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New Horizons

Missionary Impossible

David Winslow and Kathleen Winslow

Accustomed to bouncing along dirt roads toward church services, work sites, and classes, this look-alike for the resourceful MacGyver kept up a crazy, impossible schedule!

Imagine: four work sites and a VBS program, thirty gringos, two or three beat-up old vans, and only a handful of bilingual interpreters (including his three sons and one daughter) to translate directions for drywalling, mudding, electrical wiring, and pouring concrete. Add to that seventy-five PB & J sandwiches, a couple hundred flyers inviting folks to church, the tools needed at each work site, and thirty-five brief showers when evening comes—and you've got the makings of a summer day with Missionary Impossible himself.

Twenty-seven years of missionary labor in Mexico's border city of Tijuana came to a conclusion in 2009 when the Rev. David Crum was called north of the border to begin serving as the regional home missionary (RHM) of the Presbytery of Southern California. He and his wife Jane (and their children Tim, Mike, Adrian, and Jana) worked in relative obscurity, unknown to the OPC as a whole, because they served as foreign missionaries of a presbytery, rather than of the denomination. Yet their influence for the gospel has been felt far beyond Baja California.

Where did Mark Bube track down Tony Curto to recruit him as a missionary for Uganda? He found him in the Crum home, participating in a three-day mission trip to Tijuana. Where did Dave Okken whet his appetite for the foreign mission field? He served as one of Dave Crum's team leaders on Team Baja for several years.

The hundreds of young Orthodox Presbyterians who participated in Team Baja over the last twenty-one years came from across the denomination. They traveled from Alaska, Maine, Florida, and especially the Midwest and California to participate in two weeks of exposure to foreign missions. They labored in diaconal-type construction projects, taught VBS and English classes, distributed tracts, and practiced Spanish with their Mexican host families—doing anything that Dave thought could help advance the gospel among the growing number of churches and mission works which he was serving as an evangelist.

So where are some of Team Baja's graduates now?

  • Dave is a young ruling elder and a member of the OPC's Committee on Diaconal Ministries. He has been instrumental in starting other mission teams. Have you heard of Team Praha and Team Haiti?
  • Jamie is a writer for World magazine and served as a leader on Team Haiti 2008.
  • Kathleen is a Christian school teacher. She dreams of teaching school in a Spanish-speaking culture.
  • Faith is a mother. She met and fell in love with her future husband on Team Baja, despite (or was it because of?!) the strict rules about romantic involvements during the team's ministry in Mexico.
  • David is a young OP minister of the gospel, serving in the Northeast.
  • Phil is a deacon who found his wife under the Crums' watchful eyes.
  • Esther, a veteran of thirteen teams, is married to the brother of an OP minister from the Midwest.
  • Ken is a yearlong intern in Ohio, on his way to becoming an OP minister. He led Team Praha in 2007.
  • Emily is a nursing student and a leader of Team Haiti 2009.

These are just a few of the many who can testify to the godly influence that Dave and Jane Crum have had in their lives during the past quarter century. There are many more unnamed "living letters," known to readers of New Horizons around the world.

As a denomination, we can give thanks to the Lord that Dave Crum, in his ministry in Mexico, drew so many hundreds of us alongside to serve, even for a brief time. In using this servant, God has surely enlarged the harvest of righteousness. The hallelujahs that will resound at the resurrection will include a beautiful harmony of Spanish and English that can be traced to Baja California.

In God's good providence, the opportunity to become the presbytery's third regional home missionary (after Tony Curto and Don Poundstone) came at a time when Dave could see that his work in Tijuana was approaching an important milestone: a local presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Mexico is almost ready to be formed. At the same time, a bilingual RHM may be just the instrument God will use during the next decade to strengthen the Presbytery of Southern California in its outreach to the many Spanish-speaking immigrants from Latin America. So, in the first half of 2009, Dave and Jane packed up and moved north. They leave behind many friends and even their son Tim, who continues to live in Tijuana.

On March 28, the Presbytery of Southern California officially installed Mr. Crum as the RHM in a service which filled the Westminster, California, church to overflowing. Participating in the service were pastors Roger Wagner, Zach Keele, and Armando Ponce. Mr. Ponce had labored in gospel ministry with Mr. Crum for over twenty-five years in Tijuana.

Missionary Impossible Dave Crum has served Christ and his church in the confidence that with God all things are possible. Whatever the circumstances, Dave's life has echoed Paul's prayer for Philemon, that as believers we might be "active in sharing (our) faith, so that (we) will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ" (vs. 6 NIV).

David Winslow is a ruling elder at the OP churches in Westminster and Big Bear Lake, Calif. His daughter, Kathleen, is a Team Baja alumna and a Christian school teacher. Reprinted from New Horizons, August 2009.

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