A maze of circumstances has brought us a long way from home, and from the center of our Protestant Reformed Churches. But circumstances are not situations foreign to the providence of God, the kindly leading and wise direction of our Heavenly Father. Pleasantries and discomforts, joy and sorrow are the gracious leadings of the Lord, all directed toward the gathering of His Church. And so through the sad maze of circumstances surrounding the Canadian field our way was directed to this far northwest corner of our country, where it pleased the Lord to establish another of our Prot. Ref. Churches.
The Lynden-Sumas districts of the State of Washington seemed to offer a perfect field in a period when it was difficult to decide whether Canada or the States should be the object of our mission endeavors. From this vicinity we could do both, work in the States and in Canada. Lynden and Sumas are border towns, a large community of folk of the Reformed persuasion, while just over the line, in the Province of British Columbia, there are growing communities of Dutch immigrants.
Looking at the results of our labors here since December of 1950, it is rather discouraging when measured according to the standards of men. Speaking of Canada, we are all acquainted with the outcome of our labors among the “Liberated” brethren, while the thousands of other immigrants of the Reformed Faith stand solidly with the Christian Reformed Churches, barring few exceptions. Since 1948 the progress of the Chr. Ref. Churches in Canada has been amazing, they have gained no less than fifty-three congregations, an estimated increase of more than five hundred percent! However, this increase is not as amazing as it may appear when judged from the point of view of “Mission” endeavor. The work of the Chr. Ref. Churches in Canada can hardly be called “mission” work, since actually their entire gain, barring few exceptions, is the result of their “importing” a church from the Netherlands into Canada. Hundreds of Dutch families are brought into Canada by these churches through their “Field Men”, whom they employ to seek sponsors and placement for immigrants desiring to enter Canada. These immigrants are thus placed within a given area, and the Chr. Ref. missionaries organize them into congregations. It need surprise none that these families feel attached and obligated to the church which has expended go much effort for them. It, therefore, stands to reason that our work among these immigrants is just as difficult, as our work among the Chr. Ref. people in the States; they all consider our work as a “troubling of Israel” rather than that of showing them their error in love. However, we have made some fine contacts in Canada, and at the Lord’s time this labor will bear its fruits.
Reviewing our labors in the Lynden-Sumas field the result; are discouraging if one is interested in numbers. But if ours is true mission zeal we can be thankful to the Lord that He has led us here. True mission zeal is, after all, witnessing for the Lord, giving testimony of the glorious Gospel of His sovereign grace in Jesus Christ. From that point of view we may say that our labor in Lynden has been blessed. For, though it. be but a small congregation that has been established here, it is a witness for Christ, another out-post bearing record of the glorious truth so dear to those who by grace have learned to love the pure Reformed truth of God’s sovereignty and grace. No, we do not count many members in our Lynden church, but we have a witness here; that is all important. For that we labored and prayed, and those prayers the Lord has graciously answered.
Though small, our Lynden congregation has a fine group of young folks. Our Young People’s-Catechism Class numbers eleven, and we have very interesting meetings. No doubt, before long these young folks will also organize their own Young Peoples Society and join the ranks of our FPRYPS. Besides these young folks, we have young folks “up-and-coming”, the Children’s Catechism class, which numbers thirteen. Only a few more years, if by God’s grace all these youthful members remain faithful, and our little congregation will enjoy a steady growth. May God bless these youthful members abundantly so that together they may grow in and remain faithful to the truth of Jesus Christ.
Possibly many of our Beacon Lights family do not realize what it means for young folks such as these to enter our churches. It is not as easy and pleasant as it appears from a distance. Bear in mind that these young folks have had their friends in the “other” church. In some cases it means breaking their friendship, in most cases it means a measure of ridicule, letting it be felt that this “church business” is ridiculous, silly, without due cause, pet notions of some head-strong, narrow-minded, and even self-righteous people. This is the reproach of Christ, and though in a small measure, it is keenly felt, and it takes much prayer, an abundance of grace and real active faith to overcome these obstacles and live in the conviction: This is the Truth in Christ, for it we shall stand, by it we shall conquer. May God help them!
