On February 23, Eglise Chretienne Reformee DHaiti (Christian Reformed Church of Haiti) had its first public meeting in a new building that was recently rebuilt after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti destroyed their previous building.
Sovereign Grace partnered with La IBI (Iglesia Bautista Internacional) in the Dominican Republic, pastored by Miguel Nuñez, to finance the reconstruction of this church building. Felipe Castro, an associate pastor at La IBI, visited for the first meeting.
This work in Haiti was possible because of the partnership we share with La IBI and because of the funds given to the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund we set up in 2010. To those of you who generously gave, thank you!
Below you’ll see some photos of the first meeting of the church. The text on the front of the building, underneath the church name, says “Donated by Sovereign Grace Ministries” followed by “received through IBI International.” Join us in praying that God would bless Christian Reformed Church of Haiti in their gospel witness as they begin to use this new building!
March 5, 2014 by
Categories: Germany | International
This week, Jeff Purswell is in Germany serving Arche Church, our partner church in Hamburg. Jeff shared some details about the trip and the partnership Sovereign Grace shares with this church.
I’ll be with the Arche Gemeinde, our partner church in Hamburg, Germany, teaching a systematic theology course (including Introduction to Systematic Theology and the doctrine of revelation and Scripture) to a group of pastors Friday–Tuesday and preaching at the church on Sunday. The pastoral team of the Arche, some of their emerging leaders and pastors they’re serving and relating to in Germany will be attending the course, as well as pastors from Russia and Ukraine.
Over the past few years, Christian Wegert and the team at the Arche have increasingly had a burden for church planting in Germany and surrounding countries. This year, they planted their first church in the nearby city of Stade. Their vision is to “bring the gospel to the land of the Reformation!”
To this end, they are intent on starting a Pastors College for the training of pastors and church planters. This course represents the first installment of an eventual Pastors College they’d like to begin. As Christian said in an email to me this week, “We are all very excited to see the PC in Germany start in a couple of days!” This is the first of three courses I’ll be teaching this year in Hamburg, and I’m working with the pastors there to strategize for future courses and training opportunities. They are supplementing these courses with internships and pastoral ministry courses taught by the Arche pastors in a multi-layered approach to training leaders for the mission of the gospel.
It is a tremendous privilege to partner with the Arche. It is the largest Reformed evangelical church in Germany with a broad influence extending throughout Germany and beyond. Our bonds with this church are strong: two members of their pastoral team have attended the Pastors College, including Christian Wegert, their senior pastor. C.J. Mahaney and I have had the joy of participating in their annual church conference—Eckstein—for the past two years, and we’ve been enriched and encouraged by the wisdom and gifting of the pastors on their team, including their founding pastor, Wolfgang Wegert, who continues to serve the church locally and in its outreach beyond Hamburg.
On October 15, before our team serving in the Philippines returned home, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Bohol, Philippines. We are so grateful that Bob Kauflin and his team all got back to the U.S. safely! Nevertheless, the damage in the Philippines is significant.
We have an opportunity to help with the relief efforts in the Philippines through Brian Baluca and Pete Valdez, pastors of Sovereign Grace Church in Tagbilaran City, Bohol. Both Brian and Pete have been to our Pastors Conference and have been instrumental in hosting Lynn Baird and Tony Walsh when they have taught and ministered in Bohol. Brian, Pete, and their church are taking supplies, help, and the gospel to people all over the island of Bohol. The needs there are significant: food, drinking water, and basic needs, not to mention the challenge of rebuilding or repairing homes and buildings.
We can have a direct impact by donating to a disaster relief fund set up by Sovereign Grace Church in Pasadena, California, which will be sent to Sovereign Grace Church in Tagbilaran City. The church in Bohol has already been meeting needs around them with their limited means, and our giving can provide a much-needed infusion of funds to further their ability to help. Please consider giving to this vital need!
God has given Sovereign Grace many opportunities for partnership with churches in the Philippines, largely because Sovereign Grace pastors like Lynn Baird and Tony Walsh have been faithful to go and minister there over the last 10 years. They have built relationships with Brian, Pete, and other pastors, including Cornelio Ebo, who pastors a church in Cebu, attended our Pastors College, and took primary responsibility for organizing the WorshipGod Conference that was just held in Cebu. (Read Bob Kauflin’s summary of that conference and the other worship events in the Philippines for more details.) Supporting the disaster relief efforts in Bohol is one way we can serve our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.
