Growing up in Japan, Ben Spalink always knew the importance of mission work. That’s because his parents, Larry and Ruth Spalink, had been called by God to work with Christian Reformed World Missions in Tokyo.
Larry and Ruth have planted and overseen the growth of Christian churches in Japan for more than 30 years. Larry Spalink serves as a field director for World Missions, while Ruth is a school nurse at Christian Academy in Japan.
“We believe it is critically important to build a thriving church in this nation that has the potential to impact so many other countries,” says Larry.
Their work has had a big impact on their son. “From a very young age, I had a strong sense that being a Christian means reaching out and caring for the lost,” says Ben, who lived in Japan until he left to attend Calvin College in the mid-1990s.
After graduating from Calvin Theological Seminary, Ben went through a church-planting assessment with Christian Reformed Home Missions.
“I was drawn to be a church planter by my desire for freedom and adventure, and also by the strong emphasis that new churches place on evangelism,” Ben says. He was also influenced by the fact that his great-grandfather had been a church planter years before.
After an internship at Bridgeway Community Church in New Jersey, Ben and his wife, Christy, moved to New York City in 2007 to help fellow church planters Steve and Dana Wolma start City Grace Church, a Home Missions-supported ministry in lower Manhattan. The church focuses on reaching young urban professionals.
As community pastor at City Grace, Ben shares preaching duties with Steve Wolma and also manages the church’s growing network of small groups.
Ben says he sees many similarities between the mission fields of New York and Tokyo. For instance, less than 1 percent of the 1.6 million people living in Manhattan claim to have a relationship with Christ. Similarly, less than 1 percent of metropolitan Tokyo’s 13 million people follow Christ.
“People in New York City are often very successful and focused on their careers,” Ben remarks. “They seem to have everything they need, but they don’t have the hope of the gospel in their lives.” His father adds, “In Tokyo, breaking the first and second commandments is not only commonplace, it’s virtually expected in this land of ‘8 million gods.’”
God has worked through Ben and his parents, though, to make an impact in both places. City Grace Church now averages close to 70 people in worship each Sunday. “We’ve doubled our number every year since we started,” he says. “And our small groups continue to grow and attract new people.”
The work in Japan has shifted from outreach to developing the ministry capacities of Japanese churches to effectively proclaim the gospel.
“World Missions offers a variety of training programs for Christian school teachers, Coffee Break Bible study leaders, and those who can mentor young people to help them develop new skills and confidence,” says Larry Spalink. “We believe we can offer new tools and paradigms to help our partner churches experience richer worship and develop their ability to draw more seekers to the God we love.”
Reaching Your World
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes .”
This year, Christian Reformed Home Missions and World Missions have joined efforts to shine a spotlight on how God is using the Christian Reformed Church to bring the message of salvation to people in North America and around the world. From Easter to Pentecost, they will focus on a shared theme from Romans 1:16, “Reaching Your Community and the World with the Power of the Gospel.”
For a downloadable devotional and two ministry highlight videos, please go to www.crcna.org/powerofthegospel.
About the Author
Ben Van Houten is a senior writer for Christian Reformed Home Missions.