Rev. R. Harbach has received the call to labor in the Houston area, as home missionary of our churches. Rev. J. Kortering is considering a call from Loveland to serve as pastor there. And Rev. R. Moore has declined the call extended to him from our Prospect Park congregation.
Work is continuing, without interruption apparently, in Houston. Rev. Kamps expected to be there during the first three weeks of February. His work followed immediately after that of Rev. Veldman, who spent much of January in Texas. Incidentally, during his absence, his catechism classes were led by Southwest’s former pastor, Rev. Lubbers. The work of Rev. Veldman in Houston was preceded by that of Rev. Van Baren, who was there during the time around Christmas and New Year’s Day. Since this was a time of vacation for school children, Rev. Van Baren was able to take his family with him. It took a little while, it seems, for them to overcome the language barrier. One of the children of the congregation was overheard remarking to Rev. Van Baren’s children that “y’all don’t speak the same language that we do here, do you?” Rev. Van Baren, by the way, returned with a good report, as did also other of our ministers. He noted that, though there is a need for instruction, the families of the congregation have a love and concern for Reformed doctrine, and have expressed appreciation for the work of our ministers there. An evidence of that, perhaps, is that several of the members approached Rev. Van Baren with a rather sizable amount of money, and a request that he bring it back with him to Grand Rapids as a contribution for our seminary building fund. The congregation does, in fact, desire to become affiliated with our churches. The suggestion of Rev. Van Baren to his First Church congregation, namely, that we remember this group in our prayers, could well, I think, be repeated here.
The Theological School Committee reports that the recent $10-$50 drive, for the Seminary Building Fund, brought the grand total (including unpaid pledges) to $136,435.30. The enthusiastic support of our people “is certainly,” as you may have read also in your own church bulletin, “an occasion for thanksgiving and praise to our Covenant God.”
Further occasion for joy was mentioned in that same bulletin of First Church. On Friday, January 25, the professors and students of our seminary moved into their new building. The first classes were held in it on the following Tuesday. The pleasure and understandable pride of professors and students alike was written over every face. One of the former remarked, “I hardly know how to act here.” And one of the latter, all in one breath, exclaimed, “This is really different! It’s unbelievable! This is so nice!”
On the following day the faculty and students met together for the first chapel exercise held in the new building. Professor Hoeksema brought the message, in what he said was really “a dedication chapel.” He began by reading Psalm 75, drawing special attention to verse 1 of that chapter. He pointed out that it was surely correct and appropriate that we rejoice and are happy on this occasion. But, though we rejoice at the occasion of things, i.e., of our beautiful new facilities, we do not rejoice in them. We may be mindful further, he said, of the fact that our people have given most liberally in order to make this occasion possible, that men of God have long been busy in the work connected with providing this building for us; but the deepest reason for our thankfulness lies in the nearness of the name of our God. In fact, he said, we would do well to make that text (Ps. 75:1) our motto as we take our places in our new building: “Unto thee, O Lord, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.”
Then it was recess time, and the professor treated everyone to a piece of his wife’s delicious apple pie, in celebration of his fifty-first birthday! And then, listen to this, his appreciative students and colleagues, sang Happy Birthday . . . a song directed by none other than Mr. Tom Newhof, Sr., coordinator of the building project.
On Thursday, January 17, in Hope Church, there was held what is surely a well-deserved “Appreciation Night for Rev. and Mrs. George C. Lubbers, Missionary to Jamaica, West Indies.” The remarks of appreciation were given by Rev. C. Hanko. He recalled having had “the privilege of leading the ordination” of Rev. Lubbers into the ministry — which event, he added, “happens to be forty years ago this year, in September.” He recalled, further, Rev. Lubber’s twenty years in the ministry in our churches before he was called, in 1954, to serve as home missionary. During his years as home missionary, Rev. Lubbers saw the organization of Loveland, Isabel, and Forbes Churches. He labored in Houston and “today we are seeing some of the fruits of that labor.” Rev. Hanko made mention, also, of his 28 years of writing for the Standard Bearer. But, “of all his life, Rev. Lubbers would say that the work in Jamaica has been the most trying.” A foreign country . . . a people of another race . . . utter loneliness . . . all the attending problems of a foreign field. In spite of all the difficulties, Rev. Hanko said, “the work in Jamaica has not been a failure.” He then produced and read a couple of letters which Rev. Lubbers had received recently from Jamaica. “You came to us,” said one of the writers, “preaching Christ and living Christ; you have taught us much.” Rev. Hanko noted that he could underscore that observation. “What better proof,” he asked, “of the grace of God?”
And Rev. Lubbers, in his response, also emphasized that grace of God. He said, characteristically, “I had one fear concerning this evening — that God would not receive all the glory.” Rev. Lubbers acknowledged with obvious appreciation that “the testimony of the churches is that we have been faithful.” He gave credit, further, to his wife, whom he had, he said, always appreciated, “but never as much as when we were in Jamaica.”
But, he insisted, “whatever we did, we did by the mercies of God.” He was happy, therefore, that Rev. Van Baren had read I Cor. 3 at the beginning of the program. “Who is Paul? Who is Apollos?” God works His great strength in our weakness. And God gives the increase. He called me, Rev. Lubbers: said, and He will bless my labors.