Ernest Umoh knows first-hand many of the struggles that come with moving to North America. When he saw a growing refugee population in West Michigan, he quickly saw an opportunity to respond to a need that often goes unnoticed.
“Here in West Michigan, we have so many Muslim communities,” said Umoh. “People from Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania. . . and no one was really working with them actively, inviting them to Christ, or preaching the good news.”
Umoh has sensed God’s call to be an evangelist since his time growing up in Nigeria. His fearless attitude of “going where the Spirit leads him” has gotten him into dangerous situations on more than one occasion. His sincere care and giving heart have helped him connect with many Muslim refugees who are not only excited to hear the gospel but also in desperate need of assistance.
People are coming here from war-torn countries, escaping persecution, trying to learn in a free society,” Umoh said. “In many of the places they come from, they’ve never experienced church.”
Today Umoh pastors Strong Tower Ministries in Wyoming, Mich. This ministry provides services to newcomers in the community, such as driving people to their doctor appointments and organizing Bible studies.
“Our main goal is to show newcomers the love of Christ,” Umoh explained.
Still, Umoh realized that his passion for ministry couldn't keep up with the needs he encountered. When he found himself turning down his own thermostat to free up extra money, he knew he needed more partnerships.
Umoh connected with what is now Strong Tower’s parent church--Trinity CRC in Grandville, Michigan—as well as Resonate Global Mission (then Home Missions) which allowed Strong Tower to continue growing through financial assistance and coaching from fellow pastors and church planters.
“Umoh came knocking at our door, asking for help with the heating bill and right away we knew that God was calling us to join Him in this ministry,” said Gerry Koning, pastor at Trinity CRC.
Since that time, Strong Tower has been able to increase the number of people they greet at airports, teach English to, and worship with on Sundays.
Members of Trinity volunteer at the weekly English classes and help Umoh with his benevolence costs. In turn, they have gained a new perspective on what it means to follow the Spirit’s leading, as well a greater understanding of the broader cultural makeup in their own part of the world.
“This has given us the opportunity to interact with the refugee population, to see the reality of their situation and the difficulties they face,” said Koning. “I think the best way to help is to have churches come alongside them.”
Umoh is excited to see how Strong Tower’s partnerships will help expand and amplify its local ministry to global ministry back in East Africa.
“We can use those who have been led to Christ through Strong Tower as partners in planting churches back in their home country!” explained Umoh. “We want to make sure that Strong Tower is international, not just local.”
Resonate's On Mission video series explores a variety of mission-related topics from several perspectives.
This second video features Resonate's Steve Van Zanen, who shares how an interaction with a student at LCC International University in Lithuania shaped his posture of sharing the gospel.
Blanca Gifford remembers the first time she met Carmen (name changed).
“She was just nine years old then, and I had recently started a kids club ministry at our church,” recalls Blanca, who serves along with her husband, Dave, as a missionary with Resonate Global Mission. “Her dad came with her and her brother. He said he wanted his kids to experience something spiritual, but their mom was resistant to talking about Christ in their home.”
As Carmen grew up, she continued to enjoy the neighborhood kids club—a quick learner who was always asking thoughtful questions about the Bible stories she was hearing and gaining new skills. But more importantly, she was coming to be loved.
“About 90 percent of the kids come from unchurched, dysfunctional families,” says Blanca. “They come to the clubs to be loved when they don’t get that at home. Something as simple as a hug or reading the Bible with them goes a long way.”
Then in 2014, Carmen’s life turned upside down. Her father became sick and passed away before she could even visit him in the hospital. What’s more, she also lost her grandmother a month later.
It’s been hard for Carmen ever since that time. She often feels confused and upset with God, and at times has fallen into deep depression. Still, Carmen knew that she had someone she could trust.
“Carmen has been very open to talking to me about her struggles,” said Blanca. “I think she sees me as a mother figure, calling me with problems and asking me for advice.”
One particularly hard day, Carmen came to Blanca in tears because her best friend was angry with her.
“I told her that the Lord knows her struggles and He cares for her friendship,” says Blanca. “We prayed every day and that gave her faith that the Lord would help in this situation.”
A week later, Blanca received a call from Carmen while she was at school—her prayers had been answered. Her friend even began attending kids club a few times!
Today Carmen is one of several young people who have technically outgrown the age range for the kids club. Still, she and the others want to keep learning and Blanca has found special opportunities for them to help with the ministry. For Carmen, that’s cooking.
“Carmen became my youngest student in my cooking class and to this day she loves cooking, enthusiastically helping me decorate my cakes for events and writing down lists of ingredients she needs.”
Something as simple as a hug or reading the Bible with them goes a long way.”
Time spent cooking and helping with other tasks gives Blanca the opportunity to continue counseling Carmen on the difficult issues she faces. Blanca also connected with Carmen’s mom, encouraging her to find a counselor for her daughter and consoling her in the loss of her husband as well.
“Carmen can be very happy at times,” says Blanca. “But she still has those moments where she feels that she’s alone in the world. We are grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people like Carmen, and ask you to pray for her and for all of our friends in Mexico.”
