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Winter, Volume 2, 2008-2009

Sharing news and light with friends of GEMS


GEMS Girls’ Clubs Executive Board Wendy Branderhorst—Holland, Michigan Cori Dykhouse—Port Lambton, Ontario Linda Fink—Plainfield, Illinois Terri Kaiser—Boynton Beach, Florida Susan Kepley—Grand Rapids, Michigan Sarah Kleinheksel—Grand Rapids, Michigan Barb Miedema—Caledonia, Michigan Henrietta Reinders—Rockwood, Ontario Amy Schaaf—Grand Rapids, Michigan Linda VanSingel—Byron Center, Michigan Lyn VanTol—Grand Haven, Michigan GEMS Girls’ Clubs Staff Executive Director—Jan Boone Training Manager—Lenae Bulthuis Customer Relations Specialist— Michele DeHaan Art Director—Tina DeKam Graphic & Web Designer— Sara DeRidder Senior Editor—Sara Hilton Conference Coordinator— Alecia VanHulzen Publications and Web Coordinator—Amy White Executive Secretary—Gert Wolfert

Children hoping to hear more about The Esther School.



lease let us help them more,” the little girl in club had said. “They really need our help. They don’t even get to go to school.” Her eyes were almost pleading. Little Sarah gets it, I thought. She understands Jesus’ instructions to us to look after “the least of these.” And she is so eager to do something—to Jan Boone, help and to serve. Executive Director, hugs one of the first GEMS girls in Zambia. Gertrude’s smile says it all!

I thought about little Sarah’s words and the look in her eyes as I sat in Chief Bunda Bunda’s hut waiting for him to appear. Through a series of divine appointments over three short days, I found myself sitting in an African chief’s hut waiting for him to appear and speak with us. We were there by invitation—his invitation. The purpose? He wanted to offer us land— some of the

best land in his chiefdom—for a school… a special school…The Esther School, for such a time as this. Chief Bunda Bunda had learned about GEMS Girls’ Clubs and the work we were doing in Zambian GEMS Clubs—the lives of girls and women that were being transformed. He heard about the home for orphan children we built and the special, supportive relationship that continues with the children and the momma in the house. And he knew we had spoken with people in the village about the immense need for more schools and greater educational opportunities for children. When Chief Bunda Bunda appeared and took his seat on the elevated chair in the front of the hut, he looked at us with eyes that were similar to Sarah’s eyes—eyes that pleaded for help. “Education is the very thing the people in my village desperately need. Education will connect us all – black, white, and people of all colors. Education tears down walls that divide us so we can learn to love one another as God intended. We want you to come and build The Esther School here in our village. You will have our full support and the best land we can provide.” Continued on page 2



A drawing of the future Esther School!

What does one say to such an offer—an offer clearly put together by the very God who implores us to care for the least of these – to use all of the talents and gifts and blessings we have to help others? One says the same thing that Esther said— the only thing we can say. “Yes Lord, we will go. We will do what You are asking us to do.” To God be the glory! For more on The Esther School and how you can get involved, see the illustrated card enclosed in this mailing.

The land Chief Bunda Bunda so generously donated for the school.

Jan Boone, Executive Director

Fifty Years…and Still Growing In 1958, a gallon of gas cost thirty cents, the average US home went for $18,200, and a first-class stamp set a buyer back three pennies. Fifty years later we are in the midst of a culture where google gained verb-status overnight, and where cell phones, iPods, and the internet (not to mention blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, emoticons, and social networking sites) have become realities gradeschoolers define with ease. Times change, technologies advance, fashions evolve, and societies transform. To remain relevant in an ever-changing world, GEMS has adapted, too, because while the issues girls face are consistent, the mediums for impacting their lives continue to progress. These transitions have not always been easy, but despite the obstacles, God’s grace has allowed GEMS to continue to thrive as a ministry and discover new ways to speak His truth into the lives of girls all over the world. Fifty years ago, when Barb Vredevoogd sat at her kitchen table to write a curriculum for the girls at Beverly Christian Reformed Church in Wyoming, MI, the first Executive Director of Calvinettes/GEMS had no idea where the ministry she helped launch would end up. “I hoped that if I could make our girls club more interesting, more challenging, that was it. I didn’t see it going beyond that. God did the rest – all He asked was for me to do one thing, for one group,” Barb remembers.

Through the Generations

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6, TNIV).

When she first joined Calvinettes/GEMS as a counselor, Terry VanDrop had a simple desire: she wanted to be involved with a program that reached out to and mentored young girls. Two generations later, her family is still involved with the ministry that she quickly grew to adore.

