Blog Index
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Jeff Wenke

Jeff Wenke,
Lead Pastor

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Jeff is a Kalamazoo native who spent over 20 years living in California leading a youth ministry and then planting a church. Jeff and his wife Heidi, along with their three children Joshua, Nathan, and Sarah, made the return to Michigan in 2012 when Jeff felt the call to help lead and organize this growing ministry, known as The Bridge. Now as Lead Pastor, Jeff provides direction and alignment for all aspects of The Bridge as we move towards multiplication and mission. Important words in Pastor Jeff’s life: Fun, Family, Friends, Authentic Relationships, Coffee, Water Skiing, and Camping. Key Verse: Romans 12:1-2, especially as it relates to the transforming power of God to change lives and help people know the will of God in their lives.

Joel Messenger

Joel Messenger,
Director of Ministries

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Joel was born and raised in Three Rivers, Michigan. Joel, along with his wife Marybeth, and two daughters, Riley and Mia, have been attending The Bridge church since 2013. It’s at this place where the Messenger family made a commitment to live their lives serving Jesus. Working in education for just over 14 years, Joel brings a lot of leadership support, encouragement, and organization to our ministries. In his spare time, you’ll find him reading books, playing golf, cheering for all Michigan sports, and spending lots of time with his family and friends. His favorite verse is Galatians 5:22-23, as it shows Paul encouraging us to live by the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Philip Rose

Philip Rose,
Church Planter

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Philip Rose joined the staff of The Bridge in August of 2017 as their newest Church Planting Pastor. He is working with the Bridge to start a new church in the Kalamazoo area, launching in 2018. Before becoming an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America (RCA) in 2007, Philip worked as a Worship Arts Director, was the Director of Artistic Operations at the Grand Rapids Symphony and even managed a Chicken Coop restaurant in Grand Rapids. Those jobs may not qualify him to be a Church Planter, but they sure show that he likes doing new and different things (and it probably makes him look super old, too!) Philip has been married to his best friend Heidi for 32 years. They have three adult children and four grandchildren (so far). Philip and Heidi like hiking, traveling, sharing a good meal with friends watching Cubs baseball and doing projects around their house together.

Ryan Frantz

Ryan Frantz,
Director of Discipleship and College + Career

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Ryan is a high-energy guy who loves being surrounded by others. He is a teacher/coach at heart, so it’s no surprise that he is crazy about all things discipleship. Here at The Bridge, that includes working with life groups, leading the GAP students, and pouring into the Bridge Academy so that people can grow in their pursuit of Jesus Christ. Ryan comes to us as an Indiana native, where he attended Taylor University. It’s at that place where he met his lovely wife Meghan. They lived in the Chicago area for two years, while Ryan completed his MDiv at Trinity, before moving to Portage and starting at The Bridge in September of 2017. Ryan loves sports. Basketball, baseball, football, volleyball, tennis, and golf are his favorites, but he’ll dabble in frisbee, racquetball, croquet, or anything else you want to play too—including board games. You also won’t see him pass up an opportunity to somersault, sing falsetto, or otherwise be a drama king. His favorite verse is Jeremiah 20:9: “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire—a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

Will Alderman

Will Alderman,
Worship Director

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Will is a Southwest Michigan native, born and raised in Plainwell. His passion for God, Worship and music fuel his daily life. Will graduated with his Bachelor's Degree in Music Performance from WMU (Go Broncos!) and his Master's Degree in music performance from Ithaca College (Go Bombers! ...anyone?) Currently, he lives in on the south side of Kalamazoo and has spent the last two years of his life working as a freelance musician in the area, teaching, writing, and gigging. In addition to leading Worship at The Bridge, Will is a Worship Leader at the Kalamazoo House of Prayer. In his spare time, you’ll find Will hanging with friends, family, or playing soccer. Favorite Verse: Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Peg Weaver

Peg Weaver,
Director of Prayer

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Peg is passionate about helping others hear the voice of God. The years of ministry experience Peg has in team building, leadership development, and training in Prayer Counseling have been key in helping her cultivate a priority of prayer in all ministries at The Bridge.Her mission in this place is to help others expand your idea of just what prayer is, and to walk alongside you - as you develop a lifestyle of prayer. An Iowa native, Peg has lived in Michigan since graduating from the University of Iowa. (Go Hawks!) Peg likes to read, garden, and along with her husband Garth, loves to watch sports, spend time with their grown children (Shannon & Nick, and Ross & Tabatha) and their grandchildren (Ben, Eli, Dominic, Meg, Elleana, and Alex). Key Life Verse: Matthew 6:33. The concept of putting God first, before everything and everyone, was a foreign thought to Peg for many years, but the personal experience of trusting God and actually seeking Him before all else, changed her life.

