The following article is from the pen of Rev. James Slopsema, secretary of the Foreign Mission Committee of the Protestant Reformed Churches. Rev. Slopsema writes interestingly and informatively of our churches’ involvement in foreign missions. The Protestant Reformed Churches are preaching and teaching the blessed gospel to the very ends of the earth. God has opened doors for us and is using us for the gathering of His people out of the nations. How thankful we ought to be. How fervent in our prayers and support we ought to be that this work may continue to the glory of the Name of Him Who has set before our churches this open door.
As the editor of this rubric indicated in his introductory article, the mission committees would be asked from time to time to submit a report of their various labors. Complying with this request, the Foreign Mission Committee submits the following report of its work. We do so in the hopes that this will not only keep you informed but also generate interest in this work of our churches.
Perhaps a brief introduction of ourselves is in order at this point. We as a committee have not exactly been in the spotlight of our churches in years gone by. There are some in our churches that may not even be aware of our existence. This is due perhaps to the fact that up until this point we have not received an open door that has required the labors of a missionary. At any rate, the Foreign Mission Committee is a committee of Synod located in the western branch of our churches. Due to the great distances between the churches in the west, the members of this committee are men from our Hull, Doon, and Edgerton congregations, all of which are within driving distance of each other. As our name indicates, our field of labor is foreign missions. This has been defined in our constitution as the gathering of the church among those who “in their generations have not belonged to the covenant.” In short, therefore, our mandate is to labor in those areas of the world which are predominantly pagan. This is in distinction from domestic missions which labors in those areas where God’s covenant and church have existed down through the ages.
At present the Foreign Mission Committee is engaged in two fields of labor.
The first is Singapore, which will occupy the lion’s share of this report. In a previous issue of theStandard Bearer, the Foreign Mission Committee informed you of its sending of emissaries to the Gospel Letters and Tracts Department (GLTD) in Singapore. You perhaps recall that the emissaries at that time found the GLTD to be a group of approximately 120 individuals ranging in ages from 18 to 21, of Chinese ancestry, all converts from paganism. In general the emissaries’ report was quite favorable. Considering the heathen background and homes from which they came, considering their age and inexperience, considering the spiritual climate in Singapore even among the Christian churches there, we found the GLTD to be more than what one would normally expect. Their life and walk was very much to be commended. They had completely turned away from the paganism of their past. Willingly they suffered for the sake of the gospel, even in their homes which remain pagan. Their greatest weakness was their doctrinal position, or perhaps better, their look of it. They embraced anything from Arminianism to a somewhat Reformed position. The majority held to a 4-point Calvinism, rejecting the truth of the particular atonement of Christ. Upon hearing the doctrinal position of our churches, the GLTD wanted time to consider whether they wanted a missionary from us to labor among them and eventually establish them as a church. To this end it was decided to conduct a tape program of instruction with them following the Heidelberg Catechism. Such in brief was the report we were able to bring you about a year ago.
Since that time, things have progressed in a favorable direction.
Personal letters, for example, have come to the emissaries from various members of the GLTD. The following is an excerpt from one of the letters which indicates a receptivity to the Reformed faith as it was brought to them.
I remember hearing you speak on total depravity in one of your sessions with us. I thank God I’d not missed that session for He spoke to me and brought me to a wonderful truth. We have heard much of limited atonement, unconditional election, etc. from brother Chin Kwee (one of the leaders and instructors in the GLTD), but that bit on the will of man was brought forth more clearly and forcefully by you. I’ve never really known the importance and significance of it. Though few may not find such teaching attractive, those who receive it are certainly blessed. Great is our God and greatly to be praised.
Here is an excerpt from another letter.
The willingness of your church to help us is really an encouragement to us. If the Lord willing, we sure look forward to having a minister from your church in our midst.
Books also have been sent to the GLTD from the Foreign Mission Committee. Several copies each ofThe Triple Knowledge by H. Hoeksema, The Mysteries of the Kingdom by H. Hanko, andMarriage: The Mystery of Christ and the Church by D. Engelsma have been sent. The response of the GLTD has been that they find these books to be very helpful.
In addition to this, cassette tapes of instruction on the Heidelberg Catechism have been made and sent to the GLTD. The purpose of these tapes has been to instruct the GLTD in the Reformed faith, with particular emphasis on areas of disagreement. To study and evaluate these tapes, the GLTD has formed a “Study Commission” of 10 members. To date, the “Study Commission” has expressed full agreement with the instruction given.
On this basis and with the approval of the 1978 Synod, the Foreign Mission Committee decided to send emissaries again to the GLTD. The main purpose of this mission is further to instruct the GLTD in the Reformed faith and in that way to gain a commitment from them to the Reformed faith so that they request a missionary from us to labor on a permanent basis. To carry out this mandate, Mr. Dewey Engelsma, who also went as emissary before, and Rev. M. Kamps left for Singapore on March 19. Their term of labor has been set for six to eight weeks.
The Foreign Mission Committee has also asked the wives of the emissaries to accompany their husbands on this trip; something that was not done on the previous trip due to the added expense. Perhaps a word of explanation is in order. On the previous trip, the emissaries found that it was very difficult to work effectively with the women of the GLTD. This was due to the cultural situation. The women, who constitute just over half of the membership, had many questions relating to the home and marriage they wanted to ask, questions to which they need answers if they will be in a position to determine whether they want a missionary from us. But most of these questions were never asked simply because it is the height of impropriety according to Oriental standards for a woman to discuss such matters with men. To give but one example, the emissaries found it to be improper when they asked a few of the young women how old they were. More than once the emissaries were asked, “Why didn’t you bring your wives with you?” They had many things to discuss with the emissaries’ wives. Consequently, the Foreign Mission Committee asked the emissaries’ wives to accompany their husbands to assist them by giving practical instruction to the women of the GLTD. And having graciously consented to this, they left for Singapore on April 3 to join their husbands.
As this article is being written, our emissaries and their wives are still in Singapore. Reports, however, have been coming back on the progress of the work there. The latest report, which came via telephone, was that the GLTD has decided to request a missionary from our churches to labor in their midst. We rejoice in this and praise God. We do so not only for His blessing upon our labors thus far but also for the fact that He has created within the hearts of these young people a desire for the Reformed faith. Our prayer is that God will continue to give us an open door in Singapore so that one day a Reformed church may be established there to labor in the gathering of the harvest.
Singapore, however, is not the only work in which the Foreign Mission Committee has been laboring. Work is also being done with a Mr. Gabriel Anyigba of Ghana, Africa. The following details will help to give you a better understanding also of this situation. Mr. Anyigba is a man in his late twenties, who teaches at a technical school in Ghana. He is a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana. He has also been instrumental in forming the Volta Evangelistic Evangelistic Association which is involved in evangelism work among the native tribes in the Volta region of Ghana. Our contact with Mr. Anyigba dates back to 1974. Since that time various books and pamphlets as well as tapes of instruction have been sent to him. Mr. Anyigba not only shares this material with his co-laborers but also uses it, particularly our catechism books, to instruct new converts. Exactly what kind of fruits this will have in the future remains to be seen. If nothing else, it is an opportunity for our churches to be a witness of the precious truth also in that part of the world.
In conclusion, the Foreign Mission Committee asks that you support these labors with your concern and prayers. God is still gathering His church today, even from those who historically have stood outside of the covenant. And He shall continue to do so till the end of time. It is a great privilege that God will use even us as churches in the accomplishment of that purpose. May we consider it to be a privilege. And may we faithfully labor at the opening of every door.