Padilla to campus as our new Academic Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Alvin was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, an important trading town resting by the Caribbean Sea and founded in 1692 by the great-grandson of Juan Ponce de León. When he was born, doctors said he wouldn’t live long; however, their diagnosis proved untrue, leading Alvin to grow up believing God spared him for a unique purpose.

His blue-eyed mother’s ancestry traced back to Spain, and his father was the grandson of a slave brought to the New World. His dad had a strong work ethic, instilling in his ten children that “one of the worst things in the world is a man who can’t provide for his kids.” He worked hard at the docks unloading ships, getting there by 5:00 each morning, often after having a cup of coffee with young Al.

Alvin’s father was also a medium, practicing Santería, a religion from West Africa syncretized with Roman Catholic elements. Al recalls accompanying his father as he performed séances all around the area. His father hoped Al would continue the Santerían tradition, but, by God’s grace, that was not to be.

Though baptized Catholics, neither Alvin nor his family attended Mass regularly. Being curious about spiritual matters, one day around the age of 11, Alvin walked into a Catholic Mass and watched it being held in Latin. He heard a voice say, “This is where you belong.” After that he started going to church. Soon the family migrated to the United States and settled in Haverhill, MA, where Al served as an altar boy in the local church until the age of 18. His family would attend Mass just to see him serve.

Alvin’s mother passed away his senior year of high school. She did not live to see him become the first Hispanic to graduate from high school in the town of Haverhill. Against the advice of his guidance counselor (who didn’t think he should go to college), he applied to numerous colleges and eventually entered Villanova University in Pennsylvania. Knowing his father wanted him to be a lawyer, he began school as a pre-law major. Sadly, during his freshman year his father passed away also. Shortly after that, Alvin switched his major to secondary education and minored in history.

After graduating from college, he returned to his hometown of Haverhill and became a community organizer, dedicating himself to improving the quality of life for the quickly growing Latino population and the wider community. Alvin had a secret ambition to become the first U.S. senator of Hispanic origin.

One day, while praying and walking around, he passed a Pentecostal church and heard joyous, celebratory singing. He heard God say, “Come and see!” Although skeptical, he walked in and sat in the back. The people there knew him and were so stunned that they stopped singing for a moment. That day, however, placed him on the path toward Protestantism and a deeper devotion to the church and God’s people.

That Pentecostal church had energy for the kingdom of God and an emphasis on service. Alvin was soon asked to participate in the church and was developed as a leader. He became ordained in The Assemblies of God. The church empowered people and relied on God’s gifts from the Spirit, putting men and women in leadership regardless of training. His continuing work as a local leader soon highlighted the need for more education. After one year at a Spanish language Bible institute, he enrolled at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he met his wife, Cathy. (Al and Cathy have five children and two granddaughters.)

After graduating from seminary, Cathy and Alvin were called to established the Spanish Eastern School of Theology in Swan Lake, NY. The school’s singular purpose was to prepare women and men for ministry among and for Latinos in

Alvin and Cathy Padilla with their family at their son's wedding.

        Alvin and Cathy Padilla with their family at their son’s wedding.

North America. Seven years later, Alvin and Cathy transitioned to Nyack College. While at Nyack, Alvin was ordained in the PC(USA) and called as solo pastor to the Fort Washington Heights Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. During this time he began and completed his doctoral studies at Drew University.

In 1997 Dr. Padilla shifted his full attention to a new position as Executive Dean and Associate Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He led the Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME—the Boston Campus) for 12 years. In 2010 he launched the Hispanic Ministries Program at Gordon-Conwell and became its dean, serving 400 students for the next six years and assembling an impressive faculty to teach the courses in Spanish and English. He remained connected to the church by serving two Presbyterian congregations as interim pastor during this time.

The faculty, staff and students of Western Theological Seminary are so pleased to have such an innovative and dynamic leader as our new academic dean. Dr. Alvin Padilla’s background and years of experience are sure to influence the future of this seminary in exciting and new ways.

Thanks for saying yes, Dr. Padilla!


Watch the video!

The Installation of Dr. Alvin Padilla

Academic Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs

October 25, 2016 at 7:30pm

Third Reformed Church, 111 W. 13th St., Holland

Dr. Justo González was the keynote speaker.

Proclamation–Celebrating God’s Word Through Preaching



frank-thomasFrank A. Thomas, PhD, currently serves as the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics and Director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana. Indicative of his great love of preaching, an updated and revised version of They Like to Never Quit Praisin’ God: The Role of Celebration In Preaching, considered by many to be a homiletic classic, was released in August 2013.

