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Another Federation Board year is nearing its close, which means that it is time to introduce our new nominees. This is also the time publically to thank those members who will soon be retiring from their 2 year terms on the Fed Board. Thank you to Brian Feenstra, Joe Holstege, Erika Schipper, Dan VanUffelen, and Rev. Haak for all your hard work and for making our meetings run smoothly and efficiently! You will all be missed, but it is time to look forward now.

Our two nominees for the spiritual advisor position are Prof. Dykstra and Rev. David Overway.  Professor Dykstra is the professor of Church History and New Testament Studies at the Protestant Reformed Seminary. He has served there for about 18 years, serving previously as Pastor of Hope PR Church in Grand Rapids and of Doon PR Church in Iowa. Rev. Overway has recently moved to the Grand Rapids area to be Pastor in Hope PR Church, and also previously served in Doon PR Church. Both of these men have expressed their love for the people of God and their desire to serve on the Federation Board, assisting in the spiritual growth of the young people.

Up for nomination as youth coordinator we have Mr. Brett Van Koevering and Mr. Brad Bruinsma. Brett is a member of Holland PR Church, where he currently serves as an elder. He is employed at Kamps Tile and Stone. He values the role the Federation Board plays in encouraging and building up the next generation in the truth. Because of this he informed us that he would enjoy working together with the Board. Brad Bruinsma lives in Grandville, Michigan along with his wife, Trisha.  They have three daughters, Kari (15), Skyler (13), and Emma (11).  They moved to Grandville around 8 years ago from Kalamazoo, MI, which is where Brad started out his married life.  Kalamazoo is also the place where he spent the most time in one place.  His dad is a minister (Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma) so Brad moved around a lot as a kid.  The neat thing about that is that he was able to get to know many people and even live in unique places such as Jamaica. Brad is self-employed as a tile and flooring specialist, which takes up much of his time.  He enjoys tinkering on his house (yes, that means there are many half done projects at his house at any given time.)  During the summer months his family looks forward to many camping trips around the area where they spend time fishing, swimming and enjoying friends and family.  Brad also expressed his love for the young people of the churches and his desire to be able to serve them, if the Lord’s will is that he joins the Fed Board.

Next, for vice president, the Fed Board has nominated Taylor Dykstra and Stefan Bodbyl. Stefan is a member of Grandville PR Church, and he wrote this:

I am excited for the possibility to serve on the Board. I look forward, if elected, to the joys of serving our Lord and the Protestant Reformed Young People. I thoroughly enjoyed the conventions that I attended and look forward to helping in the provision of a spiritually beneficial convention in the future for our young people, through the work that goes on behind the scenes. There is an abundance of work to be done from what I understand from my brothers who previously served on the board, and I express my appreciation to you, the current members, for your hard work. I am thankful to God for the nomination and the ability potentiallyto  help in this work.

Taylor attended Heritage Christian School and Covenant Christian HS (2011).  He is a member of Trinity PR Church and currently attends GVSU, studying Mechanical Engineering. He hopes to graduate in August, 2015, Lord willing.  Last August he married his wonderful wife, Erin.  Taylor enjoys fishing, reading, carpentry, and working around the house. He expressed his willingness to help out on the Fed Board if that is God’s will for him.

Nominated for vice treasurer were Joel Rau and Zachary Kuiper. Zach is currently a member of Hudsonville PR Church. He attends Davenport University, majoring in Accounting. He sees this opportunity, if he becomes elected to the board, as a way first to help become more involved with the churches and the young people, but also as a way to prepare him for the career path that the Lord is leading him down. Joel, member of Hope PR Church in Grand Rapids, is currently in his second year at Calvin College. While working on his business degree there, he enjoys working for Kregel’s Landscape and Garden Center on the side. Possibly being on the Fed Board excites him because he too sees this as a great opportunity to serve the young people of our denomination, to encourage them to be active in growing in their faith and love for God, and to promote the communion of the saints among the young people through the work of the Fed Board, Beacon Lights, and the Young Calvinists.

Finally, our nominations for the vice secretary position were Annica Bosveld and Nicole Kamps. Annica attends Hope PR Church in Grand Rapids. She is currently pursuing an Elementary Education degree at Grand Valley State University. She works part time at Motman’s Greenhouses in Allendale. She is excited to be offered an opportunity to be more involved in our denomination, and with the young people in particular. As a potential member of the Federation Board, she would like to gain experience in promoting good Reformed literature for our young people.  Nicole is a member of Southwest PR Church. She is studying to obtain her nursing degree through Davenport University. As possible vice secretary she looks forward to working along with the young people as we all grow together in our faith in Jesus Christ.

