The living church of Jesus Christ is constantly involved in missions. This is true not simply because the church’s future depends upon it, but rather because our Lord commands this. A pragmatic approach toward missions will lead us inevitably into compromise, a forsaking of the right and true in order to get better results. Mission work is Christ’s work which He commands His church to perform in His name, and therefore it is the calling of the church to be faithful in this work no matter what the outcome may be.
Since mission work is the activity of the church, it stands to reason that it is of vital interest to all the members of the church. The labors of the Mission Committee are in the last analysis our activities, they are the products of our united efforts. The members of the Mission Committee are appointed by the churches as they are represented in the Synodical session. The mandates given to the committee are those things which have arisen in the hearts and minds of our people, either certain individuals or consistories. The monies by which these labors are supported are brought up by all our people through the assessment placed upon the church budget or special collections. Consequently this interest transcends geographical boundaries. Our people, whether in Michigan, California, or Washington and all points in between, desire to know what is being done in missions and what fruits the Lord is giving us upon our work.
It is with a view to satisfying this need for information that the Mission Committee upon the invitation of the Standard Bearer Staff decided to publish in theStandard Bearer four reports during the coming year.
Our Mission Committee is composed of the following members: Revs. Harbach, Heys, Kortering, Lubbers, Schipper, and Van Baren, and the brethren D. Kooienga, H. Meulenberg, H. Ophoff, and H. Zwak. Rev. M. Schipper is president, and Rev. R. Harbach is the secretary. Our regular meeting date is the third Wednesday morning of the month at First Church of Grand Rapids.
Of keen interest to all our people is the labor that has been continued in Jamaica. The Synod of 1967 decided to approve the sending of two emissaries to the island to labor in the midst of the Protestant Reformed Churches there. Rev. J. Heys and Elder H. Zwak spent 56 days on the island, ministering to 11 churches (Lucea, Johnsontown, Mt. Salem, Latium, Cambridge, Friendship Hill, Islington, Grange Hill-Crowder District, Lacovia-Reading District, Santa Cruz, and Sunderland). The main emphasis of this visit was upon instructing the ministers of the churches in the truths of the Word of God and as these truths are summarized in the Three Forms of Unity. To accomplish this end, twenty-one sessions were held, each lasting about 3 hours. Revs. Elliott, Frame, and Ruddock, as well as Elder Green and Deacon Binns, comprised the class; the latter two are considered possible future candidates for the ministry in those churches. Rev. Heys was specially suited for the task of instructing these men, since he had been their instructor in a car-respondence course that had been given them during the preceding year. From the mouths of Rev. Heys and Elder Zwak as well as from letters received from the brethren and greetings sent via tape, we may conclude that God has richly blessed these labors unto the spiritual well-being of the churches of the island. In the report to the Mission Committee a plea is made that God will open the door still farther, so that the ministers there may be instructed by someone who would be able to labor there for a longer period of time. They also have need of more ministers that can labor among the churches there and serve the congregations as pastors. To these needs we must address ourselves constantly. Rev. C. Hanko will continue with the correspondence course this year and cover the material of the New Testament.
As far as their church building needs are concerned it was pointed out that besides the churches mentioned above, 10 other churches were visited to ascertain what the condition of the church buildings is. Three had been rebuilt of cement block and were in the process of completion. These included the church at Waterworks, Islington, and Lacovia-Reading District. The others were still in the same condition as before. The representatives of the churches there discussed with our emissaries the possibility of merging into 4 main churches and thus eventually dissolving the many small congregations. There are mainly 2 reasons for going into this direction, first, from a financial point of view our churches can hardly help them maintain all the little churches. Besides this the 3 church buildings already constructed are so located that they could serve these needs. Secondly, with so many small congregations, some with only 4 or 5 families, they lack the proper preaching of the Word. If they would consolidate, this lack could then also be overcome. The problem with going in this direction is transportation for the people to go to church. The distance for many would be too far to walk. It was suggested that rather than going into the direction of building more church buildings we could better help them improve what they have and assist them with travel expense. There are trucks and busses which the people could take to church.
At this point we should emphasize that the collections which are being taken for the Jamaican churches be specified. At present we are not taking collections for foreign missions; Jamaica is under our domestic program. Synod decided to instruct the Mission Committee to request each of the churches to take 4 collections during the year for the church building needs. These monies will be used for the repair and construction that is still needed. In addition, Synod requested the deacons of Hudsonville to request the churches to contribute either from the Benevolence Funds or through special collection for the poor and indigent in the churches of Jamaica. Our emissaries distributed money when they were there,—some for medical bills they specified, and the rest was turned over to the churches for their distribution. It was decided by the Mission Committee to wait with conducting another clothing drive until it can be determined what the present set-up is on import duty. Rev. Heys is investigating this now. The churches responded with grateful hearts for blessings given them, spiritual and material. A special note of thanks was received for the 300 new and 100 used Bibles and 100 Psalters that were sent them. These had been donated by individuals, societies, and congregations.
More information of Jamaican missions will be available, D.V., when Rev. Heys and Mr. Zwak will present a public program which is being planned.
Much of our immediate attention as Mission Committee has been directed to our witness at home. Since we are surrounded by apostasy, we must not neglect our witness to our neighbor in our immediate vicinity.
There will be a Reformation Day Celebration which will commemorate the 450th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on Thursday, Nov. 2 in the First Prot. Ref. Church of Grand Rapids. Prof. H.C. Hoeksema will speak on “450 Years….And Then?” Plans have been made to advertise this widely in the Grand Rapids-Holland area and a special plea goes out to all who are interested in the Reformed heritage to be present.
In keeping with the decision of previous Synods, our churches are responding to the need to be busily engaged in witnessing to the truth on the local level. This is evident in 4 ways.
First, upon the request of the Pella consistory, plans are being made to share this Reformation program with them as a witness in that community. Prof. Hoeksema is scheduled to give this same Reformation Day address in Pella on Thursday, Nov. 9. Rev. Heys was asked to accompany the Professor to assist him in conducting the meeting and in distributing literature.
Secondly, the Mission Committee decided that sponsoring public lectures in the Michigan area be done entirely by the local churches, and therefore a committee was appointed to advise ways in which the future Reformation Day rallies and public lectures be carried on by a committee of the local consistories and not by the Mission Committee. Nine specific proposals were adopted at our last meeting which will be forwarded to the consistories in Michigan calling for the organization of a steering committee which will be responsible for arranging, promoting, and financing future lectures.
Thirdly, a request came before our committee from the churches in Hull, Doon, and Edgerton for assistance in their sponsoring lectures in that area. It was decided to request Prof. H.C. Hoeksema to lecture there either Nov. 30 and Dec. 5, or Jan. 11 and Jan. 16. Details of, these lectures will still be worked out. It was decided that expenses for these lectures be paid as much as possible through collections, etc., and that the deficit be paid out of the mission fund.
The fourth indication of local interest in mission activity came from Loveland, Colorado. The congregation there is active in distributing literature, the Reformed Witness pamphlet and the Standard Bearer. They requested the Mission Committee to underwrite the expenses of broadcasting the Reformed Witness Hour over station KLOV in Loveland. Since our Synod decided in 1964, “That as long as we have no missionary, the Mission Committee consider any request from local churches to assist them in church extension in their local areas by supplying of pamphlets, radio broadcasting and necessary financial aid in carrying out this work”. The Mission Committee approved this request for 1 year.
Another method of witnessing to the truth comes in the form of the printed page. The recently concluded lecture series on the Five Points of Calvinism will be printed in booklet form. This will be a handy compendium of the cardinal Reformed truths, one which all our readers will want and be able to use in distributing to others. These will soon be available from Rev. M. Schipper for the cost of $1.00 each. We also received a request from a brother who appreciated the Reformed faith and has a reading room in Suez, Egypt. He desired to have a copy of “Reformed Dogmatics,” by Rev. H. Hoeksema, which was sent to him. He also expressed the desire to complete his set of Rev. H. Hoeksema on the Heidelberg Catechism. He needs volumes VI (Baptized into Christ) and Volume VII (Eating and Drinking Christ). If any reader knows where such copies can be secured or desires to donate them, contact the undersigned. An offer was received from an anonymous party who was willing to have printed 10,000 copies of a pamphlet which would serve as a critique of the recent decisions of the Chr. Ref. Synod, if we would assume the expenses of distributing them. This offer was gratefully received, and Prof. H.C. Hoeksema consented to write this pamphlet which should be available in the near future.
Evidence of fruit upon past labors in the Houston area came to our attention. An independent Reformed church was organized there, and they asked Rev. Lubbers to be present to speak for their dedication services. The Mission Committee requested Rev. Lubbers to extend to them our greetings.
This presents some of the points of interest and work that has been occupying the attention of the Mission Committee. We are constantly reminded of our complete dependence upon God for His grace and wisdom, that we may be faithful stewards in His house. Let us unitedly raise a voice of thanksgiving for past blessings and implore our God for continued strength to carry on in this important work which is being done in His name. May He give us His light, that we may know wherein to walk in the midst of this sin-darkened world. May He guide the light of His Word that it shine exactly as He wills it, so that the wicked are without excuse and the children of God infallibly gathered within the fold.