Undoubtedly some of our readers know a bit of this struggle, too, who, having a boy or girl-friend in the “other’’ church, find it so very difficult to convince the other party (Alas, and sometimes themselves) that the question: “Which church?” is all important. If this difficulty were only due to denominational loyalty, in the good sense of that word, then the matter would be more simple, since then it would be a matter of purity of doctrine. Where doctrine is involved there one finds tangible facts to debate and consider, and the other party will lay himself open for debate since he feels the seriousness of the matter. But today we live amid denominational indifference which spells indifference in all matters related to spiritual things. Here debate and the weighing of matters is impossible. Here confessional standards or creeds are of no count; doctrinal debates and purity of doctrine is just a mania. What counts is: “church”! And ‘church’ spells “salvation” since every church makes this their business. To such the choice of a church is determined merely by a certain prominence of a given church, its social or other advantages, or tradition: Dad and mother were members there, and we were born, baptized and reared there.
How very common this condition is among our “Reformed” generations today! Added to this is the resultant ignorance of doctrine. All this makes our present mission endeavor so difficult. One is simply at a loss where to begin, what methods should be employed, how to contact them, how to get them to talk. Were there a love for and a knowledge of the truth, people would want to come and investigate and debate the issue, Then we would get someplace! But now most denominational walls have fallen; or there is the dangerous denominational smugness, hence no interest, no debate, no argument of any kind—we’re all in the same business, we’re all working for the same cause; while the smug denominationalist muses: “Our church has ‘arrived’.”
From these continued and persistent experiences, and from our long record of twenty-seven years of faithfully calling back the Reformed brethren from their erring ways, we conclude that it is high time that our churches consider another field. The time has arrived that we should reach out to those communities where the church has entirely or nearly deteriorated because their own men have forsaken both their sheep and the Pasture of the Word. And reach out as well to the dark continents of heathendom.
This, we are convinced, is more and more becoming our calling in our mission endeavors for the present day. There is also a growing feeling for this among our people. We surmise that this feeling was also, mingled with Beacon Lights splendid idea for devoting this issue to Missions. We hope that before long another issue of this nature shall appear, and in it an announcement by our Synod calling for a devoted young man (or men) who, at the expense of our churches, will give himself to study the language and orientate himself for the work of Missions on the foreign field chosen by our churches. Is this not a matter worth our sincerest consideration? However, let it not be forgotten that equal Mission opportunities are found among the “heathen” of Main Street and Hamlet, USA.
We have a glorious Gospel—really, the only Gospel! How wonderful it would be to prove its power and glory in the way of Christ’s command: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature!”
Vancouver, British Columbia, with its adjoining cities and suburbs, is the great metropolis of Canada’s far west.
This great city is set like a jewel amid the bays of the Pacific and the towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies. It is a great, a beautiful city, but, like our own American cities, the wickedness of our age is present everywhere.
It was the evening of Christmas day, and through a dense fog, so common to these harbor cities, we picked our way to the home of an immigrant family where we had an appointment for the evening. There was nothing throughout the entire suburban district that told of the real story of Christmas. Surely there were the millions of colored lights decorating the streets, the hundreds and thousands of Christmas trees and gaily lit homes that witnessed of the yuletide. But what are all these for a witness of the birth of Bethlehem’s Babe, the Saviour, our Lord and King? Of Him the streets were deathly silent — even a beautiful Cathedral paid Him no homage. High in its arched window Santa had been perched amid beautiful lighting effects, and just underneath, over the doorway of this “house of prayer”, were the words: “Christmas belongs to the Churches;” and Vancouver’s great daily newspaper commented that this scene had depicted the true meaning of Christmas.
But let’s leave the brilliant lights of Vancouver and continue our way through the murky weather, and pick our streets over the hills to the immigrant home on the outskirts of New Westminster. We soon turn down a lane and turn up a narrow driveway. We’ve reached our destination. Leaving the station wagon, the sound of music greets our ears. There can’t be a large number of people in that immigrant home, yet the strains of “Stille Naght” fill the air as if this chorus of voices consists of a goodly number. It was, beautiful that music, beautiful because one could tell that it was sung with deep meaning; the heart and soul of the singers were in the song. Who could help but think of the words of the Psalmist: “The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacle of the righteous?”
