Bob Goff and others search for common ground, bettering communities


Madalyn Buursma

One of the entrances to Q Commons.

Thousands of people gathered at 150 locations — including Grand Rapids — for the annual Q Commons on October 25, to listen to innovative speakers talk about bettering their communities.

The two-hour event included both local speakers and a broadcast of three national speakers. It is connected to a larger organization, Q, which stands for questions. This year’s theme, “The Power of We,” focused on a call to action in finding common ground in a polarized world, in order to better communities.

This was the seventh year Calvin sponsored the Grand Rapids location, which took place at Monroe Church. Kristi Potter, director of the January Series and one of the event planners, explained that she  and two colleagues had attended some of the national Q conferences and took the chance to host a “mini Q Conference” on behalf of Calvin.

“We believed it was another way for Calvin to fulfill our mission to promote flourishing in our Calvin community and the city in which we live,” Potter said. She explained that Q Commons allows Calvin to bring in local speakers, unlike the January Series.

“The Q Commons is a great event to highlight some local folks doing great things in our local community and serves as a lead up to the January Series — kind of like an appetizer for those waiting for the meal,” Potter said.

Attendees watched a national broadcast of talks from author Jo Saxton, founder of Charity: Water, Scott Harrison and author Bob Goff. The Grand Rapids local speakers were Michael Gulker, Dana Doll with Shadia Mbabazi, Skot Welch and Lori Hernandez. A prominent timer sat in the corner, as each speaker was allotted exactly nine minutes.

“We all have to be involved, in fact we all get to be involved,” said Gabe Cyons, founder of Q, in his introduction to the national broadcast. He encouraged attendees to talk to people who they may disagree with to get out of the “echo chamber.”

Local speakers also talked about what they’re doing in their communities. Dana Doll and Shadia Mbabazi, the executive director and director of community development, respectively, of the Treetops Collective, discussed their work in Grand Rapids. The organization is working to make refugees feel welcome in their new communities. Mbabazi herself is a Rwandan refugee, and spoke from personal experience.

“I really liked what Michael Gulker, the founder of the Colossian Forum had to say,” senior Joshua Bulten, the January Series student assistant, said. “He spoke about how conflict, when handled right, is a great opportunity for discipleship and love.”

The national broadcast ended with bestselling author and lawyer Bob Goff, with his talk titled after his latest book, “Everybody, Always.”

He told the audience many of his life stories, such as taking a call every week from a guy who just cusses him out, and teaching witch doctors how to write.

“Who is it that you’ve been avoiding?” he asked his audience, encouraging the audience to “engage them with love.” He explained that people don’t follow vision, they follow availability — prompting everyone to be available for their neighbor.

“Loving your neighbor is not a metaphor for something else,” Goff said near the end of his talk.

The audience left with tangible ways to get involved; the national broadcast invited them to text a number to commit to hosting a Q Dinner at their house on November 12 and to get involved with a World Vision 6K.

Q Commons offered attendees many ways to discover how “The Power of We” can be used to better the community of Grand Rapids.