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Liberia and Iowa-based Churches Worship Together

The congregation of Peace CRC worships with the congregation of the Gate of Testimony church through a video connection Feb. 25, 2024.

Two Reformed churches, Peace Christian Reformed Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Gate of Testimony Church in Gbarnga, Liberia, have recently become “sister” congregations and are hopeful that both of their denominations, the Christian Reformed Church in Liberia and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, will soon become churches in cooperation with each other.

The two congregations, despite having 5,565 miles (8,956 kms) and six-hour time difference between them, worshiped and shared communion together Feb. 25 using technology and the gifts of people in their Cedar Rapids and Gbarnga fellowships.

Faye Dykema, worship leader at Peace, told the story of the many pieces that God worked together to make the joint service possible in a church e-newsletter. “(Pastor) Gary said our hospitality muscles were definitely stretched with the technical difficulties,” she wrote. “However, I saw God working in people, our Liberian family at Peace were praising with the Liberian music during the service. We praise God that when we were celebrating the sacrament of communion together, the livestream worked without interruption. I know some people who struggled with the technology and yet as they reflected throughout the day, they saw God at work.”

The February service was actually the second time Peace CRC and Gate of Testimony Church have worshiped together in this way. They put an initial service together March 19, 2023, when the churches first established their relationship, about a month after the Gate of Testimony Church officially joined the CRC-Liberia denomination.

Pastor Jessy Morndolo leads the Gate of Testimony church, establishing it initially without denominational affiliation. A connection with former Liberia resident and now Iowa resident Darius Nupolu sparked an eventual relationship with Peace CRC.

Darius and Wealee Nupolu were walking in Cedar Rapids when they came in contact with members of Peace CRC. They were invited and welcomed in, and Darius began talking about his work in agriculture. This struck an interest with two congregation members, Brent Disselkoen and Russ Marcus, who wanted to help the Nupolus with their work in Liberia. They joined them on trips to see the work of Future Farmers of Liberia Empowerment for Women, a group the Nupolus established in 2019 that helps train women in farming practices and also in receiving loans for other needs. After the first visit in January 2020, relationships grew, and in March 2022, Thomas Beyan, a manager of Future Farmers of Liberia Empowerment for Women and a member of the Gate of Testimony church, initiated an invitation with Pastor Morndolo to become sister churches with Peace CRC.

Peace pastor Gary Brouwers told The Banner, “In response to this invitation, in 2022 the council of Peace decided to explore the possibility of the GoT (Gate of Testimony) church affiliating with the Christian Reformed Church of Liberia (CRC-L). We also explored the possibility of the CRCNA beginning formal relations with the CRC-L. In our minds, a sister relationship with the GoT Church would benefit from a more formal relationship between our denominations.”

Disselkoen said the goal of the sister church relationship with the Gate of Testimony is “experiencing and celebrating the communion of the saints with the worldwide Body of Christ.” They intend to “share prayer requests between churches on a monthly basis, do bi-monthly check-ins between pastors, conduct annual combined worship services, and establish annual goals based off of what we can learn from one another.” They also hope for a future opportunity to send a larger group to visit the Gate of Testimony church.

The CRC’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee has been in communication with the Christian Reformed Church-Liberia. In last year’s report to synod, the EIRC noted “Requests have been received from within the denomination to explore formal relations with the Christian Reformed Church in Liberia. Throughout the past months, the EIRC has researched and begun the process of drafting a memorandum of understanding. This will be recommended to a subsequent synod.”

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