Yes, progress is being made.
Encouraging reports have been received from both at home and abroad that indicate that the Word of God is being received with gratitude. The white horse of Rev. 6:13 is riding victoriously, also in our midst. Some of those who receive the Word are believers who desire to grow in the truth, others are brought into contact with the glorious gospel for the first time. Bringing the Word of God to such is indeed progress in the name of Christ and for the sake of the glory of God through the salvation of His people. Such a Word never returns void.
Undoubtedly, most of you have heard some details of the progress in Jamaica. Our emissaries, Rev. and Mrs. Heys and Mr. and Mrs. Thys Feenstra, are perhaps the best testimony. Their enthusiasm for the work cannot help but rub off on the rest of us who are not so personally involved. Rev. Heys has already written two articles in the Standard Bearer concerning some aspects of the work done in Jamaica this summer. Besides this, he has lectured for the Office Bearers Conference at Hope Church, presenting in clear focus the problems and potentials of the Jamaican field. The Mission Committee invited him to prepare a program containing details of the work being done in Jamaica and to be presented D.V. on the evening of Thanksgiving Day at First Church, Grand Rapids. This will consist of colored slides, tape recordings, and narrative of the work. Perhaps opportunity will arise for him to present this program in other congregations throughout the denomination.
In view of this, one hesitates to take it upon himself to present details through another article in the Standard Bearer. Yet, we feel that since our churches requested that such reports be given periodically this should also be done now. Under the signature of both emissaries a detailed report was presented to our Committee at the meeting of Oct. 16. This 10 page single spaced report was a thorough account of the work accomplished this past summer. From this material we will glean a few pertinent facts and share them with you.
The first deals with progress made in teaching and preaching. Our emissaries informed the committee that they were able to attend 32 services, Rev. Heys being asked to preach at most of them. These were scattered among some 20 different congregations at different points on the island. These places were not always located at the most convenient spot, as e.g. Buff Bay. Rev. Heys describes their experience, “We left Port Maria at 8:30 a.m. to pick up Rev. Elliott in Islington and then drove to Buff Bay. Here we left the highway and pavement to climb up the Blue Mountains. The whole distance from Port Maria to Mahoe was only a matter of some 60 miles, but we arrived around 11 A.M. It was a steep, long and rough climb with the car. But the view of the valleys when once we got up to where we had to part was spectacular, beauty no tourists ever get to see. We still had to walk at least half a mile up and down hills before we descended into a depression where the bamboo church stood. It was a hot, close, sticky, stuffy position and was crude and roughly constructed. We enjoyed the Sunday there however.” This particular congregation is considering a new church building, having already purchased land on a higher elevation for the price of $40.00.
The brethren used Psalm 23 as the basis for informal discussions with the members of the churches. This proved highly successful and was repeated on Sunday afternoons as well as during certain week-night meetings when they did not have preaching services. It stimulated congregational involvement, the spiritual lambs of Christ could also express their faith in the Good Shepherd. It has become evident that they need the milk of the Word for which there is an earnest spiritual thirsting.
That the word was well received became evident time and again when the people would beg Rev. Heys to stay longer or make a return visit, but 8 weeks did not allow many return visits. This was compensated in part by the efforts of some of the people to follow Rev. Heys when he traveled to the different churches. Reference was made to this in the report, “How else shall we explain that here at Porters Mountain where we have no church, but Rev. Ruddock lives, his people from Mt. Lebanon appeared for the service? They began to walk up the mountain from Mt. Lebanon and even from Fort William at 4 P.M. and arrived at 7 P.M. a three hour walk up, which means another 3 hour walk back home after the service! They did not come that night for shillings or material goods. The same was true our last Sunday there on the island. The people from the Hope Hill congregation came by truck way across the island for the farewell Sunday. We gave them no money for travel, gave no one any money for travel with the exception of the ministers when we sent them on an errand. We gave no money for group travel or to individuals to travel. We gave them the Word.”