Donations can be sent to Sovereign Grace Church, Pasadena, via their online giving (marked Disaster Relief).
In a previous post I shared the background to my recent trip to the Philippines. Here’s a follow up report. It’s long, I know, but this is the short version!
Ten people ended up going on the trip. Representing Sovereign Grace Ministries were Steve Cook and myself, along with Jena Baumer, who is serving as an intern. We also brought the five guys in the Norton Hall band: my son Devon, Jonny Barahona, Jared Hoffman, Jacob Bozarth, and Jeff Dyke. It was a great opportunity to partner with the Division of Biblical Worship at Southern Seminary in gospel mission. The team also included Lynn Baird, a Sovereign Grace pastor who has been visiting the Philippines for the past ten years, and his daughter Meghan.
The first event was a WorshipGod conference held Thursday morning through Saturday noon in Cebu, and graciously hosted by Living Word Christian Church, pastored by Mel Caparros. Nearly 1000 pastors, musicians, and church members from 50 churches participated in 5 main sessions and 4 breakout sessions, including ones on songwriting, arranging a band, and sound tech. We also had guests from Thailand, Papua New Guinea, and Singapore.
Sunday morning we led the singing and I preached at His Dwelling Church, pastored by Nilo Ebo, who attended the Sovereign Grace Pastors College two years ago. Sunday night we played an evangelistic concert on a beautiful outdoor stage in the middle of the Ayala Terraces Mall. Between 1500-2000 people showed up, including the mayor of Cebu City. A few hours after the concert the guys in Norton Hall flew back for school.
Monday morning the five of us who were left took a two hour boat ride over to Tagbilaran City, Bohol, to meet our host, Pastor Pete Valdez. We arrived in time for me to lead a symposium from 1-4 PM on Gathering Around the Gospel and Pastoring Through Song. From there we went to rehearse for “The Gathering” event, which took place from 7:30-9:30. Amazingly, around 1200 people showed up.
We were scheduled to take a boat back to Cebu the next day and fly out late that night, but were awakened at 8 AM by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that lasted for about 20 seconds. No one on our team was hurt, but tragically a banquet hall roof on the grounds of our hotel collapsed, killing two employees. Although most roads around us were passable, you didn’t have to go far to find fallen debris, landslides, and buckled roads. Power was out for most of the day and no boats left Tagbilaran that day. Pete was intent on getting us on a boat the next morning, which he succeeded in doing. We flew back late Wednesday night, exhausted, grateful, and praying for those who would be serving those affected by the earthquake. [I have an update on the earthquake at the end of this post.]
A Few Things I Learned or Was Reminded Of
Gratefulness, hospitality, servanthood, generosity, joy, and excellence don’t depend upon economic prosperity.
While the Philippines isn’t among the poorest countries of the world, it is far from the richest. Signs of poverty abound, especially in rural regions. But everywhere we went we met gracious and grateful people, eager to serve, and generous with their resources. Not every piece of equipment was the latest model or in the best condition, but everything was well taken care of and gladly shared with us. Before we arrived our hosts had attended to a gazillion details with zealous precision, and as soon as they learned something was missed or had to be changed they were already working on it. The musicians in Tagbilaran City who filled in for the Norton Hall band on Monday night knew their parts cold.
You don’t need a piano, a sustain pedal, or a voice for that matter, to lead congregational worship.
After we arrived I learned that Nilo’s church doesn’t own a piano and couldn’t secure one. Jonny Barahona played a small synth but the sustain pedal didn’t work. He did a masterful job playing without sustain, and I actually enjoyed leading with no piano. But by Monday I had developed a cold and my vocal cords were shot. So I had no voice. Like, none. So I led the evening event with raspy words, and cut my message “Why Do We Sing?” down to about 20 minutes. Not one person mentioned they missed my singing that night. I tried not to take it personally.
If taking photos was an Olympic event Filipinos would easily be contenders for the gold medal.
