Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Domestic Missions

philmap2The PRC have three foreign missionaries working in the Philippines at present, with metro Manila as the base. Rev.Daniel Kleyn (assisted by his wife Sharon), Rev. Daniel Holstege (assisted by his wife Leah), and Rev. Richard Smit (assisted by his wife Tricia) carry out the responsibilities for a number of labors with churches, pastors, and contacts throughout this country (See map to the left). Visit their website to learn more about these labors. You may also visit the Kleyn's blog to see a more personal side to the life and work in this foreign land.

In addition, the PRC help support the mission labors of the Covenant PRC (N.Ireland) in Limerick, Ireland, where Rev. Martyn McGeown serves as missionary. And, several of our congregations are involved with labors in India (Georgetown PRC) and in Myanmar (Hope PRC, Walker). Our sister church in Singapore (Covenant ERC) is also involved in mission labors in India, in Kolkata, through her missionary Rev. Emmanuel Singh.

Secretary for Foreign Mission Committee: 

Rev. James Laning: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

PRC Missions in the Philippines (47)

2018 delegation missionaries

Missionaries Daniel (Sharon) Kleyn, Daniel (Leah) Holstege & family, Richard Smit (Tricia) & family
Calling Church: Doon PRC, Doon, IA

Philippine Mission Resource website (audio and literature)

Missionary blogs:

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship, Republic of Ireland (Mission Field of the CPRCNI) (27)

Website

This is a mission field of the Covenant PRCNI, financially supported by the PRCA.

LimerickmeetingplaceMissionary: Rev. Martyn McGeown

38 Abbeyvale, Corbally,
Limerick, Ireland.

martynmcgeown@gmail.com

Mission:Limerick Reformed Fellowship

Worshiping at: Conradh na Gaeilge Hall 

Thomas St., Limerick City

Services: 11:00 a.m.; 5:30 p.m.

Coming lectures in the British Isles

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Myanmar Labors (Hope PRC, GR) (11)

This is a mission labor of Hope PRC, Grand Rapids, MI, with assistance from her Reformed Witness Committee and the Foreign Mission Committee of the PRC.

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India Missions (0)

The India mission labors involve the work of Georgetown PRC in Vellore with assistance from the Foreign Mission Committee of the PRC, and the work of Covenant ERC (Singapore) in Kolkata.

Map India 1

 

ESingh Nov 2015
Emmanuel Singh presenting in CERC on the Kolkata, India missions, 2016

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PRC Missions in the Philippines - July 2021 Newsletter

3 missionaries 2020

PRCA FOREIGN MISSIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES
JULY 2021 NEWSLETTER 

Rev. D. Holstege (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) – Rev. D. Kleyn (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) – Rev. R. Smit (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
PO Box 1173 ACPO, Antipolo City, Rizal 1870, Philippines 

Dear Congregations and Members of the PRCA. 

We send warm greetings to you all as we give this  update of our work and life among our fellow believers here in the Philippines. 

Many changes have taken place in recent months,  as will be explained below. However, one thing  which has basically remained the same is that we  continue to live under significant restrictions due to  covid. A few months ago our restrictions even increased for a while, and at this point we are not  yet back to the quarantine level we had prior to that  increase. Current restrictions require that we wear  both face masks and face shields when out in public.  

In addition, leisure travel is forbidden, and anyone under 18 or above 65 years is required to stay at  home (except for things that are “essential”). 

However, in spite of the restrictions we are able once again to go to Faith Academy (the school the  missionaries use for their children) for recreational  activities. We do need to sign up ahead of time, and we are limited to a maximum of five activities per week. But the swimming, basketball, tennis,  and playground activities provide a nice break for us all, especially now that the Smit children are out of school for the year (their last day was May 28). 

Another positive is that the restrictions for religious gatherings have slowly loosened (from 10 persons,  to 30% of the building’s capacity, to 50% of the building’s capacity). As a result, we are once again able to worship in church every Sunday with a good number of our fellow saints. In fact, a few weeks  ago my wife Sharon, in a letter to our families,  mentioned how significant this was when she wrote:  

“We both got choked up in church this morning. I sat down, looked around and there were all kinds  of children there! There must have been 18-20 of  them. This was the first time there were so many  since the lockdowns began more than a year ago (in March 2020). It was beautiful to see them all. And the attendance was the highest we have seen  it yet, at 65 or so. Almost all the chairs were  full. That, along with a couple good sermons and  good fellowship, made it a lovely Lord’s Day.” 

Due to covid, one aspect of our work which we’ve been unable to carry out in the past year and a half  is our monthly visit to the pastors and churches in  Negros Occidental. Even now the restrictions for  domestic travel in the Philippines make it very  difficult for us to get to Negros Island yet (among  other things, two weeks of quarantine is required  on either end). We did consider providing online  instruction to the pastors there, but due to their  poor internet connections, this wasn’t feasible. We  have, however, kept in touch with them, and they  and their congregations are doing well. We also  regularly send them a supply of magazines:  Standard Bearer, Beacon Lights, etc. The pastors  and their members very much appreciate receiving  this literature. 

What has kept us missionaries especially busy in the  past months has been the work of providing  seminary instruction for the three seminary  students of the PRCP. Unfortunately, because of  covid the classes needed to be conducted online again (using Zoom). Rev. Smit taught NT Exegesis,  Greek Reading, and Dogmatics (Soteriology), Rev.  Holstege taught Hermeneutics (from the USA,  where he is currently on furlough), and I taught  Hebrew Grammar, Homiletics, and Church History.  The semester (including the final exams) ended on  May 21. The break is welcome. It also enables us  to prepare for the next school year, which is  scheduled to begin on August 10, the Lord willing.  Sad to say, the PRCP now has only one student left  in the seminary program (more about that on the  next page).

And speaking of Rev. Holstege and his  family being on furlough, although their furlough  has now ended, due to covid restrictions they are as yet unable to return to the Philippines as they had hoped and planned (they were scheduled to  arrive back here on July 1). It is all rather complicated, but to put it in simple terms, in order  for the Holstege family to return to the Philippines they will need and are trying to obtain a tourist visa,  but as of now the Philippine government is not yet  issuing one to them. Things are therefore rather  uncertain for the Holsteges at this time, specifically as to when they will be able to return here. As a  result, the furloughs of the other missionary families were canceled for this year, since our churches consider it necessary and important to have at least  two missionaries and their families on the field at  any given time, if at all possible. 

One more significant item remains for this newsletter, and it grieves me to report it. I refer to the fact that a split has taken place in the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines. This  happened when the PRC in Bulacan suddenly announced (on May 16) that they were withdrawing  their membership from the denomination. It is evident from one of the reasons the PRC in Bulacan gave for their withdrawal that this separation is  related to the schism that has taken place in the  PRCA. For reasons which remain in many ways a mystery to us, especially because there was no  doctrinal controversy taking place in the PRCP itself, the church in Bulacan has now departed, has associated itself with those who have separated  from the PRCA (namely, the RPC), and has even  taken as its new name the First Reformed Protestant Church in Bulacan. 

This split has hit the PRCP and all of us here hard. It troubles us greatly that they have separated from a faithful denomination here (the PRCP), and that thereby they have also broken ties with two faithful sister churches (the PRCA and the CERC in  Singapore). What is baffling is that they have done  all this without having or presenting valid reasons  for doing so. What adds to the sorrow is that they  have also taken with them the mission field of the  PRCP (the Protestant Reformed Fellowship in  Albuera, Leyte), as well as two of the PRCP’s  seminary students (which explains why we will only  have one student this coming school year). In light  of the fact that Maranatha PRC disbanded this past March (due to a lack of men to serve as office bearers, along with the retirement of Rev. Leovy Trinidad who is now 77), the denomination has gone from four churches to two in the span of a few months. God’s ways are often mysterious and  difficult. His thoughts and ways are certainly higher  than ours. And while we may at times be somewhat  discouraged and disappointed, yet we know and  believe that Jehovah’s work is always perfect. By  His grace, we strive to submit ourselves humbly to  His will and to His fatherly chastisement, confident  that His cause and His Name will always triumph. 

