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Volume 28, No. 1

Spring 2019

Belonging Among Friends A Graduation Reflection To belong means “to have solid friendships”, according to a group of South Christian High School (Byron Center, MI) seniors. For many of these students, their K-12 education has been uniquely shaped by their friendship with fellow senior, Isaac Postma, a bright, funny young man who lives with spinal muscular atrophy type one, a muscle degenerative disease. This group is approaching graduation with more than fond memories—they have Isaac Postma (center), pictured with friends (left to right): Isaac Timmer, Jacob Berkenpas, Josh experienced twelve years of being known DeVries, Naomi Baker, nurse Jackie Bouwman, Peyton Vis, Derek Meyering, and Caleb Voetberg. through solid friendships. They have developed these friendships over video “Shared friendship with Isaac has brought diverse games, beach visits, football games, medical emergencies, personalities together,” said his nurse of twelve years, ice skating excursions, performing together in The Music Jackie Bouwman. Their friendship has created space for Man, Lunch Buddies, youth group, and much, much more. other students to belong too. When Derek Meyering was Though Isaac’s condition can require significant a new student, his friendship with Isaac connected him to accommodations, longtime friend, Caleb Voetberg, has a larger group of friends. not allowed accommodation to impede fun activities. Though graduation will lead to new and unknown paths When Isaac wanted to learn to weld in shop class, Caleb for these seniors, the friendship with Isaac and each partnered with the teacher so Isaac could participate. In other will go with them—impacting how they see fellow woodworking class, Isaac was the mind and Caleb was image bearers of God. “You learn the most from the the hands as they crafted a cabinet for Isaac’s mom, Deb people you’re least like,” said senior Isaac Timmer, “To Postma. Isaac describes Caleb as “hilarious”, a trait that learn how different people see the world is eye opening.” has developed since the two first met in kindergarten at Byron Center Christian School (Byron Center, MI). As they graduate this spring, the students know it will take intentionality to maintain their friendships. “It will take extra This group treasures being known, a crucial element to this effort outside of work to get quality time with Isaac,” said enduring friendship. As Naomi Baker reflected, it is often Caleb. But intentionality has always been a normal element difficult for folks to understand Isaac’s words, but his close friends understand him and enjoy the funny things he says. of their friendship—they have been doing it all along.  4340 Burlingame Ave. SW, Wyoming, MI 49509 | 616.245.8388 | | 1

D I R E C T O R ’ S  C O R N E R

Belonging with Community Dear Friends: In January I had the pleasure of attending Dr. Erik W. Carter’s presentation, Incomplete Without You: The Church and People with Disabilities at Calvin College’s January Series. In an effort to define what it would mean to belong to a church, Dr. Carter and his associates asked hundreds of individuals with disabilities and their families across the country to identify the aspects that would make them feel like full members of community. Through this research, Dr. Carter identified ten dimensions of belonging, as shown in the diagram below. The ten dimensions of belonging are such a beautiful picture of 1 Corinthians 12! I love that we can apply these dimensions to more than just church—to school, to work, to our entire community. This pursuit of belonging, and providing it for each other, is richly integrated into our faith and the Gospel message. The calling to work faithfully to create communities of belonging for persons of all abilities is what drives our work at CLC Network. It is why you—our donors, partners, and friends—ensure that our mission is sustained year after year! Belonging is a beautiful theme that emerged from our 2018 branding

Ten Dimensions of Belonging

research. I am so grateful for the many people who participated in that process, sharing with us what the Christian Learning Center and CLC Network have meant to you since our founding forty years ago. Our Board of Directors and staff have been working hard to develop the brand messaging that will reflect your commitment to belonging for persons with diverse abilities more boldly and transparently in our world. I look forward to sharing that progress with you in just a couple of months! I hope you experience all the dimensions of belonging this spring and summer, and that you are able to praise the presence of our Lord in such a complete community.

Gratefully, Image used with permission.

Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski, Executive Director

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Access Dr. Erik W. Carter’s complete presentation (free of charge) at

We support this mission because it is a ministry reaching out to all those who need it, showing the love of Christ to individuals and families.


Ruth & Jim Sytsma “Getting to know CLC Network was a learning process for me, but it really opened my eyes to the potential of every kid,” recalls Jim Sytsma about his previous service on the CLC Network Board of Directors. He knew little about the organization at the time but was willing to help serve. “When we were growing up, kids with disabilities were totally separated from everyone else,” remembers Ruth Sytsma. “They were brought up so differently, and we were never taught how to interact with each other.” Now, Jim and Ruth rejoice in the friendships that their grandson, Eli, has formed at church and at school. “Eli’s classmates know he is Eli, who has Down syndrome. They know him as so much more than a kid with Down syndrome,” reflects Jim. “He is able to participate in everything and he has close friends.” Ruth contrasts this with what she saw growing up. “Eli’s teachers have always been so well trained in knowing him and how to spend time with him.”

Today, Jim and Ruth volunteer on the CLC Network Auction Committee, helping to secure sponsorships and items for the community fundraiser. “When we invite others to give and explain what it’s all about, we can see that it’s really a privilege for donors to be a part of this mission. It is always a joy for people to have the opportunity to give to it,” shares Ruth. Jim adds, “We are all a family, and inclusion is about everyone and not just individuals. We support this mission because it is a ministry reaching out to all those who need it, showing the love of Christ to individuals and families.” 

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Thank you to our community of donors for making the inaugural Circle of Friends dinner on October 18, 2018 an incredible evening! We are blessed by your faithful commitment to belonging for persons of all abilities. We were thrilled to award Dr. John D. Witvliet as the 2018 Champion of Inclusive Community. Through his role as director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and professor at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, he serves as an advocate for including persons of all abilities within congregational life, shaping the conversation among church leaders and seminarians about the important gifts each person brings to the worshiping community.

Circle of Friends DINNER

Tim Paauw, West Side Christian School parent and Jenison Christian School administrator, shared the impact of belonging on his family.

Vivian Minnema, CLC Network Board Vice President, closed the evening with thankfulness for the support of our community. 4 | Spring 2019 | INCLUSIVE

Save the Date!

Circle of Friends Dinner 2019

Tuesday, October 1 The Pinnacle Center, Hudsonville, MI Celebrate the incredible impact of your prayers, advocacy, and financial support on inclusive communities for persons of all abilities in West Michigan and beyond.

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  Our raffle table hosts, Jeff and Mary Ashby, did a fantastic job! Thanks to all who participated in our raffles.  These NorthPointe Christian High School students have been mutually blessed through their friendship with one another. We were honored to learn more about their friendship as we raised funds for the annual Connections Celebration.  Children of all ages had plenty of fun at the Kids’ Table.  Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski, CLC Network Executive Director, and Board chair, Douglas Rottman, welcomed guests before the Live Auction.  Our Welcome Table: Steve and Laurenda Huisjen and Jonathan Helder.

Blessed by Your Support Auction 2019 Thanks to the incredible support of donors like you, we raised more than $64,000 at our annual Auction on Saturday, January 26. The funds raised will directly support the faith communities we serve and allow them to celebrate the gifts of each person. Thank you to the many donors and volunteers who participated in this annual event! Your commitment to building belonging in Christ-centered schools and churches moves our mission forward. 6 | Spring 2019 | INCLUSIVE

New Partners in Service

Please join us in welcoming these new members to our team! “Our son, Paul, benefited from CLC Network support for more than fifteen years of his educational life. Paul’s immersion into the CLC Network community gave him and us so many remarkable gifts—acceptance, mutual respect, recognition of God’s gifting in each person, and a deep sense of belonging. I passionately believe in promoting and expanding the innumerable benefits of this organization to all members of our school and church communities. I look forward to adding my voice to the voices of the other Board members in advocating for a world in which communities are marked by belonging and where all God’s children live, learn, serve, and worship together as image bearers of our heavenly Father.” Harriet Buursma Board Member