Really. I have never seen so many pictures taken of me or those around me in my life. “1-2-3 – SMILE!” and “Just one more, just one more!” were mantras. I was so influenced I couldn’t resist taking two pictures of everything. Often, the person who took the picture first would switch places with someone already in the group and have them take another picture. Sometimes, as others became aware of what was going on, 5, 10, even 15 people would add themselves to the group. When I asked about the picture taking phenomenon someone said that Filipinos love to share pictures with each other, and it can sometimes be a means of sharing the gospel when unbelievers want to know where the pictures were taken.
It didn’t surprise me to learn that late night prayer meetings had been going on weekly for the conference and other events for a couple months before we came. We experienced an unusual degree of strength, smooth administration, and encouraging conversations. One night we took about 10 minutes to break down in groups and pray for revival in the Philippines. It was a roar. A roar that caused me to think I often undervalue the place prayer plays in God’s plans.
The Philippine churches seem ripe for a move of God characterized by a deep love for God’s word, the gospel, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Many of the attendees at the conference came from Pentecostal churches. which are often rooted more in subjective emotion than Scriptural authority and the gospel. It was deeply encouraging and faith building to see their enthusiastic response to songs filled with rich theology and teachings grounded in Scripture.
The gospel is the power of God - everywhere.
People repeatedly expressed gratefulness for our focus on the gospel and told us how surprised they were by the effect. One pastor said he felt like he had been born again. Another expressed a conviction to be more careful about the songs they sing in their church. Many thanked us profusely for keeping Jesus Christ – crucified and risen – the main point of our songs and messages. Numerous pastors told us that this is what the Filipino churches need – gospel-centered songs and preaching. We couldn’t agree more. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:17). We have nothing better to offer.
In a very short time we developed a deep bond of affection for many of our Filipino brothers and sisters. As of today, nearly 200 people have died from the earthquake, and aftershocks continue to leave many people fearful. More than a few people have written me to say the quake has brought a greater openness to the gospel. Please join us in praying that the aftershocks would subside, that the 36,000+ families with damaged or destroyed homes would find permanent shelter, that supplies would be abundant and quickly find their way to the neediest areas, and that people’s eyes and hearts would be open to the sovereign God who offers salvation to anyone who turns from their sins and trusts in Jesus Christ for forgiveness.
September 30, 2013 by
Categories: Church Updates | International
At Sovereign Grace Church in Bloomington, Minnesota, we love being on mission with other Sovereign Grace churches. Be it planting a church plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota or seeing our gospel influence move beyond our borders, we are thankful that we do not labor alone or detached from the resources, connections, and care of Sovereign Grace. The story of our growing partnership with Casa de Esperanza (House of Hope, CDE) highlights everything that we love so dearly about our family of churches.
Jameson and Deidra Nass are members of our church with a heart to serve in international missions. We knew that we wanted to do everything we could to help them fulfill their desire, but we also wanted to keep them connected to Sovereign Grace. Through reaching out to folks in our family of churches, we were connected with Johnny Dueri, a pastor of one of the international Sovereign Grace churches in La Paz, Bolivia. Johnny directed us to an opportunity to serve at an orphanage he helps to lead in Caranavi, Bolivia.
Through Johnny’s connections, Jameson and Diedra spent over a year serving at CDE, an orphanage that serves over 80 children. During their time there, Jameson and Diedra prayed and interacted with the pastoral staff here at Sovereign Grace Church and shared their desire to see our partnership grow. We could never have imagined then some of the things God was going to do.
First, the Lord stirred the hearts of a couple young women in our church to serve there for an extended time. Then, in 2012, 18 folks from our church participated in a ministries trip to serve at the orphanage. This past summer, one of the women in our church returned to care for children at the orphanage full-time. And the elders at SGC recently decided to financially support the ministry of CDE on a monthly basis. What began as one couple’s faithfulness to respond to God’s call has now turned into an ongoing opportunity for our church to serve and care for orphans. God is good.
Last month, we were blessed to have the directors of CDE visit with us and other Sovereign Grace churches in our region. So not only does the relationship continue, but it is also growing.
