It is almost as if the Lord is beginning a new era for us as Protestant Reformed Churches in missions. This is not to say that our churches have been lax in their calling to do mission work in the past. This, most emphatically, is not the case. From the very beginning of our history we have been engaged in missions. This has been exclusively in the area of home missions and church reformation and extension. God has richly blessed these efforts too. Many of our present congregations had their beginnings as home mission stations. In addition, for some sixteen years we have been laboring through our Domestic Mission Committee on the island of Jamaica, and for three of those years Rev. G. Lubbers labored as missionary on that island. But now calls for help have come from five places, four domestic and one foreign. We have mission work to do! Much of it! Synod responded to those calls after careful and prayerful deliberation by appointing calling churches for all of them. It was the firm conviction of the Synod that God had set before us these open doors and that we, therefore, must go forward preaching the blessed gospel of sovereign grace in Christ Jesus. Truly the word of Christ, “the fields are white with harvest,” remains. But Christ also said: “the laborers are few.” This too remains true: Besides the four vacant congregations there are four mission fields which need missionaries in the next year. This means in effect that our churches have no fewer than eight vacancies. How fervent we must continue to be in our prayers that God will give us men for the ministry! We must labor while it is day, ere the night cometh in the which no man can labor.
In our survey of Synod’s actions concerning missions we begin with our oldest field, Jamaica. A good deal of time was spent on Jamaica by both the Mission Committee and its subcommittee on Jamaica. Twice during the past year emissaries were sent to the island on brief, but concentrated visits, first Rev. B. Woudenberg and Mr. C. Prince and later Rev. M. Joostens and Mr. Prince. In addition there was constant correspondence by means of both tape and letter. As a result of these contacts the Mission Committee advised Synod that the field demonstrates a receptivity to our preaching of the gospel and teaching of the Reformed faith. The ministers there are in dire need of further instruction. Specifically they need to know how to apply the doctrines of the Word of God to the problems of everyday life, Whereas in times past the congregations were characterized by the old and children, there is increasingly a number of young people in attendance at the worship services and showing interest in things spiritual. There continue to be problems on the field. Upon these grounds the Synod went on record as favoring the establishing of a missionary on Jamaica as soon as that is practically possible. Synod further instructed the Mission Committee to investigate the possibility of calling a missionary to Jamaica after the Synod of 1980. Synod also instructed the Mission Committee to send emissaries to Jamaica, preferably at the time of their classis meetings, for a period of at least three weeks, taking into consideration a minister (or ministers) and elder or former elder who are interested in working there. Meanwhile, for the interim, Synod instructed the Mission Committee to arrange for tape instruction for the ministers of Jamaica. Finally the Synod appointed First Church of Grand Rapids the calling church for the Jamaican field and to take over the supervision and investigation of this field in conjunction with the Mission Committee.
It is apparent that Jamaica remains a viable field for mission work. There is pressing need and the door remains open. The Synod recognized this and took positive and constructive action in response to it. May God bless these decisions for the furtherance of the cause of the gospel on the island of Jamaica.
Synod heard a report from the missionary, Rev. Robert C. Harbach, concerning his labors the past nineteen months. In addition to his regular preaching and teaching Rev. Harbach published a paper Calvinist Contender, and initiated a fifteen-minute radio program, “Bible Truth Meditations.” Rev. Harbach labored with a core group of three families and visitors. Because of Rev. Harbach’s impending emeritation and the fact one of the families has ceased attending and another has moved to our Lynden Church, Synod instructed the Mission Committee that, with the concurrence of the Hope (Walker, Mi.) Council, full-time work in Victoria, B.C. be concluded at the end of August 1979 if the situation remains unchanged. Synod also transferred the field from Hope to Lynden so that continued contact can be maintained.
About the time of the Synod of 1978 a request for a missionary came from four families in the Charlotte, Michigan area. This request was referred to the Kalamazoo Consistory. The pastor of Kalamazoo, Rev. B. Woudenberg, has since July of 1978 held mid-week Bible study classes with the group. Beginning in January of 1979 the Mission Committee in conjunction with the Consistory of Kalamazoo began worship services, with the retired ministers doing the preaching during January and February, and the seminarians and professors during March, April, and May. Recently the group moved to East Lansing, which is more centrally located and has better prospects for growth. For the summer months Kalamazoo, with the approval of the Mission Committee, has engaged the services of Candidate Steven Houck. It may be reported with thanksgiving that the preaching is well received and there is growth both in spiritual knowledge and in number. The group now numbers six families and one individual. In the light of this the Synod appointed Hope, Walker, Michigan the calling church for a missionary for East Lansing. May God prosper thework.
