This week, Carol Bremer-Bennett was ratified with a unanimous vote by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church to oversee the U.S. operations of World Renew, the denomination’s international development, disaster, and justice ministry.
Bremer-Bennett joins Ida Kaastra Mutoigo, World Renew’s Canadian Director, in providing leadership and oversight to the organization’s $38 million ministry in 35 countries around the world.
In her address to Synod, Bremer-Bennett referenced Romans 8:22, mentioning her personal journey of adoption and inviting the denomination and its representatives to “groan with World Renew as we work to restore freedom to those who are bound by poverty and hunger, and celebrate together the coming kingdom of God.”
Bremer-Bennett will transition into the U.S. directorship next month, replacing Andrew Ryskamp who is retiring after serving with World Renew for 41 years, the last 17 as U.S. Director. Bremer-Bennett’s appointment comes after a wide-ranging executive search process that included interviews in May with the World Renew Board of Directors and the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s Board of Trustees.
“Carol has excelled as a servant leader in Christian ministry,” says World Renew’s U.S. Board Chair, Jodi Cole Meyer. “She has a deep passion for justice and addressing poverty as well as a wealth of practical experience in approaching its root causes…. We are excited by her heart for empowering people and continuing World Renew’s amazing work. We are looking forward to working with her as she uses her skills, abilities, and talents as the U.S. Director of World Renew.”
Bremer-Bennett, 46, is the first woman and the first Native American to lead the organization in the U.S., and the fifth individual to take the U.S. directorship since the organization’s incorporation as the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) in 1962.
Her extensive experience in Christian ministry spans more than 20 years of organizational leadership, leadership development, and administration in a variety of teaching, principal, superintendent, and director positions in the Rehoboth, New Mexico, Christian school system. She began at Rehoboth in 1993 and has been superintendent since 2010.
Bremer-Bennett is an educator by training, with an M.A. in educational leadership from Western New Mexico University in Gallup. She has served on the Calvin College Board of Trustees and served as a deacon. She and her family are members of Rehoboth CRC in Rehoboth, N.M.
Her leadership style is based on the servant leadership of Jesus, she says. “Sometimes you have to just dig in and do the work, like washing the disciples’ feet. Other times you have to go up on the mountain and speak. Other times you’re walking alongside people and being very relational,” she said.
Bremer-Bennett says her early relationships were formed by her childhood in West Michigan when she was adopted as an infant by Paul and Jackie Bremer. Her father worked at Reformed Bible College (now Kuyper College). After graduating from Calvin College, she headed to New Mexico to explore her Navajo heritage. She found her place when a Navajo leader ceremonially adopted her as his sister, and she understood that being accepted a beloved child of God is her true identity.
Adoptions have played an ongoing role in her family. Five of her six children are adopted. She and husband Theo Bremer-Bennett have three children of Navajo descent and three of Ethiopian descent. Their younger children, who range in age from 7 to 28, will be making the transition back to West Michigan with their parents in late July.
“I am deeply honored by Synod’s confirmation this week,” Bremer-Bennett says, “and I anticipate the months and years ahead with great joy and hope as I become part of the life-changing work that World Renew accomplishes by caring for the orphaned, widowed, displaced, hungry, and neediest people of the world.”
World Renew is a faith-based non-profit that works each year in more than 40 developing countries to address poverty, hunger, and injustice through development programs and disaster response. These programs are carried out through local Christian partner organizations and churches and supported by World Renew’s generous constituents in North America and its alliances with well-established networks of government and non-government organizations worldwide.
(Some material adapted from www.thebanner.org/news/2015/05/world-renew-us-gets-new-director.)