The Fed Board would like to thank each one of these who have so willingly accepted these nominations. Now we await the voting to take place at the convention to see which of these will be serving with us. We ask for your continued prayers and support as we go forward, working always to glorify God in every way.

In November of 2012, when we traveled to the Philippines, my brother Peter and I also had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Singapore for a few days. As mentioned in my previous article on the Philippines, there are many differences in culture between these two countries, and that struck both of us when we were in Singapore. But what we noticed even more were the similarities. Both the people of Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore and the people in the churches of the Philippines worship the God as we do, and have the same zeal for him and for the truth.

We arrived in Singapore on a Friday afternoon and were warmly welcomed by a few of the youth of CERC (the youth being young adults about ages 15–25). Walking out of the airport we already noticed the differences between the two countries. There were no loud crowds of people waiting outside the airport, but it was very quiet and peaceful. The landscaping was perfect, lawns beautifully manicured, trees planted in specific places, and even the cars in the parking lot were parked very neatly and orderly. Also, the drivers knew how to stay between the lines on the roads and followed traffic laws! It is obvious that Singapore is a much wealthier nation that prides itself on its cleanliness and beauty.

In addition to cleanliness, Singapore is known for its many fancy attractions. Just as the USA, Singapore wants to have the biggest and best. One very new and beautiful attraction is the Gardens by the Bay. We went there straight from the airport and walked around in the two gigantic greenhouses for hours, looking at all the different varieties of plants and flowers from all over the world. During this very enjoyable tour we were able to get to know each other better. Singapore is known to have the second largest Ferris wheel in the world (recently outdone by China, which now has the biggest) that we could see but didn’t ride. Another popular attraction is Sentosa, an island that has museums, aquariums, beaches, and little shops on it. There is also a large zoo in Singapore, of which many of you may have seen pictures (Rev. Andy Lanning holding a snake).

Singapore is the largest port city in the world, and is a city bustling with over 5 million people packed into high-rises. Yet the streets are clean, the public transportation is readily available, and the traffic flows well. This is probably because Singapore is a “FINE” city. One can be fined for anything from spitting, littering, or smoking in public to drinking water on the public trains. Those who drive cars have to pay a large sum just for the permit to own a car, on top of buying the car itself, and most cars 10 years or older are scrapped. Singaporeans are big on education. Young people do not find jobs after high school because all good jobs require a college education, so they must keep studying. The pursuit of higher education is interrupted for the young men because they must serve in the military for at least 2 years starting about the age of 18. All this we found out very quickly, as the Singaporeans are very willing to share information about their country.

Friday night after the Gardens, Peter and I got our first introduction to the church life of the CERC. The youth have their Bible studies that night, and before studying they all get together for a meal. A few of them made spaghetti, a very American food that we were thankful for, and about 30 of us gathered to eat and fellowship. After eating, the girls and boys split up, the boys gathering in groups for Bible study and prayer meetings, and the girls gathering to study a book. By watching and listening to the youth that night, we learned quickly of their love for God and for learning more and more of his word.

Most of these youth are second generation Christians in CERC, and have not had the truths of Scripture passed down to them for many generations as most of us in the PRC have. So being newer to the faith, their “first love” for God, for his people, for his church, and for his word, is very evident. It was refreshing to witness this spiritual energy and godly zeal in these young people. They know what it means to go through a split in the church, to see their parents struggle with important decisions about the church that will have long-lasting effects on the people, and they themselves suffered broken and strained relationships because of the split. Yet they take this hardship as an opportunity to learn God’s will for them, and to grow closer to him. He is most important to these people, and they do not hide their love for him.

Worshipping in CERC was also a different experience from worshipping in the Philippines. It felt more like we were at home with the nicely finished sanctuary and the quietness during the worship service. The only distractions were the occasional cries of a baby. No roosters crowing or cars honking this time, but the people were still focused intently on the preaching of God’s word. And this is the beauty of meeting believers around the world.

In our rushed society and busy lives, together with school, work, friends, we can so easily become focused on ourselves and forget that we are not the only people in the world. Sometimes it is so nice to stop and think about these people, God’s children half a world away, and know that they have the same God we do, that they worship him the same way we do, and that we share a bond in Christ that surpasses the differences we may have in culture, looks, or status. It would be worth it for any of you to make this kind of a trip, but if you have never had the opportunity to travel to a different part of the world and meeting other parts of the body of Christ, I hope these articles gave you a glimpse into that kind of experience. Please keep the believers in the Philippines and in Singapore in your prayers as they continue to learn and grow in faith, and also, if the opportunity arises, I strongly encourage you to travel to either place someday. You will not regret it at all!

