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Alumnus to open churches in Tunisia

Oct. 12, 2005

by KELLY MYERS, reporter

Isaiah Kronstad will spend two years of his life in an unfamiliar country, where people dress and act differently.

He'll be planting churches, but he doesn't even speak their language.

This scenario may frighten some, but it will be reality for Kronstad, a Baylor alumnus, when he arrives in the African country Tunisia on Jan. 17.

"I've always had a heart for missions," Kronstad said. "In fact, I thought I'd be going into the ministry right out of high school. But God opened the doors for me to go to Baylor instead."

While doing missions work, Kronstad wanted to have a practical skill to fall back on. He wasted no time doing it, graduating in May 2004 with a social work degree.

After graduation, Kronstad enrolled in Antioch Training School for nine months of instruction. The teachers there prepare students for traveling overseas to plant churches.

"We don't go to build a building. The vision is ... to start a church through relational evangelism," Kronstad said. "Coming out of college, I figured that I'd probably end up overseas. I didn't really see myself in the United States, and I didn't see myself not working in the ministry."

After two short-term mission trips to Tunisia, Kronstad had established connections with a team of four people who were already there. In a matter of months, he and five others will make the journey to live in Africa for the next two years.

"Isaiah has held the nations in his heart for a long time," Kronstad's roommate Jonathan Lair said. "He's ordered his life in such a way as to get there, and I think that's pretty cool."

Kronstad said Tunisia is more like the Middle East than the rest of Africa. He said it's considered to be part of the Arab world because 99 percent of the country is classified as Muslim, and at least 80 percent have never heard the full Gospel.

"There are only about 100 Tunisian Christians who are actually a part of a church out of a country of 10 million people," Kronstad said. "So I figure it'd be a good way to spend some years of my life with people who don't have a good chance of hearing about Jesus."

He said it's not as strict as Afghanistan because it's been Westernized to an extent. He also said it's still a Muslim country, and the Islamic culture is ingrained in their lives and their backgrounds. Some women wear head coverings, and many of the people face the possibility of persecution.

"The people are fearful ... fearful of losing their jobs ... and also fearful of the government," Kronstad said. "It's a big deal."

Since the majority of Tunisians speak Arabic, Kronstad and fellow team members will have a private tutor. The idea is to communicate in their "heart language," Kronstad said.

Kronstad's only break during the two years will be to renew his visa every four months. He believes it'll be easy to make new friends and looks forward to new experiences.

"Isaiah's crazy," Kronstad's roommate Cole Marshall said. "When he wants to do something, he goes out and does it. One time he wanted to learn back flips, so he went out front and did them."

While Kronstad is excited about his upcoming journey, he said he knows it won't be easy. He's responsible for raising financial support from his family and friends. And even though he's committed for two years, he plans to remain devoted to the cause.

Kronstad said the long-term goal is to "raise up a Tunisian pastor and turn the church over to his national leadership." That way, they can continue on without the help of Americans. His hope is for the church to do the same in other parts of Tunisia, and eventually the world.

In the end, Kronstad thinks he'll spend the majority of the rest of his life planting churches overseas.

"I'm aware that God can change my direction," Kronstad said. "But when there's literally billions of people who've never heard the gospel, I figure it'd be a good investment of my life."