Students Speak Thanksgiving

Students Speak Thanksgiving! 


Thankful for “mommy, me, and daddy”

IMG_3225Evan 10, Dannan 7, and Kellen 4 with their thankful lists!

thanksAmelia (our friend Diane from Australia’s daughter!) is thankful for everything in the whole wide world!

Bella likes her new wheelsAndrew and Barbara Budek-Schmeisser provide sanctuary for rescued dogs. “One of these is Bella, whom we found drowning in a ditch, her back broken. Now she has a safe place, lots of pals, and a wheelchair. I’m sure she’s thankful, but I am perhaps more thankful for her, because she came and showed life and spirit at a time when my heart was heavy, and my hope dimming. For her – and for all the others – we are truly thankful.”


A great list from M- age 5!

IMG_20131124_172259Another great list from E- age 7.  M and E’s  Mom is a kindred spirit in teaching families to serve!

Thanks so much for these special reminders of what is important! What are you thankful for?


100_1341When I was asked to do a guest post on About Proximity, I had a couple of ideas of what I might like to write about. But when I tried to write – I couldn’t. I couldn’t think of the words. Then I decided I need to just start. When I “just started” God gave me what I needed to finish. There are other parts of my life where I need to just start.


A friend from my youth group was talking to me once about how powerful prayer is. As this conversation progressed, she told me that, especially in a public school, it is important to pray WITH people not just for them. During the school year, there were many times where I felt called to pray with this person or that person. But when I would try to think of the words to pray, I backed out because I couldn’t think of them. I needed to just start and let God take it from there.


In my life there is a vicious cycle – the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation. I can never seem to get caught up on sleep. As a result, before bed when I normally read my devotions, I am too tired. I think in a moment like this God would want me to just start. If I were to just start reading and absorbing my devotions, HE would give me the strength and energy I need to do it.


When I feel called by God to do something out of my comfort zone like praying with someone at school, reaching out to people I don’t know, or doing my devotions when I really don’t feel like it, I usually think too much about it; I end up talking myself out of it with excuses.


I sin and fall short of the glory of God – I don’t always do what He calls me to do because it sometimes is not what I want to do.


But I know deep down in my heart that if I just start HE will always give me what I need to finish.

ellie1Ellie Baumann is a junior in high school and attends Zeeland West. She enjoys knitting, playing piano, babysitting, rollerblading with her sisters, and most of all, spending time with her family. She has a pretty big family… “I don’t know what I would do without them!” You can read Ellie’s previous guest post about Guatemala here and Hope here. 

Where is God?

lea quote

A Guest Post by: Lea Parker 

So often when disaster strikes – when a hurricane destroys the northeast, when children and families are gunned down in schools or shopping malls, when we realize that all around us women and children are being sold into slavery – we cry out asking God where he was and where he is. We cannot imagine that a loving, almighty God would allow such catastrophes and injustices to happen and then leave the victims to pick up the pieces.

In the midst of our desperate cries, however, we fail to hear what the Lord has told us from the beginning: We are his workers in the world. When we wonder at the seeming absence of our great God it is because there is a gaping void of his people within these crises.

The Lord calls us to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners” [Isaiah 61:1]. This is not a passive suggestion, this is a full on command. Amidst the calls to “love mercy” and “walk humbly with our God,” we are told to “act justly” [Micah 6:8]. Where is God within the injustices of our world? He is waiting, calling us to bring justice.


There are currently an estimated 27 million slaves in our world today. Everyday men, women and children are stripped of their humanity and forced to perform labor intensive tasks under unthinkable conditions, to fight in wars and kill family members, to give away vital organs, to wed abusive strangers, and to give their bodies for the pleasures of greedy men. These crimes are committed not merely in distant places but in our very neighborhoods as well. 200,000. That is how many slaves statisticians believe are currently working in the United States. But statistics and facts can only do so much. So I want to share a story with you – a story of a young girl who knew precisely what it felt like to live without truly living.


I was born a slave. I was born into sexual slavery in the state of Minnesota in the United States of America twenty-nine years ago. I was born into a prostitution ring, a family of pimps and pornographers and prostitutes. The men pimped the women and girls and sometimes the boys. They made pornography. They sold us in whorehouses and at live sex shows. The men used me in pornography in basements, barns, houses, warehouses, isolated wood areas, and public buildings.

