This State Reformed church is named after John the Baptist. This big church is a so-called cruciform church, a late gothic style used for the first time in 1280, made of bricks and roofing tiles. In 1517 the city council of Wageningen decided to enlarge this building with a transverse nave and a choir stall. The Reformation quietly took the church over. In 1940 and 1945 this church was completely destroyed by bombs and grenades. It was rebuilt exactly as it had been—part of the tower was made of tuff from the original one. In 1963 a carillon of 47 clocks was hung in the tower, including a big one made in 1542 by Johannes Tolhuis (weight 1500 kilograms) which was a gift of the city council of Utrecht (where it had first been in the “Buurkerk” tower). The whole church was restored in 1979.

This picture was taken the day the building was finished on behalf of the State Reformed Church of the Dutch city of Haarlem. The name was chosen because of the park which surrounded it. Next to the entrance the rooms for the gatherings of elders and deacons, the minister’s room (for study and consultations), and the room for babies before they were baptized. Like all the other State Reformed churches, about 11% of the members are leaving since it has united with the Reformed and Lutheran churches in “Samen op weg” (together on our way); modernism ruins the basis of these churches. The majority of the inhabitants of Haarlem are Roman Catholic.

Haarlem was founded in the eleventh century by a Dutch Count who built a fortress. It became a town in 1245, at the river the Spaarne, in what later became the province North Holland.

In the days of Prince William I of Orange, Haarlem (1572) was 7 months besieged by the Spanish army. The Reformed garrison refused to give the city over to the Spanish Roman Catholic king of Spain (Philip II) who wanted to crush the Reformed faith. Food became scarce, ammunition used up. Half of the defense forces were killed, and several soldiers replaced by couragious inhabitants. They lost the battle.

At the end of the sixteenth century, Haarlem became a center of the textile industry because many Huguenots came from France to The Netherlands and they were specialists in making fine linen, velvet and Gobelin tapestry.

This is the tower of the big State Reformed Church of the small Dutch city of Dreischor (municipality Brouwershaven) in the province of Zeeland known as a modernist parish. The building had been under construction from the fourteenth until the sixteenth century. It stands on the ruins of the castle Windenburg that was built in the Middle Ages. Several kinds of bricks have been used of different shapes and colors. The church has two naves and several halls of an unusual shape.

In the past, Dreischor has been an island and was called a high manor (“hoge heerlijk-held”) of the nobelmen, and the owner had rights and duties, prerogatives and options. Dykes were built and roads made, loans given, etc.

The word Dreischor is given because there were three big dykes coming together at that place (dialect, drei means three). Agriculture was mainly flax, which was in great demand for the fabrication of linen.

These days quiet places of natural beauty are in demand. There is too much noise, too much shocking news, too many problems to be solved, and too many obstacles in life to be overcome. This peaceful place is a fine, simple retreat, unspoiled by dirt, and plenty of fish (trout and eels).
The Namu-namu lake is one of the hundreds spread all over New Zealand, closed off from the rivers, and filled up by rain water from the surrounding virgin hills. It is good for swimming and fishing or going around in a rowing scull. You can write a poem or a letter, read or study. Fantails and silvereyes will fly around you to catch insects from between the long grass. That is why my son, Theo, took a photo of the old small pier at this spot. It was early in the morning and the sun was not yet in the sky that lovely summer day.

In his big house, Dr. Martin Luther had his own work corner with a desk and a place next to the window where he could read and select the material he needed from various sources. In the former monastery everything was sober and a bit primitive, but the reformer did not ask for more. The whole place was a gift from King Frederick III, (the Wise) and nowadays is known as the “Lutherhalle” and includes a Reformation museum. Thousands of visitors have visited here but the authorities of the city of Wittenberg had expected millions since Germany was reunited.

This building remained undamaged during the war.

To please the tourists, the City Council of Wittenberg organizes a parade of the Night Watch once a week. They wear the traditional costumes as of the days of Dr. Martin Luther. These halberds get their arms from a museum. They wear shoulder belts in the city colors of yellow and green.

Behind them the City Church with two towers. In 1929 that building was restored. The pulpit from which Luther held his sermons remained undamaged to this day.

President Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe is guilty of national suicide, says Dr. Peter Hammond, missionary from Cape Town (South Africa) in his monthly publication “Christian Action” (For Reformation and Revival). Everybody should know about this, he says, reminding us of what is written in Proverbs about those who cannot speak for themselves. The Communist police treat them like slaves.

In the capital city, Harare, 400 Christian women gathered for an all-night prayer meeting for peace. They were assaulted by the police, so that 38 of them were severely injured and hospitalized.