In relation to the above, the PRCP Classis (at its regular meeting on June 12) received a “Withdrawal  of Membership” letter from the church in Bulacan.  Classis approved a letter of response in which they  called Bulacan to reconsider what they have done  and to return to the fellowship of the PRCP. It  seems unlikely that this will happen, but we know the Lord is able to accomplish it, if that is His will. 

As a result of the split, the June 12 Classis also  made some necessary changes to the makeup of its  standing committees. Classis decided to reduce the  number of committees from four to two, and to  divide all the work between these two. By the way,  each of the two missionaries currently on the field serves as an advisor on one of these standing  committees. The Classis also decided to have the  missionaries take turns, along with Rev. Ibe (the  only remaining active pastor in the PRCP), to chair the Classis meetings. The missionaries will also be  carrying out Church Visitation for the PRCP. 

In light of all these events, we ask you to remember  us and also the two remaining churches here (the  Berean PRC and Provident PRC) in your prayers.  We are thankful for these two congregations and  for their continued love of the Reformed faith as  confessed in our churches. Please pray that they  may remain united in that truth and committed to  stand together for the cause of Christ’s gospel and  kingdom here in the Philippines. Be assured, too,  of our continued prayers for the PRCA. 

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not  consumed, because his compassions fail not. They  are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness”  (Lamentations 3:22-23). 

In Christian love, 

Rev. Daniel Kleyn

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Philippines Mission Newsletter - March 2021

philmap2PROTESTANT REFORMED FOREIGN MISSIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES

MARCH 2021 NEWSLETTER

Greetings

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of the harvest, to all of our PRCA congregations!

Here is an update regarding our labors and lives here in service to the Lord, our sister churches of the PRCP in the metro Manila area, and in our mission work in Southern Negros Occidental (SNO).

"Mold on Our Shoes!"

moldy shoesIn a tropical climate of constantly high humidity here, things that are made of leather, which has a porous surface, are susceptible to developing mold when left unused for any substantial length of time. Especially during the rainy season (June to November), shoes, wrist-watch bands, handbags, belts, wallets, and any other such itemscan quickly develop a layer of mold if left alone.

Because of the quarantine restrictions of last year, our Sunday shoes have been stored in their usual spots, but, of course, left unused for many weeks. In fact, they sat unused forweeks because the quarantine restrictions prevented us from attending the PRCP congregations for Lord's Day worship from mid-March to September 2020. As a result, and sadly so, a layer of mold began quietly to flourish on some of our Sunday shoes. Then, deep into the quarantine, someone shouted, "There is mold on our shoes!" I never expected to see a day when we would need to wipe mold off of our Sunday shoes because we were hindered from using them in God's providence for public worship.

Pondering our discovery, it struck me that it was an accurate metaphor of the poor condition of sabbath observance in this country, even before the quarantine. I would imagine that the same would generally apply to the spiritual condition of many professing Christians in North America, too. The analogy certainly warns us personally about our spiritual proneness with regard to Lord's Day worship, sabbath observance, and spiritual faithfulness to the Lord. Left unattended and neglected, our sinful and straying hearts and minds will surely and quickly develop a thick layer of unbelieving mold: complacency, slothfulness, a disinterest in Christ's doctrine, selfishness, resistance to daily conversion, neglect of proper worship, neglect of Scripture reading and study, and neglect of prayer, and even the temptation to redefine public, face-to-face, corporate worship of the church to include online services. May such unbelieving mold never grow on our Sunday shoes!

If it has, then may the Spirit wipe away the layer of unbelieving mold by leading us to confess and to repent of our spiritual neglect. By His grace through faith, may we maintain the marks of a true Christian, and delight in the weekly privilege to go up to the house of God and worship there with our fellow saints and faithfully bow face-to-face at God's throne of grace by faith alone through our Lord Jesus Christ, our only righteousness and our everlasting life. May we be willing to sacrifice health for faithful obedience to the Lord, rather than in disobedience have our health serve as a witness unto our unbelief.

Challenges of Sabbath Observance in Quarantine

I think that you would agree that sabbath observance during our respective quarantine periods has been a major challenge and trial for individuals and families without the regular routine of public worship. Iincluded in my August 2020 report to the Doon Council and FMC anobservation about the challenges of sabbath observance during quarantine. I share with you what I mentioned to them.

"As a general observation of PRCP members by watching and listening over the past five months, I have noticed through the quarantine both negative and positive spiritual developments. For some, sabbath observance has declined with a slide into involvement in Sunday business and other spiritually, unedifying activities. Of course, at our house, we are not above reproach. We similarly know and work to resist the temptations in mind and heart against proper sabbath observance to the Lord during the quarantine. For example, since the family has not been going to church worship in Valenzuela or Antipolo for about five months, we have been tempted to wonder why we should even bother with formal dresses, pants, barongs, or shirt and tie for the livestream church services since nobody will see us listening and singing in our faded shorts, comfortable t-shirts, or more casual clothing.

However, there is the matter of the willingness, the attitude, the effort, and the understanding of faith to do our utmost to devote ourselves to the Lord on His day, unlike our activity of the other days of the week. Although the type of clothing we wear on Sunday at home is not in itself the issue and I'm not about to stumble into any legalism regarding Sunday clothing, yet our clothing and the accompanying and underlying effort for Sunday clothes does have its way of reflecting how seriously we and our little ones devote ourselves in will and thought to the fear of the Lord and show our love for Him on His Day, even during the quarantine that He has placed upon us.

In that regard, I overheard recently that some members have recognized and are laboring to resist various Sunday temptations. A family mentioned that it has learned to take the livestream broadcasts very seriously as the only opportunity left for them and their children for worship and spiritual food on Sunday. So, without anyone looking over their shoulders and by their own initiative, they have become carefully punctual for the start of the Sunday morning broadcasts, even putting forth the effort to have their little ones properly [dressed and prepared] for worship through the livestream at home.

In the midst of the disappointments and the weariness of the quarantine, I found this positive observation of the renewing grace of God in the life of a young covenant family both humbling and encouraging. I trust that you will, too."

PRCP Theological School

With thanksgiving to God, we can report that our first semester of classes was completed on December 4, and final exams were finished on December 11. An interim course was given to the students from January 5to 14 by recorded lectures from Prof. R. Cammenga's interim course at the PRCA Seminary on "The Life and Theology of John Calvin.". The second semester began on January 19 and mid-term exams will be given in the week of March 7.

As with the last semester, so the second semester of instruction will be given by means of Zoom. Although this method is certainly not the official norm of face-to-face training of future preachers, it is what the Theological School Committee (PRCP) has determined is the best available for the current quarantine situation.

We are currently training three men: Bro. Jeremiah ("Jhem") Pascual (2nd year), Bro. Emmanuel ("Emman")Jasojaso (1st year), and Bro. Jethro ("Ace") Flores (1st year).

Classes are held in the mornings on Tuesdays through Fridays. We are currently teaching the men Homiletics, Hermeneutics, Hebrew Grammar, Church History, NT Greek, NT Exegesis, and Dogmatics (Soteriology).

A seminary library continues to grow in its temporary location in one of the rooms of the guest house on the Kleyns' property. The library, thus far, has been helpful already to the students for their research papers.

PRCP News

The Berean PRC announced that it was renovating their church building. Their parsonage was sold and the money from that sale was used to finance the addition of a third floor to the church building. As a result and because of the quarantine rules,Pastor Ibe and family moved in July to a house in San Fernando, Pampanga, which is about a 2-hour drive north of Antipolo.

