Having returned home safely, in the mercy of our covenant God, and by means of planes that two days later were grounded because they were found to be unsafe for use, and having in a former contribution written about Christ’s Church in Christchurch with the promise to write again after visiting the other Orthodox Presbyterian Churches in New Zealand outside of and beyond the one in Christchurch, I will at this time give a further report of our work “down under. ”
From October, into the middle of February our labors were confined strictly to the Christchurch congregation. But in mid-February we answered a request to come and preach in Nelson and for the congregation of which Rev. Ivo Bishop is pastor. Now Nelson is on the northern tip of the southern island, New Zealand consisting of three islands, two relatively large islands and one small island. Christchurch is about midway on the southern larger island and on its eastern shore. Nelson is about three hundred miles northwest of Christchurch and almost as far north as one can go on the southern island at that point. It is fruit country, and when we were there in February the trees were full of apples, pears, apricots, plums, and the like. Down under and south of the equator the climate and seasons we found to be quite different from ours. And even three hundred miles north of Christchurch makes quite a difference in temperature as well. In fact New Zealand, even as in our own country, has some great extremes in temperature, although they are found in the opposite order from our northern tier of states to the southern row of them. From the southern shores of the southern island to the northern shores of the northern island there are some one thousand miles of different climate. But here the northern regions are the warmest and the southern are the coldest, being nearer to the south pole.
Nelson is nestled among mountain ranges that protect it from strong cold winds from the south. And we are told that it is a favorite place for retired — and maybe tired — businessmen to settle for their twilight years. And, indeed, the scenery is beautiful. From the kitchen window of Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Inskeep, with whom we stayed, there is a most delightful view of mountain scenery mixed with fruit orchards and the backwaters of the bay. Our colored slide of it proves the point.
On Sunday morning we gathered with the congregation and preached the Word there to a very attentive audience, and our picture of the congregation reveals a group about as large as in Christchurch although many of the younger women are there without their unchurched husbands. The many children in the congregation do give hope for growth in the future, if it pleases our God to enlarge and strengthen the congregation that way.
We returned to Christchurch and stayed there until shortly before leaving for home. On February 17, 1979 we attended a Council meeting in Wellington, attended by ten men. It was after this meeting that Rev. Geo. McKenzie, pastor of the Manurewa OPC and Chairman of the Council and I made arrangements for a visit to the churches on the northern island, Wellington itself being on the southern tip of the northern island. And so on April 17 we traveled to Palmerston North (there is a Palmerston on the southern island as well) and lectured for some twenty-five to thirty adults in the Air New Zealand building. There we found brethren and sisters who were hungry for the truth and knew what the Reformed Faith is, and that they wanted it, although they found it hard to get in their locality. Mr. A. Van Echten, at whose home we stayed, put us on a bus for Hastings, and so on April 29 we left to visit the brethren and sisters there. We found that there are only four souls left of that former OPC congregation, their pastor having left for Australia some time in the past. We broke the bread of life that night in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Neil Scott with whom we stayed while in Hastings. We encouraged them from the Word and urged them to seek out others who hungered for the truth. At the moment they listen to tapes in order to be edified and to receive spiritual food and strength. On Friday we left for Manurewa which is a southern suburb of Auckland, and we spent two enjoyable days with the Armour family.
That Sunday morning I preached for the congregation of Rev. MC. Kenzie. Here again we found a congregation about the size of the one in Christchurch but with more young people, which always holds promise for any congregation. The Word was well received as in Nelson and in Palmerston North, and one acquires a sincere sense of pity for brethren and sisters so far removed from each other on two islands and standing alone in the midst of thousands upon thousands who have no faith at all, and among thousands of others who are not concerned as to what is preached and in what direction their church is going. And at the same time it is heartening and encouraging seeing Christ’s Church there and those with whom one can speak the truth freely and with agreement.
On Monday we flew back “home” to Christchurch, and that Saturday we took a plane to Wellington where we had a busy and enjoyable Sunday. We found four families that listen with joy to our tapes, read our publications, and love the truth. That Sunday morning I preached in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Van Herk in Wainuiomata, a suburb of Wellington. After our noon meal we hurried into the heart of Wellington for an afternoon service in the YWCA building where the Council meetings of the OPC in NZ are also held. This service had been advertised in the evening paper, and there were visitors. Hurry back it was again to Wainuiomata for an evening service in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Vooys. A busy but enjoyable Sabbath among those who hunger for the truth where, to a great extent there is, in spite of much preaching, a “‘famine of the Word.” Our Hope Church in Grand Rapids supplies this group with taped sermons, and Reformed Witness Hour messages, which are heard regularly and greatly appreciated. Indeed, as someone on the islands said, “This is not a time of big things.” But God has today little pockets, little groups of those who love the truth and know what the truth is, and that is true all over the world. That the true church is a “little flock” we found time and time again to be true.