After the elections of March 31, more than 18,000 people were arrested who were against President Mugabe. Thousands were made homeless, as their houses and businesses were razed to the ground by the police. Armored troop carriers patrolled the suburbs of Harare. The police were under orders to use live ammunition against civilians attempting to resist.

Sithenbiso Nyoni, a friend of President Mugabe, ordered the removal of an electricity transformer from a suburb of the city of Bulawayo because only 3,777 residents had voted for her. So the suburb was plunged into darkness.

Supreme Court justices who opposed Mugabe’s campaign of lawlessness were forced to resign upon public threat of death. Pastors have been warned “to be careful” with their prayers. Some have been arrested. Central Intelligence Organization agents have even instructed pastors to write down their prayers for them to scrutinize beforehand.

When Mugabe came to power in 1980, he proclaimed publicly “Farmers are enemies of the state. We have degrees in violence. What Hitler did to the Jews, I will do to the Whites tenfold. I will be a black Hitler tenfold. The Revolution is yet to be concluded. We have set the rules. Those who resist will die!”

The Rhodesia Christian Group in England reports that although Zimbabwe previously exported food, now approximately 7 million Zimbabweans are dependent on external food aid. 75% of Zimbabwe’s population is now living below the poverty line. Out of originally 5500 productive commercial farms, today less than 500 farms are in any way operational. The economy in Zimbabwe is one of the fastest shrinking in the world. Unemployment is officially over 70%. Inflation is running at 440%. People in Zimbabwe have been bluntly told that they will not get any food aid unless they stand behind the political party of Robert Mugabe, known as the ZANU/PF. Life expectancy in Zimbabwe has plummeted to 34 years for men and 33 years for women. It has been recorded that 89% of aid money from the European Union has been embezzled by Robert Mugabe and his cronies. Amnesty International has documented over 1,000 cases of torture by the Zimbabwe government. Nearly half of the members of Parliament belonging to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have been assaulted by the police. Many members have been arrested, and several of them have been murdered. Their lawyers were assaulted. For example Mr. Gabriel Shuma, was seized by the police, hooded, stripped, bound, thrown down flights of stairs, and subjected to torture and abuse. He has since fled the country, like 4 million other Zimbabweans. Some 1.1 million live now in the United Kingdom, 1.2 million in South Africa, 100,000 in Australia. The others are scattered around the world, including Botswana, Zambia, and Mozambique. The Education Minister of Zimbabwe has recently declared all the private schools (many are Christian) racist and had them closed, including the famous Peter House, the most successfully integrated school of the country. The principal was imprisoned.

Roy Bennett, a member of Parliament, who speaks the Shona language fluently, has been imprisoned, crammed into a small and filthy disease ridden cell, forced to sleep on a concrete floor with 17 others, and subjected to degrading abuse.

Mugabe is seeking to accommodate his patrons in Red China. He has publicly declared that he has turned away from the West, where the sun sets, and has turned to the East, where the sun rises.

Red China has provided him with arms and jet fighters. In return, Zimbabwe is giving Red China land.

The government in Peking has gone to build Mugabe, a new mansion on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. Chinese immigrants are flooding the country with cheap shoes and clothes to sell. The crackdown on informal traders, the vast majority being supporters of the Opposition, helps to eliminate the competition for these new Communist traders in Zimbabwe.

This is a picture of the Russian Orthodox Church of the so-called “White Russians” on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

The mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, Helena (255-332), was a Christian who founded several chapels and churches in the countries she traveled to, and so when she came in Jerusalem she founded a chapel on the Mount of Olives. Later a larger church, four stories high was built here, with a modest stone facade, but the chapel is still there. Shaped like a cross, this sanctuary is surmounted by a dome resting on a drum with 24 windows. The walls and the ceiling are dominated by shades of cloudy blue. Beneath the dome a kind of representation of the ascension is made, by the four evangelists, Mark, Luke, Matthew and John, in colorful paintings. The marble floor is blotched with reddish-brown stains. A shrine built here in 360 was almost destroyed in 614 by pillaging Persians. Over 100 people were massacred on the spot by the invaders. The spots serve to remind visitors of that long-ago slaughter.

A marble tombstone marks the grave of an important man in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. His name was Antonin Kapustin, a man of many talents, who encountered difficulties when he came and tried to buy land in this area. He had studied Arabic so that he could communicate with the locals He rode a donkey as they did and squatted next to them on the floor. So, in 1870 Kapustin managed to buy a big piece of the Mount of Olives, where he erected an extra chapel and contributed to renovations of the Church of the Ascension. There is still an undamaged Byzantine-era mosaic, part of the original chapel (built on the orders of Queen Helena), which had been buried under rubble. Worked into the design are species of birds and animals of Palestine. The chapel was ruined by the Persians, but carefully restored by Armenian Christians.