For many years, Thomas has also taught preaching to Doctoral and Masters level students at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, and at Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee. He is the CEO of Hope For Life International, Inc., which formerly published The African American Pulpit. With a long history of excellence in preaching and preaching method, Thomas was inducted into the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers of Morehouse College in April 2003. Thomas also serves as a member of the International Board of Societas Homiletica, an international society of teachers of preaching.

Thomas is the author of American Dream 2.0: A Christian Way Out of the Great Recession, released by Abingdon Press in August 2012. He also co-edited Preaching With Sacred Fire:  An Anthology of African American Sermons, 1750 to the Present with Martha Simmons, published by W. W. Norton & Company in 2010. This critically acclaimed book offers a rare view of the unheralded role of the African American preacher in American history. Thomas is also the author of several other books on subjects from matters of prayer to spiritual maturity.

Thomas served with distinction as the senior pastor for two remarkable congregations: New Faith Baptist Church of Matteson, Illinois, and Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church of Memphis, Tennessee, for eighteen years and thirteen years, respectively.

Thomas holds a PhD in Communications (Rhetoric) from the University of Memphis, a Doctor of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary, Doctor of Mini
stry degrees from Chicago Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary, and a Master of Arts in African-Caribbean Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.

Thomas and his wife, the Rev. Dr. Joyce Scott Thomas, each earned their Certified Professional Coaching Certificate (CPC) from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). While they are equipped to coach in corporate, executive, business, life, personal, or group settings, they are most passionate about enabling pastors and pastors’ spouses, as well as coaching in the area of preaching. Thomas’ most recent book, The Choice: Living Your Passion Inside Out, published by Hope For Life International Press October 2013, explains and explores the spiritual and coaching process to live your passion from the inside out. Thomas is a nationally and internationally sought after keynote speaker and lecturer. Thomas and his wife have two adult children.

Watch Videos from the Event:

Love Stories? Jesus did too.

Telling Stories in the Church: A Workshop about Why and How Storytelling Matters


When: October 21, 2016  8:30am-4pm

Where: Western Theological Seminary, 6th Floor Library

Cost: $50/person (limited to 30 people)  Student rate/$25.00 – Includes lunch.

Who should attend?

Do you love stories? Do you feel them tug at your heart? Do you wish you were better at writing and telling stories? Do you wish you could integrate stories into your sermons, children’s messages, or youth ministry? Then this workshop is for you.

What will you experience?

You will be able to articulate why stories are important to the life of the Church. You will be more comfortable using your voice, face, and body to tell stories. You will understand how to structure a story that moves people emotionally. You will consider how to tell stories about difficult topics to vulnerable populations.

Bio of Workshop Leaders:  



Rev. Adam Navis (M.Div, D.Min.) has lived at the intersection of faith and writing for the last 15 years. He has worked in churches as well as the Associate Editor for the Words of Hope daily devotional. His doctoral thesis Story as Theological Form argues that when we have something to say about God, the world, or our role in it, we should consider telling a story.


Adam Mellema


Adam Mellema has been telling stories professionally for more than half his life. Mellema plays all the characters in his stories, drawing on a repertoire of published works, oral tradition, and his own life. Adam’s work as a storyteller has brought him all around the country, most recently as headliner for the renowned Jackson Storyfest. Adam lives in Los Angeles where—when not telling stories—he produces original television programming for kids and families.



The Community Kitchen is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. For the past 25 years, local volunteers, donors, and staff of Western Theological Seminary (WTS) & Community Action House (CAH) have worked side-by-side to provide the Community Kitchen, a place for local people to receive free meals in a safe and welcoming environment year-round.

The Community Kitchen is housed at the seminary and serves over 75,000 meals per year, providing about 1,000 volunteer hours. Over the past quarter century, CAH estimates that over 750,000 meals have been served, and over 130,000 hours 150923-114125of volunteer service provided.

The Kitchen was founded in the early 1990’s when severe cuts to funding for government needs-based assistance created a hunger problem for many Holland families. A seminary class called “Gospel, Culture, and Ministry,” in which the Holland Sentinel was a class text, inspired students and professors to connect with CAH staff and local city churches to help solve the problem. Today, the Community Kitchen continues to operate through those original partnerships.

