Protestant Reformed Seminary
4949 Ivanrest Avenue
Grandville, Michigan 49418
August 1, 2001
To: The Protestant Reformed Churches and friends and supporters of the Protestant Reformed Seminary
Dear brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus,
Greetings in the love of Christ!
As the new seminary year approaches, we thought it good to give you a few “snapshots” of the people in the seminary. Students and faculty alike are grateful that the same friendly staff continues to serve the seminary. Don Doezema is the seminary registrar and the general “go-to guy,” and his wife Judi is the secretary. Both give invaluable service to the seminary, not to mention the denomination. Brenda Brands assists the Doezemas in many ways, and in a short amount of time made herself almost as indispensable as the Doezemas, especially because of her ability to save computer files and programs from devastation.
The one question most often asked of professors (and we welcome such interest in the seminary) is “How many students are there in seminary?” This letter intends not only to relate how many students, but also to introduce them and their families.
First of all, we report with gratitude to God that two students graduated this past spring. One graduate was Pastor Lau Chin Kwee of the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore. Pastor Lau had taken his initial training in the Protestant Reformed Seminary in the years 1980-1982. This condensed, two-year course enabled him and his wife, Foong Ngee, to go back to Singapore, be ordained into the office of minister, and begin to help with the work in the young churches. However, both he and the ERCS desired that he obtain the full seminary training. To that end, he returned for the fall semester in 2000, and for the spring semester of 2001, finished the required courses, and received his diploma. Thereupon, he returned to his charge as pastor in the First Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore.
The second graduate was Angus Stewart. Mr. Stewart came to the seminary from the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland (a sister church of the PRC) and completed the full four-year course, including an internship in Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church. During his time in the USA Mr. Stewart began dating, and subsequently married, Mary Hanko. At the conclusion of his studies, Mr. Stewart sustained an examination by the synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches. This exam, not required for graduation, was performed at the request of Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of NI, who sent two elders to witness the exam. The Stewarts have now moved to his native land, and the congregation in Ballymena called Mr. Stewart to be their pastor. After accepting the call, he was ordained into the office of minister of the Word and Sacraments. Rev. and Mrs. Stewart’s address is the old address of Rev. and Mrs. Hanko in NI, since the Stewarts have moved into the manse where the Hankos lived.
The two senior students, Rodney Kleyn and David Overway, entered their six-month internships in July. Introduced into the seminary curriculum in 1994, the internship has proved to be a valuable component in the training of men for the ministry of the Word.
Mr. Kleyn’s internship is in Faith PRC, under Rev. Koole. Mr. Rodney Kleyn and his wife Elizabeth were blessed with their fourth child this past year. They are members of Southwest PRC.Another happy event of some consequence for the Kleyns was the immigration of his father and mother and several siblings. After years of waiting, the Kleyn family arrived from Tasmania in June of this year.
Mr. David Overway and his wife, Rebecca, and their young son have taken leave of the Hope PRC where they are members, and made their way to Hull, Iowa for his internship under Rev. Key. This is new ground for minister, congregation, and seminarian, and all were excited about it. The Overways have been warmly welcomed to NW Iowa, and, by this time, no doubt, have been introduced to the rural “smell of money” (as the farmers there always remind anyone who mentions it).
Messrs. Overway and Kleyn are scheduled to return to the seminary for their final semester, the Lord willing, in January of 2002.
We have five other full-time seminary students, two of whom are returning for their third year. Mr. Paul Goh and his wife, Suet Yin, spent this past summer in Singapore, their homeland. Mr. Goh intends to take the full course of seminary and then return to the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore, which churches have sent him to the seminary. Mrs. Goh’s almost daily activity on behalf of the Reformed Free Publishing Association is most appreciated. The Gohs are members of Georgetown PRC.
Also in his third year is Mr. Bill Langerak. Mr. Langerak is the “experienced” seminarian in that he returned to school after some years spent in the business world. He and his wife, Karen, and their five children live down the street from Hope PRC, where they are members. Mr. Langerak has made the adjustment well from business to the life of studying theology.
