Bringing Global Mission Experience to Calvin Seminary
Published by Calvin Seminary
Calvin Theological Seminary has been equipping “individuals for biblically faithful and contextually effective ministry of the Word”1 for more than 145 years, and countless CTS graduates have gone on to serve as missionaries in pastoral and lay leadership capacities across the globe.
We are grateful that many of these graduates have returned to Calvin Seminary to serve in our Distinguished Missionary-in-Residence program. This program, which was started in 2010, is open to missionaries who have served outside the United States and Canada for a minimum of four years and are now transitioning to a life in North America.
Our missionaries-in-residence teach or participate in courses, give lectures on missions and related subjects, and interact closely with faculty members and students. By sharing their life lessons and global ministry experiences with the CTS community, they play a significant role in preparing current students to serve in culturally diverse contexts.
In this article, we have selected five missionaries who have served in the Missionary-in-Residence program at Calvin Seminary in the last 10 years to share their experiences, including the call to global ministry and how their global ministry context experiences might have prepared CTS students to serve in culturally diverse contexts.
Ann Kapteyn, MTS 1993
Ann Kapteyn served with Wycliffe Bible Translators for almost 25 years where her job was to help local translators improve their translation to be more exegetically accurate. Her calling to this ministry was a combination of growing up and living in various global contexts as a child including England, Australia and a local Hispanic community in Arizona. Combining her theological education, the study of languages, and cross-cultural experiences, Kapteyn’s calling into Bible translation ministry was a great fit. As a missionary she served in Brazil, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic.
Transitioning to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from living overseas, Kapteyn joined Calvin Seminary as a missionary-in-residence for two years from 2016 to 2018. During this time, she taught a couple of courses which, she says “explored cultural differences and how we might present the Good News differently or minister differently from culture to culture.” She also led discussions in language classes, demonstrating how languages around the world work differently from English and from Greek and Hebrew and the challenges that arise in Bible translation to various languages. Kapteyn shared one of her cultural lessons with students: “We learned that some cultures focus on guilt and innocence, whereas others put more emphasis on shame and honor or fear and power. We also noted that all of these themes are present in the Scriptures, and that different cultures will notice and pull out different themes in Scripture.”
Kapytey also learned from her experience: “I loved interacting with students at Calvin Seminary in the context of formation groups and ESL groups, and my life was enriched by these interactions.”
Kapteyn continues to serve in Bible translation with SIL and has since earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Albert Strydhorst, MDiv. 1993
Albert Strydhorst served as a missionary-in-residence from 2012 to 2014. His calling to serve as a missionary grew from his cross-cultural experiences during the mid-80s while at the Reformed Bible College (now Kuyper College) and after a year-long internship in Nigeria in 1990 as a Calvin Seminary student. Strydhorst and his wife Carolyn felt drawn to ministry among unreached people and served among the Avadi people of Northwestern Nigeria for seven years, following which he served as Director of Christian Reformed World Mission (now Resonate Global Mission) from 2000 to 2012.
Reflecting on his experience of being a front-line missionary reaching people in Nigeria and connecting with Nigerian churches for partnership in ministry, Strydhorst shared his greatest lesson for students discerning their call to global mission work as follows:
“My experience among unreached people in West Africa – the Avadi of Nigeria and the Fulani of Mali and Guinea
– helped me to communicate to students at CTS the urgency of gospel communication to those who have never heard. At the same time, my connection with large and missionary- sending churches of Nigeria helped me to communicate that missions is not a matter of ‘from the west to the rest,’ but is ‘from everywhere to everywhere.’” Strydhorst also reminded students that ministry means that “we are partners in ministry with others from around the globe; interdependence is needed in missions activity today more than ever.”
After his time as a missionary- in-residence, Strydhorst has continued serving the global church through the Timothy Leadership Training (TLT), now under RaiseUp Global Ministries, a ministry of the CRCNA.
