The Rapidian

Christian outreach ministry celebrates 16 years in Eastown

Eastown Ministries reaches out to the local community
Eastown Ministries' leader Carol Carpenter teaching the neighborhood children a Bible lesson during Fun Night on Thursdays.

Eastown Ministries' leader Carol Carpenter teaching the neighborhood children a Bible lesson during Fun Night on Thursdays. /Amena Anderson

Underwriting support from:

Eastown Ministries Programs

Fun Night (ages 4-11)

Thursdays, 5 to 6:15 p.m.

·         Children sing songs

·         Memorize Bible verses

·         Hear a Bible lesson

·         Play games

·         Win candy

 

Teen Night (ages 12-19)

Thursday, 6:30 to 8 p.m.

·         Teenagers memorize Bible verses

·         Hear a Bible lesson

·         Play games

·         Win candy

 

Adult Bible Study

Tuesday, 6 to 8 p.m.

 

Homework House (next door to Eastown Ministries)

Tuesday-Thursday

3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

 

 

Eastown Ministries' leader Carol Carpenter teaches the Bible lesson while her husband Jim operates the video and audio.

Eastown Ministries' leader Carol Carpenter teaches the Bible lesson while her husband Jim operates the video and audio. /Amena Anderson

Eastown Ministries is located at 610 Benjamin Ave. SE in Grand Rapids.

Eastown Ministries is located at 610 Benjamin Ave. SE in Grand Rapids. /Amena Anderson

Kiara Baskins was in kindergarten when she started going to Eastown Ministries, a Christian outreach program at 610 Benajmin Avenue SE.

The petite 20-year-old said she didn’t grow up in a “Godly based” home, but she knew about the Bible and Jesus.

“I had an interest, so I came, and I learned a little bit more,” she said. “As I got older that’s when I started getting more into the Bible, and how to be Christ-like.”

Baskins stayed with Eastown Ministries all during high school. Now a sophomore at Baker College, Baskins is back at Eastown as a volunteer.

“I enjoyed the experience as a child and as a teen, and I think it’s very important to give back to your community and reach out to others," she said.

Eastown Ministries is celebrating 16 years of reaching out to the local community. It offers “programs for youth and adults in the Eastown and surrounding community,” according to its website. Its mission: “Reaching our community for Christ, developing moral & spiritual maturity and providing tools for successful Christian living.”

The Rev. Jim Carpenter, 59, and his wife, Carol, 56, head the ministry. In celebration of the ministry's birthday, they’ve been collecting donations from local churches. Some of the supplies they are gathering include markers, copy paper, coffee creamer, soda or pop, three-ring binders and notebooks.  

The Carpenters started as volunteers in 1997 until the ministry founders, Gordon and Eileen Brouwer, handed the ministry over to them in 2001.

 “We were getting older and getting tired,” said Eileen, 75. “We didn’t want to quit, we wanted to work here, but we thought it would be nice if someone else would be the director.”

That’s when the Carpenters stepped in.

“They had been helping us, and when we said that we would like someone else, I think they prayed about it and felt like the Lord was maybe leading them to be the directors, so they came to us and said ‘We feel like the Lord is telling us that we should be the directors’ and we said ‘Great, go for it,’” Eileen said.

That was ten years ago. Since then, more games and video and audio equipment have been added to the ministry. On the wall inside the building are two large boards filled with the pictures of children who have come to Eastown Ministries. Kiara Baskin’s picture is up there, too. Most of the children who come through the doors are African-American. The Brouwers and the Carpenters are white.

Jim said he knows what it is like to be a minority. He and his wife were missionaries in Haiti for a year.

“In Haiti we got a little perspective on how it is to be a minority because there were very few white faces in Haiti, so people would call us by our skin color,” Jim said.

But their love for Christ superseded all racial and cultural differences.

“This is more of our passion working with kids,” Jim said.

For now, the Carpenters said Eastown Ministries is where they belong.

“We definitely feel like God called us to this type of ministry to tell people about God’s word about the good news that Jesus died for them, their sins can be forgiven, and they can have eternal life,” Jim said.

As a teenager, Baskins said she got to know other teens through the ministry.

“It was great because you have a group of young people that’s around the same age as you and you start to build bonds,” she said. “It was very fun; you learned a lot about each other and about the Bible.”

 

Eastown Ministries History

The Brouwers started Eastown Ministries in 1994. The ministry started off on the third floor of a house the Brouwers bought, but then transitioned to the building the ministry currently rents.

“The building was a mess, but there was one little corner that a man was using and selling candy and pop and that kind of stuff,” Eileen said.

They rented the building because they envisioned it would one day become a church, and they named it Eastown Ministries. They started a Sunday service and hit the streets to invite the neighborhood children.

“Any home that we thought had children, we would stop at and give them a flyer and tell them about the ministry and invite them to come,” Eileen said.

But Sunday morning services didn’t bring in as many kids as they had hoped.

It wasn’t until the Carpenters took over and switched the children’s service from Sunday mornings to Thursday evenings that more children began to show up.

“They’ve taken over and they’ve added a lot of things that we didn’t have, and I think by having it during the week instead of Sunday, it has helped a lot too,” Eileen said. “On Sundays, kids just didn’t get up in time; they stayed in bed, and now in the evening they are willing to come.”

Jim Carpenter found out about Eastown Ministries while volunteering in a prison ministry in Ionia. He and Carol had spent a year in Haiti as missionaries in 1995 and then came back to Michigan the following year. Jim is ordained as a pastor but wasn’t interested in leading a church.

“We felt called to be missionaries, both of us as husband and wife, so when we found out that there was something right here where we moved back to, we were very interested and wanted to do outreach to more of the underprivileged area of Grand Rapids,” Carol said.

The Carpenters spent four years as volunteers at Eastown before becoming leaders.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.

Browse