Rebirth in Eau Claire

In the summer of the year 2000, God led my family to the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, where we are currently carrying out our mission work. Eau Claire is a small city of 60,000 people, and the university has about 10,500 students. The campus is like the Garden of Eden, with a river surrounded by trees flowing through the middle. Many of the students are filled with spiritual desire, and there are several very active and fruitful Christian ministries on campus.

We worked hard in serving students with a vision to build a fruitful house-church ministry that would please God. After doing this for about eight years, the ministry grew to the point where we had five couples faithfully attending the worship service, along with a few American and international students.

But rather than taking pride in outward success, the Lord wanted to purify and sanctify our hearts.

In the summer of 2008, a serious disagreement arose among us regarding the direction of our ministry. Since we had come to America with a clear calling for campus ministry, we had naturally encouraged our house church members to evangelize and disciple students on campus. They themselves had been students, and they had been helped and blessed through campus ministry. But once they established familes and bore children, their hearts turned to their families and children, and they frequently complained about our emphasis and dedication to student ministry.

This criticism was difficult to bear. But God eventually helped us to realize, and to deeply repent, that we had been burdening our house church members and seeking to use them to bolster our own vanity and sinful ambitions. So we sent out an email to everyone, expressing our sincere apology and repentance, and announced the closing of our house church. We blessed everyone and urged them to find churches that would fit their individual callings and preferences.

Through this painful event, I came to experience God who sees everything. He saw that we had been serving our ministry with deeply hidden greed and selfish ambition. In due time, he had to cleanse us through fiery trial and tribulation.

Then a funny thing happened. As the summer of 2008 came to an end, several students returned from summer break and asked, “When are you going to have worship services again?”

We accepted this as God’s leading and reopened our house church. Before long, all the seats in our house were occupied with students who sincerely desired to grow and were actually growing as disciples of Christ. When we offered our Isaac to God, he graciously gave Isaac back. We experienced God’s unfailing grace and power. Despite all of our failures, he carried out his redemptive work and disciple-making ministry on his own.

Ever since that happened, we have resolved to accept and help anyone whom God sends to us, without worrying about whether or not they will eventually stay with us and help us to build our ministry. And the flood of American students continues. This past spring semester, in the midst of my busy schedule as a full-time professor, I was having 15 one-to-one Bible studies each week. Even during the summer break, I was still seeing about 10 Bible students each week. My wife Sarah cooks every day to host students in our home. By their own initiative, these students have been bringing their friends to our dinner table and eventually to one-to-one Bible study.

This past semester, six young men were taking turns delivering messages at our Sunday worship services. I had almost no chance to deliver a message myself.

Once we laid down our vain conceits and sinful ambitions to build our own ministry, we found ourselves becoming very busy, very joyful, quite fruitful and very free in God’s vast and abundant vineyard.

Through these experiences, we have also come to realize what it truly means to become “servants of God.” A few years ago, Dr. Robert Coleman, the author of The Master Plan of Evangelism, spoke at a UBF national staff conference. During his speech, he said, “Once you are known as a servant, you will never lack people to disciple.” When we were seeking only to increase the size of our ministry, we were not acting as servants. When we were causing the hearts of our coworkers to be burdened by our repeated emphasis on student ministry, we were not acting as servants. No wonder we didn’t have many people to serve back then! Who would want to come and learn from conceited people, with pride and ambition hidden deep in their souls?

The trial we experienced in the summer of 2008 was painful and humiliating. But now we look back on it and see that it was the most beautiful thing that could have happened to our lives. God allowed this to happen in order to purge from our hearts, once and for all, the hidden motives that were hindering us from becoming true servants and shepherds of his flock. We pray that God will continue to purify our souls and make us humble servants, suitable to take part in his redemptive work at UW-Eau Claire.


  1. Brian Karcher
    Brian Karcher

    Excellent testimony! Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Thank you for sharing your pains and repentant spirit with us. I am touched by your honesty in what you called your ministry’s “Isaac” of sacrifice.

