Dear Brethren and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Greetings from the Wellington and Palmerston-North Protestant Reformed Fellowships in New Zealand!
At our combined meeting at Otaki, somewhere half-way Wellington and Palmerston-North, the brethren honored me with the assignment of “writing something for the Standard Bearer.” I must admit to some initial degree of apprehension and that for two reasons: 1. We happen to have an author and ex-journalist in our midst, and 2. Those who read the Standard Bearer must, of necessity, be a discerning audience. An encouraging nod from our brother-author however, seemed to have settled the matter. As far as the members of the Standard Bearer family are concerned, we welcome correspondence, even criticism.
Ever since the cooperation of the Holland, Michigan consistory, the Mission Committee’s recommendation, Synod’s final approval, and last but not least the willingness of brother and sister Heys to serve, the desire to “do something” has been with us. For well-nigh half a century many of us have known and confessed that “with God nothing shall be impossible”, yet to actually experience this truth in such an amazing fashion is a humbling exercise. Just think of it, six (6) families of (Protestant) Reformed persuasion dared ask for a minister . . . and got one! It becomes more remarkable still when viewed against the background of some of us.
It is the purpose of this newsletter to inform you that there are members of the body of Christ “down under” without whom you can’t function properly, neither could we without you. This, of course, has already been recognized through the labors of our beloved pastor, the Rev. John A. Heys, who took up residence in the hills of Maungaraki near Lower Hutt (Wellington area) good three months ago. The work of our brother is mainly confined to the Wellington area where four families have resoled to defend and propagate the faith once delivered to the Saints. The names of these families are as follows: Inskeep, Kane, van Herk and Vooys. The other two families reside near Palmerston-North where Mr. Heys preaches every second Sunday of the month. The names of these families are: de Klerk and van Echten (A.).
The Lord’s surprising provision in the form of a pastor now labouring in our midst was a humbling experience; yet something else needs to be said. Brother and sister Hey-s (who need no introduction!) are now in New Zealand for the second time. Four years ago they labored among the members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Christchurch, a town situated on the South Island. This time they work among the members of the Protestant Reformed Fellowships on the North Island. It is now about five years ago since our brother had to submit to open-heart surgery, yet in spite of this serious operation and in spite of being well into his seventies and, ironically, further in spite of his being retired, you find him tending part of the Lord’s vineyard somewhere on one of the corners of the earth! Such teaching by way of example ought also to be a humbling experience to us all. God grant us the ability, the health and the desire to “labor for the Master, from the dawn till setting sun.” Mr. D. Engelsma, in his capacity of secretary of the Mission Committee, wrote to us on the 14th of April last year, “it was the committee’s recommendation to Synod that Rev. Heys labor in your area for an ‘approximate’ six months’ stay.” Of course we ought not to say a thing like that but rumors have it that we ‘exploit’ the elasticity of that statement to best advantage. . . .
One of our families, Mr. and Mrs. K. Inskeep, reside in Otaki. This township is approximately 49 miles to the north of Wellington and 44 miles south of Palmerston-North. Geographically therefore, combined meetings at their place are extraordinarily convenient. Not everybody has the ready cash to make the change over from petrol to LPG or CNG, and money is hard to come by nowadays. Kevin runs a small fruit farm, has a degree in horticulture and is the youngest member of the fellowships. Whether his neatly trimmed beard stems from a desire to conceal his real age or perhaps serves as a memento of his puritan background, we cannot tell. We do know that Kevin is a New Zealander by birth and of Presbyterian background. He was also a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Christchurch for some time. His hunger for Reformation truth led him to build up an extensive library which would cause the mouth of any Reformed minister to water. In his spare time Kevin looks after the “Protestant Reformed Tape Library.” This means our outreach is still in the process of being built up, Those who subscribe to this library are confronted with the one theme: God’s sovereignty displayed in the salvation of sinners. Yes, Kevin has developed a delicate taste for things Reformed.
Kevin and Ann have a 5 year-old girl and are eagerly anticipating the arrival of number 2 in about four weeks’ time.
Besides counting New Zealanders by birth, our fellowships have a number of New Zealanders by choice. I refer of course, to those who immigrated since 1950 into this fair land where “the hills rejoice; the pastures teeming with flocks that skip and spring, the golden grain, in valleys gleaming—all sing to God the King.” (Psalter 419:5b). What a Church we would have if only God’s rational creatures would do the same thing! I guess the thoughts of all God’s people wander off occasionally to the vision of the Redeemed, the great multitude which no man can number. . . but then, back to the reality of the end-time, we know that faith will be at a premium.
Most of us, naturalized New Zealanders, have been in this country for some period of time; three of our families often reminisce and reflect on the days when the Reformed Churches of New Zealand were established 30 years ago, and that not quite without feelings of nostalgia. The youthful enthusiasm, the excitement of taking a stand for God in the midst of an apostate Presbyterianism, the challenge of the unknown, the building of a new future in a foreign land. . . .
Besides immigrants from Dutch extraction however, we count among our members a lady from Scotland, Mrs. E. van Herk, and a Mr. Bob Kane from Northern Ireland. Mrs. Kane is New Zealand born and of Anglican background.
Bob, who is our Wellington secretary, was first introduced to the Protestant Reformed Churches and their teaching at the time of Professor H.C. Hoeksema’s visit to Wellington in 1975.
His story of the Lord’s leading in his life is a very interesting one and remarkable in many ways. It shows the wisdom of God to use the “foolishness” of preaching to save them that believe. Irrespective of cultural backgrounds, the preaching’s content is always the, truth, and “he that doeth truth cometh to the light.”
Bob was baptized and confirmed in the Church of Ireland. He became engaged to a Roman Catholic girl and for about a year he joined the Roman Catholic Church. At the age of 27 he was converted as a result of a tract distributed by the Brethren. He then became part of the Brethren Movement for a period of ten years. During this period he experienced a growing conviction of the Scripturalness of Calvinism. The reading and study of books published by the “Banner Of Truth”, especially A.W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God, greatly influenced his spiritual development. An increased spirit of discernment made him see the unpalatability of many aspects of Brethren teaching. Finally, in 1977, he joined the Wellington Fellowship.
Bob and his wife, Glenys, have two children. Their boys are diligent in attending the Rev. Hey’s catechism classes.
New Zealand is a wonderful country. To live in this country is a tremendous privilege; it’s so easy to fall prey to self-indulgence in this environment. Constantly we need to be reminded that Abraham, the father of all believers, “sojourned in the land of promise AS IN A STRANGE COUNTRY.” The folks of our fellowships realize this fact and confess that they are strangers and pilgrims who desire “a better country.” A glimpse at our newspapers tells it all.
In our next newsletter, the Lord willing, we hope to focus more on the Dutch element of our fellowships, or should I say the Dutch heritage? Dutch, New Zealand, English, Scotch, Irish. . . God has made of one blood all nations of men and commanded them to repent. Someone said, “true gratitude is exercised in the depth of unworthiness and the consciousness of guilt.” True words. May the Lord fill our hearts with the fear of His Name, cause us to break with sin, and to return to the God of our fathers.
A. van Echten