Jeff Fernandez

Jeff Fernandez,
Student Ministries Director

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Jeff Fernandez has been a part of The Bridge family since 2015. His focus and passion is working with Middle School (Fusion) and High School (Edge) students but you’ll find him teaching from time to time, counseling people of all ages, and/or serving with our Bridge Kids leaders. Walking alongside students, and helping them take ownership of their faith, and teaching them that they are not just loved by God - but are in fact ministers of the good news of Jesus, is his goal. Jeff grew up in an abusive home, with various struggles in life that by the grace of God, ended up leading him into a real relationship with the Lord. All of that "life" experience has shaped and formed the passion to share with students the saving grace of JESUS CHRIST. His passion for his family is just as important as his passion for faith. Jeff, his amazing wife Teresa, their son Riley and daughter Clara live here in Portage. In his spare time you’ll find him hanging out with friends or family, watching movies, listening to music, playing or watching football, cooking, backpacking, taking walks with his wife, drinking Dr. Pepper, and just doing life with people. He thinks the best movie ever is “It’s a Wonderful Life”, so if you like any of those things listed above - you’ll find a friend in Jeff Fernandez. Life Verse: Colossians 2: 6-7: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Emily Ranfeld

Emily Ranfeld,
Fusion Student Ministry Intern

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Emily is the Fusion Student Ministries Intern at the Bridge. She enjoys acting like a middle schooler so much that she spends hours with students on Wednesdays, hangs out with them throughout the week, and eats copious amounts of "kid food" just to "fit in". Emily and her husband Tyler (and their puppy son Ramsey) are Kalamazoo natives, now residing in Portage, conveniently close to Meijer. On a typical day, Emily can be found playing any competitive sport (except golf, that's not a sport), Pinteresting-and sometimes trying-household projects, reading a book, eating, or enjoying the local social/music scene in Kzoo! Emily's passion for Middle Schoolers stems from her childhood as the eldest kid in a big family, where she desired a non-parent to look up to for advice and guidance through the turbulent years that is adolescence. She is seeking God in a big way right now as He guides her in her true passion, which is loving on people , in any walk of life.

Heidi Wenke

Heidi Wenke,
Bridge Kids Director (K-5th)

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Heidi is a West Michigan girl, born and raised in Grand Rapids and then graduated from Calvin College with her degree in Education.Soon after college, she married Pastor Jeff and the two headed west to begin their life together as well as their call to ministry. While in California, he started seminary and Heidi fulfilled her lifelong dream of teaching. Part of that California journey took them to San Jose to be part of a church plant, where for 18 years, Heidi continued teaching and raising their family of 3 children: Joshua, Nathan, and Sarah. In July of 2012, Heidi and Jeff moved their family back to Portage to begin life with The Bridge (everyone asks her… why would you move from California to Michigan!) Heidi serves as the Bridge Kids Director overseeing the Kindergarten through 5th grade discipleship program. Her commitment and passion for Bridge families has been obvious to all from the beginning of their time here. We’re blessed to have her serving and loving on our kids. Heidi loves to read in cozy chairs and she is happiest when she is in a camper. Drive by her house and you’ll probably see her walking her dog Bailey or hanging clothes outside to dry. Life Verse: 1 Peter 2:9

Gynetta Thompson

Gynetta Thompson,
Bridge Kids (Infant-Preschool) &
Women's Discipleship Director

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Gynetta and her family are not native residents of Michigan, but since their move in 2011 she has fallen in love with this state. Gynetta and her husband, Christian, have been married for 20 + years. Together they have a son, Mark, and a Golden Retriever Fur-Baby, Lincoln. When not home with her family or serving at The Bridge, Gynetta enjoys reading, walking, cooking and baking. She loves a good snow storm where she can enjoy resting by the fire, putting together a puzzle, reading a good book or making cinnamon rolls. Gynetta’s passion comes from being around people; which makes her the ideal candidate for both of her ministry roles. As the Director for Bridge Kids Younger, her love for playing and teaching the kids about Jesus is obvious to all who encounter her bright smile. Gynetta is also passionate about working in Women’s Discipleship. She enjoys leading Bible studies and encouraging other women to develop authentic relationships that push each other to grow spiritually. In her opinion, there is just something so sweet about developing a friendship centered around studying God’s word with other women.

