• Kalamazoo, MI (wkzo) – Help Victims of Nepal Locally with International Aid:: April 28, 2015

    Help victims of Nepal locally with International Aid

    International Aid
    International Aid 

    SPING LAKE, MI (WHTC) – International Aid in Spring Lake has been responding to the needs of those around the world for 35 years.

    Nearly one-point-four million people need food in Nepal following last weekend’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Tim Lopez, Communication and Marketing Manager of International Aid says they are working with other organizations to determine the needs so that may best respond.

    A cash donation is what is needed now so that they can determine what is needed and get that to the people of Nepal as soon as possible. They are working with partners to access the situation so that we can send the most appropriate and needed materials Lopez states.

    To donate call their donation kline at 1-800-251-2502.

    You can also visit their website at  

  • Grand Haven, MI (Grand Haven Tribune) – International Aid seeks donations for earthquake victims in Nepal:: April 28, 2014

  • International Aid seeks donations for earthquake victims in Nepal

    To see original article click here:
    International Aid is seeking help from the community to provide relief supplies to the people in Nepal following the destruction caused by last week’s earthquake.
    APR 29, 2015
  • Holland, MI – West Michigan organization helping to coordinate aid for earthquake victims in Nepal:: April 29, 2015

  • People gather near a collapsed house after a major earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
    People gather near a collapsed house after a major earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar 

    SPRING LAKE, MI (WTVB) – Help for those affected by the massive earthquake in the Himalayans is pouring in from around the globe and across West Michigan.

    International Aid is seeking help from the community to provide relief supplies to the people of Nepal. Nearly 1.4 million people need food in Nepal following last weekend’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Tim Lopez, Communication and Marketing Manager of International Aid in Spring Lake says they are working with other organizations to determine the needs so that they may best respond.

    Lopez says cash is the best way to respond right now.

    To donate call their donation line at 1-800-251-2502 or head to their website

  • Muskegon, MI (Mlive) – International Aid solicits donations for Nepal earthquake victims:: April 28, 2015

  • Nepal Earthquake
    Sita Karka, suffering two broken legs from Saturday’s massive earthquake, arrives by helicopter from the heavily-damaged Ranachour village at a landing zone in the town of Gorkha, Nepal, Tuesday, April 28. Helicopters crisscrossed the skies above the high mountains of Gorkha district on Tuesday near the epicenter of the weekend earthquake, ferrying the injured to clinics, and taking emergency supplies back to remote villages devastated by the disaster. (AP File Photo)

    Michelle D. Anderson | manders6@mlive.comBy Michelle D. Anderson | 
    on April 28, 2015 at 12:45 PM, updated April 28, 2015 at 12:47 PM

    SPRING LAKE, MI – International Aid, the Christian global relief ministry based in Spring Lake, is asking residents in West Michigan and beyond to help assist survivors of the recent 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal.

    The earthquake struck the landlocked, south Asian nation on Saturday, killing an estimated 4,400 people, according to the Associated Press.

    The disaster led to a 6.6 aftershock, along with several thousand injuries, separated families, severe property and infrastructure damage and overflowing hospitals.

    The United Nations said Tuesday that 8 million people have been affected, with about 1/4 of that number located in the 11 most devastated districts.

    International Aid spokesman Tim Lopez said the organization will use donated funds to provide relief supplies to Nepal citizens. Supplies historically have included life-saving medicines, hygiene products, nutritional supplements and reconditioned medical equipment, he said.

    “At this time we are asking the community to make monetary donations so that we can help out in the best way possible,” Lopez said. “Every $1 you give to International Aid is multiplied to provide much-needed resources to the [victims].”

    The nonprofit ministry in March sought local donations to assist Cyclone Pam survivors, while last year, the agency asked for donations to help Filipinos affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

    Lopez said the International Aid is still responding to those nations. This week, the agency will be sending another shipment to The Philippines, he said.

    “The needs in disaster situations are urgent and ongoing,” Lopez said.

    International Aid is just one of many groups offering help to Nepal. Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, the American Red Cross, Friends Service Council Nepal and Unicef are among the other agencies providing assistance.

