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AMONG NATIONS

Spring 2014 Volume 3 No. 2 www.crwm.org

Christian Reformed World Missions

THE

One Man’s Long Journey...........4

From Learning to Action......................................8 Sowing Seeds in Montreal.................................10 Mexican Leaders Respond to God’s Call.........12 Alumni Corner.................................................... 15 photo: Springtime in Japan


Prayer Points KENYA Mwaya and Munyiva Wa Kitavi have led several Timothy Leadership Training (TLT) workshops in eastern and southern Africa over the past few months. Pray for the TLT participants as they now put their ministry plans into action. Pray that they will persevere through any challenges that come up. MEXICO Family ministry initiatives are vital to combating the large number of broken families in Mexico. In November, over 20 fathers attended a conference on humbly serving God and their families. Now follow-up events are being planned. Pray that the men will continue coming to these events. Pray that the Holy Spirit will work in their hearts, drawing them closer to God and equipping them to address challenges in their families and in their relationship with God. NICARAGUA The Nehemiah Center offers biblically based training on business development, education, evangelism, family life, outreach to at-risk youth, pastoral counseling, and much more. Pray that these training events will help Nicaraguan Christians see new opportunities for serving God in their communities. NIGERIA Thank God for Christian Reformed World Missions’ newest career 2

missionaries, George and Sara Ahiome and Mark Wiersma. Mark and the Ahiomes will serve in Abuja, Nigeria, in the areas of Christian education and transformational networks respectively. Pray that they will make many encouraging connections over the next few months as they build a support network and prepare for their new roles. PHILIPPINES Stan and Bessie Kruis are transitioning to ministry in the Philippines this spring. Stan will teach missiology at the Asian Theological Seminary while Bessie will facilitate various training events in the region. Pray that God will grant Stan with energy and inspiration as he prepares his coursework. Pray that Stan and Bessie will soon feel at home in their new surroundings.

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Celebrating

125 Years of Missions

Anniversary Events Draw a Crowd This past fall, Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) supporters and former missionaries attended anniversary events across the United States to remember and rejoice over God’s work through CRWM for the past 125 years. The anniversary events were held in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Palos Heights, Illinois; Bellflower, California; Ripon, California; and Orange City, Iowa. In Michigan and Illinois, James Schaap, a novelist and emeritus professor of English at Dordt College, recounted early missionaries’ experiences among Zuni people. In Iowa, supporters came out to celebrate CRWM’s anniversary and learn more about local and international missions issues. In all the locations, attendees learned about the challenges and opportunities in missions today. Now CRWM invites friends in Ontario to join in on its anniversary celebration. This year’s final anniversary event will be held on May 3, 2014, in Hamilton, Ontario. Expect to reconnect with old friends, meet new people who share your interest in missions, and hear powerful stories of God’s work through CRWM. Visit www.crwm.org/125 to learn more. CRWM sends a special “thank you” to the volunteers who helped out with events in their area.

Celebrate the Moments: Order CRWM’s 125th Anniversary Book Today Filled with pieces from former and current missionaries, Generations Faithful to His Call is an inviting, honest overview of Christian Reformed World Missions’ 125 years of ministry. Order your copy today by contacting Faith Alive at sales@faithaliveresources.org, www.faithaliveresources.org, or by calling 1-800-333-8300. The book is available for $19.99. Complimentary books are available for donations of $125 or more to CRWM. When making a donation, indicate that you would like to receive the book by including a note with your check or marking the box listed on our online donation page (www.crwm.org/donate) CRWM Canada 3475 Mainway PO Box 5070 STN LCD 1 Burlington, ON L7R 3Y8 1-800-730-3490 CRWM USA 1700 28th Street SE Grand Rapids, MI 49508-1407 3


One Man’s Long Journey to Knowing Christ While volunteering in disaster relief efforts in Japan, a former CRWM missionary discovers anew God’s continued work in people’s hearts long past human hopes for change By Sarah Lin and Ray Hommes money so that he could pay for train fare to visit his family,” says Ray.

