A changed mind leads to changed hearts
Pastor & guest writer
Point Magazine // January 2022
John De Cleene put away his vibrant smile to grumble again. Trinity Bible College in Dunedin, Florida, where he studied, had invited yet another missionary to speak at chapel.
De Cleene loves living in the United States, especially when eating Snickers bars. He saw no reason to send motivated, mature Christians to serve outside America.
Bear in mind, Trinity not only trains missionaries to go ― but it also regularly invites them to speak about God’s work around the world.
As a student, and new Christian, De Cleene would even confront global workers after their chapel messages.
“The best and brightest shouldn’t go abroad,” is the kind of thing he said to them. “What a waste of God’s gifts.”
Another perspective, you could say
In California, a young woman in the Navy transferred from Washington, D.C. Lori had never been in a Bible-believing church until then. However, she loved the church and had a wonderful pastor.
“I told him I was going to be a missionary,” she said. The pastor and his wife had been missionaries for about 25 years before coming to California.
“You know, Lori, I think you should probably study the Bible a little more,” they suggested to her. They also encouraged her to learn more about missions. Finally, they gave her a biography of Adoniram Judson, who served in Burma in the early 1800s.
“I stayed up all night reading that biography,” she said. Plus, her pastor invested his knowledge in her and others and eventually encouraged her to study at Moody Bible Institute.
A Tale of Two Missionaries
Meanwhile, John De Cleene’s attitude hadn’t changed.
“I love the States, Snickers bars, electricity, the whole thing,” he said. “I went to Moody as a reluctant missionary.”
He felt God’s call into missions. But teaching kids was his plan for serving the Lord.
Then he met Lori at Moody.
“She wanted to be in missions,” he said. “All of a sudden, missions looked better than ever before,” he now jokes.
The two have been married since they finished at Moody. Four decades later, they’re Converge mobilization specialists who help new global workers prepare for international service.
One of the many reasons John and Lori help global workers is because they still have a heart for the world’s least-reached people who need to hear about Christ. Converge International Ministries is focused on the billions of people who have very little access to the gospel.
Moreover, a second reason the De Cleenes support global workers is to sustain their brothers and sisters in service. While the De Cleenes served in the Philippines, many missionaries ended their service early because the families were not prepared to live overseas. Many left for reasons that could have been avoided, the De Cleenes said.
So, now the De Cleenes continue the pattern Converge has always practiced: prepare missionary families well so that healthy global workers serve long and well to bring many to Christ.
Related: Converge missions ― we’re with you all the way
Lori’s confidence in God’s call resulted in 27 years in the Philippines. In their own ministry, the De Cleenes’ mobilization involved guidance and growth during those decades.
John’s first lesson came from a supportive pastor who shared that denominations don’t hinder the Lord’s work.
Newly married, the De Cleenes went to Columbia, South Carolina, to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary and Graduate School of Missions (now Columbia University). Dick Abrahamson, the Converge pastor who married them, asked if they wanted to be Converge missionaries.
“No,” John said. “They are liberal now or will be.”
In response, the pastor asked John if he had read Converge’s doctrinal statements. “No,” he answered.
“Have you met any of our missionaries?” the pastor asked. Again, John replied, “No.”
Then the pastor asked, “Should you say something like that?”
“No,” John answered him.
Related: Our beliefs
Part of John’s journey was learning how churches can be effective for the gospel.
“I had always been in churches as a music person,” he said. “So, I didn’t really know church that well.”
While studying at Columbia, he spent three months on a summer internship, working with a very people-oriented Filipino pastor. Lori had already been to the nation of islands.
“I really discovered the best way to reach the lost is through church planting,” he added. “After three months, I was enthusiastic about becoming a missionary.”
The lively smile of John De Cleene had replaced the grumbling. The Snickers-lover was heading out with the woman still fired up by Adoniram Judson’s devotion.
From Bible studies to TV programs
For 27 years, the De Cleenes served people in Cagayan de Oro on the Philippines’ Mindanao Island. At first, they served under a Filipino pastor, then focused on evangelism with Bible studies and even worship services in a shopping mall.