Our Mission: CLC Network equips congregations and schools to glorify God through purposeful, innovative inclusion of persons with varied abilities. THE INCLUSIVE NEWSLETTER is published in spring and fall by the CLC Network Advancement Office. Editors: Katie Barkley Jonathan Helder

Board of Directors: Douglas Rottman, President Vivian Minnema, Vice President Dan Day, Secretary Kyle Heys, Treasurer Tom Bratt Harriet Buursma Jennifer Camota Luebke, EdD Steve Huisjen Nancy Kwasteniet Deborah Ondersma, JD Kevin Timpe, PhD

Member Schools ‘18 -’19 Illinois: Calvin Indiana: Illiana Iowa: Hull, Netherlands Reformed, Orange City, Rock Valley, Sioux Center, Western Maryland: Annapolis

“As a parent of a son with Down syndrome, my passion is to encourage and lead churches and other spiritual places to become communities where people of all abilities are encouraged and supported to fully engage in the life of their church— to know that they belong not only at church, but also in the body of Christ. I’ve read about and followed CLC Network for over ten years and have used many of their resources in my own church; I am excited to share what I’ve learned with other churches! I also want to help churches understand that the steps they take toward inclusion are not only important for one individual, but beneficial for their whole community.” Sharon Ryder, M.Div. Pacific Northwest Church Services Consultant

Michigan: Ada, Adams, Allendale, All Saints, AnchorPoint, Ann Arbor, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Borculo, Byron Center, Calhoun, Divine Providence, Dutton, Fr. Gabriel Richard, Fremont, Grand Haven, Grand Rapids, Holland, Hudsonville, Jenison, Lamont, Legacy, Living Stones, Moline, Muskegon, New Era, NorthPointe, Plymouth, The Potter’s House, Providence, St. Thomas the Apostle, St. John Vianney, St. Paul the Apostle, South, Unity, West Highland, West Side, Western Michigan, Zeeland, Zion Pennsylvania: Beaver County Virginia: Fredericksburg

Washington: Lynden Wisconsin: Central Wisconsin, Heritage

Administrative Staff Katie Barkley, Director of Marketing and Communications Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski, Executive Director Jonathan Helder, Advancement Director Barbara J. Newman, Director of Church Services Becky Tubergen, Director of School Services Sharon Ward, Business/Office Manager Betsy Winkle, S.Psy.S., Director of Evaluation Services

CONTACT US: 4340 Burlingame Ave. SW, Wyoming, MI 49509 | 616.245.8388 | INCLUSIVE | Spring 2019 | 7

4340 Burlingame Ave. SW Wyoming, MI 49509-3770

Member: Barnabas Foundation, Christian Schools International, Council of Reformed Charities


If you are 70½ or older, you may be able to maximize your tax benefit through a gift to CLC Network from your IRA account. Contact Jonathan Helder, Advancement Director, at 616.855.3109 to learn more.

GOLF OUTING 2019 Thursday, June 13 Pilgrim’s Run Golf Club Pierson, MI Visit to sponsor or register!

Students & Alumni Celebrate Friendships at Connections Celebration Thanks to the generous support of donors and the efforts of student volunteers, more than 150 students and alumni of all abilities came together to celebrate inclusive communities at the annual Connections Celebration on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Planned by students from NorthPointe Christian, South Christian, and Unity Christian high schools, participants enjoyed games, a photo booth, dinner, Pop Scholars improv, Zumba, and more at the “Blast from the Past” event.

Profile for CLC Network

Inclusive - Spring 2019  

This edition focuses on the impact of belonging within community. Learn how inclusive friendships have impacted a group of high school senio...

Inclusive - Spring 2019  

This edition focuses on the impact of belonging within community. Learn how inclusive friendships have impacted a group of high school senio...

Profile for kbarkley