Hope for Brampton

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Rev. John Bouwers

Hope Reformed Church (URC) in Brampton, ON, installed Rev. John A. Bouwers on December 1, 2017. Rev. Harry Bout, minister emeritus of Immanual URC in Jordan, exhorted from 2 Timothy 4:1-8, on “Preach the Word!” Rev. Joel Dykstra, Wellandport URC, gave the charge to the pastor, and Rev. Matthew Van Dyken, Eternal Life Mission in Tepic, Mexico, gave the charge to the congregation.

Immanuel is Rev. Bouwers’ former charge, the church in which he was ordained following his 1992 graduation from Mid-America Reformed Seminary and the only congregation he served prior to arriving at Hope. The Hope consistory oversees the work of Rev. Van Dyken in Tepic, Mexico. Rev. Bout is a former pastor of Hope, who began the mission work in Tepic and continues to serve there for a few months each year. Rev. Dykstra is Rev. Bouwers’ brother-in-law: Julie Bouwers and Janice Dykstra are sisters.

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Rev. Joel Dykstra

In his charge to Rev. Bouwers, Rev. Dykstra spoke of the need for godly leaders to “push against the vain philosophies of our age with clear and compelling words.” Speaking of Brampton, he said, “This place, it seems to me, is the frontlines of the battle all our churches need to be engaged in.” He noted Rev. Bouwers’ efforts toward church unity and his faithful service among the churches during his years in the Niagara Peninsula.

“The Lord has blessed your time in the land of Goshen, surrounded by God’s people on every side,” he said. “But we’re not in Goshen anymore. This is the frontier. And this is where we need to be as churches. We need to be standing against the spirit of this age and shining the light of the gospel in this dark world.”

In addition to the three pastors participating in the service, twelve pastors and elders brought greetings from other churches. One was Hope’s most recent former pastor, Rev. Rich Anjema, who left in 2010 to serve Providence URC in Winnipeg, MB. Pastor John Van Eyk, from Trinity URC in Lethbridge, AB, also attended.

The Scripture text organizers put on the cover of the installation program, superimposed over a picture of Brampton, was from Acts 18:10, “…for I have many people in this city.” Unknown to them, Acts 18:10 was the text Rev. Bouwers had already chosen for his inaugural sermon on December 3. And, in God’s amazing providence, it was the text Rev. Bouwers found for his personal devotions the following morning (December 4) from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, updated by Alistair Begg.

John and Julie Bouwers leave behind more than the Immanuel church family, which has known him as its only minister for 25 years. They also leave behind six children and seven grandchildren, all of whom live in southern Ontario, most in the Jordan area. Brampton is located on the western side of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). But the Bouwers look to the future with Hope.

eatingThe above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 10 of the February 9, 2018, issue of Christian Renewal.

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Tapped to serve: A visit to the Reformed Churches in the Philippines

jab-1From February 10-26, 2016, Rev. John A. Bouwers, pastor of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Jordan, ON, traveled to the Philippines where he taught and preached in a variety of Reformed churches.

The Theological Assistance to the Philippines (TAP) Ministry of Providence Canadian Reformed Church of Hamilton had asked Rev. Bouwers to make the teaching trip, and two TAP Ministry representatives traveled with him.

“Brothers Joe Bontekoe and John Langendoen, who head up the work of that committee, took excellent care of all the details and of me,” Rev. Bouwers says. “These brothers have considerable experience in the Philippines already, have made many wonderful connections, and, with all the busyness, the three of us were also able to enjoy wonderful fellowship together.”

On February 13 & 14, the three men visited Metro Manila, where on Saturday Rev. Bouwers conducted a seminar on “The Golden Chain of Our Salvation” for Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church in Imus. He delivered five addresses on God’s sovereign love and answered questions on the doctrines of grace. The over 60 people attending exceeded organizers’ expectations.

“The interest and engagement were intense and invigorating,” Rev. Bouwers says. “Most of the participants were young college students or professionals, many from a variety of non-reformed backgrounds who have begun to show great interest in these doctrines.”

The event was organized by Zion’s Pastor Lance Filio, who is a tent-maker, working as an electronics engineer in the telecommunications, internet and cable industry. A few attendees have expressed an interest in taking membership classes at Zion. The lectures can be heard at Zion’s website.

On the Lord’s Day, Rev. Bouwers preached from Galatians 6:1, 2 (at the church’s request) to both the Zion congregation and the congregation of Pasig Covenant Reformed Church. Although both meet in the Metro Manila area, the two are an hour’s drive apart, even on Sunday when traffic is relatively light in this city of well over 15 million people.

On Monday, February 15, the three North Americans traveled south to the Island of Mindanao. They spent most of their time in Cagayan de Oro, a city of 700,000 people, many of whom are very poor. TAP has done extensive work in this area in the past.

Each evening from Monday through Friday, Rev. Bouwers delivered one of the five lectures on “The Golden Chain of Our Salvation” in a public seminar. Every afternoon from Tuesday through Friday, he led workshops for church leaders on the history and content of the Canons of Dort. The daily session were held at Jireh Reformed (Congregational) Church.

on-steps“A number of the pastors were former Pentecostals or evangelicals who have now come to embrace the teachings of the Reformation,” he says. “The brothers here speak conscientiously about ‘continuing the Reformation’ and remain very grateful for the ongoing contributions of TAP to that end.”

Organizers were surprised on Thursday evening when a group of 20 Pentecostal preachers came to hear the message on irresistible grace. Rev. Bouwers reports that they seemed to appreciate what they heard about the effectual work of the Holy Spirit.

Another surprise occurred on Sunday morning. The small house church at which Rev. when Rev. Bouwers preached filled to overflowing as 20 visiting students from Faith International Academy joined the regular group. In the afternoon, Rev. Bouwers preached at the much larger venue of the Jireh Church. Members of the Balulang congregation also attended the service.

During the final week of the trip, the men traveled even farther south to Davao City. Pastor Vic Bernales of the Davao Covenant Reformed Church had asked Rev. Bouwers to conduct sessions on Issues for God’s servants, dealing with conflict and opposition. In the evenings, the pastors led four meditations on the story of the Prodigal Son that focused on the Amazing Love of the Father.

Congregations in this area are part of a federation named The Pearl of the Orient Covenant Reformed Church, and ecclesiastical organization has been shaped to some extent by URCNA and RCUS influences. But ecclesiastical fellowship among all the Reformed churches in the Philippines does not yet exist.

Rev. Bouwers notes, “We gently encouraged greater unity among all the brothers at every point, trusting however that any development would have to arise organically in their own midst by the gracious work of the Spirit.”

While the trip afforded many unique experiences of worship and fellowship, the most important things about believers remain the same all over the world.

“The hunger and appreciation for the Word of God in faraway places reminds and encourages us again of how rich we are in God’s amazing grace,” Rev. Bouwers says. “Jesus Christ is the same, our needs are the same, and His grace is amazing no matter where we minister.”

More information on the work of TAP is available at the ministry’s blog.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on paged 14 & 15 of the April 13, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.