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Our Journey from Pastor to Missionary and Back

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By Mike Juntunen 

Thanksgiving display in the Romanian church.

After thirty years of pastoring in the U.S., God called us to be missionaries to Hungary and Romania, where we were introduced to new cultures that changed the ways we saw ministry. The first thing we noticed was the way the Open Bible churches, both in Hungary and Romania, went out of their way to help us get settled into our new homes. They helped us find an apartment and went with us to get utilities hooked up and all the other legal things that were required to live in their country. We have often thought since then that churches in the United States may be missing out on a ministry opportunity. Could we do a better job of helping new residents to our communities, especially those who are from a different culture and do not speak the language well? 

Another thing that impacted us was listening to the stories of the older saints. Both Hungary and Romania are former communist countries. It was sobering to hear the testimonies of those who experienced persecution, imprisonment, and loss of jobs and property because of their faith. It was fascinating to hear these old saints pray. They knew how to enter the throne room of heaven when they prayed. 

One cultural difference we noticed was their attitude towards time. Americans tend to be very time conscious and expect things to begin and end on time. Our language classes at the University in Debrecen were filled with students from many countries. It became a joke that the American, German, and Japanese students would arrive to class early while the other European students would usually come late. Although they followed schedules and made appointments, relationships were more important than schedules. As a result of that cultural difference, we learned to be flexible and “go with the flow.” For example, one time we were planning on getting some work done at home when we received a call from a member of the church. They stated that a family was planning a picnic and wanted to meet us, and they wondered if we would be interested in joining them. We said we would like that and asked when the picnic was, and they said, “Now!” So we changed our plans and went to the picnic. 

Sándor and Margó Pántye

Of course, the main challenge was learning a new language and adapting to new foods and different ways of doing things. It did not take us long to realize that the American way is not always the best way and that just because something is different does not mean it is wrong; it is just different. We grew to enjoy the different food and culture of our new home. 

As far as the impact our ministry had upon the people of the countries in which we ministered, we often heard testimonies of how thankful they were that we would leave our home and family to come and minister to them. They especially appreciated that we would make the effort to learn their language and live among them, that their home country became our home also.  

What thrilled us the most was seeing the growth of those who studied INSTE. It was exciting to see their hunger to learn the Word of God and to watch them become involved in the work of the church, even taking on leadership roles. One example is Sándor and Margó Pántye. They have been faithful in the Open Bible Church in Debrecen, Hungary, for years. Sándor played the guitar on the worship team, and Margó served in small ways where needed. Since graduating Level One INSTE, however, they have both become more involved in ministering in the Open Bible churches in the villages. Sándor leads worship while Margó has stepped up into a role of teacher.  

This only makes us realize, though, that we are still missionaries regardless of which country we are in. 

During our thirteen years as missionaries, we have often thought of Jesus’ words: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29, ESV). This is definitely true for us because we have developed many, many close friendships that will last forever. 

Now that we have moved back to the U.S., how has the transition been for us and how has our ministry been affected by our experiences overseas? There has been a little “culture shock” upon returning to the U.S., especially in the grocery stores when we see the aisles filled with so many options. In fact, sometimes the number of choices we have can be overwhelming. Also, America is not the same country it was when we left thirteen years ago. Even though we have been following the news from overseas, it is still disheartening to see what has happened to our country. This only makes us realize, though, that we are still missionaries regardless of which country we are in.  

As we begin our new ministry in the church here in Hardin, Montana, one of the things that we are bringing back with us is a change in our focus. Our emphasis will not be on developing programs to enlarge the size of the congregation but will instead be on building up people. A major emphasis will be on prayer, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and discipling people so they will be spiritually healthy enough to disciple others. We believe that as we center our attention on these areas, God will add to the church daily those who are being saved (Acts 2:47).

About the Author

An Open Bible College graduate, Mike Juntunen and his wife, Nancy, pastored in various Open Bible churches for thirty years before being appointed as Open Bible missionaries in 2007. Mike served as the Director of INSTE in Hungary for eleven years and mentored the new pastor of the Open Bible Church in Gherla, Romania, for the past two years. The Juntunens have recently moved back to the United States and serve as the pastors of the Church of the Open Bible in Hardin, Montana.  