    Residents can donate online by calling 1-800-251-2502, visiting or by dropping off money at the International Aid office, 17011 Hickory St., Spring Lake, MI 49456.

  • Holland, MI – Orr family left longtime home in Columbus, Ohio, after spending just 52 hours in Holland:: September 25, 2014

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    • (from left to right) Jenson, 10, Jace, 5, and Jayden, 11, sit on the couch together as they listen to their parents (Nicole and Andrew) talk about their move from Ohio to Holland.|

      (from left to right) Jenson, 10, Jace, 5, and Jayden, 11, sit on the couch together as they listen to their parents (Nicole and Andrew) talk about their move from Ohio to Holland. Andrew Whitaker/Sentinel Staff

    • (from left to right) Jenson, 10, Jace, 5, and Jayden, 11, sit on the couch together as they listen to their parents (Nicole and Andrew) talk about their move from Ohio to Holland.Jace Orr, shows off his wooden shoes he had got after his family had moved to Holland from Ohio as part of God's plan.Andrew and Nicole Orr and their three sons Jayden, 11, Jenson, 10, and Jace, 5, moved from Ohio to Holland through the Grace of God.
      • By Peg.McNichol
        (616) 546-4269

        Posted Sep. 25, 2014 at 7:00 AM
        Updated Sep 29, 2014 at 1:47 PM

        Holland, Mich.

        Nicole and Andrew Orr are organized, deliberate people. Their decision to leave their suburban Columbus, Ohio, home of 15 years for Holland puzzled friends and family.

        Andrew didn’t have a job in Holland and the Orrs had no family here. They’d visited Holland once for just over 50 hours, mostly to see the beach. Leaving great friends, a wonderful church and a happy life didn’t make sense, except to the Orrs.

        “We really felt like God wanted us to move here,” Nicole Orr said. “It’s been a very humbling year.”

        In March, the couple put their newly renovated modern home on the market and sold it in just 11 days. They talked to their boys, Jayden, 11, Jenson, 10, and Jace, 5, about a new life in Michigan. Jayden balked. As a family, the Orrs began fruitless weekend house-hunting forays. Nicole envisioned a home with high ceilings, big windows and a clear view of Lake Michigan. Andrew, after 11 years as a haberdasher with Tom James, wanted to move back into mission work.

        Andrew, 42, and Nicole, 40, met during a summer-long U.S. mission tour nearly 20 years ago. He hails from Kingston, Ontario and still has a scant Canadian accent. Nicole De Zeeuw Orr grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In suburban Columbus, they had a life with great friends and a warm worship community at Radiant Life Church. The call to Holland seemed strong, but it wasn’t easy. Andrew’s job search was going nowhere. With a deadline to leave their home, the Orrs couldn’t find a place in Holland.

        “It felt really foolish,” Nicole said. “I felt like Noah, building the ark. We’re saying ‘It’s going to rain.’ But where’s the rain?”

        Tension mounted. One day, Jenson discovered his mom worried to the point of tears. Then, she and all three boys came down with a bad case of the flu just before Easter. The family kept on, she said, with prayer, often Psalm 46, which starts, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…”

        On Good Friday, their Realtor invited them to see a home not yet listed. The next day, the family drove to see the house, which seemed right and wrong: in Holland’s downtown area, older, unrenovated and at least five miles from the lake. Jayden, a voracious reader, suddenly couldn’t wait to move; Herrick District Library was just a few doors away.

        “Nicole was not a fan of this one,” Andrew recalled, sitting on the couch with his wife and boys. “It was kind of a rough few minutes, as we were signing the papers.”

        She is more blunt: “I cried the whole time. … We were doing exactly the opposite, in a sense of everything we said we were going to (get in the next house).”

        She leaned back on the couch next to her husband, laughing at those doubts. Andrew commuted for months, until International Aid hired him as the agency’s director of advancement. His new job started Sept. 4. International Aid sends help to 67 countries, including medical supplies to Sierra Leone, for the Ebola crisis.

        The Orrs have a growing circle of friends, a church home at Engedi and each one is genuinely happy. Nicole is even discovering her Dutch roots. The boys clomp around the house in a pair of adult-sized wooden shoes.