  3. Maria Peace

    Wow! Praise Jesus! It doesn’t sound real. But its amazing how God works. The way he does ministry doesn’t make sense. I mean close down a ministry and to open it up again by the students own initiative. Let go and let God. I think God knows better how to run a ministry than we do. Thank you so much for sharing this painful and yet resurrecting testimony.:)

  4. Jennifer Espinola

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful testimony. This is the kind of testimony that I believe our church should hear more often. The process of bearing fruit and growing in our inner character and relationships with others is so much more vital than the sought after result of x number Bible studies, disciples or SWS attendants. UBF has been my church now for 13 years and although i love and thank God for bringing me here, I have also witnessed and been party to the ugly side of this ministry where our desire for spiritual success leads to pride and hurtful practices towards our coworkers and students. Somehow, i hope that testimonies such as yours will redefine what we call “fruitful ministries” to emphasize a fellowship that truly communicates love, honesty, and respect for every member.

  5. Fantastic! Thank you Dr. Nahm for your testimony. The clear, living water is flowing in Eau Claire. I’ll never forget that you sent along a beautiful wedding present to my wife Maria and me.

    It’s funny how God doesn’t micromanage us, but we attempt to micromanage his work, and to a certain extent, God (which, just to state the obvious, is impossible). I’ve been asking myself why this happens? Why do we treat others and ourselves based on the Law while God treats us with nothing but 100% grace?

    Praying that God will send many more open-hearted students your way!

  6. Abraham Nial
    Abraham Nial

    Greatly encouraging testimony! How wonderful it is to let the Spirit of God lead and take control of our lives and ministries instead of vainly trying to lead and control Him to fulfill my agenda.

  7. Thank you Abraham for the beautiful story of the rebirth of Eau Claire ministry. When I visited Eau Claire several years ago, I witnessed the wonderful work of God through one family in a quiet college town. After fiery trial, God blessed your ministry newly in his own way. I am amazed the voluntary spirit of the students who has stewardship of the ministry. Pray that you may continue to have servant leadership and Sarah may have good health serving many students with delicious meals. Recently Dr John Armstrong posted about house churches in America in his website.

  8. Hannah Love

    Thank you so much for this encouraging testimony. I’m amazed by God’s divine leading in your life and in your ministry. Without humility it is impossible to take care of a few people, let alone a church. People can see right through our arrogance and greed, though we try to hide it with ‘godliness’. I pray that we can all learn from your personal experience and be led by the Holy Spirit rather than tradition and rules. I believe when we humbly lay everything before our Lord, He can work so much more greater in our lives. By holding onto our own ideas and ways we give very little room to the Holy Spirit to work.
    Thanks again

  9. Greg Impink

    There are a lot of things this ministry is good for, and there are a lot of things it is not. I’m so glad you could release members that didn’t feel fed. I hope they are happy wherever they went. It seems like as soon as you let go of what you wanted, God granted you what you needed.

  10. Joshua WH Yoon

    Abraham, thanks for sharing your story of pain and joy. The Lord led you to make one step back to be able make two or more steps forward. It was good that you took time off to take a fresh look on God’s calling and a direction for the ministry. We should be aware that campus mission is precious but not everybody who comes to our ministry and enjoys the Bible study and our community receives a call for campus mission. I agree that we have been selfish in that we tried to hold people in UBF ministry thinking it is the best and most important ministry with expectaction instead of sending them to local churches and other ministries with blessing according to God’s leading. If we count how many UBF people started their walk with God in local churches and other ministries, there are quite a few. We should be grateful to the Lord for using us if the students whom we loved and served go to other churches and ministries. UBF should not be the destination of one’s faith journey. It is only one of many members of the body of Christ. There are many other precious ministires and churches God is using for his world mission purpose. We should be humble to acknowledge the limit of our ministry. A few years go I decided to send students with blessing according to God’s leading and a conviction in their hearts, God blessed me with freedom and peace. One of the sad things is that many of those who left UBF ministry have been regarded as if they had abandoned their faith. I am glad that the Lord freed you from UBF box and gave you genuine heart to serve the people God sends to you. I want to encourage you to keep the pure motive of serving people regardless the size of the ministry and the number of disciples raised. When I decided not to hold anyone even the most beloved disciple and my own children, God gave me freedom and they participate in God’s work not with a sense of obligation but in freedom. Those who graduated and went to another city and church are still connected to us. Our ultimate goal is to please our Lord and expand His kingdom to the end of the earth, not just to promote the organizational goal such as raising 10,000 Phd shepherds or sending out 100,000 missionaries. May God bless your life and ministry 100 times as you love Him and serve Him only.

  11. Abraham, I didn’t realize it when you published this article, but I’ve been going through a nearly identical “house church” experience. I re-read this just now. Thanks again for sharing this.

  12. Hi Abraham, Thank you for your wonderful testimony. I would not know what to do with 15 Bible studies a week. God bless you.