Suffolk preacher off to Michigan

Published 10:43 pm Thursday, August 23, 2018

A faithful believer in “living ministry” is set to depart Suffolk after several years of dedication both at home and abroad.

Chris Surber, the pastor of Liberty Spring Christian Church on Whaleyville Boulevard, announced to his congregation earlier this summer that he was leaving Suffolk to become the pastor of Mt. Hope Congregational Church in Livonia, Mich. As of Thursday, the pastor was still packing his bags for the long road ahead for him and his family.

It’s similar to a homecoming for Surber and another step in his long, winding journey as a pastor. After a decade in the military — eight years in the Marines and two in Army National Guard — Surber became an associate pastor at a church in Florida from 2005 to 2006.

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His first senior pastor position was at First Congregational Church in Cheboygan, Mich., in 2007, which at the time was part of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, like Mt. Hope is now.

“It’s an opportunity to serve a church back in the family of churches where I first began in ministry,” he said.

He followed Cheboygan with four years as pastor of First Congregational Church of Peru in Peru, Ill., from 2008 to 2011. He then came to Suffolk in 2011 to lead the congregation of Cypress Chapel Christian Church, located at the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp and a sister church to Liberty Spring, Surber said.

“While I was pastoring at Cypress Chapel I had preached (at Liberty Spring) in joint services, so I already knew a lot of people in this church,” he said.

He led his first Sunday service at Liberty Spring on the first Sunday of 2016 after spending January through October of 2015 in Haiti. He and his wife, Christina Surber, founded the Supply and Multiple ministry for Haiti. Supply and Multiply cares for elderly residents and does other ministry in the community of Montrouis, Haiti, where the ministry is based.

They are given food and comfort in the “Matthew 25” houses, which are 24-hour, 7-days-weekly residential care facilities for elderly residents who were previously shelter, food and medically insecure, according to This operation is entirely funded through donations from churches and individuals at no cost to the residents or their families.

The ministry is on pace to have nearly 200 volunteers in Haiti by the end of the year, Surber said, and the school sponsorship program has already supported 70 children and college-aged students so far this year. The volunteers also interact with Haitian Creole-speaking locals in JAM clubs, which stands for “Jesus and Me.”

Surber said this work in Haiti is testament to how God’s love can transform lives just like it did his own. He grew up never going to church and was an admitted skeptic until a friend brought him to a service when he was 16 years old. He said God began his work on him then and there.

As a pastor going forward, he remains challenged to engage worshippers to serve those in need whenever possible.

“Someone told me one time that a minister’s role is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable,” he said. “Sometimes both are equally important.”

According to Surber, the work in Haiti has been a fantastic example of “living ministry.”

“I’m always telling people that it’s a living example of life on mission, and that it’s not just in places like Haiti. It’s anywhere Christians find themselves,” he said.

He doesn’t consider his new position to be a farewell to his friends in Suffolk; he plans to be a visitor whenever possible. Instead, he wants to leave on the Haitian Creole phrase “yon lot fwa,” or “another day.”

“There’s always been a sense of God calling us to do something somewhere, and that’s why we’ve been willing to do it,” he said.