Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
Around 10:00 P.M. on November 24, 1994 Mr. Rein Boerma, a translator for the mission of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Suriname (a small country in Northeastern South America), was shot to death in his home during an attempted burglary. Mr. Boerma’s wife, Frans, was threatened during the attack, but not harmed.
Mr. Boerma, a ruling elder of the Gereformeerde Kerk te’s-Hertogen-bosch in the Netherlands, had responded to a request of the OPC for help with the Dutch-language work in Suriname (where, many years earlier, his church had sent missionaries). After his retirement in 1993 his church sent Boerma to Suriname specifically to help OPC missionary Rev. Karl Hubenthal in his labors.
Rev. Hubenthal writes concerning Boerma, “Rein was ecumenical in the best sense of the word. That is, he believed in the unity of the church and yet would not compromise his Reformed position. There was no need to. While there were differences in our cultural backgrounds, we were one in faith and practice.
“Both Rheta and I and the whole OPC are thankful for the immense help that Rein and Frans gave. Rein taught communicants (catechism) class for two girls who, hopefully, will be received as communicant members in January. They will remember him fondly as their surrogate ‘grandpa.’ He read and corrected the grammar in my sermons before I preached. He taught the Heidelberg Catechism on a regular basis after the evening service. He was instrumental in leading the way in establishing our Dutch-language Suriname Institute for Theological Studies…. Rein would like best to be remembered as a sinner saved by grace, who lived out his life in thankfulness for what his Savior did for him—and not for what he did or might have done.”
Here is another evidence of the fact that the life of a foreign missionary is far from easy. Neither should any of us expect any different. Jesus, after all, made very plain that the citizens of the kingdom of heaven could expect persecution and reviling from the men of this world. In this Jesus told them to “Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:10-12). On the night before He was crucified our Savior warned the disciples (who became apostles, preachers to the nations) that the time was coming when ” … whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2). Jesus also assured them and us and all of His church “… in the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
For us of the Western world, persecution and suffering and dying for Jesus’ sake are only things we occasionally read or hear about. For many saints in other parts of the world they are a daily reality! The REC News Exchange reports that the case of three evangelical pastors murdered in Iran last year remains unsolved. The government blames the killings on an Iraq-based Muslim group, but the Christians in Iran believe the government itself is responsible for the murders. Churches in Iran receive bomb threats daily. In Pakistan, Gul Masih, a Christian, was released from prison after serving three years. He was convicted of blasphemy against the Qu’ran (the Muslim holy book) and sentenced to death on the basis of the testimony of one witness. In November the Lahore High Court of Pakistan ruled that the charges were false. After his release, Masih went into hiding. His family and his lawyers are seeking asylum for him in another country. Earlier last year, two Christians released from a similar trial for blasphemy were murdered as they left the court! Things are no better for Christians in Egypt. A Coptic Orthodox priest last November was charged with encouraging Muslims to convert to Christianity. In that same month a Protestant pastor was arrested on similar charges. This pastor, according to reports, was held in a prison for hardened criminals with several others in a small, windowless cell. He was released after thirty-seven days. Egyptian law specifies that people may convert to Islam, but that no one may convert from Islam to another religion. It’s interesting and ominous to note that Egypt requires its citizens to carry an identity card which indicates the bearer’s religious affiliation.
Let us not fail to pray for God’s people and for those who minister to them in countries where Christians are openly persecuted and even killed merely because they confess that Jesus is their Lord and Savior.
REC News Exchange
A “Christian” Nation?
Many mistakenly believe the United States was founded on Christian principles and continues to be a “Christian” nation. While it is true that God certainly has His church and people in the U.S., in the light of the following it can hardly be considered a Christian nation.
* Many Americans believe God is not perfect. Most people believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but according to a recent Barna Research Group survey 42% say Jesus committed sins. One fourth of all so-called born-again Christians also believe that Jesus committed sins. The survey concluded that conventional Christian beliefs continue to decline among Americans. Three of ten adults embrace an unorthodox definition of God, such as a state of higher consciousness. Only 39% of the people believe that Jesus Christ is the only means of personal salvation.
* Eugene Stevens, longtime pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Monahans, Texas, went to the home of a couple from the church who were having marital problems. As pastor Stevens attempted to counsel the couple the husband fired a shotgun at him. The man has been arrested and charged with murder.
* “HEAVEN IS PERFECT. Who wants to go to a place that’s perfect? Boring. Boring,” media mogul Ted Turner told the National Press Club recently. When Turner and his journalistic audience get to hell, he said, “we’ll have a chance to make things better because hell is supposed to be a mess.”
Unless by God’s grace he repents, Mr. Turner will find that hell is “a lake of fire burning with brimstone” into which the Antichrist (the beast and the false prophet) shall be cast (Rev. 19:20). Mr. Turner had better also know the sure Word of Jesus, “That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). And, let us and all who love our Lord Jesus and look for His appearing “have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).
* Abortion has its consequences. Of 260 women surveyed by the Elliot Institute for Social Services Research of Springfield, Ohio, 28% regretted their abortions and attempted suicide. 20% of the same group of women reported having nervous breakdowns, and 36% engaged in self-destructive behavior. The researchers claim this study to be more reliable than many pro-choice studies because their subjects had their abortions an average of 10.6 years ago as compared to three to six months ago for those women in the pro-choice studies. “Only by studying women five years after abortions can researchers see ‘the cycle of disintegration’ abortion causes,” said Elliot Institute Director, David Reardon.