Opportunity also presented itself to reach people who were not members of the congregations mentioned above. In the first place, this was true in the Sunday School, often times children from the surrounding hills would come out when they heard the singing of the Sunday School children. At other times adults would join the worship services, even after they were in progress. In the second place, public programs were presented during which Rev. Heys showed pictures of Holland and the annual Tulip Time. This served as an excellent opportunity to speak of the 5 points of Calvinism each of which begins with a letter of T-U-L-I-P. Rev. Heys refers to the program at Islington, “That night we showed the Islington congregation our pictures in a Baptist church that had electricity. It was open to the public and several Baptist people said that they enjoyed the “message.” They must have meant the explanation of the Five Points of Calvinism in connection with the pictures of the tulips.” At Reading a public school was used for the public program, but as it was reported, “We had a near riot because of this, certain young men molesting by turning the lights on during the pictures and off when we gave up and needed light to pack up our equipment. The sermon was before the pictures, and there was respect and quietness. We left to prevent a riot when certain elements became boisterous. The white-man is not well received all over, and we were booed and ridiculed often.” Also in Jamaica the witness of the gospel draws a two-fold response. In the third place, contact was established with other ministers from different churches who showed interest in becoming affiliated with the Prot. Ref. Churches of Jamaica. The report refers to 3 such instances. A Rev. Hezekiah Moore of Buff Bay discussed the possibility of taking his two churches into the group. Rev. Heys preached in one of his churches and left the question of affiliation to be resolved by the churches concerned. Another Rev. Drummond, who lost his congregation through no fault of his own was placed as Pastor of the Northampton congregation. This was one of the many congregations served by Rev. Elliott who travels about a great deal. The third minister was Rev. Brown of Kingston; St. Andrews. “Rev. Brown seemed very sincere and desirous of affiliating with us. We promised to send him some literature so that he might know more of us and of our doctrinal stand.” All this indicates that there is much work that must be done, not only in building up the present congregations, but also in reaching out into new areas.
There is not much more to report concerning the construction of church buildings. The problem has been pretty much narrowed to securing the land on which these buildings are to be constructed. The idea of consolidating: all the churches into 3 larger congregations has been abandoned, since it is not practical and would deny the worship services to the children. The need for securing the property has been pointed out in the case of the church at Islington where one member of the church owned one third of the land on which the church was located and having been confronted with the Scriptural truth of a woman’s place in the church (I Tim. 2:11, 12) caused division and made it impossible for the group faithful with Rev. Elliott to meet in that church. In such instances as this the faith of the infant church is tested as if by fire. The need for building improvement has also increased as the pressure of government demands increases with the improvement in the general economic conditions of the island. The time is not far off when the government will be in a position to enforce the law of building standards.
Works of mercy were also performed. Money ($1500.00) was deposited in the Barclays Bank D.C.O. in Lucea to which another $1500.00 was added later on. Some of this was spent on the needy this summer. One woman needed an eye operation and will have to have the other eye corrected in about 6 months. This was done for the total cost of $25.00 plus medical prescriptions. In other instances medical examinations were needed. Also the ministers that travel need more money than they can receive from the churches they serve. Because of poverty, they often do not get travel expenses paid and must somehow live off the people. Recommendations providing for the material needs are being considered by our Jamaica sub-committee in conjunction with the deacons of Hudsonville who have been requested to handle this aspect of the work.
The clothing collected by the deacons of our churches and packed by the deacons of Southeast congregation arrived on the island just a week before our emissaries were to leave for home. Since the shipment went to Kingston, it had to be transferred by train to Montego Bay and then in turn delivered by truck to the various congregations. Patience was the rule of the day to arrange for all the details. The cost of duty was only $27.00, and that for 3,015 pounds of clothing. Under the direction of God the clothing was cleared just in time, for on the very evening that the clothing had been shipped away by truck a fire destroyed the Customs Office building in Montego Bay which contained all the signed papers.
In view of this heartening report, the committee is working on ways to implement the Synodical decisions taken last June. By our next report we may be able to give some concrete details on this.
Just before the close of our last meeting, Rev. H. Veldman reported on the work he was able to do in Pella between Sept. 22 and Oct. 13. Under the direction of our faithful God, Rev. Veldman, a former pastor of Pella was present when the little flock was saddened by the death of Mrs. Vander Molen. His presence served as a means of comfort and strength to carry them through the hour of grief. Lectures were given on the three Thursday evenings and dealt with the end of the world and the signs of the times. These were well received by the thirty or forty people in attendance. Visits were made during the week and the Sunday services were conducted. Appreciation was expressed for the clear preaching of the Word. Advice was given, and this confirmed the former advice of Rev. M. Schipper, that the committee continue to work in Pella and to make some arrangements for regular preaching and instruction. This entire matter was placed in the hands of the New Policy committee to formulate concrete proposals that may be considered.
Gratitude must be expressed to the brethren who faithfully preformed these labors and to the congregations who have released their ministers so that they could further the cause of church extension and missions. Even in this difficult work the true blessings are not measured in external success, but in the spiritual bond of faith between ourselves and those who gladly receive the Word.
May our prayers ascend to God for His continued blessing upon this work.