Photo: Karen Huttenga
Moses Chung (left) praying for Zach King
Photo by Karen Huttenga

Gary Bekker and Moses Chung offered prayers of greeting and blessing for Zachary King, the new director of Resonate Global Mission, on the morning of June 14 at Synod 2017.

Just before they prayed, delegates to synod formally thanked Bekker, director of the former Christian Reformed World Missions, and Chung, director of the former Christian Reformed Home Missions, for all of their work in helping to make the new mission agency a reality.

Synod 2015 had given the go ahead for the two agencies to bring together their resources to become one agency for mission. As this year’s synod approved a new name for the unified agency and ratified King as its director, Resonate Global Mission sprang to life.

In his prayer for King, Chung said, “God can do anything far more then you can guess, imagine, or request in your wildest dreams. I pray that God will give you vision to see God for who he is and that you will have faith to trust God in everything you do.”

In his prayer, Bekker said, “God of the whole creation, I pray for our brother Zach and that he will have wisdom . . . and joy in you. . . . I pray for his protection in his many miles of travel and that he will find his strength in you always.”

The road to unification was long and faced challenges, but people across the CRC, from agency workers to board members to church leaders, persisted to make this work.

This event at synod was therefore a celebration of the efforts of many people over several years to create what ministry leaders believe is a chance to bring the gospel to North America and beyond in fresh and needed ways.

“We have put together a third thing from two things that existed before,” said King, who served for several years as a missionary leader in Haiti before being named to the new role.

“Although this is new, the goal is the same. . . . We are looking to follow the Spirit’s call to embrace people in our neighborhoods and across the world.”

Wedding the old with the new, Resonate Global Mission will move forward and combine the best practices, approaches, and habits of its predecessor agencies, said Amy Schenkel, who worked for Home Missions and will now be director of U.S. teams for the new agency.

“We will be building on the strong foundations that Home Missions and World Missions have had for many years. The key elements will remain, but we are now in a better position to serve the needs of people in our changing world,” she said.

The whole push to create a new agency emerged from
the reality that people today are on the move from country to country and many people from overseas have moved into communities across North America.

As these demographics have changed, the methods for sharing Christ’s message with people have evolved. For that matter, the spiritual needs and hunger of people have taken on different forms. Traditional approaches don’t work as well in a world in which many traditions are up for grabs and there are people who are indifferent and even hostile to Christianity.

Schenkel and Joel Huyser, who worked for World Missions, were given time at synod to offer examples of how the agencies are already working to address the needs of a changing world.

“The joining of Home Missions and World Missions is not just about a structural change,” said Huyser. “It is about facing the challenges and tremendous opportunities of this new global world.”

Schenkel said the new agency will be working to follow God’s call “as people of mission. Slowly we are being asked to develop relationships with our neighbors, to invite them over for meals, to be with them where they work, to be with them in our communities so that over time we can share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.”

These neighbors may not look like us, may speak different languages, and may have other customs, but they are living in our cities and, as people of God,” said Schenkel, “we have the chance to meet with them and be a faithful presence in their lives.”

She mentioned a ministry in Oakland, Calif., where a church planter is gathering people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds to get to know one another and to share the love of Christ with them. And this doesn’t necessarily happen at church.

“In one case, Kyle [Brooks] recently struck up a conversation during a pickup game of soccer,” said Schenkel. “They began asking about each other’s work. Learning that Kyle is a pastor, the young man confided that although his family was never very religious or went to church, he always had a sense that there was a ‘higher power’ and ‘more to life than what he knew.’”

Huyser mentioned a missionary in the Middle East who helped coordinate a meeting one year ago between CRC pastors in Toronto and Christian pastors who are doing work among Farsi- and Arabic-speaking people in Canada. The goal was to give CRC pastors insight into the worlds and cultures of people in their own cities.

Huyser also pointed out a missionary couple who felt called to do missions to people in the Middle East and are now working with churches in Germany to do ministry with Syrian refugees .

Another example he cited was that of a CRC pastor who came as a missionary from Nigeria to the Dallas, Tex., area to work as a community chaplain to a neighborhood in need.

Huyser also mentioned a pastor from East Africa who has moved to the Grand Rapids, Mich., area to start a church for refugees and immigrants from across Africa who are now living in West Michigan.

“The joining of Home Missions and World Missions allows us to rethink that what we thought was international missions is something that we are doing in our own backyard,” said Huyer.

But getting to this place of unification took time.

At a meeting of Christian Reformed Church leaders in 2009, said Gary Bekker, he shared something that had been on his mind for quite a while.

“I wondered if it might be time for us to talk about the possibility of World Missions and Home Missions working together without regard to geography,” he said.

“I believed that this was something God wanted us to do -- to build a fresh focus on revitalizing our ministry,” said Bekker.

The goal, he added, was never for one agency to swallow the other, but for the two to combine their many years of experience in reaching people, planting churches, and developing leaders to do a better job of building God’s kingdom.

In July, Bekker will begin a new role of building and leading a combined training group that includes the Timothy Leadership Training Institute and the Coffee Break and Educational Care programs, with the prospect of developing other non-formal educational programs.

Chung’s new role, beginning in July, will be as director of capacity building and innovation for Resonate Global Mission.

In 2011, Chung was appointed as director of Home Missions and also began playing a role in moving the agencies forward toward unification. He helped to navigate a process that involved a major culture change in each of the agencies.

Even if it meant that he and Bekker would no  longer be in their jobs, he believed it was necessary for the betterment of the church.

“I knew the world was changing and that the global and local concerns in ministry were changing rapidly,” said Chung. “I was excited about the prospect of this happening.”

After Synod 2017, and as the new agency takes its first steps into the future, Chung said, “I am deeply grateful for how the Spirit of God has given us the grace to be patient and endure, to be single-focused and working very hard to see this day.”

While the CRC is small, this new mission effort is an attempt to chart new territory in reaching people everywhere with the saving message of Christ. Truth is still truth, but how it is conveyed -- especially in an age turned on its head by social media and conflict -- is crucial.

“We will think in new and creative ways about how to function. I believe we will come out and be something different,” said Chung.

“I hope that we will become a good, Reformed, and innovative missionary organization in continuing the work of God in the 21st century.”