        “God doesn’t move you to places,” Nicole said. “He moves you to people.”

        — Follow this reporter on Facebook and Twitter, @SentinelPeg.

    • Spring Lake, MI – Locals look to help typhoon victims :: November 12, 2013

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      Locals look to help typhoon victims

      Local organizations are stirring up a whirlwind of aid for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, the vicious storm that killed an estimated 10,000 people in the Philippines on Friday.
      Marie Havenga
      Grand Haven Tribune
      Nov 12, 2013
      (MCT photo/Ezra Acayan) A resident walks along a fishing village in Bacoor, south of Manila, Philippines, Nov. 8. (Courtesy photo) International Aid plans to send supplies such as these to victims of Friday's typhoon in the Philippines.

      Instead of collecting individual items, Anderson said International Aid will use the donated money to ship pallets of hygiene and health care items to the Philippines, which will speed up the process of getting the goods to the affected areas.

      “We’re able to get more items there more rapidly with this approach,” Anderson said.

      Anderson said he hopes to collect $50,000, which will purchase 320 pallets of relief supplies. Those will fill eight 40-foot-long shipping containers that he hopes to deliver by the end of the week.

      “We’re working on procuring and pulling together supplies that we want to ship to the Philippines to help in the efforts, primarily focusing on medicines, hand sanitizers and cleaners,” Anderson said. “They’re things to help in the hygiene and health of those people.”

      Anderson said he watched the news late last week and over the weekend and was shocked at the devastation – nearly 10 million people are affected by the storm, which has been dubbed the most powerful in history. Nearly 650,000 people have been displaced.

      “There are reports of looting and attacks on supply trucks,” Anderson said. “The need is very great there.”

      Anderson said most International Aid donations come from residents and businesses. Last year, the organization donated $87 million worth of relief supplies to 85 countries.

      “The large part really comes from donors here in West Michigan,” he said. “Over the years they’ve been very caring and very supportive. We truly appreciate their giving heart.”

      Jay Davis, Captain of the Salvation Army of Grand Haven, said his international organization is already on the scene, although he has not had direct contact with any of the volunteers.

      “We’re in 125 countries and we have people already on the ground,” Davis said. “We had people there even before the storm hit. I haven’t heard, but I suppose some of our facilities were even damaged.”

    • Spring Lake, MI – Help for tornado victims:: May 22, 2013

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      International Aid CEO Brian Anderson said he’s confident area residents will rise to the request and donate personal items for the families that endured the violent storm.

      “We’ve helped out a couple of years ago down in Alabama when the tornadoes ran through, and last year in Indiana,” he said. “We have a long history of wanting to help out when things happen here at home, and things down in Oklahoma are no different.”

      Priority items needed for the relief effort include soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, diapers, hand sanitizer, wash cloths, hand towels, wet wipes, disposable razors and similar items. All items must be new.

      Money is also welcome.

      “One of the most effective ways to help is through cash donations,” Anderson said. “That gives us the greatest flexibility to help out. However people choose to respond, we’ll maximize those gifts and do the best we can with them.”

      The Christian relief organization has already contributed $84 million of assistance to 79 countries in the past 10 months, according to Anderson. In 2012, International Aid hit a record in generosity, shipping $160 million worth of relief items.

      “We’re very grateful for the people here in West Michigan who are always very giving and who do step up in these situations,” Anderson said.

      Donations may be dropped off at the International Aid warehouse between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To make a monetary donation, visit and click on the “donate now” icon.

      Anderson is also asking area residents to keep the people of Oklahoma in their prayers.

      “We have been blessed in so many ways, both personally and as an organization, that it’s in times like this that we are able to bless others,” he said.

    • Spring Lake, MI – Church cross to return :: January 23, 2013

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      The 40-foot cross, which sat atop the former Christ Community Church at 225 E. Exchange St., was removed when the church’s leaders changed the congregation’s name to C3 Exchange and said they wanted to become an inclusive spiritual community not focused solely on Christian beliefs.

