Coffee Break Goes Global

Members of a small immigrant church in New England had a vision for sharing the gospel with people in their homeland, Indonesia.

Global Coffee Break codirector Grace Paek (right), with Myung Lee, the CRC’s first Korean Coffee Break trainer. Lee and Paek have led workshops in several countries.

Working together, and following the Lord’s leading, their dream became part of something bigger than they ever could have imagined: a Global Coffee Break movement.

“God is on the move,” says Joel Hogan, director of international ministries for Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM). “Global Coffee Break is growing exponentially all around tis world.

“What began as a women’s evangelistic Bible study [in North America] has become an international mission movement—a movement that’s about collaborating with local partners and igniting a passion for the lost.”

Michael and Deibi Lapian share the passion for evangelism. In 2003, they left Indonesia to serve the immigrant population in New Hampshire. Many members of their congregation, the Indonesian Christian Reformed Fellowship in Dover, N.H., are from the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Some came for education or work opportunities; others received asylum visas to escape from persecution.

The Lapians became friends with Brent and Diane Averill, church planters with Christian Reformed Home Missions (CRHM) at New Covenant CRC in North Hampton, N.H.

The two congregations encouraged each other, worshiped together, and experienced each other’s cultures.

Diane, who has been part of the Coffee Break ministry since 1970, introduced the Indonesian church to that method of studying the Bible. “We all began to see a greater vision of what God could do through Coffee Break,” she says.

Immigrants with a Vision

Members of the Indonesian Christian Reformed Fellowship began praying that God would open doors to bring Bible study and other Christian resources to their homeland. They supported the vision by raising funds to send the Averills and Deibi to Indonesia.

Ilze Budhi, a member of the Dover church, and her husband, Jimmy, a businessman in Jakarta, helped spearhead the project. In May 2010, the Averills and Deibi traveled to Indonesia to meet with leaders of Indonesian churches, to learn about the culture, and to discover what resources the churches needed.

The Dover group also met with Rev. Untung Ongkowidjaya, Indonesian media missions leader with Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI). They learned about listener communities throughout Indonesia and the need for Bible study resources for these new believers.

Untung and other leaders from several Christian churches throughout Indonesia saw the potential for using Coffee Break materials for evangelism and discipleship.

A report written by the Averills about their work in Indonesia was shared with leaders from CRC mission agencies and Faith Alive, the publishing ministry of the CRC that produces and distributes Coffee Break Bible study materials.

The report confirmed the growth of a global Coffee Break movement and set in motion a collaborative effort to bring the Coffee Break ministry to Indonesia.

“It is nothing short of a miracle that in less than a year and a half, God’s Spirit moved us from the idea to the translating and production of the materials to actual training of leaders in Indonesia,” Averill observed.

“God’s Spirit is moving. The wind is in the sail and we’re just trying to hold on to the boat! There is so much interest in what is happening with this incredibly exciting ministry!”

Bringing Global Coffee Break to Indonesia

Last fall, Deibi Lapian, Diane Averill, and Ilza Budhi—all Coffee Break trainers with CRHM—returned to Indonesia, joining Untung and his wife, Ivany, to train 140 eager church leaders. The Global Coffee Break (GCB) workshops took place in five Indonesian cities.

Participants gave evidence of the vibrant Christian community in Indonesia. “But many expressed the urgent need for Christian resources,” said Averill.

The Christian community in Indonesia is very concerned with education and Bible study, but very few Bible study materials are available. Many Indonesians, especially the younger generation, have no deep religious beliefs. They are open to the gospel. GCB’s Discover Your Bible method is a valuable resource for teaching people to read and study the Bible.

Pastor Timotius Dawir from Papua had been praying for three years for this kind of resource. When he learned about the GCB training in Manado, Indonesia, he traveled 26 hours by bus, boat, and plane but, because of flight delays, arrived 10 minutes after the workshop concluded.

Appreciating his efforts, three members of the training team met with Dawir that evening to provide a kind of mini-training. Convinced that GCB is an effective method of outreach, Dawir invited the team to come to Papua to train leaders there.

“I am sure I can arrange for training in three locations with thirty participants in each place,” he promised. Plans are in place for an April 2012 training on Biak Island in Papua.

A second spontaneous training session took place in Jakarta just before the North American trainers were scheduled to return home. Indonesian Pastor Bigman Sirait learned about the Discover Your Bible method over a lunch meeting and invited the trainers to introduce GCB to members of his church. Sixteen participants gathered on very short notice.

Leaders from more than 16 denominations attended the five training events. “It was very tiring, but very rewarding to meet with people who have the same vision and want to work together for the glory of God,” commented Untung.

“Please continue to pray for and support our ministry in Indonesia, because we know that many people in Indonesia are thirsty to know more about the truth in Christ.”

The Bigger Story

The events in Indonesia served as an important catalyst that pulled together several mission agencies under the new “Global Coffee Break” initiative. However, the story really began more than 40 years ago when Coffee Break was first introduced to the CRC.

