In this article we shall try to answer some of the questions that you raise concerning the mission endeavors of our churches as they are implemented by the Mission Committee.
What’s doing in Houston? Very much, indeed. Rev. Harbach is conducting worship services each Sunday at 10:30 A.M. and 3:30 P.M. Sunday School is being taught, beginning at 9:30 A.M. Miss Cari Sugg teaches the small children, and Rev. Harbach leads the older children and adults in the lessons as they are found in our own Sunday School Guide. A mid-week meeting is held in which Rev. Harbach has already completed a study of the Thirty-Seven Articles of the Belgic Confession. This group is now studying the Book of Revelation. This meeting is held in one of the homes of the members. Three catechism classes are conducted by the missionary-pastor each Saturday morning. When one includes the pastoral visits he makes, it makes for quite a full calendar for our Missionary. The membership includes many professional men, and some of the wives and mothers have teaching experience. One family lives 40 miles westward and another ten miles farther than that. Their meeting place is the Memorial West Community Club; but when the swimming season is on, they will meet in a Methodist church building a little distance away. In a letter to us Rev. Harbach sounds like he might be on the Texas Promotional Committee. Like this: “Texas is a State which has everything that other states have, and more: prairie, desert, canyons, mountains, forests, thickets, marshes, seashore, lakes, ponds, bays, bayous, rivers, oil fields, cane fields, citrus country, farmlands and ranches.” Sort of makes one feel he should phone his realtor and list his home for sale. In the animal kingdom he lists, deer, alligators, armadillos, snakes, nutrea (which has a beaver-like fur), and myriads of birds of all sorts, even the whooping crane which is on the danger list. He assures us that there is more in Texas than the youngest of us could possibly enjoy in a life time.
Our missionary-pastor also enjoys his work among that group of believers in Houston. He is working with a core group who are sincerely interested in working toward a formal organization of a Protestant Reformed church. Some good solid steps have been taken in that direction. In the year that he has labored there he has preached once through the material of the Heidelberg Catechism; and the first catechism season is now over. They can hear the Reformed Witness Hour Sunday afternoon at 2:30, and all their activities are also advertised on the religious page of the Chronicle. Did you know that Mrs. Harbach also has a role to play in that mission field? Where her husband works, she plays—plays the piano, that is, for the congregational singing. Let me quote another part of his letter: “We experience the usual southern hospitality, which in itself is not only proverbial but remarkable, to say the least. There is a spirit of Christian love. An atmosphere of true spiritual peace seems to prevail, with countenance shining in happy expressions. This we believe is due to the fact that we are basically joyfully thankful that we belong to the sovereign triune God, whose covenant love embraces us from all eternity in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, and who controls all circumstances for His glory and our profit. Our intention is to keep on keeping on. The question, “How does Rev. Harbach like it in Houston?” is now answered.
Now let us attend to the questions regarding the Maine mission station, like, “How many people are we working with?” and, “what are the prospects of organizing a congregation in Skowhegan?” Let’s try to sift through these questions a bit.