Katie Cugliotta

Katie Cugliotta,
Office Manager

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Katie has been providing administrative support and managing day-to-day operations at The Bridge since 2013. She along with her husband, Dean, and their three kids (daughter Taylor and Boy/Girl Twins Dean + Chloe) are Portage natives and have been attending The Bridge church since its first birthday celebration in January of 2011. With a background in Construction office management and years of volunteering in various church ministries, Katie’s experience and commitment to faith have been a key role in the everyday operations of our ministry. When the opportunity presents itself (like every other leap year) for Katie to enjoy free time, you’ll find her in line at Starbucks, roaming around TJ MAXX, ruining recipes found on Pinterest, or spending time with her family and friends. LIVE VERSE: “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for your people will arise from some other place, …Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?” ESTHER 4:14

Jen Klaassen

Jen Klaassen,
Receptionist/Admin Assistant

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Jen is our newest staff member here at The Bridge, providing much needed office support for our growing ministry. Jen is a Kalamazoo native, attended the Kalamazoo Christian Schools and KVCC where she received her associates degree in Automated Office Systems which makes her a perfect fit for our office team. Jen and her husband Chad have been married for 17 years and have been blessed with twin daughters, Alexis & Kaylee and a son, Nolan. They’ve been attending and serving around this campus since January 2016. Jen stays very busy attending her kid’s sports events, concerts, musicals and plays. She is one of those crazy soccer and volleyball moms that can be heard whether at the court or on the field. During the summer their family can be found camping at Hidden Ridge RV Resort, their home away from home. With a love for organization and creativity, she is excited to use her God given talents in her new role at the Bridge.

Kayleigh Lohse

Kayleigh Lohse,
Graphic Designer

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Kayleigh is the creative powerhouse behind the graphics you see at The Bridge. Kayleigh works with staff, team leaders, volunteers, and other Bridge folks to turn their creative ideas into reality. Her passion here is to help ministries at The Bridge broaden their reach and connect with their audience through powerful, beautiful graphics. Kayleigh grew up in Fremont, Michigan, lived in Grand Rapids while attending Calvin College, and moved to Kalamazoo in 2012. She married Jake, the nerd of her dreams in 2014, and they now live in Portage with their small zoo of three kids, two dogs, and a tiny black cat. When she’s not obsessively downloading new fonts or dreaming of ways to redesign Bridge brochures, you can probably find Kayleigh watching Nebraska football with her husband (Go Big Red!), making a giant mess in her craft room, or aimlessly wandering the home decor section of Target while preparing a “this was totally in the budget” speech to deliver to her husband upon her return. If you need to sweet-talk her into a last minute design project, Starbucks or dark chocolate will almost always do the trick.

Josh Wenke

Josh Wenke,
Tech Director

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Josh is a sophomore at Western Michigan University, currently studying Computer Information Systems with a minor in Management and Business Administration. When he's not busy studying for classes, he enjoys playing piano, running, drinking coffee, utilizing his unlimited meal plan at the dining halls, and fixing computers. The actual Tech Director job description is rather vague, so Josh's role at the Bridge involves anything with electricity running to it. To be more specific, that includes managing the website and podcasts, setting up security cameras and wireless internet, installing TVs and check-in stations, training and scheduling volunteers to run audio/visual for weekend services, configuring new staff computers and phones, and helping his dad answer basic computer questions using a new tool known as Google. We keep him busy making sure the worship experience look and sound their best. Perhaps most importantly, Josh is using his giftedness to teach others and build up our tech teams, so they can use their abilities to further the Kingdom.

Jason Huggins

Jason Huggins,
Worship Experience Intern

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Jason Huggins is the youngest Overseer here at The Bridge. He is married and has three incredible boys. Jason has a passion for discipleship and photography, and helps out around the church whenever his schedule permits.