Ray’s friend, Sato Nearly 40 years after sharing the Gospel with a Japanese friend, former Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) missionary Ray Hommes is celebrating the friend’s newfound faith in Christ. “I first met Sato (name changed) when he knocked on our front door quite inebriated and asked for 4

At the time, Ray and his wife, Sharon, were working with a church plant in Kunitachi, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan. Ray told Sato he couldn’t give him any money, but he could pay him to do gardening work if he came back the following week. Sato did just that—and for the next five years he was in contact with Ray and Sharon from time to time. Sato had some significant personal problems. He was an alcoholic and had some ties to a criminal organization that came looking

for him every so often. Though he had been married, his wife had divorced him and had moved to a different island with their daughter. Sato had little hope of ever connecting with them again. Like most Japanese, Sato had not been raised in the Christian faith. He sometimes accepted Ray’s invitations to prayer meetings, but afterward always told Ray he felt “unworthy.” Still, he continued to listen and learn about Jesus. In 1978, towards the end of the Hommes’s time with the Kunitachi church, Ray heard that an Alcoholics Anonymous program was starting in Japan. Ray encouraged Sato to attend and, with his consent, booked an appointment. The night before Sato’s appointment, Ray slept at Sato’s house to make sure he went. Ray and Sharon moved on to another church in Japan and lost touch with Sato for several years. In 1989, they returned to Kunitachi for a farewell visit before resigning from service with CRWM. There


Above: Tokyo’s busy streets they were reunited with Sato, who told them he had been sober for more than five years. The Hommeses returned to the United States where Ray served as a counselor and chaplain in hospital and hospice settings for nearly 15 years. In 2011, the Hommeses headed back to Japan. This time they served as volunteers with World Renew, offering counseling to tsunami victims and equipping local Christians to minister to them. While there, Ray caught up with Sato again. Now sober for 29 years, Sato still attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings twice a week. He told Ray he had read through the Bible

three times, but still remained unsure about Christianity. “It seemed like he was not able to accept that he could be forgiven and that Jesus gave His life for those who are sick or needing help,” recalls Ray.

finally understand God.” “To hear a man who has struggled with life and with God for so many years say he finally understand—this demonstrates that God is patient, kind, long-suffering, and understanding,” says Ray.

“I believe. I finally understand God.”

In November, with his volunteer service wrapping up, Ray set up a meeting with Sato one last time. Now almost 75 and quite frail, Sato was unable to travel out to see Ray. Yet, as they talked by phone, Ray heard Sato say something that caught him by surprise and could only have come through the Lord: “I believe. I

“I work with many people in counseling where it is tempting to just give up, but Sato’s story gives me renewed hope and faith.” Pray that others searching for the truth will find rest in Jesus. Ray and Sharon Hommes live in Claremont, California. 5


Change Takes Time Sheila Dykstra rediscovers grace amid frustration over seemingly By Sheila Dykstra, Nigeria slow progress Spencer is one of the school administrators I work with in Abuja, Nigeria. He’s the principal of Heritage Academy and oversees about 10 teachers. He has participated in several teacher training events, which have transformed his work. Now he wants his teachers to capture a vision for Christian education. He prays for them to see their jobs as callings and to teach with passion. I wish I could tell you that every teacher has captured that vision, and that this school is a completely different place than it was before.

But I can’t. Teachers come to school late. Some have not changed the way they plan their lessons beyond preparing a note for the children to copy. Some teachers are caught lashing out in anger at a student or class. Teachers leave and new teachers come. Yet there is change. I had the opportunity of spending six weeks in the grade 2 class of this school. I wanted to experience first-hand the challenges that teachers are facing. I was discouraged with the lack of

commitment I saw in teachers. I even found myself lashing out in anger at them. Peace, one of the teachers, then shared with me, “But Ms. Sheila, we have changed. Before, I used to shout at my students, and I don’t anymore. Before, I used to only give notes for students to copy; now I try to add new ideas to my lessons. Maybe we are not where you would like us to be yet, but we have changed.” I was humbled. Praise God for that. As Damilola observed me teach, she noted how I often wove teachings about God and His creation into the subject matter. “I thought it was more complicated,” she shared; “I can do that.” Spencer and I want to see these teachers move to another level of growth. We are committed to walking alongside them, but the process can be long. Pray that teachers will continue seeing opportunities to apply their faith in the classroom. Pray that God will fill Sheila and Spencer with patience and discernment as they mentor teachers in their work. Sheila has served with CRWM in Nigeria since 2008.