The Classis of the PRCP met on October 31 and November 30. Classis approved the emeritation of Rev. Leovino Trinidad, which will be effective on February 28, 2021. He was ordained as a minister of the Word on March 28, 1976, in his former denomination in Cebu City, the Philippines. After several years of instruction under the PRCA missionaries, he and the Maranatha congregation joined the PRCP in 2015.

Classis PRCP will meet again on February 25.

Maranatha PRCP has announced recently that it will be disbanding on March 1 due to the lack of men to serve as elders and deacons. Members are being advised by the Maranatha consistory to transfer their church membership to the Provident PRC (Marikina).

PRCA Missions

Rev. Kleyn and I, who have been assigned for now by the Doon Council and FMC to do mission work in the Inayauan-Sipalay area in SNO, were not able to get to do our work there during the lengthy quarantine. Also, in my August 2020 monthly missionary report to the Doon Council and FMC I reported my reflection on the disappointing situation. I share the same with you.

"[The] principle of the Lord's sovereign guidance in missions is an important principle to remember. The good foreign mission desires that we may have, regarding the spread of the Reformed faith into new and hard to reach places, may not come to pass when and for how long we have desired or envisioned. We are reminded that the Lord of the harvest directs and fulfils His work of missions through His servants according to God's good pleasure and eternal counsel by various means. Even in missions, not our will, but the Lord's will must be done. All of our planning, praying, preaching, and pouring out of our souls in the work remain always subject to His sovereign direction and good pleasure.

...I am well reminded through the quarantine that missionaries are only limited, dependent servants in the Lord's work of the gathering and preservation of His church over the earth. I am sure that the Apostle Paul faced the same truth as he sat in prison in Caesarea for a few years or under house arrest in Rome, wishing and waiting for the time, subject to the Lord's will, that he could freely go about his labors throughout the Roman Empire among the established churches and in areas not visited yet."

Pray that the Lord will grant us in His time both the opportunity and the ability to resume faithful, face-to-face preaching and clear instruction in the service of a Reformed church (Inayauan), its mission outreach (Si-alay), a reforming church (Canturay), and other contacts in SNO.

Foreign Tourist Ban

In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the Philippine government has continued to ban the entry of foreign national visitors. This ban does not prevent permanent residents, such as the Kleyns and Smits, from re-entry. However, the ban prevents visits from delegations (the Contact Committee, FMC, and Doon Council), family, and friends.There is no concrete information yet regarding when this ban may be lifted.

Holsteges' 2021 Furlough

The Holstege family departed on December 16, and they will be living in Grandville, Michigan. Rev. Holstege has done some field presentations during furlough about the work done here in the last two years.

The return of the Holstege family is scheduled for July 1 as approved by the Council and FMC. However, since immigration restrictions on the entry of foreigners, including the Holstege family, still remain unclear, we will need to be patient regarding their actual return date.

Finally, farewell, brethren. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

In His service,
Rev. Richard J.Smit

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - March 2021

Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter
Pastor M. McGeown

MMcGeown livestream preach Nov 2020

Monday, March 1, 2021

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Many of you have been asking for an update on my plans to immigrate to the USA. When we first started making enquiries into immigration, we were warned that the process could take at least a year, and that was without the added complication of COVID-19. On April 28, 2020 we submitted Form I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”) as the first step toward a “green card,” and on June 16, 2020, Providence PRC submitted two more applications under the general category of Religious Worker (R-1 and I-360).

On August 24, 2020 I was informed that the R-1 application had been approved and that I should seek the earliest possible appointment for a (non-immigrant) visa interview in London, England, UK. The earliest possible appointment at that time was August 11, 2021. Later I secured an appointment for November 10, 2020 in Dublin, which was cancelled and rescheduled for March 8, 2021, when Ireland increased its COVID-19 restrictions in October 2020.

On December 17, 2020, the National Visa Center (NVC) informed of us that USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services) had approved the I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”), and after more forms, fees, and documentation, I am now “documentarily qualified” for an immigrant visa appointment, but I do not know when I might be assigned such an appointment.

Of the three applications (I-130, R-1, and I-360) two have been approved and one (I-360) is pending. However, I still need a visa interview. On February 23, 2021, the Irish government announced yet another extension of the current “Level 5” restrictions until April 5, with the result that the appointment for March 8, 2021 (the non-immigrant visa) has been cancelled. According to the embassy’s website, “Under Level 5 restrictions the Visa Unit will be able to provide only extremely limited immigrant visa services. Non-immigrant visa services will be suspended except for life and death emergencies and for travel to engage directly in the fight against COVID-19” and “Under Level 4 and under only extremely limited routine services will be possible. As such, wait times for appointments and processing times might be greatly extended” (https://ie.usembassy.gov/us-travel-restrictions/).

To clarify, a non-immigrant visa is one that allows temporary residency in the USA. For example, the R-1 visa would grant me permission to live and work in the USA for two and a half years, and could be renewed for a maximum of five years. An immigrant visa is one that allows permanent residency in the USA. The I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”) visa would grant me permanent residency in the USA.

Therefore, since the March 8 appointment is now officially cancelled, the earliest appointment that I have is the R-1 visa interview (the non-immigrant visa) in London, England, for August 11, 2021; and I am waiting for the embassy to grant an appointment for the I-130 (immigrant visa). If the embassy offers only “extremely limited immigrant visa services,” we wonder how likely it is for me to get an appointment for an I-130 immigrant visa interview in Dublin before August. The words “extremely limited” do not close the door completely, but they also do not offer a lot of hope. The National Visa Center’s website states: “NVC cannot predict when Consular Sections will resume routine services, or when your case will be scheduled for an interview.”

The issue, then, is not immigration as such, but the effect that COVID-19 restrictions are having on the embassy in Dublin. Under Ireland’s “Level 5” restrictions almost all businesses are 2 closed. No gatherings outside of one’s household, either in homes or in private gardens, are permitted. Some “social distanced” walking in parks and other public venues is permitted with one other household, but no picnics or the like are allowed (that would be a “gathering”). There is also a travel limit of 5km (3.1 miles) so that we may not, for example, drive to some of the beautiful scenic spots of Ireland and go for a walk, because “non-essential” travel beyond the 5km limit is punishable with a fine of €100 (c. $122), which applies to each adult in the vehicle. (We do have some nice areas for walking in Limerick, however). We also may not travel to Northern Ireland to visit family or to visit the church in Ballymena. Leaving the country on a “non-essential” journey is also out of the question and punishable with a fine of €2,000 (c. $2,430). Therefore, walks within the 5km limit, shopping for groceries, and errands to the bank or post office are really the only reasons for leaving the house, unless you cannot work from home.

Most grievous for us, however, are the continued restrictions on public worship. Most of the members of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship have left (two families moved to Northern Ireland before the end of 2020), so that only a handful of people remain. We have never had our own church building, the hall that we rented for ten years is closed, no other facility is available to us, and even mixed-household gatherings in private homes for worship, for Bible study, or even for a cup of tea are prohibited. Therefore, our worship is online only: I preach two sermons a week from my study and I lead a Bible study (on Proverbs) and teach four catechism classes (two for Providence PRC and two for my nieces in Northern Ireland) from home. The online program that we use allows us to chat afterwards, which is nice. Nevertheless, we long to be able to meet together again, but despite petitions from church leaders to the government and one pending court challenge (by a Roman Catholic businessman, whose case was just adjourned for the fourth time to March 23), the churches remain closed. Our brethren in Northern Ireland in the CPRC do hold in-person worship services and Bible studies, albeit with social distancing and the wearing of masks, but they are in a different jurisdiction (UK) with different rules.