… I stayed alive because my belief in something better than what they offered was greater than their hatred and destruction. I stayed alive because I wanted to be free – more than anything, I wanted to be free. I wanted to live in a world of respect. I wanted to be free from them. I wanted their hands off me; I wanted their bodies off me… I wanted to not be sold. I wanted to not be bought. I wanted to not be raped and filmed and forced to smile and beg and plead for mercy. I wanted them to stop telling me who I was and what I was. I wanted to decide how I felt, what I thought, what I believed, and who I loved. I wanted to eat the foods that I wanted to eat, run the way I wanted to run, be silly or thoughtful or serious. Quite simply, I wanted a life of autonomy and agency… (Stark, 2008).


So now you know. It’s time to start filling that void, people need to know that God is present, and the only way they will know that is if we, his people, are present.

It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us FREE. Galatians 5:1

Lea’s Recommended Links:

End It Movement  

Stand for Freedom  

Slavery Footprint 



Lea Parker is a sophomore in college and studies psychology at Harvard. She enjoys singing, working with children, and is very passionate about ending human trafficking.

Hope: Ellie Baumann


A Guest Post     By: Ellie Baumann 

What does hope look like?
Can you really see it?
Can you really feel it?


Of course you can! It is called the Bible…the Living Word…it is the answer to everything and anything. I find that when I go for a while “forgetting” to do my devotions, being too busy, putting me before God and not making time for Him, I am not as happy. That is no coincidence.

I lose happiness because I lose sight of hope. Not just any hope, His perfect hope.


In times of disaster, in times of crisis, earthly hope doesn’t help that much. On September 14, 2012, catastrophe met Guatemala. Fuego, a very active volcano in Guatemala erupted dramatically. Many families’, adults’, children’s, believers’, and nonbelievers’ lives were changed. The precious village of La Reina where I met many friends this summer was in Fuego’s path. I, at my kitchen table reading an email from Paradise Bound Ministries, felt hopeless…not knowing if my little girl, Kately was O.K., not knowing where Henry, Antonio, Felipa, or Dillon were…I felt totally lost in the dark. How could we help these people who are thousands of miles and an ocean away?

The only hope I had was His perfect hope: prayer and the Word. I couldn’t talk with Kately, but I could cry out to God. He was there.


That day, on Facebook I stumbled upon Psalm 139:2-10~

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.
You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.


He was right there through it all taking care of them, watching over them, much like these verses explain.

HE is our hope, our perfect hope!

ellieEllie Baumann is a sophomore in high school and attends Zeeland West. She enjoys knitting, playing piano, babysitting, rollerblading with her sisters, and most of all, spending time with her family. She has a pretty big family… “I don’t know what I would do without them!” You can read Ellie’s previous guest post about Guatemala here. 

Students Speak Thanksgiving!

Mercede and Paige, Age 9 and 7, all their thanksgivings are on handmade turkeys!

Anna and Mackenzie, Age 6 and 8, “thankful for my family and for Jesus dying on the cross for us so we could enjoy the things we like.  see?  jesus is on hill watching over us by cross” and “thankful for daddy & my uncles building our house, having food whenever we are hungry and all of our family to share it with.  i love having parties here”

Kellan, Dannan, and Evan, Age 3, 6, and 9, thankful for Lighting McQueen and Mater, Dannan and Evan are standing on a Mountain of Gratitude!
Corinne, Age 1 1/2, thankful for her kitties!
Nate, Age 8, thankful for my family.

Students Speak Thanksgiving

Summer, Age 6, thankful for her family.
Paisley, Age 4, thankful for her family and gold stars.
Jack, age 3,  thankful for his big tractor.
Daniel, age 4, thankful for his friend Josiah
Noah, age 2 1/2 thankful for his family, his Mom and Dad
Alex, Age 8, thankful for video games
Riley, Age 4, thankful for Mom
Vismitha, Age 8, thankful for friends.
Vismai, Age 10, thankful for shelter.

Students Speak Thanksgiving!

Adeline and Thomas, Age 4 and 9 months, thankful for each other!

Maci and Ava, Age 4, thankful for cousins!

