Iowa Church Follows God to Laos
Resonate Global Mission
Faith CRC in Sioux Center, Iowa, has been partnering with the persecuted church in mission for nearly 12 years. When the opportunity first arose, they were nervous and unsure how to engage in international mission, but they stepped out in hope and trust.
They were never alone in this mission. Resonate Global Mission missionaries and ministry leaders have been there for Faith CRC every step of the way.
An Open Door to Mission
Nearly 40 years ago, Faith CRC welcomed a refugee family from Laos. After more than a decade, the newcomers—Khay Baccam and his family—became Christians, and Baccam became a church planter among communities of people from Laos in the United States. But as years passed, Baccam also felt the Holy Spirit tugging on his heart for his home country.
In Laos, the government keeps a close eye on religious activities. Laws have eased up in recent years, but Christians still face harsh persecution. Some have been arrested and imprisoned; some have been driven from their homes; some have been victims of violence. The church in Laos needed support. Nearly 15 years ago, Baccam asked members of Faith CRC for help.
Members of Faith CRC began to research how they could help in Laos, but the culture and context of Laos is so different from Iowa. It would require a different approach to ministry. How could they develop a partnership that would help the church without hurting it? How would they make the ministry sustainable?
Thankfully, Faith CRC belongs to a denomination of churches who are passionate about mission. Ministry opportunities like the partnership in Laos are the reason the CRC formed and supports Resonate Global Mission—to equip churches in Canada and the United States for mission in both their own neighborhoods and around the world. Faith CRC connected with Resonate (then Christian Reformed World Missions) for guidance.
Guidance for Changing Ministry
“The church is to be engaged in the mission of God. Resonate equips the church,” said Joyce Suh, Resonate’s regional mission leader for South and Southeast Asia.
Missionaries like Suh, who have served in Southeast Asia, have knowledge and experience in mission. Resonate missionaries have been able to help Faith CRC’s Laos Committee take strategic, practical steps forward from the very beginning.
When Faith CRC first started their ministry in Laos, they traveled with a Resonate missionary to the country and met with church leaders. Faith CRC, Resonate, and church leaders of Laos discerned that the church needed leadership training.
“It was desperately needed,” said Verlyn De Wit, a member of Faith CRC who serves on the Laos Committee. “Very few had ever gone to seminary. If they did, it had to be out of the country.”
Faith CRC paid to translate and print leadership curriculum into Lao. They also paid part of the cost for leaders who were traveling to the training from rural villages. Because of the training, church leaders were better able to disciple other believers and share their faith.
But Faith CRC’s partnership with the church in Laos didn’t stop there. In a country where Christians are persecuted, believers in Laos have needed to be flexible and innovative. Over the past 12 years, the Holy Spirit opened up new opportunities to share Christ’s love. Resonate missionaries have offered advice every step of the way.
“Our focus was to help strengthen the local church,” said De Wit. “This [ministry] is really due to the creativity, initiative, and the courage of the group of people that we’re working with.”
God has opened up many opportunities for ministry. Together, Faith CRC and their Lao partners have distributed wheelchairs. They’ve trained soccer coaches to share their faith with children and teenagers. They dismantled grain bins that once stood in Iowa’s fields, shipped them across the Pacific Ocean, and hired local laborers to rebuild them in Laos’ fields. Farmers can now dry their grain nearby, rather than shipping it out of country—saving them money and earning them a higher profit.
Through all of these efforts, believers in Laos have been able to connect with more people and share with them the hope found in Christ.
Gord Blom, another member of Faith CRC, said his church has not only seen growth in the church in Laos, but they’ve witnessed growth in members of their own congregation who are committed to this partnership. “Cross-cultural ministry is really beneficial,” said Blom. “It enables you to see, or to understand in a better light, your faith.”
The members of Faith CRC are committed to continuing this ministry. Many committee members are in their early retirement years, so they’re taking steps to ensure the partnership in Laos continues in the future. In their most recent meeting with Suh, they discussed recruiting other people from the church.
“[Suh] was a great help in focusing our thoughts on the future,” said Blom. “The weekend [Suh] was there, three names popped up that I think are really good candidates for the next generation.”
Suh said that Resonate is also committed to working with Faith CRC in their partnership in Laos.
“We must continue to be engaged because something is happening here,” she said. “This small group from a church in Iowa has been able to come alongside the persecuted church in Laos in love. This is a truly missional group.”