      When the cross was removed amid public controversy on June 22, 2010, International Aid leaders asked C3 officials if they would donate the steel-crafted structure to the locally based Christian relief organization.

      International Aid officials had planned to erect the cross at their headquarters at 17011 Hickory St., but Spring Lake Township zoning and height restrictions nixed that idea.

      “We are excited to give this cross back to the original building that it was built for,” said Brian Anderson, president and CEO of International Aid. “It’s amazing to see how God had His hand in this the whole time, and how it’s being revealed to us.”

      Due to budget and mortgage troubles, the C3 congregation moved its worship services to the Grand Haven Community Center in the fall of 2011 and put the Spring Lake building up for sale. After a deal to sell it to the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids fell through, Harvest Bible Church purchased the property in May 2012.

      After being vacant for more than a year, the building is undergoing massive renovations and should be open for its first worship service in late March.

      David Wisen, senior pastor for Harvest Bible Church, said they plan to resurrect the cross on the morning of Good Friday, March 29. A public dedication service is planned for noon that day.

    • Spring Lake, MI – Spring Lake church plans to reinstall controversial cross removed in 2010 :: January 23, 2013

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      SPRING LAKE, MI — A Spring Lake church on Tuesday announced its plan to reinstall a controversial cross that was removed nearly three years ago amid a schism in the congregation.

      Harvest Bible Chapel of Spring Lake recently gained ownership of the cross from International Aid, the ministry organization that took ownership of the religious symbol after C3 Exchange spiritual community, formerly known as Christ Community Church, removed the cross from its premises in June 2010.

      “This is an answer to prayer,” said Brian Anderson, president and CEO of International Aid. “To gift it to an organization that has redeemed the original building that the cross was removed from, that’s something only God can make happen.”

      Controversial loss

      When the cross was removed, C3 Exchange had just changed its name and direction to become more inclusive to people of different religious and spiritual backgrounds. As a part of the church’s transformation, it decided to remove the 40-foot steel cross that adorned the exterior of the church, located at 225 E. Exchange St. in Spring Lake, causing great controversy.

      C3 Exchange Executive Minister Ian Lawton told The Chronicle at the time that the church was considering painting a heart, a globe and the word “exchange” on its exterior wall on the side where the cross stood “to symbolize one love for all people.”

      “We honor the cross, but the cross is just one symbol of our community,” Lawton said.

      The steel cross is being removed from the bell tower of C3 Exchange, formerly Christ Community Church, in Spring Lake in this 2010 file photo.
      Muskegon Chronicle file
      Anderson said C3 Exchange never installed its new, repurposed display because it left the property in September 2011 after struggling to meet its mortgage payments and later began hosting its services at the Grand Haven Community Center.

      Anderson, who at that time served as chief operating officer of International Aid, knew immediately that he wanted the cross and presented his vision to David Wisen, then-CEO and president of the global nonprofit.

      “The cross meant a lot to people in the community and its removal caused a lot of dismay,” said Wisen, who now works as senior pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel of Spring Lake.

      Anderson said International Aid decided to take ownership of the cross because it didn’t want it to become a piece of scrap and because the symbol was important to its mission.

      The nonprofit ministry planned on displaying the cross at its headquarters at 17011 Hickory St. in Spring Lake, but couldn’t complete the project due to restrictions and zoning requirements. Instead, the organization stored the cross in the backyard of a local sign company until it could find a home for it.

      The search for ownership

      In summer 2011, a broker listed the vacant church building on East Exchange Street, making it apparent that C3 Exchange would soon vacate the property. International Aid then decided it would gift the cross to the building’s new tenant if the organization maintained a Christian mission.

      Months earlier, in February 2011, Wisen left his post as CEO and president of International Aid to become senior pastor of the new, expanding Harvest Bible Chapel.

      In August of that year a contractor listed plans to convert the property into a mixed use space but later backed out.

      Then in November, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Grand Rapids announced its plan to convert the building into a school, Wisen said. International Aid thought it finally had found a new owner for the cross until the archdiocese backed out the following month when it realized the renovation costs to bring the property up to safety code regulations were too high, Wisen said.

      Harvest Bible Chapel put the building under contract a couple months later in February 2012 and in May 2012 finalized the sale. When Harvest Bible Chapel took ownership of the building, it became obvious to the church and International Aid that Harvest Bible would become the cross’ new owner.

      Wisen said the cross is currently being refurbished and will later be installed on Good Friday, March 29, during a dedication ceremony.

      The church is still undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation and will host its first service about a week prior to the cross’ installation on March 24, Wisen said. Currently, the church hosts its services at International Aid’s headquarters.

      Wisen said he never imagined that his church would occupy the building where the cross once sat.

      “It was never in my wildest dream that we would take the cross, Wisen said. “It wasn’t on our radar.”

    • Winter Sets in Heavily over Japan :: Monday, December 12, 2011

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      Japan (MNN) ― The Japanese government has lifted the “stay-home” order around the Fukushima Dai-ichi area.

      That means residents can stop being ready to evacuate, and–once cleanup is finished–schools and other public services can function again. Business is getting back to “normal,” but after the quake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters, what’s defined as “normal?”

      International Aid CEO Brian Anderson says as they supported the local church through the emergency phase, they were beginning to see a new picture emerging of what “normal”might look like. “Because the government is truly focused on infrastructure, it does create an opportunity on the personal level for the Christian community to make some inroads with the people and to be able to share the Gospel.”

      Prior to March 11, 2011, Christians weren’t ready to respond to a disaster. “The Christian community there is represented by less than 1% of the total population. There really is a need there to hear the Gospel.”

      Since then, it’s been quite a different story. Anderson explains, “We had an opportunity, early on, to provide two vehicles to an organization called CRASH Japan. CRASH stands for Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope, which allowed them to move people and supplies.”

      CRASH Japan got people organized and has since sent out over 1600 volunteers to serve both the physical and spiritual needs of survivors. In partnership with local churches, CRASH Japan has planned and accomplished many programs to serve the needs of disaster-affected areas. For example, “Koriyama has a lot of temporary housing that was put up. Koriyama Christ Church is delivering food to these residents, and at the same time, having an opportunity to share the Gospel.”

      Koriyama quickly became a settlement area as temporary housing units sprang up all over. “A number of these housing units lack both heat and air conditioning. There are gaps along the roof line.”

      Many who were displaced hoped that they would be able to return home quickly. As the weeks drag on into months, there’s another issue believers are facing. “Coming into winter, there’s a real concern about the lack of hope. They really are dreading a spike in the suicide rate there as well.”

      Anderson says International Aid provided thousands of dollars of medications, hygiene products, blankets and flashlights to be given to those who were injured or lost their homes. They also addressed the human dignity problem. “We had the opportunity to provide 25 starter kits made up of home furnishings and items for use in the temporary housing to make those units more livable.”

      More than programs, the impact made through these relationships will play a key role in spreading the hope of Christ throughout Japan in the future.

      However, church partners are tired. What can you do? “Pray for the church partners. They’ve been at this since March. [Pray] for strength and endurance. You can see that there’s weariness on their part because there’s a lot of effort, and it goes on week after week. Coming into the winter months, I think that their workload is going to increase.”

    • Good and bad news six months after Japan tsunami- Mission Network News :: Monday, September 19, 2011

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      Japan (MNN) ― While scores of Americans were taking time to reflect on the World Trade center attacks on September 11, a nation halfway across the globe was reflecting on their own tragedy.

      Last Sunday marked the six-month point since Japan was rocked by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami. Rebuild is moving along well, but the loss of some 20,000 people and the displacement of 400,000 more continues to plague the nation.

      Throughout the devastating disaster, however, many Christians took up the challenge to respond by providing aid, shelter, and comfort. Only a minuscule fraction of the country was serving the Lord when the tsunami hit, but now the love of Christ permeates throughout as ministries give and love without condition.

      International Aid is just one of those sparkling gems in the heap of ashes. The ministry has gathered over $150,000 in donations and can now rejoice over all the Lord has done as a result.

      The funds have been used for a number of things. International Aid has been able to ship thousands of dollars of medications, hygiene products, blankets, and flashlights to partners working on the ground in Japan. They have also coordinated an effort to supply numerous families who lost their homes with “start-up” kits that include items such as appliances and furniture.

