In late September, 25 leaders from about a dozen Christian Reformed churches gathered at a conference hosted by Khmer CRC in Aurora, Colo. The leaders were from a group that calls itself SEA-PI —South East Asian & Pacific Island churches. There are about 45 such congregations in the CRC.
SEA-PI leaders say while the CRC has support structures for Anglo, African-American, Korean, Native American, and Hispanic churches, many of their churches have felt overlooked.
A few years ago that changed when those churches obtained a Sustaining Pastoral Excellence grant, which led them to organize as SEA-PI. Their numbers are growing, as Indonesian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, Samoan, and Filipino leaders discover a fellowship of support that gives them a sense of belonging. “Often we feel out of place in the CRC,” one SEA-PI pastor said.
Attendees at this year’s conference heard testimonies of ministry struggles and challenges. Participants shared stories of escape from the killing fields of Cambodia. A second-generation mother of three testified to the powerful role her church played in her life as she struggled with school, marriage, and family as a bicultural woman in America. Rev. Charlie Phim, a long-time pastor among Cambodians in and near Salt Lake City, Utah, shared a workshop on being “fishers of men.” Others talked about their experiences with Timothy Leadership Training, which has allowed them to raise up leaders in their home countries.
Organizers of the annual conference encourage participants to stay in touch throughout the year. They are supported by several CRC retired missionaries, including Mike and Lois Vander Pol, and Carl and Jan Afman, missionaries who served in Taiwan and the Philippines.
This year, two West Coast leaders from Christian Reformed Home Missions (Ron Chu and Sid Sybenga) also joined the conference, helping build partnerships and ministry connections.
Next year’s conference is to be held in West Michigan.