“I was a counselor for many years,” Terry recalls, “then I was a Head Counselor (Club Coordinator)…I stayed in for all those years because I grew to love teaching girls how they should walk, especially with the theme: walking humbly with God.” As she continued to work with her club in Vancouver, British Columbia, Terry’s daughters became involved with the ministry as well. “I started Calvinettes when I was ten while my mom was the Head Counselor,” Terry’s daughter, Colleen Reinders, says, adding that from the beginning she remembers being proud of the work her mom was doing. ... Through the Generations continued on next page

Peeling away the changing styles and technological advancements, though, the heart of GEMS has never changed. “When I went to school,” Barb recalls, “a girl was never asked to pray, [so] that’s what the whole program was founded on: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” And that remains the goal today: bringing girls into a living, dynamic relationship with their Savior. After fifty years of ministry, GEMS continues to thrive on building and sustaining relationships – that’s what we’re all about! The lives of countless women and girls have been forever changed through GEMS, and with a steadfast resolve to seek God’s will every step of the way, we are excited for what He has in store for the future of this ministry!

Barb Vredevoogd, founding mother of GEMS in 1958.


Barb, enjoying herself at the GEMS 50th Anniversay Celebration this past July, 2008.


... Through the Generations continued Terry VanDrop is thrilled her family is still involved with the ministry she loves!

A Calvinette for four years, Colleen would eventually follow her mom’s lead and take on various leadership responsibilities. “My daughter, Alicia, wanted to be a part of Calvinettes, and I was asked if I’d play the piano for the worship time,” Colleen said. “Since I had to drive her to the church anyway I thought: sure, why not? And the next year when my other daughter, Renee, wanted to join I decided to become a counselor. My plan was to stay in the club for as long as my two daughters were in it, but they’ve both been out for many years, and I’m still here!” As a piano player, counselor, Club Coordinator, and a worship leader for GEMS events, including the Annual Counselors’ Leadership Colleen Reinders and her two daughers, Alecia (left) and Renee (right) are carrying on the GEMS family tradition. Conference, Get Connected! Camp, and Girls’ Tours, Colleen has been involved with GEMS for over 16 years. “I’ve decided to stay because I’ve loved working with the girls and seeing their lives impacted by the Word of Truth in a world that says there is no absolute truth,” Colleen said, adding that “GEMS has kept me young at heart…I’ve also learned tons from the GEMS material.” While her own interest sparked her mom’s involvement, Colleen’s daughter, Alicia, says that, “Being a Calvinette, I appreciated the counselors and their commitment to be there, to listen, to help out, and teach us.” Her experience motivated Alicia to do something similar, and as a college student she eagerly agreed to be a counselor at Get Connected! Camp. “[I] have always had a heart for girls in junior high who struggled with the same things I struggled with as a junior high student,” Alicia said. “I was insecure, really tall for my age, felt left out, and certainly felt out of place. So I knew what it was like to be there and wanted to be a strong, secure support and encouragement to those girls in junior high…GEMS was definitely a source of encouragement for me. It was a place I

felt safe; a place where I knew I could be myself and have fun with friends who felt the same way.” Three generations, three unique experiences, one common response: GEMS touched their lives, taught them about themselves, and brought them into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. “As I get older,” Terry concludes, thinking back, “I wish I could be a part of that time again, and I thank God for the time I had; I learned from the girls as they learned from me.”

In Their Own Words We asked two young women from different parts of North America to explain how GEMS has impacted their lives. Melanie Bulthuis GEMS Involvement: Five years What was your favorite part of GEMS? The relationships were the best! What is the biggest lesson you learned in GEMS? How to deal with life situations. I liked how every lesson wasn’t just about the lesson, but what could I do? How could I change the world? If you could decide what GEMS Clubs of the future would be like, what things would you hope to see? Find ways to keep reaching out to the community [and] keep finding ways to help others… [I] loved the service projects [and] doing things together.

Angie Bratt GEMS Involvement: Five years What is your favorite part of GEMS? My Christian friends…and I really like the cool magazines filled with all kinds of cool stories about girls all around the world. What is the biggest lesson you have learned in GEMS? A couple of years ago there was a girl in a GEMS video that was super content. It taught me that we are really not all content, but we should try to be like she was. If you could decide what GEMS Clubs of the future would be like, what things would you hope to see? I would really like to see GEMS go to other countries besides Africa. I think more girls around the world would appreciate this program…and then they could meet their Savior, too.

Connection Point :: Winter 2008  

Sharing news and light with friends of GEMS