Sovereign Grace Church in Bloomington will be leading a construction team to the orphanage in March of 2014. We’re hoping to be joined by members of other churches in the region. Our hope is to replace roofs on several of the buildings, to update some of the plumbing, and to begin remodeling one of the seven individual homes used to house the children. It’s a big job, but we serve an even bigger God who will provide both the finances and the skilled laborers to get the work done.
The gospel tells us that sin had separated us from God and left us orphaned. But God in his grace through Jesus Christ adopted us as his daughters and sons. Now he has commanded us to care for those in need, especially orphans and widows. Through our growing partnership with CDE, we have a practical opportunity to fulfill the call God has given us and to show how the gospel has changed our lives to love others as we have been loved by God. And all of this has happened because of our partnership with Sovereign Grace churches!
For more information on CDE, visit www.boliviamissionsfoundation.org where you learn more about the ministry of Johnny Dueri’s church and give directly to the work of CDE. Hear the story of Lily Fluharty, a church member who serves full-time at CDE, in this video.
Jon Hansel serves as an associate pastor of Sovereign Grace Church (Bloomington, MN). His primary focus is on community and care in the life of the church. He oversees the small group, counseling, youth, and singles ministries of the church. Jon and his wife, Tonya, live in Burnsville and have four children.
September 11, 2013 by
Categories: Church Updates | International
During the week of August 5, we at Kingdom Life Church had the opportunity to host a summer music camp for children ages 3 to 14, and it was a week to remember! A year ago, our church’s leadership team began to dream about a music camp where we would combine elements of a Vacation Bible School with a focus on music.
Soon after the dreams were verbalized, the plans were started for our first annual Summer Music Camp. Our initial goal was to have 60 children in attendance for the week, and the Lord far surpassed all we could ask, think, or imagine by bringing 97 children in attendance! Eighteen children were from Kingdom Life Church, meaning that 79 children were from the surrounding community. Every day, our little building was filled with activity and the sound of the voices of happy children. God moved in wonderful, unexpected ways! The video at the end of the post depicts some of the week’s activities.
The program for the week allowed children to be exposed to some historical background and rudimentary training on particular instruments. All of the children were able to hold and experiment with an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar, a keyboard, and the ever-popular percussion drum set. Each day, Keith Bunting, associate pastor of worship, led the children in a devotional on the theme of wisdom taken from Proverbs, and the gospel was shared during these times.
The centerpiece for the week was a combined choir in which all children in the music camp participated. On Friday night at the end of the week, the children performed a concert for their parents consisting of all the songs they had learned throughout the week. Our auditorium was packed; dozens of parents walked through the doors of our church building for the first time! And it was striking to hear the combined choir of almost 100 children from our Nassau community sing gospel-rich songs like “The Gospel Song!”
As we reflect on our music camp, our hearts are also filled with gratitude for the gospel partnership we enjoy with the Sovereign Grace family of churches. Metro Life Church in Orlando, a key church within the Southeast Region, led the way in helping us to administrate the camp and to assemble a much-needed team of 20 camp volunteers from eight different Sovereign Grace churches.
These volunteers sacrificed funds, vacation time, and energy to travel to Nassau to serve our local church and community and to advance the gospel in the life of children. What a wonderful visual of gospel partnership it was to see these volunteers serve right alongside our own volunteers from Kingdom Life Church. We are grateful to God and to them for their partnership and investment into the kingdom of God.
We trust and pray that in the months and years to come, these children will continue to sing the gospel-centered songs they learned during the music camp. But more than that, we pray that the investment of the week will bear gospel fruit in their lives.
Cedric Moss is the founding senior pastor of Kingdom Life Church, where he has served for the past 23 years. For approximately 15 years, he was a bi-vocational pastor, working in the international financial services industry and serving in pastoral ministry. He is a 2008 graduate of the Pastors College. Cedric is happily married to his wife of 25 years, Alexine, and they have three children.
On June 4, our team from Cornerstone Church of Knoxville landed in Seoul, South Korea. This being my third trip, I’ve gotten used to navigating the massive airport that serves the massive city. We were jetlagged and half awake, but excited to see a familiar face: my friend, Pastor Songhwan Kang.
