New Wilmington, PA

While at a Presbyterian-sponsored prayer group, a teenager in Caracas, Venezuela, heard God calling him to share the gospel beyond his own culture. Over the years, God faithfully provided training, experience, and Christian mentors to prepare this young man to share the light of Christ worldwide.

Today this man, Juan Sarmiento, is the evangelism catalyst for Presbyterian World Mission. He leads one of the three critical global initiatives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This initiative, Train Leaders for Community Transformation, is an international movement to grow the church by training and empowering Christian leaders around the world.

He illustrates the goal of the church’s international evangelism efforts using the acronym DEEP:

Developing 2,000 leaders around the world by 2017 to do
Evangelism in community-transforming ways,
Empowered by a Reformed contextual theology in
Partnership with over 70 sister denominations and schools.

“God’s mission is moving forward,” Sarmiento said during a service at the New Wilmington Mission Conference in western Pennsylvania Thursday evening. “More than 95 million people worldwide can track their faith journey to the work of Presbyterians in the United States.”

Sarmiento shared the story of Samuel A. Moffett, missionary to Korea, who began the Presbyterian Theological Seminary with two students in his home in 1901. This year the PC(USA) celebrates 130 years of mission service to Korea. In South Korea today, because of the faithful witness of mission workers like Sam Moffett and many others, there are roughly 20.5 million Christians; of those, more than 9 million are Presbyterians. Korea is now second in missionary sending, after the United States, with more than 20,000 missionaries currently serving in 170 countries.

“So when we set out to be light in the world, we do not do it as people who have it all together or who have the right knowledge and understanding of things,” Sarmiento says. “We do it as people who are willing to share our own lives with the world.”

The boat made stops along the Nile River for distribution of Bibles, songbooks, and teaching materials.

The boat made stops along the Nile River for distribution of Bibles, songbooks, and teaching materials. —Presbyterian Archives

In Egypt, the first seminary started on a boat because missionaries were not allowed to establish teaching institutions on Egyptian soil. In the morning the students studied Scripture, and in the afternoons they demonstrated the love of Christ through service. Now, more than 150 years later, the Egyptian government is providing land for the Presbyterian Church in Egypt to build churches and schools. Today the church in Egypt has about 1,100 congregations and around 500,000 members, Sarmiento says.

 “When we think of training leaders, we just don’t train them for the sake of keeping things running,” Sarmiento says. “We train them for the sake of showing the world the love of Jesus Christ.

“My dream is that over the next couple years, we as US Presbyterians will work together for that purpose.”

He says that “empowering” does not mean giving power to people who had none, but rather recognizing and freeing the power that is there. To do this, he says, we need to focus on three things: a sense of belonging, a sincere life together, and ministry in partnership as fellow travelers on life’s journey.

Sarimento ended his talk with two questions: “Who are you empowering?” and “Who are you being empowered by?” He suggested identifying two possible mentors to keep God’s mission moving forward.

Watch a video of Sarmiento’s full presentation.

Sarmiento and Atef Gendy, president of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, are co-leading a workshop titled “Lessons from Egypt” at Big Tent. The event is being held July 30–Aug. 1 on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville. The workshop will be offered twice: July 31 at 1:30 p.m. and Aug. 1 at 9:45 a.m. 

For details on the Train Leaders for Community Transformation critical global initiative, visit To connect with others involved in the campaign, use the deepleaders hashtag (#deepleaders) on Twitter. To help spread the good news of the gospel, consider supporting the work of more than 30 PC(USA) mission co-workers dedicated to training leaders.