It is rather difficult for our well-fed (I mean with the Gospel) Protestant Reformed Churches to appreciate the position of the Isabel Reformed Church prior to the coming of Rev. H. Mensch in April of 1953.
For it can be truthfully said that the sheep here in Isabel were not well cared for by the Eureka Classis. They were short of ministers, it is true. But that does not alter the fact that Isabel was receiving a very, very little shepherding by the ministers in this vicinity, such as B.E. Bosma, the late W. Grossmann and R. Klaudt.
Yesterday I went to the Secretary-Treasurer of the Isabel congregation to see the records of the congregation in the past. I found that the congregation of Isabel during the past twenty years, prior to the coming of Rev. Mensch, never had more than nine (9)sermons a year! They did not receive nine Sundays, but nine services, and sometimes less. The record shows that in 1932 they were allotted six (6) services in one year. This meant that more often than not the congregation saw a minister for the sum-total of ten (10) hours! And that in an entire year of 52 Lord’s Days!
During those twenty years there is no record that the congregation ever received any financial support at all. They hardly needed it. They paid out the unbelievable sum of $180.00 a year for preaching. They also paid out dues for the Classis during those years. But they received no financial aid at all. What did they need it for; to pay that $180.00 per year?!
During that time they read sermons, and that, too, mostly in the German language. And, I am solemnly assured, that often they heard the same sermon every three or four weeks from the aged elder! What became of catechetical instruction one needs no great imagination to surmise. And that for twenty years! Small wonder that the congregation dwindled in number and that the faith of those who remained was severely put to the test.
One can imagine the joy of these children of God when Herman Mensch, graduate from the Protestant Reformed Seminary, came to these parts and preached here in the fall of 1952! That Isabel conceived the plan to call Rev. Mensch is understandable.
On November 23, 1952, a congregational meeting was held in the Isabel congregation. Rev. R. Klaudt, according to the minutes of the congregation, presided. Eureka. Classis proposed that Isabel call Rev. Mensch as their pastor, and that he be also a kind of “missionary” pastor in Heil, N.D. (100 miles north from Isabel) and in Highmore, S. D., about 140 miles to the S.E. from Isabel. Later also the congregation of Aberdeen, S.D. (165 miles due east from Isabel) was added. This meant that Isabel had Rev. Mensch to preach for them every third Sunday. They received two sermons then! Mensch also preached during the week, when he would be absent on the Sunday he should be in Isabel. Besides, he faithfully conducted catechism during the week!
The Classis Eureka did not give Isabel direct financial aid. This was paid Rev. Mensch (Isabel thinks it was $2000.00 per year) for traveling expenses and for labors in Heil, N.D., Highmore, S.D. and in Aberdeen. They (Isabel) were the beneficiaries of the entire set-up! They were joint-beneficiaries with the other churches just mentioned. At most the share of Isabel in cold figures was, as best they can compute, about $1,000.00 in two years. Isabel was reminded once by letter: since, we, Classis Eureka, pay the lion’s share of Mensch’s salary, don’t stand in his way to preach in the other churches!
Hence, when Isabel requested in Jan. 1957 for $2,000.00 support and were informed that this “could no longer be given” that was also a bit unfactual on the part of the “Executive.” And when Isabel was reminded that they were unthankful children, since they did not express thanks for all this help of $1,000.00 in a fourth of a century, plus nine sermons a year at the most, it was, to be sure, a nice bit of the German school-master that came to manifestation!
Imagine what a specter it presented to the eye of the brethren and sisters in Isabel to no longer have the preaching of Rev. Mensch, Protestant Reformed preaching to be sure, and go back to those who robbed them of their minister by “tabling” the matter of support, and then go back to nine sermons per year, and that, too, to preachers for whom they had learned to have a profound disrespect!
Now you can somewhat see that the brethren and sisters in Isabel would “hold what they have”!
Rev. Mensch could not continue here. For that he assumes the responsibility. But his work stands!
And Isabel, I am sure, is profoundly grateful for the labors of the undersigned and his help-meet.