Sheila spent several weeks modeling teaching methods in a classroom 6


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From Learning to Action Sierra Leoneans use Timothy Leadership Training to revitalize a By Sue Geerlings, West Africa fading church Morris Sonie participated in his first Timothy Leadership Training (TLT) session in Foria, Sierra Leone, in 2011. Once he completed the training a year later, the Christian Reformed Church of Sierra Leone (CRCSL) sent Morris to assist Pastor Mattia in Bo, Sierra Leone. Pastor Mattia had been able to start three CRC worshiping centers in the area around Bo. However, membership in his church in Bo had fallen from 60 people to 18. While Pastor Mattia had participated in TLT, he had not implemented what he had learned. After Morris arrived, the leaders and church members fasted and prayed for a week, seeking God’s direction for the church’s future. Then they used TLT’s Pastoral Care manual to make an action plan. They started by visiting members who had left the church. They also started evangelism efforts in the wider community twice a week. Within a month, many of the members had returned to the church. New people had also joined the church, bringing the church’s membership up to 40.

Bo CRC members learned new creation stewardship techniques 8

Sadly, in March 2013 a strong wind blew down the congregation’s church building.


more people to Himself. While these good things were happening, Morris noticed that church members were having family challenges. So he started teaching them what he had learned in TLT’s Violence in the Family manual.

Bo CRC, a revitalized church Once more Pastor Mattia and Morris turned to what they learned in TLT. This time they focused on TLT’s stewardship teachings, encouraging church members to explore what they could give and do to help. After raising some funds locally, the church received help from the CRCSL to purchase zinc for the roof. Meanwhile, more people joined the church every month. By the end of 2013, Bo CRC had surpassed its original membership. In additional, three neighboring churches had also grown.

Morris had noticed that people were destroying large sections of land by means of charcoal farming (burning trees to make and sell charcoal). From his TLT studies on stewardship, Morris knew that this practice did not provide the care due God’s creation. So he challenged people to try new farming practices. The church responded by asking a local chief for land to start a farm. He agreed, and the church quickly put it to use. Drawing on TLT’s Work and Worship manual, Morris encouraged people to come together to build up the farm.

By the end of 2013, Bo CRC had surpassed its original membership. The four churches started meeting together for worship on the first Sunday of every month. After the service, Morris taught people about caring for the earth and trying new agricultural techniques. Soon after he had arrived in Bo,

Other community members, including Muslims, soon joined them. Together they planted corn, cassava, potatoes, and ground nuts. God blessed them with a bountiful harvest and also used the church’s witness to draw two

Soon husbands and wives were viewing their roles through new eyes. Instead of treating their wives like slaves, husbands began helping them and treating them respectfully. Couples started working together to raise their children to love and serve God. As families practiced biblical principles, they became more joyful and connected. In recent months, Morris has also used TLT’s Biblical Preaching and Christian Faith manuals to further equip local lay church leaders for ministry. Though Morris will leave one day, these leaders will stay to encourage and challenge the local believers in their relationships with God, each other, and others. Morris is thankful for the TLT training he has received. God has blessed him and given him many opportunities to apply what he has learned and teach it to others. Now he hopes to use what’s been done so far to create a non-profit organization that will carry on the church and community work. “When you combine your faith with action,” Morris says, “God will see you through.” Praise God for Bo CRC’s growth. Pray that the church will continue to point people to the full life found only in Christ.

