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Missionary Notes- A Sunday in Houston

It is Sunday morning in the big city on the gulf coast in the “deep south.” And it will be a busy and big day for the missionary and his faithful help-meet. It is springtime, really, and not simply on the calendar. Birds are singing their lusty notes, mockingbirds are running once more through their repertoire of musical harmonies; there is a freshness in the air, wafting in gently from the northland, promising that the day will not he hot, salty and humid from the gulf winds, but will be cool and invigorating. The roses are in full bloom everywhere, in gorgeous array of white, pink, and deep red. It is April and one thinks of the song from more northern climes: “what is so rare as a day in June.” All nature praises God, and He has made everything beautiful in its own time, and place!

Breakfast is finished and the missionary walks the distance to the Y.M.C.A. building some six tenths of a mile distant. He is first of all janitor. He is fortified with two keys, one to open the door of the “Y” and the other to open the doors within the “Y.” And, confidentially, this key fits every door of every room in the “Y.” Your missionary is on his honor to mind his own business! Opening the door on the large stone edifice he is greeted by the odors of sweating bodies and steam-baths which, during the night, have penetrated into the lobby. Quickly he opens the door on each end of the building and soon all is cool and fresh. He checks the rooms marked “Club Rooms 110” where the services are held. The windows are turned ajar for ventilation, and all is checked whether the “colored man” really has everything in readiness. He has assured your missionary that he must make himself at home. He said: “Yoa’l mak yo-self at home, preacher. Jus so yo don all get drunk.”

It is 8:55 when the Missionary’ returns home. He must carry the box of Psalters into the car, the tape recorder and the amplified speaker for music for the services, played by “Fran,” Case’s wife. It is beautiful music on tapes, mingled organ harmonies and chimes, with a canary trying to out-do the organ with its trills and runs. That is for prelude music to the service! I muse when I carry these heavy packages, “that it is a good thing that the Lord gave me strong arms and a strong back.” At the “Y” these must once more be lugged into the building and set up.

Sunday School begins at 9:45 a. m. Correction: Sunday School is announced to begin at 9:45 a.m.! At 9:40 all is in readiness and the sonorous organ tunes will peal through the building and up the hall-ways. “I wonder who will be at the service today and in Sunday School,” muses Mrs. Lubbers. We listen: it is a car door slamming. The first two people arrive. They have their Wollensak Tape recorder with them, which is set up for the service to record the sermon at 11:00 a. m. A few more arrive, some children, and the hour is about to strike ten when we begin our Sunday School. We are in the South, you must remember. It is almost a tradition that “no meeting starts on time.”

We tell the story of the crucifixion of Jesus to the children. The adults, who are present, also listen. After a ten to fifteen minute story-time, we begin to discuss the “chronology of the day of Christ’s crucifixion, paying special heed to the order and sequence of events. There is an M.D. present. He sits next to the little ones on the front seat this morning. We use the black-board (it really is a “green” board) and make a diagram of the events. The time has gone all too fast. It is 10:55 by the clock. The class recites the Lord’s prayer, and we have a short intermission before the service. The doctor (“M.D.”) says that he liked that story to the children. “Now, that was on my level”!

Two young men who were in Sunday School go home; they do not stay for the service. There had been 15 in Sunday School. A bit of visiting, and with the coming of 11:00 a. m., more people arrive. And when the service begins we notice that there are some 27 souls present. Some whom we had not been before, some who had not been in the services for a few weeks, and the faithful “core” who are always present. The sermon, too, went well this morning, the singing was good, and the worshippers were in a happy and blessed frame of mind. They had enjoyed the sermon entitled, “Christ’s Good Confession Before Pilate.” The services are ended. There is a very cordial spirit. The worshippers are not in a hurry. They linger to converse. The missionary, assisted by his wife, wait till all are out of the building before they lock the doors, count the collection and wend their way home. It is 12:30 when they arrive home. It was a long forenoon.

This noon we have a guest. He is a Friesian who lives in Jancinto City. He read the announcement on the “Dutch Calvinists” in the “Church Section” of the Houston Chronicle, which has a circulation of some 250,000. He, too, enjoyed the service and we spoke of others of Reformed (Dutch) background in and around Houston. It was a delicious dinner which Mrs. Lubbers had prepared.

Our visitor has departed for home. An hour of quiet and relaxation, and then preparations for the evening service which will be the first sermon on the Lord’s prayer. We have our pick of radio programs on Sunday afternoon, “Old Fashioned Revival Hour,” “The Hour of Decision,” “The Lutheran Hour,” “Back to God.” But when it is six by the clock we tune in to KFMK, 98 F.M. and listen to our own “Reformed Witness Hour” to hear the masterful preaching of our own Rev. H. Hoeksema on “The Condemnation of Pilate.” Yes, “Dominee” is become to us our “Nestor,” still preaching with the freshness of youth in his old age.

By the time that the program is ended, and we have digested the message, the singing, and have enjoyed the semi-domestic part of the program, our Peter and Tom announcing, our Fran playing, our Roland leading the choir, it is again time to return to the Y.M.C.A. building. But our spirits are refreshed. The prophet of old said: “bring me a minstrel” before he prophesied. A minister needs a minstrel to preach. And so, with up-lifted spirits we go once more for the evening service.

Once more, who will be present is the question. We are certain that the services will not start on the scheduled hour exactly. At 7:45 we feel that the audience has arrived and we begin the service. This time there are two tape recorders to record the sermon. It was a good hour together. And when the worship services were over, once more, the books are packed into the box, the tape-recorder equipment is disassembled, and the brethren volunteer to carry it for Mrs. Lubbers and me to the car. The doors are locked, the lights are all extinguished, and we wend our way home. A brother and a sister at the services accept our invitation for a little visit.

We listen for a little while, before retiring, to the music of familiar hymns, called “Great Music of The Church,” and retire with a prayer of thanksgiving to God. committing the seed that was sown to the Lord of harvest, and a tune lingers in our mind: “The sower bearing precious seed . . . .,” and we think of the great apostle who said: “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God . . .”
At the end of a Sabbath day, in Houston, we sink into peaceful slumber.