This summer we'll be hearing from a few missionaries on home service about their call to missions, what life is like as field staff, and their ministries around the globe.
“It was an accident,” says Caspar Geisterfer when I ask how he was called to missions, “but we saw it as a new adventure, we were unafraid.” It was an accident that resulted in 32 years and counting of field work in 3 countries overseas with no intention of turning back. Caspar and his wife, Leanne, are currently working in Honduras, Caspar for World Missions and Leanne for World Renew.
Caspar and Leanne met shortly after returning from time spent abroad. Caspar had lived in Nairobi for a summer working with Ugandan refugees and Leanne had studied abroad in Spain. They moved back to Grand Rapids as neighbors and shortly thereafter met, fell in love, and got married. Caspar was searching for a job as a social worker, but in the cultural climate of the 80’s he had trouble finding work as a white male in a society growing increasingly conscious of the rights of women and minorities. Leanne got a job with World Renew (then known as CRWRC) in the Dominican Republic, so they decided to move, never second-guessing their decision. Their son, Reuben, was born in the Dominican Republic, and they soon moved to Haiti where he was raised. While in Haiti, Caspar attended Calvin seminary, finishing in 7 years while traveling back and forth from home, in Haiti, to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Now Leanne and Caspar live in Honduras where Caspar focuses mainly on the second generation of church members. Caspar calls Honduras a “historical field”. World Missions has been working there for 40 years; they have established 80 churches totaling 7,000 people. However, the church is dependent on the missionaries and trying to “wean” them off of North American support is challenging. Further, the youth are not following in the evangelical footsteps of their parents. Honduras is a violent country, boasting the highest murder rate on the planet. People live in fear, and this fear is manifested in the youth due to a high rate of gang activity and violence among young people. The church closes itself off from the youth out fear and becomes complacent, driving away young people. Caspar acknowledges that often he, too, is afraid, but this does not change the fact that the youth need to be reached, and his bravery can set an example. One program used in Honduras to reach young people is called IMPACT (read stories about IMPACT clubs in Honduras here and here), a ministry that started in Romania and has spread across the world. Impact Clubs focus on reaching marginalized kids: giving them leadership in the programs, participating in mentorship partnerships, and engaging in community service. Caspar cites that 900 kids are involved in the Impact clubs he is connected to. “It’s going gangbusters.”
“If you saw me in the mall what would you think?” Caspar asks me. “I don’t identify with young people. I’m bald, I’m fat, I’m old. But I’ve grown to connect with them. I’ve crossed the threshold; I’ve gained credibility in time.” Perhaps the youth can feel his compassion and sense his authenticity—he is passionate about bringing them back to Christ, this is his ministry, and he will not be driven by the same fear that many of their parents are crippled by.
Regardless of being on home service in Grand Rapids, visiting his son in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, or living in Honduras, Caspar explains that the challenge is always the same, for him and for us. Every Christian is pulled between two cultures—our Christian culture and the culture of the secular world, and we lie in the “already but not yet”, residing in a world permeated by secular culture and called to transform it with God’s culture. Caspar calls this “straddling the gap”. We are pulled both ways, towards materialism, selfishness, and pride, meanwhile striving to bring love, justice, faith, and transformation to our fallen world. We may be living in the world, but we are called not to be consumed by it. We may have a foot in each realm, but we cannot let ourselves be pulled too far, we must straddle the gap. The challenge is figuring out how to do this anywhere, and it is a challenge for Caspar just as it is for you and me. Caspar says at times he is tempted more by the secular realm, and at times it is easier to focus on God’s kingdom. Although this struggle looks different for him in Honduras than it may look for us, he insists that this is our universal struggle as Christians.
Caspar continues to face this challenge in Honduras, especially with youth. He is honest about the difficulty of life at times, he fears for his aging parents and misses his son in Canada, and loneliness is always close by. However, Caspar continues his ministry with perseverance, even if he isn’t living the life he expected. “I get to see the depth and breadth of God’s kingdom,” Caspar explains, “and it’s pure gold.”
Caspar Geisterfer is on home service in Grand Rapids through late June. For more information about his ministry, visit his missions profile.