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Sowing Seeds in Montreal Christian Reformed World Missions joins up with CRCNA agencies and a Montreal-based ministry, Christian Direction, to serve three Montreal neighborhoods

Mission Montreal is a new ministry initiative between several CRC ministries and the Montreal-based ministry, Christian Direction. The CRCNA partners include Christian Reformed Home Missions, World Missions, the Diaconal Ministry of Canada, Classis Eastern Canada, and First CRC of Montreal, Quebec. Through Mission Montreal, the

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CRCNA and Christian Direction hope to spur spiritual and social transformation in three Montreal neighborhoods. “Montreal and all of Quebec is extremely secular,” says Bruno.

since the early 1990s to minister to and with community members by offering tutoring services, cooking classes, Bible

“Only 2 percent of the population get together for Sunday morning worship.”

While most people identify themselves as Roman Catholic, “only 2 percent of the population get together for Sunday morning worship.” Quebecers are not vocally resistant to religion; they just like to keep it separate from their daily lives. Originally founded in 1967, Christian Direction has sought

studies, family mediation and youth intervention programs, neighborhood-wide festivals, and financial stability programs. Christian Direction has also connected with college students attending Concordia University in downtown Montreal. Through

Photos: Bruno Désorcy with his wife, Sylvie La Perrière; Montreal street scene

CC Image courtsey of http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/3819623787/sizes/o/

“The future of ministry in big cities is small groups of people searching for the well-being of their community and getting involved in their community,” says Bruno Désorcy, the new team leader for Mission Montreal.


it all, Christian Direction has openly testified to its foundation in Christ. Now Mission Montreal wants to walk alongside Christian Direction in sharing the Gospel in Montreal. Much of the work will build off of Christian Direction’s existing ministries in St. Laurent, downtown Montreal, and the Mercier-HochelagaMaisonneuve area. These neighborhoods are home to many people who have struggled financially or are recent immigrants to Canada. Mission Montreal’s focus is three-fold: to build a network of missional communities, invest in campus ministry, and begin ministry among Muslim background immigrants. Bruno is working with missional communities while Jacynthe Vaillancourt focuses on campus connections. A third person will hopefully be hired this spring to work with Muslim communities.

Reaching Out in Our Own Backyards Like Montreal, cities and towns across Canada and the United States are receiving more and more immigrants from Muslim backgrounds. This reality offers an unprecedented opportunity to share the Gospel with a large unreached people group in our own nations. Salaam Project, a joint initiative of several CRCNA agencies including Christian Reformed World Missions, offers training and tools to CRCNA members eager to connect meaningfully with their Muslim neighbors. Interested parties can take one of three training tracks: understanding the basics of Islam, effective evangelism strategies, and tools for inter-religious dialogue. Salaam Project also points people to helpful resources and addresses challenging questions on reaching out to Muslims. For more details, visit www.crcna.org/salaam or contact Greg Sinclair at gsinclair@crcna.org to learn about nearby training opportunities.

Missional communities will be key to Mission Montreal’s development. “A missional community is a group of Christians who get together weekly or bi-weekly,” says Bruno. “They study the Bible together, pray together and for each other, pray for the shalom of their neighborhood and city, and get involved in serving their

neighborhood.” Bruno will nurture these communities through a five-step process based on Jesus’ method of calling and equipping His disciples.

Full of hope and prayer, the CRC and Christian Direction have committed themselves to sharing God’s message of grace in a city in need of Him.

“The more we get involved in the shalom of other people,” Bruno says, “the more the city and God’s church will be renewed and restored.”