Nora, Age 6, thankful for Miss Julie’s Baby

Joshua, Age 7, thankful for his mi familia

Amelia, Age 3, thankful for the Wiggles. {on the left is green Dorothy, purple Jeff, the right is blue Anthony and yellow Greg/Sam}

Students Speak Thanksgiving!

Ruby, Age 3 , thankful for her sister and lipstick.

Amelia, Age 10, thankful for all kinds of good stuff including sparkles! These two cuties belong to  guest writer Amy Sullivan!

Xander and Sabella, Age 8 and 4, thankful for lots of things with great illustrations!

Asher and Eli, Age 3 and 6, thankful for T- Rex and Asher says “Me too!”

Grace, Connor and Bennett, Ages 6, 8, and 4, thankful for Maggie our dog, friends and Lego Ninjago!

Calling Kids! Students Speak!

The week of Thanksgiving, November 19- November 24, we will be having a special students speak feature!

I am calling all kids for your creativity and your voices!

What am I looking for?

  • Help your kids complete a picture about what they are thankful for. (Josiah was thankful for super heros and Ellie stuffed animals.) We welcome all contributions.
  • Take a photograph of your child with their picture.
  • Email me:
  • Include the photograph as an attachment.
  • Include your child’s name, age, and what they drew on their picture! (I’ll just use first names)
  • You can even group sibling, cousins, or neighbors together with their art.
  • To be included please send your contribution by November 5, 2012.

I will feature all contributions during Thanksgiving week in the Student’s Speak Category.

I know the kids will inspire us to remember thankfulness for the little things.

Here are my kids, Ellie and Josiah, with their contribution for an example.

ACTS, a Family

A Guest Post By: Jamie Van Heest 

What is ACTS?:

The mission of ACTS is to Embrace, Equip, and Empower the youth of Holland. We are striving to show them God’s love so that they may know love, how to accept love, and how to be love in return.

The kids chose to call our group ACTS during a season when we were reading through the book of Acts.  As we learned about new believers and the early church, the kids felt a deep connection to these people and this kind of community. We learned about Christians coming together to share all they had, living together, praying together, and breaking bread together. It was then that our kids realized that they are the Body of Christ and that we are His church wherever we go.

I remember that day so vividly; I was blown away by their faith and spiritual maturity. We had been meeting in a coffee shop downtown because we had no real home, and that day we had gathered a group of over 20 kids as we walked.  I’d never met half of them before, and as we stood in line buying some drinks I heard one new friend ask one of my kids who I was. Marc replied so eagerly and quickly, with such assurance, “She is Jaime!” When the response was just a confused look Marc continued, “God sent her to us! We are like a family.”

ARTS, COMMUNITY, TEACHING, and SERVING are the pillars of who we are as ACTS. The kids have been encouraged and equipped from the start to share their ideas and to be the leaders and the doers of this group. One of the first things we did together was art. Twice a week kids could stop in, eat a meal and create some art. It was not a class, but an opportunity to be creative, to get messy, and to talk to people, and ultimately to find one’s unique voice and the courage to share our stories.

I asked Lorena, one of our girls, what was important to share with people about what we do.  With no hesitation she said, “We do homework, and a whole bunch of fun stuff together. We do art, and eat, and learn to grill outside. We go to the beach and we clean up the beach too! We help volunteer and we work in Lefty’s garden. We always do stuff together as a family and we are always there for each other.”

ACTS is a family. We are living in community with one another, when life is fun and especially when it gets tough. Loving people where they are fosters relationships, trust, and friends challenging each other to do and be more. And when we have people, our own people, and we create a safe time and space together what can be dreamed, created, learned and shared is limitless.  This is ACTS.  And I’m pretty sure this is what Jesus meant for the church to look like.

The ACTS Facebook Page 

The ACTS Blog

My name is Jaime VanHeest and I am the Executive Director of ACTS, a ministry reaching at-risk youth in Holland, MI. God called this ministry into being over the past five years as a group of young people joined together to create a community where they could all feel safe, respected, challenged, empowered and most importantly loved by one another and by trusted adults. It is my great honor to facilitate this ministry and to work with incredible young people who help us discern daily God’s call and direction for this HIS ministry in and through their lives.