We broadcast our services live on http://mixlr.com/limerickreformed/ at 11 am and 5.30pm (GMT) and the sermons are recorded and uploaded to https://sermons.limerickreformed.com/. I have been preaching a series on the parables (currently number 17 in the series) and have recently started my seventh time through the Heidelberg Catechism. I will continue preaching, teaching, leading the Bible study, and writing, until we move. We may not leave Limerick: Larisa does not have permission to reside in the UK, so moving to Northern Ireland is not an option, and we may not travel to other countries until immigration is sorted or travel restrictions are relaxed.

As you might imagine, we struggle with feelings of frustration, disappointment, and discontentment, but we also trust that God’s way is perfect for us. However, it is not easy: the monotony and lack of social interaction is very difficult, and the lack of fellowship and public worship is demoralizing. We greatly appreciate and need your prayers. Remember, too, the saints of Providence PRC, as they wait for their future pastor. It is wonderful to be able to teach some of the children catechism from afar, but we long to be with the whole congregation.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Philippines Mission Newsletter - November 2020

PRCA FOREIGN MISSIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES
NOVEMBER 2020 NEWSLETTER

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ in the PRCA,

Another update from your missionaries in the Philippines. While many of you enjoyed the warm fall colors, crisp cool air, and sweet apple cider, we enjoyed rain, rain, and more rain! This rainy season, one particular typhoon (hurricane) was quite remarkable, to say the least. I will come back to that.

Missionary Labors

Last August, we missionaries began our second year of training men for the ministry of the gospel on behalf of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines (PRCP). I am teaching Biblical Hermeneutics again and have added OT History. Rev. Kleyn is teaching Homiletics and Church History again and has added Reformed Symbols (the study of the creeds). Rev. Smit is teaching Dogmatics and has added Greek Reading and NT Exegesis. We are teaching a total of 3 seminary students. A few visitors have also been attending or watching our online lectures on Zoom, Skype, or YouTube. It has been a very different format for teaching, sitting in front of our computers in our studies at home and teaching through a webcam. But it is working well enough. We expect to finish the first semester in early December when the students will take their final exams.

3 missionaries 2020

Although the Philippine government has been very strict throughout this pandemic, there have been some happy developments recently. In their quarantine guidelines, mass gatherings, including religious services, are now allowed up to 50% of the venue capacity. So, with much thanksgiving to God, the churches of the PRCP are gradually returning to normalcy in terms of their Sunday worship services.

Phil sem students 2020

First year seminarians Jethro Flores (left) and Emmanuel Jasojaso (right) taking a midterm exam.

In other labors, I have continued to pastor the Provident PRC with preaching on Sundays in their sanctuary and teaching during the week on Zoom. We recently completed a very enjoyable and very relevant Bible study on the book of Revelation on Wednesday nights from April through October. I am currently teaching OT Bible stories to the children and Essentials of Reformed Doctrine to the youth. We rejoiced greatly when three of the young women in the Essentials class came before the Council to profess their faith and to ask for approval to make public confession.This they will do, Lord willing, on December 13. I also attend (as advisor) the meetings of the Mission/Contact Committee and Translation Committee of the PRCP. However, Provident’s outreach work to two Brethren churches north of Manilawas put on hold because the congregations were not gathering during the quarantine. The work will continue, Lord willing, in January. In the meantime, the pastor of one of the churches (Pastor Ronil Domingo) has been attending many of our seminary classes as a visitor.

Rev. Kleyn, in addition to his full-timeload of preparation and teachingat the seminary, also continues to preach regularly on Sundays when requested by area churchesof the PRCP. He also attends(as advisor) themeetings of the very busy Finance Committee of the PRCP (on Zoom). However, the mission work in Southern Negros Occidental, which is primarily the workof Rev. Kleyn and Rev. Smit,has been put on hold due to the tight travel restrictions between the islands.

Rev. Smit, in addition to his full-time load of preparation and teaching at the seminary, continues to preach regularly on Sundays mainly for the Maranatha PRC through their Facebook page. He also attends the meetings of the Theological School Committee of the PRCP (as advisor) and devotes a lot of time to theological studies (reading and writing) for a program he is taking at a local Presbyterian seminary.

All three of us attended the Classis of the PRCP (as advisors) on October 31 which is currently recessed and scheduled to continue on November 30.

Typhoon!

On November 1 (a Sunday), a super typhoon passed through the Philippines. Due to the potentially strong winds and heavy rain, Provident’s Council decided to cancel the worship services. In the end, though, the storm did not hit Manila very hard or result in much damage. The experience was like so many before. A typhoon comes. It looks menacing on the radar. Then it breaks apart, at least in our area. And we are thankful.

typhoon 2020

But then came the typhoon of the evening of November 11. The Philippines called it Typhoon Ulysses (the rest of the world named it Typhoon Vamco). At midnight, we lost our electricity. Our fans turned off. Our kids’ night lights went dark and they woke up. The mighty hurricane wind rushed over our house like a freight trainin gust after gust. Having grown up in Michigan, far from hurricane territory, I had rarely heard the wind blow like that before. After a night of little sleep, we discovered the results the next morning. A large branch had fallen from a tree in our front yard. One of our neighbor’s mango trees fell down. More trees were down in the streets.

But the worst damage was not in our neighborhood, which is up in the mountains east of Manila. The worst, we soon discovered, was down in Metro Manila, in the city of Marikina where Provident PRC is located. The Marikina River overflowed the dike around Provident Village and filled the village with muddy water. The flood waters rose higher and higher, submerging the first story of all buildings and rising into the second story of many, including Provident’s church building. Perhaps you saw the bulletin announcement from the Contact Committee of the PRCA regarding this flood. Although all thel ibrary books were lost, as well as the sanctuary Bibles and Psalters, much equipment was destroyed, and there was even some structural damage... Although personal property was also lost by some of the five families of the church who live in that area... Yet the congregation is thankful to God for sparing all their lives and comforting them with the precious Reformed faith that they have come to know and love: the truth of the sovereignty of God over rain and drought, riches and poverty, and all things, and His eternal love for His elect and beloved people in Christ, using our light and momentary afflictions to work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

typhoon flooding 2020

As of this writing, the church building is still being cleaned and repaired from the flood damage, but our heavenly Father is meeting the needs of the congregation. Please remember our Filipino brethrenin Christ and us missionaries in your prayers. We the Holsteges look forward to seeing many of you on our furlough from December 16-June 30, the Lord willing.

In Christ,
Rev. Dan Holstege

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - December 2020

Rev. Martyn McGeown

38 Abbeyvale, Corbally, Co. Limerick, Ireland, V94 K7ER

http://www.limerickreformed.com/

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

 Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Within two weeks of writing my last newsletter (October 8) Ireland entered “Level 5” of the coronavirus lockdown. “Level 5” restrictions are the most stringent: no mixed household gatherings, which makes “in person” Bible studies or worship services at our home impossible; no public worship services (online only); and a 5km (3.1 miles) travel limit, except for “essential journeys.”

Two bodies are involved in these decisions: NPHET (The National Public Health Emergency Team, the medical professionals who advise the government) and the Irish government, who makes the actual decisions. It appears that NPHET is more cautious than the government, for NPHET’s advice is often much stricter than that adopted by the government. For example, the government is trying to “save Christmas” (not the religious holiday as such, but the pre-Christmas shopping spree on which many businesses rely) and the government wants to avoid being seen to “ruin Christmas” for families. Therefore, the Irish authorities imposed a “Level 5 lockdown” (October 21 to December 1) with the hope of a more relaxed Christmas-New Year period.

