The topic of young people in missions is one which is continually brought up in the discussions of the young people. This is missions in which they are active participants. In connection with a discussion of this nature, the Summer Workshop in Missions project of the Christian Reformed Church is always brought up. The SWIM project is under the supervision of Classes and is available for qualified members of the Christian Reformed Church who are at least 17 years old. These SWIMers spend eight weeks in communities where a mission board or chapel is instituted. Their duties during this stay consist of canvassing a city with pamphlets, following up on the more interested and assisting in Sunday School and Daily Vacation Bible School.
An interest for a similar project in the Protestant Reformed Churches has been expressed by many of our young people. Those who express this desire and interest are on the whole quite sincere. They have a true desire to work for our churches and tell others exactly what our churches believe. They also seem to think that in this way they would also strengthen their own personal faith.
I should like to deal with just a phase of this varied topic, that is, young people involved in our missions in Jamaica. I shall attempt in this article to propose a project which could be used in Jamaica. Both the values and demerits of such a project will be presented.
The first part of this topic which we shall discuss is the young people who would be involved in a project of such a nature. Who are they? What are they? First, it can be said that they are interested youth. These young people have expressed a desire to enter such a program. Their desire is an unselfish one, not just a wish to see the world. This is not a weak desire, but rather a strong one because these young people are willing to sacrifice practically their whole summer vacation to go and participate in such a program. I, personally, have heard many express this desire for the great experience they would gain.
Secondly, these young people are a qualified youth, both practically and spiritually. Practically, at 17 or 18 years of age they are at the prime of their life. Physically fit, strong, full of vim and vigor, with plenty of get up and go. Also, at this age these youth are free as a bird, for when they are a little older their mind is on marriage and they would then have to work during the summer months for need of money. Spiritually, they are also qualified, for they know the principles of our beliefs and not only know them but also believe, maintain and uphold them as the truth. There are many who are better qualified spiritually but they usually cannot go for practical reasons. The young people are yet qualified, but just do not have the experience.
Thirdly, it can also be said that under such a project the young people would have to be carefully screened. They would have to meet many requirements, both practical and spiritual. First, it would have to be determined whether the desire is sincere or not. Also, I think it would be advisable if they would participate in a week or two of preparatory classes. In these classes they would learn things which they will need on the mission field: thing which would otherwise come only from actual experience on the mission field.
The second part of our topic which we shall discuss concerns the missionaries on the Jamaican field. Who are these men spiritually? First, the missionaries are ministers of God’s Word. They are proclaiming the truth in the Scriptures and feeding the milk of the Word to the spiritual infants on the field. Secondly, there are also qualified elders who assist the ministers. Then, who are these missionaries physically and practically speaking? They are the Revs. Hanko, Heys and Lubbers and the elders Meulenberg, Zwak and Feenstra. These ambassadors, who have already gone to Jamaica to labor, though still healthy and full of enthusiasm, are certainly not in the prime of their life. Some of these gentlemen have already retired and the others are rapidly approaching the retirement age. The handicaps which I implied are definitely not spiritual ones, but rather physical. They are in need of manual and physical assistance. Rev. Lubbers has related that he had to rest five times to climb a hill to reach a church while he was in Jamaica as missionary.
Next we shall discuss the positions of the missionaries and of the young people in relation to each other. The ministers and elders would be in complete authority and control. They would be teacher, guide and trainer of the young people. The young people would hold the position of complete submission. They would be student, pupil and follower. They would hold the same position as Timothy did when he was under the leadership of Paul.
Closely related to the position is the use of those involved in such a program. The young people would assist manually, carrying loads and luggage up and down hills, etc. Also, as Timothy, they would assist by teaching Sunday School and many other odd jobs which the missionaries need done, but which take up much valuable time.
Drawing this article to a close, let us mention a few of the pros and cons concerning a project as briefly outlined in this article. First, let us consider the arguments which could arise against this proposed project. An argument against the young people would probably be that there is no desire for such a mission endeavor among our young people, and if there is a desire it is not a proper one. Also, the young people are not qualified spiritually. They are just young kids, yet. Another argument could possibly be that the young people would take too much authority and act too much on their own. Still another argument which could be brought up would be that the young people would make ministers of themselves and try to “save” others. Yet another argument is that the cost of such a program would be much too high.
Now then, let us look at a few of the merits of a project which would put a few of our young people with our missionaries on the Jamaican mission field. In the first place, I can visualize no problem at all in obtaining good, qualified young people. Those who have expressed such a desire are also those young people who are the best qualified. They are very sincere. In the second place, I cannot foresee any problem concerning the use and position of the young people. Those who would be privileged to go, after meeting all the requirements, both spiritual and practical, and participating in a preparation program, would definitely not be the type of person who would disobey a minister and elder. Nor would they be the type who would take authority upon himself or make himself out to be a minister. Rather, it can be said that those who would go to Jamaica would receive much instruction in doctrine and walk. Also, I believe that they would receive much of value because of participating in this project. They would learn much humility, both spiritual and practical. Spiritual humility would be gained from just watching the ministers and elders work and seeing their tremendous wisdom. Practical humility would also be gained by seeing the very low living conditions of the Jamaicans and comparing it with that of us in the United States and thereby seeing how blessed we really are. Thirdly, this would be an experience which they would not forget for the rest of their lives. They also would serve to unify our churches more closely with those in Jamaica. In conclusion, it can be said that this program would give much spiritual edification and Christian fellowship to all who would have the privilege to participate in such. Finally, I agree that the expense would be high; however, I also believe that all the experience gained would greatly out-weigh the costs. Too, I believe that our young people could raise most of the money needed. The fact that they can raise money has been seen by their efforts in obtaining the funds needed for the 1969 convention in Redlands.
I can say that after very carefully weighing both the pros and the cons, I am greatly in favor of a program of this nature. The reasons I favor it are specifically the experience gained and the physical assistance given to the missionaries. I hope that you also, after carefully weighing both sides, will agree with me and favor sending young people with our missionaries to Jamaica.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 5 August 1969