Thank you! When Carmen’s father wanted his daughter to experience Christ’s love, you were there for them. Your support and prayers for missionaries and ministries of Resonate make a huge difference in the lives of people like Carmen. Thank you for sending Dave and Blanca Gifford, as well as many others who share Christ’s love around the world.
Summer affords each of us unique opportunities to serve in God's mission. This interactive photo album will give you glimpse into the ways that Resonate volunteers, church planters, and missionaries joined God in His mission.
Jane Ejulo had deep desires for her family’s physical and spiritual well-being, but those desires quickly turned to frustration and disappointment.
Living in a northern region of Uganda, Ejulo was the only one in her family who professed faith in Christ. In addition, her business combined with her husband’s income was barely providing for their family of five. Ejulo despaired.
“When we first met Jane, she was a depressed and discouraged woman,” remembers Mwaya Wa Kitavi, who serves as a regional leader for eastern and southern Africa with Resonate Global Mission (formerly Christian Reformed World Missions). “She did not have the confidence to share her faith with anyone.”
All that changed for Ejulo when she joined others from her church in a Timothy Leadership Training event led by Kitavi. She attended the first training, “Caring for God’s People,” in 2011.
Gaining Confidence for Spiritual Well-Being...
During the TLT event, Ejulo realized she was not alone in her struggles. What’s more, she gained the confidence to begin planning for change.
When Ejulo returned home after the workshop, she got started on her action plan: to teach her children and husband how to pray and to lead them in daily Bible studies.
“Jane was no longer depressed and she was motivated to witness to her family and others,” says Kitavi.
Ejulo’s faithful witness eventually brought all five of her children to accept Christ. She also began sharing her faith with a small group of people in her community.
Encouraged by these life-changing results, Ejulo was ready to tackle her next problem. She attended a second workshop with Kitavi, “Christian Stewardship.”
...and Financial Well-Being
“I wanted to see an increase in my business to facilitate my own needs and the needs of my family, church, and God’s ministry,” Ejulo told Kitavi.
Again, working through the module, Ejulo gained new business skills—such as how to display her handmade jewelry—that would not only help her operate her business successfully but also do so from a biblical perspective.
After the training, Ejulo quickly put her new skills into action. She acquired a new location for her business that was more noticeable and accessible for customers.
“Because of these changes, Jane’s business has flourished,” reports Kitavi. “Her family no longer has to struggle to meet their needs, and her daughter and son have been able to join the university.”
Global Prayer Safari Visitors
Along with the many local visitors to Ejulo’s new business, North American visitors from Resonate’s Global Prayer Safari team also entered Ejulo’s shop of handcrafted jewelry to pray with and encourage her. A few of them also saw it as a good time to purchase her beaded necklaces as souvenirs.
“Jane endeared me to the Ugandan people by the way she approached each person we met,” said Sandy Baerwald, from Christ Community CRC in Hayward, Cali. said. “Her love of Jesus and the joy of the Lord just showered over everyone we talked with along the way. I was privileged to walk alongside her as we met all types of people and shop owners.”
Jane's love of Jesus and the joy of the Lord just showered over everyone"
As Ejulo has gained confidence in both her spiritual and business endeavors, she has been sharing what she learned through the leadership training with others.
Today Ejulo is a master trainer, sharing what she learned at TLT with others in nearby communities. She also shares her faith right in her own church and wider community.
“I say thank you to [Resonate Global Mission] and my TLT facilitator,” Ejulo says, “I cannot express the joy I feel. I am very grateful to God that He used them to come to my district and church. This is how God located me and improved my life. I pray that God will continue to send them to locate other people like me.”
Resonate's On Mission video series will explore a variety of mission-related topics from several perspectives.
This first video features Resonate's Joel Huyser, who shares what mission means to him after his years of mission experience in Nicaragua and now as a global area director for Latin America and Asia.
When you ask God to do something ten years in the future, you might forget about that request. But God won’t.
That’s what James Kim found to be true when he received an unexpected email from Resonate Global Mission (then Home Missions) asking if he had interest in planting a church.
Kim first considered the idea of becoming a church planter in 2006, when he was studying at Calvin Theological Seminary and began exploring what that path entails. Still, he wanted to gain some experience first.
“I wrote down in my prayer journal ‘Lord, I want to serve a local congregation for ten years before planting a church in the United States, so I asked for His blessing to help me find a church to prepare me for planting a church in ten years.”
Not long after that prayer, Kim received a call to serve at Trinity CRC in Anchorage, Alaska and six years later at New Hope CRC in Spokane, Washington. Then in may 2016— exactly ten years after his prayer—he received that email about planting a church.
“The ministries I was a part of were such a blessing to me and I had forgotten about my prayer,” says Kim. “But God didn’t.”
Kim ultimately said yes to church planting and in the beginning of August, he and his family made the coast to coast move from Washington to Syracuse, New York. Already Kim recognizes that God has equipped him to tackle opportunities for ministry in Syracuse.
“Anchorage was a melting pot of people from all nations,” reflects Kim. “And with a variety of ministry opportunities, I was able to help start a multiethnic community at the church.”