Returning home on Monday, we left again on Thursday and this time by car, for another visit to Nelson, which had been requested as somewhat of a farewell visit before we returned to the States. And since we would see each other for the last time on this earth, it was a thing to look forward to, even though it had its sadder side to it. This time Rev. Bishop was in Christchurch occupying the pulpit we had been- tilling; and again there was rapt attention at the morning service. That evening I preached in the home of Mrs. Cook, who is exceptionally spry for her eighty some years of age, and still plays the piano with vigor for the services. It might be pointed out that ALL the OPC Churches suffered for Christ’s sake to the extent that they had to give up their church buildings to keep the Reformed faith. And, either services are held in a home at night, or Bible Study meetings are held in these homes.
This left us with two Sundays in Christchurch before we would leave for home. The evening of the Sunday that we were in Nelson, and Rev. Bishop preached in Christchurch, there were the first fruits of some of our labors in Christchurch in that Mr. Robert Dow, to whom I had been giving instruction, had been licensed by the Christchurch Session (Consistory) to preach, and he conducted that evening service. And now we were faced with “farewell” sermons in Christchurch. On the morning of May 20, using the text of Hebrews 2:1, we gave the congregation the warning found there to give the more earnest heed to what we have heard, lest at any time we drift from the truth and suffer shipwreck on the sea of life as a church. We who have heard and for years have stood for the truth of God’s Word as it is expressed in the Reformed Confessions always also need that warning, and especially when we think that we are above such drifting. In the evening service we presented to them our prayer, borrowed from the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Philippians, chapter 1 and verses 9 and 10, that their love would abound yet more and more in judgment and in all knowledge so that they might be spiritually sensitive to know the truth and righteousness, and be attracted to them while loathing and detesting the lie in every form, and sin in its every shade.
A farewell luncheon was held in the Community Centre where the services were held, and that after the morning service. And a farewell meeting with the Session was held on Wednesday evening the 23rd of May. A goodly number were at the airport to see us off at 11 A.M. Thursday, May 24, and there were indeed mixed feelings on our part; but as a powerful magnet our congregation at home was drawing us; and the welcome we received at the Kent County International Airport when we arrived there will never be forgotten. We were too weary to respond to it as fully as we would have liked, but it will never be forgotten — young and old were there; and it was so good to be with them again.
But while we were yet in Christchurch we heard so much of the brethren and sisters in Singapore — two of those in Singapore being members of the Christchurch OPC congregation — that after much deliberation, and finding that we could change our tickets homeward by stopping in at Singapore, we did, and will never regret it. We were received with great warmth and spent four unforgettable days among the members of the GLTS.
For them we spoke Saturday afternoon. The speech was followed by an hour of good, worthy questions. On Sunday I preached for them in the morning and in the evening, with a profitable question hour again at night. And what struck us with such force is the fact that although these “first generation Christians,” as they call themselves, are from a different nation and race, and from an entirely different culture, they are interested so greatly in our tapes and publications and the Word of God as our men preach it. The Revs. Kamps and Slopsema and Elder Engelsma have worked hard and faithfully there and are loved by these brethren and sisters in Singapore.
It is amazing how truths that one believes, teaches, and preaches have so much more and richer meaning when one experiences those truths. We were taken by Boon Kwang and Chin Kwee to W. Malaysia on Monday to visit two churches. We were — as by Ong and Cicilia and the members of the GTLS in Singapore — royally received and treated. After a sumptuous meal which the wife of the deacon had prepared on the spur of the moment — she did not know we were coming — Boon Kwang gave thanks in Chinese, since this deacon’s wife understood no English (even though through interpreters she made it clearly known to us that she knew the truth, and almost in tears told us that they do not preach the truth anymore in their churches). I did not understand one word of that prayer; but the thought hit me with force: What a great God we have Who knows not only alllanguages and every one of His sheep, but our prayers before we utter them! This I always knew, but it struck with force by this experience; and we left confident that all of God’s people are in good Hands, for underneath are the Everlasting Arms. And for what more could one ask?
We commend all the brethren and sisters in Christchurch and beyond, regardless of race, color, or nationality, whose common creed is: “I believe in Jehovah, the God of our salvation in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son,” to the grace and faithful keeping of Him Whom they confess.