First-year students include one from the Evangelical Reformed Churches of Singapore and two from the Protestant Reformed Churches. In July of this year, the seminary and the Grand Rapids churches welcomed Mr. Dennis Lee, his wife Foong Ling, and their two young sons. Mr. Lee worked a number of years as an engineer before committing to the study for the ministry and returning to the university for pre-seminary courses. His intent, the Lord willing, is to take the regular (four-year) course in the seminary and return to the ERCS.
Also in his first year is Mr. Bruce Koole of the Faith PRC. Mr. Koole has the distinction at this point of being the lone unmarried student in seminary. He certainly knows more than the average student about the ministry, being the second child in a minister’s family, and having lived all his life in a parsonage. Mr. Koole has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Grand Valley State University.
Mr. John Marcus is the third of the first-year students in seminary. He, his wife Amy, and their four daughters are members of the Byron Center PRC. The Marcus family is known also to many in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Australia, having been members of the EPC in Brisbane for three years while he was engaged in research at the University of Queensland. Mr. Marcus’ past studies earned him a PhD in biochemistry, and he does equally well in philosophy and Greek.
Those are the full-time students for the current year. A few other men from the Puritan Reformed Seminary are taking a course or two for credit in their seminary. In addition, we have three pre-seminary students taking some language classes (Greek and Hebrew) in the seminary.
One notable feature of the student body in the Protestant Reformed Seminary is the “foreign element.” In the past six years, the Protestant Reformed Seminary has been blessed with the privilege of training six men who came from outside the USA—one from Northern Ireland, three from Singapore, one from the Netherlands, and one from Australia (Mark Shand, EPCA). (Concerning Mark Shand, we rejoice with him and his wife Susan in the fact that he sustained his exams before the Presbytery and received the call to labor in the congregation in Winnaleah, Tasmania, AU. Plans are for Mr. Shand to be ordained in that congregation on September 29.)
These students from outside the PRC and the country (we really do not look at them as being “foreign”) make a positive contribution to the seminary life and instruction. They bring with them different and varied experiences, backgrounds, and traditions, but the same love for the truth. This results in good questions, excellent discussions, and, sometimes, instruction in areas that might not otherwise be developed. It is not only a joy to have these students, but we also count it a great privilege. We are grateful to God that He brings these men to our theological school. The faculty is well aware of the responsibility and privilege as instruments in God’s hand to teach many the precious Reformed truths as maintained in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
At the same time, the review of the student body indicates that there is not an overwhelming number of students from the Protestant Reformed Churches. As anyone in the PRC knows, there are six calls issuing forth from Protestant Reformed congregations for ministers, missionaries, and a minister-on-loan. All the graduates in the next four years will not fill the existing needs in the PRC, and it is easy to see that more openings are on the horizon.
The situation calls attention to the pressing need for students, the concern of all who love the cause of the gospel. We urge you to hold before your sons the high calling of the ministry of the gospel. The Lord has given the Protestant Reformed Churches much work. Faithful, spiritually minded, committed young men are needed to preach the glorious truth God has given the Protestant Reformed Churches. Join us, then, in unceasing prayer to the Lord of the harvest that He send laborers.
If you are in the Grand Rapids area on September 5, you are welcome, even urged, to join the seminary at the annual convocation. Students and professors alike appreciate the indication of support from those who attend these gatherings. It has been the custom that the professors speak at the convocations by rotation. This year it will be my privilege to bring the message. The convocation is to be held in the Faith PRC, beginning at 7:45, the Lord willing.
Finally, in thankful humility we point out that, by the grace of God, the Protestant Reformed Seminary has remained faithful to the historic Reformed faith for over 75 years. We hope that you, with us, recognize that this preservation is a gracious gift of God to His church. In these days of appalling apostasy, do continue to pray that God keep this seminary faithful to His truth.
Yours in Christ,
Prof. Russell J. Dykstra, Rector