Strictly speaking there always is progress in missions.
The Word of God never returneth void; God always accomplishes His will through the Word preached, since the Sword of the Spirit is a double edged sword and is a savor both of life unto life and death unto death.
Yet, it is significant for us to recall the joy that flooded the early church when they witnessed the salvation of souls through the preaching. Before the questioning church, Peter told of the saving power of the Spirit upon the house of Cornelius, and their reaction was expressed in these words, “They held their peace and glorified God saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life,” Acts. 11:18. Similarly, Paul rehearsed before the church at Antioch all that God had done with them and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles, Acts 14:27.
Numerical growth means something to the church. Not as if this becomes occasion for boasting, for then it would be sin. Rather, the joy in growth is centered in God, for He addeth unto the church daily such as should be saved. This is accomplished either by God’s act of saving from darkness into the light, or by lifting up one of His children who have a meager expression of faith unto a more complete and rich expression in the truth. By the preaching of the Word the entire church is prepared for the return of Christ in glory.
Today, we may share in this same joy that marked the early church.
Evidence of God’s blessings upon the ministry in Jamaica and in our own land abound in many ways.
Most significant is the fact that for the first time a minister has received the call to become missionary to the island. This does not mean of course that now wehave a missionary to devote full time to this field. Rev. J. Heys received this call through the calling church, First Church of Grand Rapids, only recently and he is now considering the call. Yet, this is meaningful in itself and certainly is progress concerning this phase of the work on the island. We as churches have declared before God that it is our desire that a man work full time on the island. We realize the needs of these people and take into account the fact that they have a willing heart and a listening ear. We also believe that these needs have been directed to our churches and that we have the calling to provide for them to the utmost of our power. Hence, the significance of extending a call for missionary to Jamaica is this, we believe it is the will of God for our churches to be busy in ministering to these people even to the extent of having one of our ministers work there full-time; we now must humbly seek the guidance of God who this man must be. We can easily realize the magnitude of considering such a call; our prayers as churches must arise before God that He guide Rev. Heys in this decision. Since there are many facets which will involve Synodical decisions, he will have until after Synod to make this decision.
The Synod of 1968 instructed the Mission Committee to make arrangements to have men work on the island as much as possible. All consistories were contacted to enquire whether their minister of any of the elders would be available for working on the island for a 3-6 month period. In evaluating the response, it appeared that this was not feasible, so the Mission Committee decided that we should send 2 emissaries, Rev. G. Lubbers and Mr. H. Meulenberg of First Church, to work for about 2 months. We requested Southwest Church to release Rev. Lubbers for the 2 months of April and May. Their decision was heartening to the Mission Committee and should be to all our churches. Even though Rev. Lubbers had labored for 6 weeks in the Pella area, in fact was still there when the request for Jamaica arrived at the Consistory, they, after conferring with Rev. Lubbers, decided that they felt, constrained to help the Jamaican churches with the confidence that God would use their minister to further this cause.
The Lord willing Rev. and Mrs. Lubbers and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Meulenberg will leave April 8 by plane and arrive the same evening in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Since this is the first time that our emissaries will leave from Grand Rapids, the Mission Committee decided to meet this same morning in order that we can first gather at the airport and see these brethren and sisters off, with the prayer that God will use them and care for them.
Their work will be more concentrated than previously. Since the labors in the past have still been of an investigatory nature; we now believe that more intense work should be done in one area, rather than preach in so many churches across the island. This will take place D.V. in Lucea. This church was the one with whom we had our first contact and is strategically located, being near to a larger number of other churches. The schedule of work includes preaching Sunday mornings in Lucea and evenings in one of the other churches in that area. Sunday afternoon will be occupied with a Bible study group in Lucea and Thursday evening there will be a catechism class in this same congregation. Perhaps during the earlier part of the week there will be time to visit some of the other churches. Elder Meulenberg will be investigating details as to the housing for a man who would accept the call, his status on the island if he would work there for a number of years, and what is required to get government recognition of the churches there. The importance of this later matter is connected with the licensure of the ministers to perform marriage ceremonies. If these churches become recognized by the government, we will be able to ship goods to them duty free.