John joined the Rotary Club and met Chito and his wife, Ling Ling. Lori and John connected with them to share what God’s word said. They studied the Bible together so that the couple could hear from God. Over many years, Chito and Ling Ling started about 10 more Bible studies for others.
Related: Converge global workers make theological education accessible for everyone in the Philippines
Plus, they were related to the owners of a television station. That family invited the De Cleenes to do a TV show where they could share the gospel and teach the Scriptures.
“People were looking for Christ,” John said. “Hundreds of people got saved” through the TV program. This eventually led to the De Cleenes starting a Christian radio station.
Destroyed radio station and desperate questions
Fifteen years ago, the radio station in Cagayan de Oro burned down. It was a total loss. Yet, there was hope, thanks to the God who promised to meet all his people’s needs through the glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
First, the De Cleenes and their children cleared and cleaned as the station was destroyed by fire. Then carpenters and radio engineers began to rebuild.
Later, the radio station managed to get an amplifier. A Wisconsin radio engineer agreed to help the De Cleenes over Skype.
In the middle of the night in Cagayan, John had the 220-volt amplifier beside him and a 110-volt extension cord in one hand. As the engineer texted them and talked over Skype, they slowly started setting up the equipment.
Related: Facebook post leads to new believers, baptisms in Poland
During the call, the engineer in Wisconsin told John to plug in the coaxial cable.
“What’s a coaxial?” John responded in the darkness.
After a few hours of work, despite his inexperience and the thousands of miles between them, the equipment seemed ready.
So, Lori took off driving to get as far away as possible. She was determined to see how far the radio station broadcast Christian music.
“Our equipment was ancient,” she said.
Now, Moody ― where John reluctantly prepared for the mission field ― was supplying the very programs he broadcast on radio. The station the De Cleenes started continues to succeed in its ministry under the leadership of Filipinos.
Guiding just as much as going
Doing global ministry is close to the De Cleenes’ hearts, but they value guiding others into intercultural service. When they were in the Philippines, that meant sharing their resources, knowledge and experience with local brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Now, as Converge mobilization specialists, the pair help global workers. The path begins with the Missionary Discovery and Assessment. Then, the De Cleenes walk beside the global workers until they arrive in their country. They also support people in building partnerships, reading books and studying Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course.
So far, they’ve assisted more than 50 people since June 2017. They help these new global workers navigate all kinds of topics. Selling a home in the states or renting the house comes up. So does saying goodbye to and leaving family who aren’t Christians and family who are disciples.
Related: What missionaries desire most
“We consider it a privilege to meet missionary candidates and see how we can help them because of our experience and the training system Converge International Ministries has designed,” Lori said. “We spend a lot of time answering questions, helping them with a letter and working through other details.”
Even though the De Cleenes are back in the land of Snickers bars, they are full of stories and hope for the people saying yes to sharing Jesus around the world. The two travel to Orlando three to four times a year for Converge’s Missionary Discovery & Assessment. And they’re always available by phone, just like Bill Grant was for them more than 30 years ago.
No more wondering
“It’s amazing when the Lord asks you to do something how he provides the people to do it,” John said. “That station is a total miracle. Hundreds of people became Christians.”
From their home in Minneapolis, the De Cleenes support Converge global workers through text messages and video calls, so that many more can meet, know and follow Jesus.
“We enjoy continuing what Converge has always practiced: to prepare global workers well for God’s glory so that healthy global workers can serve long and well to bring many to Christ,” John said.
For John, there’s no more wondering about Converge global work. He and Lori learned years ago that God never wastes talent. They’ve seen him work miracles time and again through Converge global workers. And they’re doing everything possible to support and prepare more and more workers for the field.
Converge International Ministries is praying for a gospel movement among every least-reached people group – in our generation. Find out how you and your church can make a global gospel impact and help people of all colors, cultures and classes meet, know and follow Jesus.
Ben Greene, Pastor & guest writer
Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.Additional articles by Ben Greene