Around the World

How Japan is Powerfully Engaging the Next Generation

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Discipling the next generation has been a value of Open Bible since its inception, and this commitment has been shown through a variety of Global Missions initiatives worldwide. From orphanages in India, to schools in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia, to feeding kitchens throughout Latin America, to working with teenage inmates in Mexico, to youth camps in Ukraine and Uganda, Open Bible intentionally invests in children and youth. Across cultures, both traditional and culturally specific approaches are employed by Open Bible churches. The common theme in all these initiatives is to reach, disciple, and engage the next generation for the Kingdom of God! 

Japan is one of several countries where exciting things are happening because of Next Gen investment. Despite Christians making up less than one percent of the population, Japan Open Bible Churches show profound commitment and creativity in reaching beyond the four walls of their churches to the next generation.  

A special time of youth worship

Japan churches have made it a priority to actively address social needs, enhancing their accessibility to the community. Machida Bible Church in the Tokyo area, pastored by Yutaka and Sakie Yoshinaga, hosts a monthly “Curry Day,” tackling the issue of children eating alone at night due to their parents’ work schedules. This event invites children to join church members for affordable curry rice in a warm, welcoming space. The aim of such initiatives is to present the church as a safe haven and to foster meaningful relationships with neighborhood families.  

In a similar effort to connect with the community’s elementary-aged children, Machida Bible appeals to their sweet tooth! Once a month they transform the church into a “Sweet Cafe,” giving all attendees coupons to exchange for tasty treats. Church members then invite children to participate in other activities such as dance, playing musical instruments, sports, and games. The Sweet Cafe has proven to be a welcoming space for both children and mothers with young children. 

Despite Christians making up less than one percent of the population, Japan Open Bible Churches show profound commitment and creativity in reaching beyond the four walls of their churches to the next generation.

In modern Japan, mastering English is more than just a practical skill; it is an effective way to engage students who might not typically associate with Christianity and to introduce them to Jesus. Church English classes use conventional language acquisition methods alongside unconventional ones, such as praise songs, dance, camps, and Christmas programs. Additionally, monthly student-parent gatherings feature illustrated Bible stories and related activities. These English classes resonate with Japanese youth, and Open Bible Japan welcomes native English-speaking missionaries to join them in this venture. 

Laying the foundation for faith and discipleship is a priority, and Sunday School is where much of this happens in Japan’s Open Bible churches. However, it is the active participation in ministry – even for the younger generation – that solidifies that foundation. Therefore, elementary students regularly participate in Sunday worship teams, playing the drums, the guitar, or keyboards. Church youth groups also form “Mission Go” teams to support smaller churches in youth evangelism initiatives. These teams have helped run a basketball clinic for the community’s youth and assist in local children’s ministries.  

Japanese youth in Thailand for a mission trip

Partnering with Open Bible missionaries in Thailand, Japanese youth take part in mission trips. These cross-cultural experiences leave a profound impact on their lives. One teen noted, “I led the worship time and thought to myself, ‘I’m praising God in another country!’ I was deeply moved by how sincerely the people worshipped and my tears flowed uncontrollably.” Another participant remarked, “I could see the strong tie between Thai Buddhism and their landmarks. I realized the similarities with Japan and that we must pray that these places in both Thailand and Japan be dedicated to God rather than idols.” Japanese youth’s active participation on mission trips helps deepen their faith, encourage gift development, and give perspective on how to effectively pray for other cultures. Japan’s ministry to and through its children is a powerful testimony to what can happen when we entrust the gospel to the next generation.  

Students learning English proudly display their work alongside their teachers

For some, ministry to children and youth is seen as secondary. Global Missions’ dedication to fostering a legacy of faith to the next generation is more than commendable; it is biblical. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt. 19:14 NIV). Thank you for your support of Open Bible churches worldwide through the investment of prayer, time, energy, and finance as we seek to reach, disciple, and engage the next generation for the Kingdom of God!

About the Author

Tammy Swailes

Tammy Swailes is passionate about cross-cultural Christian education, so working with INSTE Global Bible College to disciple and equip leaders throughout Europe and beyond is a great fit! Tammy has lived in Europe since 1999 – first in Hungary and now Ukraine. Before that, she was in Japan as well as Spokane, Washington. She now serves as INSTE regional director in Europe, assisting INSTE programs in five languages. Tammy has her undergraduate degrees in both Missions and Christian Education, and a MA in Intercultural Studies. Photography, good coffee, multi-cultural experiences, and the family’s Yorkie are some of Tammy’s favorite things. 