Since our last article, more letters of thanks were received from the various congregations for the 40 pounds sent to them to help with the care of their poor. A representative letter follows, “To our synod, and our mission committee, Dear and Esteemed Brethren and Friends, We the Consistory of elders and deacons and the whole congregation of Cave Mountain Prot. Ref. Church send many many thanks for the 40 pounds to be distributed to the poor and needy, widows, orphans, sick, and some who cannot obtain work for some time. This amount has been distributed quite satisfied to us as the whole congregation. May our covenant God who is the Giver of all things who has provided this out of His great treasure for the poor and needy ever bless the store basket that it shall never go empty as you give to the poor and needy brethren of the Protestant Reformed Churches in Jamaica.” Similar letters were received from the following churches: Bel Mont, Castle Mountain, Mahoe, Hope Hill, Port Maria, North Hampton, Fellowship Hall, Islington, Crowder, and Cambridge.
Interest among our people in helping the Jamaicans is very high. This is evident from the gifts received from societies, schools, and individuals. Rev. Heys informed us that he has contacted a Bible society who will match every dollar we invest in the purchase of Bibles, if we use them for distributing to people that do not have their own Bibles. The price of each Bible is only $1.35 and this includes a better binding, more suitable for that climate.
Rev. G. Vanden Berg has prepared Baptismal Certificates and Membership Cards with the name of the Jamaican Church on it. These also have been distributed among them.
More details will be presented D.V. to the Synod as well as the report of our emissaries who plan to return prior to the meeting of Synod.
Our hearts were also gladdened when we heard that the Word was well received in Pella. Since the first of the year, Pella has had the presence of a minister continuously. Rev. Lubbers labored there for 6 weeks and this was followed by Rev. Veldman for another 6 weeks. Future plans are to have Rev. D. Kuiper succeed Rev. Veldman, since Rev. C. Hanko was not able to be away from home for that length of time, and Rev. Engelsma is planning on laboring in Pella for part of May and June. This little flock has experienced the fastest and greatest rate of growth than any of our churches. Prior to a more concerted effort of labor, they numbered about 3 or 4 members and now they have 24 souls, 7 families. At last report there have been from 24-38 individuals attending the afternoon service and mid-week lectures.
From the above report, it is obvious that mission work is becoming more and more a joint effort of all our ministers and churches. When we had a “Home Missionary” this work was from every practical point of view left to the Mission Committee and the missionary. Now however, mission efforts are shared by a larger number of our ministers who are available for this work. This touches our local congregations when the minister is gone for an extended period of time and when those who do not leave home to labor either in Pella or Jamaica have to assist in the supply of the pulpit of the minister who is away. Sometimes this involves reading services in the local congregation while their minister is away from home. Other times this involves having services a different time of the day so that available ministers can preach 3 times and each congregation can have their own service and still have a minister present. All of this speaks well for our churches in that there is a willingness to work together and share in this important ministry.
The pamphlet that deals with a testimony concerning the Dekker Case, written by Prof. Hoeksema, has been distributed. About 10,000 copies have been sent to various individuals throughout this country. The Literature Publication and Distribution Committee has made progress. They are having printed about 5,000 copies of the pamphlet, What is Truly Reformed, by Rev. Hanko. This will be a 4 page leaflet available to our local committees. This same committee has drawn up a list of subjects and writers for more pamphlets. These will treat the doctrine of the last things and should prove interesting to our people and be useful in distributing to others outside our churches. Such subjects as the idea of the end of all things, the four horsemen, the great tribulation, the apostasy in the church, pre-millennialism, etc. will be forthcoming.
The radio sub-committee has considered the station at Yankton, South Dakota whether this should be continued or not. The Mission Committee adopted the advice that before we change our present broadcasting arrangement we should have a basis of evaluation. The only request for response that is directed to the listening audience is to send in for a copy of the broadcast sermon. It is impossible to evaluate the listening audience on the basis of the number of people that send in for the sermon. So we advised Synod that a “letter month” be conducted over all our stations requesting the listeners that if they desire the broadcast to be continued over their station, they notify the station or a Grand Rapids address that they so desire. With this response, we will be able to evaluate the listening audience and have a basis of comparison between stations.
May the prayers of our churches arise to God that He continue to guide these efforts and in a special way provide Synod with wisdom as they meet and decide the future of this work.
Jehovah is a faithful covenant God. The progress in missions is His work; to Him alone be the glory.