Jeff Bos, MDiv. 2003
Jeff Bos served as missionary-in-residence for one year from July 2017 to June 2018. Reflecting on his call to global missions, Bos shares that during his Seminary years he “struggled with God” but through a yearlong internship in Bangladesh, sponsored by Christian Reformed World Missions (now Renotate Global), his calling to go to God’s world became clearer. Bos said: “What had led me to seminary was a search for Truth and for God. What led me away from home in North America to South Asia was a search for myself. I found God and myself in the urban jungles of Dhaka from 2003-2017.”
Reflecting on how his global mission experience helped him equip students for their calling within or outside the North American context, Bos shared the following:
“I preach and teach a God who lives among and in the poor, the destitute and the marginalized. I saw joy in the slums that I couldn’t fathom. If wealthy persons, like myself, are going to fit through the eye of the needle, then we need to get out and go down because that is the direction that justice flows. If the Kingdom of God is for the poor, then the best place to seek it is among the poor.”
Bos also observed that the global church in Bangladesh and the diaspora Christian community living among Muslims in Oman, places where Bos has served, have “a hope and a faith that North Americans desperately need,” in other words, North Americans have the opportunity to learn from the global church.
After one year as a missionary-in-residence, Bos returned to global mission work and is currently serving in the Sultanate of Oman at the Al Amana Center.
Troy Bierma, MDiv. 2005, ThM 2007
Troy Bierma served as a missionary-in-residence in 2017 to 2019. Growing up in a Christain home in Sioux Center Iowa, Bierma experienced the Holy Spirit stirring up a restlessness in him that led him to relocate first for work to the Netherlands and then to Australia and New Zealand. For the first time, Bierma experienced a new language and a culture and he felt the world opening up in new ways that led him to think deeply about his childhood faith. During his travels, Bierma engaged in spiritual conversations with “fellow wanderers” who were also searching for their calling and faith. This led him to Kuyper College and then Calvin Seminary where God affirmed his calling to serve unreached people groups.
After a yearlong internship in the Philippines, Bierma and his wife Faith served as missionaries in Bangladesh and Nepal for ten years. On returning to the United States as a missionary- in-residence at Calvin Seminary, Bierma shared his experiences of engaging with non-Christian religions and worldviews. His conversations with students at CTS had an impact that he describes as follows:
“Classroom engagement and casual conversations helped several students consider their own potential calling abroad, as well as the increasingly cross-cultural and religious nature of ministry in North America.”
At the end of his service as a missionary-in- residence, Bierma went to serve as the Resident Outreach Pastor at Church of the Servant, Grand Rapids, and Co-Director of Grounds/ Facilities Manager at the Hermitage. Bierma is also currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam).
Stan Kruis, MDiv. 1984
Stan Kruis has served as a missionary-in- residence since July 2021 and plans to go through June 2023. Kruis’ call to the missionary field was as a result of meeting a family that was serving in Australia and hearing about their work overseas. While at Calvin Seminary as a student he joined the Missions Club and had a missions professor, with both experiences drawing him more towards missions. Seeking to affirm his calling, Kruis signed up for a year of service in the Philippines and later returned as a missionary for long-term service where he served for 26 years in the Philippines and three years in China.
As a missionary-in-residence, Kruis strives to bring stories about ministry that are both realistic and balanced, sharing both the joys and the challenges of ministry. He further reflects on the impact of his ministry on student formation at Calvin Seminary:
“My experience in several mission contexts enables me to challenge students with perspectives, values, and cultural patterns that they otherwise may not have considered. This sometimes includes perspectives on Scripture passages that challenge them to think in new ways. For example, through my experience and understanding of different ‘cultural lenses’ I may be able to challenge them to critique North American values and practices that the church tends to accept without much question. These challenges will help students serve with greater wisdom whether in North America or elsewhere [and] also deal with the cultural diversity they will face in this continent.”
Margaret Mwenda, Ph.D.
Chief Operation Officer
Visit Calvin Theological Seminary’s Campus
We can’t wait to host you on campus! Schedule your visit today, or, if you need more time to find a date that works for you, please request information so we can continue the conversation about supporting your calling!