Every Saturday a group of Iranian Christians gathers for worship. Most are new to the Christian faith and more newcomers join almost every week. Together they sing songs, dig deeper into God’s Word, and fellowship with one another in the Farsi language they grew up with.
As each week’s service draws to a close, a sudden change takes place—a change that represents the larger culture these believers are adjusting to as well as the spiritual freedom they now have—they sing a final song in German.
These worship services take place in an emerging church in Berlin, Germany, where Iranian refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants meet to find community and feel God’s presence. The Christian Reformed Church is coming alongside this congregation by supporting the ministry of Dave Kromminga and Mary Buteyn, who serve with Resonate Global Mission in the areas of pastoral care, language education, and leadership training.
This ministry also stirs up images from the book of Acts and Pentecost—a time when the Holy Spirit used the gift of languages to send the church to the world. Today the agencies of the Christian Reformed Church continue to join in the work that began on Pentecost, equipping congregations and church denominations across the globe with their unique areas of focus.
Equipping the CRC of Sierra Leone in Word and Deed
Sometimes equipping the global church takes place before a community even considers that the Spirit is at work there. Such was the case in the village of Medina, Sierra Leone.
Like the Islamic holy city in Saudi Arabia Medina is named after, almost everyone living in this community adheres to Islam. But when residents of Medina looked for assistance in developing their community to reduce poverty, they turned to Christian Extension Services (CES).
World Renew and Resonate Global Mission established CES in the 1980s as a way to work together in word and deed in Sierra Leone. Today CES is run by national leaders, and through it, the CRC in North America continues to provide food for the body and the spirit among communities where poverty is a way of life.
“CES is the John the Baptist of our communities,” said Istifanus Bahago, referring to how the agency helps prepare the way for Christ. Bahago serves as a missionary in Sierra Leone in partnership with Resonate and the CRC of Nigeria.
Four years ago, CES began working in Medina. CES helped the people organize a leadership team whose members identified growing more rice as their most urgent need. In response, CES began to assist them with a sustainable agriculture and food security program and, later, with a community grain storage building.
The villagers provided local materials including sand, stones, and wood. With gifts from CRC members and congregations to World Renew, CES provided roofing, cement, paint, and doors. Under this new collaboration, the people of Medina finished construction in 2017. The new building now stands as a proud testimony to the positive changes taking place in Medina.
But the story hardly ends there.
During a follow-up meeting with leaders from CES and Medina, a group of about 20 community members suddenly stood up. In their local language, they began to sing.
“It turned out they were a small group of Christians singing gospel songs they had learned,” said Daniel Lepp Friesen, World Renew consultant in Sierra Leone. “Following the songs, one of the singers stepped forward and asked if CES could assist them in building a church meeting space.”
With an enthusiastic yes, the CES workers returned to the office they share with Resonate to pass along the request. Soon after, Bahago and other pastors met with the people of Medina in a village school room for worship and prayer. A group of more than 30 people attended the first worship service, some of whom gave their life to Christ that day.
God’s work in Medina demonstrates the transforming power of the gospel and people’s “willingness to accept Jesus as their personal Savior,” said Bahago, who continues to meet with members of Medina to plan the church building’s construction—a project made possible through support from Resonate.
“Praise God with us for these combined results, which are exciting developments in the global growth of the church of Jesus Christ,” said Lepp Friesen.
The Journey Continues: Equipping the Global Church through Media and Seminary Training
Dawei Lin’s* journey to faith eventually led him from his home in China to Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich. Since then, God has continued working in Lin’s life to prepare him to return to China and work with the new media outreach of Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI).
“Our goal has been to find indigenous Chinese writers who can speak authentically into the culture in China,” explained BTGMI Chinese ministry leader, Jerry An. “Dawei has taken on the responsibilities of editor for the Chinese Today.”
The Chinese Today, which celebrates 30 years of ministry this year, has been primarily translations of the English versions of the Today devotional.
“Under Dawei’s leadership, we will continue to translate some English devotionals to maintain the rich heritage of the CRC as we continue to grow and strengthen the church in China,” An added, “but we will also recruit more Chinese authors to write the devotions.”
Chinese Today is available in audio form, on a ministry app, through social media, and by email subscription. Lin also helped edit and produce Be Thou My Wisdom, a 30th anniversary printed collection of Today devotional content.
An explained,“Today is a source of instruction for many pastors in China.”
Long before he had heard of BTGMI and the CRC, Lin had been serving as a church planter for believers in their 20s and 30s. In that ministry, he used the Chinese Today to disciple new believers. During this time, Lin became convicted that he needed more training to serve this young church. That’s when God led him to Calvin Seminary in 2013.
Soon after coming to Calvin, Lin met Rev. Jimmy Lin (no relation), Chinese ministry leader for BTGMI at the time. Rev. Lin recognized Dawei Lin’s gifts and asked him to contribute to the Chinese Today as an intern. Dawei’s wife, Meilin,* also helped translate the Today devotional for the Chinese ministry.
The relationship between the Lins and BTGMI continued to grow. After his graduation from Calvin Seminary, Dawei Lin was sure of his calling: return to China to teach the Reformed faith in a local seminary and help believers grow in faith through BTGMI new media resources.
“I have experienced God’s providence, and his hand on my life,” testified Lin. “Through the entire process, God affirmed his will to lead me for future ministry.”
*Names changed to protect identity.
Equipping South American Pastors through Timothy Leadership Training
While each of the four CRCNA ministries mentioned—Resonate Global Mission, World Renew, BTGMI, and Calvin Theological Seminary—equip the global church in unique ways, they all use their specific areas of focus to train biblical leaders. To this end, all four of the ministries partner with the Timothy Leadership Training program.
Jose Never, a pastor from Columbia, summed up TLT’s purpose in a nutshell at the first annual Andean Summit of TLT in Peru:
“We have been to Bible school and we know what a pastor does, but not how to do it,” said Never. “TLT taught us how to be pastors.”
At the summit, Pastor Never joined about 60 other TLT advanced trainers in sharing best practices learned through TLT. He told them of the impact of the training in these pastors’ communities in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador.
One pastor shared how TLT’s stewardship manual helped his church worship through the entire rainy season by helping him earn more money to replace their leaky thatched church building with a concrete structure. Another told of an entire small community transformed as church members built a tilapia farm and a guinea pig farm in their remote mountain village, ensuring sources of local food and income.
Jennifer Owens, who serves as TLT’s finance and operation manager, said the event was like “experiencing an image of the kingdom of God here on earth.”
She said, “Standing in the same room, worshiping together, were leaders from very different denominations, from conservative Baptists to Pentecostals and from metropolitan cities like Lima to tribal mountain groups.”
She continued, “It is very unusual that these groups would attend the same event, let alone do so to learn from one another. It was clear this unity had gone past the surface when they invited the Pentecostal to pray over the group!”
TLT trainings take place in more than 40 countries worldwide, but these pastors in South America are already seeing a multiplication effect just from the training they have received.
A Bolivian pastor at the event shared how a group from Mali, West Africa, was in Bolivia for vacation. They heard about TLT and traveled deep into a small jungle village to take the first course during their vacation. Now they are back in Mali and are excited to implement the training at their own churches.
“From the jungles of Peru to Mali and beyond, it was a blessing to see God at work among these pastors and leaders who passionately care about teaching others ‘how to pastor,’” said Owens.
Learn more about how your support of CRC Ministries is equipping the global church:
- Back to God Ministries International
- Calvin Theological Seminary
- Resonate Global Mission
- Timothy Leadership Training Institute
- World Renew