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Cuba: No Embargoes on God’s Presence! 

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Attend one worship service at Pastor David Moreno’s Open Bible church in Guanajay and you’ll quickly find there are no limitations or “embargoes” on God’s presence in Cuba. Rich worship, inspirational teaching, and the robust moving of the Holy Spirit are enduring hallmarks of Pastor David’s church, Templo Evangelico de la Biblia Abierta. This flagship church reflects what God is doing in and through Open Bible Churches across the country of Cuba.  

Southeast Regional Director Nathan Hagan shares with the Cuban church members

The spiritual health of this church belies the fragility of life in Cuba. Scarcity of food and medication, heavy fuel rationing, and steep inflation ─ over 30% last year ─ define their grave economic reality. These conditions have already pushed hundreds of thousands of Cubans to leave their homeland in a daring quest for a better life. 
 
Open Bible’s 149 Cuban churches are much more than houses of worship. Beyond offering crucial salvation and discipleship, they are community centers, helping to fill the gaps for the people they serve. Daily they provide miraculously obtained food and other essential items so desperately needed by the Cuban people.  

As the director of Mission Esperanza, over the past year I have had the privilege of partnering with Pastor David, who also serves as the president of Open Bible in Cuba, and his national leadership team. Mission Esperanza’s call is to serve and encourage the Cuban people and churches by facilitating pastoral leadership conferences, assisting in the construction of churches, and shipping essential items from the U.S. 

In February 2024, I led a group of nine Open Bible pastors and leaders on a vision trip to Cuba. I was grateful that Open Bible President Michael Nortune was able to be part of that group. Pastor David ferried us around for three days, visiting several Cuban Open Bible churches and pastors and helping our group to learn firsthand of the hardships and opportunities in Cuba. A real highlight of the trip was hearing President Nortune preach in Pastor David’s church that Sunday morning. He delivered a Holy Spirit inspired message of encouragement and issued a biblical challenge that was enthusiastically received in the crowded sanctuary. 

President Nortune prays over local Cuban pastors

Previously, in October 2023, Mission Esperanza held our first Pastors Conference with 350 pastors and church leaders in attendance. Pastor Aaron Keller (Des Moines, IA) joined me in hosting our conference speaking team of Pastor Raul Escalante (Sunrise, FL), Pastor Pablo Urra (Miami, FL), and Pastors Marcelo and Bernarda Rodriguez (Grecia, Costa Rica). The Lord moved powerfully through our gifted speakers, each one covering ministry subjects particularly relevant to Cuban churches and the failing Cuban society. That our speakers were all fluent in Spanish and understood the Latin culture multiplied their ministry effectiveness. Many times, sessions concluded with prayer at the altar during our three-day conference. I was blessed watching Mission Esperanza’s team move across the sanctuary praying with our Cuban brothers and sisters as they poured out their praise and ardent petitions to our Heavenly Father. Time paused as the Holy Spirit filled the hearts of His people. I have received many reports of the blessing of last October’s conference, praise the Lord! Mission Esperanza is looking forward to our next conference scheduled for May 2024, where we anticipate another 250 pastors and leaders from a different region in Cuba. 

Certainly, Cuba needs our prayers and support. Please prayerfully consider supporting the people and churches in Cuba by giving through Global Missions’ Mission Venture Plan (MVP). There are two ways you can bless Cuba under the MVP category of Humanitarian Aid. You can give a one-time amount to the “Cuba Aid” fund, or you can give monthly by selecting Cuba Adopt-A-Church.This program is a $30 to $50 monthly commitment, which will support a local pastor and church.  
 
The Church is growing rapidly in Cuba. People are coming to Christ across the country, new churches are being planted every year, disciples are being made, and 350 students are being trained and equipped for ministry. Recently, while discussing the Lord’s work in Cuba, President Nortune reminded me, “The story continues, and we all can be part of it.”   

The needs are great, but just as there are no spiritual embargoes in Cuba, there are no limitations in Christ! 