We wait until the music stops. . . . then, knocking at the door we are ushered into the midst of this little gathering. Here are six young couples with a few small children, having their Christmas program! They’re all crowded into a very small kitchen. The big wood-stove is chucked into one corner, immediately next to it stands a table with an orange crate on top, serving as a home-made pulpit, immediately in front of this, on chairs and crude boxes, the little group is seated. The little children (some barely big enough to sing) take their part by singing Christmas carols, some in English, others in Dutch. One of the young fathers takes his place behind the orange crate and tells the Christmas story to spellbound youngsters; a little later a young mother tells a story with a Christmas application. . . .then some more singing, a closing prayer and the program is over.
It was just Christmas in Vancouver. . . .here it was Christmas! Among these young immigrant families one could feel the joy that CHRIST had brought. A perfect joy, in no wise dependent on all the frills and luxuries of our modern Christmas. Untold riches in the midst of earthly poverty. . . . I could not help but wonder: How many of our young couples back home were sharing the real CHRISTmas joy with their little children?
It was a long day, especially for the youngsters. Already before noon they had had their regular Christmas service in this same little kitchen; and now it was five o’clock. Quickly the mothers scamper the little ones off into a room by themselves, for now the little kitchen must serve its original purpose: food must be prepared for all—raisin bread sandwiches for all.
The men have taken the cue from the ladies. . . .they make room, too, in this over-crowded house; they go outside— there we stand in the thick, heavy fog of Christmas night; of course, as usual: debating the doctrine of the Covenant! “What did the Standard Bearer say?” And “What did the ‘Reformatie’ state?” The fog. . . .the cool night-air forgotten —we are in a heated but friendly debate.
These are the immigrants!
These are the folks we contact day by day!
These debates are nothing new. Over and over again we discuss with these folks the doctrines of the covenant; then from this point, then from another point of view. The debate is always fresh— the debaters are well-posted on their subject.
Thus, week in, week out, every night of the week we are here and then there, sometimes with just a few, then again with a larger number, always discussing and explaining our view of the truth in Jesus Christ. Seldom do we find the door of our cabin again before the clock strikes one and one-thirty in the morning.
Generally contacts are not too difficult to make if we have but one address in a given community. The one immigrant family often directs us to our next party. In some communities, however, the first family is very hard to find. . . .after all, there are so few places where we are really welcome!
It stands to reason that our main objective is to find a place where we may preach the Word. In seeking this we may not be “choosey”. Sometimes the Lord directs us only to four persons, then again to forty. Sometimes we are huddled in a little kitchen, like that of New West Minster, then again it is a one-stall garage. Sometimes it is a little country school-house with all the grownups perched atop the disks, then it is a very large hall, often too spacious for comfort. But wherever it is and wherever we go it is preaching and teaching, in season and out of season.
You say: “laissez-faire?” No! . . . . speaking plainly: just work, real work, hard work! Work that requires much patience, much prayer, much of the love of Christ. But, work, which has the blessed promise of Him who sends us, regardless of the judgment of men, “Your labor is not vain in the Lord.”
I can imagine your surprise as you grapple through Beacon Light’s mail pouch and finally pull out my letter. I can hear some of you say: “Of all people writing us, even a minister in Iowa!” and still others are saying: “Who is he anyway?” since many of you, especially those from our Eastern Churches, I am a total stranger. But don’t think I wasn’t surprised when my mail contained a letter from our editorial staff requesting me to write this month’s letter to our boys in service. I’ve been wondering what happened to Rev. Hoeksema, he being your regular writer; but I figured that this time they want to shift from the city to a country parson, and thus I think the lot fell on me.
Out our way we often think of you fellow, too, since many of the boys of our Churches in this district have also left for the service. Their absence naturally reminds us of all the boys of our Churches now in arms. After all, you know we folks from the Protestant Reformed Churches fell like one big family no matter which state claims our nativity. I think the fact that we are small, compared to other denominations, makes us huddle together more than usual. On the other hand, we young “Protestants” have something which is distinctively ours and we like to talk about it.
