Costa Rica Ministry Center opens

Update12_17b.cdrSeventeen years after construction began, Costa Rica Ministry Center is finally being fully utilized. The facility houses three ministries: the CECRE (Centro Educativo Cristiano Reformado) Christian High School, the CLIR (Confraternidad Latinoamericana de Iglesias Reformadas) printing operation, and the Pacto de Gracia congregation. The church has held worship services in a finished room on the second level of the building for several years, but the high school and print shop moved in during February of 2018. An open house to celebrate this significant milestone was scheduled for April 6.

The 115 high school students and instructors enjoyed their first day of classes in the new building on February 12. The larger space in a clean and quiet location includes a cafeteria area. While the students in six grades nearly fill the available space, there is room for about 40 more pupils.

It took a full day to move the printing operation from the garage of missionaries Bill and Aletha Green three miles and up a hill to the new building. Workers used a forklift to load presses and other equipment onto two trucks that made the trip three times. The CLIR print shop occupies the Ministry Center’s ground floor and shares an office with the high school. Air-conditioning keeps the shop and storage area free from humidity. More convenient installations will increase printing volume.

Many Christian Renewal readers have participated in work groups at the site since 2001. As many as four or five crews arrived annually from about 2005-2012. Construction then stalled for nearly five years, due to financial recessions and sharp increases in the cost of building materials. But almost two years ago, a contractor offered a quote of $330,000 to finish the project.

“The contractor was great,” Rev Green says. “We got an extra 25 percent built for the quoted amount. Four sheds, cafeteria, poured parking, and a lot of other nice things. God is good!”

Bill and Aletha Green have been working with missions in Costa Rica for over three decades. Aletha continues to be active with the Christian school, after having served many years as principal and on the board. She helped organize senior class trips to Grand Rapids, MI, in 2016 and Chino, CA, in 2017. Her current service includes baking sweet treats for a worldview class the couple conducts in their home.

“Our 33 years of experience in Costa Rica has enabled us to identify cultural impediments, and the worldview class is addressing this,” Rev. Green says. “Some things are universal: individualism, selfishness. Some things are specific to Costa Rica—people have a difficult time working together as a team. Our primary goal is to ensure that following generations will sustain and push the Costa Rican Reformed ministries forward.”

The three ministries seem to be moving forward. The school’s student body is steadily growing. The Pacto de Gracia Reformed Church has enjoyed growth during the past year and a steady stream of visitors. Many parents from within the school community are becoming interested in the church due to its biblical distinctiveness.

God is providing men to assume more leadership in CLIR as well. Lester Martinez serves as administrator and Daniel Lobo is a translator and editor. The two men are elders licensed to exhort.

“They both combine their love for God’s kingdom and the church with their passion for CLIR’s ministry—in publications, conferences, and church support,” Rev. Green says. “Both are willing to serve the CLIR ministry for the long haul. Praise the Lord for these two men, their tremendous gifts, and their commitment to the Lord and His church.”

Ministries and individuals making advances in Kingdom work often feel the presence of spiritual warfare, and those involved with the Costa Rican ministry are no exception. They request prayer for that and other matters.

“We feel the attacks of the evil one, even as so many good things are happening,” Rev. Green says. “Please pray that God will protect and use us.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the April 13, 2018, issue of Christian Renewal

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URCNA Pastors and Missions Conference

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Rev. Harry Bout, Mr. Paul Wagenmaker, Rev. Paul Murphy, Rev. Bill Pols, Rev. Richard Bout, Rev. Rich Anjema, and Rev. Bernard Westerveld (ERQ)

The URCNA Pastors and Missions Conference, held on May 15-18, 2017, focused on the theme: Reformed and Relevant—Reaching Our Generation with the Gospel. The facilities at Guelph Bible Conference Centre in Ontario provided a relaxing atmosphere and enjoyable activities for more than 30 pastors, many accompanied by their wives, who attended. Elders, lay persons, and students also benefitted from various presentations. Attendees could register for all or parts of the conference, while lectures on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings were open to anyone at no cost.

“We were glad to see many come out and join us in some great singing and worship and hearing a message from our main speakers, Dr. Eric Watkins and Rev. Paul Murphy. Numerous young people came to those evenings and came away very excited,” said Rev. Richard Bout, URCNA Mission Director and a conference organizer. “This year’s conference was a great time of learning and fellowship. Our speakers and workshop leaders were from the OPC, Can Ref, PCA and the URCNA and did an excellent job in explaining the calling we have been given to be an evangelistic, outward-facing church.”

panel
Dr. Brian Lee. Dr. Eric Watkins, Rev. Paul Murphy, Rev. Norm VanEeden Petersman

Two other pastors assisted Rev. Bout with planning the conference: Rev. Brian Cochran, Redeemer Reformation Church (URC) in Regina, SK, and Rev. Norman Van Eeden Petersman, who formerly served at Adoration United Reformed Churches in Ontario and is now pastor of Vancouver Associated Presbyterian Church (APC). The Vancouver church is the single Canadian congregation of the APC, a small Scottish federation of about twenty congregations that came into existence in 1989 by seceding from the Free Presbyterian Church.

