BEACON LIGHTS: Where is the Philippines?
REV. KLEYN: The Philippines is located in Southeast Asia, approximately 8,000 miles from central USA. It usually takes a good 25 hours or more to travel from the USA to Manila. We missionaries live in the greater metro-Manila area, which has a population of approximately 22 million people. We live just 15 degrees north of the equator; thus our hot and humid climate year round.
BL: Please tell us how the work in the Philippines got started.
DK: Our contact with saints in the Philippines began already in 1995. At that time, the Evangelism Committee of Peace Protestant Reformed Church received some correspondence from the Philippines, which included requests for audio sermons and Reformed literature. However, Peace’s Evangelism Committee soon realized they needed to hand over this work to the Foreign Mission Committee. The FMC, from 1997 to 2001, sent seven delegations to investigate the field and to develop our contacts there. This all led to Synod 2001 of the PRCA declaring the Philippines a mission field, with Doon PRC as the calling church. Doon PRC then began the process of calling a missionary. Rev. Aud Spriensma was our first missionary in the Philippines and served there from 2002 to 2007. From 2009 onwards, we have had either two or three missionaries on the field. The three missionaries currently serving in the Philippines are Rev. D. Holstege, Rev. R. Smit, and me.
BL: What is the scope of the work today?
DK: Over the years, the work has progressed through various stages. Initially we worked especially with a Bible study fellowship. This led to the organization of a Reformed church, the Berean PRC. Then, after we had worked for some years also in a second church (the PRC in Bulacan), the two churches formed a denomination (the PRCP—Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines). Later, another church was added, the Maranatha PRC. More recently, a fourth church was accepted into the denomination, namely, Provident PRC. The PRCP has also established sister-church relationships with the PRCA and with the CERCS (Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore). As missionaries, we have assisted and guided the PRCP in all of the above. Currently we are also helping them with their own seminary. This has become a major part of our work, with all three of us providing the instruction. We currently have one student in his first year, and there is a possibility that a few others will begin seminary training in the next school year (August 2020). These are exciting developments, and we are very thankful to the Lord for his blessing on the churches and the work.
BL: What prepared you to work as a missionary? Did you always know you wanted to be a missionary?
DK: While studying for the ministry, and even during my first few years in the ministry, my desire was simply to be a pastor in one of our churches. But the Lord gradually planted seeds in my mind and led me to consider the possibility of being a missionary. One concrete way was by having me face a number of calls to serve as a missionary. Another significant factor was that I served as a member of the FMC from 1998–2005 and had the opportunity, during those years, to serve on four of the seven delegations that were sent to the Philippines. But what especially served as good preparation for mission work, in addition to what I was taught about missions in seminary, was that I was able to serve as a pastor in two of our Protestant Reformed churches (Edgerton and Holland) for a total of 11 years. As I look back, those years of experience in the ministry were invaluable as preparation for mission work, a work which involves teaching others to understand what it means to be truly Reformed in doctrine, in worship, in church government, and in life, and a work which involves leading them to put all this into practice in their churches and in their lives.
BL: We encourage young men to consider the gospel ministry. What would you say to the young men reading this article as they consider becoming a minister?
DK: First of all, I’m very thankful to hear of young men who are considering the ministry. That’s always encouraging to hear. Secondly, I would impress upon them the fact that ministers (and missionaries) are urgently needed in our churches. And thirdly, I would let them know that the work of a minister (and missionary) is, through God’s blessing, a most honorable calling and a most blessed work. May God provide our churches with the men we need.
BL: Looking back, what (if anything) would you do differently?
DK: One thing that comes to mind is the benefit of learning Tagalog first—that is, dedicating a year or more to studying and learning this language so that one knows it well before he actually takes up the work of missions among Filipinos. In the providence of God, we were not able to devote ourselves full-time to learning Tagalog when we moved to the Philippines, since the field had been vacant for some two years and it was necessary for us to focus mainly on the mission work. We were, however, able to study Tagalog part-time, and that was certainly helpful for the work. But I believe it would be more beneficial, if it is possible, for a missionary to devote more time from the start to learning the language and thus also the culture of those among whom he will work.
