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Willmar-based CTI Music Ministries to suspend operations after this season's trips

Erica Dischino / Tribune An audience member raises his hand during a CTI Music Ministries concert March 16 at Rock of Life CRC Church in Willmar. When the tour of the U.S. is complete this spring and the international mission trips are complete in August, CTI will suspend its existing program format. 1 / 4
Erica Dischino / Tribune Phoebe Doong, a CTI Music Ministries tour member, performs during a concert in Willmar March 16.2 / 4
Erica Dischino / Tribune The CTI Music Ministries tour group performs a concert March 16 at Rock of Life CRC Church in Willmar. When the tour of the U.S. is complete this spring and the international mission trips are complete in August, CTI will suspend its existing program format.3 / 4
Erica Dischino / Tribune Kasey Manning, program director, talks about CTI Music Ministries’ philosophy by drawing a mountain at the nonprofit’s office. 4 / 4

WILLMAR — A Christian youth, music mission program that was started more than 40 years ago in Willmar will suspend its operations in August.

CTI Music Ministries, which started in 1975 as Carpenter's Tools International, has sent hundreds of young adults around the United States and to numerous foreign countries over the years to deliver the message of the gospel through music.

This month, the organization — which is still based in Willmar — announced that this will be the last year their music teams will be sent on mission trips.

Recruiting of the summer teams — which includes people from all across the country — is underway and host families in Willmar are still needed to house team members during the training sessions held in early summer at local churches.

But once the full-time teams complete their tour of the U.S. this spring and the summer teams complete their international mission trips in August, the current plan is to suspend the existing program format.

But Gregory Anderson, CTI chairman, said that does not mean CTI is closing.

"The CTI ministry has been profoundly successful in spreading the gospel through talented, inspired, and grace-filled musicians over the years, but we are forced to consider a different path moving forward," Anderson said.

"CTI has a vast network of alumni and charitable patrons that support that ministry," he said. "If it is God's wish that the ministry flourish in a different way than it has in the past, then CTI will answer that call."

Earlier this spring, CTI was in the process of selling its office, located in a large house on 19th Avenue Southwest in Willmar, and had started moving office equipment to a vacant church building in New London.

Kasey Manning, CTI program director, said the sale of the Willmar property fell through, which had "significant" ramifications for CTI.

She said the board determined that financially it would "not be good stewardship to keep trying to force it to happen under the current model."

In a Facebook message announcing the decision, CTI board member David Lanning said it has become "increasingly more challenging to financially sustain operations in recent years."

He asked for support in carrying the program through the summer.

"We are confident that the Lord has His hand and purposes in all of this," he wrote. "Pray that the Lord will provide what we need financially to honor this decision and to end this season of ministry well."

Besides financial concerns, Anderson said there were "many factors and challenges that never existed in years past" that compelled CTI to "remodel" its mission.

The announcement was "definitely unexpected," said Manning, who said she trusts God is "redirecting the ministry in a way that I don't fully understand yet."

She said after the summer tours are done, the "future is kind of unknown" for the program and the six staff members, including herself.

Despite not knowing where the future will lead her, Manning said she's excited CTI will send out teams yet this year.

"It's tough for a lot of us," she said, but it's also "motivating."

Former team members and staff shared comments on Facebook about how the program changed their lives — meeting spouses, setting career paths, continuing church work — and shared their grief over the upcoming suspension of the program.

"So sad to hear this news, but we also trust in God's plan. CTI was instrumental in my call to serving the Lord full time overseas," wrote Rachel Heath.

"My life was especially touched when I went to Uganda with CTI in the summer of 2001," wrote Phil Carlson. "Praise God for his provision and the lives changed through the years."

"Bittersweet. I wouldn't have met my man and have my wonderful kiddos if not for CTI," wrote Leah Bryson.

Church leaders and mission partners who hosted the CTI teams also expressed grief about the change.

"My heart is saddened at this news. We had CTI groups at our church whenever they were in our area," wrote Lola Zwart.

"This is so sad. I was a translator for so many CTI teams down here in Honduras," wrote Josue Monterola.

Manning said CTI's 501(c)3 status will be maintained to preserve options for the future.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750
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