An air of expectancy prevails when the members of the Mission Committee receive notice in the mail that a meeting is called for the purpose of receiving a report of emissaries who have returned from the field. Elements of eagerness blend with anticipation as the hour draws near.
We have now sent six brethren at different times to perform personal labors of teaching, preaching, and other forms of assistance. These are the Reverends C. Hanko, J. Heys, G. Lubbers, and the brethren H. Zwak, T. Feenstra, and H. Meulenberg. These labors have extended over the past 6 years and have become more regular and directed more precisely to the individual needs of the brethren and sisters on the island. We have concentrated on helping 3 ministers of the Protestant Reformed Churches of Jamaica come to a deeper understanding of the Word of God as expressed in the Five Points of Calvinism. Worship services and study groups have been conducted to edify the members of their churches. We have begun to provide Bibles and Psalters for use in their worship services, the fruits of which can be heard in their reciting of Scripture and the Reformed Confessions as well as their singing of the Psalms. Opportunity has presented itself in many ways to bestow upon them the mercies of Christ in the form of clothing, care of the sick, and financial assistance to their poor and needy. We have begun to face the complicated task of organization, whereby they will be able to be properly incorporated with the government and therefore in a position to be helped with their church buildings.
As churches, we desire to see this work advance. The impetus of this desire is not the increase there may be in the membership of our churches, for our mission work in Jamaica will not produce such an increase. The churches on the island are indigenous churches, they have their own local congregations, their own ministers, their own ecclesiastical-relationship among themselves. Rather, our labor as churches is to assist them in maintaining their own identity as those who with us love the truths of the Word of God and desire to proclaim them unto their children and to all whom God in His good pleasure will bring under that Word.
The desire to advance is also connected with the material circumstances of the people with whom we work. Some of these poor people are suffering in their poverty; and our goal is not to make them rich, it is rather to alleviate their suffering. Our contact with Jamaica will never broaden our financial base, there is no monetary return for dollars invested. This is not to say there is no return for dollars invested, there is, but it isn’t money. The return is spiritual; it is an example of the kind of spiritual life we need as the Church of Christ here in America. We have much to learn from our Jamaican brethren and sisters. The communion of saints isn’t a one-way street. We have much to give to the Jamaicans, but they also have much to give to us. They possess some of the most beautiful spiritual graces which shine forth in the midst of the simplicity of their life. By virtue of their poverty, they are polished in the grace of contentment. We have our affluency which tempts us to become proud and boastful. God has brought us into contact with our Jamaican brethren for the purpose of making us sit up and evaluate our life and to test us whether we really care about fellow Christians at all. The advancement of the work in Jamaica involves our true spiritual joy in sharing the gospel with others even to the point of confirming our confession of faith with our works of love and mercy.
The glory of this advancement is not man’s, not the Prot. Ref. Churches of America, but it is God’s alone; for He gathers His entire Church from all nations under heaven. It is this desire to advance that produces the pangs of expectancy as our brethren who labored there return to report to us.
As in the past, this expectation has given birth to renewed joy in that the Lord is blessing the labors in Jamaica.
At our meeting of May 28, we received the report of Rev. Lubbers and Mr. H. Meulenberg which contained details of the work they had just performed in Jamaica. Their visit extended from April 8 to May 27. During that time Rev. Lubbers preached to 14 different congregations, some of them for 3 services, some for one. When a person reads the report of the work completed, it becomes obvious that the only word that properly describes the time spent is labor. The climate is more conducive to lolling in the sun than for traveling more than 2000 grueling miles and preaching up to 4 times a week, besides leading discussion groups etc. Yet, under the blessing of God, much work was finished in a brief span of time. The report indicates that approximately 700-800 people heard the Word of God preached to them. One of these occasions was a funeral at Lucea. Intermingled with the songs of joy and hope, they meditated on the Word of promise found in I Cor. 15:36. At Lucea a concerted effort was put forth to teach the congregation a bit more in depth the meaning of the Five Points of Calvinism. At the mid-week meeting a blackboard was put to use along with the time-tried question-answer approach and the congregation responded well to the truth presented.
As in the past, the presence of these laborers on the island made it expedient to consider and distribute monies collected for the poor. Indications are that there are general needs of those who are not able to work, but also individual needs for medical attention and the like. Approximately $100.00, 40 pounds, was distributed to each diaconate of the churches to be used for those who have need in their congregation. We may well bear this in mind when collections are taken for the poor in Jamaica. The money is distributed as fast as it is collected under the direction of the deacons of our Hudsonville congregation.