“Our planning for this conference started in February of 2016,” explains Rev. Van Eeden Petersman, “when we agreed to work together to organize the 2017 conference.”

The conference consisted of two components: a pre-conference from Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon geared toward pastors, and a general missions conference open to lay people as well as ministers from Tuesday evening through Thursday morning.

 

Anjema
Rev. Rich Anjema

The pre-conference sought to generate fellowship and reflection among attending ministers and missionaries and their wives. After Monday’s evening meal, Rev. Paul T. Murphy, Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship (URCNA) spoke on “A Church for God’s Mission: Not a Mission for His Church—Understanding the Great Commission.”

“I was advocating a change in perspective so that instead of missions/evangelism being a line item on the church’s agenda/budget, that it is the raison d’etre of the church second only to worship,” he said. “This calls for a radical rethinking of how we do church and evangelism.”

Using several texts, he showed that God is a missionary God and that covenant is for the sake of the nations. He made several points of application. We should have a “go” rather than a “come” mentality about evangelism. We should view election missiologically, not just soteriologically. We ought not discuss covenant without mission. We shouldn’t distinguish between established churches and mission churches because every church is a mission church. We need to recover the office of believer as described in Q&A 32 of the Heidelberg Catechism to realize that every Christian is a witness. And many of our congregations need to ‘outgrow the ingrown church’ (as per C. John Miller). Rev. Murphy concluded by demonstrating from Luke 15 that God rejoices when we join Him “on mission.”

Reaching Generation Y

On Tuesday morning, Dr. Eric B. Watkins, Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) in St. Augustine, FL, spoke about “Preaching to Generation Y: Reaching the Lost Without Losing the Reached.” He examined the challenges of preaching to a generation that has lost direction in many ways and seeks identity in the wrong places. He addressed questions such as: How do we engage a media-driven culture? What language will reach Generation Y without abandoning previous generations? How can we remain faithful to our time-tested creeds and confessions and yet reach a generation that is losing interest in history?

porch 1Rev. Harry Bout, emeritus minister of Immanuel URC in Jordon, ON, addressed a crucial topic in the second lecture of the morning. He urged pastors to “Take Heed to Yourself—Your Public Ministry and Your Private Walk.” Rev. Bout serves in the Niagara Migrant Ministry, is involved with Hispanic outreach in southern Ontario, and for several months each year works in Tepic, Mexico.

Participants could choose from three afternoon breakout sessions, one designed especially for pastors’ wives. Rev. Cochran spoke about “Training our Youth to Stand Strong in a Digital Age.” Rev. Neil Stewart, Grace OPC in Sheffield, ON, spoke on “Avoiding Burnout in the Ministry.” Mrs. Julie Murphy addressed other wives of ministers regarding their roles as “Women in the Trenches.”

About twenty pastors’ wives attended the entire conference, according to Rev. Richard Bout. He said, “We really wanted to build them up in the important role they have in their husbands’ ministries.”

The Tuesday afternoon sessions were followed by a prayer time, free time for fellowship, and the evening meal.

Church Plants

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Revs. Murphy and Zekveld

The missions conference began with Tuesday evening’s lecture, as Dr. Watkins spoke on “Reformed and Evangelistic: Cultivating Outward-Facing Church Plants.” He noted that Reformed churches face the challenge of cultivating a culture of evangelism. He explored ways self-consciously Reformed churches and church plants can effectively do evangelism by faithfully, yet creatively, bringing the gospel to those outside the church. A Question & Answer panel discussion followed.

Urban Opportunities

Wednesday’s first session featured Dr. Brian Lee, Christ URC in Washington, DC, discussing “The Challenges and Joys of Urban Church Planting.” He began work as a church planter in DC in 2008, and the church organized at the beginning of 2016. The second morning session was on “Discipleship through Home Bible Studies” with Rev. Connan A.V. Kublik, New City Church (PCA) in Hamilton, ON. He spoke about the power of the gospel to accomplish true transformation as it is heard and believed.

volleyball-1The afternoon breakout sessions offered three choices. Rev. Mitch Persaud, New Horizons Church (URC) in Scarborough, ON, enlightened attendees on “Learning Cross-Cultural Etiquette.” Rev. Tony Zekveld, Hope Centre in Toronto, ON, addressed “Witnessing to Sikhs and Muslims.” Rev. Cochran spoke again about “Training our Youth to Stand Strong in a Digital Age.” Rev. Persaud and Rev. Zekveld repeated their presentations later in the day.

Community Outreach

On Wednesday evening, Rev. Murphy spoke on “Reformed and Missional: The Challenge of Being an Evangelistic, Community-Centered Church.” Using Philippians 2:15 as an illustration of being the light of the world, he encouraged churches to do evangelism “in an organic and covenantal” way. Organic in the sense of seeing and meeting needs with the gospel as we “integrate and ingratiate ourselves into the community.” Covenantal as in taking advantage of family ties to follow up with evangelistic contacts. He challenged churches to “develop a culture of evangelism, which needs to be personal and loving.”

He said, “My application here was whether or not we would really love the unlovely and welcome them into our midst because that it what God did with you and me. I tried to promote the love of God for sinners so that we would be channels of that love to others.”

Another panel discussion and a time of refreshments finished the day’s events.

Sam and Emily Perez family
The Sam & Emily Perez family

On Thursday morning, Rev. Bill DeJong of Blessings Christian Church (CanRC) in Hamilton, spoke on “Reaching Your Community with the Gospel: Practical Ways to Reach Out Locally.”

The conference concluded with Dr. Watkins speaking on “From Geneva to Disney World: Reformed Worship in a Postmodern Context.” In his description of the lecture, he noted, “The consumeristic narcissism or our postmodern context has created a serious challenge” for Reformed churches. It can be difficult to explain why they continue to worship as they do when many evangelicals are exploring other options. His talk suggested that Reformed worship is not only “distinct and beautiful,” but that it also has “a lot more to offer our postmodern friends than either they or we may have imagined.”

This was the second URCNA conference focusing on pastoral ministry and missions, although similar conferences have been held every other year since 2009. Pastors met for that initial conference on ministry at Puritan Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI. A missions conference in 2011 took place in Denver, CO. In 2013, the first combined conference was held at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, IN. Two committees planned that event, when the final pastoral ministry session also functioned as the first session on missions. A 2015 pastors conference took place in Escondido, CA.

Rev. Van Eeden Petersman describes participation in the 2017 conference as “a real joy.” He said, “Having speakers from the URC, OPC, PCA, and Canadian Reformed churches was a good way to have us reflect more broadly on our work and what it means to be, as Paul Murphy made plain, a church that exists for the sake of mission. After every session and during every mealtime, that was a lot of intense and focused discussion of what we are to be doing and how we can do better in our current contexts.”

women-1Rev. Cochran described the messages by the main speakers as “very insightful and convicting,” causing many pastors to “repent of our lack of an outward focus on sharing the gospel with others” and encouraging them to “strive by God’s grace to cultivate a culture of evangelism in our churches.”

But the setting and schedule permitted plenty of less interaction and reflection as well. Attendees took part in basketball, volleyball, ping-pong, and horseshoes. Rev. Cochran described the conference as “a great time of refreshment and fellowship” and noted that “the singing of Psalms and hymns to God was wonderful.”

Pastor Rich Bout reflected, “We live in challenging times for the church, and we have a lot to learn in how to faithfully share our faith in the gospel with those around us. One of the special blessings of this time together was the posture of humility and prayer that the pastors and elders demonstrated as they took in biblical exhortation from a variety of angles.”

An open door in Uganda

 

Robbins family - 2015People often say that God doesn’t close a door without opening another, and we frequently see it happen. More rarely the newly-opened door requires stepping over the threshold into a different country. But that huge step of faith for the David and Rashel Robbins family is actually the fulfillment of their lifelong dreams.

Even as children, each of them had longed to serve God in foreign missions, a shared desire that drew them together when they met. God seemed to close that door, instead calling the couple to Huntington, WV, where David planted Trinity Presbyterian Church for the OPC. But late in 2014, the supervising session questioned the viability of the mission work. The elders encouraged David to seek another call before it became necessary to close the effort. While that door was easing shut, no others appeared to open.

“We still had a longing to share Christ with the world,” David says, “but began to wonder if this was not God’s plan for us. We recommitted our desires to the Lord, and then—in a moment completely unforeseen and unanticipated by us—we were asked whether we would be interested in serving the Lord in Uganda.”

That foreign missions possibility came to light at the March 2015 presbytery meeting. David and Rashel visited the Karamoja field in August and were interviewed by the OPC’s Foreign Missions Committee in September. The Committee issued a call to him, which was processed by his presbytery, and he was installed as a missionary to Uganda on October 30. The door to his pastoral work at Trinity Presbyterian Church closed at the end of October.

David says, “Our prayerful ‘yes’ has consistently met with the Lord’s confirmation, and now we eagerly look forward to getting to the field.”

The family, which includes three young children, anticipates arriving in Uganda in February of 2016. They will live in a house located in one of three adjoining missionary compounds, which currently house around 20 people. Rashel’s younger sister, who has lived with them for several years, will remain in the States to attend college.

Karamoja is the eastern region of Uganda, about 2-7 hours (depending on travel conditions) from Mbale, where Eric and Diana Tuininga serve, and 7-13 hours from the capital city of Kampala and nearby Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria.

