“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The Great Commission
Dear young readers, the passage quoted above highlights for us the mandate and the scope of the work of the apostles of Christ in the world.
The word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent on a mission with the full authority of Christ.” Here, the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned the apostles to bear witness of what they had heard, seen, and known of him, “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” The realization of this mandate and scope of the work of the apostles (including the apostle Paul) is outlined in the whole book of Acts: the Jerusalem witness is narrated in Acts 3:1–7:60, the witness in Judea and in Samaria up to Antioch of Syria is recorded in Acts 8:1–12:25, and the word going to the ends of the earth is recorded in Acts 13:1–28:31.
God eternally chose men and women in all generations (both Jews and Gentiles), scattered throughout the world, and he willed to reconcile them to himself by his gift of faith in Jesus Christ, the King of the church (Acts 13:48).
We understand that after the death of the apostles this mandate was passed on to the church. The white horse continues to work until all God’s elect in Christ are taken into the sheepfold. He fulfills this through the church in her faithful proclamation of the gospel of Jesus by her “pastors (missionaries) and teachers” (Eph. 4:11).
From the apostolic fathers, down to Augustine, on to the Reformation movement of Martin Luther and John Calvin, and leading up to the 20th century to the present day, Christ continues to call God’s elect people through faith in him in the preaching of the sovereign grace of God in the gospel of Jesus. From the North to the South, from the East to the West, God calls, saves, gathers, defends, and preserves his people in Jesus Christ.
The Mission Work in the Philippines
Indeed, God’s grace and mercy have been extended even to us here in the Far East (“uttermost part of the earth”), the Philippines, as many delegations from the PRCA have been sent here since 1998. The delegation of Revs. Kleyn and Bruinsma arrived in Manila (Feb. 2001) to assess the prospect of doing mission work in the Philippines. After that visit, a letter was sent to the PRCA Foreign Mission Committee (March 2001), requesting a missionary to work with the Berean Church of God Reformed (BCGR—its name then, but now the Berean PRC). In June 2001, the PRCA synod approved the sending of a missionary to the Philippines. Doon PRC (the calling church of the mission work in the Philippines) extended a call to Rev. Spriensma (Oct. 2001) to work as a missionary to the Philippines. Rev. Spriensma accepted the call on December 9, 2001. The following year, April 20, 2002, Rev. Spriensma and Elder Gene Van Bemmel arrived in Manila to make final preparations for the Spriensmas to take up residence in the Philippines.
God in his sovereign, undeserved grace blessed the faithful labors of Rev. Spriensma with the saints of BCGR. The fruit of hard labor was now ready for harvest, for in November 13, 2005, a request was made to the PRC Foreign Mission Committee for church organization of the BCGR. Again, through God’s mercy and providence, the synod of the PRCA in June of 2006 approved BCGR’s request for organization! Four months later, in November 16, 2006, BCGR was officially instituted as a Reformed church and took on a new name: Berean Protestant Reformed Church in the Philippines (BPRCP). During that time, fifteen persons made their public confession of faith (including yours truly and my wife Melody). There were also five adults and five children baptized.
Rev. Spriensma received a call from Kalamazoo PRC in 2006. After careful evaluation of his work in the Philippines and prayerful consideration, and brotherly consultation with the men in the Berean congregation, he accepted the call from the PRC in Kalamazoo, Michigan. On February 25, 2007, Rev. Spriensma preached his farewell sermon in the Berean PRC. They went back to the U.S. in March of 2007.
2007 was the same year that yours truly and my wife went to the U.S. The Berean PRC sent me to the seminary as their student in order to be trained, and afterwards, the Lord willing, to become their pastor. God was with us throughout our stay in the U.S., and he graciously blessed my training in the seminary. In addition to this, God also blessed us while in Michigan with two covenant children, Martyn John and Louvin Jedidiah. We went back to the Philippines after my synodical examination in July of 2012. Four months later, I was examined by our church with the help of our missionary brothers, Rev. Kleyn and Rev. Smit. The Lord sustained my examination, and I was ordained on November 2, 2012.
Outside the Berean PRC, there were others who shared the same gospel truths with us! This was true with the church in Muzon, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, and with the church in Valenzuela City, Metro Manila. These two churches were formerly Pentecostal in their doctrine and practice but in the grace and providence of God were rescued, so to speak, from the heresy of Arminianism and embraced the Reformed faith as well.
In fact, the Federation of Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines (FPRCP) was organized on April 9, 2014, composed of the Berean PRC and the Protestant Reformed Church in Bulacan (PRCB). And in the following year, classis approved Maranatha PRC (formerly Maranatha Foursquare Gospel Church) as a member of the Federation of PRCP, on October 31, 2015.
Classis in June of 2019 has also approved the membership in our federation of the Provident Protestant Reformed Church (formerly Provident Christian Church). This is the church where Rev. Daniel Holstege is working right now as their missionary/pastor.
Over the period of almost two decades (from the year 2001 to 2020), the churches here in the Philippines have grown not only numerically (in terms of the number of people and churches) but also as far as doing mission work in various places, both in the northern and southern parts of the Philippines.
So what is the situation right now as far as the mission work of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines? The Berean PRC is currently working with a church in Tondo, Manila (Kerusso Community Church) to help them understand the Reformed faith and hopefully confess the same in the near future, the Lord willing. Kerusso Community Church is an independent Pentecostal church founded by its pastor, Teddy Quirante. They were introduced to the Reformed faith through the help of Rev. Flores. The consistory of Bulacan PRC asked our consistory if we were willing and able to help them with Kerusso, to which we said yes. And thus, the work in Tondo was endorsed to us. Right now, we are helping them with the Catechism preaching and the study of the Church Order of Dordt. I go there twice a month, i.e., every afternoon of the second and fourth Sundays, to preach for them and teach them the church order.