The sharply pointed belfry of the church is located on the very peak of the Mount of Olives, visible from almost every part of Jerusalem. The bell arrived from Russia in 1885, weighed eight tons and was put on a special wagon, pulled and pushed by volunteers from the harbor of Jaffa to the Mount in three weeks, and there the bell was lifted into the tower… Visitors of this church are not allowed to wear shorts (women must wear dresses or at least skirts).

You see here one of the oldest parts of the capital of the State of Israel, Jerusalem. At the right is the so-called tower of David, not far from the gold plated dome of the Mosque. In the past in this area was the temple, which was destroyed by the Romans. You see the restored walls of the city, as they were built by the Turks (on top of the old ruins). This picture shows only one quarter of the whole of the city. Outside the walls many new buildings are under construction. Some are owned by Arabs, but the majority are owned by Jews. There are many conditions and rules to be followed before a permit is given to build in the majority of the city. The old city lays on a hill, which can best be reached by public transport. Note the buses in the parking area and restored streets. In the central area of the city, not much has been altered since the destruction in the year 70 AD, except for portions of the Jewish areas. The main source of income in Jerusalem is tourism.

A souvenir of the crusaders is the bell tower of the Church of the Holy Tomb which has survived many battles. Golgotha is situated inside the old city. Also Gethsemane is still in existence, with centuries old groves of olive trees and some fig trees. Monks are allowed to maintain these historical places. Christian missionaries are not able to obtain permanent entry permits, because the government wants to discourage Jews converting to Christianity.

Dr. Peter Hammond of Cape Town, South Africa wrote a long article in the monthly “Christian Action” about the Tslamic slave trade across the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

He said that while the European involvement in the Trans Atlantic slave trade to the Americas lasted for just over three centuries, the Arab involvement in the slave trade has lasted fourteen centuries, and in some parts of the Muslim world is continuing to this day.

There are however some interesting contrasts. While two out of every three slaves shipped across the Atlantic were men, the proportions were reversed in the Islamic slave trade. Two women for every man were enslaved by the Moslems.

While the mortality rate for slaves being transported across the Atlantic was as high as 10%, the percentage of slaves dying in transit in the Trans Sahara and East African slave trade was between 80 and 90%!

While almost all the slaves shipped across the Atlantic were for agricultural work, most of the slaves destined for the Muslim Middle East were for exploitation in harems, and for military service.

While many children were born to slaves in the Americas, and millions of their descendants are citizens in Brazil and the USA to this day, very few descendants of the slaves that ended up in the Middle East have survived. While most slaves who went to the Americas could marry and have families, most of the male slaves destined for the Middle East were castrated.

Possibly as many as 11 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic Ocean, mainly to South and Central America. However, at least 28 million Africans were enslaved in the Muslim Middle East. About 80% of these captured by Muslim slave traders died before reaching the slave markets. The death toll from the 14 centuries of Muslim slave raids into Africa could have been more than 140 million people.

While Christian reformers spearheaded the anti-slavery movements in Europe and North America, and Great Britain mobilized her navy, throughout most of the 19th century, to intercept slave ships and set the captives free, there was no comparable opposition to slavery within the Muslim world! Even after Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1815, the Muslims enslaved a further 2 million Africans—this despite vigorous British naval activity and military intervention to limit the Islamic slave trade. Nearly 100 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in America, and 130 years after all slaves within the British Empire were set free by parliamentary decree, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, in 1962, and Mauritania in 1980, begrudgingly removed legalized slavery from their statute books. Many international organizations document that slavery continues in some Muslim countries.

Slavery long predated Christianity; there were Christian slaves in the Roman Empire. The great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and all the civilizations in Central America and Africa were built upon slave labor.

People became slaves by being an insolvent debtor, being sold into slavery by their parents, being born to slave parents, being captured in war, or through kidnapping by slave raiders and pirates. Slave dealing was an accepted way of life, fully established in all societies. Most of these slaves were white people, or European. In fact the very word “slave” comes from the people of Eastern Europe, the Slays.

The Greeks, from whom we derive many modern, humanistic ideas, were utterly dependent on slavery. Even Plato’s “Republic” was firmly based on slave labor. Plato said that 50 or more slaves represented the possessions of a wealthy man.

Under Roman law, when a slave owner was found murdered, all his slaves were to be executed. In one case, when a certain Pedanius Secundas was murdered, all 400 of his slaves were put to death. That was the rule.

