Domestic Missions Update

Mr. Doezema is secretary of the Domestic Mission Committee.

At our most recent regular monthly meeting, Rev. Bruinsma remarked that it’s not always so easy for him to look objectively at questions that arise about the work in “his” area because he is so personally involved in it. He appreciated, therefore, he said, the more balanced approach that could be taken with the input of other members of the committee. We find repeatedly that that kind of balance has served us well. The work of the Domestic Mission Committee has been structured accordingly. We have three main sub-committees—one for the British Isles, another for Western Home Missions, and the third for Eastern Home Missions. Each sub-committee is responsible for maintaining some kind of regular contact with the missionary; meeting occasionally with the mission committee of the calling church; making an annual visit to the field; and bringing, to the committee of the whole, advice regarding matters that require action to be taken. Each field is, therefore, well represented at our monthly meetings. And that, we say, has over the years served us well.

It occurred to us, therefore, that it might be appropriate for each of our sub-committees to have a hand in this our annual home-missions update in the Standard Bearer. The three chairmen obliged by writing up something for their respective fields. The first of the three that follow was written by Rev. JamesSlopsema, chairman of our British Isles Committee. It happened that he had recently prepared, for his own congregation (First Church, G.R.), a first-person account of his visit to the field in late January/early February 2004. That was an informative report that could, with little modification, appear also here.

British Isles

Elder Jim Jansma from Hudsonville PRC and I were delegated by the Hudsonville Consistory (the calling church) and the Domestic Mission Committee (DMC) to visit our missionary and the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship (CPRF) in Northern Ireland. This kind of trip is made annually and has proven to be invaluable in dealing with the field.

We left on January 29 and returned February 9. Our stay in Northern Ireland was a very enjoyable and profitable one. Rev. and Mary Stewart hosted us the entire time. They are gracious hosts. We enjoyed their hospitality greatly and appreciated this opportunity to become better acquainted with them.

The mandate given us by the Hudsonville Consistory and the DMC kept us busy, yet allowed for a of couple days to do some sightseeing. Our work included preaching on the Lord’s Day, leading the midweek Bible Study, conducting family visitation with the Stewarts, meeting with the Steering Committee of the CPRF, discussing with our missionary various aspects of the work, accompanying him to Wales, and visiting with as many of the Fellowship as we could. We also witnessed the baptism of William Graham, who had been instructed by our missionary for several months.

The CPRF is comprised of eight families and eight single adults. They number 32 souls. They have eight children ranging from infants to 17 years old. We visited with all the families of the Fellowship in their homes and with many of the singles as they gathered in various homes after church and the midweek Bible class. We also attended their annual “congregational dinner,” at which were present two families (with children) that are very interested in our work but live too far away to attend with any regularity.

The CPRF is flourishing. Several members volunteered that they enjoy a unity that they had not experienced for some time before the disbanding of the church. Once again they are doctrinally one. This is also the testimony of our missionary. Our observation is that they are a close-knit group that appreciates one another and seeks each other’s company. The fellowship is blessed under the preaching of the Word and delights in their missionary pastor, Rev. Stewart. They are busy in promoting the gospel with a bookstore, a website, a monthly newsletter, and personal witnessing. They also broadcast our Reformed Witness Hour radio program.

When Rev. R. Hanko was our missionary in Northern Ireland, he worked with a group of interested people in Wales. This work stopped with Rev. Hanko’s departure from the field. Last December Prof. Hanko and Rev. Stewart returned to Wales to see if another work could be started there. A group of about 40 people (for the most part different from those with whom Rev. R. Hanko labored) turned out to hear Prof. Hanko speak. Prof. Hanko was a familiar figure there. We were eager, therefore, to learn whether there would be as many who would turn out to hear our missionary. So, in February, we went to Wales to find out. The group this time numbered 20. Nevertheless, there was a lively discussion after Rev. Stewart’s lecture, with some very good questions. We were encouraged. Rev. Stewart intends to speak in Wales on a monthly basis for a time, in order to determine if this interest can be sustained and the numbers increased.

The CPRF is very appreciative to the PRC for sending Rev. Stewart to be their missionary pastor and for all the effort we have made to bring the gospel to the UK. They look forward eagerly to organize again as a church of Christ in Northern Ireland.

— Rev. James Slopsema

Western Home Missions

It was a year ago that the Domestic Mission Committee of the Protestant Reformed Churches submitted a general report of its labors for publication in the Standard Bearer. We do so again and we do so with great joy. It is, of course, always a joy to report what God has done, but this is especially the case when we can report positive fruits upon labors.

This report concerns the western branch of the work of the DMC. During the past year our attention, in the west, has been focused on Spokane, Washington, where our missionary, Rev. Tom Miersma, has centered his labors.

The past year has been a very good year for the Covenant of Grace Protestant Reformed Fellowship of Spokane, Washington. In his reports to the DMC and Loveland PRC Consistory, Rev. Miersma testifies to the many rich blessings experienced by the CGPRF during the past year. And his positive assessment of the labors in Spokane have been confirmed by the reports of the visiting delegations from the calling church and from the Mission Committee. The blessings of the past year center in the reestablishment of the work, the strengthening of relationships among those who faithfully attend the services and studies, and the response to the witness to the riches of the truth of the glorious gospel.

Just under two years ago the work in Spokane was experiencing a grievous division. The outcome of it all was that the congregation in which our missionary had been laboring disbanded, the members were scattered, and deep hurts were experienced by all.

