"I Am Neighbor" - James Erving Emmendorfer

"I was running out of work so I chose to move up to Newaygo, to be with my girlfriend. Three days after Christmas, three and a half years ago she kicked me out of the house, because I didn't find a job and I didn't get my unemployment and the only place I could find to go at the time was Muskegon Rescue Mission, so that's what brought me to Muskegon.

Click on Jim's portrait for more "I Am Neighbor" stories.

Click on Jim's portrait for more "I Am Neighbor" stories.

I was living in my vehicle in a friend's house across the street and I found out this (Sacred Suds) was a good place I could do laundry and take showers and have coffee and a doughnut and lunch once in awhile. It’s very beneficial so it really helped me out.

I became a volunteer because it helped me and I wanna help other people and pass it along, and it's very beneficial, this place for helping homeless people that's living on the street or may not have water at their house…….I like to help people and pass it along.

I found out about all these other programs I can use to benefit me and other people. It’s been a struggle for three and a half years, but now I’m back on my feet and I just like to volunteer and as I said, pass it on.

I just started so I think I’m gonna be working the front desk once in awhile or whatever they need me to do: cleaning or sweeping, I don’t mind, landscaping, it don’t matter; whatever they want me to do.

Through Sacred Suds I heard about Community enCompass and Section 8 (affordable housing) that helps veterans like me and other people that have been homeless, now I live in Norton Shores in a community complex thanks to Sacred Suds and Community enCompass and section 8 housing. My income? I got disability. I applied for disability and won my disability case.

I’m doing really good. I like volunteering and passing it along so that other people can benefit too."

Jim volunteers at Sacred Suds and can be found getting his hands dirty in the garden or doing odd jobs around the building.



From Taste & See to Rehabbed Home, the story of the Lenertz family.

We certainly didn’t expect to come away from the tour as homeowners that night, but in a way we did.
— Jeremy Lenertz

Left to right- Celia, Brittany, Elise, and Jeremy Lenertz

“In August of 2001 my wife and I said our “I do’s” in a small church in the middle of everywhere (nowhere) South Dakota. As a Cherokee native man who can trace his ancestry back to land in Georgia before the Trail of Tears, marrying a woman who can trace her ancestry back to the Mayflower, we both knew God was leading us into an interesting lifetime together. 

After graduating from college in Oklahoma and our first eight years of ministry spent in Saginaw, MI, we arrived with our two daughters in Muskegon. We felt a fresh calling to be a part of ministering in the midst of a new (to us) and interesting urban community, we just didn’t know what that really meant. Over the last six years in ministry here, God has introduced us to the richly diverse community of neighbors in Muskegon, who have contributed tremendously to the story of our lives. 

Community enCompass has been a part of that community. They have exposed us to the principles of asset-based community development, which led us to explore the methods of organizations like the Christian Community Development Association. This has changed the face of how we partner in ministry in the city of Muskegon - as neighbors rather than outsiders.

This past fall we had the opportunity to attend the Taste and See event for the first time, and, while we knew Community enCompass was involved in community work efforts, we didn’t quite understand the breadth of that work until this event.

During the tour we were treated to a walk through the Sanford house rehab. Being interested in becoming core city homeowners ourselves, we inquired about what it might take to partner in a future rehab project. Since they were in the middle of a current rehab, we quickly found they were up to their eyeballs in finish 

work in the Sanford project, and the next rehab project seemed a distant potential. However, we committed to pray toward God's will for future possibilities. Much to our surprise we received an email just a month later simply stating, “Hey guys! Interested in checking out a house with us?” 

Thus began the exploration of and commitment to the Ransom house project that is currently underway.

From the moment we said “I do” to each other, we knew there was an amazing and interesting story that God wanted to lead us into together. Through the simple act of a Taste and See tour, we were exposed to the incredible ministry work neighbors are doing with Community enCompass. We certainly didn’t expect to come away from the tour as homeowners that night, but in a way we did. We count ourselves blessed to be able to continue our amazing and interesting life story in Muskegon as neighbors in the McLaughlin neighborhood”.

