Monday, August 8, 2016

Alumni Profile: Evangelist to Britain

Benjamin & Anna Wontrop
If "Brexit" was the catchword for Britain's recent vote to exit from the European Union, "Brentrance" might be the catchword for 2016 GPTS graduate Benjamin Wontrop, an American who has been called to missions work in Great Britain.

Benjamin, who has spent enough time in England to have picked up an authentic use of the "King's English," will be laboring as the associate pastor at Bury St. Edmunds Presbyterian Church. Bury St. Edmunds is a member church of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England andWales, where a particular focus of his ministry will be evangelism. It may come as a surprise to many to read of missionaries being sent to the country that gave us the Westminster Standards and the writings of many of our fathers in the faith. But, today, many towns in England no longer have even one church that preaches the gospel. It is no longer the missions-sending powerhouse it once was, and it needs missionaries to be sent to it!
Abbey Gardens in Bury St. Edmunds

Bury St. Edmunds Presbyterian Church is situated about an hour and a half from London in the ancient town of Bury St. Edmunds. The town was once the capital of a Saxon kingdom and was also strongly influenced by Puritanism. Yet, today, it is full of men, women, and children who have little to no exposure to the gospel. Although the congregation is thankful for the opportunity to be a temporary home for several U.S. Air Force families, it is very small (around 10 core members).

In the mission fields of Bury St. Edmunds
About two years ago the church was replanted. The congregation called a new minister (Matthew Jolley), relocated to a community center in the middle of a neighborhood of almost entirely unchurched people, and began several outreach efforts. The members have used a combination of practical love and gospel proclamation to make significant inroads into this community. Yet their vision is not so much that the community might be transformed (in worldly terms) but that men, women, and children might see the loveliness of the triune God who has dealt decisively with their sin and opened a way to live in communion with Him. In a place where sin has left deep marks, the church desires to see a vital, growing congregation centered on the Word of God in worship and practice, a congregation marked by the fear of God and love for those made in His image.

In the past few months, there have seen several professions of faith, about 70 unchurched teenagers regularly come to an evangelistic youth group, and a number of older ladies are studying the Bible for the first time in many years with the minister at a morning coffee. Along with these activities, there are many other opportunities for ministry; however, the small core of members is unable to sustain the level of outreach that is needed for the church to survive. Under these circumstances, the congregation has called Benjamin as an associate pastor to help with and expand the church’s outreach efforts.

Toward this end Bury St. Edmunds Presbyterian Church is able to provide a partial salary for the Wontrops. But Benjamin and his wife, Anna, a native Brit, need to raise around $20,400 in additional annual support and also $17,500 in onetime support. Benjamin can be reached at bwontrop@gmail.com or you can find out more information about them on the website of their sending agency, Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship: pefministry.org/Site/Wontrop.html