      On top of that, the ministry has now purchased two vans that have enabled partners both to transport supplies to affected areas and to evacuate people living in locations with high radiation levels. They’ve also funded food packets that were distributed to Japanese people living in some of Japan’s hardest hit areas.

      All of this is done in the Name of Christ and His message. Thousands of Japanese continue to experience Christ’s love as International Aid showers them with resources and Truth.

      International Aid has been able to accomplish much, but many in Japan are still in need of help. Pray for God to open doors for International Aid to continue bringing relief to the Japanese people. Pray that hearts would open to the Gospel in the meantime.

      You can help with this project. Visit to give to this project today.

    • Uganda’s fight against malaria finds a powerful ally – MNN :: Thursday, August 18, 2011

      POSTED: 9 AUGUST, 2011 – Mission Network News

      Uganda (MNN) ― In Uganda, more children are killed by malaria than HIV, war, or any other threat.

      The upsetting thing is: malaria is easily preventable. Unfortunately, hospitals and even clinics are few in many regions of Uganda, and several facilities lack the necessary equipment to treat and diagnose malaria.

      In the Mityana region of approximately one million, there are less than 10 clinics. “The nearest hospital is 60 miles away, so really, they’re looking at a ratio of 10,000 patients per one doctor,” says Brian Anderson withInternational Aid.

      In 2010, Reverend Dr. Stephen Kaziimba, the bishop of the Ugandan diocese of Mityana, visited Buwaata–a district in Kaziimba’s diocese–where he noticed a disturbing trend: malaria was killing hundreds per month. In two months, 520 children had died of the disease because the clinics did not possess the equipment to diagnose it.

      Through a church contact in Muskegon, Michigan, Kaziimba was able to contact International Aid, who set to work gathering equipment and medicine right away.

      By the summer of 2010, Anderson says, “We shipped a container of medical equipment and medicines to Mityana’s largest clinic.”

      The clinic was improved by the shipment to be sure, but International Aid’s reach had extended even further than they knew. The clinic was a government-run facility, and when the government caught wind of the high quality of IA’s medical equipment and medicines, they were prompted to invest in the clinic, assigning a midwife and laboratory personnel to the health center.

      In just a year, the malaria problem in that region was nearly wiped out.

      Kaziimba recently reported to IA that “only two or three children had passed away from malaria this year. That’s an astounding improvement, compared to 520 reported in two months’ time last year.”

      Even more than this enormous success, however, is the eternal impact the work will have. “The hope of Christ there is presented as a part of treating the patients,” explains Anderson. “They’re trying to show the love of Christ and the hope of Christ to patients that are being treated.”

      IA has much more work to do throughout Africa, sending refurbished equipment, “labs in a suitcase,” and medicines. Donations of equipment are needed from hospitals, and financial support is needed from anyone who can give. Learn more about helping to meet those needs.

    • Letters: International Aid made a difference for tornado victims :: Wednesday, August 10, 2011

      Originally published at

      Many thanks to International Aid and the people of West Michigan for coming to the aid of the victims of the tornadoes that ripped through Alabama on April 27 leaving thousands of people homeless and taking 240 lives. Just 12 days after the destruction, International Aid delivered donations of chainsaws, water, gas cans, hygiene products, tarps, work gloves and other relief items to the town of Phil Campbell. Georgetown Christian Reformed Church has assembled and donated 5,850 pounds of hygiene kits to International Aid. Two groups of students have made and donated tie blankets. And, Corrigan Moving Systems, a transportation and moving company based in Grand Rapids, donated trucks, drivers and gas to help International Aid deliver three semi-loads of aid to partners working in some of the hardest-hit areas of Alabama.

      It has been truly amazing to witness the resilience and faith of the victims as well as the many facets of aid that have poured into Alabama. The path to reconstruction is going to be long but with the continued efforts of many, families will be able to rebuild and put their lives back together.