Possibly if one of our buddies reads this they will say: “There you go again, that is just because you think your Church is it!” But that isn’t it, “fellas.” It is not what we are; it’s what we have that counts. And we can assure each other that we have a doctrine which has not only proved to be a great comfort, but the only comfort, especially in times such as these.
Really, isn’t the thought of God’s Sovereignty a great comfort? My, how comforting to think as you go from place to place, and possibly from battle to battle, that it isn’t mere military strategy, but the guiding hand of God! To think that was all planned for you even before you were born is marvelous, but how much more wonderful to think that in His love and wisdom God planned it for you as the way to glory—heaven’s glory. You know, if a man keeps on thinking deeper and deeper into these things then you really haven’t been called to war by your country, but God called you. Then, as I keep meditating on these things, I must finally conclude: if then God called you, which He certainly did, then it would not even be good for you to be home with us now. Since it is God who has brought you from your home to camp, and who, as we know, does all things well, I can only say: “Boys, wherever you are, you’re in the best place because you’re in God’s place”.
No doubt it is often difficult for you to look at it in this way, and (between you and me) I find it a struggle in my own life; but by grace we conquer and in faith we know it to be true. Then as I look out of my window tonight over the plains, wondering where you are, and I see the silvery moon and twinkling stars illuminating the entire plain, I know they also shine on you and it gives me peace; for so, too, the same God that watches over us at home watches o’er you somewhere…. over there.
I have a lot more I’d like to write but my paper is filled. And so, “fellas”, until the next time, good-bye, and God be with you and may His blessings be upon you all.
Your Friend and Comrade
Rev. A. Cammenga.
The forest’s trees have lost their summer green and stand arrayed in gorgeous hues of the varied autumn colors. Hill and plain and dell alike, have changed from summer dress to that of harvest hues. The once tall, green corn now decks the fields in shocks of brown and yellow, while through the fields lay strewn the yellow-golden pumpkin.
Somehow, all these are emblems of abundance. They seem as letters, set into a book, leading men to see God’s everlasting power and divinity. So many voices are they, blending together in a living testimony of God’s care and providential keeping.
To me these fields seem as a kind reminder on my book of memorandums that Thanksgiving Day will soon be here. The harvest moon, the fields and wood, the heavy laden barns and bins, the store of fruit and grain, the cattle on a thousand hills call me to my task, my only task. . . . the praise, the adoration of my God and King!
A Life-Long Praise of God:
No other task than this is laid on mortal man. He may be a genius in one or more of the varied sciences, he may be prince or pauper, he may be king or subject, he has but one task—the praise and adoration of the most high and only living God. To this very task Scripture continually exhorts us all: “Kings of the earth and all people: princes, and all judges of the earth: both young men and maidens, old men and children: let them praise the name of the Lord”. What other task could be theirs since God has made all things for Himself?
From this we may conclude that all the fruitful plains and harvest’s golden grains may, however, never be more than merely voices calling us to praise. All multi-colored fruits, with which the horn of plenty has been filled, may incite us to praise, but never may, neither can they be, the cause of true thanksgiving.
Thankfulness is not the conclusion of the satisfying inventory of earthly gifts and gains. The prelude to any thanksgiving is never an enumeration of personal profits. Neither is true gratitude obtained by the assurance that our losses and griefs were less than those of our neighbors, as is so often done, especially in times of stress and grief. Thankfulness is not the result of studying the business and economic principles of profit and loss, but of theology. Gratitude is theocentric. The heart, the life, the pulse-beat and the cause, as well as the purpose of thanksgiving is God.
When, therefore, we must first enumerate personal gifts and gains and thus be enabled to conclude whether or not we have reasons for praise and thanksgiving, then God is gone and so is gratitude. He that is incited to praise because his gains were sufficient to warrant such action does not bend his knee before God on the day of thanksgiving, but is a pagan worshipper of material things. Such a man is egoistic, a worshipper of self. God is entirely out of the picture and. man is deified. Such praise is abominable in the eyes of Him that judgeth righteously.