Before the coming of Jesus Christ, the heathen nations despised manual work and confined it to slaves. When Christ was born, half of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. Three quarters of the population of Athens were slaves.

Slavery was indigenous to African and Arab countries before it made its way to Europe. It was widely practiced by the tribes of the American Indians, long before Columbus set foot on the shores of the New World. Ethiopia allowed slavery until 1942; Saudi Arabia until 1962; Peru until 1968; India until 1976; and Mauritania until 1980.

What is seldom remembered is that many black Americans in the 19th century owned slaves. For example, according to the United States census of 1830, in just the one town of Charleston, South Carolina, 407 black Americans owned slaves themselves.

Christianity undercut slavery by giving dignity to work. By reforming work, Christianity transformed the social order. Jesus took up the saw, the axe, the hammer and the plane. When the apostle Paul wrote to Philemon, concerning his escaped slave, he urged him to welcome back Onesimus as a brother in the Lord.

The Scriptures commands us to love our neighbor, to be a Good Samaritan; and to do for others what we would want them to do for us. Christians like William Wilverforce, John Newton, William Carey, David Livingstone, Lord Shaftsbury and General Charles Gordon worked tirelessly to end the slave trade, stop child labor and set the captives free. From the very beginning of the Christian church, Christians freed slaves. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries many tens of thousands of slaves were freed by people who converted to Christ.

St. Melania was said to have emancipated 8,000 slaves, St. Ovidius freed 5,000, Chromarius freed 1,400, Hermes freed 1,200. Many of the Christian clergy at Hippo under St. Augustine “freed their slaves as an act of piety.” In AD 315, the emperor Constantine, two years after he issued the Edict of Milan, legalizing Christianity, imposed the death penalty on those who stole children to bring them up as slaves.

The emperor Justinian abolished all laws that prevented the freeing of slaves. St. Augustine (354-430) saw slavery as the product of sin and as contrary to God’s divine plan (The City of God). St. Chrysostom in the 4th century taught that when Christ came He annulled slavery. He proclaimed: “in Christ Jesus there is no slave. Therefore it is not necessary to have a slave…buy them, and after you have taught them some skill by which they can maintain themselves, set them free.” For centuries, throughout the Middle Ages, bishops and church councils recommended the redemption of captive slaves, and for five centuries the Trinitarian monks redeemed Christian slaves from Moorish (Muslim) servitude.

In 1102 AD, the London Church Council outlawed slavery and the slave trade. By the 12th century slaves in Europe were rare, and by the 14th century slavery was almost unknown on the continent of Europe.

However, with the birth of Islam came a rebirth of the slave trade. As Ronald Segal in Islam’s Black Slaves documents: “When Islam conquered the Persian Sassanid Empire and much of the Byzantine Empire, including Syria and Egypt, in the 7th century, it acquired immense quantities of gold… stripping churches and monasteries… either directly or by taxes, payable in gold, imposed on the clergy and looting gold from tombs. The state encouraged the search and sanctioned the seizure, in return for a fifth of the finds.”

Segal notes: “Female slaves were required in considerable numbers for musicians, singers and dancers. Many more were bought for domestic work, and many were in demand as concubines. The harems of rulers were enormous. For example, the harem of Abdal Rahman III (912-961) in Cordoba contained over 6,000 women. And the one in the Fatimid Palace in Cairo had twice as many.”

Islam’s Black Slaves notes that Islamic teachers throughout the centuries consistently defended slavery: “For there must be masters and slaves. Blacks lack self-control and steadiness of mind and they are overcome by fickleness, foolishness and ignorance. Such are the blacks who live in the extremity of the land of Ethiopia, the Nubians, Zanj and the like.” Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406); the preeminent Islamic medieval historian and social thinker wrote:

The Negro nations are as a rule submissive to slavery, because they have attributes that are quite similar to dumb animals….

By the Middle Ages, the Arab word “abd” was in general use to denote a black slave while the word “mamluk” referred to a white slave. Even as late as the 19th century it was noted that in Mecca “there are few families that do not keep slaves. They all keep mistresses in common with their lawful wives.

When the Fatimids (named after Fatima, a daughter of Mohammed) came to power, they slaughtered all the tens of thousands of black military slaves and raised an entirely new slave army. Some of these slaves were conscripted into the army at age ten. From Persia to Egypt to Morocco slave armies from 30,000 to up to 250,000 became common place.

Even Ronald Segal, who is sympathetic to Islam and prejudiced against Christianity admits that well over 30 million black Africans would have died at the hands of Muslim slave traders or ended up in Islamic slavery. The Islamic slave trade took place across the Sahara Desert, from the coast of the Red Sea, and from East Africa across the Indian Ocean. The Trans Sahara trade was conducted along six major slave routes Just in the 19th century, for which there are more accurate records, 1.2 million slaves were brought across the Sahara into the Middle East, 450,000 down the Red Sea and 442,000 from East African coastal ports. That is a total of 2 million black slaves—just in the 1800s. At least 8 million more were calculated to have died before reaching the Muslim slave markets.

Islam’s Black Slaves records: “In the 1570’s, a Frenchman visiting Egypt found many thousands of blacks on sale in Cairo on market days. In 1665 Father Antonios Gonzalis, a Spanish/Belgian traveler, reported 800–1,000 slaves on sale in the Cairo market on a single day. In 1796, a British traveler reported a caravan of 5,000 slaves departing from Darfur. In 1838 it was estimated that 10,000 to 17,000 slaves were arriving in Cairo each year” There was a high death rate and low birth rate among black slave women. Islamic civilization lagged behind the West in protecting public health. One caravan with 3,000 slaves proceeding from the coast in East Africa, lost two thirds of its number from starvation, disease and murder. In the Nubian Desert, one slave caravan of 2,000 slaves literally vanished as every slave died.

Records for Morocco in 1876 show that market prices for slaves in good health varied from $48 to $140. Attractive young women fetched between $192 and $386. The majority destined to become concubines in North Africa, the Middle East and sometimes further away.

White slaves from Spain, Central and Eastern Europe were seen in the Middle East serving in the palaces of rulers and the establishments of the rich. Historian Robert Davis in his book Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters, has estimated that North African Muslim pirates abducted and enslaved more than 1 million Europeans between 1530 and 1780.

These white Christians were seized in a series of raids which depopulated coastal towns from Sicily to Cornwall! Almost all the inhabitants of the village of Baltimore, in Ireland, were captured in 1631.

It was the enemies of the Reformation who brought Europe into the disgraceful trade. Emperor Charles V (whom Martin Luther defied with his historic “My conscience is captive to the Word of God… here I stand, I can do no other…” speech) of the Holy Roman Empire, first authorized Europe’s involvement in the slave trade in 1519.

Portugal, The Netherlands, France and Britain delivered slaves for the Spanish colonies in South America (2.5 million people), 2 million to the British West Indies, 1.6 million to the French West Indies, and half a million to the Dutch West Indies; half a million to North America, too. The United States, however, would eventually fight a war, in part over slavery. There came an enormous and vocal American opposition to slavery. This was in sharp contrast to the indifference that Muslims, Africans and many Europeans evidenced.

There was no need for the slave traders to risk their lives or venture into the jungles of Africa. They simply purchased the people from African chiefs and Muslim slave traders at the coast of Africa. Many chiefs found it more profitable to sell their enemies, criminals and debtors than to kill or imprison them. Slave ships sailed from Bristol or Liverpool loaded with cloths, beads, muskets, iron bars and brandy. This merchandise was then traded in West Africa in exchange for slaves.

The average man on the street was kept in the dark about this until in 1785 Thomas Clarkson wrote a book about it entitled Slavery and Commerce in the Human Species. William Wilberforce followed in his footsteps. After a fight in parliament of twenty years in the House of Commons in London (February 22, 1807), the slave trade was outlawed.

In 1809, the British government mobilized its navy to search suspected slave ships, even foreign vessels on the high seas. In 1810, the British Parliament declared slave trading a felony, punishable by fourteen years hard labor. In 1814, the British representative at the Congress of Vienna (Austria) insisted on the abolition of the slave trade being included in the international treaty. This treaty was signed by all the European powers on June 9, 1815. In 1825, Britain passed a bill making slave trading punishable by death. Finally, just three days before William Wilberforce died, by an Act of Parliament in 1833, the British abolished slavery itself; freeing all 700,000 slaves in British overseas territories.

The abolition of slavery was one of the great turning points in history. The long and vigorous crusade by the British navy throughout the 19th century against the slave trade ranks as one of the most extraordinary and unselfish applications of national policy ever seen in the history of nations.

Meanwhile the East African slave trade was increasing. David Livingstone brought the ravages of that trade to light. His Missionary Travels exposed the horrors. Islamic law (Sharia) contains elaborate regulations for slavery. A slave had no right to be heard in court (testimony was forbidden by slaves). They had no right to own property, could marry only with the permission of the owner, and were considered to be chattel, that is, the movable property of the slave owner. (Traditional Islamic culture still condones slavery. It persists in Saudi Arabia and Sudan).

The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]

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The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]

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