Russell L. Spoelma, age 76, of Grand Haven went to be with his Lord and Savior on October 13, 2015. Rus was born to the late Anton and Pearl (Andree) Spoelma on November 5, 1938 in Vogel Center, Michigan. Rus married the former Esther Faber on May 8, 1959 in Lucas, MI.
Rus proudly served his country in the U.S. Army from 1962 through 1964. Rus retired from the Michigan State Police in 1989 after 25 years of service, after which time he served as a Constable for Grand Haven Township for 10 years. He also was a caretaker for many cottages along Lake Michigan.
Rus was a very active member of First Christian Reformed Church where he served as deacon, elder and on many committees, the latest being the
Property Team for which he volunteered hundreds of hours coordinating
activities to benefit the church.
He is survived by his loving and devoted family including wife Esther; two sons, Pastor David (Cheryl) Spoelma of Imlay City, MI and their children; Kyle (fiancé, Leanne Wiggers) Spoelma and Tyler Spoelma; Daniel (Kim) Spoelma and their children, Grace and Luke. Also surviving are his sister, Judy (Rich) Koetje of McBain, MI and brother, Ken (Von) Spoelma of Grand Rapids and several nieces and nephews.
To listen to the funeral proceedings, go to audio sermons at the right side of the web site. Select In Memory of Rus Spoelma.
Memorial contributions may be made to Grand Haven Christian School, Western Michigan Christian High School or First Christian Reformed Church.
The strategic plan of First CRC has five annual initiatives, or goals we hope to meet within a year to help us achieve our longer term goals. One annual initiative is:
Research and implement best practices for discipleship and teaching others how to make disciples to address people at all stages of their faith journey.
This is one of the initiatives the Discipleship Team has been asked to focus on this year. We started by defining discipleship. We spent a lot of time brainstorming and refining our definition; and, in the end we decided that discipleship is helping others to grow in their love and commitment to Jesus Christ.
So then we asked ourselves, “How can we help others to grow in their love and commitment to Jesus Christ?” That’s where the strategic plan’s annual initiative of finding “best practices for discipleship and teaching others how to make disciples” comes in. There are many different models or best practices for discipleship. Some have been very successful and others have born little fruit. A discipleship model might work for one church, but not for another. As the Director of Discipleship I was asked to research models and report back. As I researched these best practices for making disciples I just got more and more confused and frustrated. I asked myself, how can I encourage my church family members to grow in their love and commitment to Jesus Christ when there are so many different ways to go about it and so many different ways people grow to love and know Jesus?
Young Life exists so that every adolescent will have the opportunity to meet Jesus Christ and follow Him. It’s almost absurdly simple, but this is the vision of Young Life and I think that it’s something every Christian everywhere can get on board with. Young Life was officially started in 1941 in Texas but has since grown to be an international ministry that reaches over 1.5 million kids each year in 94 countries and 6,414 schools with the help of 63,807 volunteers. So, when 1st CRC of Grand Haven said “yes” to a partnership with Young Life, we said “yes” to being a part of something much larger than just our local school, or our community, or even Young Life itself. We decided to join thousands of people in the mission to be a part of young students lives so that they might know that they’re cared for and loved by a God that has known them since the beginning.
I fell in love with Young Life about 3 years ago because of just how different it was from other ministries I had been a part of. Most ministries like churches or camps start with buildings, programs, or events that people are invited to in order to communicate the gospel and build relationships. In my first Young Life training I learned that we would start by going to kids. Rather than inviting them into something we had created we would venture to where they already were: their schools, their sports teams, their homes. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to convert kids or make them believe the same things that we believe but rather to be where they are and to build real friendships. We want to make our dwelling place where kids already are just as Jesus did for us. Certainly the hope is always that those kids will come to know Jesus as we do but there isn’t an agenda. The goal is to do life with kids and the hope is that
it will change them forever. I love it. I love it because to me it looks like Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion or convince people of anything. He came to be with people. To meet us where we are and to show us that life can be beautiful when we live it together.
So this is really a thank you. I hope that eventually you get tired of hearing me say it, but thank you. Thanks you for allowing me the time, resources, and support to be a part of kid’s lives. Re-starting Young Life in Grand Haven will be a long process that will require a lot of time and effort because relationships require a lot of time and effort, but it’s worth it.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to go to camp with the first Young Life kids in Grand Haven. On that trip I got to see ten high school boys experience God in a new and profound way. Many of them heard the gospel clearly for the first time in their lives and as is often true when people hear that they are loved unconditionally for the first time, the reaction was something to behold. “The harvest is plenty but the workers are few” is a verse that has been coming to mind often. Kids in Grand Haven are hungry for something new. In my limited interactions with kids I can see that they are desperate for acceptance and inclusion in very tangible ways. So again, thank you. Thank you for letting me be the messenger. Thank you for sending me out so that kids can see and hear that they are invited and accepted not only by me, but also by Jesus.
Last year I had the opportunity to serve at Camp Geneva in Holland for a fourth summer. I also had the best possible job at camp – Challenge Coordinator. My staff of four and I spent most days hooking kids into the zip-line, helping them up the climbing tower and watching the hilarity that ensues when a kid jumps on the blob for the first time. Being the coordinator meant that I had the added responsibilities of making the schedule, delegating responsibilities and monitoring behavior. Most importantly though, I was to look after and disciple my small staff throughout the summer. About half way into the summer I thought I had a pretty good handle on things. The days were running smoothly, my staff was efficient, and the kids were safe and having fun. One night though I was approached by one of my staff and faced with a hard reality. She told me that her summer was going well but she was disappointed that she and I had not had a real conversation yet. As I thought about it my stomach sank because I realized that she was right. Sure we had talked about the next task, about her next assignment, or about some funny moment earlier that day, but we had yet to talk about anything of significance. After weeks of working together our relationship was shallow at best. As I thought more about how this could be possible, I realized that I had been so busy with the organizational responsibilities of my job that I had forgotten the more important task of caring for the people who had been placed under my supervision. I had been so diligent in making sure that things ran smoothly, I had forgotten to look after the people that made it run smoothly.