Netherlands (MNN) — At a recent church gathering, Sam Vinton with Grace
Ministries International was asked, “Why don’t you have any missionaries in Europe?”
Vinton says they have a strategy in place that will not only take the Gospel in, but also plant churches. They’ve already seen that strategy bloom from their Curacao connections
that brought together a seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a ministry with a home base in the Congo,and the island of Curacao.
Let’s unravel that thread: GMI’s first and oldest mission field is in the Congo. They also have a seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. An engineering student in Curacao* named Carlos Brunk came to study at Grace Bible College and graduated in 1991.
To get the context of the complexity in this puzzle, we’ll take this even further back to the early 1950’s. At that time, missionaries Cliff and Betty Lee started the ministries in Curacao where a strong church was established and is today being carried on under the leadership of Pastor Michael Look.
With the retirement of the Lees in the 1990s, they needed a new pastor. Enter: a newly-trained Carlos Brunk, installed as the first national pastor of that church. Vinton says, “We withdrew our missionary force and turned that over to the national church.”
After nine years, Brunk felt God calling him to a different location. Vinton explains that the scenario was ideal for growth because “Curacao [was] part of the Netherlands kingdom. The people from Curacao can travel and can actually move to and get jobs in the Netherlands, so there are a few thousand of them over there.”
So, in 2001 “the pastor moved to the Netherlands to further his studies, and he started a church.” The Curacao church remains healthy and continues to partner with GMI, especially for Papiamento literature, the common language on the island.
The goal was to reach as many people as possible considering the different communities living in the area and that most people can be reached through the English language. In 2009, they decided to launch an outreach to the community of the Papiamentu speakers.
The church in Almere was born. Vinton says, “With this church being established outside of Amsterdam, you have contacts with many, many people in parts of Europe that you have known, and that gives us an opportunity to work together and start moving out into other parts of the Netherlands as well as into Europe.”
Right now, the church is in a growth phase, with roughly 50 people. Most are people of Curacao, Aruba and St. Martin, but some are from Surinam and a few are Dutch. The entire church supports the outreach to the Papiamentu-speaking folks.
Last year, the church decided to hold Sunday services in Papiamentu with translation in Dutch. As a result, one person commented to Vinton that “the Gospel came to us, in many cases, from Europe. Now as we visit Europe, we find out that they need the Gospel as much as we did; maybe the Lord is going to be using us to move into that part of Europe.”
Brunk also holds monthly leadership training with the focus on teaching, preaching and evangelism. There’s also hope that a Grace Bible School can begin in the region to help ready people to carry the message to the rest of the Netherlands and Europe.
So let’s go back to the original question Vinton was asked: “Why don’t you have any missionaries in Europe?” Vinton explains that their strategy is already in place. “We’re not going to place individual missionaries spread out into different parts of the world, but where we are already working, we’re going to work with the national church and move into the neighboring countries.”
Matthew 5:16 reads, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” The team’s joy is contagious. However, they need more hands. Those serving in the church are working full-time in the community, and the ministry is growing and requires more attention and care.
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