Since our churches, through the calling church, First Church of Grand Rapids, extended a call to Rev. J. Heys to become missionary to Jamaica, housing for a missionary received top priority. According to the report, houses that may, be considered for use by a missionary are scarce. Yet, after two weeks, the Jamaica Real Estate and Furniture Company directed our emissaries to an ideal house, located in Montego Bay. This house would be available for a two-year period, since its owners plan on coming to the United States for that length of time. A down-payment was placed on this property and with Synod’s final approval, effort is now being put forth to lease this house for 1 year, subject to renewal for another year. The rental price is about $115.00 per month unfurnished. This yearly amount does not exceed by much the amount we now spend on housing our emissaries for approximately 2 month in motels and apartments. If the leasing of this house is completed, we will have a residence for a missionary who would accept the call, or we will have a place for a minister who will labor there on a temporary basis. Furnishings for the house can be bought on the island, since they are constructed for that climate and could be resold later to the Jamaica Furniture Company for approximately one half the purchase price.
Progress has also been made on the incorporation of the churches. Two things depend largely on incorporation. The first is the securing of property by the congregations, and the second is that once this is realized the ministers can get official recognition by the government and with this recognition our relationship to these churches will be enhanced. If the churches on the island are properly constituted, work permits can readily be gotten and the importation of clothing duty-free will be available to us.
Our emissaries conferred with Attorney Graham in regards to incorporation. Proposed Articles of Incorporation were drawn up and submitted to the attorney for comments. These were in turn presented to the congregations for their consideration. Hopefully, this detail may soon be worked out and the local congregations be duly constituted and recognized by the government.
It was also learned that the entire island is plotted out into sections and lots. Individuals in the congregations who own property upon which the church building is erected are signing these off on a quit-claim basis or as an outright grant to the congregation. As soon as these details are worked out, we will be in a position to assist them financially in the improvement and erection of church buildings.
In view of the expenses connected with the legal procedures and the inevitable expenses connected with church buildings, Synod decided to request the churches to take 4 collections again this year for the purpose of church building needs. As of April 7, 1969 there was a balance of $6,931.66 in this fund.
The recommendation to begin a “Study Fund” for Jamaican young men who aspire to the ministry and need financial assistance in order to attain this goal was approved by the Synod. The Mission Committee would like to make this special suggestion to our churches for consideration. Synod did not decide to request the taking of collections for this purpose, rather it decided to suggest this need to our people to be considered by societies, schools, Sunday schools, and interested individuals. Since the Jamaican churches are indigenous, our goal is to provide as much training as we can for the ministers now serving and to provide training for future ministers who can become the leaders of the church of tomorrow. The training of future ministers is as fundamental to the Jamaican churches as it is to our own churches. High school education, as well as college, costs money. In order to make advances in this area, we must begin now to build up a fund for this purpose. The Synodical Treasurer, Mr. C. Pastoor, 2136 Osceola Drive S.E., Grand Rapids, Mich. 49506 will handle this fund. All money sent for this “Study Fund” should be so designated in order to avoid confusion.
We commend the needs of the Jamaican churches to the prayers of all God’s people. In correspondence sent to the Mission Committee and addressed to Synod, they express the need for the prayers of each one of us. We must not fail in this. It is important that we discuss this work in our homes with our children, so that they and we with them can pray meaningfully for the work of the gospel being accomplished there. We must remember these brethren and sisters in our congregational prayers. The Mission Committee needs the sustaining hands of each one of us as we join together before the throne of grace to seek guidance and wisdom from God. Whoever it is that will labor on the island in the future needs the prayers and interests of each one of us.
We would like to quote the final paragraph of thereport: “In closing we may remark that it was our constant and joful experience to find that in the preaching and teaching we are building on the foundation laid by others.” This is true to a large degree. We found this to be true in our contact with the ministers who have been instructed by the Revs. Heys and Hanko. There was a certain confidence and love which we might experience, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and which was wrought through the Spirit by the work of the former emissaries Hanko, Heys, Zwak, Feenstra, and Meulenberg. We trust that they who will labor in Jamaica in the future will find that this confidence has not been harmed or hindered by our labors here. These have been arduous yet blessed weeks of labor, and we look to the Lord of harvest for his blessing upon our labors, and pray with the servant of the Lord, Moses, “And let the beauty of the Lord be upon us; and establish thou the work of our hands upon us, yea, the work of our hands establish thou is,” Ps. 90:17.