Mr. Booy's Blog

The Power of a Name

Assoumani Iyakaremye,
2011 alum

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Mother Teresa

For more than a decade, The Potter’s House school has celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  This year four former students returned to participate on an alumni panel at the high school. I was struck by the way some seemingly small things had resonated with these students during their time here at The Potter’s House. I heard each one recall moments in their schooling that had changed them and sometimes it was as simple as a handshake, someone giving them the powerful gift of being known, or taking the time to give wise counsel.

Assoumani Iyakaremye came to The Potter’s House in the seventh grade. He told our students that he had been looking for a positive place to fit in, and on the second day of school I memorized his name. He shared that it had made a huge impact on him. I am encouraged when I see how God can take the little things we do and make them matter. It took a little extra time to be intentional and practice his name but looking back it was well worth it to know that it made Assoumani feel “welcomed.” He went on to tell our current students that if they want to strengthen their walk with God they should listen to the advice that the teachers are giving them…”these teachers really do care about your life.”  Hearing words like that, from a former student solidifies a teacher’s call as they continue to give their time and hearts to their students on a daily basis.

Now, long after the handshake, and hearing their names, and the advice, they carry those things into the next chapter of their lives. After graduating high school in 2011, Assoumani made his way to a local Christian college and he will graduate this spring. We were thrilled to hear that he and his testimony is being used by God to make an impact at Bethany Christian Services Refugee program where he now works. Friends, be encouraged, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13

Sweet Success

The Potter’s House high school students/parents made Dutch apple pies on Saturday to earn money for the annual Mexico Mission trip and the Senior Trip.  They made 510 pies!  The students got busy selling, and during their Thanksgiving lunch today, amidst the long line of tables and crockpots, the students tasted sweet success!
The top Dutch apple pie seller, Lydia Hart, was awarded the honor of throwing a cream pie in the face of The Potter’s House High School Principal, Dr. Peter VandeBrake. Runner up was Dylan Worst. He completely creamed the Dean of Students, Mr. Alf Clark. Last, but not least, our 3rd place winner, Logan Hausler, was given the opportunity to choose a teacher to cream. That last minute teacher reveal kicked the already buzzing room to a fever pitch of teenage thrill and anticipation as Mr. Miles Colago, their high school english teacher, walked to the front of the gym and joined Dr. VandeBrake and Mr. Clark!
This is what success looks like…when you are in high school…and you sell a lot of pies….so you can go on a mission trip…and class trip! We are proud of all our students. We are proud of our high school leadership! Success like this is very sweet indeed.

University Partners

The next time you walk through the halls at The Potter’s House, look closely. There are many academic, spiritual and emotional enhancements that often go unnoticed and unheralded.

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This morning, Cornerstone University students tutored some of our youngest readers. The literacy tutoring program is coordinated by Beth VanderKolk. She is a Cornerstone University professor specializing in teaching reading. Beth is especially dear to The Potter’s House family because for many years she was our first-grade teacher. During tutoring sessions today she had some tremendously affirming words to share, and I would like to pass them on to you.


She said, “I bring my students to The Potter’s House school for several reasons:

#1. Because of the high quality reading instruction that’s happening here. It’s good for them to see that modeled.

#2. So that my students can walk into The Potter’s House school atmosphere that’s been bathed in sacrifice and given to God.

#3. So that my students can experience not only what quality teaching looks like intellectually but also the spiritual and emotional piece. At The Potter’s House school there is a belief in the whole child as well as a high level of academics.

#4. My student teachers have such a great experience with each student. Over and over again students come back to me and say, ‘It was such a good experience to work with a child that is so eager to learn and is in a place that supports their academic success.’”


We were so pleased to hear these words from someone of her caliber and perspective. Learning opportunities like this one add an integral piece to each child’s opportunity to succeed. We want to thank Cornerstone University, Beth VanderKolk and her students for partnering with our young readers here at The Potter’s House!  Thank you for being a blessing to us!


And the Church Bell Rang

Yesterday our staff spent the morning preparing their hearts for this school year. If you ask a staff member what their favorite day of the year is, many will say it’s this day of prayer, reflection and worship. For Amber Ritsema, one of our Kindergarten teachers, this day had an even deeper meaning.


And the Church Bell Rang

July 26th was a day full of heartache and questions of what was to come. The church that I had attended my whole life closed its doors that day. The church service was beautiful, a little glimpse of heaven. To see every church pew filled from end to end and to hear voices lifting praises to our great and mighty God was a beautiful picture, and something that I won’t forget. Yet, there was an ache in my heart. Why was this happening?

I was privileged to attend church with my grandparents, parents and my son. For most of my life I took this for granted, but at this last church service I realized that this was such a precious gift, something that I may never get back. Watching my grandpa weep as he sang with all of his heart filled my heart with a whole new set of emotions. He had also spent most of his life in that church. God had been doing great things on the corner of Clyde Park and Grandville Ave. for over a century. All we could wonder was, is God’s plan finished? 

My dear friends, God is not finished doing ministry on the corner of Grandville Ave. and Clyde Park. The Potter’s House has purchased the church, and that too is a miraculous story still unfolding. When I found out that we were going to be worshiping at the church this morning my heart was overwhelmed. I remember sitting in the last service trying to take in every moment because I didn’t think would ever get to worship in this space again.

Then as the church bell rang my eyes flooded with tears. I hadn’t heard the ringing of that bell in many years. To me it was a sign of a new calling. God has been re-positioning things. He is not done changing lives and drawing people to Him.

As I worshiped, I was reminded that God’s plan is always bigger than what we can sometimes see. He is sovereign. His plans are perfect. Has it been hard to say goodbye to a church that I loved so deeply? Yes, it has been painful. Watching one door close was difficult, but watching God re-position and open this new door fills my heart with great hope! Please join me in praying for the ministries in the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood and for The Potter’s House as God continues to unfold His plans. Glory to God!

Amber Ritsema
The Potter’s House Kindergarten Teacher


Mack’s Message

Friends and Family,

We are ending our annual Phone-a-Thon today and the goal is to reach all our Potter’s House friends and family with a message to thank you for your continued support as well as potentially inspire folks to take part in our annual Summer Match Challenge. We hope to end the year well so we can budget for, and cast a vision for, an even better 2015-2016 school year.

We also have a brand NEW communication system. This means that we will now be more streamlined and will have increased capabilities to do things like: Text Messages, Voice Messaging, Emails Newsletters and more Social Media postings to things like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

For now, the most important thing to know is this; we have sent our our first voicemail message to home phones. We know that some have said that they had trouble understanding the intro message, and some were a little confused. Feel free to offer up suggestions to our Development Team,, and as they work to perfect the system they will keep your ideas in mind. This system has the potential to help our community feel better connected and will support our mission here at The Potter’s House. We appreciate your patience as we get it going.

For those that do not have home phones, you may receive an email and/or text message to your mobile phone. This is another opportunity to reach our other Potter’s House family members and give you all a chance to Opt-In, or Opt-Out of future messaging.

Over the next few weeks/months you will be offered more opportunities to Opt-In to areas that interest you. They might be things like: text messages for school cancellations and other weather related delays, reminders of parent-teacher conferences, emergency needs, volunteer opportunities, event notices and access to the Around The House newsletters.

We hope you enjoy the message from Mack, one of our first grade students, and thank you for your continued passion and support that you give to The Potter’s House!

To donate click here

It Ain’t Over


One of the most impactful things about The Potter’s House School is the community it brings together. Volunteerism is a vital aspect of our community and you will hear me talk about that a lot. People ARE The Potter’s House. Yet, often, many people do not feel qualified, they don’t feel emotionally “compelled,” or many feel like they are already drowning in their own life-struggles.

Meet Cindy DeBoer. This woman of grace and life volunteers as a middle school discipleship leader. She and her husband have been involved with the school, and she had volunteered as a discipleship leader before, but this particular year it was especially heartwarming.

Cindy has Lymphangioleiomyomatosis, LAM for short. Her recent diagnosis of this very rare and serious lung disease carries a life expectancy of about 10 years. She might have been like many others, who, when going through hard times, pull back and resign to just making it through each day…but she didn’t.

Instead, she found courage through the voice of a local pastor that was going through his own terminal illness. His words, “It ain’t over, till it’s over,” helped her to realize that she was not willing to let herself die BEFORE she died.

In the video, Cindy says, “We seem to thrive when life isn’t easy and we are more dependent on God.” That faith, that dependency on God, gave her back her passion for living. For her, she realized, “I have never been more alive than when I was serving others, when I was out meeting people, especially people of different cultures and backgrounds.”

So, #1, Life comes from God, and by His design, we feel more alive living in community, and in service. #2, Your testimony is POWERFUL. Share it, show God’s faithfulness through it, and love a hurting world desperate for God’s love. #3, Understand the eternal AND present value of being a “seed planter.” I can think of no better way to spend my life than in serving, shepherding, and protecting today’s youth.

Thank you, to all of you who serve. A special thank you to you, Cindy. Your inspiring faith in action encourages and challenges the rest of us.

If you would like an update on Cindy’s journey, consider following her on her blog: If you are interested in finding out more about the man that inspired Cindy to fight for life, visit: For more personal testimonies of God’s faithfulness in the midst of crisis, I would encourage people to check out a personal testimony site called WITH, located at

Kid Power Grad

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Christine is the third student from the right, slightly behind the guitar player (Al Jansen).

Christine Hoekzema remembers the members of the Community of Living Waters as “really hippie people who sang all the time.”