Now Kim will use these skills for another “melting pot” city—Syracuse. With large populations of immigrants and refugees from South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, students in the Syracuse school districts speak 70 different languages, according to one report Kim found when learning about the city.
Kim is excited about the idea of forming new partnerships to minister to this diverse population.
“Just walking around the grocery store on my first day here, I could see this was a multiethnic city,” says Kim. “I’m planning some conversations with local refugee organizations to talk about the possibility of mentoring.
When Kim moved from Alaska to Washington in 2012, his initial ministry plans fell through, but he now sees how that was another step to prepare him for Syracuse.
“I was beginning to wonder why God brought me to Washington but then our pastor got sick for three years,” says Kim. “ I was able to step in and serve as interim senior pastor. I now see that God brought me there to train me as a preacher.”
Now Kim will use his past experiences to develop similar ministries in Syracuse, along with some new endeavors as well. In all of this, he’ll have the partnership of Resonate Global Mission as well as his sending church, East Palmyra CRC. Kim will be officially commissioned at East Palmyra on August 26.
Also taking part in the commissioning service will be Marco Avila, Resonate’s regional mission leader in the Eastern United States. Marco is excited to see this new ministry take form along with other new church plants and ministries that are on the horizon.
“What I really like about James’ ministry is his comprehensive vision,” said Marco. “He has an open mind about ministry and I think that will help him engage with the wide variety of people in his community.”
Maria and Raul wanted to improve their community for the better, but the pastoral couple realized that they first should improve themselves.
Both pastors in Nicaragua, Maria and Raul were enrolled in the church renewal process offered by Resonate’s partners at the Nehemiah Center in Managua, Nicaragua. As they worked through the material, they realized that a church with healthy ministries started with healthy ministry leaders.
“Despite being married for 40 years, the couple realized they still had issues they wanted to work on,” says Steve Holtrop, a Resonate missionary who met the couple through their shared connection at the Nehemiah Center.
Maria and Raul decided to learn new ways to improve on their strong marital relationship at another class offered by the Nehemiah Center, a marriage workshop led by Luz Urania de Largaespada, the Nehemiah Center’s director.
Working through the training with several other couples, Raul and Maria learned to listen to one another’s needs and understand their own shortcomings. At the end of the class, they came up with two practical goals. Usually these goals are kept private, but the couple wanted to share their goals publicly in order to encourage others:
“I will watch less TV and dedicate more time to him,” wrote Maria.
“I will show more care/kindness/affection to my Spouse,” wrote Raul.
These seemingly small changes have helped Maria and Raul re-focus their marriage and in turn, improve their ability to serve their church and community.
“The marriage class has really been a building block for other ministry,” added Steve.
Maria and Raul’s willingness to improve themselves and experience at the Nehemiah Center illustrates the type of leadership that Steve sees as vital to bringing positive change to Nicaragua.
“Nicaraguans are always on the front lines, doing the preaching and teaching,” said Steve when describing ministry in Nicaragua. “They do a much better job. My role is to facilitate and keep these great conversations moving forward.”
As Raul and Maria move forward in their ministry, they’ll do so with a strong marital foundation. Thank you for your support for Resonate Global Mission that makes this type of ministry possible.
A group of 24 students already had five different teachers in their first two years of school. Five teachers who came and went. They had grown weary of meeting new teachers and many were acting out behaviorally because of it.
Although Hannah Damsteegt didn’t know this was what she was getting into when she signed up for her first year of teaching as a missionary with Resonate Global Mission at the International School of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, she quickly recognized that God had prepared her for this unique challenge.
“I’d spent the year before teaching at a difficult, inner-city school,” Hannah reflected. “At the time, I wasn’t sure how God was going to use that experience but that experience gave me strength and willingness in this new setting.”
Hannah spent the year navigating the challenge of catching her students up from class time lost amid the shuffling of so many new teachers as well as helping them trust that she wasn’t going to leave them.
Hannah says her Christian faith helped her know what to say to the students to make them stop fighting or misbehaving.
“I went back to the roots of Christianity,” she said. “I asked them if they would treat their brothers and sisters the way they were treating one another and reminded them that they are brothers and sisters [in Christ].”
Hannah’s fellow teachers also helped encourage her along the way.
“One of my co-workers wrote me a text message that made me feel so good,” said Hannah.” It is amazing that with just the few words she wrote how my spirit was lifted and brightened.”
Hannah plans to return to Tegucigalpa this fall, where she will have a new set of third grade students. Although they created several challenges in her first year of teaching overseas, her kids were still “always a highlight for me,” says Hannah. And she saw several signs that she was making a positive impact over the year.
On a particularly busy day—two tests, practice for a school program, and usual classroom work—Hannah told the kids that they might not have time for devotions.
Then she heard a small voice, a student named Jose. “What? No time for God?”
“The teacher had now become the student,” recalls Hannah. “I told the kids that Jose was right, that there was always time for God.”
Pray that this group of students will continue to grow spiritually and academically despite initial challenges they had at their school. Pray that God will prepare their next teacher, as this will be a new staff member at the school.