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Phil interviews WSC student Iwan Baamann

17 July, 2007

phil22.jpgFor this installment of Here Am I, I’m chatting with fellow Westminster Seminary student Iwan Baamann who is doing an internship this summer at a church in the URCNA way up north in Edmonton, Alberta. Iwan is very zealous for the Reformed Tradition. However, as is true for many of us, he comes from the most unlikely of backgrounds. Hope you enjoy reading about his pilgrimage thus far.

Iwan Pic


PHIL: Hey brother. Let’s start with some background. How about from the beginning. What’s Iwan Baamann’s story?

IWAN: Sure. I was born in 1982 in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, one of the Soviet “Republics”. My mother came from a real proletarian background and was a convinced communist, which was an unending source of humor to my father, who came from a more well-to-do family. Neither of them was a believer. In 1988, my parents got divorced and in 1997, my mom married a German man, Karl-Heinz Baamann, who became my adoptive father.

PHIL: Wow. Well then, how did you come to faith in Christ?

IWAN: Back in Ukraine, my school had an English teacher from the States for 2 years (1995-1997), which only increased my interest in all things American. So when my mom and I happened to share a compartment with three American ladies, on the way from Paris back to Germany in August 1998, I did my best to get to know them. A year later, I ended up visiting one of them, a girl about my age, in Pensacola, FL, who came from a Presbyterian (PCA) family.

PHIL: They sound like a family that must know how to share the love of Christ in tangible ways.

IWAN: Yes. And thankfully for me, her parents were very open about their faith with me and sent me back to Germany with good Christian literature. Sometime in the fall of 1999, I was converted while reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, along with a Gideons’ New Testament in German. Suddenly, everything about the gospel made sense – God called me, as he calls everyone, to trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. More reading followed. I especially read Francis Schaeffer’s and Ravi Zacharias’ apologetics.

Iwan’s high school in Germany, Albertus-Gymnasium Lauingen

Iwan’s Pics 2

PHIL: I bet that was good news for that American family who first shared their faith with you.

IWAN: Yes. A year later, in 2000, I joined my friends’ PCA congregation as an associate member.

PHIL: Wow. You got to skip my experience with Dispensationalism, tongues, and Arminianism. Straight into the PCA! How great. Less confusion that way.IWAN: Yes. That’s right. And then another year later, I began my BA at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. That’s where I graduated from in 2005.

PHIL: Well then, what led you to this little corner of Escondido that CorC calls home?

IWAN: Westminster? It’s hard to recall when I first heard about “Westminster West” for the first time. I’d heard about Dr. Godfrey and Dr. Horton and read and listened to some of their lectures, and one of my Covenant profs, Dr. Bill Davis, attended WSC in the 1980s together with Dr. Horton. An important role in my image of WSC was also played by the parents of our librarian Bethy Mehne, Nancy and Dr. Larry Mehne.

PHIL: Yeah, Bethy’s cool. Her parents must be cool too. I think that’s some sort of syllogism.

IWAN: Actually, I think you’re one proposition short.

PHIL: Well anyway…How did you end up as an M.div. student at WSC?

IWAN: Well, when Covenant got a generous grant to allow students to visit graduate schools, six of us from Covenant came out to visit Westminster in late spring 2004. Three out of six came back – Nathaniel Gutierrez, Matt Tuininga, and I.

PHIL: Them I know. Nathaniel has a great life story that he’s going to share with CreedorChaos’ Matt Haeck soon and Matt Tuninga is getting a reputation for being brilliant student and already a great preacher…so I hear from the grape-vine. Hopefully Matt T. will be helping Brannan, Matt H. and I with C or C. Sorry. Go on. Westminster West?

IWAN: OK. I also considered attending Mid-America Reformed Seminary, a seminary of which I still think very highly.

PHIL: M.A.R.S. is great. I’m interning for two good pastors that come from there. And that school has been very faithful to defend the gospel. What tipped the scales in favor of Westminster?

IWAN: In the end I was drawn to WSC’s denominational mix and vibrant environment, while being strongly committed to the historical Reformed confessions.

PHIL: Vibrant environment…That would be Dr. Estelle on the ultimate frisbee field. Go on.

IWAN: During my year between college and seminary, I spent about 3 months in Inverness, Scotland, working in a hotel and taking classes at a small Presbyterian seminary. I was impressed tremendously with how the preaching of a number of ministers I heard there was able to speak right to the heart. In many ways, hearing those preachers was like reading a Puritan book.

Iwan’s Pics 3

Inverness, Scotland

PHIL: In what ways?

IWAN: It was solid Biblical doctrine of salvation in Christ mixed with a very warm and lively piety.

PHIL: Good combo. So, what happens after sem? What do you want to do with your training?

IWAN: After seminary, I hope to go into the ministry. Who knows where? And I would love to present Christ in all his glory and loveliness to the people.

PHIL: Back to Germany maybe?

IWAN: Maybe. So often in Germany, people who attend Protestant churches get to hear either absolutely hellish doctrine, such as a Christmas sermon on how, 1) whenever a child is born, it is always a most special occasion, and 2) Jesus was the most special child ever to be born. Or, they do hear Christ preached, but there is a real lack of confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture for life and doctrine, or connectedness to the church through the ages, and a distrust of theology.

PHIL: Wow. That confirms what the Stoddards describe in their interview with Matt. Is it like that everywhere? Dry?

IWAN: No. This isn’t the case everywhere: my church in Neu-Ulm has now become self-consciously Reformed in their view of salvation, and just last year I found out that the international church in Munich has a number of people listening to Calvinist preachers, John Piper most prominently, and reading authors like Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Jonathan Edwards, etc.

PHIL: Sounds like there is an open door there. We need to send them some Horton or Clark or VanDrunen…throw in some Baugh and Estelle…

IWAN: Yes. But it’s so encouraging to see a resurgence of good theology in Germany, even if it’s just a small minority of Christians at this point. I don’t know where the Lord may call me, but wherever it will be, I sincerely hope and pray that I will be used to proclaim God’s glory in saving unworthy sinners, glory that is revealed infallibly in His Word and supremely in Jesus Christ!

  1. 17 July, 2007 1:07 pm

    Great interview. It’s amazing to hear how God works in various ways to bring people to Himself. I also think of many times when I’ve been in “compartments” with others and, for one reason or another, have not shared the Gospel. Iwan’s story definitely encourages me to be more bold about bringing Christ up to the people I meet.

  2. 17 July, 2007 9:50 pm

    Speaking as a fellow Covenant College graduate, Iwan is a great Christian and will, I believe, be a great minister.

  3. Sebastian Heck permalink
    9 August, 2007 8:17 pm

    So, Iwan, let’s get down to it: when are you coming to Germany? On a more serious note – how can we get in contact? I think we should talk…!

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