As churches in Canada and the United States became more intentional about reaching out to international neighbors in their communities, Home Missions hired ethnic leaders and trainers to expand the ministry in Korean and Spanish. In 1990, Myung Lee became the first Korean trainer.

After materials were translated into Korean, men’s and women’s study groups were launched in Southern California. Pastors in South Korea learned about the Coffee Break ministry and invited Myung Lee to offer leadership training in Korea. Since then, Lee and Grace Paek, who joined the ministry in 1998, have led more than 100 training events in South Korea for thousands of participants.

Global Outreach Under the Radar

In 1999, South Korean missionaries to China brought Discover Your Bible materials with them, translating the materials into Chinese and later Mongolian. Thousands of underground Bible study groups in 13 provinces grew out of this initial outreach.

Korean missionaries also took Coffee Break into Colombia, Taiwan, Malaysia, and East India. Inquiries from contacts around the world are coming from Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand, and even Dubai, about the possibility of starting Coffee Break outreach in these areas.

Much of this amazing global growth has happened “under the radar” through the initiative of individuals and local churches committed to bringing the gospel to people around the world.

Working with CRWM, Jeong and Misook Gho have also used Coffee Break as an outreach strategy in Japan since 1996.

Catching Up to the Holy Spirit’s Work

Sam Huizenga has worked with CRHM as a Coffee Break leadership trainer for 11 years. At a Korean Coffee Break conference in 2009 coordinated by Paek, Huizenga discovered the extensive global outreach already happening, especially in Korea and China, through Discover Your Bible resources.

Excited about the stories they were hearing, she asked, “What’s next?” This sparked a plan between Paek and Huizenga to develop an intentional global strategy for outreach under the officially adopted title “Global Coffee Break.”

“God is already at work,” notes Huizenga, who, with Paek, is codirector of the Global Coffee Break ministry. “There is a fresh wind blowing through this ministry. We’re taking another look at Coffee Break and asking God what his plans are for us in a global context.”

Encouraged by the initial contacts with key leaders in Indonesia, Huizenga and Paek approached leaders of Christian Reformed Home Missions, World Missions, Back to God Ministries, and Faith Alive about a collaborative Global Coffee Break partnership.

“Each agency brings its unique gifts and strengths to the partnership,” says Huizenga. “Home Missions knows the heart of the Coffee Break ministry; they developed the strategy and offer expertise in leadership development. Faith Alive publishes the materials, providing content, printing, and distribution of the study materials. World Missions offers a network of relationships and expertise for leadership training in the global setting. Back to God Ministries International offers similar expertise in global ministry with its international networks.”

In Indonesia, for example, BTGMI staff translated, printed, and distributed the Bible study materials and the leadership training manual. Untung and Ivany are heading the GCB ministry in Indonesia, including organizing ongoing leadership training and development.

“It’s exciting to see how God has brought us all together, working with global partners all around the world,” says Huizenga. “The hope and vision for Global Coffee Break is that as many people as possible have direct access to the Word of God. We want to see many people come to Christ through the power of his Word.”

“God is leading this movement,” she adds. “We’re responding to what the Holy Spirit is doing.

“Through God’s Word and safe relationships in small group studies, people around the world are coming to know Christ and accepting Jesus as their Savior. We’re excited to play a part in seeing God’s kingdom grow.”

A Conversation with GCB Codirectors Sam Huizenga and Grace Paek

Why is Coffee Break an effective global outreach ministry?

Huizenga: “It is a simple tool for friends to invite friends to discover God’s Word together in small groups. As they study the Bible, the Word does the work of evangelism.”

What needs to be done in order to adapt Coffee Break as a global outreach?

Paek: “The curriculum is a simple skeleton of Bible-focused questions. Leaders shape the questions to fit the group so that it fits the unique needs of people of various ages, genders, and faith journeys. Since the materials are not culturally specific, they can be easily translated into other languages. Then we offer basic leadership training in how to use the Discover Your Bible method. The small group leaders will adapt the experience into their own local context, leading their groups in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways.”

Where has Global Coffee Break training taken place?

Huizenga: “In addition to the training in Indonesia and [the training] by Grace and Myung (Lee) in Korea, Hilda Vander Klip and I led workshops in Bogota, Colombia, last May (2011). Working with the Colombian Bible Society we trained a total of 455 leaders in four locations.

“In August 2011 a group of us participated in the TEA [Theological Education in Africa] conference in West Africa, where we taught pastors and church leaders how to use the Discover Your Bible method. Others have led week-long training for pastors in China.”

At the time of this writing, additional training events are anticipated in Taiwan and Honduras/Guatemala.

People are also requesting training in Tanzania, Taiwan, Honduras/Guatemala, and Germany.

About the Author

Nancy Vander Meer is a staff writer with Back to God Ministries International in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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