Arie den Hartog is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
I am writing this article at my desk in the study of our Randolph Church. We are thankful to the Lord that He has given us a place in one of our churches after our return home from Singapore. Our life as a family has started a whole new chapter. It would be hard to put into words what a great difference there is between life in Singapore and life here in the U.S.A. After laboring in Singapore and the Evangelical Reformed Church there for almost seven years it was very difficult for us to leave. Over the years we have grown to love the saints of God there very dearly. Yet we also believe that our departure was in the providence of the Lord. He called us to return and gave us a place in Randolph church. We are very happy to be here. We believe that our churches made the right decision when they decided to bring us home. It was time for us to leave the church there and commend the saints there to the grace of God. We were very thankful to the Lord that we could leave Singapore with such close bonds of Christian love between us and with peace in our hearts believing that the Lord would continue to keep and preserve His church there.
This is no doubt a very significant stage for the ERCS. They will now have to continue on their own. We believe they can by the grace of God. The church there continues to have a great task before it. We are thankful that the Lord has given to them two faithful pastors. Over the years of labor together we have also learned to esteem highly the brethren whom the Lord has raised up in their midst to be office bearers. We surely did not leave Singapore because there was little more work for us to do there. We were kept very busy until the very last day we were there. As is true of every faithful and true church of Jesus Christ so the ERCS has the great responsibility to “contend for the faith which was delivered to them.” We are thankful for having been used of the Lord in part to deliver to them the great heritage of the Reformed Faith. Our deep love for the church there causes us all the more earnestly to hope and pray that the ERCS will remain faithful to the truth in the coming years. We and they know that they are still relatively young in the faith and in their development. There are still very many things that they have to face in their church life which they have never before experienced. The devil will surely try very hard to lead them astray and to destroy them. Let us as churches continue often to remember them in prayer.
Most of our readers know that a good beginning has been made in the ERCS of starting a second congregation. By the time we left Singapore more than fifty brethren from the first congregation had indicated their desire and intention to be part of the second congregation. The organism of the church is now already in existence. Worship services are being held regularly at a beautiful facility obtained in the Lord’s providence at the Singapore American School. We were very privileged to preach at the inaugural meeting. The church there is not yet officially instituted. It is hoped and planned that this will take place some time between six months and a year from now. This is largely dependent upon the Lord raising up men in the midst of the group qualified and called to serve as office bearers. We believe that it was a good move to start another congregation even though both of the congregations to begin with will be small compared to some of our larger congregations here in the U.S.A. Yet we believe it is good to have two places where the Word of God is being preached and where the standard of the Reformed faith is being raised. We trust that in the providence of the Lord this will serve unto the extension of the church and kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ in Singapore. One of the greatest advantages of this move is that the ERCS will now be able to begin to develop a denominational church life. All of this will be very new for them. We hope and pray that our Protestant Reformed Churches can continue to give assistance and guidance especially in this area.
Brother Jaikishin Mahtani, who was trained in our seminary for three years, has now become Pastor Mahtani. We were very happy to witness that he is a faithful minister of the Word of God rightly dividing the Word of truth. Pastor Mahtani is now the pastor of the second congregation. He has been received very well by the members of the church and he is working very hard.
Mission work continues to be one of the greatest I tasks of the ERCS. The church continues to grow there in a very wonderful and unusual way. Recently another group of seven young people were added to the church by confession of faith and baptism. Before we left we saw again that there were a number of regular newcomers at the worship services. Some of these had already asked for a new catechism class to be conducted to prepare them for baptism and church membership. There is obviously still a lot of mission work to do in Singapore. Though there are many churches in Singapore, still only a small percentage of the population are professing Christians. Also very few churches in Singapore are preaching the truths of the Reformed faith that we, with the ERCS, hold dear.
The church is also growing from within as the Lord continues to raise up new covenant homes in her midst. There are now, I believe, around 40 married couples. There are also at least that many children. Infant baptisms are a very frequent event in the church. There is talk about the beginning of catechism training for the children of the church. In a couple of years the oldest of the children will be ready for this. There is also discussion about the future covenant instruction of the children of the church. Whether it will in years to come be possible. to have any form of Christian School remains to be seen.
One of the greatest concerns that we have after leaving Singapore is the matter of the future of the relationship between the PRC and the ERCS. Now that we do not have a missionary in Singapore it will not be so easy to keep up close ties. We as churches will have to work very hard at this. It is our earnest hope and prayer that we will continue to have a close and fruitful relationship as sister churches, and one that is of mutual benefit to both our denominations. Knowing both churches probably better than anyone else, we know how much we need each other and how much we could benefit by sharing in each other’s church life: Both of our churches in the providence of the Lord have their strengths and weaknesses. As I think about all of this, the question arises: What shall we do to maintain a close relationship and to prevent our relationship from degenerating into little more than a mere formal one? We will have to put a lot of real and concrete effort into this. We will have to continue to take a very keen interest in each other’s church life. We will have to have the courage and love to continue to admonish and encourage and advise one another without causing offense and removing all offense that might arise. Above all, our relationship will continue if we continue together to love and defend and promote the common truth of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that has been given to us. There will be an important official aspect of this relationship. But also there must be the continuing spiritual and personal bond of friendship in the Lord. I hope that this will be maintained through personal correspondence and visits between the members of our two denominations, and above all through constant fervent prayer one for another.
We come also to a very significant stage as Protestant Reformed Churches. We now have one fewer missionary as a denomination than we have had in the past years. We hope that this will not continue for long. We need to expand our efforts of foreign missions through investigating new fields of labor and praying earnestly to the Lord that He will open new doors for us for the preaching of the gospel. We need young men who are called to the gospel ministry in our churches. It is truly a sad situation that we have so few men in our seminary at present. We need to do some real soul searching to determine the reason for this.
We have the vision that our work of foreign missions ought to be continued in the East. Perhaps in the providence of the Lord we can some day further help the ERCS, maybe in the area of training ministers or in helping them establish another congregation. The future is in the hands of the Lord. We also see great potential for future mission work in the countries around Singapore, especially in Malaysia. Before our return to the U.S.A. we had the opportunity to make a lengthy trip into Malaysia. We wanted to meet for the last time with beloved brethren in Malaysia whom we have gotten to know and love over the years of our stay in Singapore. We were greatly moved by their situation and need. We know of very little true Reformed preaching in the entire country of Malaysia. Perhaps in the providence of the Lord our churches could some day in some form do mission work in Malaysia. Personally I hope and pray that we can. It will not be easy to get into Malaysia, or for that matter into any other foreign country today, to begin new mission work. Much preliminary ground work has to be done and it may be several years before a work can actually be started. We need to begin to do that preliminary work now. We need to have a vision for the future and an earnest desire and great zeal to continue on in the great task of mission work for the glory of the Lord and for the salvation of His people among the nations. Let us be encouraged as churches with the blessing of the Lord upon His church in Singapore and continue to be faithful to our Lord’s great commission.