 

Matthew 28:19&20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

 

My brother Peter and I were privileged to take two weeks to travel around the Philippines and Singapore. All of it was an experience that we will never be able to forget, and I would love to share some of what we did and learned with you. I hope that as you read this, you will understand not only what life is like in these parts of the world, but also how important a role the people play in the body of Christ and as part of his beautiful church. There is a significant contrast between the Philippines and Singapore, and yet the people share a strong love and zeal for God that brings them together and that goes beyond their contrasting earthly circumstances.

After 23 hours of traveling, going through customs and getting our bags, we were ready to experience the Philippines for the first time. Walking out of the airport, we were struck by the crowd of people trying to find each other, shouting, running to meet family and friends, laughing, singing, and in general, making plenty of noise. Humid heavy air enveloped us, and immediately we began to sweat. We pushed through the crowds and were relieved to see the familiar faces of our aunt and uncle, Rev. Daniel and Sharon Kleyn, who stood tall and blond in a sea of short, dark Filipinos. Once we were out of the airport and on the road, we were struck by the traffic, horns honking, brakes squeaking, people running in between the traffic without getting hit. Motorcycles weaved in and out of the chaos, and it seemed few vehicles paid any attention to the lines on the road, or the traffic lights. We were in some shock.  No pictures or videos prepared us for this different culture.

This was not the end of the surprises that would greet our eyes and ears. The day after we arrived, we took a train to Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, and really not too far from where Rev. and Sharon Kleyn live. The population of the greater Manila area is a mere 20 million people, and if you think you can imagine what it is like, you had better try harder. The poverty of the people was one of the most striking things to us. Many of these 20 million are crammed into tiny little tin and cloth huts that probably measure no more than 12 x 12 square feet and that share walls with neighboring huts. There is no privacy and no quiet spot; children run around in their bare feet, playing with each other and their pets. And the most beautiful thing is that even in their lack of earthly possessions, they wear smiles on their faces and laughter in their eyes.

Sin and the work of Satan was evident in this country, as it is in ours and even in our lives, but in contrast, Christ’s beautiful work also takes place in the Philippines. Peter and I spent Sunday in First Reformed Church of Bulacan, a church that shows a great interest in the Reformed teachings of the PRCA, and is working toward joining with the Berean PRC to form a denomination in the Philippines. There are 50 or so members in this group, and they meet in a small building that also serves for a family’s home during the week.

Let me describe a chaotic and yet at the same time very peaceful scene for you. Imagine you are sitting in hard plastic chairs, the heat and humidity envelopes you, even though fans blow, trying to cool your sweat-drenched skin. The laughter of three little girls floats in the open window behind you as they play their games in the alley. Roosters crow. Dogs bark and yip at each other. Horns blare. Cars and trucks rumble past, and you hear the voices of people visiting on the streets. But in the midst of all these distractions, you notice that the Filipinos around you are focused very intently and quietly on the minister, who is bringing them God’s word. And then you feel guilty for letting these things get in the way of your worship.

That is the kind of place those people have to worship in. No nice church building with air condition and comfy pews, or closed doors and windows to block out the noise. They don’t have much, but they are content and thankful. They still can worship God the way that he wants us to worship him – in love and out of thankfulness. That is the beauty that we experienced in Bulacan that day.

We were also privileged to visit the Berean Protestant Reformed Church in the Philippines that day. They meet on the third floor of an office building, which serves nicely as a sanctuary and catechism room for them. Rev. Ibe, whom some of you might know from when he and his family lived here, was just recently called and ordained to be pastor there. Before that, Rev. Smit worked mostly with the Bereans, preaching and teaching catechism to them.  Now Rev. Smit and his family are free to visit some of the other contacts and churches in the Philippines.

All the people that we met in each of these churches were very friendly and made us feel comfortable, even though we were in a totally different country and culture. The food they fed us was tasty, even if we didn’t always know what we were eating!  But it wasn’t the outward hospitality that we enjoyed the most. These people are united with us in Christ, and his beauty shone brightly through them. We were blessed not only by going to the Philippines, but also by witnessing these people’s love for God and devotion to him, even though they have few earthly possessions.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12 we read, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” This passage and many others speak of the diversity of the body, yet the beautiful unity that the members of that body share. We experienced that in so many ways as we got to know the people of the Philippines. Their culture, language, way of life, and skin color, are all so different from ours, yet Christ is their head, as he is ours, and that is the beautiful truth that binds us together in brotherly love.

Our prayer is that through reading this your eyes too may be opened to see the world around you, even if you may never travel out of the United States. God’s people are gathered from every nation, tribe, and tongue, and that is something we so easily forget as we live in our close community of Christians and fellow believers. Pray for the people of the Philippines. They covet your prayers as they learn more and more about the Reformed faith. And pray for the missionary families there, that they may continue to wisely and carefully bring these people the truths of God’s word.

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