Right next to the campus of Western Michigan University (WMU) there is a house where students of varying religions and cultures are welcome. That former farmhouse is the home of Solid Grounds Campus Ministries, affiliated with Zion, Kalamazoo. Rev. Mark Couch has been the pastor there since 2001, and he loves working with students and finding opportunities to get them involved, as well as being able to interact and build relationships with the international students.*
Among the things that took place at Solid Grounds in October were weekly Monday evening gatherings for music, conversation, and community. Pastor Couch is alternating Bible Studies with talks on topics of interest for the students. One of the things they have discussed, for example, was how to support Afghan refugees that are coming into the Kalamazoo area. Another hot topic was stress and anxiety, and Couch brought in a guest speaker from Desert Streams Christian Counseling to address these issues. They also had a guest speaker who was a victim of human trafficking as a young girl growing up in the Kalamazoo area. She shared her story of survival, trauma, and God’s ongoing love and healing in her life.
Solid Grounds also participates in a weekly fundraiser for victims of human trafficking. They set up a table right next to the sidewalk to sell Popeye’s sandwich combos. According to Couch, the fundraiser has two goals: 1) Raise funds and awareness for victims of human trafficking in southwest Michigan and 2) interact with WMU students, faculty, and staff. Couch said that one group that had been coming more frequently to buy sandwiches were the staff who work in landscaping and maintenance, an often-forgotten group on campus. He asked one of them what he could do to support the staff, and the man said, “Prayer would be a huge help.” Couch is planning to offer opportunities for conversation and prayer inside Solid Grounds and, as the weather gets colder, provide a warm meal (soup or chili) as well.
Another group supported by Solid Grounds is the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), which averages around 30 WMU student athletes. Couch supports them and connects them with servant events. Over the years, WMU athletes involved with FCA, along with other WMU students, have served as mentors to inner city youth in Kalamazoo, served meals at the local Gospel mission, and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.
Outreach to the less fortunate in the area is a big part of what Pastor Couch does at Solid Grounds. He says this gives students a chance to live out their faith, and hopefully others can see that this is the love of Jesus that’s being shown to them.
*For a full interview with Pastor Couch, read Adam Rayes’ article for the Encore newspaper here.
The Michigan District, LCMS has Campus Ministries available at several universities in the state. Click here to see a list of existing campus ministries. Be sure to fill out this form so that a campus pastor can reach out to your student.
Photos courtesy of Solid Grounds