Global ICN has churches in six regions; Africa, Asia Pacific, Eurasia, Europe, Latin America/Caribbean and Northern Asia.
Each region now has a ‘champion’ whose role it is to help gather international churches into the network and create connection.
This month, in a ‘Question & Answer’ format, we feature Charles Porter, the champion of our Africa Region, and his church, The Ocean International Community in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where he serves as pastor.
Q: How long have you been involved in international church work?
A: You might say I’ve been involved with international churches my whole life. My dad planted a church in Luxembourg city in 1982 that was home to dozens of nationalities. Our current ministry began in 2008 when we planted the Ocean International Community Church, or the Ocean for short.
Q: Is Tanzania your first mission assignment or have you served elsewhere?
A: Previously, we served in the Sudan and for a short while in Kenya.
Q: How old is your church, about how many members do you have and about how many nations are represented?
A: The Ocean is officially a little over 4 years old. We don’t know all the nations represented, but a quick count was over 25 nations. One Sundays, we run a little under 500 people between 2 campuses and 3.5 services (one is a live video/live music service).
Q: What do you feel makes your church special or unique when people are looking for an international church?
A: Internationals in our city love the community emphasis. There is a commonality of discomfort and loneliness among internationals. There is also a common experience of struggle with cultural adaptation that brings an immediate bond. The ability to make Tanzanian friends in a non-stressful environment like work is also a huge draw. Most internationals not trained as cross-cultural workers but want to make a difference. Then, there is a large contingent of our community that is Tanzanian, and they relate more to the urban, international culture than their parents village culture.
Our uniqueness is the international nature, but the local missional flavor. The Ocean isn’t a refuge from local culture. Its a missional community trying to present Jesus and shape the surrounding culture with Kingdom values. We use media particularly to stand out from the crowd. We do theater, train in the marketplace with media, and we do business trainings. Our current project is a coffee shop and media lab. Its fun!
Q: What are your thoughts about Global ICN and how it will help you and other international churches/pastors connect?
A: The world is a very fluid place, and people end up moving quite a lot. Having a resource to advise people on possible places to connect spiritually will be very valuable for thousands of people who find themselves in the expat community. Everyone knows it nice to have someone to talk to who understands your unique stresses. For pastors, that makes them a little less unique and a little more bearable.
Q: What are the challenges of serving in international church ministry in Tanzania? In Africa?
A: Certainly communication. Trying to communicate without easy access to common metaphors is sometimes tough. Thank goodness for soccer and TV shows that everyone knows. But we aren’t just communicating cross-culturall, we are communicating multi-culturally every single time we have a gathering. And oftentimes communication is non-verbal. Who leads? Who stands up front? Who gets featured in add, brochures, videos?
Being a local church, we face all the usual challenges of a large gathering of people every wee. Nursery, Kids ministry, staffing areas, etc but without the free access to all the local resources because our use of english limits our pool of qualified people to serve in certain areas. We are now like many other churches facing space issues. We are dealing with 2 campuses and multiple services.
I think the challenges we face are honestly more urban than african. Land is expensive in urban areas. Locations for rent are limited, especially as you grow. Remaining close to the heart of Jesus while keep the message fresh and relevant are challenges we all face.
Q: Do you have a favorite resource (book you are currently reading, website you visit frequently, etc.) that you’d like to share with the group?
A: I don’t have one resource, I’m a pretty fanatical self development guy. The best resource would be a Kindle, then second an iPod. Books and podcasts keep me fresh. I follow lots of people on Twitter, and browse interesting links from there. I ask questions and look at the business bestseller lists on Amazon, and try to see what people I respect are liking and referencing, then find that. If people want to contact me, I’d love to suggest a whole bunch of stuff.
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