Sharing God's word each Tuesday

HERSEY — “With God’s help and love, we serve children and families.”

That is the mission statement of Eagle Village, a Christ-centered organization that assists abused, neglected and delinquent children from across the state of Michigan.

“Our kids today are more (victims of) abuse and neglect than delinquent,” said Cathey Prudhomme, CEO of Eagle Village. “These are kids who never really had a chance and their behaviors usually make perfect sense when you understand the horrendous abuse and neglect they have had.”

Nestled in a serene, wooded area of Eagle Village’s campus sits LightHouse Chapel, a place where residents and staff can learn about God.

“I get kids who say, ‘I don’t want anything to do with that God stuff,’ and yet they will sit down and talk to me about why they believe what they believe,” said Jeremiah Ketchum, pastor of LightHouse Chapel. “I also get some who just can’t get enough of it. They want to come to every Bible study and talk to me before and after chapel.”

During services, which are held when residents get out of school each Tuesday, Ketchum delivers a short message and everybody sings. Sometimes, residents also will get involved and read a poem they have written or share a song.

Ketchum brings in Christian music groups and, at least once a month, a guest speaker.

“I try to find those speakers who can say, ‘I’ve been where you have been. I have been abused. I have been addicted, and this is how God brought me through it; this is what God has done in my life,’” he explained. “It can get pretty emotional. When that speaker starts talking about an uncle who abused them when they were 8, all of a sudden people sit up and they are glued.”

About 80 percent of the residents at Eagle Village attend LightHouse Chapel regularly.

“When they come to chapel the first time we make a big deal about it and welcome them,” Ketchum said. “We have quilts that are donated by area church groups and ladies’ guilds. They get to pick out a quilt and it’s theirs to keep. A lot of times, they have had four to eight placements by the time they get to us and they don’t have anything. They come with a grocery bag of their stuff and that’s their possessions. Sometimes a simple quilt, even for the guys, is pretty cool. We also give them a good Bible, which is theirs to keep.”

Sundays, residents have the opportunity to attend services at area churches. LightHouse Chapel is nondenominational, and residents are not told which church to visit.

“Usually, houses develop their favorite church,” Ketchum said. “It will change periodically. We have a couple in Big Rapids and a couple locally that they like to go to. We provide the transportation, and there is staff that will stay back for the ones who don’t want to go. It has been a real source of blessing and encouragement for a lot of our residents. A lot of them will go to youth activities during the week as well.”

For many residents, chapel is about more than getting to know God. It’s a chance to mingle with the opposite sex, something residents at Eagle Village do not often do.

“We joke that the reason residents come (to chapel) is because they get to interact with the opposite sex, but it’s intentional,” Ketchum said. “We do want them to have some healthy, safe interaction, and staff is here to help monitor that.”

Ketchum offers Bible study for interested residents after lunch and also visits the locked facilities at Eagle Village.

“I take chapel to them since they can’t come (to LightHouse Chapel),” he said. “It’s pretty informal, usually just a small group and a lot of discussion.”

For Ketchum, the most difficult part about his role as pastor is relating to residents who have experienced traumatic events.

“I grew up in a great home with loving parents and sometimes I feel like, ‘What do I have to say to these guys?’” he said. “But I also believe that God’s word is timeless and can connect with them no matter what so I don’t necessarily have to have been through all of that stuff to share with them God’s word.”

It is not mandatory for residents to take part in LightHouse Chapel services.

“Because of how all of the programs work and the reality of our relationship with the state, all of our spiritual programs from chapel to devotions to going to church off campus to even prayer and one-on-one mentoring and Bible study are voluntary,” Prudhomme said. “Residents have to choose to participate in the spiritual programs. We do often have youth who come in and have different faiths, values and beliefs. We respect those because that really is the core of our belief and what Christ would do.”