Rev. Gritters is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Byron Center, Michigan.
Few men have the privilege to work with their own father. Probably fewer still have the privilege to work with their father in the gospel of Jesus Christ. For 30 days in February, my father – Elder Edwin Gritters from Redlands, California – and I had that opportunity to labor in God’s work in Jamaica. First PRC of Grand Rapids and the Mission Committee of the PRC asked us to work together to conduct the third seminar on the island. Gladly we accepted the invitation, and set out to prepare to teach the sessions.
Synod’s decision was that, in the absence of a missionary, we “continue laboring in Jamaica by making the focus of our attention the instruction of the leaders and potential leaders in the fundamentals of the Reformed faith by two men in two four week sessions for the next four years. . . .” This enables us to maintain a significant, though low-key involvement which does not require a large expenditure for our churches. We pray that this will be beneficial to the Jamaican churches. That (sic) the same time, this recommendation leaves the field open for the providential direction of the Lord for its future” (Acts of Synod of the PRC, 1990, page 40).
On Friday, January 31, we arrived in Montego Bay, rented a car, and drove to the southwestern part of the island, near Savanna La Mar. Rev. Joostens had made arrangements for the seminar at the Orchard Great House, which served well the last two seminars. Elder Gritters had helped conduct the first seminar in February of 1991. His experience with the people and the island was invaluable. After the initial culture shock (extreme poverty, weather [hot], driving on the wrong side, narrow and winding roads, giant-sized potholes, and drivers worse than Jehu) we were able to dig into the work.
We were asked to build on the instruction of the last two sessions that had focused on the six chapters of theology, but, now to emphasize preaching. So attention was focused on Theology and the doctrine of Scripture, as well as on Ecclesiology and the doctrine of preaching. The four main sections of study were: “The Doctrine of Scripture,” “Principles of Interpretation,” “The Doctrine of Preaching,” and “Practice of Sermon Making.” Along with these areas of instruction, we studied the book of I Thessalonians, and I preached to the men daily from this book. Each day, then, included doctrinal instruction in the two areas of theology and ecclesiology, practical instruction in analyzing the sermons preached, as well as discussion regarding the content of the sermons preached. This discussion led to review of the other areas of theology, as well as to questions regarding the life of the church.
Present at the seminars were 14 to 16 men (including four pastors) who eagerly received the instruction, even asking to meet some evenings to pursue a subject at greater depths. When the ministers were separated from the elders, deacons, and laymen, for the purpose of a more technical discussion of questions in exegesis, there was evidenced a true eagerness to grow in the ability to explain the Scripture to God’s people. At that time, Elder Gritters instructed the men in some of the practical aspects of their office.
On the Lord’s days, I had opportunity to preach in, the churches. With five pastors and seven churches there is always a church in need of a pastor. One Sunday I preached in three of the churches and gave the message at a funeral of one of the older members of the Cave Mountain Protestant Reformed Church. Because her family were members of the Salvation Army, the service was held in that church. On a hot Sunday afternoon, the Lord gave opportunity to present the gospel to hundreds of Jamaicans who were not members of the PRC of Jamaica, nor even close to Reformed. We were thankful for that.
In the churches we work with, the members remember fondly the work of Rev. Bruinsma during his five years there. Whenever we would sing a Psalm that they knew well, the response was, “Rev. Bruinsma (“Broonzma”) taught us that one!” The ability of the ministers to expound a text of God’s Word (as an assignment in our seminars) showed that the Lord gives fruit to the labors of our missionaries in the past. In addition, First PRC is to be commended for their continuous labors on the field, labors that for the most part go unnoticed by us.
Frustrations abound: Inability to find work for the young men in the areas of the churches. Poverty. Illiteracy. Inefficiency. A culture that fights with all its might against the establishment and maintenance of good family life. The lack of good, dependable transportation for the ministers to the various churches (two, well-appreciated, but 20-year old motorbikes). The competition of apostate churches or cults that lure the young people and children to their churches with candy and clothing (the used clothing and other goods we send from the States is not only appreciated, but badly needed). The inability of our churches to maintain a missionary presence on the island for an extended period of time. And the lack of a missionary now.
Only a few weeks ago, some Grand Rapids area PR ministers who had gathered for a luncheon discussion asked themselves the question, “Why aren’t there men, presently, taking the call to be missionaries to the fields the Lord has given us?” Many answers were given. This comment stands out in my mind: “If we don’t get missionaries on these fields soon, they won’t be fields anymore.” Brothers and sisters of the PRC in America, and readers of the Standard Bearer, pray the Lord of the harvest to send us laborers. And don’t let Him go until He blesses us with this most urgent of needs for Christ’s cause.