At the annual meeting of the Staff of the Standard Bearer, undersigned promised to send in some news from time to time for our readers. I believe that this is not only interesting, but also very important; it is necessary that our people be informed of the facts and developments in the field. Sometimes this is not an easy task. One must not lose the necessary objectivity in reporting. And when one is personally involved in the happenings, this becomes still more difficult. On the other hand, only the Missionary, who has been in the field for almost four years’ running, (since April, 1969), is in a position to write knowledgeably on the matters to be reported.
There is another reason why it is important that some news be forthcoming from the Jamaica field. It is the fact that upon my request and upon the reasons assigned, the Mission Committee and the calling church (First Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.) have decided “to suspend Rev. Lubbers’ labors in the Jamaican Mission field in December and to instruct him to return home with his possessions.” Now there is room for some reporting by the undersigned on this important and far-reaching decision. It was also decided—and that correctly in my judgment—”that any further missionary work in Jamaica, either by another full-time missionary or by emissaries will be decided by the Synod which meets in June of 1974.”
This decision does not mean to write off the mission field here in Jamaica, nor does it mean that the Mission Committee or the undersigned consider our work here as being an ecclesiastical and missionary debacle. Such is not the viewpoint of the Mission Committee. On the contrary, the Committee encourages the brethren here to hold fast to the Reformed faith, that they retain the name Protestant Reformed Church in Jamaica for the sake of the keeping of the unity; advise the Board of Trustees to meet regularly to discuss the well-being of the churches; supervise the care of the buildings, and give the Mission Committee reports of their activities. This is a rather positive stance. Whether this advice to the Jamaican brethren is optimistic or lacks realism, the future will tell. I believe that this advice is correct. At any rate, the Mission Committee does not close the field.
This could only be done by the Synod of our churches. There is a very important decision taken by the Synod of 1973, Art. 113, which reads as follows: “In light of the developments in the Jamaican field Synod instructs the Mission Committee in conjunction with the calling church to evaluate carefully the field in the next year to determine by next year’s Synod whether this work should be continued beyond June of 1974.” This decision is clear and concise; it spells out a definite mandate for the Mission Committee to follow, and also for the calling church. It seems to me that both this Committee and the Ecclesiastical Assembly, in their decision to refer this matter to the Synod of 1974, are correct.
There is another decision of the Synod which must pass in review at this point. This decision is found in the Acts of Synod of 1973, pg. 29, Art. 119, which reads, “. . . that Synod instruct the Mission Committee to see to it that the present school work for the students be finished this year. Carried.”
Now both of these decisions were directives in the Missionary’s request that in December of this year he be honorably discharged from his duties here on the Island.
To begin on the positive note, it was the conviction of the Missionary and also that of brother Mark Hoeksema that “the present school work for the four students” could very properly and reasonably be finished by the month of December. School was begun on August 1. The data which Synod and its Committee had before them concerning the “school work” was that these students needed a course in New Testament History, that the course in Old Testament History needed to be finished as well as the course in Doctrine. The courses in Homiletics and Hermeneutics, which have been very ably taught by Rev. J. Heys were finished. The students needed practice preaching. It was the certain conviction that the necessary courses have been taught to the students. The course covered three years of instruction in the following branches: Heidelberg Catechism (doctrine), Church History (Ancient and Medieval and a bit of Modern), Old Testament History (in depth), New Testament History (a course commensurate to what is given in our own seminary), Homiletics, and Hermeneutics, and even some instruction in music, not to forget a solid course in basic English and composition. These we consider necessary courses, and we believe that we have given these men the tools and skills to “teach others.” These men are making good progress in preaching also, and they preach Reformed, Protestant Reformed, doctrine. In many ways they are young and untried, as is to be expected. But they will be teaching in the indigenous Protestant Reformed Churches in Jamaica, and not in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America.
We hold that we have done what Synod instructed the Mission Committee to do, namely, to finish the present school work of the students this year. And we say this with great gratitude to the Lord!
On a more negative note, permit us to observe that there are no little discouragements, even though there are some positive developments. Synod decided that after careful study it would be decided whether we should continue our labors beyond the Synod of 1974. There is here not much for me to report. What I have reported in former articles must stand. I shall here content myself by simply quoting from my request (in part) for an honorable discharge. I quote the following:
The task which I undertook when I assumed this office before the face of the Lord is ended. It is true that there is some difference of opinion whether we have exhausted the resources here, and whether a “different method” should be used in working on the Island. Article 114 speaks of the instruction of Synod to the Mission Committee concerning “method of labor.” (*) This evidently refers to the view of an esteemed colleague that we should labor with each congregation in a catechetical manner, and that after the pattern of what we did here with the students. Much as I respect the sincere attitude and attempt herein set forth, I believe that I should point out (a) that I have done this wherever possible for three years, (b) that it is physically impossible to accomplish this goal when one is in a given church only once in five or six weeks, and when there is no evident attempt of the people to cooperate. I believe that this would only show up the futility of such intensive indoctrination on the part of the Missionary alone and single-handed. Besides, the very idea and genius of teaching students is that these in turn “shall be able to teach others.”
I believe and hold that here too, my task is ended, and it now falls upon the shoulders of the young men, whom we have instructed, and upon the shoulders of the Rev. Elliot and Rev. Frame.
I do not believe that it should be necessary for me and Mrs. Lubbers to remain on the Island and to supervise the work indefinitely. Perhaps this is very futile too. It is one thing to set up the machinery of church government here on the Island, but it is quite another thing, and far more difficult, to have the churches operate within the framework and structures. . . .
If these churches need help, such help can be given them by sending qualified and knowledgeable men here to meet with the Board of Trustees and with the Elders’ Conference at stated times should this be possible. There is no need of the undersigned to stay here to referee the churches under the rules and regulations. If the two-fold organization, the Board of Trustees and the Elders’ Conference do not work, it shows that the churches cannot or will not function as such. . . .
We ask you to take steps to facilitate our honorable discharge from the field here set forth above.
(*) As a footnote I will add that Article 114 does not refer to the labors of this year here, but refers to a consideration of work-method “should we continue” after the Synod of 1974.
Both the Mission Committee and the Consistory of First Church have acceded to my request, subject to the confirmation and the approval of the Synod, of course.
Now it my earnest prayer to God for these churches that they may prosper well. I do not believe that our leaving here will or can shorten the hand of the Lord. I commend these churches, ministers, and students unto the hand of the Lord, Who is able to keep them and give them a place among all those who are sanctified.
I only humbly confess that we have worked faithfully, depending upon the Lord’s mercies which were new every morning. If the Lord in His inscrutable wisdom sees fit to send another man or men here, more youthful than Mrs. Lubbers and myself, I can only gratefully and thankfully praise God’s Name.
I do not believe that my usefulness in God’s kingdom has ended. My work has ended here. What the Lord has in store for us I leave in His hands and wait His bidding. We did not go here in our own strength, nor do we leave in our own willfulness. His Name be praised.
Meanwhile we are thankful for the presence and aid of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Hoeksema on the Island. Mr. Hoeksema works with vigor in the school. The students love him very much, as they do Mrs. Hoeksema. It will be a rather sad day to depart from these people here, and particularly from the students whom we have instructed these three years in school. We also will leave with sadness from the ministers. Then there are some very good elders which have stood in the fray. Nevertheless, we do leave in the consciousness of the Lord’s approval, without which we could not leave.
Remember us all in your prayers, and not the least these churches in Jamaica, that they may continue in the faith delivered unto them. May the Lord grant the guidance of His Spirit to all who must make decisions in His Name.