Chris was born in Washington, D.C., in the United States. Growing up, he quickly discovered that “change” would become an important aspect of his entire life. From the age of five until he was sixteen, Chris would experience many life changes due to travel and living abroad. This was due to his father’s career as a concert and opera baritone. It was while he lived in Europe (England and the Netherlands), that he traveled to Paris and studied French. Although his father was an opera singer, he came from a family of military officers and journalists. This background gave him the inspiration to pursue teaching English and to become a writer.
BACKGROUND FOR MINISTRY
Chris’s background was not religious. Although he came from an Episcopalian family, he was not a believer during his teenage and college years, when he received a B.A. in English with honors at the University of the South in Tennessee (“Sewanee”). While Chris was pursuing an M.A. in English at the University of Iowa, the Lord interrupted his thinking and Chris found out that Jesus was real. He learned what it meant to experience Christianity and the reality of this overflowed in his heart. He knew his life was changing.
Chris Swift's Bio & History
Church Of God Western Europe
In 1971 he joined the Army, got married and began a tour of duty for the next three years in Germany. While there, Chris found a deeper walk with the Lord and served in leadership with the Church of God Ministry to the Military. The seeds of further commitment were being sown in Chris’s heart while in Germany. One day Chris was participating in a leadership conference for the military in Germany when the Lord rearranged his thinking. He found himself at the altar praying about his future. He knew that God was asking more of him. Would he be willing to become a missionary? Yes, if God so revealed. But first, he returned to the States with his wife to become a pastor of a military congregation at Fort Ritchie, Maryland in 1974.
Chris had a further understanding of his calling in 1979 after studying for an M.A. in Theological Studies at Wheaton Graduate School. This came to him by a vision and a prophetic revelation, which was later confirmed by a letter. It wasn’t long after this profound happening that he accepted his first assignment with Church of God World Missions as an Educational Missionary/Teacher at the European Bible Seminary in 1980 in Germany. For the next two years, life was full of daily challenges, both as a parent raising a family of three children in a strange land and learning a new culture as an American missionary.
Realizing his need of further education, Chris then moved his family back to the States. After two further years of study, he was appointed as a missionary to the Netherlands. He received an M.Div. at the Church of God Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, TN and was then appointed to become the Education Coordinator of the Netherlands in 1984. While there, he became the National Secretary of the Netherlands and acting National Overseer for two years. Chris and his family served the Lord there until 1993.
One more time, Cleveland, Tennessee, became a part of Chris’s and his family’s life. Returning to the area, he taught English and Bible at Lee University for the following three years. But the calling of a missionary did not leave his heart, so in September of 1996 he was asked to return to Europe. The Church of God appointed him as a missionary to coordinate ministerial training in the country of Belgium. Willingly he went and willingly he served, which God honored. Chris found himself being stretched in his responsibilities as his work for Belgium was later expanded into the countries of the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France.
Life has a way of throwing curves and Chris’s life was no exception. After losing his spouse to cancer in Belgium in 2001, Chris had to make some profound choices for his future. He determined to continue to serve God and pursue his heart for training leaders in Western Europe because he knew that was his calling.
Eleven years later, after many miles of travel to equip leaders and teachers in ministry, God surprised Chris again. He attended a mandatory missionary conference in Cleveland, Tennessee, where he unexpectedly met a lady missionary from Africa. Additional surprises followed. In July 2012, he was appointed as the Superintendent of the Church of God in Western Europe. This appointment would bring many challenges into his life as he adapted to the change of roles. This word “change” continued to be relevant, as in September of 2012 Chris married Kathy Watson, a veteran of ministry for over 40 years. Kathy Watson-Swift had lived and worked in Kenya as a full-time missionary for many years but would now take the challenge along with her husband of teaching, training and equipping leaders in Western Europe.
They presently live in Belgium. They travel throughout eleven countries of Western Europe and Northern Africa as full-time missionaries, and take missions trips to East Africa. Chris and Kathy are fully devoted to the work at hand but have a vision and heart for missions outreach. During their first month of marriage Kathy and Chris spent three weeks in Kenya. Chris saw and felt firsthand the importance of continuing one of the projects Kathy had begun four years earlier. This project feeds approximately 1000 orphans and widows weekly, as well as assists many children to receive their education. The cry of their hearts is that many others will join with them for the continued success of this project.
Chris became an Ordained Bishop of the Church of God in 1985 and also served in the US Military as a Reserve Chaplain from 1988-1998. His experiences of ministry throughout Europe working with many different cultures and groups of people have helped to serve as a firm foundation for his current position with the Church of God as the Regional Superintendent of Western Europe.
Everywhere Chris goes people receive him with open arms as he can often converse with them in their own language. Chris speaks fluent Dutch, German, French and English and has a working and reading knowledge of other languages such as Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.