Mr. Brummel is a member of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Edgerton, Minnesota and secretary of the Foreign Mission Committee.
The Foreign Mission Committee (FMC) was authorized by Synod 2000 to seek a calling church for a missionary to the Philippines. The FMC asked Doon Protestant Reformed Church to serve in that capacity. They agreed to do so and subsequently were appointed by Synod 2001.
After a time, a call was extended to Rev. Audred Spriensma. An invitation was extended to him to visit the field before giving his answer. Rev. Spriensma took the Doon Consistory and the FMC up on the offer and indicated that he would like to visit the field. The request was granted and the FMC decided to send a member of their committee along with Rev. Spriensma. I was the one who was asked to accompany him on the trip.
What a culture shock the traffic and hustle and bustle of the city of Manila was on our arrival. I had previously visited Singapore, when our son (Rev. Allen Brummel) was doing his seminary internship under Rev. Kortering. I had also spent a year in Vietnam back in the 60’s, and had at that time visited also Okinawa and Hong Kong. So I was not a stranger to Southeast Asia. But I was certainly amazed at the seemingly chaotic, noisy, non-stop movement of the traffic. I was happy that I did not have to do any driving in that city, but I could tell that Rev. Spriensma was fascinated by all the traffic and would see it as a challenge.
Our arrival in 2001 was at the tail end of a typhoon, so it was rainy, hot, and humid. At least we thought it was hot. But we were told that it was their cool season, and, incredibly, many of the natives were even wearing jackets.
The FMC delegations had previously had opportunity to meet and visit with the members of the Berean Fellowship and had been impressed with them. Now we could see firsthand that there were groups of saints here on these islands who were hungry to learn the Reformed truths as taught by the Protestant Reformed Churches. What a joy it was to speak with them. We could find no doctrinal areas where they completely disagreed with us. They did have lots of questions, for which they sought explanations. They listened carefully to every answer and then questioned the answers, seeking scriptural proofs for them. We could tell they were very well versed in the Scriptures, and that they desired more instruction.
We had some extraordinary experiences during that first trip, staying in local hotels, traveling by tricycle, jeepney, bus, etc. We had gotten stranded by a cancelled flight at Naga, forcing us to travel overland back to Manila using various forms of transportation. We were crowded in buses where it was not uncommon to have one’s face brushed by the tail feathers of a fighting cock being transported by its proud owner to the next fight or home from the previous one.
While visiting in Bocolod, on the Island of Negros, we met with a group of people and had a conference with them. While there, Rev. Spriensma was asked to go to a funeral home to say a few words on behalf of a widow from their group who loved the Reformed faith. Her husband had been shot and killed by a man to whom she had gone for counseling. Her husband’s family was planning to give him a Roman Catholic funeral, and the widow wanted to have also some Reformed words spoken at the visitation. Rev. Spriensma agreed to that.
After a careening ride in the back of a pickup late at night, we arrived at a huge funeral home with a large atria in the center and several rooms around the outside, in which the bodies of the dead had been placed. The family and friends of each were packed into the rooms and were spilling out into the center area. The room the victim was in was crowded with his Roman Catholic family and friends. Rev. Spriensma went to the front of the crowded room, read Scripture, and expounded on the text for a time, laying out clearly the Reformed doctrine of immediate entry of the soul to heaven, compared to the erroneous view of purgatory. I was sweating profusely—not only because of the heat, but because of the boldness of the man with the call to be missionary. We were the only non-natives in the place, and as Rev. Spriensma’s voice rose, people started to crowd into the room and doorway trying to hear what this tall American was saying. At that point in our trip I knew that even if he wouldn’t later accept the call, he certainly had the boldness for the work.
After having experienced many other differences in culture, I really wasn’t sure that Rev. Spriensma would accept the call. One way or the other, it had been a blessed visit, and I knew that I would remember, for the rest of my life, all the people whom I had met and with whom I had visited.
Rev. Spriensma did accept the call and moved his family to Manila. They were faced with hardships and difficulties upon their arrival, much of which was due to our not having a mission infrastructure in place to help with the transition. But, despite the trials and circumstances surrounding the arrival of the family, they got settled in and the work began. And it flourished. The instruction was appreciated and God blessed it.
That brings us to the present. The group requested that they be allowed to organize into a Reformed church of Christ in the Philippines. Their official name would be Berean Protestant Reformed Church in the Philippines. Doon Council and the FMC approved the request and brought it to Synod 2006, where it was also approved.
Rev. David Overway and elder Alan VanBemmel were chosen to go as representatives of Doon’s Council to hear the confessions of faith, observe the baptisms, and oversee the organization. I was sent as a representative of the FMC to observe the proceedings. What a blessing it was! I had the opportunity not only to see many of these saints for a second time, but also to meet others who had joined since I had been there five years ago.
We arrived late on Thursday, November 9. On Friday we were taken to visit one of the older members of the group in his home. The traffic, the noise, the smells, and the overwhelming poverty of some areas came back to me in a rush.
On Saturday we made our way to the home of a member of the group where we heard the confessions of faith of fifteen people from the fellowship who had requested it and which were also necessary for the organization into a church. The Berean Board of Directors, along with Rev. Overway, Elder Alan VanBemmel, and me, were present for those confessions. It must have been intimidating for them to make their confessions facing these three unfamiliar men. Their confessions in answer to the questions, however, were beautiful! We were moved to tears of joy at the confessions and the knowledge that we were sitting there in that unusual setting on the opposite side of the world, with men and women confessing the same faith and doctrine that we hold so dear.
The confessions were approved by a special meeting of Doon Council on Saturday morning—which was late Saturday evening for us in Manila. On Sunday the confessions were announced before the group. A blessed day of worship took place with two services. Catechism class was held in between the services, with all the members attending along with the children.
The following week was spent with Rev. Overway assisting Rev. Spriensma in a pastor’s training class with the group of men from the Bastion of Truth organization. Elder Van Bemmel and I also sat in on that class. Throughout the week we had various visits with the missionary and his family. We also worked on recommendations for future work and reports.
On the second Saturday of our trip we were up and on the road by 4:00 A.M. for the long trip up north to Gabaldon to see the work being done by Vernon Ibe. Vernon is a member of the Berean Church who also pastors a small group in this rural area of the island. Rod Bongat and Sonny Umali also came along with us. We attended a Bible study/worship service led by Vernon. This was held in a small crowded hut with a few of the parishioners present. He first gave us an overview of his speech in English, and then presented it in Tagalog, the native language.
We then proceeded to the location where they plan to build a new church. We held a simple groundbreaking ceremony, with Rev. Spriensma saying a few words and offering a prayer of thanksgiving.
After a wait of an hour or two for men to come in from the fields and other places, Vernon led a Bible study in Tagalog. There were several men, women, and children present for this study. As soon as the Bible study was over, we had the five-hour ride back to Manila, arriving late at night. It was a long day indeed.
On Sunday, November 19, during the first worship service we had the privilege of witnessing the public confessions of faith and the adult and child baptisms. This was a very emotional time for the group, the missionary, and his family, as well as for the visiting delegation. During the second service the election of officebearers took place, with their installation immediately after. Mr. Eric Mescalado and Mr. Rod Bongat were installed as elders, and Mr. Edgar Bonsale was installed as deacon.
It was a great privilege for me to have been there when Rev. Spriensma began his work as missionary and now at the time that the group became an organized church. Rev. Spriensma now ends his work there and prepares to take up his labors in Kalamazoo Protestant Reformed Church.
May God bless this little church of Christ in the Philippines, and may He soon give us another man for this work.