What are the typical labors of our foreign missionaries in the Philippines? The labors of a missionary are diverse. The Lord gives us the opportunity to be involved in a lot of different and interesting work. With the goal of giving the reader an overview of our current mission work in the Philippines, here follows a summary of some of the main aspects of our labors on the mission field.
Since preaching is the power of God unto salvation, the preaching of the Word is, as it ought to be, the main work and calling of a missionary. Our Philippine missionaries ordinarily preach twice each Lord’s Day, including Heidelberg Catechism preaching. We can thankfully report that the latter is something that the churches and saints here have grown to appreciate and love.
Rev. Daniel Holstege preaches, for the most part, in Provident Christian Church (PCC) in Marikina. This congregation is located about 45 minutes from where we live, has been a regular object of our mission work since 2013, and desires to become part of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines (PRCP). We believe that the preaching of the gospel is the main way in which this desire and goal will, through God’s blessing, be attained.
Now that Rev. Holstege preaches in PCC, I preach more often in the three churches that make up the PRCP: Maranatha PRC, the PRC in Bulacan, and the Berean PRC. Preaching in these churches often coincides with my work of serving as an advisor at their monthly consistory meetings, which are held on Sunday afternoons. I also recently began preaching in a few Reformed churches in Southern Negros Occidental. Some of the pastors of these churches have been our contacts since the late 1990s. Our goal is that they also might become part of the PRCP one day.
We also do pulpit exchanges with each other, and from time to time with the three pastors of the PRCP (Rev. J. Flores, Rev. V. Ibe, and Rev. L. Trinidad). This has the obvious benefit of enabling us to become better acquainted with and to stay in touch with the various congregations and their members, and they with us.
The main area of teaching is that of pastor training. In that connection, one of our goals is to establish a seminary here in the Philippines; thus the ongoing process of calling a third missionary for the Philippine field so that one of the missionaries will be able to devote his time to getting a seminary started. In the meantime, we continue the work of providing instruction to existing pastors in subjects that they have not received before, or that they have not received from a Reformed perspective.
Pastors’ classes are held twice a month in the Manila area. We refer to these as our 7M classes (Metro Manila Monthly Martes [Tuesday] Morning Ministers’ Meetings). Usually between five and eight men attend, although not all of them are pastors. In the past year, we have studied the Church Order, Catechetics (catechism instruction), and Poimenics (pastoral care).
We also hold pastors’ classes in the city of Sipalay in Southern Negros Occidental (central Philippines). We meet once a month with a group of 10 to 15 men, a few of whom are elders in the churches there. The current instruction is in Reformed Dogmatics and Reformed church government. By means of their many questions, their lively discussions, and their purchase of our Protestant Reformed literature, these men give evidence of a keen interest in as well as commitment to the Reformed faith and truth as we hold it in the PRCA. Some have also mentioned their desire that a missionary spend more time among them and in their churches.
In addition to the pastors’ classes, we have opportunity to teach by means of lectures. Rev. Holstege is currently lecturing on the Canons of Dordt each week in PCC. We also lecture from time to time for one day conferences organized by the PRCP, or as requested by some of our contacts.
The Federation of Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines, which was organized in April of 2014, consists of three churches. The Berean PRC has 26 families and is pastored by Rev. Vernon Ibe. The PRC in Bulacan has 20 families and is pastored by Rev. John Flores. The Maranatha PRC has 11 families and is pastored by Rev. Leovy Trinidad.
We have opportunity to serve as advisors to these three churches and their consistories. This involves attending the monthly consistory meetings in two of the churches. It also involves giving advice, upon request, to the pastors and officebearers. We are grateful for their willingness to seek such guidance and for their receptivity to the advice given.
The missionaries serve as advisors to the Classis of the PRCP, as well as to the two standing committees of the Classis. This involves attending the Classis meetings (held three times a year), assisting in the work of church visitation, and participating in the work and meetings of the standing committees of Classis.