Christine grew up on Grandville Avenue between Liberty and Olympia, in the heart of the Roosevelt Park neighborhood where the “young hippies” from Calvin moved in with the hopes of making a difference. Her parents were good friends of Al and Barb Jansen, who helped with Kid Power and eventually The Potter’s House. In fact, Christine remembers Al playing the guitar and leading the kids in song, which she said was a focal point of the Tuesday evening Kid Power program.

The Potter’s House didn’t offer preschool or kindergarten when they first began, so Christine attended a local Christian school. When she entered first grade and was eligible to begin at The Potter’s House, her dad had to convince the teachers and administrator to let her in.

“They didn’t want to compete with other Christian schools,” she said of The Potter’s House founders.

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Christine is in the center front.

She got in to the school by virtue of living just up the street and began first grade in Mr. Van’s class. Never having experienced a male teacher, she was apprehensive as she entered his class. But after first grade and then having Mr. Van again in 3rd grade, she left counting him as her favorite teacher.

“He was really funny, and he made you feel special,” Christine said of the school’s co-founder. “Every kid in the class had a special week as ‘top banana,’ where you made special things and you could have friends over.”

As much as she loved the singing and Mr. Van, Christine said her biggest take-away from both Kid Power and The Potter’s House was the family atmosphere. At the time, she didn’t realize how small the classes were and how diverse her classmates were. She just knew she always wanted to be at school because everybody felt welcome.

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Desmond, Pre-K.

Christine attended The Potter’s House through 6th grade, the highest TPH offered at the time. When her parents moved to Newaygo during her 7th grade year, her eyes were opened to the blessing of a diverse community. Everybody in Newaygo looked the same, she said, and she began to be grateful for her experience at The Potter’s House.

“Those are important things that help you to grow later on,” she said. “I’m thankful for that, to be a little bit more open-minded.”

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Desmond, Everett, and Christine.

Christine is also thankful to know her son is able to have a similar experience at the school. Desmond, age four, attends Pre-K and loves Mrs. Larson. She is hoping a spot will open up for her son Everett, currently in 1st grade at a local school, as she knows The Potter’s House would be a wonderful fit for him.

“The Potter’s House is more willing to talk with you about [financial options] and help you out,” Christine said. “I want to be involved. If there’s a place I want to donate and give myself to, it’s The Potter’s House.”

Loving Your Neighbor

image1Abbie and Elijah Cox have attended The Potter’s House school since pre-kindergarten, after their parents discovered the school through a Potter’s House high school parent.

“We appreciate the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity,” said their father, Shane Cox. “I see it in the children as they exit the school each day. I see it in the kids on the bleachers during middle school discipleship. I’m in awe of the diversity of backgrounds and families.”

“I value the fact that my kids are with teachers that genuinely care about them, and they love Jesus above all,” said their mother, Heather Cox.

Abbie and Elijah come home talking about what they learned. Then their parents watch them implement their lessons.

“I think discipleship at this school has been a big part of my kids’ lives,” Heather said. “They understand ministry and having compassion for people.”

The diversity and Christ-centeredness were of utmost importance to the Coxes when choosing a school for their children. Yet they knew they couldn’t manage tuition for Elijah and Abbie between seminary loans and ministry start-up costs.

“We realized private education would be expensive,” said Shane, “but when we heard how much we would have to pay for tuition, we were blown away by the idea that we could afford to have our kids be a part of this school.”

In 2009, Shane had just graduated from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and he and Heather prayed about what God wanted them to do next. They felt God’s call to simply invite their neighbors into their apartmIMG_7476ent at Franklin and Division. Over time, the fellowship of neighbors became a community of faith, and they began meeting in a studio space on Division Avenue in the Heartside district under the name Take Hold.

“There’s a common thread between this school’s mission and the mission of our faith community,” Shane said. “We wanted to develop a small church that would have the same mindset that we’re all equal in the sight of the Lord. It doesn’t matter your background or the color of your skin. We’re all one in Christ Jesus. We wanted to give our children a well-rounded education where they were exposed to different cultures and people.”

Heather and Shane are grateful for the opportunity The Potter’s House provides for their kids to have an education that works hand-in-hand with the kingdom focus they are trying to instill at home and through Take Hold church.

“I just want to stress our thankfulness for the blessing this school has been to our family,” Shane said. “There’s no other way our children could have an experience like this.”

Jorge: From Neighborhood Kid to Community Nurse

Jorge Zamudio (class of ’09) graduated from Grand Valley State University in December, and had the privilege of being interviewed with me and several fellow alumni on the Time to Talk show with Argie Holliman on GRTV in January. Here’s his story in his own words.


Sam: From Bullied to Leader

Sam was tense and nervous when he first came to The Potter’s House in middle school. He was bullied at his previous school and didn’t know how to take the welcome and peace he received when he began attending The Potter’s House. He became a spiritual leader at the high school and is now attending college to pursue a career as a CIA agent.