Expanding the Kingdom in the East Region

I met Father Andrew Wyns, with the Charismatic Episcopal Church (CEC), at one of his favorite eating spots, The Jamaican. I ate one of the best fish sandwiches I have ever had. Grant, the chef, greeted Andrew as an old friend. Hanging out with Father Wyns made me an instant insider. 

We connected to finalize a partnership with the CEC to plant a church in Newburgh, NY. The Bishop of the North East Region gave his blessing for the partnership so it became official. Father Wyns is a World Impact Associate in the East Region planting Christ The King Church in Newburgh, NY.  

Walking through Newburgh together definitely reminded me of the need for the transforming work of the Gospel. Sixty percent of the most violent cities in America with a population of 200,000 or more are situated in World Impact’s East Region. Newburgh is ranked 15th. This region also claims 67% of the most impoverished cities in America. Seeing these cities transformed can seem like a daunting task. Our national directive to plant 100 churches in each region by 2021 is bold, fresh and challenging. I have leaned upon several simple Kingdom truths in leading our mission and vision that have kept me “sane” (although some would question my sanity!) and ever moving us forward. Let me share one of these eternal Kingdom truths as it has most recently been seared in my spirit again.

In February of this year I saw a video that deeply moved me. Islamic State (ISIS) militants slaughtered 21 Egyptian Christians. “We had a hope that they would be released,” said a brother of one of the martyrs a day after the news was released, “But the will of God was for them to be martyrs of Christ, and that is better than life. They were martyred in the name of Jesus Christ. They kept the faith until the last moment. They didn't deny the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are proud of them.” I have read Foxes Book of Martyrs, but seeing this video was different. The faces of these 21 Brothers in Christ, walking along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea with their executioners, had such clarity, a peace, a confidence that caused them to be unwavering to the point of a knife to their throats. It gripped me. What made these men, and the men, women, and children throughout the Church history, unwavering? This imprinted picture of these martyrs reminded me again of a Kingdom truth and that also is the theme for this year’s retreats: Unshakable Kingdom! Unwavering Warrior!

I believe these 21 Coptic Christians were unwavering because they saw clearly the unshakable Kingdom of God (Hebrews 12:28). When I look at the Eastern Front, its massive territory and the relentless work of the kingdom of darkness, this truth strengthens my spirit and pushes me toward His calling through World Impact. The more clearly we see what is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18) the more our feeble feet will be strengthened for the task (Isaiah 35).

There is much that can be pulled from these verses, but Hebrews 13:14 sums it up without my fumbling attempt to expand on this one Kingdom truth: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” Our prayers, our initiatives, our labors are all focused on the gospel being God’s power for transformation, but here we have no unshakable city. Our city is the Kingdom city to come. We are passing through.   

Yes, we are committed to transforming our cities. There are cities in the Eastern Front that we believe will reflect the indigenous passion of the church in Thessalonica where Paul says of them, “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.”   

Newburgh just may be that city and Father Wyns is the unwavering warrior for the task.

Bob Engel is the Vice President of World Impact's East Region.