Recently, our work as advisors meant that Rev. Kleyn accompanied a delegation of the PRCP to visit the Protestant Reformed Fellowship in Albuera, Leyte. This Fellowship has been a mission outreach of the PRC in Bulacan since 2007, and the PRC in Bulacan recently asked Classis to take over this mission work so that it would become an official work of the denomination. The purpose of the delegation visit was to investigate and evaluate the viability of this. The work in Leyte looks very promising from the viewpoint of the interest in the Reformed truth, the number of men who could serve as officebearers (the Lord willing), and size (over 70 members). The evaluation is ongoing, but we thank the Lord for these positive and encouraging signs.
Another significant area of our work as advisors has been to assist the PRCP as it seeks to establish a sister church relationship with the PRCA. The PRCP Classis has been in communication with the Contact Committee of the PRCA, and the Contact Committee has sent delegations here twice. These visits have been a means to affirm the unity that exists between our denominations. The PRCP is eager to have such a relationship, and pending synod’s approval and eventually the approval of our sister churches, looks forward to it becoming a reality, the Lord willing.
The main ways in which new contacts have come to us is through the witness of the members of the churches here, through book sales, and through the Internet.
We regularly stay in touch with many contacts throughout the Philippines. If they are in the Manila area, we also put them in touch with the nearest congregation of the PRCP.
Most often the correspondence itself centers on answering questions about the Reformed faith and life. Sometimes we deal with questions that arise from reading our literature or hearing our sermons online. Usually, questions come by email on a daily basis. Such mentoring of new believers is an enjoyable and exciting part of the work.
In the past year, some of these contacts, along with others who have been in direct contact with the PRCP, have begun attending the PRCP churches. It has been a great encouragement to the pastors and members of the PRCP to witness the excitement of these new believers, as well as to experience some external growth.
A significant part of our current labors is to study and learn Tagalog. All of us plan to take formal language studies at a Tagalog language school that was recommended to us by other missionaries. Rev. and Leah Holstege have begun their classes already. My wife and I hope to begin sometime in the coming months so that we can refresh our knowledge and further our use of the native language. We believe this is and will be time well spent, so that we can communicate better with Filipinos, and even incorporate more Tagalog in our preaching and teaching.
Another area of study is that of reading missions’ literature. There is much that we are able to learn from others in this important work and calling of the church.
Our mission work is promoted within the Philippines itself in especially two ways: through our website and through book sales.
We regularly upload new material to our website, such as audio sermons, audio recordings and handouts of lectures, class notes, and Tagalog translations of sermons and Reformed Witness Hour messages. Interest has increased, as the following list of the number of visitors to our website shows: 6,700 in 2013, 11,800 in 2014, 13,400 in 2015, and 12,400 in 2016. The website address, for anyone interested in taking a look, is prcaphilippinesaudio.wordpress.com.
Book sales are managed by my wife Sharon. We sell all the books published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association, along with materials from our Protestant Reformed seminary (Psalters, Church Orders, syllabi, etc.). The books are located in our home. The collections taken in our PRCA congregations enable us to provide Reformed literature to our Filipino churches and contacts at very reasonable prices. These collections also enable us to provide free shipping as well as free copies of the Standard Bearer, Beacon Lights, and more. Book sales have gone well, as the following numbers of books sold in each of the past five years indicate: 800 in 2012, 1,100 in 2013, 1,860 in 2014, 1,150 in 2015, and 1,800 in 2016. The book sales have proven to serve well for the spread of the Reformed faith as well as for gaining new contacts.
Promotion of our mission work within our churches in North America is done by means of our quarterly newsletters, our presentations during furloughs, and presentations done by various visitors. Unofficially, our work is also promoted through the blogs that Leah and Sharon have of our lives and work here (see holstegesinthephilippines.wordpress.com and kleynsphilippines.blogspot.com). Please check them out if you would like to stay abreast, especially through pictures, of the work here and of our families.
None of this work can be done without prayer.
For ourselves, we are mindful of the need to “give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (), and to do it in that order. Prayer must be first.
For the reader, we echo the words of the apostle Paul when he said, “Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified” (). May God be pleased to use our churches to spread His Word and thus hasten the return of Christ.
We thank God for our PRCA denomination. We are grateful for your care and support, for the many encouragements we receive, and for your remembrance of us in your prayers. We sense the denomination’s interest in and support of the work and of the saints here. May God be praised.
—Rev. Daniel Kleyn