Rev. Kleyn is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan. (Note: This article is based on a speech that was originally given for the Combined Ladies’ Meeting of the Doon, Edgerton, and Hull Protestant Reformed Churches.) Previous article in this series: October 1, 2005, p. 12.
In our previous article on this subject, we pointed out that the primary obligation of women in the churches’ work of missions is to support the preaching of the gospel, which involves being vitally interested in it. We now consider some of the practical ways in which this can be done.
We look specifically at five things. As we do so, it is good for you who are mothers to keep in mind that these are not only things that you yourselves can and ought to be doing, but they are things that you should also teach your children to do.
The first thing is knowledge. What I have in mind is that you have a knowledge of the mission fields, of the missionaries, and of the mission work that is being done. That will naturally be the case if you have an interest in mission work. Having an interest, you will seek to know as much as you can about the work. Do you do that? Do you know, for example, the names of our missionaries? Do you know where each of them is? Have you taken out an atlas lately and spent some time with your children in order to show them where our missionaries and mission fields are? These are things we all should know.
The second thing is giving. By that I mean financial support of mission work. It is needed, for mission work is expensive. There are many ways in which we can give. We do so, first of all, through the budget (the general fund collections), for part of this goes toward the denomination’s work of missions, both domestic and foreign. We can also give through the special collections that are taken for mission fields, including the special collections taken for the missionary assistants. And then we also have opportunity to give extra financial gifts to the work of foreign missions. These gifts are to be given, of course, in a proper way—through the calling church and the mission committees. This is necessary so that the money can be used and distributed carefully and wisely. And once again, important with regard to giving is that you also teach your children to do this.
Thirdly, you support the work of missions through correspondence. Perhaps we do not do enough of this. Our missionaries and their families, and the missionary assistants with them, make many sacrifices in the work of missions. On account of where they are living, and this is especially true in foreign mission work, they often feel very alone. They are living in a different country away from things that are familiar. They miss their family and friends. All of this means that they need to hear from you. They need to know that you are interested in and supportive of them and their work. They need to know, even if it is just through a few lines in an email, that you care for them and remember them in your thoughts and prayers. You hear from them (through newsletters and emails)—but do they hear from you? They need that. We do well to stay in touch with those on the mission fields. And we do well to have our children do the same.
Fourthly, you support the work of missions through prayer. Prayer is the most important evidence of your support and interest, for the child of God prays for the things that are dearest to his heart. We should pray for the missionaries and their families. We should pray for those who hear the gospel that is preached on the mission fields. We should pray for the councils of the calling churches. We should pray for the mission committees. We should pray for the synod in its decision making with regard to missions. All these prayers are very necessary, for the work is difficult. Many challenges and struggles are faced. There are many disappointments. Much wisdom is needed to know what we ought to do. The mission work of the churches needs the prayers of the people of God. Pray! And teach your children to do so as well.
There is one more way in which women can be involved in the churches’ work of missions. This is a work and obligation that comes especially to mothers. It is the calling to be a Hannah.
We read of Hannah in I Samuel 1. She was barren and prayed earnestly for a son. In her prayer, she promised to give her son to the Lord. When the Lord answered her request and gave her Samuel, she returned him to the Lord. She did that first of all by preparing Samuel for his work. She gave him, in the few years that she had for that, a godly upbringing. Then she brought her son to the tabernacle and lent (returned) him to the Lord for the work of the ministry.
What this means is that the church needs you as mothers to give your sons to the work of the ministry.
I mention this because it is the need of the hour. Our churches need ministers, and missionaries. We need them because there is a shortage—consider how many vacancies there are. And we need them because there are many opportunities for us as churches to be involved in doing more mission work than we are currently doing. The need is great. Our churches need your sons for ministers and missionaries.
We can sometimes think that the need is not really so great—that we have enough, or will soon have enough. Perhaps your thoughts go like this: “I’m sure we’ll have enough by the time my son could possibly be a minister. He’s just a young boy. With all the years of schooling ahead, it would be another 15 to 20 years, or more, before he could become a minister. The churches won’t need ministers then as they do now. There will be others that will fill the void. The churches don’t need my son!”
But the fact is that the churches always do and always will need ministers. Christ said so inMatthew 9:37, where He stated, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” What Christ said is a truth that applies and stands until the end of time. It will always be the case. There will always be a plentiful harvest unto the end of time, exactly because the central work of Christ in time and history is to gather His church. And the laborers will always be few. It is not simply every now and then that the churches need a few ministers. It is not just every ten years or so that we need to send a few more men through the seminary. The church will always need ministers. She will need them until the end of time. And therefore the church needs mothers like Hannah.
This requires raising your sons, already now in your homes, with a view to the ministry. For students for the ministry are produced in our covenant homes. Students for the ministry do not suddenly appear from nowhere. Nor do the churches send out a committee in order to recruit young men for the seminary. But it is covenant homes, under the blessing of God, that produce students for the gospel ministry. And for that reason, mothers have a most important calling. Fathers do too, of course. But your calling and work as mothers is crucial and highly significant.
I urge you then to prepare your sons for the ministry. That does not mean that all your sons will or should be ministers or missionaries. But the point is that you as mothers are in a position in which you are able, more than anyone else, to know the talents and abilities God has given your sons. You are in a position, more than anyone else, to help them develop those gifts. And you are in a position, more than anyone else, to impress upon their minds the need for them to consider the ministry. It is important for you to do that, for God uses those means to call your sons to the gospel ministry.
Be sure, then, to have your sons face the questions (that every young man and young boy ought to face): “Has God given me the gifts? And if so, is the Lord pointing me to prepare for the ministry?” Then help your sons answer those questions. And help prepare them, as the Lord equips you to do that, for the work of Christ in His church.
We are living in the last days. The harvest is plenteous and the laborers are few. The church needs your sons. Be willing, therefore, to lend (return) them to the Lord.
And pray! Pray that God may provide laborers. Pray that God bless your work in preparing your sons to be such laborers, if the Lord wills. And pray that God prosper the work of the spread of His gospel through missions so that the day of Christ may come.