Preaching at Liberty For The Captives Church in Arua, Uganda

A Pastor To Missionaries

By: Jeanette Windle with Don Crowder

What does a pastor to missionaries do?

“Pretty well what I’ve always done,” explains BCM Minister-at-Large for Member Care Don Crowder. “The difference is that I now have a congregation of almost nine hundred scattered over five continents and the Caribbean.”

Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, Don Crowder’s first experience with BCM began as an elementary student sitting under the teaching of a BCM Canada missionary in a school Bible class. Though he’d felt God’s calling to be a pastor in his teens, he was forty when he finally attended Bible college. During his studies, he served one summer as head counselor at BCM Canada’s Millstream Bible Camp and Retreat Centre.

For the next twenty-five years, Don pastored four different churches in southern Ontario. He and his wife Cherlyn maintained close connections with various BCM Canada missionaries, including those who taught their own twin sons at school and church. In 2012, Don was invited to join the BCM Canada board.

Don was approaching retirement when he began praying over what God might still have for him in the future. Though his call to be a pastor hadn’t changed, he’d long felt two other callings on his heart—to travel internationally and to teach national pastors in countries where few pastors had Bible college or seminary training. He also had a burden for pastors and missionaries. While they served others, who pastored them?

Pastors Training Uganda

Don Teaching Chapel International Academy of Suriname

Sitting down with then-BCM president Dr. Marty Windle, Don asked bluntly, “Here is what is on my heart. Is there a place in BCM for someone like me and for this type of ministry?”

“Definitely,” Marty replied. “I’ve had just such a role in mind to provide member care for our personnel around the world. In other words, to be a pastor to our BCM missionaries and pastors around the world.”

In 2017, Don Crowder attended BCM candidate orientation and stepped from being a BCM Canada board member to fulltime missionary and pastor to the global BCM family. His new title “Minister-at-Large for Member Care.” As Don explains, his role entails basically being pastor and mentor to BCM missionaries and national pastors so they in turn can be healthy, happy, and productive in their ministries. Missionaries may be seen by many as Christian “super-heroes.” But they are also ordinary people who struggle with the same life issues as anyone else in addition to the unique challenges they may face in the cultures in which they serve.

“Marriage and family issues. Ministry team conflict. Cross-cultural misunderstandings. Temptation and sin. Persecution. Ill health, socio-political upheaval, and other crises. All these are no more foreign to missionaries and pastors than the average citizen,” Don elucidates. “Yet there is often no one who can walk with them as they navigate these stresses. The result is that they can’t thrive personally, infect those around them, and/or fall into temptation. In consequence, they can’t focus on their ministries and may end up leaving the ministry altogether with immense negative impact on God’s kingdom. This is not unique to BCM but is characteristic of missions in general.”

Don has been serving as pastor to the BCM global family for six years now. In that time, he has pastored, taught, and counseled at BCM regional conferences as well as one-on-one in Suriname, Panama, Spain, Germany, France, Poland, Netherlands, Ireland, Uganda and more. Thanks to modern technology, Don counsels and mentors BCM missionaries around the world from his own home office in Canada through Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, email, or phone call.

Don’s second calling of teaching and training national leadership has been realized as well. Workshops on teamwork and resisting sexual temptation in France. Spiritual development sessions for BCM candidate orientations in North America, Africa, South America, and Europe. Theology courses for students at Africa Renewal University, a Christian university in Uganda. All have given opportunity to exercise Don’s expository teaching gifts as well as pastoral.

Then in 2018, Don’s member care role expanded further. The International Academy of Suriname (IAS) is an English-language Christian school located in the Suriname capital of Paramaribo. Parents may be diplomats, United Nations personnel, employees of an international corporation, local government dignitaries, as well as a small percentage of missionaries. Most students are not from Christian homes, making IAS school a mission field in and of itself. BCM Suriname personnel have been involved with IAS over decades, enrolling their own children there and serving on the school board.

Don Crowder with BCM Ireland Personnel

Don Crowder Mentoring over Lunch – Uganda

In 2018, IAS requested a partnership with BCM. Urgent needs were qualified Christian teachers for the upcoming school year and a new director with a clear Christian testimony. Stepping in as interim director, Don Crowder set immediately to work reorganizing administration, recruiting new teachers, and ensuring through Bible classes and weekly chapel that all students regardless of religious background understood the gospel (see Reaching a Unique Community in Suriname, BCM World November 2019). When the Covid pandemic shut down in-person classes, Don returned to Canada, where he oversaw the transition to online classes and continued to give oversight as director for the next two school years.

More recently, Don’s prayer to reach and teach national pastors also came to fruition. With two others, he traveled to train more than two hundred pastors and church leaders in various regions of Uganda. Topics included the role of a pastor, spiritual development, shepherding God’s flock, spiritual gifts, models of church organization and growth, how to be an effective leader.

Don Crowder TV Interview – Uganda

Don discovered that most attending had no formal theological or pastoral training. But that made them even more eager to learn.

“The people I was teaching serve in churches, mission organizations, and itinerant ministry. They are children’s leaders, trainers of children’s workers, pastors, and evangelists. Many came great distances walking, cycling, and on motorcycles. They listened to my lectures attentively, making notes and asking practical questions so they would know how to apply the teaching we provided.”

Don continues to follow up with some of his students by Skype, Zoom, or phone and has already been invited by one Ugandan Bible college to teach some courses next year. He also emphasizes that he is always available in his role of member care, whether virtually or in-person.

“It has been interesting to learn these last six years that people are often asking for member care without knowing it. Their use of words and facial expressions indicate they need help, but there can be a stigma attached to asking for counseling or guidance. Many see it as a sign of weakness or disqualifier from ministry. But this shouldn’t be. We are all human. We all face challenges. We all need someone to come alongside us to encourage, pray, and advise.”

Don concludes with an invitation. “When you come into missions, specifically BCM, we want you to understand that we don’t just throw you out there to sink or swim but that there are people to walk through difficult periods with you. If you are a BCM missionary, pastor, and/or volunteer going through something difficult or just need someone to come alongside, lend a listening ear, pray with you, seek out a biblical perspective, or just offer encouragement, I am here for you. Just email me at  dcrowder@bcmintl.ca.”

Sendoff to BCM Don and Cherlyn Crowder at Right

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