As I promised you a few months ago, there is still one more report that will appear in this column before it is presented to Synod. This is the Long Range Report on Foreign Mission Work.
Before presenting this report, let me keep you informed on happenings in our Home or Domestic Missions. As you all know, Rev. G.C. Lubbers, after ten years of devoted labor as our Home Missionary, has accepted a call to our Southwest Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Under the gracious hand of our God, the churches of Loveland, Forbes, and Isabel were organized through the diligent labors of Rev. Lubbers. They and we will long appreciate these fruits which God has given upon his work in those areas. May our Lord continue to bless him as he takes up his shepherd staff in the Southwest Church and use him as a blessing among our churches also in the future.
Upon being informed of the decision of Rev. Lubbers to leave the field of Home Missions, the committee took immediate action. In harmony with the Constitution of the Mission Committee, the missionary gave them two months notice before leaving the field. Since Rev. Lubbers has consented to remain in Houston until the 24th of May, the Committee had to make plans for supplying this field after that date. Therefore a nomination was made of ministers who are eligible for a call and who could be considered for this work. This nomination was presented to the calling Church, the First Church of Grand Rapids, Mich. A trio was made, a congregational meeting was held, and a call was extended to the Rev. B. Woudenberg of Edgerton, Minnesota. It is our sincere prayer that the King of His Church may bind this call upon the heart of Rev. Woudenberg and so guide him that he may make a decision which is for the welfare of the Church of Jesus Christ and the best interest of the ingathering of the saints. It is also our earnest desire that, if the Lord will, another missionary may be sent out to proclaim beyond the pale of our churches that glorious heritage of the truth as it has been entrusted to us in a time when it is opposed so violently from every side.
It may also be said, the Mission Committee will propose to Synod to continue the work in Jamaica.
1. The Committee advises Synod to continue to send the Standard Bearer, Beacon Lights and other available literature to the various leaders of the churches on the island; also to supply the churches with catechism books for the children, and any other material that may be helpful in instructing young and old in the truth of Scripture.
2. The Committee has also considered the possibility of inviting young men from the island to attend our seminary as special students for a year or more. In consultation with the faculty the conclusion was reached that our Seminary is not in a position to take any special students at present and that other arrangements will have to be made before this can be done. Therefore there will also be a proposal at Synod, coming from the Theological School Committee, that arrangements be made for a pre-seminary course in our Theological School, so that students who lack the necessary subjects for entry into our seminary may be instructed in these subjects in our Theological School. This will probably be an incentive also for young men in the States who lack the necessary subjects to apply for entry into our seminary.
In this connection I might mention that another clothing drive is being arranged for the churches that are with Rev. Elliott, which to date have not received clothing from us. Since the churches in Michigan will be given opportunity to contribute to this drive, our churches in the Chicago area or in the mid-west, or even in the far west might plan a drive for the churches which are with Rev. Frame. We are informed that the need is still great among the children, especially for summer clothing, shoes and hats, to make it possible for them to attend the services and school.
In this connection I may also mention that Synod will be confronted with the question whether or not the Jamaican field should be placed in the hands of the Foreign Mission Committee. In 1962 a Foreign Mission Committee was chosen consisting of ministers and elders from our churches in the mid-west. In 1963 this committee presented a constitution to Synod, which was also adopted. At the 1964 Synod this Committee will present its report of what has been accomplished during the past year. But to date no definite field of labor has been assigned to them. And therefore the question will necessarily be faced sooner or later, should the Jamaica mission endeavor be placed in the hands of this Foreign Mission Committee?
Anyone can see strong arguments in favor of doing just that. The Domestic Mission Committee finds itself occupied with the labors of the home missionary and the radio ministry. This Domestic Mission Committee met some fourteen times during the past year. Obviously they are kept busy with home affairs. Moreover, if we speak of “foreign” mission endeavor as anything that lies outside of the boundaries of the United States, or even outside of the boundaries of our churches, then surely Jamaica will be included under foreign missions. But until now the Domestic Mission Committee has dealt with this field. And that mainly because of a decision that was made by our Synod of 1962. At that time a rather lengthy report was given by the Foreign Mission Study Committee. In this report, which was also adopted by Synod, a distinction was made between (1) mission work among the Jews, (2) mission work among the “unchurched,” (3) mission work among those of other church affiliations that have departed from the truth and (4) mission work among the heathen. Later in this report the remark is made that the distinction of “foreign and domestic missions” cuts across this fourfold distinction, “although it may be generally true that our ‘foreign’ mission work will in most cases be among the heathen.” And finally the committee recommended that “a new standing committee should be appointed who shall devote their attention exclusively to mission work among the heathen.” (See Acts of Synod, 1962, p. 67-76).