But God has been good. Some of the members asked for the missionary to continue to work with them. They had learned to appreciate the Reformed faith as taught them by the missionary, and with the disbanding of the congregation they knew not where to turn. Because of their love for the truth, a few young couples and some individuals gathered with the missionary and his family in the walk-out basement of his home. The preaching services were restored, the catechism classes began again, and a Bible study was held weekly. The hurts were slowly being healed by the gospel of sovereign grace. And grace has brought again a spirit of unity.

Efforts to advertise and do some outreach work began anew. These efforts escalated last July when a place of worship was secured — a storefront in a strip mall on a main road, rented for their exclusive use. This was a first for the work in Spokane, as formerly they had rented other churches. The empty store provided an opportunity for the saints to give both of their time and of their money to the furnishing of the rooms. From every report of those who have visited the field, the members of the group did an excellent job. Chairs were set up in rows, a pulpit was constructed, a good used organ with large speakers was transported and installed, and a pamphlet rack and a book table were permanently set up.

Now that they had their own place of worship, they could proceed also to post signs, both on the building itself and in front of the building, to give increasing visibility in the community. The sign on the building is a well-lit board with movable type, which allows them to advertise special events, their regular services, and the Reformed Witness Hour. God has been pleased to use the signs to bring visitors and contacts.

The people have all participated in posting and distributing flyers of special lectures or the special days of worship. They are greatly encouraged that the Lord has used every advertised meeting to bring new or old visitors.

Rev. Miersma reports that they see new visitors almost every other week. Sometimes this has been through the direct contact of the core group members, and other times it has been via the various advertising efforts. This is a great encouragement to the members of the mission, since they view it as an indication that the Lord has given an open door for our preaching of the gospel in Spokane. This is a wonder of God’s grace.

During times of trouble, the focus of attention turns inward. It is worthy of note that this no longer characterizes the CGPRF. Along with a healthy emphasis on the spiritual growth of each member and of the group as a whole, there is a fervent desire to publish the good news in the surrounding area. And God is blessing these desires. After a year of continued faithful labor, some re-organizing, and the leasing of their own public place of worship, the group is witnessing the blessing of the Lord on the spiritual development of those faithfully attending, and in the presence of regular visitors. A spirit of unity and zeal has been restored. God is good! May He continue to bless.

— Rev. Ronald VanOverloop

Eastern Home Missions

The Domestic Mission Committee has been busy with its labors in the eastern United States this past year. Much of this work has centered in the labors of Rev. Mahtani and the Pittsburgh Protestant Reformed Mission. Attendance at the worship services of the mission numbers between 40 and 50 each Sunday. These make up, for the most part, the regular membership of the group there. Rev. Mahtani also conducts four catechism classes, an Adult Bible Study, a Young Adults Bible Study, a Ladies’ Fellowship, and a Leadership Training Class.

Those are just a few of his labors in the mission. There is also the continued effort on his part, with the members of the mission, to conduct the work of missions. They maintain a mailing list of some 1,300 names, distribute pamphlets, invite friends and acquaintances to the mission, and correspond with those who contact the group for information. The life of this mission is very active and enthusiastic. We thank God for thesaints in Pittsburgh and for their zeal in spreading the gospel to others.

In a developing mission field such as Pittsburgh, it is quite natural that questions or issues arise that must be dealt with by the calling church and by the DMC. We have dealt with such issues as confession of faith on the mission field and the pronouncement of the benediction in the worship services in a mission setting. We are even now confronting another issue: that of the possibility of administering the Lord’s Supper on the mission field, among those who are now, through their confessions of faith, members of Southwest Church. Because we understand the weightiness of such questions we devote to them a good deal of study and deliberation, endeavoring always to make decisions that are in keeping with the Word of God.

A word of thanks must be expressed to Southwest Church for their faithful labors. This church has taken its call to work in missions seriously and has put out much effort in maintaining and developing the mission work in Pittsburgh.

Another matter in which our sub-committee is particularly involved affects our mission work in general: a re-studying of the Policy of 1965. In light of that policy we are at present reviewing especially our methods of entering into a mission work and developing it methodically in order that contacts might grow in their knowledge of the truth. While maintaining the general principles laid down some 40 years ago, we try to incorporate into our methodology the modern technology, of which the policy of 1965 knew nothing.

On three occasions Rev. Mahtani visited the Allentown/Hazelton area in Pennsylvania. There is a small group of about five families here that have expressed a commitment to the Reformed truths that we hold dear. Although our work in Allentown/Hazelton is still preliminary, we are optimistic. These saints have been encouraged to work together and study God’s Word together. We are thankful that we are able to give a witness in this area of the east as well.

One last matter that has helped keep the DMC busy in eastern missions is the continued support of the saints in Fayetteville, NC. Since we are limited as churches in our ability to fill the pulpit there we have committed ourselves to visiting the group on a quarterly basis, to encourage and support the few families who still cling to the work. We were pleased that Grace PRC agreed to maintain special contact with these saints and to assist them in whatever way they can. With this in mind, Grace has recently purchased video equipment to record their own worship services, in order to provide tapes to the saints in Fayetteville that will make it possible for them to feel that they are a part of the fellowship of Grace congregation. These tapes are received with great appreciation.

May we not, in our own congregations, take for granted the great privilege that is ours in being able to enjoy the regular, lively preaching of the Word, in the fellowship of many other like-minded families. And may our fervent prayers continue to ascend to God on behalf of the saints in the Pittsburghs and Spokanes and Fayettevilles throughout our land and beyond, that they may have the strength and courage to persevere in the gospel.

— Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma