Being a Student in the Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Church in the Philippines
Dear Readers of Beacon Lights,
As many of you probably have heard by now, the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines have received by the grace of God their own seminary for the training of men for the ministry of the word and sacraments in the PRCP. This amazing gift of the Lord has allowed the PRCP to begin training men right here at home in metro Manila. Seminary classes began in August 2019, and soon, by the middle of May 2020, we will have finished our second semester of classes.
Rather than give you a brief history of the preparation and formation of the PRCP seminary, I thought that you would prefer meeting the current full-time student of the seminary. Therefore, what follows are the written answers from Seminarian Jeremiah Pascual to a few general questions that I gave him.
I trust that you will enjoy, as much as I did, what he has written for you.
Cordially in Christ,
Rev. Richard J. Smit
* * * * * * *
How did you become a member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Bulacan?
“It was in the year 2013 when I was introduced to the Reformed faith through the relentless effort of my Uncle Jorge, who was then a deacon of the PRC in Bulacan. I was reluctant at first, but the irresistible truths of the doctrines of grace captured me. By the grace of God, I was fully convinced that what I learned was the very gospel of God which had been watered down by my former church, or worse yet, rejected by all means. Subsequently, I had to resign as youth leader and assistant music director in that church. And eventually, I also had to cut off from the membership in order to find a Reformed church. It was hard. One of the pastors of that church is my grandfather. In Asian countries, we are very family-oriented and religious. So I had to consider also the impact of my conversion on my relationship with my family. Nevertheless, on October 20, 2013, I tried to attend at PRCB and since then, I desired to be a member of that church. After more than two years, I confessed publicly, together with Leslie (who was still my girlfriend at that time), on January 17, 2016.”
How did you meet and when did you marry your wife, Leslie?
“Leslie and I met in Boracay at the youth camp of our former churches. By the way, we were in the same denomination. Her church was in Taytay and mine was in Tondo. The youth camp aimed to unite the youth from different churches in our denomination. That happened in the summer of 2011. That was the first time we met each other, and we didn’t have any “spark,” as they call it, yet. But in October that same year, our denomination organized a sport fest in Nueva Ecija. That’s, I think, the beginning of God directing my attention to her. On April 6, 2012, we started texting each other. We started to stay up all night just to make conversation. And then, that same month, I courted her. That lasted one year for her to say “yes”—not for marrying me yet, but for us to start dating—on April 6, 2013. The dating lasted five years, until we got married on April 6, 2018. Rev. Vernon Ibe solemnized our wedding, and it was attended mostly by the members of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines.”
Have you and your wife received from the Lord any children?
“God gifted us a covenant child on November 1, 2019. We named him Iohanne Cauvin, after the Latin and the French name of John Calvin. Iohanne was baptized on December 15, 2019, by Rev. John Flores at the PRC in Bulacan.”
How did it happen that you had the desire to serve the Lord in the ministry of the word and to train in the PRCP seminary?
“Even when I was still in my former church, it had been my desire to be a pastor. And that desire got an authentic motivation when I totally embraced the Reformed faith. I realized that the Reformed faith in the Philippines is something that must be propagated through the faithful preaching of the word. We have been corrupted by the adulterated gospel of Roman Catholicism and Arminianism. The pure preaching of the gospel has to be done. But the Reformed faith here is something new and sometimes characterized by many as mere doctrinal religion or as dead orthodoxy. When I started sitting under the pure preaching of the word of God at PR churches here, I realized that the Reformed faith is a religion which finds its root in the gospel of sovereign, particular grace. That gospel excites in a Christian an ardent desire to serve his Savior with all of his life. This same gospel impressed on me the need to serve in the ministry of word and sacraments, especially as God opens more doors for the spread of the gospel. That alone dictates the need for men. Here, the PRCP officially works in Albuera, Leyte (PRFA), while the three churches of the PRCP have their respective mission works. Bulacan PRC has an outreach in Laguna and contacts in Cavite; the Berean PRC works in Tondo and in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija; Provident PRC works in Guiguinto, Bulacan. The PRCA missionaries have been working in southern Negros Occidental. And still there are churches which show interest to federate with the PRCP or at least ask for assistance in church reformation. This is the reality that confronts us at the present. God uses this to impress more in my heart the desire to enter into the ministry. That is why, when the PRCP announced the opening for the applications to enter seminary, I immediately sought the advice of my consistory and wrote a letter regarding my desire. When I did so, the consistory advised me to stop my secular job and start complying with the pre-seminary courses. The Theological School Committee of the classis approved my application for enrollment in April 2019 and then forwarded it to the classis for its final approval on June 12, 2019.”