This last statement that this foreign mission committee shall devote their attention exclusively to mission work among the heathen closes the door to any work for this committee except among those who in their generations never belonged to the sphere of the covenant. That excludes Jamaica from their field of endeavor. And that also leaves a very small field for the Foreign Mission Committee, especially in a time when the Gospel has been preached almost completely to the far ends of the earth. In the light of the entire report as it appears in the Acts of 1962 this limitation may even be too restricted. But that is a matter for the next Synod, where the entire issue will be discussed, especially because the Long Range Report on Foreign Mission Work brings up this very matter.
Turning now to this report, we find that the study committee gives a brief summary of the past decisions of Synod on foreign mission endeavor.
1. In 1961 the Domestic Mission Committee informed Synod that they were, working on a long range plan for foreign mission work.
2. In 1962 this plan was submitted to Synod and adopted. (See Acts, 1962, art. 59, sup. 8.)
3. This Synod referred this report both to the Foreign Mission Committee and to the Domestic Mission Committee authorizing them “to carry out those recommendations which are presently feasible.”
Therefore the Long Range Report informs the Synod of 1964 that some of this work has already been carried out. Quoting from the report:
“a. All the mail received by the Radio Committee of First Church is referred to us. This mail is sorted according to countries and locales, answered if necessary (the Radio Committee fills the requests for sermons, pamphlets, etc.), and filed away for future reference.
“b. We have also prepared two large maps, one of Europe and one of the United States with pins used to denote radio response. These maps you can see hanging in the basement of First Church. They have been of considerable interest to our people and have, we believe, aroused our people to appreciate the work of radio.”
Finally, the committee comes with a number of recommendations which I will quote in full. But before I do so, I would like to remark that this report has some far reaching plans for the future. It can never be said that our churches are not putting forth an effort to fulfill our calling in propagating the truth of God’s Word to the far ends of the earth. The reader should also bear in mind that this is a long range plan, which possibly cannot be carried out immediately, but nevertheless becomes an objective to strive for in the future.
It is very well possible that the Synod will hesitate to involve itself too much in an extensive foreign mission program because by doing so we might neglect our home field or lay an impossible burden upon our churches. It is conceivable that Synod may want to broaden out the program for radio broadcasting within the United States, rather than add any more stations outside of our country. All of these aspects must be considered very carefully and studied very thoroughly. But in the meantime, the work of proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth must also be carried out. The hour is growing late, and many countries are barring religious programs and missionaries from their domain because they do not want any outside interference in propagating their own ideologies. And we do have a work to perform. With these comments I refer you to the recommendations of the Long Range Report:
“II. We come with the following recommendations to Synod:
“A. That the suggestions of the Long Range Planning Committee found in Supplement 8 of the Acts of Synod, 1962, be referred to the new Foreign Mission Committee.
“1. We are aware that, according to Synod’s decisions last year, all this work, strictly speaking, belongs to the Domestic Mission Committee.
“2. Nevertheless, we offer the following grounds for this recommendation:
“a. Under the present decisions of Synod, the Foreign Mission Committee will have absolutely nothing to do in the foreseeable future.
“b. This report was referred to the Foreign Mission Committee. Why this was done is hard to tell, but it seems to suggest that Synod was at least willing that the Foreign Mission Committee consider this matter.
“c. The Domestic Mission Committee is busy with a missionary in the field and cannot devote time to this business.
“d. Most of the suggestions will involve some study and investigation which can profitably be done by the Foreign Mission Committee since each member can work on his own without calling meetings to do all this.
“e. The Foreign Mission Committee has to have something to do if it is not to stagnate.
“B. That the Domestic Mission Committee continue to receive the correspondence from foreign broadcasts and do with it as they have been doing in the past.
“C. That the Domestic Mission Committee report to the Foreign Mission Committee on the amount of correspondence, and the areas from which it comes so that the Foreign Mission Committee may have some idea of the response and type of response being received.
“D. That the Foreign Mission Committee specifically:
“1. Investigate other possible areas of broadcasting outside of our country and in addition to Trans-world Radio and Radio Hoyer.
“2. Investigate the possibility of making special tapes for foreign broadcasts.
“3. Make arrangements for a series of articles to appear in our Church papers to acquaint our people with the work being done and contemplated.
“4. Make an effort to contact young men from our Churches to inform them of this work and encourage them to enter the ministry in order that we may have men to broaden our field of mission endeavor.
“E. That the Foreign Mission Committee also report regularly to the Domestic Mission Committee as to the work they are doing in order that both committees may keep in contact with each other’s labors.
F. That the Foreign Mission Committee study the possibility of doing follow-up work in the future in these countries where our foreign broadcasts are heard and where response is received. We refer particularly to England.
“We hope and pray that these suggestions may receive the careful consideration of your body, that God may bless our efforts to bring His precious Word to those outside of our Churches, that Synod may experience the indispensable guidance of God in all her deliberations.”