Pray that God will move powerfully through Mission Montreal to renew people who are currently far from Him. 11


Mexican Leaders Respond to God’s Call After helping a church get on its feet, CRWM missionaries Scott and Marcia Geurink are “passing on the torch” to a Mexican couple

Featuring Scott and Marcia Geurink, Mexico This December marks an exciting step in the life of Agua Viva, a church plant in Tijuana, Mexico. After several years of co-leading the church, Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) missionaries Scott and Marcia Geurink are turning over the reins to national leaders, Israel and Elizabeth Ponce, over the next six months. Like the Geurinks, Israel and Elizabeth Ponce were part of the original Agua Viva church plant team in 2007. Their home church, Cristo Arca de Salvacion, agreed to oversee the church plant and commissioned the Ponces to fulfill this task. Every week, the Ponces helped out with Agua Viva’s outreach and also attended their home church. They volunteered as they could—Israel preaching from time to time and Elizabeth leading children’s classes.

Above: Scott with Issac and Elizabeth American and Mexico churches joined in their outreach, sending teams to help with Vacation Bible School, eye clinics, youth events, and other ventures. In time, the church expanded from six families to over 50 people.

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“We knew that more involvement

“They both said they had felt the Lord leading in that direction for over a year.”

In 2011, the Geurinks and the council of Cristo Arca de Salvacion began praying about who would Agua Viva, meanwhile, began growing. The church planting team lead the church. knocked on neighborhood doors to A promising candidate had been share the Gospel, held Bible studies found two year earlier, but he had since had to be disciplined. Now in people’s homes, and organized they were back at the beginning. a women’s Bible study. North Yet, with three young sons at home and Israel juggling two full-time jobs, the Ponces could not give all the time they wished.

As they prayed, Scott and Marcia became convinced that God was calling them to approach the Ponces.

would be impossible with Israel’s job situation,” says Scott. Yet the Geurinks decided they needed to tell Cristo Arca de Salvacion’s


Above: In addition to mentoring the Ponces for leading Agua Viva, Scott has taught them and other Mexican leaders, like the ones show above, taking classes at the Tijuana Bible Institute. pastor, Israel’s brother, what they were sensing. Before Scott had even finished sharing their story, Israel’s brother said he and his wife had had the same conviction. They shared their impressions with the Ponces that very day. “They both ended up crying, saying that they had felt the Lord leading in that direction for over a year,” says Marcia. “They [had decided] that if Scott asked them if they were interested in pursuing more training and leadership, it would be the sign they needed from God.”

Since then, Israel has dropped one of his jobs and both he and Elizabeth have enrolled in the Tijuana Bible Institute. The Ponces have gradually taken on more responsibilities at Agua Viva, the Geurinks mentoring them along the way. “They both have a strong love for God [and] a heart for the ministry and hurting people,” says Scott. These qualities will stand the Ponces in good stead as they lead Agua Viva forward. Praise God for His work in Israel

and Elizabeth. Pray that they will continue to seek the Spirit’s leading and mold their lives on Christ as they begin their new roles. Pray that God would work powerfully through Agua Viva to bring many people to Himself. Scott and Marcia Geurink live in Tijuana, Mexico. They help the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Mexico plant and develop churches by discipling leaders, training future leaders, assisting local leaders in outreach efforts.

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Here & There HOME SERVICE SCENE AFRICA Nigeria—Sheila Dykstra is on study leave in Ontario through May 2014. Her leave will be followed by several months of home service. Tim and Wilma Palmer will be on home service mid-May through mid-August. Mike and Victoria Van Der Dyke are in Chicago, Illinois, through mid-July for home service. Kenya—Mwaya and Munyiva Wa Kitavi will be in Grand Rapids, Michigan, beginning in mid-May. A TLT participant shares his action plan

Training that Transforms

“My regular pastoral visits created a climate of trust and confidence in our growing church.” “I learned to treat others with consideration and respect, beginning with my wife and children, and even including neighborhood people. All bear God’s image.” “Action planning helped me accomplish what I otherwise wouldn’t have attempted: begin a prison ministry, raise chickens with my family, and train church leaders outside of our city. I also learned to see the Gospel as Good News for all areas of life.” These statements are all testimonies from church leaders and missionaries in West Africa who have seen their ministries radically change through their participation in Timothy Leadership Training (TLT). TLT is a hands-on curriculum for applying biblically based principles, such as pastoral care and stewardship, to life. TLT is crucial for pastors who’ve had little formal training and for leaders in need of inspiration and accountability in serving their communities effectively. Give to TLT ministry projects today to help Christian Reformed World Missions strengthen more leaders for ministry. For more details, visit www.crwm.org/tlt. 14

ASIA General—W & L will be in North America through May. LATIN AMERICA Costa Rica—Tom and Cheryl Soerens will be in the U.S. Midwest from April through June. Honduras—Caspar Geisterfer is in Alberta through March. He and Leanne will then make visits in the Michigan area from April through June. Mexico—Dave and Blanca Gifford are based in Jenison, Michigan, through mid-June.

IN MEMORIAM: Rick Jongejan passed away on December 13, 2013. He and his family began serving with CRWM in 1996 as partner missionaries in Haiti. He is survived by his wife, Ruth, and two children.


Alumni Corner CRWM Missionaries Recall Their Days in Pre-civil War Liberia by Jim Triezenberg

the Summer Institute of Linguistics for several months of further training. Tim, Dianne, and their two-year-old son left for Liberia before the year was over. The Slagers worked with an organization of Liberian churches, participating in literacy work and community health care. Their goal was to help people learn what they were doing and carry it on after they left.

While participating in Calvin College’s Summer Training Session program in 1975, Tim Slager heard a Bible translator serving in Mexico say that his work was a cross between being a farmer and a scholar.

Both Tim and Dianne remember the Liberian people’s tenacity. “In the war, we would ask, ‘where is God in all this?’ But the Liberians’ faith seemed to be strengthened by the trials and difficulties,” Dianne says. They would carry on after illness or death and depend on God in difficult times.

Tim and his future wife, Dianne, talked about their mutual interest in missions when they started dating. Dianne recalls thinking about becoming a missionary out of a sense of adventure more than a high calling. Besides, she says, “I think we’re all called to missions. I really didn’t have any excuses.”

The Slagers agreed and went to

Both of their daughters were born in Liberia, and the Slagers remained in the country until 1990, when a civil war forced them to leave. “We ran for our lives,” Dianne remembers. The Slagers planned on returning when things settled down. However, only Tim returned, going back in 1991 for a few months of service with Catholic Relief Services. The civil war meanwhile prompted Christian Reformed World Missions to transition work to local believers sooner than anticipated. The churches carried the work on throughout the civil war, even expanding on it afterwards.

That comment intrigued Tim, who had done farm work for several years between high school and college. He asked the translator what he should study for such a career and was told, “Greek.” So Tim returned to Calvin as a classical languages major.

In 1983, Christian Reformed World Mission’s Africa Director knocked on the Slagers’ door, saying, “Someone going to Liberia as a literacy worker backed out at the last minute.” He asked them if they would take the person’s place.

work with the African independent churches rather than start a new denomination was a “no-brainer.” Dianne noted that working closely with the Liberian churches “probably enabled us more than we enabled them.”

Above: The Slagers with friends in Liberia; Tim and Dianne in 2014. “The Liberians were far better church planters than we were,” Tim recalls. Since there were about 100 denominations in a people group of only 300,000, the decision to

For Tim, one of the greatest rewards of serving in Liberia was “the good friendships that stay with you forever.” He also notes, “It’s important to make close friendships with the people you’re working with, because you need people who can be honest with you.”

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About the Nations Hungary: • 88 percent Christian, 11 percent non-religious, 1 percent other • 17 languages spoken with Hungarian being the official language • Praise God that Christians from all denominations are starting to work together to A day draws to a close in Hungary reach their nation. Pray for continued unity and collaboration. • Pray that the Gospel will spread to the region’s least reached peoples— Information from Operation World, 7th edition Jews, Roma, immigrants, and the homeless. Like CRWM on Facebook:www.facebook.com/crcworldmissions

CRWM's Spring 2014 Among the Nations  

Christian Reformed World Missions’ quarterly Among the Nations magazine is filled with stories and images from our missionaries and partners...