From the time Steve Van Zanen and his wife, Chris, left Lithuania in 2003 to finish raising their children in the U.S., they had hoped and prayed that they would be able to return.
Now that their three children are grown, the Van Zanens are planning to return later this summer to Klaipeda, Lithuania, where he will once again teach at LCC International University, the only Christian liberal arts university in the former Soviet Union.
When they left, LCC was a college serving Lithuanians primarily, and now it is an international university.
“Our previous service at Lithuania Christian College was a time of rich and fruitful ministry,” said Van Zanen, who currently serves as Director for Missions Education and Engagement for Christian Reformed World Missions.
“From the day that we left in 2003, we wondered whether God might someday open the door for us to serve there again. Now He has.”
LCC offered him a position teaching in its theology department, including a required course for third-year students and advanced courses.
When he was at LCC before, the overwhelming majority of students came from Lithuania. Now, nearly 60 percent of the students come from outside Lithuania. Nearly 30 countries are represented.
“Like their predecessors, many LCC students have little prior exposure to Christian faith. Not all become Christians, of course, but all experience some of the richness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which provides holistic Good News for individuals, communities, and the world,” Van Zanen writes in a brochure describing his ministry.
While most students attend LCC to obtain business, English and social science degrees, a portion “come to the school with a living faith, some aiming for full or part-time ministry,” he says.
Van Zanen says, once in Lithuania, he will also have a broader role in the Europe team of Christian Reformed World Missions which includes missionaries in six countries.
His wife expects to serve in human resources, assisting expatriate staff and faculty as they adjust to life and work in Lithuania.
She will also provide hospitality for students and may explore the development of service-learning opportunities for LCC students.
Like other new career missionaries with Christian Reformed World Missions, Van Zanen will need to help raise 90 percent of an individualized budget. He views this change as an opportunity to connect churches and individuals with God’s work in Eastern Europe.
“If it weren’t for the 2020 missionary support goals, there would not be a career position in Lithuania. It would have been eliminated along with other open positions due to the decline in Ministry Shares giving,” he says.
Van Zanen, who recently earned his D.Min. from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill., says he believes a Christian witness is sorely needed in Eastern Europe today. “For many, communism has been replaced by Western secularism.
“One of the big developments in our world is the need to be global citizens to relate cross culturally in a healthy way,” he says. “LCC is a unique setting in which to become a global citizen.”