What are the subjects, who are your instructors, and at what times and where are your seminary classes normally taught?
“I am currently studying biblical hermeneutics under Rev. Dan Holstege, church history and homiletics under Rev. Daniel Kleyn, and New Testament Greek and dogmatics under Rev. Richard Smit. Their training is done at Provident PRC in Marikina. It’s usually a half day of classes (in the morning) from Tuesday until Friday: two hours per class and a 30-minute break between classes. The Tuesday classes are biblical hermeneutics at 7:00 a.m., and after a 30-minute break (devotions and refreshments), homiletics class starts at 9:30 a.m.; Wednesday classes are New Testament Greek and dogmatics; Thursday class is church history; Friday class is New Testament Greek.”
How do you describe being the only full-time student in the seminary at this time?
“When I was at the June 2019 classis meeting of the PRCP and learned that there were no other young men who applied for the training, I was discouraged. I was wondering if it was still the Lord’s will to continue the establishing of the seminary. But God nevertheless reminded me that before the classis approved my application, he was already in control. He indeed was the one who prepared all the circumstances for me to enter the seminary. I have nothing to worry about. My strength comes from him alone. And now that I am the only student, I feel blessed that both the PRCP churches and the PRCA missionaries are working toward the goal of training me even though I am the one, only student. The PRCP and the missionaries are working hard for this historic establishment of a seminary. We are still very hopeful for this to succeed. Lastly, my wife is a great companion. She encourages me a lot, together with my fellow saints in Christ, especially Bros. Reuben, Matt, and Emmanuel, who never tire of listening about my burdens in the course of my training.”
How long do you expect to be a seminary student before you can complete the program and be examined by the classis?
“I expect to finish my training after four and a half years. So, the Lord willing, it would be in early 2024 that I could be examined by the classis.”
Do you know of others in the PRCP that might have a desire to become seminary students also?
“Oh, yes. There are some names that I could think of. And I am still hopeful that these men will apply for the 2020-2021 school year.”
What words of encouragement do you have for young men in the PRCA who might be considering whether they should train for the ministry of the word as you are now doing?
“God has given both the PRCP and the PRCA fields characterized by a tremendous opportunity to propagate the gospel. But we are facing a problem that echoes the words of our Lord: ‘The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few’ (Luke 10:2). We are indeed in great need of men for the ministry. It is urgent. Parents and officebearers must, therefore, inculcate in the hearts and minds of the young people the need for pastors and encourage the young men to aspire to the pulpit in the service of God and of his people. We are blessed to have a good training venue for us to develop the gifts that God has already given us. If you are desiring to be a pastor, you are desiring a ‘good work’ (1 Tim. 3:1). Take courage. It is God who sends forth laborers into the field. And through the Spirit, he calls them by name, and he directs the church to approve those men. Let us then be willing to be slaves of God in the ministry of the word and sacraments. This is the work of God in us. And you must be certain, according to the infallible word, about your calling. There is joy in serving God in these last days. Diligently pray that your desire to serve not be quenched by fiery trials, but be ever burning until our Lord says, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’ We in the Philippines are praying for you, too.”
Rev. Richard J. Smit is missionary in the Philippines of the Protestant Reformed Church and Bro. Jeremiah Pascual is a member of the PRC in Bulacan, Philippines and student in the PRCP seminary.
Originally published May 2020, Vol 79 No 5