BL: What one thing should the young people of the PRC know about the saints in the Philippines?
DK: The saints in the Philippines, though from a different country and nationality, and though living many miles away, are indeed your fellow believers in Christ. They know that, and they greatly appreciate it. What especially encourages them is to know that they are not the only Reformed young people in the world but have fellow saints in other lands who confess the same truth, face the same temptations and struggles, and experience the same wonders of the grace of God.
BL: How can the young people of the PRC assist their brothers and sisters in this far-away land?
DK: Your brothers and sisters in the Philippines need the prayers of their fellow saints for them. I hope, therefore, that this article, and even this special issue of the Beacon Lights, serves to give you a better knowledge and understanding of your fellow believers in the Philippines so that you will be able to pray for them with understanding. As you read through this issue of the Beacon Lights, perhaps you could write a list of things to keep in mind in your prayers for your fellow saints in the Philippines.
BL: What struggles do you face as a missionary?
DK: At times, because we live far from our families, the missionary life involves a measure of loneliness. One especially feels the distance when family members have struggles and needs. Another challenge is the ongoing adjustment to life, communication, and many other things in a foreign country and culture, as we strive to be all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:19–23).
BL: What unique blessings do you experience in your work?
DK: One of the most enjoyable aspects of doing mission work is to observe, and even to be caught up in, the excitement that the saints in the Philippines have as they learn and embrace the Reformed faith. It is a great blessing to see the joy and comfort that God gives them, by the work of his Spirit, through his word and by means of his truth. And it is also rewarding to see the Spirit leading them to apply the word to their lives. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4). Another privilege is the opportunity to experience firsthand the reality of the catholicity of the church of Christ.
BL: What two books should every child of God have and read?
DK: Allow me to answer this question from the perspective of our Filipino brothers and sisters. As you know, we are able to sell Protestant Reformed literature in the Philippines. In the many years in which we have been selling books, the two most popular ones have been and continue to be Doctrine according to Godliness by Rev. R. Hanko and Saved by Grace by Prof. R. Cammenga and Rev. R. Hanko. I believe most of the church members and our contacts in the Philippines would place these two books at the top of the list.
BL: What is your greatest disappointment? Your greatest joy?
DK: One disappointment that stands out in the work is when some with whom we have labored for a time do not embrace all the truth, reject some of it, and depart from us. This has happened a number of times with regard to the truth of double predestination (they agreed with election, but not with reprobation). It has also occurred when we have taught the truth of the covenant and, in that connection, the baptism of the infant children of believers. My greatest joy, as I mentioned earlier, is to observe that God’s people love, embrace, are comforted by, and strive to live according to his truth. Their zeal for and love of the truth is often contagious.
BL: Is there anything you wish people back home would know about your work or the field?
DK: Two things come to mind. The first is my personal appreciation that the Lord has provided and that the churches faithfully support three men for this work, and for the fact that we can labor well together and assist each other in all aspects of the work. My wife and I also enjoy and greatly appreciate the companionship we have with the other missionaries. They and their children are like family to us. Secondly, I would mention how much we appreciate the interest in and support of our churches for the mission work and for the churches in the Philippines. We know that you remember us all in your prayers. It is an encouragement to experience the communion of saints in this way.
BL: Any final thoughts or reflections?
DK: Yes. We do well to conclude by mentioning our appreciation for the churches and saints in the Philippines. We love God’s people here, and they show in countless ways their love for us. The second stanza of Psalter #27 comes to mind: “I love Thy saints, who fear Thy Name And walk as in Thy sight; They are the excellent of earth, In them is my delight.” We are most grateful for their interest in and zeal for the truth, and for their desire and willingness to have us live and labor among them. The Lord has given us a blessed work to do. We count it a privilege. We ask that you continue to remember us all in your prayers. And may God be praised for the work he has done and continues to do.