I am thankful for this opportunity to report the progress of our Mission work in Lansing, for I believe that God is working here, through the ministry of His Word. No, it is not that we are experiencing a growth in numbers; it is not that new families from the community are joining us; and it is not that people are breaking down the doors of the church to hear the preaching of the gospel. Nevertheless, God is working here and through His Word is accomplishing His purpose. For the Lord tells us through the prophet Isaiah, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). God’s Word which He sends forth never returns to Him empty, but always brings about just exactly what He has purposed. This we firmly believe with respect to our work here in Lansing. Although sometimes it is difficult, if not impossible, to see that Word do its work, yet our comfort and encouragement is that this work is not, first of all, our work but God’s work. We indeed preach the gospel, but only Christ can gather His people into the Church.
We are encouraged by the fact that Christ has given to us a fairly solid group of people who are firmly committed to the Reformed Faith. Including my own, there are seven families and one individual who worship together here. We conduct worship services twice on Sunday (10 A.M. and 6 P.M.). After the morning service I teach two catechism classes while the adults have a Bible study and the young children have Sunday School. Every Wednesday we meet together at 7:45 P.M. for studies in the Canons of Dordt.
We are very grateful to God that He has provided for us a very nice building in which to worship. We rent a Seventh Day Adventist Church which is located near the University in East Lansing. It is a small building which is very well suited for our needs.
Although we have not gained, as of yet, any new regulars, we have been getting a good number of visitors. In fact, lately we have had at least one visitor attend one of our services just about every Sunday. Most of these visitors are college students who come from various parts of the country and who vary greatly in their religious affiliation. We have had visitors who are members of the Reformed Church as well as those who belong to the Roman Catholic Church. There have even been some from the “fundamentalist camp.”
The reaction of these visitors to the preaching of the gospel has been just as varied as their religious affiliation. Sometimes they are very attentive and seem to be drawn by the Word of God. They nod their heads in approval. Oftentimes after the service we have some interesting talks with them. But then, too, some have come who seem to be bored with the Word. Our hour and a half service is too much for them. It has happened, too, that the Word of God offends some. I have preached to people who reveal by the expressions on their faces that they do not like what they hear. In fact, on one occasion the preaching of the gospel drove a man out of the service. In the middle of the sermon, he got up and walked out. It is at times like that, that we are reminded of the fact that the word of God has a two-fold effect upon its hearers. It both softens and hardens, for “to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life” (II Cor. 2:16). But whatever the reaction we know that God’s Word is working what God wants it to work, and our responsibility is to preach the Word.
Most of our visitors come because they have read our ads in the paper. Every Saturday we advertise not only the time and place of our services, but we also tell them what we believe. We have run a series of ads on the five points of Calvinism, as well as on the Apostles’ Creed. In this way we tell them who we are and what we believe and preach. We take care to emphasize that we stand upon the Scriptures as the sole authority for our faith and practice. Along with our regular church ads we also advertise the literature of our Reformed Free Publishing Association. At first we did not get a very great response to this. But lately more and more people have been writing for this literature. It is difficult to judge how effective this witness is. We do not know how many actually read this material. But it does seem to be a witness. On two occasions now, people have visited our worship service because they had previously received and read our literature.
It is especially with these people who ask for literature and who visit our services that I later make contact. I ask them what they think of the literature and tell them more about our Churches and what we believe. If they do not agree with what they have read, I seek, through the Word, to show them the preciousness of the truths of the Reformed faith and how these truths can give a man comfort and peace in the troubled world. Up to now, this contact has resulted in no immediate positive fruit. We are, however, confident that God has called us here, not only to be a witness, but to be used to gather His people. In His own time and in His own way He will gather “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” here in the Lansing area.
And yet, from the perspective of a missionary laboring here, I must confess that the work is very difficult. Difficult in the first place, because the natural man does not like to hear the preaching of the Word and does not want the Reformed Faith. Now I realize that this is true of all men everywhere. However, here in the Lansing area, I have been struck by the fact that there seems to be very few who really seek the truth. The people of this area seem to be very liberal in their thinking and in their beliefs. There are few that I talk with who are sincerely interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will tell you in no uncertain terms that they don’t believe what you say and do not want what you have. They stumble over the Gospel.
Then too it is difficult because of my own weaknesses as missionary. Because I have not had the previous experience of being a minister of the gospel, I have much to learn with respect to the work of the ministry. The tasks that would be routine for a veteran minister are still struggles for me. And yet, in all of this I am not discouraged, because we have in a very wonderful way experienced the grace of God. I can say with the apostle Paul, “when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Cor. 12:10); for when I am weak I experience the strength of Almighty God Who upholds His people and gives unto us all that we need to fulfill our calling. And even as He removes the difficulty of my own weakness, so too He removes the first difficulty. For the heart that is hard He can soften, and the man who is dead He can make alive; the Lord God Almighty sovereignly rules “all the inhabitants of the earth.” He can put “a new spirit” within them; He can “take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them an heart of flesh” (Dan. 4:35 & Ezek. 12:19). This is our confidence.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is building His Church in spite of all the opposition and resistance of the world. He is gathering His people, and we as Protestant Reformed people are privileged to have a part in that great work. God has called three of our ministers to the specific task of mission work. We have the opportunity to spread the Reformed Faith, the faith of the Scriptures which we hold so dear, to places we have never been before. The doors are open for us to preach of the Sovereign God who by sovereign grace alone saves His people. I trust that we are excited about that and eager to share in that. Do all you can to support your missionaries. Support us with your interest, support us with your financial help, but most of all support us with your prayers. Pray for us that we might receive of the Lord all that we need to carry on this most wonderful work. I ask you, as the Apostle asked the Ephesian Christians, “pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watch thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints, and for me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador, . . . that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:18-20).