It is both stimulating and heart warming for members of the Mission Committee to observe how important the work of missions in our churches really is. This comes to the foreground annually at the time of Synod when the work done in the past year is discussed and evaluated and new mandates are given with a view to future labors. Much time was spent at Synod in considering this calling which we have. Many lively discussions concentrated upon our work and what must be done. This is encouraging for the Mission Committee not only, but for all our members, for this indicates that the concern of the churches rests in this important work. The labors of our Mission Committee must be remembered in our daily and congregational prayers, that the truth of the gospel may go forth in power under the blessing of our covenant God.
Our first committee meeting after Synod was held on June 19. This meeting reflected a new zeal and firm resolve to carry on the work. The officers elected were Rev. M. Schipper—President, Rev. H. Veldman—Vice President, Rev. G. VanBaren—Secretary, and Rev. G. Lubbers—Vice Secretary. The committee is composed of the following members besides the officers: Revs. J. Heys, J. Kortering, and Elders J. Kalsbeek, D. Kooienga, and: H. Meulenberg. Elder J.M. Faber was also elected by Synod, but he informed the committee that since he is already serving the churches in a large capacity, he was unable to serve on this committee. The following subcommittees were appointed, Finance Committee: H. Meulenberg and D. Kooienga; Radio Committee: J. Kortering and J. Kalsbeek; Jamaica Committee: J. Heys, G. Lubbers, D. Kooienga, and H. Meulenberg; and the New Policy Committee: H. Veldman, G. VanBaren, M. Schipper, and J. Kalsbeek.
Synod approved the sending of Rev. J. Heys and Mr. T. Feenstra of our Redlands congregation to Jamaica to labor there for approximately 8 weeks. A few finishing details were completed at this meeting, including the extending of our official greetings through our emissaries and each committee member had the opportunity to extend personal greetings via the tape recorder which Rev. Heys took with him to the meeting. These brethren and their wives arrived safely in Jamaica on June 25.
Details of their labors on the island will come from them. According to plans, Rev. Heys looked forward to spending time with the ministers and congregations, each in his own location. Last summer the ministers came together in a central location for certain hours of formal class study; this summer he planned to work with them in their own areas and thus allow a closer fellowship with the members of the churches. By this he will be able to know more specifically the spiritual needs and on what level we have to work with the people. It is a true source of gratitude that there is a good working relationship between the ministers and their congregations and our “missionary pastors” who labor there.
Mr. Feenstra, a builder, has the difficult task of appraising the church buildings and with Rev. Heys making recommendations as to what must be done to help them. Synod took cognizance of the fact that before much money be spent on the buildings them- selves, we have to secure the land on which these buildings either already are or will be constructed. Since Jamaica is an emerging country, just developing its economic resources, many of the formal aspects of property rights, especially as it relates to the hill country, are also being developed. There are approximately 15 to 20 relatively small congregations affiliated with the Protestant Reformed Churches of Jamaica. Our emissaries have established contact with a retired judge who is willing to handle the legal aspects of securing the properties of these churches. The cost of this amounts to approximately 80 to 100 dollars for each church. This points out the need for careful study before decisions are taken by the Mission Committee. We have about $1,500.00 in the church building fund, this having been raised to date by collections taken in our churches. If there is no possibility of consolidating these churches into larger congregations, something which still has to be determined, the entire amount could be used up simply in the securing of property from a legal point of view without using any in actual construction. Since we have limited means, perhaps the wisest method would be to secure certain strategically located properties and use some of the money to improve the buildings already constructed on them and increase this as the money becomes available. Since Synod decided to request the churches to take up, once again, four collections this year for the building needs, it must become apparent to all of us that this need is great. Properly constructed government approved buildings are essential to the very existence of these congregations.
Synod also decided to instruct First Church to call a missionary for the specific field of Jamaica. In carrying out this decision, the Mission Committee has submitted a gross list to First Church from which a trio will be made and the Lord willing a missionary called. This gross list includes the following ministers: D. Engelsma, C. Hanko, R. Harbach, J. Heys, G. Lubbers, M. Schipper, and B. Woudenberg. The need for a missionary to labor there full time is great, and our prayers must also arise to God that He will fill this need in His good time.