Two examples stuck out for me. First, NPHET advised allowing public worship only from December 21 to January 3, while the government agreed to allow public worship capped at 50 persons from December 1 until January 6 with a review thereafter. This came after a lot of lobbying from religious groups here, including a meeting of the Taoiseach (prime minister) with the Irish (Roman Catholic) bishops, as well as petitions from evangelical groups. We shall see how long freedom for public worship continues in January, D.V. Second, NPHET advised a ban on all travel to and from Northern Ireland. The government rejected that idea, and will review it on December 18 when inter-county travel is permitted. At the moment we must remain inside our own county except for “essential” journeys. Therefore, time will tell on whether I am permitted to travel to Northern Ireland to see my family at Christmastime and to preach in the CPRC in Ballymena. I would be very surprised if the Irish government ever closed the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The political ramifications would be huge.

MMcGeown livestream preach Nov 2020

During the “Level 5” period I contacted the local Garda (police) station seeking advice on holding worship services in my home. The officer with whom I spoke was very cordial and sympathetic to my concerns, but he said that there was no “wriggle room:” gatherings of any kind, whether religious or secular, in public or in private, were prohibited under the legislation. I have also heard reports of priests celebrating Mass with a handful of souls whose meetings the police interrupted and who were threatened with prosecution if they persisted. Therefore, I preached to the handful of souls entrusted to me from my study: I began with “Christ in the Midst of the Smallest Gatherings” (Matt. 18:20) and I am preaching a series on “The Kingdom Parables of Jesus” (Matt. 13).

On December 1 the “Level 5” restrictions came to an end and we were delighted to hear that public worship would indeed be permitted again. We have secured the hall for the month of December and the first Sunday of January, five Sundays, with the hope that we might be allowed to continue after that. With the Wattersons and Kuhs moved to Northern Ireland, and one other person making that transition, we have fewer than 10 people (including Larisa and me) in attendance. Still, we were very happy to be together on Sunday (December 6): for one thing we could sing again, something we cannot do very well over the computer.

We continue our Bible study online on Tuesday evenings (Prov. 6), and I teach catechism to Providence PRC (Monday evenings) and to my nieces (Thursday evenings). In addition, we are permitted to meet with one other household in a public setting, so we go for walks with various members when the weather is dry enough.

Shortly before the Kuhs left Limerick the LRF gave me a gift: they rebound my Bible in beautiful, soft leather with an inscription: “In Gratitude for 10 Years of Faithful Shepherding: With Love from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship 2020.”

McGeown Bible 2020

As you have undoubtedly heard, our immigration appointment scheduled for November 6 was cancelled. The next available appointment, which we have booked, is March 8, 2021. That was certainly a disappointment, but in these trials, which are relatively light in comparison to what many others suffer, the Lord is teaching us patience. The Lord is good, and we remember His blessings to us.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).

 

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

 

 

 

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - October 2020

Rev. Martyn McGeown
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally, Co. Limerick, Ireland, V94 K7ER

http://www.limerickreformed.com/
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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

In my last newsletter (July 15) I reported on the CPRC Council’s decision (March 9) to withdraw me, the missionary, from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship, and my acceptance of the call to Providence PRC (April 4). I also mentioned how the COVID-19 restrictions have affected our activities, and I gave some indication of how long immigration might take before Larisa and I will be permitted to travel to the USA.

Larisa, being a U.S. citizen, was actually able to travel to the USA to attend her youngest brother’s wedding. Ben and Taylor (Griess) married on August 7 in Loveland, Colorado. Initially, Ben and Taylor had asked me to officiate their wedding, which I would have been honoured to do. Sadly, immigration issues made that impossible, so Larisa travelled to the USA alone. I was glad that she could go—she had missed two family funerals already in 2020—even though I had to stay at home without her. Her visit to the USA also gave her the opportunity to visit Providence PRC, meet the people of our future congregation, attend social events with friends, family, and future congregants, and see the parsonage that the saints in Providence PRC are preparing for us. Of course, travelling during the pandemic was not easy with mask wearing on the flight and self-isolation in Michigan and Limerick, but, thankfully, she and her family remained COVID-19 free.

 LimerickRF 2020

The Fellowship is slowly—and painfully—disbanding. Of the three main families, the Wattersons, Kuhs, and Mansonas, only one remains. The Wattersons moved to Northern Ireland in March, as I reported last time, and are now members in the CPRC in Ballymena. The Kuhs plan to move to Northern Ireland next week, DV. October 4 was their last Sunday worshipping in the Fellowship. They will be greatly missed. Now there are only a handful of souls left. Yesterday (October 7) was also my last day teaching the Kuhs children—Sebastian and Penelope—catechism. As “thank you” gifts the children made cards depicting me as their pastor/catechism teacher: as you can see, they are very artistic. Their new pastor/catechism teacher will be Rev Stewart. He is getting some very good students, who by God’s grace have grown greatly in the knowledge of God’s Word.

children notes 1 2020children notes 2 2020

The Irish government recently adopted a “Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19,” which outlines a five-level approach to the disease. Yesterday, the whole country entered “Level 3.” Under Level 3 we are advised to have no more than six people to our home from one other household, which makes our Bible study difficult (we usually have two visitors to our Bible study, but they are from two other households); worship services must move to online only, so that the Conradh na Gaelige is again closed to us (we will most likely be back to “bubble church” on Sunday, although we could have up to six people from one household join us); and we are only allowed to leave our county for essential purposes. An Garda Síochána (the Irish police) have checkpoints on all major roads to check that people are complying with the “no non-essential journeys” rule. Although, for now, they have no powers of enforcement (they can only advise against unnecessary journeys), the government is considering introducing fines for crossing county borders. There are 26 counties in Ireland and to travel from Limerick to Dublin, we must travel through five counties: Tipperary, Laois, Offaly, Kildare, and Dublin. To travel to Northern Ireland would require travelling through two additional counties, Meath and Louth, with potential checkpoints and questions at every border. Media speculation is that on October 27 when the Level 3 restrictions expire, Level 4 or even Level 5 restrictions could be introduced.

That brings me to immigration news. On August 24 the immigration lawyer whom we hired for the R-1 religious worker visa informed us of USCIS approval, which is very good news. However, the next step is an interview in the US Consulate. Initially, I was told to book an interview in London, which I tried to do: the next available appointment is August 13, 2021! Then I tried the US Consulate in Dublin, and I have an appointment scheduled for November 6, 2020! You can imagine the rollercoaster of emotions of late August, as joy gave way to disappointment, which gave way to relief.

Everything, therefore, depends on a successful outcome in November, which is just four weeks away. Pray, first, that the US Consulate remains open during the COVID-19 restrictions; and, second, that the Lord, in whose hands are the hearts of kings, moves the immigration officials to approve our petition. I can assure that I will be telling every police officer between here and Dublin that my journey to Dublin is absolutely essential! (Incidentally, the R-1 visa, if successful, would permit me to work as a religious worker for a maximum of five years. The other petition, immigration based on marriage to a US citizen, is a separate issue: there is no progress on that petition).

While my catechism instruction of the children of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship has ended, I have begun to teach two classes online for Providence PRC. Because of the time difference I teach only the Beginners and Juniors classes (finishing at 10 PM on Mondays for me). I am enjoying very much getting to know the first through fifth graders as we study New Testament History together, and I look forward, DV, to meeting the rest of the catechumens and the other members of Providence PRC in due course.

In Christian love,

Rev Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Philippines Mission Newsletter - August 2020

3 missionaries Oct 2017

PRCA FOREIGN MISSIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES

August 2020 Newsletter

Rev. D. Holstege (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) – Rev. D. Kleyn (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) – Rev. R. Smit (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
PO Box 1173 ACPO, Antipolo City, Rizal 1870, Philippines

Dear Congregations of the PRCA,

Greetings again from the Philippines. It has been quite a while since we’ve sent out a newsletter. The reason for this is twofold. We waited, first of all, because you were able in recent months to read and digest a good amount of information about the mission field and work here in the Philippines through the special May 2020 issue of the Beacon Lights. But in the second place, we waited so that we could give you updated information concerning the upcoming year of seminary instruction, especially as that (along with everything else) continues to be affected by the coronavirus quarantines here.