Not material gifts and gains, nor man himself, but God is the focal point in true gratitude. In the Christian’s thanksgiving, it is God, and God alone who has any recognition. In God he rejoices. His name he lauds, His praise he sings, His glories and wondrous doings he proclaims. God is all and man and all material vanish into nothingness.
This thankfulness is the task of every man, woman and child. For it we were created, to it we are divinely called. Therefore, a task not for one single day. Neither is it a task for special occasions. But a task all day and every day, in life and in death, amid pleasures and palaces, in tears and in grief.
How foolish, then, and utterly impossible is it to speak of a Thanksgiving Day. Taken in its literal sense it would mean that we store up all our praise and thanksgiving for that one certain day. It, too, would mean that we try to crowd the performance of a whole year’s task into a single day. Logically it is absolutely impossible; no full year’s work can be crowded into a single day. Spiritually it is unwanted, for the truly thankful heart must sing the praises of his God and Maker in undying strains, now and forever.
“O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise.
The glories of my God and. King,
The triumphs of His grace.”
Since thanksgiving is a life-long task and must be performed regardless of circumstances or conditions, it stands to reason that its cause can never be found in material things.
If thanksgiving is caused by the abundance of wealth and at the sight of possessions of corn and wheat and an overflowing horn of plenty, it could only be a task for the rich and for them that rejoice in health and strength. How could the thousands upon thousands that suffer affliction and poverty, who groan in pain and agony or are overwhelmed with deep sorrow of heart, join in with songs of praise and thanksgiving? If rejoicing in things were thanksgiving, how will the thousands of Christians in war-torn Europe ever be able to praise God from day to day in the midst of death, destruction and starvation? It would be an absolute impossibility!
The truth of the matter is, however, that even from Europe’s battle fields, and from homes in direst need, there must arise thanksgiving and praise of God. It cannot and may not be otherwise.
It stands to reason then, that the cause and source of true thanksgiving can be found in God only. On the other hand, it can only be found in God when the positive assurance is present that God is our God and that He is for us. For this reason, thankfulness can only be found with the Christian. He only has the assurance that God is for him. For this reason, too, thanksgiving can never be national, but always personal.
This thankfulness of the Christian proceeds first of all from the consciousness of his own insignificance. It arises from the knowledge that he is totally unworthy of the least of God’s benefits, that he is a child of wrath and corruption by nature, who has defiled his ways a thousand times; and is conscious of the fact that he cannot stand before the Lord of heaven and earth if He should mark transgressions. And yet. in spite of all this, through grace he may glory that God has become for him the Source, the Fount of all good. Who forgives his sins, heals his diseases, Who delivers his life from destruction, Who crowns his years with goodness, Who establishes His covenant with him in order that he might know Him, love Him, walk with Him and be led by His hand.
Not in things, but in the possession of the Lord Himself is the source, the cause of Christian gratitude. This being the case in the life of every Christian, he can rejoice and be thankful in all circumstances of life. By faith he then believes and knows that God is Cod, that He alone has all things in His hand: that prosperity and adversity, joy and sorrow, life and death come from Him. Then, too, he knows that God, Who is the God of love, works all things together for the salvation of His children. Then nothing can harm us, then all things are for our sakes and we have joy and peace for evermore.
Then, when the year is crowned with God’s goodness, and His paths drop fatness, and the little hills rejoice on every side, and pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys also covered with corn, and we hear their voices shouting and singing, we, too, will rejoice and sing. But our rejoicing will not be in them, but with them — in God! Voices they will be, calling us to task—the task of praising God.
“Thy bountiful care what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light:
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.”
Its Only Possibility:
It is evident that thanksgiving cannot be legislated and thus become a national grace. Thanksgiving is purely an act of divine grace. Natural man is unthankful! So unthankful is he that even the greatest abundance of riches will never attune his heart to true gratitude. At best the joy and praise of natural man, on his day of thanksgiving, is nothing but pagan worship of material things and self. He does not rejoice in God, but he rejoices only in things which he possesses apart from the fellowship and communion with God. His praise is nothing but priding himself on his own skill and success.
