Rev. Kleyn is pastor of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.
Sunday, September 21, 2003 was an exciting and joyful day for the saints on the field in Pittsburgh. It was also an important day for our churches in the work of missions. On this Sunday, ten members of the core group in Pittsburgh made confession of faith. This is a significant development in the work of our churches on the Pittsburgh field, another step towards the organization of a Protestant Reformed congregation in this city.
Because the Domestic Mission Committee (DMC) understood how important this occasion was, they asked me to go as a representative of the DMC to witness the confessions of faith. Besides my wife and me, there were many other visitors at the mission to share in this joyous occasion. There were representatives (two elders and a deacon with their families) from the calling church for Eastern Home Missions (Southwest PRC). There was also a group of about ten young adults from the Grand Rapids and Chicago areas that made the trip. Besides this there were other visitors from our Protestant Reformed congregations.
Because the members of the mission and Rev. Mahtani (our missionary in Pittsburgh) also understood the importance of the event, they had made an extra effort to invite visitors to the service at which the confessions took place. School teachers from the Christian school in which they worship, friends and family members of those making confession of faith, as well as former members of the mission group were in attendance. In all, there were around 120 people at the service.
I preached for Rev. Mahtani in the morning to a full house (chairs are set up for worship in the library of Trinity Christian School), and the confessions of faith took place in the evening service. The ten who made confession of faith were made up of an older man with a Presbyterian background, two couples and a single man who are a part of the original group, another couple that joined soon after the beginning, and Rev. Mahtani’s two oldest sons (Jonathan and David).
The weekend spent in Pittsburgh was exciting. God has blessed the work of our churches in Pittsburgh very much. The ten who made confession of faith under Rev. Mahtani’s preaching have grown in their knowledge of and love for the Reformed faith, and particularly our Protestant Reformed distinctives. Their confession of faith is their saying, “We want to be Protestant Reformed because we love the same truth that you hold to and preach.” What an answer to prayers!
The weekend was exciting because in these confessions of faith we witnessed the truth that God gathers a catholic church, from all sorts of people (different ethnic groups, ages, backgrounds, etc.). Our missionary is himself a Singaporean-Indian. There was a black couple with eight children who made confession of faith. Many of the others who made confession are from a Roman Catholic background. There was an older man, in his 70s, who made public confession.
The excitement of the weekend also came out in the enthusiasm of both the missionary and the group. Rev. Mahtani makes mission work look like exciting work. Enthusiasm flows from him, so much so, that it is contagious. This comes out especially in his preaching, but also in the way he relates to the people, mixes with visitors, and speaks of his work. The group is filled with this same enthusiasm, and it not just empty feelings. There is a real first love on the field. One man, who was Roman Catholic, speaks of when he first heard Protestant Reformed preaching. He wanted, he said, to stand on the housetop and tell the whole world he had found the truth, wanted to go knocking on doors, wanted to tell all his family and friends about it. Another man tells of how when he first heard of the PRC mission, he wanted to come to the worship services but stayed away because he didn’t have a good pair of shoes. So he saved hard and got his shoes, and has never stopped coming in the four years since. You see and hear this first love in all your interaction there. In the worship services—big nods of agreement, even a reverently spoken “Amen” here and there during the sermons and at the end of prayers. In the singing—an enthusiasm that cannot wait for the organ to get started with the first stanza so that they can sing the “psalms” rather than empty and fluffy Pentecostal hymns.
Part of the excitement of the weekend was also the contacts that the mission has. The number of visitors on that Sunday showed that this work is prospering, that contacts are being made, that people are coming in to hear the preaching and to be instructed. God is giving fruit to this work. There were, in my estimation, twice as many visitors on Sunday as there were members of the core group (this is not counting the visitors from our churches).
However, in all this excitement—and we should be excited about this too!—we must remember that mission work is not all roses. Mission work can be lonely work—you are on your own, miles away from the churches. Mission work can be tedious and slow work—people with lots of questions, and slow in their grasp of the truth. Mission work can be discouraging work—lack of fruit.
Here, we as members of the churches can play an important role in encouraging the missionaries and those gathered by the work of missions. It is not hard to find the missionaries’ addresses. Let’s use them by writing them notes of encouragement.
Also, if possible, we should pay a visit to the mission fields. The visit of many PR church members and officebearers to Pittsburgh on the weekend of the confessions of faith was a great encouragement to the saints being gathered there. They want to be one with us. That means not only that they desire to be one with us in truth and faith, but also that they get to know us and know our support and care and love for them, and that they get to know our names and faces.
If you live in the Grand Rapids or Chicago area, Pittsburgh is the ideal field to visit. It is only seven hours away. A weekend spent there will be profitable. A visit to the field shows your interest in this work, will be an encouragement to the missionary and the group, and will also be of great benefit to you personally.
Anyone visiting the field can be sure he will be met with abounding hospitality. Rev. Mahtani has a special hotel rate organized for all visitors to the mission ($49.95/night at the Holiday Inn). Besides, Pittsburgh is a beautiful city. For more information one can refer to Rev. Mahtani’s monthly newsletters or call him at (412) 371-2299.
I encourage you to spend a weekend in Pittsburgh and share in the churches’ exciting work of missions!
May God continue to bless this work.