COVID-19 has, of course, affected us all. Our day to day lives have changed. Perhaps permanently. For us those changes began with quarantines that were put in place on March 14. And although the quarantine levels have changed from time to time, basically we have had to stay at home. We are allowed to travel outside the home for essentials, but otherwise we are for the most part homebound. The latter is especially true for the children, for the rule is that any who are 21 or under, along with any who are 60 or above (thankfully none of us has reached that ripe old age yet) are on 24 hour curfew.

These restrictions certainly provide challenges for the Holstege and Smit families, as well as for all the families in the churches who have children or elderly in them. One of those challenges was that the previous school year had to be completed from home. That kept the families extra busy, especially the missionary wives. Thankfully they (both children and parents) were able to complete the school year well.

As regards schooling, there will again be no face-to-face classes for the first half (at least) of the upcoming school year. So once again the parents will be busy supervising the education of their children. One significant help is that Irene Smit (who was unable to return to the USA this past June) will be assisting Leah Holstege with this. The Holsteges have three young children in school, and supervising their studies takes quite a bit more work than for older students. The plan is for Irene to supervise the twins (Kirsten and Kiley). She hopes to do so by setting up a “classroom” in the guest house at the Kleyn’s residence. Irene is eager to do this and we’re all thankful that the Lord enables us to help each other in these ways.

The most significant effect of the quarantines, however, has been Sunday worship. To date we have had 5 months of Sundays at home. Initially no public gatherings were allowed at all, and so we preached and/or worshiped at home. Then for a while, with a change in our quarantine level (from Enhanced Community Quarantine to General Community Quarantine), the government allowed up to a maximum of 10 persons for religious gatherings. This enabled some of the churches to hold services with a handful of their members, and thus there were a few times that a few of us could preach in a church building. But just today (August 4) the government transitioned us back to a higher level of quarantine (Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine) and thus the limit is now a maximum of 5 people for religious gatherings. Some of the churches may still meet, but for the most part we will be required to continue staying at home on Sundays for a while to come.

All three of us missionaries have regularly preached to a webcam in our studies, or else to our families in our living rooms while being recorded live for one of the churches. I know that many of our colleagues in the PRCA have done the same. That’s far from normal and from how it ought to be. It can be awkward and difficult. The preacher loses and certainly misses the face-to-face contact with the people of God. And we all miss terribly the blessing of corporate worship and of the communion of the saints. But as regards the preaching, we know that God can even use the above-mentioned means for the edification and blessing of His sheep. And we know, too, that He has.

The quarantines have affected various other things, too. The annual delegation visit, which is made up of representatives from Doon PRC and the Foreign Mission Committee and which was planned for this past March, needed to be canceled. The Holsteges planned furlough during the months of June and July needed to be canceled and rescheduled (they have received approval to come instead for a six-month furlough from the middle of December onwards, DV). The regular PRCP Classis meeting on June 12 was limited to a maximum of 10 people, thus many of the delegates (along with the three missionaries) needed to join the meeting via Zoom. The monthly delegation visits that were being made by the PRC in Bulacan to the Protestant Reformed Fellowship in Albuera, Leyte have stopped for now. And our monthly visits to the churches in Negros Occidental, which visits recently began to include weekend stays in order to preach and teach in three of the churches there, have come to a sudden standstill, which could easily continue for the remainder of 2020.

But what about the seminary? The Lord willing, we will begin classes again on August 11. What’s exciting about this is that the Lord has given the PRCP two more students for the ministry – a wonderful answer to prayers. As a result, we will have two students in first year (Ace Flores and Emman Jasojaso – both members of Provident PRC), and one student in second year (Jeremiah Pascual – a member of the PRC in Bulacan). Because the government has placed us on a higher level of quarantine again, we will need to teach the classes online (Skype, YouTube, Zoom). One change we recently needed to make to our schedule was to delay the start of Hebrew Grammar, due to the difficulty of teaching this subject online. The plan is to delay this for just one semester, and to teach Reformed Symbols (Creeds) instead. The three of us are therefore scheduled to teach the following:

  • Rev. Holstege: Hermeneutics and OT History
  • Rev. Kleyn: Reformed Symbols, Homiletics, and Church History (Reformation period)
  • Rev. Smit: Dogmatics (Christology), Greek Reading, and NT Exegesis.

From a human perspective these (and many other things as well) can appear to be detrimental to the cause of Christ’s kingdom and gospel. But we know that is not so, for all things are directed by Him for the sake of His church (2 Cor. 4:15). We, along with the saints here, are comforted by the knowledge that God is sovereign, Jesus Christ is King, and all things are eternally planned and directed for our good.

One other piece of news is that our wives have started a reading club. One of the motivations was the fact that our families do not have the freedom to get together as much as before. So Leah, Tricia and Sharon have been reading through some RFPA books together (5 to 10 pages per day). This gives them opportunity to stay in touch regularly through messages as they chat together about their readings (and, of course, about sundry other things, too). Some of the ladies in the churches have also joined in reading through some of the books.

As indicated above, our families have not been able to get together as much as before. However, whenever the quarantine level allowed for up to 10 people to gather, at least two of our families at a time could have fellowship and/or join each other for Sunday worship from time to time. While we do miss the freedom of visiting, doing things together in the neighborhood, going to Faith Academy for swimming and playground activities, and just being able to be out and about more, we make the most of staying in touch and of seeing each other as much as possible. We thank the Lord for whatever He makes possible.

In light of the ongoing restrictions, and especially because of how significantly they affect our Sundays, we have learned, by the grace of God, to long more earnestly and pray more sincerely for what David often did in his life when he too was in similar circumstances and unable to be in the Lord’s house on the Sabbath. The following prayers often come to mind: “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1-2). And also Psalm 42:1-2. To these we add the prayer that every saint, by God’s grace, prays now (I trust) with added meaning and fervency: “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!”

We send you our Christian love and also our appreciation for your continued prayers and support for us and our families and for all the saints here. That means more to us than we can express. Be assured, too, that we keep you all in our thoughts and prayers. May God be gracious to our churches, both there and here. And may our Savior return soon to take us to Himself in eternal glory.

In Christian love,

Rev. Daniel Kleyn

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - July 2020

LimerickmeetingplaceLimerick Reformed Fellowship

Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary

38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland

http://www.limerickreformed.com/

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

The last few months have been tumultuous for the Limerick Reformed Fellowship. On March 9, the CPRC Council, recognizing the LRF’s unviability, voted to withdraw me, the missionary, which effectively means the closing of the mission field. Since, sadly, we have seen the departure of people from the mission group in the last year, the conclusion of the Council was inevitable: we lack the criteria necessary—a large enough group, potential officebearers, and prospect for growth—for mission field viability. The decision, which Rev. Angus Stewart and Elder Brian Crossett communicated to LRF mid-March, was a huge, unexpected blow to the people here, but upon reflection they were able to understand. Nevertheless, many tears were shed, as the hopes and dreams of many for a Reformed church in Limerick were shattered.

The second reason for turmoil in Limerick is COVID-19 with the accompanying government-imposed restrictions to public gatherings. On March 22, just after the government had limited indoor gatherings, we worshipped as a congregation of only ten souls (young mothers and small children stayed away as a precaution). It was also the last Sunday that the Wattersons were in Limerick. Anga Watterson was very close to the end of her pregnancy at the time, so the Wattersons decided to move to Northern Ireland, so that they could be settled before their daughter Lara arrived on May 6. In a very short period of time, therefore, the Wattersons found work and accommodation in Northern Ireland before travel became impossible. Thus, the LRF is already down one family.