According to Dr. Tom Boogaart, one of the founders of the Kitchen and professor at WTS, the Community Kitchen has turned out to be better and far more important than anyone imagined. “It created the geography for organizations to connect, serve, and form a real community,” he shared.

community-kitchen“We’re extremely grateful to be part of this community work,” said Mark Tucker, Executive Director of Community Action House, “with over 25 churches involved for 25 years, all working seamlessly together to provide for those in need.” Hundreds of volunteers from local churches make each day happen—from food prep, donation delivery, to dishwashing and greeting.

Earl Laman, one of the Kitchen’s longest serving volunteers, joined efforts at the Kitchen just after its founding in September 1991 and remains active, representing Hope Church. Many churches donate food along with their time, taking special offerings during the year to help shore up the Kitchen’s non-perishable food stores, which help provide complete nutrition when donations slow down.150923-114207

Challenges at the Kitchen include limited freezer and refrigerator space, and meeting the need of an ever-growing number of patrons. “We’re serving 150-250 meals every day – space is always tight,” said Jim Piersma, Kitchen Manager.

WTS is currently taking donations for a $15 million capital campaign to perform building renovations that will include an updated Community Kitchen. The Seminary remains committed to the Kitchen and hopes the renovations will allow it to serve more people than ever before.

“Our school and our students have been transformed over the past quarter of a century by hosting the Community Kitchen,” WTS President Timothy Brown said.  “I am extremely grateful that we get to participate in this vital mission.”

150923-120144To celebrate service and accomplishment of the past 25 years, Community Action House will feature a presentation about the Community Kitchen during its annual Appreciation Banquet, held at Windmill Island on September 29th.

“This place has been a huge blessing to me and my family over the years,” said one patron. “We are so grateful for the warm welcome from Community Action House and the Seminary.

The public, as always, is invited to enjoy a meal in community for lunch during the week and breakfast on weekends at 101 E 13th St.

To make a financial donation in support of the Community Kitchen, volunteer, or provide supplies, please contact Community Action House, 345 W 14th St., Holland, MI, (616) 392 2368.

What does it mean to be “Reformed” in a post Christian culture?

Thursday, October 13
7:00pm in Mulder Chapel, Western Theological Seminary

Come be part of the conversation!

Join us for a conversation between Pastor Tanner Smith of Harbor Life Church in Grandville, Michigan and Dr. Suzanne McDonald of Western Theological Seminary. It will be moderated by Jason Lief, co-editor of Perspectives journal and Professor of Religion at Northwestern College in Iowa.

(Conversation will continue afterward at the New Holland Brew Pub)

Questions? Contact Jason Lief.


Suzanne McDonald smSuzanne McDonald was born and brought up in Australia but spent nearly 10 years in the UK, where she did her theological training. She moved to the United States in 2007, teaching theology in the Religion Department at Calvin College for 7 years before joining the faculty at Western Theological Seminary in 2014, where she is Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology. She is ordained in the Christian Reformed Church. When Suzanne isn’t teaching, writing, and speaking, she enjoys watching and photographing birds, reading, art, and music. She is also life-long cricket fan—not an easy sport to follow in the U.S.!


tanner-smithTanner Smith serves as pastor of Harbor Life Church in Grandville, MI. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristin, and their three children, being outside, reading, looking at stars, and searching for the perfect authentic taco. Tanner recently completed his D.Min degree at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN, focusing on leadership of the church through a missional theological lens.


This event is brought to you by Perspectives, a Journal of Reformed Thought.

Western Theological Seminary is announcing “The Luxcast,” an audiovisual podcast series that features interviews with guests on various topics of faith and culture.  The Luxcast engages topics like music, writing, justice, theology, food & drink, and more to think about what it means to be Christian in today’s day and age.

The first episode features RCA missionary and church-planter in Bangkok, Thailand, Rawee Bunupuradah. Dr. Chuck DeGroat interviews Rawee about doing ministry in the city as well as how to engage Buddhists in conversation about Christ. Rawee also shares how Christian meditation and reflection is affecting his ministry.

The second episode features Lisa Sharon Harper, Chief Church Engagement Officer for Sojourners and author of the book “The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right.” Rev. Denise Kingdom-Grier of Maple Avenue Ministries interviews Lisa about restoration, justice, and the concept of biblical shalom.

The Luxcast is available in both .mp3 and .mp4 formats. Viewers can subscribe to the video version through YouTube, or for those who prefer to listen without the visual aspect, the podcast is available on Itunes or through Android podcasting apps.

Visit to view/listen and subscribe.