-The Lenertz family have been involved in every step of the Ransom Rehab home. We hope that their connection to Community enCompass continues to grow as they live out their lives in the Muskegon downtown area.

Taste & See is an annual progressive dinner & tour. Come and get a taste of what it's like to live, learn, work, grow and play here in Muskegon, come and experience the work God is doing in the Downtown Muskegon neighborhoods.


Tickets available for the 5th Annual Taste & See, Sept 27th HERE

From Taste and See to Volunteer, the Story of Bob Eichelberger.

This is something I’d really like to be a part of if they could use a fairly old guy with minimal skills.
— Bob Eichelberger

"I retired from Healthcare as a Physician Assistant in 2006 and after a couple of years of being completely self absorbed and dealing with pretty significant health issues of my own, we (my wife and I) began to think about what the rest of our lives might look like.  I was raised as a Matthew 25  kind of person by a mother who always stressed manners, helping people, sharing my blessings and things like that.  I was very fortunate to have had a career that fed into that philosophy, but that wasn't there after I retired.

Bob rehabbing the bathroom of the Ransom street rehab.

Bob rehabbing the bathroom of the Ransom street rehab.

We joined a book group at our church and started reading Richard Rohr, Shane Claiborne, Peter Block, John McKnight and others and we started to be drawn to the inner city.  The summer of 2013 the intern pastor at our church invited me to go to Grand Rapids to the annual conference of the Christian Community Development Association.  I went to 2-3 of the workshops and the evening keynote speaker all talking about community development and social justice.  I don't think I could come up with a single name of any of the speakers, but the day blew me away and changed my life.  About 1-2 months later our pastor, Bill Uetricht on the Community enCompass board, stopped me and said "I have a couple of Taste and See tickets if you'd like to go" and we went.  

Again, it was kind of a life changing experience.  I was in the throws of trying to find something meaningful that would continue to give me purpose for my life and here was this organization that was striving for a partnership with the community to promote unity and strength through relationships and cooperation.  I really liked making things and working with wood, so when I heard Kimi speak at one of the rehabs (I have no clue which one) I thought "This is something I'd really like to be a part of if they could use a fairly old guy with minimal skills."   I was also completely taken with the passion and leadership of the organization as a whole, so after another month or two of getting my courage up, I showed up in Kimi's office and asked if there was anything I could do to help.  

We met on Merrill Ave. in December and I walked into a really cute little house to find Kimi and three African-American teenagers tearing out walls up to their ankles in plaster and lathe and loved it.  My life has been changed ever since".

-Bob Eichelberger has volunteered for community encompass as part of our home rehab team since 2013.

Taste & See is an annual progressive dinner & tour. Come and get a taste of what it's like to live, learn, work, grow and play here in Muskegon, come and experience the work God is doing in the Downtown Muskegon neighborhoods.

Tickets available for the 5th Annual Taste & See, Sept 27th HERE

A Poem for the New Year- Redemption Song

You helped us buy a house this week.

The house at 1312 Ransom is old and decrepit--
100 years plus. 
Its wooden plank siding is rotted, 
hanging loose. 
Windows are cracked, some broken. 
Paint is faded and peeling. 

Yet, out from its foundation grows--
impossibly, in December!--
a single, orange rose. 
Perfect young petals
Boldly, clinging to the foundation, 
announcing,"I'm here and
not letting go."

Beauty has found its way--yet again--into ruin.
Hope blooms stubbornly in decay.

A reminder that the Creator never gives up. 
Not on houses or neighborhoods. 
Not on cities. Not on people.

God is.
God is here
in the brokenness
in the despair
most incredibly, in the redemption.

We get to participate in this redemption song.
We are invited to rebuild and restore. 
This is gospel good news! 

Thank you for living it with us in 2015.

We enter 2016 with hope and gratitude.

Together, seeking SHALOM in the City!

Sarah Rinsema-Sybenga
Executive Director

P.S. - Click here to listen to Over the Rhine's "Redemption Song" (their song that inspired this poem). 

Rose at 1312 Ransom