*Credit for all photographs goes to Tim Wedhe.

About the Author

David Bethany

David Bethany is a follower of Jesus Christ. He is blessed by his wife, Carla, and is dad to four adult children and “papa” to eight energetic grandchildren. David is the Director of Mission Esperanza and has been the Construction Director for MOVE Ministries for the past thirty-one years. He owns a construction consulting firm in Los Angeles and attends Village Church. 

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Church Planting Continues to Multiply in West Africa 

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Rich Kopp lives by these words, and the evidence is in the fruitful church planting plan he helped launch in West Africa.

Rich, an Open Bible minister, church planter, missionary-at-large, and co-founder of the Church Planting Academy, collaborates with other experienced church planters to train teams of new church planters in Ghana and Liberia. Beginning this fall, they will be expanding into Kenya.

A recent graduating class of the Church Planting Academy.

It all started in 2014 when Twum Bosiako, Open Bible’s director in Ghana, invited Rich to Ghana to hold evangelistic meetings. While Rich was there, Twum, who also happened to be Rich’s Bible college friend from the early 1970’s, lamented the declining numbers of churches in Ghana. As they conversed, the Holy Spirit reminded Rich of a church planting plan he helped write years earlier. While a good plan, it never got off the ground in the United States. What if it could work in Africa? After praying, teaming up with another friend, Nick Mahabir, and contextualizing the program for Africa, Rich and his team launched the first month-long Church Planting Academy in Ghana in 2016.

Kofi Gyansah and Dominic Darkwa were part of that first group of students. At the Academy, two prospective church planters are partnered together to sit, learn, take tests, and get evaluated as two-member teams. After a month of training, they’re sent out as a team to plant a new church. Many graduates plant churches in their own communities in unchurched areas, allowing them to continue to support their families. Others go to outlying communities where there is no Gospel witness or where there are believers who aren’t able to attend church regularly because of distance.

Graduates of the Church Planting Academy have begun no fewer than twenty churches in Ghana and Liberia in just under eight years.

Kofi and Dominic started their church plant in their nearby community in Kumasi, a city in the south. Today, Kofi’s and Dominic’s church is a thriving church plant full of young people. Their church is expecting to send out church planters soon to plant yet another church. Kofi was invited to become a member of the Academy’s teaching team with Rich and Nick and has since begun leading Open Bible’s church planting ventures and the Academy in Ghana.

The Church Planting Academy produced such good fruit in Ghana that Open Bible’s churches in Liberia wanted to use the training. Victor Dayougar went through the Academy in Liberia and co-planted a church. Rich and Nick invited Victor to teach the evangelism aspect of the Academy training because he was especially gifted in this area. More than just theoretical lessons, Victor’s coursework included hands-on evangelization in the surrounding villages. After taking the first course, teams of two went out and a few days later were able to baptize three of the new converts in the lagoon! What a fantastic way to top off their “homework” assignment!

One of the many church plants started by a Church Planting Academy graduate.

Graduates of the Church Planting Academy have begun no fewer than twenty churches in Ghana and Liberia in just under eight years. In 2024 the Academy will begin in Kenya. Only God knows where He will lead next. These African churches and communities are as diverse as the teams that plant them. But the seeds of the Gospel are sown and grown into the communities, bringing in a harvest. Rich and Twum could never have imagined that God would use their 50-year-old Bible college friendship and a forgotten church planting plan to rekindle the passion for church planting in West Africa.  

Want to invest in the West African church plants? Check out their MVP Giving pages HERE:

Rich & Patti Kopp (Ghana)

Ghana Church Planting Academy


Tammy Swailes

Tammy Swailes is passionate about cross-cultural Christian education, so working with INSTE Global Bible College to disciple and equip leaders throughout Europe and beyond is a great fit! Tammy has lived in Europe since 1999 – first in Hungary and now Ukraine. Before that, she was in Japan, as well as Spokane, Washington. She now serves as INSTE regional director in Europe, assisting INSTE programs in five languages. Tammy has her undergraduate degrees in both Missions and Christian Education, and a MA in Intercultural Studies. Photography, good coffee, multi-cultural experiences, and the family’s Yorkie are some of Tammy’s favorite things. 

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