In a letter addressed to the Mission Committee dated August 26, 1978 a group of believers in Birmingham requested a full-time home missionary. Two ministers were sent to investigate this request and they returned with a favorable report. In January of 1979 the Mission Committee asked South Holland Church to consider Birmingham as a field and to call a missionary. Rev. Ronald Van Overloop has recently accepted the call of South Holland and will be installed and take up his labors there sometime this summer. May God bless Rev. VanOverloop and his family and cause his work to bear fruit toward the establishment of a congregation in Birmingham.
For the past few years considerable interest has been shown in our churches by the people living in these northwest Washington areas. Lynden’s Consistory and pastor, Rev. D.H. Kuiper, have been and are now pursuing this interest to the best of their ability. The distance, involved, however, (up to 100 miles) makes it impossible for Lynden to work this field by itself. Upon the request of Lynden Church and the advice of the Mission Committee, Synod appointed Lynden to call a missionary to labor in this field. It is our prayer that the fruit of this labor may be that a Protestant Reformed Congregation may be organized in this area.
We conclude our survey with a report on our first genuinely foreign mission field. In Singapore there is a group of believers (generally single and in their twenties) recently converted from heathendom (Buddhism, Hinduism, and Chinese Ancestral Worship). This group suffers much persecution on account of the Christian faith, even from their families. There are fifty-nine members in the Gospel Literature .and Tract Society with some sixty to seventy who visit the meetings and worship services. Rev. J. Slopsema and Mr. Dewey Engelsma visited the Society in the spring of 1978 and Rev. M. Kamps and Mr. Engelsma and their wives labored among these believers in the spring of 1979. The emissaries, in extensive and detailed reports to the Synods of 1978 and 1979, informed the Synods that these believers are sincerely interested in the Reformed faith. They need our help. The fruit of these contacts has been that the GLTS addressed a letter to the Foreign Mission Committee in which they requested a missionary from the Protestant Reformed Churches. As noted above, this is the first call our churches have received from a foreign field. That in itself makes the letter significant and for that reason we quote it in its entirety:
Greetings in the Name of our Rightful Lord and Most Holy Saviour Christ Jesus the Righteous.
We thank God for His grace in granting us your fellowship, love and concern and in this letter we wish to express to you officially our hope, vision and the decision we made concerning your labour of love with us.
We are thankful for the help you have rendered us through the sending of Emissaries last year, the tape programme, literature and the Emissaries presently here with us, through whom we send this letter to you. They have been a great help to us in showing to us the truth of God’s Word which we are now persuaded to be expressed in the Reformed truth you hold. We are also much encouraged by the way you hold the Word of God in high esteem and it is in view of these that we made our decision after much deliberation.
“On the 8th of April 1979, our Study Commission of 8 brothers and 1 sister (who refrain from voting herself), who were chosen by the congregation to conduct a study on your doctrines and make a recommendation to the Executive Committee and took a unanimous decision to recommend that we request a missionary from the Protestant Reformed Churches. On the 15th April, a survey was taken of the Congregation’s inclinations in which out of the 54 constituted members present, 32 were in favor of requesting a missionary from the Protestant Reformed Churches, 14 put their confidence in whatever the leaders decide and 8 thought it more prudent to delay such a request. There were none who did not want the Protestant Reformed Churches’ help!
Taking all these into consideration, the Executive Committee met on the 22nd April 1979 to decide on the course of action. We hereby request a missionary from you to establish us as a Church holding the Reformed Truth.
We also want to add that, it is the longing and vision of the leaders, as we see that there exists in these parts of the world no strong witness of the Glorious Gospel once delivered to the saints embodied in the Reformed Truth, that the Lord may raise up here and there a witness. We desire for the Church in our midst a strong foundation established upon the Apostles and the prophets with Christ as the Chief Corner Stone, that we may act as a centre where the True Light of God’s Word may in the future, reach beyond the shores of Singapore to neighboring South-East Asia, and where men of God may be trained for such ministry. We believe you as the Protestant Reformed Churches to be God’s provision for us in His grace to help us do His will.
We understand that as we make this request, we have placed our teaching ministry under the care of the. Missionary you send us. Should you grant our request, we have every confidence that he will work closely with the leaders. It is our desire, as much as we are able, to provide for him and his family in carnal things as he minister to us in spiritual things.
To Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His Own Will we owe our thanks and praise for your work of faith, and labour of love and patience and of hope.
Yours in Christ,
The Executive. Committee of GLTS”
In response to this request the Synod appointed Doon, Iowa as the calling Church for a missionary to Singapore. May God soon give us a man who shares the vision of the GLTS to labor among them, in order that they may be instituted as a manifestation of the Church of Jesus Christ.
We praise God for these mission opportunities and for the privilege of preaching the gospel and extending our witness to the ends of the earth. May our Churches be faithful to the end.