The area is considered high risk, due to cattle raids. Although that criminal activity has decreased in recent years, petty theft and violence (leading to martial law) are common. Residents must be take precautions against natural threats like malaria, scorpions, and poisonous snakes.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Uganda Mission (OPUM) has been working in the Karamoja area for 15 years, establishing an indigenous church and performing works of mercy. Other OPUM efforts include literature production, literacy training, medical care and health instruction at a clinic, vocational training, well drilling, and a working farm.

In January, the Robbins family will undergo a month of instruction at Mission Training International in Colorado. Then they will fly to Entebbe prior to making the long drive to the northeast.

Rev. Robbins, a 2005 graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary, plans to assist Pastor Dave Okken with planting a church in Nakaale. His work will include caring for the mission, reaching out to the community, and discipling future church leaders.

The family appreciates prayer as they walk in faith through this open door.

“We’re thrilled that the Lord has seen fit to give us this long-held desire of our hearts, and pray that he will enable us to serve him for his glory,” Rev. Robbins says. “That Christ would claim the people of this very dark place for his own is our great desire. Though we understand that this will not be an easy calling, if he is glorified, we will rejoice.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared in the February 3, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal. For updates on the work, see the family’s blog myganda.

Luz de Vida’s new building in Ecuador

2015-06-11 12.05.01When the Luz de Vida congregation in Quito, Ecuador, needed to find a new worship location before July 15, 2015, God provided one on July 13—only two days before the deadline. On Sunday, July 19, the congregation began services at the new building with morning worship at 10:00 am and an evening prayer service at 5:00 pm.

As in many large cities, meeting space in Quito is rare and expensive. Church leaders were thrilled to find a reasonably priced building that fits congregational needs in a more centralized location than their previous meeting site.

One of the group’s two pastors, Rev. Pablo Landázuri says, “We know that a church building is not the church. However, from a witnessing perspective, having our own building helps to change Ecuadorians’ perception of non-Roman Catholic churches as informal or ahistorical. Having our own building is also a witness in itself that shows our commitment to be ‘salt and light’ in the midst of the community. Besides that, we now have more room for different activities that we were not able to have in the past. Now we have four Sunday school and catechism classes at the same time, a small library, nursery, and a study that are a great blessing for the members and visitors.”

Pablo and Verenisse Landazuri-cThe congregation welcomes a steady stream of visitors looking for a confessional, reverent, loving, and gospel-centered Christian church. Luz de Vida celebrated its tenth anniversary on September 25 in its new location.

The building is in a residential area on the north side of the city, only two blocks from a main avenue. Public transportation and parking are available. It has a large room that works well for worship, a cafeteria, and several smaller rooms. Because it was originally a house that had been renovated for commercial use, its cost per square foot was significantly lower than similar buildings.

The purchase price of $300,000 USD was negotiated down to $270,000. The small Luz de Vida congregation raised an initial payment of $130,000, but the remaining $140,000 needed to be paid by December 1, 2015.

At an October 5 congregational meeting, Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Pella, IA (who ordained Rev. Landázuri to serve as a missionary to Ecuador), approved a plan to provide financial support for the building purchase. An individual gift of $25,000 has been designated for the Luz de Vida building, and Covenant will borrow the rest of the required amount from its existing building fund. The church will pay back its building account as gifts are received through congregational fundraising efforts and support from other URCNA churches.

worship“Above all, we are humbled and thankful to the Lord for Covenant’s generosity and their commitment to support the Ministry of Luz de Vida in Quito,” Rev. Landázuri says. “God has provided in ways that seemed impossible in our eyes. Once again, God has shown us that ‘with God nothing will be impossible.’ This commits Luz de Vida to remain faithful to the Word and the Reformed faith.”

Churches or individuals wishing to contribute to Luz de Vida support may contact Carrol Hol, cjhol@mahaska.org or Covenant Reformed Church, 2805 Fifield Road, Pella, IA 50219; 641-620-1777.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 12 of the October 28, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.

OPC 80th General Assembly: California dream

Official photo from the OPC GA website

When the 80th General Assembly (GA) of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) met from June 5-8 in Moraga, CA, it was the first time in 23 years that the Assembly was held in California and the first time ever in northern California. Voting equipment detained due to a train derailment arrived just in time, but then malfunctioned. Despite that minor problem, business flowed efficiently.

“This GA went smoothly, finishing almost a day early,” says Assistant Clerk John Mahaffy (Trinity OPC; Newberg, OR). “I appreciated the good spirit and the fellowship.”

“Remarkably, ‘Machen’s Warrior Children’ have had three GAs in a row finish early,” says Rev. Jack Sawyer (Pineville OPC; Pineville LA), Administrator of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations. “This, in part at least, is due to the sweet, brotherly spirit that has prevailed at these assemblies. But most especially the praise for this goes to the author of concord, our gracious God and his grace, mercy, and peace.”