Our team of fifteen came to serve Lord’s Grace Church in a number of ways including:
- A marriage conference,
- English camp for children,
- Relationship building with church members,
- And evangelism in an apartment complex near the church.
After a day of preparation, we began a marriage conference for over 115 people. My wife Cheri, Pastor Songhwan, and I all taught at the conference which was broadcasted on Korean television. Songhwan shared about grace-filled marriage and communication. I taught on topics including foundations for marriage, biblical roles in the home, romance, conflict, and friendship. Cheri shared a message with the ladies on self-control and the grace of God.
Songhwan wrote me after we returned home, saying, “Many families who attended the conference… sent me emails that the messages you taught were very helpful to them… Many people have been transformed by this conference. I heard that many couples, who did not have a good relationship in their marriage, made great improvement in their lives.”
While the married couples attended the conference, their 70 children attended an English camp. We had wonderful folks from our church work very hard to serve the kids, and the reports were encouraging to hear. Songhwan wrote, “The kids who were in the English camp miss their American teachers already. They are telling their parents that the camp was fantastic and fun – some even bragged that the camp was one of the most fun and happy events in their lives!”
One of the kids who attended the camp recounted this, “They taught us the chopstick game, the ninja game, the partner game, … oh, so many games! And they took us hiking and told us God is our shelter, and His Word (the Bible) is the supply for our journey of life… I really miss our teachers. I hope they will come back again.”
On Monday, we went to an apartment complex located close to Lord’s Grace Church. A few of the members from the church joined with us as we broke up into teams and went around to the different playgrounds in the large apartment complex. We passed out cookies and juice to the kids and handed out information about the church to their parents.
It seemed like many of the members from Lord's Grace were able to have good conversations, inviting people to church and talking about the Gospel. Afterwards one of the guys on our team, Zach Varnell, asked one of the church members if this was something they'd do again, and he seemed excited for the opportunity. The church members saw there is there much potential for evangelism just around the corner from their church, which was something Pastor Songhwan hoped to see the church grow in.
The highlight of the trip was undoubtedly the Sunday Meeting with the church, which Sovereign Grace planted just three years ago. What an honor to be with these wonderful Christians! Several new couples from the marriage conference were in attendance, and there was noticeable growth in attendance since my last visit. It was joy to participate in their worship and see the Lord blessing their church. Their encouragement to us will never be forgotten.
We’re home now, but the team already wants to go back. Pastor Songhwan, his wife Miran, and Lord’s Grace Church all have that effect on you. What a joy it is to partner with Lord’s Grace Church in gospel ministry in Seoul, South Korea!
For more details about Lord’s Grace Church, you can view this eleven-minute video where Songhwan and his wife, Miran, tell their story. You can also view this short video interview where I sit down with Songhwon, Miran, and Larry Malament to discuss the origins of our gospel partnership.
Bill has served as Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church of Knoxville since its inception in April, 1990. His responsibilities include general oversight of the church, training and care for the Pastoral Team, Sunday morning teachings, and directing our evangelistic efforts at the University of Tennessee through its campus outreach, Volunteers for Christ. Bill married his high school sweetheart, Cheri, and they have four children.
Last week, Sovereign Grace held its inaugural Council of Elders in Orlando, Florida. Sixty-three men representing their local church elderships, along with 31 observers, gathered for prayer, discussion, debate, and voting on various motions presented by the Council of Elders delegates. In all, leaders from 66 churches were present at the Council of Elders.
Ken Delage, senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, presented the first motion to be considered: the formation of a Strategy Committee for International Missions with the goal of establishing vision and strategy for our international missions work.*
The Council recommended that the Sovereign Grace Leadership Team work with the Council of Elders to form this committee which will be comprised of elders in Sovereign Grace and chaired by the Director of Church Planting and Missions.
International missions is a priority for the future of our ecclesiastical union as we seek to do our part in fulfilling the Great Commission Jesus Christ gave us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). This priority is reflected in the fact that the first motion considered, discussed, voted on, and affirmed by the Council of Elders was aimed at moving our family of churches forward in the work of international missions.