Most of the other members plan to relocate to Northern Ireland to join the CPRC, although not as rapidly as the Wattersons did. One family is making plans to move before the end of 2020, because on January 1, 2021 Brexit will make relocation from a EU country (Republic of Ireland) to a non-EU country (Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom) for non-Irish citizens more complicated. Others plan to relocate sometime in 2021, God willing. It thrills a missionary’s heart to see the Ruth-like faith of the people here, willing to forsake life in Limerick to join a true church in Ballymena. I know—and have heard—how painful it has been for them to inform their families that they will be moving to Northern Ireland, but they have bravely faced that pain in order to enjoy the benefits of church member-ship.

On March 29 we conducted our first “home service.” Because the Irish government prohibited all gatherings of people outside one’s own household and restricted movements of people to within 5 km (3.1 miles) of their homes, we were not permitted to gather in the hall, which was closed to the public; or even in our homes, which are too small to allow for social distancing anyway. A solution was quickly organised: I preached from my study through a computer with the various families watching from their homes. The solution even permitted singing, so that one family led the Psalm-singing, while the rest joined in. Various participants were muted so that, for example, during the sermon no one could interrupt my preaching, and during the singing, I was muted—only Larisa was privileged to hear my singing! The program, which I called “bubble church,” because the various people appeared in “bubbles” on the screen in front of me, enabled me to see my congregation while I preached, which helped me. Preaching to a blank screen is not enjoyable, nor is preaching to an empty room. The setup also permitted us to chat afterwards, so that we could still enjoy fellowship together. After fourteen weeks of “bubble church,” “bubble Bible study” (on Tuesday evenings we studied James and have now begun Ruth), and online catechism, we were very eager to be back together again. In the meantime, I preached on texts such as Deuteronomy 32:11-12 (“Jehovah Stirring up Our Nest”), Jeremiah 48:11-12 (“Moab Not Emptied from Vessel to Vessel”), a series on Psalm 46 and an ongoing series on Ephesians 2 (“The Gentiles Brought Nigh”).

Finally, after the Irish government permitted indoor gatherings for public worship again, we met on July 5. What joy it was to go back to the hall—even with a diminished congregation of fourteen and the obligatory social distancing! I preached on Psalm 122:1 (“Rejoicing in the Call to Public Worship”). Currently, we are also permitted to have six visitors to our homes, so we have resumed Bible study (on Ruth) in our house. We also resumed in person catechism: Old Testament History for Beginners for three children, one of whom who still joins by Skype from Northern Ireland. The Catechism season was actually over, but the families requested more Catechism, citing the great benefit that it has been to their children’s spiritual development.

Where does a missionary go when his work of almost ten years abruptly ends? We are so thankful for our sister church relationship, which makes me eligible for a call from a PRC congregation. Unbeknownst to me, God, who cares for His church, was already working to provide for our future: on March 22, the Sunday after the announcement, I received the call to be the pastor of Providence PRC (Hudsonville, MI), which call I accepted on April 4. Larisa and I are very grateful for this provision of a future place to labour.

Of course, it is not as easy as getting on a plane and heading to Michigan: immigration is a major hurdle. On April 28 Larisa submitted an I-130 (“petition for alien spouse”), which according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website has a processing time of 12.5—18 months! After obtaining further legal advice Providence PRC filed two additional immigration petitions (R-1 and I-360—for religious workers) in mid-June: they have currently 8—10.5 months processing time. The immigration lawyer hopes for a late 2020/early 2021 approval for the R-1. May God move the hearts of the immigration officials!

In the meantime, travel is greatly restricted. Only recently did the Irish government permit us to travel more than 25 km (15.5 miles) from our homes. International travel is not recommended, and the government recommends/requires a 14-day self-isolation period on return to Ireland. Besides, I am not permitted to travel to the USA because I do not qualify for an ESTA, which is essentially a visa waiver for tourists to the USA. To qualify for a short-term visitor visa, I would have to demonstrate that I do not intend to immigrate, which is difficult to do, for in the long-term, I do intend to immigrate.

So we wait on the Lord, while the LRF slowly winds down and the wheels of government agencies turn. In the meantime, for those who have asked, I am still missionary-pastor under the care and oversight of the CPRC Council. I will continue to preach, lead Bible study, and teach catechism to the group here, until I am permitted to travel elsewhere. “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - May 2020

Limerick Reformed Fellowship
Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland
http://www.limerickreformed.com/ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

In this newsletter I want to go back to happier times, before the current upheaval in church and state, although the happier times seem but distant memories now. In the last newsletter, 17 December 2019, I mentioned our plans to go to Australia.

The journey to Australia was long (bus trip from Limerick to Dublin, flight from Dublin to Amsterdam, second flight from Amsterdam to Singapore, and, finally, a third flight from Singapore to Brisbane). I am sorry that we could not visit the saints in Singapore; our layover was not long enough. Singapore airlines offer a wonderful service, by the way. Perhaps they need to do that in order to make such long flights bearable. Although I survived the flight to Singapore, my heart sank when realization hit that we had another flight of over eight hours to Brisbane. Nevertheless, we arrived safely, for which we thank the Lord.

Dear friends, (Pastor) David and Ruth Torlach (Brisbane Evangelical Presbyterian Church), whom I have known from my seminary days, were our gracious hosts in Australia. To see them again was a happy reunion: the only regret is that we did not see their children, who live in Tassie (Tasmania). Seth, with his wife Megan, was the exception: they came to Brisbane to attend the Youth Camp, and it was wonderful to see Seth again and meet his wife. David and Ruth welcomed us warmly and made us feel right at home the entire time that we were there.

MLMcgeown wallaby 2019Since David and I are both in the ministry and since we had not seen one another (except once) since our seminary days, we had a lot to talk about. I was greatly encouraged to be able to discuss the joys and sorrows of the ministry with a likeminded colleague. Ruth and Larisa also enjoyed chatting about the realities of being the wives of pastors. I discovered quite quickly that ministers the world over face the same basic issues; churches the world over have the same encouragements and discouragements; and the devil attacks churches across the world in very similar ways. How good it was to see the Lord’s work in different parts of His vineyard!

The main reason for our visit was the EPC Youth Camp, which is held every two years, and is hosted and organized by the youth of the different EPC congregations. This year the Brisbane youth hosted the camp in Minden, Queensland. The EPC youth camp is a much smaller and more intimate version of the Protestant Reformed YPC with about forty young people in attendance, with ages ranging from thirteen to the mid-twenties. They were truly a beautiful group of godly, spiritually mature, enthusiastic, servant-hearted, and fun-loving young people! Ruth Torlach and her sisterin-law, Sue Higgs, were the caterers, while the young people led devotions, served the food, and cleaned up afterwards. There was a lot of time for team games, swimming (when the temperatures hit the mid 30’s Celsius or mid 90’s Fahrenheit a pool is a must!), chatting, fellowship, and even wildlife exploration. Larisa and I even got an air-conditioned room. Speaking of wildlife, contrary to reports, not all the fabulous Australian fauna is deadly. One boy brought me an Australian tree frog, while another teenage boy caught a possum, which he cornered in a cupboard, and David showed me a rhinoceros beetle.

My role was camp speaker. Over the seven days of the camp I gave seven speeches/sermons on the Armour of God from Ephesians 6, instruction that the young people enthusiastically received. On Thursday, word got out that I planned a test to see how much the young people had learned and understood, so the young people started cramming for the quiz that I prepared. They took the test very seriously, huddling in corners, poring over their notes, and begging me for clues. The test was “Military Graduation Exercises,” in which the teams had to answer questions on the Armour of God to demonstrate that they were ready to deploy the various pieces of armour described in the speeches. The exam ended with a sword drill to test their ability to find passages in the Scriptures. None of the young people had any cause for embarrassment, for they all performed extremely well and duly graduated as “Christian soldiers.”

