The following is the report of the Mission Committee to our Synod of 1963 concerning mission work in Jamaica:
“Motion is made to inform Synod that First Church has expressed its willingness to relinquish Rev. C. Hanko for four weeks to go to Jamaica, and the churches in the Grand Rapids area have signified their willingness to give their ministers to First Church for one service each during Rev. Hanko’s absence. Carried.
“Motion is made to inform Synod that, through further correspondence with the churches of Jamaica, it has become evident that they are keenly interested in closer contact with our churches, in receiving our literature and being instructed in our doctrine, but that they are not yet in a position to establish an independent Protestant Reformed Church of Jamaica, even though this is their desire. Carried.
“Motion is made that we advise Synod to instruct the Mission Committee to send Rev. C. Hanko and a layman of his choice as soon as possible to spend four weeks on the island of Jamaica with a view to preparing the way for an indigenous church as their objective. Carried.” Acts of Synod 1963, page 93.
On the pages 30-32 of this same Acts of Synod we find that Synod decided to adopt the advice of the Mission Committee “that we work in Jamaica with a view to establishing there an indigenous church and that we set $2000 to cover the cost of sending a minister there. (Arts. 91 and 104). Moreover, Synod decided to send Rev. C. Hanko and a man appointed by the Mission Committee, preferably an elder, to carry out this mandate. The Mission Committee was also empowered to “continue labors in Jamaica at its discretion after receiving the report of those visiting the island,” and the necessary financial support for this work might be sought from the churches. And finally, the Mission Committee was authorized to appoint an alternate for Rev. C. Hanko, should this become necessary (Arts. 105-109).
In carrying out these decisions of Synod the Mission Committee decided to appoint Mr. H. Meulenberg to accompany Rev. Hanko to Jamaica. Moreover, the time limit of one month was changed to seventeen days, because special excursion rates could be obtained for seventeen days which would greatly reduce the expenses of the trip. This would mean that those who were sent would have to crowd their labors into a shorter period of time, but the reduction in the cost was worth the effort.
Therefore it was on the 30th of July that Mr. and Mrs. Meulenberg, my wife and I departed for the island. At noon the next day we were heartily welcomed by a large group of friends from Lucea who had been informed of our coming and were eagerly awaiting our arrival. Since Mr. and Mrs. Meulenberg had met Rev. Frame and his people on a previous visit just a year before, and since they were acquainted with the island, and Mr. Meulenberg had learned to drive a car with a right hand steering wheel on the left side of narrow, hilly and winding roads, all these assets proved of great advantage to us in making our contacts throughout the island. In fact, in a very short time we had left Montego Bay, the point of our arrival, and had settled in Lucea, where a home had been rented for us, which would be our headquarters for the duration of our stay on the island.
Most of our readers were present at the various meetings that were held in our churches describing our day by day experiences on the island. Therefore I will only sum up the most outstanding events of this work in Jamaica here.
There was, first of all, a visit to Kingston, the seat of government for Jamaica, where we contacted various government officials about matters pertaining to the organization of churches on the island.
No minister is allowed to officiate at weddings on the island unless his ministerial status is recognized by the government of Jamaica. Now these ministers that were seeking closer contact with us had broken all previous connections and therefore had lost their ministerial status before the law. Upon investigation, we found that their ministerial status could be restored only if they were duly called and ordained by an organized church. These ministers themselves must make application for such a recognition, but they must also have a recommendation from their consistory, as well as a recommendation from some organization, classis, synod, or denomination on the island of Jamaica or elsewhere. Therefore it was essential for them to adopt a name, and in anticipation of this fact Rev. Frame and his group had already adopted the name Protestant Reformed Church of Jamaica—Branch Mt. Gibeon” before we arrived.
Secondly, there was the matter of import duty on the clothing that our churches have sent or might send to these groups in Jamaica. A large sum of money had to be sent as import duty to the government of Jamaica before the recipients could receive the clothing we sent them. Therefore we also investigated this matter while we were in Kingston and discovered that as soon as these churches become duly organized under an official name with their own office bearers they can apply for recognition by the government of Jamaica and there will be no further charge of import duty on the clothing that is sent to them.
Finally, while in Kingston we also contacted the Jamaica Broadcasting Company to obtain prices for a possible broadcast time from the station at Kingston. We were informed that broadcasting time would be available to us early on Sunday morning, but the price is so high that it is questionable whether we can avail ourselves of this station for some time to come. We had discovered that most of the people on the island do have transistor radios and that they also would greatly appreciate hearing The Reformed Witness Hour. Therefore the radio would be a wonderful means of contact with them, but other facilities will most likely have to be sought if we are to reach them through the Reformed Witness Hour.
The second outstanding event of our visit on the island was the “conference” that was held with the churches which are under Rev. Frame’s supervision. This conference was held at Lucea on the first Sunday of our stay. Already at seven o’clock in the morning trucks carrying singing passengers arrived at the foot of Mt. Gibeon. We could both see and hear the pilgrims ascend the hill as they went to the tabernacle, and we were reminded of Psalm 84, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord. . . . Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. . . . They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” By eleven o’clock, the time the service was to begin, five churches were represented in the wooden framework of Rev. Frame’s tabernacle. One group had engine trouble and arrived later.
It was at this morning service that I was given the opportunity to preach the sermon. While Mr. Meulenberg went through the audience pointing out the various Confessions in our Psalter, these were briefly explained. Thereupon their attention was focused on the first Lord’s Day with its significant question: “What is thy only comfort in life and death?” As simply and concisely as possible the five points of Calvinism were explained in the light of this Lord’s Day. All emphasis was placed upon the fact that these are fundamental truths of Scripture, so that any future affiliation between the churches of Jamaica and our churches in the States will have to be on that basis, and on that basis alone. After the sermon many questions were answered, so that before we realized two hours and a half had slipped by. But already at this gathering the desire was expressed to make all necessary arrangements for future affiliation with our churches in the States, and that they might send young men to our seminary for more thorough preparation for the ministry.
The same evening another service was held at seven o’clock, Rev. Frame led this service and preached a short sermon on Matt. 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” In this sermon emphasis was laid anew upon a godly walk, since these churches do insist upon holiness and godliness in all their lives, in their personal lives as well as in the marriage state. After this sermon another opportunity was given to ask and answer questions, and again the desire was expressed to proceed with arrangements for closer contact with our Protestant Reformed Churches. A meeting was announced for the next Thursday evening in which the group at Mt. Gibeon would formally organize into a Protestant Reformed Church of Lucea, electing office bearers according to the Reformed Church polity. Since our presence was requested at this meeting, we agreed to arrange our visits throughout the week in such a way that we could be present at their meeting on Thursday evening.
The third event that should be mentioned is the “conference” that was held on Tuesday with Rev. Elliott and his churches at Islington. Rev. Elliott had only recently made contact with our churches, but since we expected to be in Jamaica for a few weeks he desired to have us meet with his churches also. So on Monday we traveled across the island to the eastern section and stayed at Port Mariah. From there we proceeded on the following morning to Islington, where we were met by a large group of people who had come together from various parts of the eastern section of the island. There also we were given opportunity to preach. So I spoke on John 10:16, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Again we had opportunity to point out the fundamental truths of Scripture as expressed in our five points of Calvinism. Again there was a very attentive audience, which desired to hear more from us in an evening gathering. Just one week later we paid another visit to Rev. Elliott and his church at Islington, leaving our Psalters, our catechism books, and our Church Order, and urging them to study them well before they decided whether or not they would seek affiliation with us in the future.