Rev. Kortering is a Protestant Reformed minister-on-loan to Singapore.
We focus in this article on the work that the Evangelical Reformed Churches of Singapore are doing in India. This has become Part 2, since India has been “upstaged” by the work in Myanmar. Chronologically, the work in India precedes the more recent work in Myanmar. It is not that the churches in Singapore lack interest in the India work, it is that the opportunities for work in Myanmar seem more pressing. This is due to our contact with students from Myanmar in Singapore and the readiness for the churches there to be organized and develop as Reformed churches. Subsequent events have demonstrated the truth of this as well.
By saying this we do not intimate that opportunities in India are lacking or that the potential for meaningful work there does not exist. We trust that our review of the events and work we are presently doing will demonstrate otherwise.
Way back in October 1989 Pastor Mahtani and his family made a tip from Singapore to India to investigate the possibility of doing mission work in India. Through correspondence and upon invitation of some of the church leaders in the Bangalore area to speak at a discipleship training session, the churches here seized upon the opportunity to learn the Lord’s will of doing missions outside Singapore. The trip indicated keen interest in the Reformed faith, though it was an initial contact and hence the first exposure of many of the people as well as the leaders to the wonderful doctrines of grace. Only time could tell whether the Holy Spirit was truly working in the hearts of the people. The great struggle of soul of the Mahtanis was whether they were really interested for the truth’s sake or for bread. Also there was a strong charismatic emphasis among them which complicated the question of further work.
The churches of Singapore did make a commitment to continue this initial contact; but due to other pressures of work and needs within the ERCS itself, it was not developed as much as they had desired. Opportunity to develop these contacts further came when Pastor Mahtani received an invitation to speak at the Sindhi Christian Conference in Nagpur, India. This conference met in October 1992. By that time we had just arrived as minister-on-loan to the ERCS, so the churches requested that I accompany Pastor Mahtani to attend this conference and also to develop further the original contacts made in 1989. Pastor Mahtani and I spent an enjoyable four weeks traveling across India, meeting with people and speaking at public and private gatherings about the Word of God, thus sowing the seeds of the gospel of the sovereignty of God. It was a learning experience for me to accompany this dear brother who so energetically carried in his heart a love for his kinsmen after the flesh.
Once again it was establishing and developing contacts, some original and others for a second time. Hence it was more along the lines of pioneer work. We could not offer these brothers and sisters any commitment. We could only say that we would continue to keep contact with them and learn what the Lord’s will would be concerning future work.
The contact we kept was by way of correspondence. We formulated a letter which was sent to all the people with whom we met. We thanked them for their kindness and interest in the Reformed faith and told them that it was our desire to be used: by God to assist them in their spiritual growth. We especially had in mind a correspondence course, which would give us opportunity to offer them Reformed literature and books as well as keep in personal touch with them. From 1992 to the present, about five of the brothers continue to write and enjoy fellowship by way of letters. Some of the original contacts which held great prospect for working together have ended, since these men were looking for more intensive involvement and financial support in their ministries. We cannot fault them for this, for such is the Lord’s work. They need to earn their daily bread as well as work actively in their villages and cities. If we cannot meet their needs, they must look elsewhere. Does this mean a lack of commitment to the truth? Only God knows, but we must be honest with these people. I would not dare to say that those who expressed interest have forsaken us for bread. It would be quite judgmental for all of us who have “steak” to look down on those who cry for “rice.” It might be in some instances that all they were looking for was a “foreign sponsor who could write the check.” In other instances, it might have been a real desire to be busy with the Lords work, and a looking to us for necessary assistance. But such a commitment we were not able to give.
A measure of impatience is shown by those who continue to correspond with us. Last year we had held forth the prospect of making a trip to southern India, the Madurai area, and to hold teaching seminars there. We suggested this district, since most of our correspondents are in southern India, and it appeared that they would be able to take time off from their work and travel to Madurai for such a time of teaching and fellowship. In addition to that, our most enthusiastic helper, Pastor Stephen, lives there, and he is most encouraging to proceed with this work. He reads the Standard Bearer with joy, even translates some of the meditations and distributes them to his suffering neighbors. He has studied eschatology and read through Herman Hoeksema’s Behold He Cometh with great joy and benefit. We sent him a copy of John Blanchard’s booklet, “Ultimate Questions,” and he was so enthused .about it that he requested that they publish it in Tamil and he would offer the translation. He has requested copies of much of our literature and enjoys the emphasis on God’s sovereignty.
Such a visit, however, was not the Lord’s will so to direct. The ERCS became so heavily involved in Myanmar that they saw it the Lords will to meet the needs there. At this point we inquired whether the PRC would be interested to take an active role in the India work, but they too had prior commitments to other fields. So we continue on behalf of the ERCS to do our best with correspondence and sustain what interest remains.
A few developments have also taken place.
