Love Your Voice: Jen Petersen


Name: Jen Petersen

Your Family: Married almost 11 years to Jeff, 2 rambunctious boys – ages 7 and 5 years old.

Your Location in the World: Grand Rapids, MI

Three favorites: Dark Chocolate, Baths, Tragic novels (all three of them together make about the best night possible).

What is your calling?

I believe that Call is something that shifts and changes over time, and yet always has some consistent thread to it. My calling has something to do with helping those without a voice to be heard. Right now, that means helping my children learn to express who they are in ways that others can hear them, and helping their schools to hear who they are, even when their voices sound different than those of the other children. And it also means helping people at Servant’s Community Church (and the neighborhood around her), hear the voice of God calling them beloved. It means helping people listen to their own stories and experiences, searching for where God has been present.

I have all kinds of dreams of what this might look like in the future. Maybe someday I’ll pursue a degree in pastoral counseling and spiritual direction. A trip to Israel and Palestine a couple of years ago got me dreaming about listening to stories of the people who live there and helping them to hear one another. I’ve recently become enthralled with restorative justice initiatives and restorative circles and wonder what part that might play in my future.

Share a way God has worked through you, part of your redemption story:

The beginning of this call has always been learning to listen myself. I’m not always able to hear God call me the beloved. I worry that I’m not good enough for the work that I do – that one day everyone’s going to wake up and realize that I really have no idea what I’m doing. So I push myself too hard and worry about the things that I didn’t get done, or didn’t do well enough. And I feel it in my body. In college, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. In the years since then, I’ve learned that my body will tell me what my heart won’t pay attention to on it’s own. My aches and tense muscles are a sign that there’s too much of me and not enough listening to God’s voice, calling me into being.

How do you place yourself in the proximity of renewal?

Even though I need frequent breaks from it, I love the Westside of Grand Rapids, where my family lives and my husband and I serve as co-pastors at Servant’s Community Church. So many people look in from the outside and see poverty and addiction and cycles that can’t be changed. But I love living close enough to see neighbors helping neighbors push their cars out of the snow banks or gathering on each other’s porches or taking in a friend who’s been evicted when the medical bills got to large. I care about our parks being clean, because they’re the parks my children play in, too. I fight for more equity in our schools because it’s my children’s daily experience at stake, too. Investing in the city isn’t something radical when you live here – it’s just wanting your kids to have a nice place to grow up, just like everyone else wants for their kids.

You can check out our church at Servant’s Community Church.

Or check out The Other Way Ministries, one of the many neighborhood organizations we partner with. You can also find a list of neighborhood partners there under “Partnership Organizations.

i love your voice series


Involving Family: Composting

A Guest Post by Pastor Jen Petersen

Under our kitchen sink are two containers.  Like any good Dutch home, the garbage can be found behind the left cabinet.  Behind the right, you’ll find a small bucket that used to be white.  Every once in a while, when my mom is over babysitting, she’ll scrub it back to its original shiny white plastic – I have no idea how she does it.

The bucket is now black on the inside.  For several years, we have used it as our compost bucket.  We fill it with coffee grounds, tea bags, fruit and veggie scraps from the kitchen, eggshells and the like.  And a couple of times a week, the bucket gets dumped in the large bins behind the garage.

We’ve been composting for about 5 years, shortly after we moved into our home.  My husband asked his parents if they might be able to get some old apple crates from his hometown.  They rented a trailer and hauled two wooden crates stamped with “Aebig Apples,” the old family apple farm, now sold off to other families.  (I’ve heard that old pallets work really well, too.)

Out of the two crates, we’ve created three separate sections – one that’s compost ready to use, one that’s resting and turning to be next years usable compost, and one in which we are currently collecting our kitchen scraps and yard waste.  Jeff and our two boys turn the compost with a pitchfork throughout the year and each year we harvest enough compost to feed our small back yard garden.  This winter they even built a snow compost man in front of the bins!

Our boys (5 and 3) are wholehearted partners in this composting endeavor.  In the kitchen, they know which items go in the compost bucket, which items go to recycling and which items go in the garbage.  They have, on embarrassing occasions, scolded grandparents (and once or twice even friends we were visiting) for not composting.

And, while we don’t encourage our children to shame our loved ones, I have to say that I’m kind of proud of them for wanting to teach others how to compost.  I’ll say it – I’m a little proud of the fact that, with our family of four, we rarely fill our large City of Grand Rapids garbage bay in a week.

And I also recognize that we have a lot of room to improve.  Eli is in Kindergarten at C.A. Frost Environmental Academy in Grand Rapids.  I’m grateful for a school that will teach my children care for the earth.  I know there will be plenty of times that my children will scold me for my less than stellar practices toward the earth.

Composting allows our kids to learn that all trash is not useless.  They already have a sense that some waste can be reused and some waste just takes up space.  They are learning that, if we want our earth to give us good food, we have to feed it and care for it.

And it’s really not too hard to get started.  All you need is a container with some room for air to flow through and a way to turn the compost.   You need a balance of green (kitchen scraps, grass clippings, etc) and brown matter (dried leaves and other similar yard waste, soil, etc.) and you need to keep in moist.  Done properly, compost doesn’t stink or attract animals.  The piles develop a rich earthy smell of dirt, but they shouldn’t smell rotten.

I’m certainly not an expert on composting.  I encourage you to check out your local garden center or recourses on-line for more complete instructions on composting.  This site has lots of good information: