Dear Friend and Brother:
This time I thought I would write you in public and ask the Standard Bearer to bear my letter to you. After all, he travels—in part, at least—by air; and therefore my letter should reach you rather promptly. This public letter has the advantage that since you and I are both rather busy at present, we can, so to speak, kill two birds with one stone. Our American friends can read this letter over my shoulder as I write you, and your and my New Zealand friends can read over your shoulder when you receive my missive. There is no harm in this, for we have no secrets to hide from the rest of our friends; in fact, we have some news which we are happy to share.
It is certainly good that we may share some positive news after a rather lengthy period of disappointment and discouragement. I refer, of course, to the fact that, the Lord willing, Rev. Ronald Van Overloop and his wife and four children will soon be coming to Christchurch, and that he plans to labor in your midst for some eight months, You will recall that our Synod of 1976 heeded the request of your Consistory (you call it “Session,” of course) and arranged for you to call one of our Protestant Reformed ministers as your pastor for a period of up to five years. At the same time that Synod decided that should your efforts to obtain a pastor be unsuccessful, our Committee for Contact With Other Churches was empowered to ask one of our Consistories to release their pastor and to send him to Christchurch for up to a year. In the good providence of our God, your calls met with declines. This was disappointing, of course. Then, last spring (your autumn in the Southern Hemisphere) our Contact Committee began working to obtain a minister for you on an interim basis. However, these efforts, too, did not meet with immediate success. For one reason or another, neither Rev. C. Hanko, nor I, nor Rev. M. Joostens could come to you. It was quite understandable, therefore, that you began to be a bit discouraged in Christchurch. After all, you are quite isolated over there, you are a little flock, young in the faith, and you have never yet had a pastor or even a minister on any kind of regular or semi-permanent basis. Besides, when we left you, now more than two years ago, you and we had rather high hopes that this was the Lord’s direction for you and that soon you would have help. Well, frankly we of the Contact Committee were also tending to be a bit discouraged. We realized, of course, that this was the Lord’s will, as you also did. And we trusted, too, even as we prayed, that the Lord would lead in the right way and that He would provide in His wisdom and His love. He always does, you know; and He never puts His people to shame. But your need was on our hearts, and we longed to help you and also in this way to strengthen the ties of fellowship between you and us.
Imagine our joy, then, when we received word from the Hope Consistory and from Rev. Van Overloop that he was willing to labor among you for an extended period of eight months! I know something of your joy, too. For I had the privilege of speaking to your Clerk of Session, brother Andrew Young, via telephone; and when I conveyed the good news to him, his reaction was, “That’s the answer to many prayers!” And did you know that brother Bill van Rij, that world-traveler, rang me from Tahiti when he found out I had some news? His reaction was, “That is good news indeed!” So now you will have help. I know this is not the same as receiving a pastor. Nevertheless, it is a big step in the right direction. I am convinced that in Rev. Van Overloop you will enjoy soundly Reformed teaching and preaching, as well as warm fellowship and kindly pastoral care in the bonds of the love of Christ. Knowing you somewhat, I feel confident, too, that you will give him a warm reception and take him to your hearts, and that soon he will feel quite at home among you. Meanwhile, remember the Hope Congregation in your prayers; they are generously loaning you their hardworking pastor, whom they love. We of the Contact Committee deeply appreciate their forward-looking attitude and their willingness to sacrifice for the cause of Christ’s church in New Zealand. We know you feel the same way.
As of this writing, I am informed that Rev. Van Overloop and family are planning to leave Grand Rapids on the seventeenth of December, provided their visas arrive on time. At that rate, they may even arrive before you receive my letter.
Please give my greetings to all the brethren and sisters in Christchurch, and, if you get the opportunity, greet for me the saints in the rest of the churches. I sincerely hope that your moderator, Rev. Ivo Bishop, is feeling better after his many physical troubles.
Perhaps, instead of responding privately, you could answer me in your Gospel Witness. If you do, I’m quite sure that the Standard Bearer would reprint your letter.
May the Lord richly bless you in Christchurch and strengthen and sustain the cause of the Orthodox Presbyterian Churches in New Zealand.
Your brother in the Lord,