Pastor Stephen informed me just a few weeks ago that his wife died. She had a stroke about a year ago and required medical attention. Subsequently they determined that she needed heart-valve surgery, something they could not afford. The latest I had heard was that some arrangements were made to have some kind of heart surgery in Madras, and he requested prayers for them. Since we keep the churches here informed of our contacts with India, we remembered this family at our Wednesday evening prayer meeting. The next week I received a telegram with the brief words, “My wife expired.” We have written them, but have not heard from him as yet. This leaves this dear brother with five children and no mother. So the Lord adds more to his burden, and what this will do to his future ministry we cannot say. Do pray for this family as well, for they are severely tried. We only pray that some arrangements can be made to provide help for the family, so that his work can continue. He did spend some of his time working as a farmer to provide for his family. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Ps. 34:19).
Another brother who is much interested in serving the Lord in India is the brother- in-law of Pastor Stephen (it was his sister who died). He is a young man who is presently studying in school, mostly in the field of computer, but wants so badly to serve the Lord as pastor. He is so enthused about the gospel of the Reformed faith that he holds “club-meetings” with fellow students and has led many of the non-Christians to the Lord. He now feels the need to support financially, not only his own parents, but also the family of his sister. He originally wanted to come to Singapore as a student, but financial burdens make this impossible for him. Now he wants to come to Singapore to work, for he finds it impossible to get a job in India. He would, like to study “part time” while working here. Now I am trying to find out whether there is any possibility to have him come here on a work permit. It seems pretty dark for the moment.
These are the sorts of burdens which we carry for India. The contact is very limited, but it seems sincere and offers opportunities for the sake of the gospel. I am convinced that the only way we can really know is to make a trip to India. Correspondence has reached its limits. Perhaps the Lord will open a way that someone can make such a trip both for an on-the-scene evaluation and for quality time teaching and praying with these saints who long for guidance and help.
We trust that with this information you will be able to pray more knowledgeably for the work in India.
My heart was cheered when I read in the church bulletins that a collection was going to be taken at the Men’s and Ladies’ League meeting for the needy pastors with whom I come into contact. This was done last year and it was very helpful. I do not blow a trumpet for such financial help. I rather keep it low-key and voluntary. For this reason we are grateful for such initiative and sensitivity.
We do come into contact with pastors and students who need financial assistance. Some of these are here in Singapore, others in India, still others in Myanmar. So far we have placed this fund under the supervision of the Joint Mission Committee of the ERCS. We do not want to handle money on our own. This avoids any temptation to use it improperly, but it also provides accountability to the churches, which is proper. It is not run so tightly that we cannot spend without prior approval. Rather, we use our discretion and then report it to the JMC and they monitor its use. This money is spent in different ways. Some is just sent in the Name of the Lord to show mercy in situations which call for help. Some is used to buy books to be sent to foreign countries. We have discovered that the men with whom we correspond in India are so poor they can hardly afford the stamps for the correspondence courses, so we purchased stamps in India and include self-addressed, stamped envelopes for them to use.
Recently we read in a copy of the Banner of Truth magazine an article entitled, “Susannah Spurgeon: A Ministry of Love.” This is an article about the wife of Charles Spurgeon, who filled a need in her day. Her husband wrote books, and she became aware of the fact that many students in London and also village pastors throughout England were too poor to buy her husband’s books. She decided to set up a fund to raise money so that these worthwhile books could be sent to all theological students and pastors who desired them but could not afford to buy them. She carefully set up a method whereby the recipients would indicate their financial needs and promise to use the books in their study to the glory of God.
That set both my wife and me to thinking.
We need this fund badly here in Singapore. What better way to use money for mission work than to provide good materials for students and pastors who cannot afford them. Now that we are working in Myanmar and hope to travel there in January, we are learning firsthand of more worthy students and pastors who can work with English material, but are too poor to buy them. The same is true with the brothers with whom we work in India. The most enthusiastic responses we receive is when we send good Reformed books to them. I think of a dear brother in Manipur (northern India, just over the border from Myanmar) who is teaching theological students (some also from Myanmar). We sent him a copy of Reformed Dogmatics by H. Hoeksema, and every time he writes me he thanks me for that worthwhile book He is so poor that when his old typewriter broke down he had to write by hand. I desired much to travel to him when in Myanmar, but there is no travel allowed between Yangoon and Manipur. So near, yet so far!
We are in the process of working out the details for the Book Fund for Needy Servants with the Joint Mission Committee of the ERCS. Again, we believe this fund should be under the supervision of the church. It will take great discretion to determine who is worthy of such books. Do not all students and pastors want free books? It will require some sort of form to be filled out and signed to show sincerity and intent. These details we are now considering.
The first check to go into this fund will be from the League Meeting.
Please don’t send U.S. checks to us. Too much money is lost in the transaction. If any of you are interested in contributing to this cause, arrangements can best be made, through the synodical treasurer, to deposit it in our U.S. banking account, and we will have it transferred to Singapore.
The Lord is good in all His ways.
May this article inspire our readers to pray earnestly for the gathering of the sheep of Christ from all nations. Those already gathered need constant attention. Those who are servants of Christ, busy in the ingathering, need even more. May the Lord help us to work together that the lost sheep may hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and find safety in the fold of Christ.
Glory to His Name.