Short History of CREM
(Reprinted from Connections Vol. 15-1, Tyndale University and Seminary, Winter 2008/09, pg. 17)
When Christopher Riley graduated from Tyndale University College and Seminary in 2000 with and MDiv in Christian Education, starting an overseas education ministry was the farthest thing on his mind. But God had other plans for him. It all started with a vacation trip to the Philippines.
"I wanted a holiday and I decided to go to the Philippines because I figured out that I can get the most out of what I had to spend."
While there, Riley made a few friends and came up with the idea of Christopher Riley Education Ministries (CREM), in which he would use his knowledge in the area of Computer Technology to teach computer basics. Since he has been teaching Computer Basics in Canada for more than 10 years and developed traning manuals, he was able to train to locals who have B.S. on the program he has been teaching for many years.
"I had worked with 16 to 21 year olds before in a similar program and I wanted to start the same thing here, but add an element of Christ to what we were teaching as well," he explained.
Having set up his program, Riley was prepred to return home and continue on with his life as he had known it. But God had different plan. "When I was leaving they came to me and told me they needed my help - that there were kids here that needed my help," he says.
The children referring to were those in Toril and Punta Bilar, two of the poorest areas in the Philippines. At first, Riley was reluctant to get involved, but after much persuading, he agreed. "I said okay, I will help these five kids, just to get them to stop asking," explained Riley. "But God pulled me in, and here I am six months later, still helping,"
Riley has been aiding the people in Toril and Punta Bilar by providing school supplies for children, and rice and food supplies for families, mostly from his own pocket. This is a welcomed gift to the residents, who often scrounge through the nearby Surigao City dump for items they can pawn for money to feed themselves.
Through he has returned to Canada, he continues to assist by sending money to his CREM trainees in the Philippines, who in turn purchase and distribute supplies to those in need. His trainees also work with two local pastors to provide for spiritual needs of the people they help.
Working with the people of Toril and Punta Bilar has taught Riley a lot about what it means to serve in foreign lands. "Sometimes we want to superimpose our values on other. We don't ask people what they need," he says. "But these are sensible people. They know what they need, they just don't have the money."
As Chris follows the CREM team on the ground in the Philippines, he has come to understand more about Christian sacifice. "I'm learning a lot of compassion," he says. "When I hear about what these people go though it brings tears to my eyes. We are not Christians like them - these are dedicated Christians. They have given up their lifestyle to help these people."
Riley will continue to work with the people in the Philippines because it is what he feels the Lord has called him to do. His plan is to start a charity here in Canada those in Toril and Punta Baril, but also those in Tandag and Poctoy, two new areas to which CREM has expanded its mission. However, he is still looking for guidance on how such a charity can be set up.
Until then he will continue to do the best he can with what he has. "God sent me to Tyndale and there must be a reason for it," he says. "I thought, how can I use this (education) to glorify God. Maybe this is it."