The faith-building, mission-stirring, soul-strengthening discussion and affirmation vote the Council conducted last week is also a picture of how our polity will strengthen our mission. Our new polity is not simply about structure. Rather, our new polity is about structure that will only facilitate and strengthen our churches to be more effective in mission.
I left the Council of Elders last week with even more faith and hope that God will continue to use the churches in Sovereign Grace to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation with even more effectiveness. Already, 17 international churches are eager to partner with us, four of which were represented at the Council of Elders.
So would you pray with me that God would give us grace, wisdom, and strength to reach the world with the good news of Jesus Christ? Like you, I look forward to that Day when those from every tribe, tongue, and nation will gather around the throne and sing “worthy is the Lamb.” Let’s go do some great things for Jesus together!
*According to the new Sovereign Grace Book of Church Order, “the Council of Elders may create committees in order to expedite and facilitate the execution of appointed tasks” (III. B., 3. a. i.). In addition, any member of the Council of Elders may move to create a committee.
Mark Prater is the executive director of Sovereign Grace Ministries, leading us in our mission to plant and build churches with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mark has served as an elder at Covenant Fellowship Church since 2002. In 1996, he led a church-planting team to Pittsburgh in order to begin Providence Church. Mark has also served as the director for the Sovereign Grace Ministries Church Planting Group and regional representative overseeing the Northeast region of churches in the United States.
November 19, 2012 by
Categories: International | Korea | Video
Songhwon Kang recently presented Sovereign Grace this video, which features the stories from members of Lord’s Grace Church (Seoul, South Korea) testifying to the transforming effect of the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives.
These stories were made possible, in part, because of your prayers and financial support to Sovereign Grace Ministries. We thank God for the partnership we have with you in the advance of gospel mission taking place in South Korea, at your local church, and around the world! We trust these testimonies are an encouragement to you.
November 8, 2012 by
Categories: International | Music
It is a joy to be able to share with you how the music of Sovereign Grace is being used in Latin America. God has been very faithful to us in allowing us to participate in what he is doing in the Latin American countries. With our latest album Eres Dios, once again we have the privilege to provide cross-centered songs to many Spanish congregations around the world. I have been very encouraged as I hear how these songs are being used in churches in countries like Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Spain, and Puerto Rico, among many others.
On November 25th, I will travel to Puerto Rico to lead a worship night, and we will be taking the opportunity to teach songs from Eres Dios. I have been invited by Iglesia Bautista de Glenview (Glenview Baptist Church) in Ponce, which is pastored by Ernesto R. Pereira Solá. This church has been spreading the Gospel for over thirty years in Puerto Rico by planting churches and sending missionaries all over the world. It is a blessing to team up with them to praise our Lord together. We have invited many churches from the island, and we know that there will be a number of worship leaders in attendance. We will be taking this opportunity to teach a message titled Manteniendo el Evangelio central en la adoración (Keeping the gospel central in our worship). I asked my friend, Otto Sánchez, from the Dominican Republic to come teach us. Otto is the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Ozama, and he spoke at Por Su Causa in 2011. I am very excited to have him with us because of his passion to see the Gospel spread in Latin America.
On another note, from December 7- 9, I will also have the opportunity to serve alongside Otto at a conference he will be doing in Manhattan titled Pasión por Dios (Passion for God). The church that will be hosting the conference is Primera Iglesia Bautista de Manhattan (First Baptist Church in Manhattan). We will also be singing songs from our new album and spending time with many worship leaders and pastors in order to build relationships. As I have interacted with the brothers of this church, they are quick to point out how thankful they are for Sovereign Grace and for the new albums in Spanish. We know that God is doing something great in Latin America right now, and I am happy we are able to contribute, even if it’s in a small way.
I personally want to thank Sovereign Grace Ministries for their investment in the Spanish speaking world. These are small steps that we are taking that have an eternal effect on people’s lives. I can’t wait to see what God will continue to do!
Mauricio and his wife, Sonia, live in the Gaithersburg, MD. Mauricio leads worship at Iglesia Gracia Soberana de Gaithersburg. He writes songs for the Spanish Sovereign Grace Churches, sung on and helped produce our last two Spanish albums: Eres Dios in 2012 and Allí En la Cruz in 2010.