Rev. Jeffery Landis (Covenant OPC; San Jose, CA) was elected as moderator. According to an online report by Rev. Arthur J. Fox (Calvary OPC; Middletown, PA), he had a “gentle manner and a good sense of humor” that kept business “moving along briskly.”

The GA dealt with a variety of matters, mostly in the context of committee reports. Rev. Mahaffy relates how highlights of this Assembly were reports of reconciliation. “Two encouraging highlights were the reports of the two committees set up by the GA, one to visit the Presbytery of New Jersey and the other Presbytery of Northern California and Nevada. The first grew out of a series of appeals of judicial cases, and the GA several years ago recognized that there were issues that went far deeper than technical points of the Book of Discipline. By God’s grace, his blessing was on the work of that committee, though one church abandoned the OPC at the end of the process. The report of the Committee to visit the Presbytery of Northern California and Nevada was similarly encouraging. Both committees were dissolved with thanks.”

An article by Rev. Larry J. Westerveld (Trinity OPC; Hatboro, PA), who chaired the Committee to Visit the Presbytery of New Jersey, in the August-September 2013 issue of New Horizons describes the emotional scene in which the Moderator of the Presbytery repeatedly stepped down from the chair and read statements to six individuals, confessing the Presbytery’s sin and seeking their forgiveness.

Missions and Ecumenicity

The Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension reported that six new church plants have been started in 2013, and more are anticipated in the second half of the year. The Committee on Foreign Missions testified that many believers around the world suffer for their faith. Missionaries are needed in several fields, including Uganda and Haiti. General Secretary Mark Bube reminded commissioners of the importance of prayer.

The Committee on Christian Education supervises the Psalter-Hymnal project, which has now posted online a list of 238 metrical psalms, considered in cooperation with representatives from the URCNA.

“For your readers, [URC minister] Adam Kaloostian was an exemplary fraternal delegate,” shares Rev. Sawyer. “Welcome, in my personal view, was his communication that the URCNA is seriously interested in deepening the ties between the OPC and the URCNA.”

Fraternal delegates from many other fellowships were present and shared how the Lord is working around the world.

Rev. Sawyer says, “As a member of our ecumenicity committee, I was especially pleased by the contribution of our fraternal delegates: ARP, PCA, RPCNA, RCUS, and the URCNA.”

Overseas delegates included the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Presbyterian Church of Japan, and the Evangelical Reformed Church/Westminster Confession (from Switzerland and Austria), the OPC’s newest church in Ecclesiastical Correspondence.

Diaconal efforts

The Diaconal Committee reported extensive financial response to the Japanese tsunami and Hurricane Sandy. The PCA, RPCNA, the URCNA, and the Reformed Church of Japan have cooperated with the OPC in disaster response.

Chaplains and Military Personnel

It was noted that chaplains remain free to pray in Jesus’ name, although some problems may exist. The Assembly called OPC churches to a day of prayer for the spiritual and physical welfare of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a non-communicant member of the church, on June 30, 2013, the fourth anniversary of his capture.

Ministers

The GA approved an amendment to the Form of Government allowing retired ministers from other denominations to transfer their ministerial credentials to the OPC without a call and installation when satisfactory reasons are given and proper procedure is followed.

A problem with ministers who are not adequately compensated or prepared for retirement led to recommendations aimed at encouraging presbyteries to provide adequate financial support. After extensive discussion, the recommendations passed.

Overture

An overture seeking changes in the Form of Government section about licensing candidates was debated extensively and eventually referred to the Committee on Christian Education, which will report to the next Assembly. The 81st GA will meet at KuyperCollege in Grand Rapids, MI, from June 4-10, 2014.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 16-17 of the July 31/August 21, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.

Rob Brinks appointed as RMS Director

Deb & Ron Brinks

Since the inception of Reformed Mission Services (RMS) two years ago, Rob Brinks has served as its interim director. But that is no longer the case. At its February 9, 2013, meeting, the RMS Board of Directors officially appointed as him as Director.

“I am humbled and thankful for the goodness that God has shown me with this decision,” says Mr. Brinks. “I am blessed to have a board that stands beside me, supports me, and has confidence in the work that I am doing.”

Board Chairman Doug Hoogerhyde explains the reasons behind the Board’s decision. “Rob’s two-year tenure as ‘interim director’ was ending. The Board of Directors noted that the ministry of RMS has been extremely blessed by Rob’s dedication and enthusiasm. By God’s grace and through Rob’s efforts, the ministry of RMS has grown. Therefore it was agreed that Rob become our permanent Director.”

Although the position remains part-time, the Board hopes it will become full-time within the next year. “I believe it becomes clear to everyone now that RMS is a viable ministry, and that Rob has proven himself as a capable (even gifted) ministry leader,” Hoogerhyde adds. “Long term for RMS, we are moving forward to expand the ministry and mission under Rob’s leadership.”