Another highlight of the visit to Australia was the privilege afforded to me to preach in Brisbane EPC for two consecutive Sundays. It was wonderful to meet the congregation, lead them in worship, and fellowship in their homes. The EPC uses the same Psalter as the Limerick Reformed Fellowship, the Scottish Metrical Version. Their order of worship is also almost identical to ours in Limerick, so I felt quite at home. Since December/January is the Australian summer, the other church activities (Bible studies, catechism, young people’s meetings, etc.) were not taking place, which gave the Torlachs lots of time to show us the sights of Brisbane and beyond.

Mcgeown lizard 2019When we arrived at the EPC worship place (Mount Ommaney Special School) I was surprised and fascinated to see a large lizard, an Australian water dragon, about the size of a small dog, sitting on the pathway. I was informed that such lizards are common: they run around freely and they are quite familiar with humans. I saw many such lizards in Australia (including geckos that gathered around a light outside the Torlachs’ house), and on one occasion David caught a lizard and gave it to me to hold it. In addition, we saw koalas, kangaroos, parrots, bats, kookaburras, and cane toads. The latter are a pest species, but I still found them interesting. We swam in the ocean, visited a mountain forest retreat (O’Reilly’s), explored the city of Brisbane, and visited the
famous Australia Zoo to see crocodiles and many other creatures.

All in all it was a wonderful trip, which gave us greater appreciation for the saints in Australia. It was difficult to bid the Torlachs farewell, but we had people in Limerick eagerly awaiting our return. In the next newsletter, I will get back to reporting about Limerick, which, as I write, is under a “lockdown” order, so that we have not met for public worship since March 22. Therefore, as a lot of you are doing, we have had to be creative to get the Word out.

In Christian love, Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - December 2019

Limerickmeetingplace

Limerick Reformed Fellowship

Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland

http://www.limerickreformed.com/

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

The young man whom I mentioned in the last newsletter has not returned. In fact, he has not responded to my emails and messages to explain his decision to return to the bosom of Rome. Nor did he come to the special lecture on “The Canon of Sacred Scripture: Which Books Belong in the Bible and Who Decides?” which I gave on November 23. I did not actually expect him to come, but maybe he listened online. My comfort is the truth that God’s Word does not return to him void, but “it shall accomplish that which [he pleases], and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto [he] sent it” (Isa. 55:11). Since coming to Limerick in July 2010, I have seen that twofold effect: the Word quickens, enlivens, strengthens, and blesses some, while it hardens and offends others, and who, as the apostle exclaims in II Corinthians 2:16, “is sufficient for these things?”

I have been continuing a series of sermons on texts related to the authority of Scripture, such as “Taking Heed to the More Sure Word of Scripture” (II Pet. 1:19-21); “The Bereans’ Reception of the Word” (Acts 17:11); “The Apostles Speaking Words that the Spirit Teaches” (I Cor. 2:12-13); and “Receiving the Word as the Word of God” (I Thess. 2:13). In the Heidelberg Catechism we are in the second section, having just finished three sermons on LD 12: Christ as our chief prophet, our only high priest, and our eternal king. In our Bible study we finished II Peter on November 12, and since Noel is our most faithful Bible study attendee, I let him choose the next topic, James. Noel, as you might recall, is blind, but despite that hindrance, participates enthusiastically in the Bible studies and rare-ly misses a meeting. We do enjoy his positive, upbeat attitude as he rejoices in the Lord despite his afflictions. He recently remarked that he has almost reached his two-year anniversary in the LRF: he came on December 31, 2017, and the first sermon he heard (I looked it up) was “Jehovah Turning Our Mourning into Dancing” (Ps. 30:11-12). The first chapter of the epistle of James teaches us a lot about trials and temptations and about our calling to count such things “all joy,” something for which we need wisdom, which is obtained through prayer.

Our catechism classes continue with the children—three children in Limerick studying New Testament History for Beginners, and three children via video link (my nieces) studying three different books, New Testament History for Beginners, New Testament History for Juniors, and Old Testament history for Seniors. The classes are enjoyable and the children’s participation enthusiastic. This week we will be studying Lesson 15. In addition, I teach an adult class on Essentials of Reformed Doctrine, which recently finished Soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, and transitioned into Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church.

Speaking of Ecclesiology, not only did we have a special lecture on “The Canon of Scripture” and its relationship to the church (November 23), but also Rev. Stewart plans a special lecture on “The Reformation’s Teaching on the Church” in Limerick on January 10, 2020. Flyers are being designed and ordered, and advertising is being organized, as I write this. Samuel Watterson designs attractive flyers, and my wife liaises with the Limerick Post newspaper.

The Limerick Post also published a letter that I submitted on October 26, the occasion of which was the recent canonisation of John Henry (Cardinal) Newman (1801-1890), an apostate Anglican, who joined the Roman Church and was awarded a cardinalship for his contribution to ecumenism. Newman was declared “Venerable” or “mighty in virtue” in 1991; then, he was declared “Blessed” in 2010 because a miracle was attributed to his intercession; finally, Newman was canonised in October (a second miracle being attributed to his intercession) and declared a “saint,” although not infallibly pronounced to be in paradise. In my letter, I criticised Rome’s theology of saints and her dogma of purgatory. An atheist wrote a response, mocking Rome and my letter, but I did not respond to him. In addition, a Roman Catholic lady responded privately to my “attack on purgatory,” appealing to “saved as by fire” in I Corinthians 3:15. Therefore, I preached on that text (December 1) and wrote a blog post on the subject (December 3, https://www.limerick re-formed.com/blog/2019/12/3/purgatory).

We always enjoy visitors. First, we had a visit from Mary Gaastra and Denise Haan (Redlands, CA) at the end of October. Mary is the mother-in-law of my brother-in-law (Jeremy), while Denise is the aunt of Kristin Crossett (CPRC). We had enjoyed fellowship with them in Redlands, CA, when we visited there during our honey-moon in April 2018, so it was good to show them a little bit of Ireland when they were here. They also participated in—and en-joyed—our Bible study on October 29. Sadly, they were not here for a Sunday, but there is always a next time, we hope! Second, Rev. and Mary Stewart and Ivan and Lily Reid came at the beginning of November. Rev. and Ivan were here for the annual family visitation in which they visited all the families and regular attendees in the group, which greatly encouraged the people here. Their wives also came, which encouraged my wife. Third, Julian Kennedy (CPRC) and Jonathan and Daniel Moore (Reformed Presbyterian Church) were here towards the end of November, so, as a bonus, they were able to attend the lecture on the Canon of Scripture. Julian and Daniel participated in the Indoor Rowing Championships held at the University of Limerick.

The LRF also had time for a social event. A group of us attended the performance by the Limerick Choral Union of Handel’s Messiah on December 7. My wife would like to join that choir, but sadly they perform masses. She sang in the Messiah for many years in the Zeeland Civic Chorus. Unlike her, I am tone deaf—she was trying to explain to me the nuances in the performance, but I did not pick such things up. Still, I greatly enjoyed the performance, as did Noel, who had never heard the Messiah before. He was raving about how magnificent it was.

Larisa and I are making final preparations for our journey to Australia. We (especially I) are trying to figure out how to survive the long flights, the jetlag, and the heat (for it is high summer in Australia). We will arrive, DV, on the evening of December 24 and land in Dublin again on the morning of January 16. I will be speaking at the Youth Camp of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia (EPCA), having been asked to speak there by my good friend and former fellow seminarian, (Rev. Dr.) David Torlach (Brisbane EPC). We look forward to fellowship with David and Ruth Torlach and the other saints of God “Down Under.” In my absence, Rev. Stewart will preach for the Fellowship on January 5 and 12.

BornForOurSalvation MMG 2019

My latest book, Born for Our Salvation, was just published. I probably won’t see it until the end of January, however. Such is life when the author lives so far away from the publisher. Finally, we thank you for the cards and messages that are beginning to arrive here.

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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