Rev. Kuiper and his family are settled in their new place of labor and are happy in their work. The children are enrolled in a Christian school some miles out of town. We paid a short-drop-in-visit while on a color tour last Fall when they had barely moved in and were far from settled in a fairly large house on the edge of a huge city park, through which flows the Kennebec River; in fact, the road down from Quebec runs parallel to that river for miles. In the Fall it is rather full with free-floating logs on their way to the sawmills. But to get Rev. Kuiper’s viewpoint of it all, let us peek over his shoulder as he writes to his consistory, (Hudsonville) and to the mission committee. “The work with the three families that asked our churches to come and help them is very encouraging and enjoyable. They are faithful in church attendance and in mid-week meetings. Their view of the Christian’s life in the midst of the world is the same as ours. Consequently, they receive the preaching and instruction gladly, and we have good communion together. So thoroughly are they convinced of the Reformed truth that, on their own, they have begun investigating the possibility of starting a small Christian school where their children might at least receive a few years of good covenant instruction. But the work involves more than meeting with those already Reformed. And this is where the work-becomes difficult. Over the past months many calls have been made in homes of those of other religious persuasions. One finds a startling laxity in respect to church attendance, a frightening lack of knowledge, ah almost complete lack of appreciation for the church institute. Numerous people we have spoken with claim to be good Christians but have not been in church for years, and reveal that they believe only those parts of the Bible, that they choose to believe. There have been a few visitors in the worship services from time to time, but for the most part we have not been able to spur people into coming. This is New England, through which the truth has passed long ago, and which is now largely given over to modernism (universalism and Unitarianism). And if not that, then wholehearted. acceptance of free-will Arminianism in its worst form. During the past few weeks we have had some homes closed to us because people have found the Scriptural Reformed truth to be a stumbling block. They are scandalized, outraged, by what I point out to them from the Bible. How long God will have work for us here we do not know. We are naturally disappointed by this turn of events, but overall we are not discouraged.” And then we get a build-up to pay them a visit: “Maine is still ninety-five percent forest covered. Lakes and streams are everywhere. Small mountains can usually be seen to the north and to the west. English, French, and Indian influences are to be seen everywhere, reminders of the historic battles of the Revolutionary times. We look forward to taking several short trips this summer, when the land is released from her heavy burden of ice and snow. Perhaps some of you will decide to come this way this summer. If so, we promise you a warm welcome and good Christian fellowship!” Rev. Kuiper closed the letter with the plea to remember him and his family in our prayers.
There still remains the question regarding the Jamaican field. Well there’s nothing exciting, or even new. The four young ministers are doing very well, and the people of their congregations are all appreciative of having “their own minister.” The Mission Committee still has contact with nine churches. Remember that there were originally twenty? The nine faithful are where Rev. Elliott lives, Mahoe, which is some thirty miles from Islington, which is also being served by Rev. Elliott; Fort Williams, which is enjoying the services of Rev. Brown; Lacovia is being instructed in the faith by Rev. Nish; Belmont has Rev. Williams for their pastor; Dias, which was Rev. Frame’s church until his sudden death lately is being served by one of the ministers; Fellowship Hall is being served by an Elder; Cave Mountain has Rev. Beckford to lead them in the Scriptures; Waterworks and Mt. Lebanon are vacant, but the latter has a very capable Elder to serve them. We know that the Jamaican brothers and sisters are not yet a group of strong Protestant Reformed churches; but that cannot be expected after only a couple of years indoctrination. Many evils still exist to one degree or another, such as the Holiness influence and the Arminian lie. There is still some opposition to infant baptism because they do not understand God’s Covenant, which is not strange, for few can read the Bible, and those have only a few disconnected stories in their knowledge. They have not been catechized in O.T. History as our people are; and until now circumstances have prevented personal contact with old and young. You understand that we have worked with them intensively for only three years; and that is a very short time to expect to establish churches in the faith, especially those which are far removed from the stream of Reformed faith. The ministers and churches have always appreciated our help—financially, but also in regard to instruction in doctrine and Christian living. We believe that there is no valid reason to abandon the field, but to work more strenuously if possible. The four young ministers are very dedicated to the truth that has been taught them. The letters reveal the zeal with which they labor, the love for the Scriptures and the ministry of the Word, which must also be evident in their preaching. God has certainly given fruit upon the labors performed during the short time a missionary has worked the island. More will be said about this project after the emissaries come back from their April visit. The two emissaries who are visiting the field in April will take care of many details which need personal attention. They will listen to the sermons of the four young ministers, and determine the growth in their abilities, as well as the fruit of their ministry in the congregations. Their three-week stay will be filled with the concern for the physical and spiritual welfare of these saints. Meanwhile, the Mission Committee asks you to remember these wandering sheep in prayer as you bring the needs of our other fields to the Throne of Grace.
J. M. Faber, Sec’y.