CN Interviews: Catching Up With Derek Dunn
City News caught up with Derek Dunn, senior pastor of City Harvest Church, Orange County in California, USA for a chat about his church and family.
Five years ago, City Harvest Church pastor Derek Dunn, together with his wife Susan and their three children, returned to his hometown in Atlanta, Georgia, USA to attend to his ailing mother. Sixteen months later, Dunn started City Harvest Church, Orange County, a vision he had had for seven years. In August this year, Dunn returned to reconnect with Asia and attend CHC Singapore’s 27th anniversary celebration.
City News: Pastor Derek, what were you up to on this trip?
Derek Dun: I was back for three weeks; Susan came a week earlier. On this trip I was really reconnecting with Asia. I’ve been away for five years. In the first few years of CHC-OC it was quite hard to travel, so this year I really want to reconnect with this part of the world. I felt the call, so I went to Taiwan and ministered in three churches and a Bible School over four days. It was great to see the fruits of the Crossover Project and the ministry over there. I wanted to offer support and help to them, especially Christ Harvest Church. It is a very young church and we CHC-OC are one year older than they are, so I just want to go and encourage them, help them along the journey, given our experience.
We did a marriage conference here in Singapore with the ladies from Susan’s women’s ministry–some of them are from CHC and some from other places. It was the first time we did a marriage conference together!
How is CHC-OC doing?
Church is doing well. We just crossed three years and 80 percent of the churches in the Western world don’t make it over three years. It’s a huge landmark for us.
God gave us a building this year. We were a mobile church setting up every week in a cinema. In 2015, we felt God said, “I’m giving you a building”, so we prayed but we didn’t have the resources or finances. Most churches need to have three to four years of financials before anyone would give you a long term lease. That’s why we went to a cinema, because we don’t have any credit history. But we put out the word and we found a church that was moving out of their building. When we went there, we saw that the logo color, the outside of the building was all CHC’s colors! We were so excited; we knew this was our building. It’s like God has prepared it for us.
After negotiating with the sellers, we we moved in April 1 this year. We’ve seen growth in different departments—Children’s Church has doubled because a lot of families are coming in.
Because of our location, we’ve attracted a lot of university students, and now we have the young people and the adults coming in also. It’s really an exciting time. We’ve got a great leadership team helping to build disciples and structure of the church.
Right now we have 100 to 120 members and we’re believing God for 200 this year.
Tell us about your family. How is it parenting your three children in US? How is it different from Singapore?
I think all over the world, with the liberalization of culture, we have similar challenges. In America, some states have legalized gay marriages, and some department stores now give transvestites the option to choose which bathroom and dressing room they want to use. Of course, we want to love everyone and help everyone, we don’t discriminate against anyone, but that’s only two percent of the population in America. So what we see now is a lot of perverted people taking advantage of this. We’ve got to be very careful with our kids; when they go to the bathroom, it’s not safe.
Even in schools, Obama has given a ruling that whoever wants federal funding must allow kids to use whichever locker room they want to based on what sex they identify with. You’re going to have people taking advantage of that, predators. We live as an example to the world but culture has really gone crazy, liberalization in America. Singapore still is fairly conservative but you’ll see the same agendas happening in maybe 10 years.
So it’s important for us to communicate with our kids, instill Christian values. Pastor Kong always said that virtue is innocence tested; we have to not just shout the values at them but let them live in the world and have a relationship with God.
In our family, we pray with the kids every day, we make sure there is a Bible program going on. We do that as parents, not just leave it to the children’s church. As parents, we really need to make our home their first cell group. Make our kids our disciples first; have a very good relationship with them. I mean, they are kids, they have issues but generally they have good values. They love God, they know how to pray, their relationship with God is good—I think that’s the best gift we can give to our kids. As they grow up and face this world, there will be an openness with parents, a relatability that’s there. It is a dark world out there so we’ve got to be salt and light and we’ve got to help our kids manage the best that they can by instilling values in them.
You returned to US to look after your mom. How is she now?
In the past (before we returned to the US), she was alone and we never really saw her except on vacation. When a family member told us, we made three trips back and forth between October and December that year. I was in Atlanta for about nine months and that was good support for her. When we moved back as a family to Atlanta, having the kids there every week , seeing them really helped the most, I think. Just by seeing them and they loving her, helped pull her out of depression. It gave her something to look forward to.
My mom is stable now. She was having early-onset dementia; she was struggling mentally, spiritually and emotionally. We got her house repaired but right now she’s in assisted living (a housing facility for persons who cannot live independently). It is a place where she still has some freedom but there are also some Christians there with her in the community (to look after her). Eventually, we plan to bring her out to southern California. She’s visited us several times but it is very hard for her because of all the friends and relationships she has back in Atlanta.
by Dawn Seow