The only way to true gratitude is by learning the depth of our own misery and the glory of our redemption in Christ. This is only possible by grace. When touched and changed by that grace all sinful pride will vanish. When, by the regenerating power of that grace, our minds have been enlightened we shall clearly see that we have nothing to boast and have every reason for shame. Then we shall see that we have only been successful in corrupting and polluting our ways before God and making ourselves the just objects of His wrath and holy indignation. Then too, we shall clearly understand that the many material gifts, which we receive day by day, are not grace, but are a curse, since by their receipt we prove before God and all the world that we are totally depraved and use all things in the service of sin and in enmity against God.
Thus, having learned our misery, and then having found grace in the blood of Christ, our boasting will be in God only. God is then for us the Source and Fount of all blessings. It is His grace that turns all things to our profit. It is He who gives life through death.
To Him shall be our praise! His glories we shall sing! For us every day will be Thanksgiving Day, even throughout the endless ages of eternity.
Scripture often speaks of the man of God. When it does so in the Old Testament it has reference to the prophets, priests and kings. In the New Testament, this limitation no longer exists. “The man of God” is not some prophet, apostle or evangelist, neither an elder, deacon or minister, but it is the Christian.
The Christian is the man of God because he is wholly of God. All that the Christian is and ever shall be is freely, sovereignly and only from God. God ordained him to bear the image of His Son. God purchased him to be His own peculiar possession through the blood of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit God implants in him the life of faith, calls him from darkness into light, makes him willing and ready to serve Him. In the midst of the world he lives to the glory of his God, fights the good fight of faith, loves and defends the truth of His Word. In whatever station or calling of life you may find him the glory of God’s grace is marvelously revealed in him.
This, too, is our calling as covenant young people. We are today’s men of God for tomorrow. The men of God who today are at the helm will soon be released from their post. The battle for the men of God, who today are on the front lines, will be over sooner than we realize. The men of God to whom we look up today for guidance and counsel will soon be called to their reward. The places now occupied by the men of God in the midst of the Church and the Kingdom will ere-long be found vacant, ready and waiting for us to fill them.
Today’s men of God for tomorrow are we because God continues his covenant in the line of generations. The ranks in the army of the living God are not filled by volunteers, neither by conscripts from here and there and everywhere. The army of the living God is an army of royal, military race. To Abraham and his seed is the promise of the covenant; amongst his children, and in the families of all believers we find the men of God. The young man, the young woman born of Christian parentage, are the men of God today who will fill the ranks in the army of Christ tomorrow!
Our task, tomorrow!
Will we be ready? Will our training and equipment be sufficient to enable us to heed the call and carry on? Let us not deceive ourselves with self-sufficiency lest we find ourselves in the predicament of unpreparedness. Preparedness should certainly be our watchword, for our task is not an easy one. Our station and calling in life will be one in a world of darkness. To be sure, tomorrow’s world will be darker, more evil than the world of today. Powers of evil, more insidious than ever, will surround us. False philosophy will try to seduce us, and we may easily, so very easily go astray. Therefore, we must be trained carefully, wisely, correctly. The best training is none too good.
There is but one means by which we can so be trained. That means is the Word of God. That Word is divinely inspired that it might prove an unfailing means to be profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, whether we are in society, shop, office, school, church or on the farm or in the military camps of our nation. In all our daily work, wherever we are or whatever we be, it must be evident that we are “men of God”, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light to proclaim His praises.
What a glorious opportunity our young people’s societies, our catechisms, our churches offer us to enable us to be trained thoroughly! Even now this little magazine, which makes its first appearance, becomes another means to that end. Hence, I’m sure we will gladly welcome it, read it, study it and work and pray together that it may truly prove to be such a means.
Are you, am I, making good use of this preparedness program for the man of God? If we truly are men of God we shall. We shall by God’s grace put forth all our efforts to learn from God’s Word how to become prepared and we shall use every opportunity to be instructed therein. Let us never forget that the time to furnish “tomorrow’s man of God” is TODAY.
“Tomorrow is not far away, nor is the goal you seek,
Today you should be training for the work you’ll do next week.
The larger work is just ahead, each day new changes bring,
Suppose that place were vacant now, could you take charge of things?
Someday there’ll be a vacancy with greater things to do,
Will you be ready for that place, when God shall call on you?”
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