On a recent Tuesday night seven women gathered around an oval oak kitchen table in Holland, Mich. One read aloud a passage from the book of 1 Kings, illustrating with sticks, stones, and a jar of water the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, while the rest followed along in their Bibles. Six of the participants reside at Sisters Home 1, a home for women with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The weekly gathering is a long-standing partnership between Brothers & Sisters Homes and Pillar Church, a jointly affiliated Christian Reformed and Reformed Church of American congregation in Holland. Brothers & Sisters Homes, which will mark its 40th anniversary in 2020, houses 30 residents in five adult foster homes. They are owned and operated by the Holland Deacons’ Conference, a ministry of Classis Holland. (A classis is a regional group of Christian Reformed congregations.)
Catherine Brink, a member of Pillar, has been the study’s leader for the past two years. “I enjoy preparing for the study, hearing about what is going on for each person, and gaining new insights,” she said. “Sometimes I go to the study worn out from work, but every time, my energy is renewed.”
The women’s Bible study has met for about a decade, first for a number of years at Pillar as a Sunday School class, but relocated after the church began significant renovations. The study has meant a great deal to the women, said Jessica Miller, who previously led the study. Miller is now the volunteer director of Pillar’s inclusion ministry, Belong, which plans activities for people of all abilities. “They are really incredible women, and I count the women among my dear friends.”
Brothers & Sisters Homes also partners with two other CRCs in Holland. Calvin CRC has provided help with yard work and maintenance for a number of years, and Maranatha CRC helps with the daytime activities program at Brothers & Sisters.
“The members of the congregations of Classis Holland have been and remain passionate about, committed to, supportive of, and increasingly involved with the ministry of Brothers & Sisters Homes,” said Jack Kooyman, the executive director of the deacons’ conference and administrator of Brothers & Sisters Homes. “Above all else, it’s our desire to encourage our homes, churches, and communities to become places where everyone belongs, is valued, and has opportunities to contribute.”