Rev. Dykstra is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Doon, Iowa, and secretary of the Foreign Mission Committee.
The Foreign Mission Committee (FMC) is privileged to labor in the work specifically commanded by the Lord before His ascension, namely, going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature. The FMC members are appointed by Synod from the Protestant Reformed Churches in northwest Iowa and Minnesota, and commissioned to bring the truth to those who in their generations have not belonged to the covenant. Thus the FMC seeks constantly to establish a foreign field where the gospel has not been received in the generations of the people.
On the surface, it might seem that there is virtually no work left for the FMC, for no countries exist where the gospel has not been preached. In addition, various mission reports give (usually grossly exaggerated) statistics about mass conversions and the total number of Christians in any given country. But still today many pagan peoples continue to live in the idolatry that their tribes have practiced for hundreds of years. To such people the FMC endeavors to bring the Word of God.
The work of foreign missions has a number of features which make it distinct from domestic mission work. The most obvious is that most of the people to whom we must bring the gospel live a great distance from North America. We cannot readily visit small groups of people who contact us for help. Rarely can we contact them by telephone or fax. Thus the nature of foreign mission work demands much correspondence.
To facilitate this, the FMC has a corresponding secretary, Don VerMeer, an elder from the Hull congregation, who has put all our recent correspondence on file in his computer. Don handles almost all the initial correspondence with contacts, and develops the communication by sending appropriate reading material to the correspondents. The ministers also take part in the work. They correspond with those who have shown a greater interest and understanding of the truth.
This brings up another notable feature of the foreign mission work, namely that it proceeds very slowly. This is due, partly, to the fact that ministers, already busy in their own congregations, must take the time to correspond with their contacts. In addition, the letters to remote areas, or to countries far away, can take weeks to arrive, and some never make it.
Because the people we seek are far removed and thus largely inaccessible to us, the FMC has been airing radio messages of 15 minutes on two stations in Africa. Rev. Moore produces the messages which are broadcast every Sunday. Since these messages can only be understood by English speaking people, they are, admittedly, of limited value. On the other hand, some of the counties covered by the broadcasts are former British colonies where the use of English is common. Besides, the knowledge of the English language is growing every day, also in Africa. We do receive regular responses to the radio broadcasts, which letters are answered and the contact developed (if possible) by the corresponding secretary.
The FMC also receives new correspondence from a surprising array of sources, including local evangelism committees, pastors, the seminary of the PRC, the Reformed Witness Hour, and even a recent contact from the British Reformed Fellowship in which Missionary Hanko is active. We do appreciate the efforts of various groups sending the FMC the names of people with whom the FMC can profitably communicate.
Such efforts have resulted in a wide variety of contacts. One such is a native pastor in the Philippines who has become convicted of the Reformed truth and desires closer association with us. Some are students in Ghana seeking materials to read. Recently I received an interesting telephone call and follow-up letter from a man in Kenya. He and a small group of believers have forsaken the Roman Catholic beliefs, said he, largely because of some Protestant Reformed pamphlets they had discovered. The group meets regularly to study the Bible, and he expressed the great desire that we send a missionary to lead them further in the truth. You can see immediately the difficulty of trying to work with such people separated by thousands of miles. The FMC obviously cannot send a delegation, nor simply stop in to see them on our way to a classical appointment, for example. Thus, efficient and meaningful correspondence becomes all the more important.
The majority of the FMC’s activities in the last year have been directed toward Ghana, a former British colony, now a country of some twelve million, located on Africa’s west coast. Regular readers of theStandard Bearer know that the FMC has had contacts in Ghana for many years, and that in the last four years two separate visits have been made there. The last visit, of six weeks duration, was made at the end of 1994. A more complete report by Rev. Moore appeared in the March 1, 1995 issue of the Standard Bearer. This last visit indicated that the gospel of sovereign grace had born its fruit from the first visit and subsequent correspondence. Some contacts had definitely “cooled” towards the Protestant Reformed Churches. But others were excited to have us return, and gave the delegates extensive opportunity to speak and preach. The delegation returned with much enthusiasm for the work in Ghana.
The FMC shares that enthusiasm, and is convinced that God is opening the door to labor in Ghana with full-time missionaries. Many fruitful contacts have developed over the years, especially in the last few years, and a number have requested help. Besides, the FMC has other practical reasons for being optimistic about the work in Ghana. The government in Ghana is one big plus. The fact that it is stable and has good control in the country makes Ghana a safe place to labor. Also, the government is not anti-missionary in its policy. A second factor is the Ghanaian culture. The Ghanaians’ lives and culture are not inimical to the covenant. They live in families, with the father as head. In addition, the attitude of Ghanaians toward white missionaries is most favorable. They do not have the animosity of many whose ancestors were taken from Africa as slaves. They respect whites in general, and many have expressed a willingness both to help us and to learn from us.
With this in mind, the FMC is proposing to the Synod of 1995 that another visit be made to Ghana this year or early next year to further the work and reaffirm the evaluation of the last two delegations. The hope is that a missionary can be called after the Synod of 1996, and that missionary work can begin in Ghana in earnest.
The FMC covets the prayers of all those who love the Reformed faith and desire it to be spread to the ends of the earth. May it be the particular prayer of the Protestant Reformed Churches that God soon grant the Churches an established foreign mission field once again, if not in Ghana, then in a different place of His choosing.