According to Board Vice Chairman Joel Weaver, the primary project currently underway is the summer 2013 Teens Actively Serving Christ (TASC) program. Events are being planned at the Orthodox Reformed Church of New Westminster, BC (the first Canadian TASC), Trinity URC in Visalia, CA, Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church in Pompton Plains, NJ, as well as two other possible sites in California and Michigan.

Another plan is for a new VBS venture. “We are also beginning a new program in which a member church prepares a Vacation Bible School and brings it to a small church or church plant,” relates Weaver. “Our inaugural site will be Covenant Reformed Church of Carbondale, PA, and it will be presented by Bethel URC of Jenison, MI.”

He explains, “The concept is to have volunteers from an RMS member church develop a VBS program, which includes all the lesson materials, skits, crafts, etc. They will then travel to the host church and, after some canvassing with members of the host church, carry out the program on behalf of the congregation for members of the community around the host church.” He notes that some members of the host church will be involved to ensure that even after volunteers leave, faces of church members will remain familiar to people in the community.

Other RMS projects included the third trip to Peru in November, where volunteers helped rebuild a church after a flash flood caused structural damage that resulted in the building being condemned.

After Hurricane Sandy, Rob traveled to New York and New Jersey to deliver donated goods and assess how RMS member churches might help. Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, an RMS group worked with the OPC to provide disaster relief in New Jersey.

“We are planning to return with a group from West Michigan the first week of April,” says Brinks. “The members within the URC churches along the coast were spared major damage from the storm, and for that we praise God. However, our brothers and sisters in other denominations were not so fortunate, so as an organization we believe it necessary to connect willing workers from within our member churches to those who need assistance.”

RMS plans to continue work with an orphanage in Baja California, Mexico, by sending teams to construct a building containing a meeting hall and living quarters. Groups from a variety of churches in the United States and Canada are participating in this project.

Churches interested in becoming RMS members or individuals seeking service opportunities can find more information at the website or find RMS on Facebook. Director Rob Brinks may be reached by emailing “rob” at rms.org.

The Board of Directors for RMS consists of 11 members and one chairman, who is a current elder of the overseeing consistory, Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church.

As the newly appointed Director, Rob looks forward to new avenues of service.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 13 & 14 of the March 20, 2013, issue of Christian RenewalThe Board and elders of Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church recently announced that the Director position will be increased from part-time to full-time effective July 1, 2013.

URCNA Classis Pacific Northwest: Ordination exam, OPC mission report

When Classis Pacific Northwest of the URCNA met on April 24, 2012, the main matter of business was the ordination exam of Mr. Jared Beaird. Mr. Beaird, who has been called by the Belgrade URC to plant a church in Missoula, MT, successfully sustained his exam. He describes the experience as “a relief as well as a blessing.”

“It’s been a long journey that has taken me far from my early theological roots in broad evangelicalism that has culminated with an external call by Belgrade URC,” he relates. “With approval from Christ’s church that I’m competent and able, I look forward to serving Missoula as a minister of the Word and sacraments. I would encourage readers to constantly pray for Missoula, it truly is a mission field; though not foreign, it has many of the same hostile and trying pitfalls.”

The Missoula church plant, now known as Covenant Reformed Church, meets at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 2512 Sunset Lane, at 10:30 am each Sunday. A time of hospitality follows the service with an 11:45 am potluck, which is followed by catechism instruction. The current class is undergoing a study toward church membersip. More information about Covenant Reformed Church in Missoula can be found at the group’s website or Facebook page.

Classis Pacific Northwest also enjoyed a presentation by Mr. Mark Bube, General Secretary of the OPC’s Committee on Foreign Missions, who reported on the denomination’s current mission endeavors.

Delegates additionally spent some time answering consistorial requests for advice on discipline matters.

Rev. Chris Gordon (URC of Lynden, WA) chaired the meeting. Rev. Nick Smith (URC of Nampa, ID) was Vice-Chairman. Rev. Kevin Efflandt (Zion URC of Ripon, CA) serves as Clerk of Classis.

Classis Pacific Northwest is scheduled to meet next on October 23-24, 2012, in Lynden, WA.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12-13 of the May 23, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.

Moving to Mbale

It’s difficult enough to imagine moving to Mbale, Uganda, but the difficulty increases exponentially if one considers moving a family of ten there. That, however, is exactly what Rev. Eric and Dianna Tuininga hope to do.
 
Rev. Tuininga will serve as a missionary evangelist with the OPC for the next four to five years or more. He will focus primarily on training men for ministry at Knox Theological College (KTC), although he will also preach in village churches and disciple Ugandan pastors and elders. He will be part of an OPC mission team that includes two other ministers, a full-time deacon, a doctor, other medical staff, and several missionary associates.
 
A service to install Rev. Tuininga in the OPC’s Presbytery of the Northwest has been scheduled for April 27, 2012; however, he will continue to pastor Immanuel’s Reformed Church (URCNA) in Salem, OR, until mid-June. The Tuininga family plans to fly to Uganda on July 18 so that he can begin teaching classes at KTC in August.
 
