Our Protestant Reformed Churches are doing something new in missions. For the first time in our history, we have two missionaries on the same foreign mission field—two men working side by side.
This came about through Synod 2008’s decision to approve calling two missionaries for the Philippines. Since then two men have accepted separate calls and have been sent by the churches to take up the work. Those two men are now working together as foreign missionaries in the Philippines.
Jesus Christ is sovereign in this. It is He who led our churches to decide to call two men to this field. It is He who provided the men. And it is He who saw to it that these men were set apart for this work at practically the same time (January and April of 2009). We confess and acknowledge His hand in all of this. He is good, and wise.
But someone may still ask, Why two?
This question is perhaps especially on the minds of those who do not have a pastor at this time—who, as it were, must be without for the sake of having two men on a foreign mission field. They wonder, Is it really necessary to have two foreign missionaries? Is there enough work to keep them busy? And why call and send two men to a foreign field when we have a shortage of ministers and a good number of vacant churches?
The Scriptures are not silent on this matter. When Christ called twelve disciples, He from the very outset sent them forth “by two and two” (Mark 6:7). The church in Antioch did the same when she called and sent out Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3). And Paul continued doing this, taking Silas with him on his second journey, and often having with him not just one fellow laborer but a “company” (the word used in Acts 13 and 21).
In writing on this subject, I do so from a missionary’s perspective. My viewpoint is that of one who is involved in doing the work “two by two.” Although we have been on the field together for less than ten months, I see already the many practical benefits of doing the work in this way. It is these practical benefits that I plan to discuss.
One of the main benefits of having two missionaries in the Philippines is seen in connection with the amount of work the Lord has given.
When Synod 2008 adopted the proposal to call two missionaries, the two grounds for this decision focused on this very thing. Those grounds were as follows (Acts of Synod 2008, Art. 61):
(a) According to the testimony of both the FMC and the calling church, there is sufficient work for two missionaries in the Philippines.
(b) With two missionaries in the Philippines, one man can focus on the labors with the BPRCP in the city of Manila, whilst the second man can focus on minister training, pursuing and developing contacts, etc. in the broader region of the Philippines.
The King of the church has indeed given us plenty to do. There is first of all the labor within the Berean Protestant Reformed Church of the Philippines. This keeps one of the missionaries (Rev. Smit) busy, as he attends to all the regular work of a pastor within that congregation. There are also three other groups or churches we work with, all of whom are interested in biblical (Reformed) truth. We (usually Rev. Kleyn) visit each of these either once or twice a month. We preach and teach the precious truths of the Reformed faith, making use especially of the Heidelberg Catechism. The missionaries are involved in instructing the existing pastors and officebearers in these churches. We also give occasional lectures. In addition to all this, the Lord has put us in touch with many others who are seriously interested in the truth.
Our missionaries have much to do. There ought to be no fear that there is insufficient work and that the missionaries are idle. It is clear that Christ has given us an open door in the Philippines (Rev. 3:8).
To do this work justice, we need two missionaries. If all this work were left to one man, the work (and perhaps the man himself) would suffer. We could hardly expect the work to go forward and progress toward the establishment, the Lord willing, of more Reformed churches.
It is indeed a blessing that God in His providence and wisdom has provided two missionaries for this work.
In addition to the amount of work, another significant benefit in having two missionaries is the nature of the work.
In missions, a missionary frequently faces situations that are unusual. He must often deal with matters he has not faced before. Some examples: organizing new congregations, working toward forming a denomination, seeking to establish sister-church relations, and equipping men for the gospel ministry.
Some of these things arise because we are working in a foreign land and a different culture. But they also arise because the groups and churches are new to the Reformed faith. Many are new to the doctrines themselves, and to how that truth applies to Christian life. Many are especially new to the principles of Reformed church government, and the proper application of these to the church.
In addition to this, a foreign missionary does not have the consistory of his calling church, or the Foreign Mission Committee, close at hand. These men are half way around the world. It is true that we are able to stay in touch with these bodies. In fact, modern means of communication make this very simple and inexpensive. But that is not the same as having the elders of the calling church on the field itself, observing what you are observing, facing what you are facing, experiencing with you the work and its many challenges.
For these reasons, two missionaries are necessary. They need to be able to consult regularly, even on a day-to-day basis. This is more than simply a matter of preference or expedience. It is really a biblical must. It is the application of the principle set forth in Proverbs 11:14, that “in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
As missionaries, we have done this, and greatly benefited from it. We consult each other frequently throughout the week. We are able to help each other immensely in the work, especially because we are both directly involved in it. I believe it would be difficult to do the work of foreign missions, and to do it well, without this.
Finally, there is the important matter of companionship— for the missionaries themselves, and for their families. This ought not be overlooked as another benefit of sending men two by two, for the work to which the Lord calls foreign missionaries takes them far away from their families and friends.
They are of course able to establish new friendships (as any minister does when he accepts a call to a new place of labor). And this we have done. In fact, I would be remiss if I did not mention that God has placed us among fellow saints in the Philippines who are hospitable and friendly. They demonstrate their love in countless ways. We love them in Christ and thank the Lord for them.
But at the same time, as foreign missionaries we are living in a foreign land. We live in a country where, for the most part, a different language is spoken. We live in a different culture. We face a different climate. We experience daily a different way of life. We face many unique experiences and challenges.
On account of these things, our missionary families are important to each other. We are able to assist each other in various ways. We are able to share experiences. We are able to encourage each other. Our wives are able to visit, run errands together, help with the children, and compare notes on their lives and work here.
As mentioned earlier, the apostle Paul was not alone as a missionary either. Many accompanied him in his travels and were at his side during the routine as well as the difficult times of his work. Companionship was important and necessary for him as well.
In the past months we have experienced firsthand not only the benefits but also the necessity of this companionship. And we have also experienced the Lord’s blessing in His putting together here in the Philippines two missionaries and their families who have a good relationship with each other, and are able to work well together.
All of this leads me to express sincere thanks to God for leading our churches to call and send two men to the Philippines. But I also express my sincere gratitude to our churches for their willingness to do so. I am convinced it was the proper and wise thing to do. It is my personal conviction that, if possible, foreign mission work should always be done two by two.
May God bless the churches for being willing to take two men out of our established congregations so that the work of foreign missions might be done in obedience to Christ’s command to preach His gospel to all the world.