I wrote this letter initially on April 27, 2023. And while that may seem like any ordinary day, for me, it marks the day in 2007 that I decided to surrender my life to Christ and his love. After years of atheism fueled by hurt, anger, resentment, and pride, I finally fell into the arms of Christ, admitting my brokenness and proclaiming that I wanted to journey with Him through life.
What a journey it has been.
About a year after I accepted Christ’s love and forgiveness, I prayerfully decided to leave my career path in software design and development to pursue full time ministry. For the last 15 years, almost of all of it together with Lyndee, many of my days and nights have been spent helping others see and experience the goodness of God so they too can find their assurance in a lifelong relationship with Him. The methods have been myriad: high school ministry, campus ministry, Celebrate Recovery, church planting, small groups, marriage mentoring, retreats, and a few targeted outreach efforts to different groups of people, including young people struggling with mental health, international students, artists, addicts, golfers, and those impacted heavily by COVID-19. We have been able to lead many to Christ, baptizing them, while also commissioning over thirty others to make disciples in the same way as part and full time vocational ministers themselves.
Since 2016, we have partnered together with Mike and Robyn Carnill and the team at Abide Ministries to perform all the necessary financial and managerial operations for our various endeavors. Abide has been incredible, and one of the key factors in our successes. From 2016-2018, we operated our ministries under Abide’s 501c3 umbrella for simplicity and accountability. Then, in 2019, together with my longtime friend and ministry partner Amanda Kozlowski, we joined Abide as full time organizational staff, moving all donations into the general fund of Abide as we helped to grow the entire organization together while navigating the challenging ministerial landscape of COVID. For the last four years, together with the Carnills, we helped Abide grow from 8 branches to 25, working to develop its organizational and operational capacity and serve many more people with a calling from God to grow His Kingdom.
However, as exciting as it has been to see Abide flourish as an organization, and as grateful as I have been to be part of its staff, I found myself yearning to be back in the soil with those God was calling into ministry, planting new works with them shoulder to shoulder instead of principally at an operational level. I longed to be out in the field with them; not just advising, but also doing the initial work alongside them, one new minister and ministry endeavor at a time. Thankfully, the Carnills and Abide team as a whole have encouraged both Amanda and I, along with our families, to begin a new branch within Abide called Zera unto this purpose.
Zera exists to cultivate new initiatives in metro Detroit that help people who feel far from God become mature followers of Jesus, with a goal of launching 20 new initiatives producing new followers of Jesus by 2050. Specifically, these initiatives will be designed to help people who do not actively follow Jesus become Christ followers, baptizing them with the purpose of going to make disciples of others, who will in turn do the same. The word Zera is the Hebrew word for seed, which is important to describe this work for two reasons. First, we believe it is our call to work with one leader and one team at a time for one year to seed their effort well, so it yields a rich harvest from its humble beginnings. This includes prayer, coaching, encouragement, and financial support to the ministry we are helping to start that year. Second, the biological definition of maturity is being able to reproduce, and a seed is the evidence that something is mature. We will know our efforts have been successful when someone who has started following Jesus at the influence of these initiatives begins to help others follow Jesus as well. Lyndee and I, along with the Kozlowskis, are thrilled about the road ahead of us. We have multiple candidates we are ready to invite into our application process for summer 2023, and each presents a beautiful possibility for new kingdom workers and a rich harvest!
We at Abide all believe this one-at-a-time, high-accountability, hands-on ministry building approach is best served by functioning as its own ministry within the Abide network. That’s why we are asking if you continue to desire to support us as we venture forward, you do one simple thing: click this link and send this email to Abide stating you want all current and future donations to go to Zera. If you give by check, simply change the memo to say Zera, and all your funds will continue to support us as we move forward.
Let me close with this: 16 years ago, I could never have envisioned the life I have now, nor the rich and loving network of relationships God’s kingdom has yielded. Whatever tears we have sown in the difficult moments along the way, we have reaped in joy at the richness of the harvest we have seen as God’s Kingdom grows. As it has been the last 15 years, it is our hope that for the next 25 years we get to make it our work to invest deeply in people like Kyle Vens, the current leader of Cultivate and someone whose ministry we helped seed at Oakland University. Just in these last two weeks, I wept as Kyle told me how people he had discipled and baptized at Oakland University were now discipling and baptizing others within their own campus ministries. Ten years ago, a campus ministry making disciples was a dream many of you were helping to support in its infancy; now, it is a thriving network of Jesus followers living out the Great Commission with solid and loving leadership, and that is just one piece of many in what God has been able to do through all of us together. It is a gift to be part of the work of God in the lives of others, and it is with your prayer and financial support that you have activated God’s work in so many people so deeply.
I pray this letter finds you well, and we hope to connect with you soon! If you want to schedule any time to talk or meet to catch up or ask questions, go to www.calendly.com/zeraminstries. I would love to meet with you!
Cam and Lyndee Underdown