During 2007, the Tuininga family went from three children to six children in less than six months through the adoption of two sons from Liberia, Africa, and the birth of another son. Two more children have been added since then, bringing the family total to ten. The eight children are ages ten or younger (Timothy-10, Katelyn-9, Matthew-8, Rebecca-7, Jimmy-5, William- 4, Benaiah-2, and infant Talitha).
 
The Tuininga family spent some time in Mbale during March of 2011, even staying in the house they will move into at the end of July. Dianna relates that the family did not feel continually “unsafe” while in Uganda.
 
“Our lives are in God’s hands,” she writes, “therefore we are immortal until the day God chooses for us to die…so why worry? Even the hairs on our heads are numbered.”
 
Mbale has a population of about 92,000 and is located near the Kenyan border in eastern Uganda, in the vicinity of Lake Victoria. Students from both Kenya and Uganda attend KTC to receive training for preaching God’s word.
 
While Rev. Tuininga will focus on teaching at KTC, Dianna will continue teaching their children and undertake her homemaker role in a new culture.
 
The decision to serve in Uganda arose from Rev. Tuininga’s desire to best use his gifts in service to Christ’s kingdom. As the couple prayerfully considered serving in Uganda, they received a letter from Desiring God Ministries that spoke of Uganda’s greatest need as—not the plight of AIDS, the number of orphans, or wars and child abductions—but a “dearth of leadership in the church” of this nominally Christian country.
 
“There is a great need in Uganda for training of ministers,” says Rev. Tuininga. “As Reformed believers living in North America, we have been blessed in many ways by God—especially theologically and materially. We have a great privilege to assist our brothers and sisters in Christ in Uganda by sharing the treasures of wisdom and theological knowledge with them.”
 
“Please join us in prayer that the Lord will richly bless this opportunity for ministry,” he adds, “for His provision in all the details of moving a family of ten to Uganda, that we might be used by the Lord in the best possible way for His glory and the edification of the church in Uganda, and for His blessing on Immanuel’s Reformed Church in bringing a new pastor.”
 
More information about the Tuiningas’ move can be found at their online blog here.
 
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 17 of the May 2, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal. The Tuiningas have since arrived in Uganda.

URCNA Synod 2012-10: Missions

The URCNA has suffered from a lack of coordinated efforts in missions and church planting efforts and Synod London 2010 set up a study committee to research and make recommendations regarding a permanent missions committee and coordinator options. The study committee’s report recommended the establishment of a permanent committee, representing all classes, and a full-time missions coordinator.

The vote of the first two recommendations from the advisory committee demonstrated the unity of thought with regard to the need for a coordinated mission effort. Delegates quickly passed motions to establish a Missions Committee and to allow the Missions Study Committee to serve as the new standing committee in an interim capacity, but things slowed to a crawl when it came to appointing a Missions Coordinator.

Many delegates expressed concern about the expense of a full-time director and suggested that other less costly methods might be employed. There were also concerns about the local consistory losing its authority on some mission-related issues.

Several missionaries and church planters related how they’ve received crucial assistance from denominationally appointed personnel from other federations, and spoke with feeling of their longing for this type of support within their own federation.

Among those speaking was Rev. Andre Ferrari, a church planter in Milan, Italy. He explained that a group of believers from Romania contacted him because of “the principled ecclesiology” of the URCNA.

“So we are walking with them,” he said, adding that he didn’t know how that could continue due to his already full load as a pastor. “The best men during the Protestant Reformation functioned as members of a virtual missions committee.”

Speaking in favor of the motion, Rev. Chris Folkerts asked delegates not to focus so much on practicality, but rather to think in terms of biblical stewardship. He said, “Paul was the quintessential missions coordinator.”

Sometimes a lengthy debate concludes with a surprising vote. When the question was finally called, a large majority of delegates approved hiring a Missions Coordinator.

URCNA Synod 2012: Missions

“What will be the hot topic at Synod this year?”

I’m frequently asked that question, but if I’ve learned one thing in my years of covering major ecclesiastical assemblies it’s that you just never know.

Worship service at Synod Schererville 2007

Some issues are inherently controversial, while other seemingly benign matters end up devouring hours of delegates’ time. Discussion often reveals thorny aspects of initially rosy issues.

Final votes can be surprising. A voice vote can easily be too close to call. Are more people in favor of that motion? Or are the people in favor simply projecting their voices more forcefully? A show of hands may instantly clarify or may require re-counting. There are times when many speak passionately for or against a matter and I am sure that it will be a close vote, only to be amazed at the overwhelming consensus.

Not wanting to fall into inaccurate prophecy, I’ll refrain from creating a list of hot topics. But over the next few days, I’ll try to give some background material to help you understand some of the issues that are likely to generate discussion on the floor of the URCNA Synod Nyack 2012.

