On June 30, Joel Huyser will officially retire from his work with the Christian Reformed Church after 28 years. Currently he serves as the interim director of Resonate Global Mission and also as director of U.S. ministry operations, a role he took on in addition to his ministry role in May 2022. Kevin DeRaaf has been nominated as the new director of Resonate. Dan DeKam has been appointed director of U.S. ministry operations.
Huyser was born in Sully, Iowa, and grew up in that small, quiet, rural midwest town. He could not have imagined then how his life’s work would stretch around the world. He credits his Philosophy 101 professor at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., as one of the most faith-shaping mentors in his life. “Dr. Calvin Seerveld changed my understanding of who we are to be in the world. His teaching changed my life. To this day I am grateful,” Huyser said.
Huyser completed one year at Calvin Theological Seminary before moving to Denver to work in an urban mission. While in Denver he also attended the University of Denver College of Law. In this time, he met a second and most important mentor, Jeannie Rodriguez, who would become his wife. Together they moved to Grand Rapids where Huyser spent 14 years as a trial lawyer. These were also life-shaping years for the Huysers. Attending Madison Square Christian Reformed Church, the Huysers experienced multiracial fellowship and worship. Huyser served on a council at Madison with men and women who brought their giftedness from a variety of faith traditions.
In 1995, wanting to immerse themselves in a Spanish environment for the sake of their family, the Huysers moved to Costa Rica for a year of language training and then found themselves with Christian Reformed World Missions (since combined with Christian Reformed Home Missions to become Resonate Global Mission) in Nicaragua. Returning to Nicaragua after their first home service and in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, they dove deeper into transformational ministry. A conference in May of 1997 gave birth to the establishment of the Nehemiah Center and its holistic approach to the gospel. Huyser served as the first director until it was passed to Indigenous leadership in 2006.
Huyser’s role shifted to regional director for Central America and later Latin America and parts of Asia. After 18 years in Central America the Huysers relocated to Dallas, Texas. Most recently, when Zachary King, former director of Resonate, became general secretary of the CRCNA, Huyser stepped in to serve as interim Resonate director. That and carrying the work of the director for U.S. ministry operations postponed Huyser’s retirement plans by six months. He is 71.
“I am eager to release the work to both Kevin and Dan,” Huyser said. “What I have been doing, they will do better.” For Huyser, the joy has always been to witness the transformation of ordinary lives of people through the gospel.
“Joel Huyser has been a well-known and loved teammate, missionary, and leader for CRWM, (Resonate), and the CRCNA,” said King. “He has demonstrated a giftedness and passion for collaboration between CRCNA agencies at the Nehemiah Center in Managua, in the formation of Resonate from Home and World Missions, and in his current roles. Joel loves Jesus Christ his Lord, and consistently encourages others to do the same.”
Joyce Suh, Resonate program leader for intercultural gospel witness, said Huyser had a deep impact on her life, professional journey, and walk with the Lord. “He truly loves the world and its people, and that shone through everything he did in his service with Resonate,” Suh said. In spite of larger responsibilities, he was always present in the moment with the people or person he was with.”
In retirement the Huysers hope to spend at least two years in South Korea giving support to a start-up Christian school in Changwon-si. “Jeannie, a teacher, has always followed me,” Joel Huyser said. “This opportunity is a dream that she has had, and now it is my turn to follow her lead.” The Huysers have four children and eight grandchildren, all of whom live in the USA.
About the Author
Jenny deGroot is a freelance media review and news writer for The Banner. She lives on Swallowfield Farm near Fort Langley B.C. with her husband, Dennis. Before retirement she worked as a teacher librarian and assistant principal.