While First Church proceeds to call a missionary, the Mission Committee is also instructed to contact each consistory for a two-fold reason. The first is to determine whether their minister would be available for going to Jamaica for a period of 6 months to a year to labor there. The second is whether they have any elders or ex-elders who would be available to assist the minister for a like period of time. The purpose of this is that in event no minister accepts the call to labor in Jamaica, that later this year or earlier next year a minister and an elder can be sent to labor for a period of 6 months to a year. All this emphasizes the conviction that we need men for personal labor on the island.
Details concerning the benevolence expended upon the needy on the island will more than likely be furnished by the Hudsonville deacons. There was approximately $3,000.00 available for this need and it also appears that this will be more than spent for aiding the poor and sick. The deacons of Southeast church have completed the clothing drive and shipped a good quantity of used clothing to Jamaica. At this writing word has not been received on the arrival; the estimated receiving date however would bring it to the island well within the time span for our emissaries to supervise in its distribution. Even in this we are reminded that the words of Christ, “the poor ye have always with you” are still true for us as churches.
An important part of the Mission Committee’s activities also centers in the work of church extension. Thorough reports were received concerning the work done in northwest Iowa—Edgerton, Minnesota area as well as the Pella, Iowa area. We are repeatedly reminded that there are many children of God outside our churches who with us are sincerely concerned with the apostasy that is sweeping over the churches in America. Our Synod of 1965 decided that our approach in lending a guiding hand in the midst of this confusion and darkness must be systematic and organized. This contact is to be made in two areas, first, in those areas in which we already have a church or churches, and secondly, in new areas where as yet we do not have a Protestant Reformed congregation. Essential to the success of any effort put forth in areas in which we have churches is the cooperation of these churches. We must not view the Mission Committee as some super-body who will take over the work of church extension. Rather the committee has the unique position to cooperate with and assist the local congregation. Past experience shows that this works out very well. Pella is a small congregation, and through the means of radio broadcasting public lectures, and the personal labors of Rev. Schipper and others, wider contact has been established with concerned people in that area. The Mission Committee has decided to continue this assist by sending either Rev. Kortering or Rev. Veldman to labor there for four Sundays, beginning September 15. The lecture committee of the congregations of Hull, Doon, and Edgerton reports that they also plan to conduct more lectures in that area in addition to the sending out of printed material and the radio broadcast.
Our concern is not limited however, simply to those areas in which we already have churches. We must also reach out into new areas. Still being considered are the contacts that have been made in the eastern part of our country, the New Jersey and Pennsylvania area. Of interest is our recent decision to contact the Consistory of Redlands, requesting them to advise concerning the Bellflower—Artesia and Ripon, California area. Since doing effective work in any of these areas involves a coordination of radio broadcasting, distribution of literature, lecturing, and personal contacts, much careful study and ground work has to be done.
Synod also felt this need for extending our witness into “virgin” territory and therefore increased the budget for the radio broadcasting to $9,000.00 and provided monies for expenses incurred in pamphlet distribution and travel. The Mission Committee has authorized the Literature Publication and Distribution Committee to publish and distribute a tract written by Rev. C. Hanko on the subject, “What is truly Reformed.”
In comparison to the activities of churches swallowed up in the ecumenical movement, these labors are pitifully small. No doubt we all at times even feel i frustrated by our inadequacy in performing the work of church extension and missions. Yet, we must always keep before our minds the true perspective of faith. The preaching of the gospel and the witness to the truth of God’s unchangeable word is not determined by man nor by human circumstances. As churches we hold high the banner of the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty. While we see around us the inroads of Arminianism and Modernism being dug into the moral fiber of the reformed community, we must not ourselves falter beneath the banner of truth. God forbid that we deem it too heavy a banner to carry.
Rather let us all take courage that the work of gathering the church is in truth the work of our exalted King and High Priest Jesus Christ. Since He does not work apart from His church, but through His church, we must rest assured that His word never returns unto Him void. God will use it to the gathering of His own unto Himself and the leaving without excuse those who willfully walk in apostasy and unbelief.
There is need for ambassadors of Christ. We may be thankful to God that He has provided us with seven young men who aspire to the ministry in our churches and will be studying in our Theological School this fall D.V. This too we believe is an answer to our many prayers that God send us laborers to enter into the field white already unto harvest.
Just as important is the need for the people of God to be spiritually minded. The church that sends forth ambassadors must be the living expression of the body of Jesus Christ. Those who are outside of the body of Christ must see in the members who are already part of that body, that being one with them is most desirable for the salvation of their own souls and the glory of God.
May God give each one of us faithfulness in our respective places in His church, that Zion may be gathered.