One thing that will almost certainly trigger animated discussion is the lengthy report from the Synodical Study Committee on Missions, which calls for the establishment of a standing Missions Committee with a full-time Chairman-coordinator.

Although the study committee was appointed by Synod 2010 and subsequently began their work, it’s important to realize that the committee didn’t start from scratch just two years ago. Missions has been a topic of concern for some years in the URCNA, and the study committee began on an already existing foundation.

The provisional agenda (found here) contains the report, which makes it clear that the committee seriously studied and incorporated aspects (especially the Joint Venture Model) of the Biblical and Confessional View of Missions, which was recommended to the churches by Synod Escondido in 2001.

The Missions study committee also researched extensively the missions policies and practices of church fellowships belonging to NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council), of which the URCNA is a member.

If it seems the study committee report devotes a lot of space to OPC missions, there’s a good reason. The OPC has a dynamic and effective mission organization that is active in literally more places than can be publicly named.

The study committee’s thorough and well-written report goes on to summarize its work and describe the biblical as well as confessional basis for its proposal. This section concludes:

So we see very clearly, both from the scriptures and our confessions, that we as the church of Jesus Christ must be planting churches, evangelizing, and preaching the gospel to the whole world. This is not optional but essential to being the church of Christ. If we neglect the evangelization of the nations, we will lose our identity as the church, which is called to be the salt of the earth. The Lord’s warning in Mathew 5:13 is a very serious one: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” We must reach out with the good news of the gospel to those still in the slavery to sin. If we are slow to do this, it may be that we need to remember again how precious the gospel is that brought us salvation by God’s grace. May we all recover the wonder of God’s calling out to us through his Word and giving us everlasting life in Christ by grace alone. As one united federation of churches, may we be found faithful to go to the ends of the earth with the gospel, so that the name of the Lord be praised and glorified.

The next section of the report emphasizes the need to prioritize URCNA mission and church planting efforts. It concludes:

Moreover, every URCNA congregation should prioritize their giving to URCNA missions over, above, and before para-church organizations and non-URCNA mission works. Because of our duty to fulfill the Great Commission and our obligation to our missionaries as articulated in Church Order Article 47, URCNA congregations should not fund para-church organizations or non-URCNA mission works if URCNA missionaries or church plants are lacking funds. It is essential that we have our priorities properly ordered.

This is the essence of the study committee’s proposal:

In order to facilitate greater coordination and cooperation of mission efforts within the URCNA, this study committee recommends the formation of a federational missions committee composed of seven elders/ministers, each representing a classis, and an eighth man who serves as the committee’s chairman and fulltime coordinator of home and foreign missions. The formation of this committee responds to:

  • our need to work together as federated churches, as required by the scriptures, our confessions and our Church Order;
  • the substantial growth in the scope of domestic and foreign mission activities of URCNA member congregations and classes;
  • the sense of standing alone that exists among many of our member congregations, missionaries and church planters;
  • the desire of URCNA churches to be more effective in fulfilling our Lord’s Great Commission.

A common observation heard on the floor of synod is: “Great idea. How much will it cost?” The Missions study committee tried to forestall that expense question by including an estimated budget of $6,000 for the standing committee and between $85,000 to $141,000 for the full-time Chairman-coordinator.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks the URCNA is doing a great job of coordinating church planting and missions efforts. I doubt that any delegate will fail to see the necessity for some kind of intentional cooperation. But I anticipate objections may arise in two primary areas: authority and expense.

Due primarily to its history, the URCNA has an inbred fear of hierarchy. We’re a federation that believes strongly in the final authority of local consistories, some of which may view this proposal as a a “top-down” proposal that mandates mission causes. I believe the drafters of the report were careful to maintain the local consistory authority structure. This is how they envision a standing committee’s function:

The committee would function as an information hub for URCNA missions, encouraging communication between URCNA missionaries, church planters, councils and congregations by doing the following:

(a) obtaining updates from the missionaries and church planters for publication in the missions newsletter and missions page of the URCNA.org website;

(b) ascertaining and remaining abreast of the disparate financial needs of missionaries and disseminate pertinent information to URCNA councils (e.g., location, family, nature & needs of a particular ministry);

(c) generally promoting the cause of missions in the URCNA in a way that consistently represents our commitment to function as a covenanted body;

(d) gathering information about the work of missions and church planting which could be contributed to a manual of helpful guidelines to assist Consistories, missionaries and church planters in the day-to-day activity of missions ….

(e) producing a report on the work of URCNA missions to each synod.

You can read more specifics about how the proposed committee would function by accessing the report in the provisional agenda.

While you’re on the official URCNA website, delegates (especially first-timers) may benefit from printing and reviewing a copy of the Regulations for Synodical Procedure.

What do you see as possible objections to the study committee’s report? What other “hot topics” do you anticipate?