      Our nation has greatly suffered from natural disasters these past few months. Please continue to pray for and support the victims of these natural disasters. You may donate and follow the relief efforts of International Aid at

      Kirk and Chari Kooiman, formerly of Muskegon
      Florence, AL

    • How Spring Lake’s International Aid went from broke to helping the world again :: Wednesday, August 10, 2011

      Written by Terri Finch Hamilton | The Grand Rapids Press

      SPRING LAKE — After 30 years of responding to earthquakes, tornadoes and calamity around the globe, International Aid has fixed its own disaster.

      Alive and kicking — but much smaller and refocused — the Christian relief agency in Spring Lake just announced it shipped more than $116 million worth of aid in the past year — an all-time high.

      Not bad for an organization everybody thought was dead.

      Two years ago, leaders at International Aid, whose name has been synonymous with global relief efforts for decades, somberly announced they were closing their doors.

      They were broke, weighed down under $1.5 million of debt after donations plummeted with the souring economy.

      Everybody from donors to its staff to its partners in other countries fretted in disbelief.

      But a skeleton staff stayed on to quietly send out stockpiled shipments of supplies.

      And when a man named David Wisen showed up to walk through the once-bustling building with a real estate agent, thinking he might buy the place to house his new church, something sort of spiritual happened.

      “When I walked through this building, I saw this map,” Wisen said. He points to it, taped to the wall.

      “International Aid was technically closed, yet the few employees still here were still putting stickers on this map, still keeping track of where they were sending medical supplies they had left. There were at least 40 countries with stickers — even though they had no hope of staying in business.

      “It touched my heart,” Wisen said. He realized maybe he could help save the place. He and his wife, Kristen, gave a sizable donation — he won’t say how much — to erase the organization’s debt.

      Wisen, a Cornerstone University graduate, moved to West Michigan from Chicago after marrying Kristen VanKampen, a daughter of millionaire investment pioneer Robert VanKampen.

      Wisen became CEO of International Aid for 14 months, leading the restructuring. He also started his church, Harvest Bible Chapel Spring Lake, leasing space in the International Aid building. The congregation held its first service last month and are drawing 250 people a week.

      It’s a little weird to see a worship space that features a big garage door, where fork lifts can bring pallets of supplies through, but really, Wisen said, it makes sense.

      “You build these big church buildings and what’s going on there the rest of the week?” Wisen said. “It’s not an efficient use of space. When we turn the lights off Sunday night, it becomes a ministry Monday morning.”

      This is not exactly the International Aid you used to know.

      “Back in the Hurricane Katrina days, we would have loaded up trucks and buses and headed out there,” said the current CEO, Brian Anderson, former vice president of support services at International Aid. He took over as chief in April.

      “Now, we look for others who have already mobilized, who have feet on the ground, and see how we can help them,” he said. “Instead of us trying to do everything from start to finish, we work with others who have the same mission. This makes us able to accomplish so much more.”

      They used to have offices all over the world.

      No more. The Spring Lake office is it. And it has 20 employees, down from a high of 100 in 2000.

      Indeed, according to 2010 forms nonprofit organizations must file with the Internal Revenue Service, employee compensation expenses were $962,000 in tax year 2009, down from $4.3 million in 2008.

      And while four people were listed on the 2009 IRS form as making more than $100,000 in the 2008 tax year, the following year’s document shows no one received more than $100,000 in compensation.

      Despite the drastic downsizing and streamlining — or, actually, because of it — International Aid has given more in health products, medication, nutritional supplements and medical equipment than it has in the past seven years combined, Anderson said.

      Smaller, he says, is better.

      “We don’t want to blossom back out to this huge organization,” Anderson said. “We want to stay small and nimble and cost-effective.”

      International Aid will be the main stage sponsor next month at the Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon, hoping to get the word out the agency is alive and well.

      Meanwhile, back in the organization’s workshops, biomedical technicians are busy going over donated medical equipment, checking and repairing before sending it overseas.

      Solar-powered “Labs-in-a-Suitcase” are primed to go to remote areas of the world with no electricity. Pallets of toothpaste are piled toward the ceiling, waiting to be packed into hygiene kits, one of International Aid’s main focuses now.

      What do they most want people to know?

      Anderson smiles.

      “That we’re here.”