Mr. Vermeer is the retiring secretary of the RFPA.

According to the Constitution of the Reformed Free Publishing Association, the purpose of the RFPA is to witness to the truth contained in the Word of God as expressed in the three forms of unity and to reveal false and deceptive views repugnant thereto. In order to effectuate this purpose, the Association publishes and distributes the Standard Bearer, and also publishes in book form the writings of our Protestant Reformed professors, ministers, and educators, as well as good material in the Reformed tradition.

God has enabled us to publish the SB for the past 73 years and has richly blessed our labors. We have been told recently that we are one of the oldest religious periodicals currently published in the United States, second only to the Banner. We are now mailing more than 2,500 copies per issue of the SB, 45% of which go to non-Protestant Reformed subscribers. We have 339 subscribers in 30 different foreign countries. Among the countries to which we send the SB are the following: the Philippines, Indonesia, Romania, Hungary, Switzerland, India, and the Netherlands. Added in the past year were Latvia, Korea, Denmark, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Malta, Greece, Peru, and Brazil.

Gifts and collections have reached an all-time high; from $17,000 in 1985 to $45,000 in 1997. This is a remarkable increase and reason for special word of thanks to all who remember this worthy cause with their gifts. These gifts and collections cover over half the cost of publishing the SB.

Ever since the RFPA board took on the book publishing responsibility two years ago, a large proportion of our work has involved book publication. We continue to fine-tune our operations to assure more timely completion of our book publication projects.

We have been graciously provided accommodations in the seminary basement for our operation and continue to enjoy a good working relationship with the Theological School Committee. We thank them for their willingness to allow us to operate in their facility.

To assist us in the publication process, we have hired a manuscript editor. Having a qualified person take on this responsibility will help to insure that the books we publish are of high quality, error-free, and with a reading style that complements the subject matter. This in turn will help to insure that our books are marketable and that our organization maintains a reputation for producing only well-written materials. Gary VanDer Schaaf has been hired as our manuscript editor. Besides editing manuscripts, Gary is working with our SB Business Manager, Don Doezema, to develop an editor’s protocol to standardize grammar, usage, and punctuation for all RFPA publications, including the SB. This will shorten time spent editing and promote consistency. We take this opportunity to thank Gary for his assistance and expertise in the past year.

Although we have not had a new book to offer in the past year, we have been busy preparing new books and reprinting existing titles. It looks quite certain that we will have one or two books out by the end of this calendar year. Besides the three revisions/reprints and four new book projects mentioned in last year’s annual report, we have two other projects which are worthy of note. One project is an updated SB Index which will soon come out on CD ROM. The other project is placing all SB volumes on one CD, including an index and search capability.

We have expended a lot of effort this past year promoting the SB and our book publications. A subscription drive for the SB and the Book Club was conducted via an insert card in the SB. At its completion, we had gained 80 new subscribers for the SB from 386 trial subscriptions and 157 gift subscriptions. Since most of these trial subscriptions and gift subscriptions were suggested or given by our regular subscribers, this demonstrates a commendable willingness on the part of our subscribers to promote the SB among acquaintances. These efforts do pay off. We also added 125 new Book Club members, bringing our total to about 540. We encourage those who appreciate good Reformed literature to join our Book Club. For you, there is a 35% discount on all of our books. For the RFPA, there is a guaranteed outlet for our new publications, allowing us to recover immediately much of our publication costs in order to begin work on new titles.

Our RFPA Books Catalog was widely distributed this year, giving our literature a lot of new exposure. Our sales from books increased over 50% this past year, as we have sent our books around the world, adding 400 new customers and a dozen new bookstores.

We have purchased a mobile display rack for displaying and selling RFPA literature at lectures, conferences, ecclesiastical gatherings, evangelism events, etc. Be sure to let the board know of such events so that we can have the display rack available. We would also like to encourage some of our churches or evangelism committees to start their own display rack of RFPA literature. We offer book discounts for such endeavors.

We have also begun taking advantage of the Internet as a powerful means to witness to the truth and advertise our publications. We gave Rev. VanBaren permission to include the SB on Loveland’s homepage, and we put the RFPA catalog on the homepage of the Mission Committee. We have also enlisted the service and expertise of Tim Hanko to design the RFPA’s own homepage.

The board has recently begun trying to obtain persons in the PRC outside the Grand Rapids area who are willing to promote RFPA books to Christian bookstores in their community, giving four books free of charge for each store as starters. In this way a more personal touch can be added to our attempt to promote our literature in Reformed communities.

Prof. Engelsma had two live, hour-long radio interviews on a Richmond, VA station. The interviews were on his book Marriage: The Mystery of Christ and the Church. This is an indication that our books are circulated and accepted in areas other than our PR communities.

Recently, Prof. Engelsma was interviewed as the editor of the SB by Christian Renewal. Through this means, Prof. Engelsma was able to inform the conservative Reformed world in North America about the SB, its origins, and its purposes.

We give Prof. Engelsma our heartfelt thanks for his devotion as Editor-in-Chief to the publication of the SB. We also extend a sincere word of appreciation to the department editors and guest writers of the SB, as well as to our book authors. We thank our God for giving us the truth of His Word and servants who faithfully proclaim that truth.

Our SB Business Manager, Don Doezema, and our Book Publications Manager, Ev Langerak, have worked hard over the last year to see that the work of publishing the SB and our books is completed. Their efforts are gratefully appreciated, as are the efforts of several capable assistants: Judi Doezema, who typesets each issue of the SB and many of our books; Dirk Westra who helps in proofreading book manuscripts; and Brenda Brands who provides general assistance, especially in the preparation of the cumulative SB Index. We offer a special thanks to John and Hermie Veldman for faithfully assisting in the mailing of every issue of the SB.

We thank our retiring board members, Ed Hoekstra, Harv Holstege, John Kalsbeek, and Bob Vermeer, for their labors in the past three years. Such labor is without material reward, but we work in the knowledge that our cause is to distribute our literature for the purpose of giving God all the praise, honor, and glory. We ask that you continue to pray for us in our labors as your board.

As we begin the 74th volume year, we are encouraged by the words of the apostle Paul recorded in I Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

Respectfully submitted,

Bob Vermeer, Secretary