Berean PRC is also holding an outreach in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija, namely, the All of Grace Protestant Reformed Fellowship. The saints there are situated to the northeast of Manila, approximately a five to six hour drive. The work in Gabaldon started way back in 2004 and went on until the consistory of Berean PRC decided to close it due to decreasing membership and lack of men who were qualified to be elders. It was only in 2017 that the work there opened again due to the sincere request of the saints who were former members of the fellowship. The group there was able to establish new contacts around the area, which prompted the consistory of Berean PRC to start to work with them again. At present, Rev. Ibe goes there once a month to preach for them and conduct Bible studies. The elders are also helping out by leading the worship services by reading a sermon from our local pastors or from the ministers of the PRCA, the latter of which is translated into Tagalog. They do this on the second, third, and fourth Sundays of each month.
Likewise, the Protestant Reformed Church in Bulacan (PRCB) is also active in mission work. Not a long time ago they started to work with the saints in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. The work there is continuing, and the brethren and sisters in the Lord in that area are also growing in their knowledge and appreciation of the Reformed faith.
PRCB is also the calling church of the mission work of the Federation of the PRCP. This mission work is in Albuera, Leyte (southern portion of Leyte Province). The Protestant Reformed Fellowship in Albuera (PRFA) started way back in 2007 with a couple, Bro. Felix and Sis. Norma Montalban (members of PRCB), when they went back from Bulacan to their home province in Albuera, Leyte. This couple started a Bible study (they were not yet Reformed in those days) around the neighborhood, and the interest grew, by the grace of God, until such time that they could not handle the work themselves and they thought of asking help from the church where they used to be members, the PRCB. So the consistory of PRCB visited their place and saw the growing interest of the group in learning the gospel of Christ, and thus the Reformed faith.
Years passed by, the work there flourished, and the consistory of PRCB decided to bring up the matter to the classis to make PRFA an official mission work of the PRCP. With great joy, the classis approved the recommendation of PRCB on October 31, 2017. And in July of 2019, PRCB called Rev. Ibe (pastor of Berean PRC) to labor with the saints in PRFA as their missionary/pastor. Rev. Ibe, after prayerful consideration, accepted the call not only to labor with the saints in PRFA but also to become the first missionary of the PRCP. However, after the acceptance of the call, there was one thing that was overlooked which greatly affected Rev. Ibe’s decision to pursue the call: there was no suitable Christian school found in Albuera and even in nearby towns and in the city of Ormoc, Leyte, offering instruction for high school students. My eldest son (Martyn John) is entering junior high next school year, and the lack of a Christian school for him created a big dilemma in the whole picture. Homeschooling is one of the options. But considering that the adjustment both in the field of labor as missionary and the life in general in Leyte for the whole family is so great already, and added to that is the thought of homeschooling Martyn John, that would be a huge undertaking. Therefore, Rev. Ibe requested to the consistory of PRCB if he could withdraw the acceptance of the call. After careful analysis and examination of the situation, which included our strong stand as far as providing not only quality education for our children but especially Christian education, as the doctrine of the covenant of grace no less demands and as per requirement of the Church Order Article 21, PRCB graciously approved the request of yours truly. PRCP Classis in October 31, 2019, received and concurred with the decision of PRCB.
PRCB and the PRCP remain steadfast and committed, as decided by the classis, to continue providing the saints in PRFA pulpit supply at least once a month through either Rev. Flores or through the pastors in our federation, and also with our missionary brothers from the PRCA if their schedules will allow them to do so.
Also, and in keeping with the mandate of preaching the word in all the world, we are thankful for the opening of the Seminary of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines in August of 2019. The three missionary brothers from the PRCA are helping us in providing instruction for the students in the seminary. Currently, we have one student enrolled in the seminary, Bro. Jeremiah B. Pascual (a member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Bulacan). The announcement for aspiring seminary students for the school year 2020–21 is already out in the PRCP churches. We hope that God will call and raise up men and young men of his own choosing in our churches seriously to consider serving God in the ministry of the word and sacraments.
Our Challenge to Our Young People
God has tremendously blessed his work in the Philippines both in the ministry of his word and sacraments in our churches and in the mission works/labors of our own pastors and missionary brothers from the PRCA in various places in our country.
With this development, we encourage our young people to support and be involved with our mission work both here and abroad. The good question now is, how?
First of all, it is good that our young people are aware of the various labors our churches do as far as mission work is concerned. We love the word of God as well as the mission labors in our churches, and so we are excited to know. We as churches, and the young people in particular, are interested to find out who our missionaries are; their families; perhaps even their needs! We value what they are called to do and why they do it. And so we want to get involved because, in the second place, we are willing to support both the mission work and our missionaries. We lift them up regularly to God in our prayers. We pray that God may powerfully work through them as they minister the gospel of Christ to God’s elect children on the mission field. We pray that God will bless their faithful labors as they give their time and energy in all that they do for his glory. Young readers, pray that God will sustain them both physically and spiritually, for the work is hard and at times pressing and wearisome. Cease not to ask God that he will establish more contacts, whether from within the churches already established or in other places. And because the work is expanding and we need more laborers in the field, pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest to touch the heart and soul of you, young men, to witness what the apostles (which was passed down to us and which we greatly love and confess) have heard, seen, and known of Jesus in the North or in the South or in the West or even in the Far East, for God’s glory and for the salvation of his church and for Christ’s sake.