Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

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

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

LimerickmeetingplaceMissionary: Rev. Martyn McGeown

38 Abbeyvale, Corbally,
Limerick, Ireland.

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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

Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - July 2020

LimerickmeetingplaceLimerick Reformed Fellowship

Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary

38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland

http://www.limerickreformed.com/

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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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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - September 2019

Limerickmeetingplace

Limerick Reformed Fellowship

Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland
http://www.limerickreformed.com/
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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Life on the mission field brings disappointments as well as joys. One young man (“Catholic seeking alternative”), whom I mentioned in an earlier newsletter, has returned to Roman Catholicism more convinced than ever that the Roman Church is the one true church. If you recall, he emailed me on August 17, 2018, and I met with him shortly thereafter. He seemed to be enthusiastic about the Reformed faith for a while, but, sadly, his enthusiasm did not last. On July 30 he messaged me that he needed “a break from the church.” When I questioned him (we corresponded electronically—young people seem to prefer that, although I requested a face-to-face meeting), he explained that he needed time to study in order to determine which is the “true church.” I asked him how he planned to do that, to which he responded that he was reading the Church Fathers. After a few days, during which time he still declined to meet with me, he declared, “Pastor, I have decided to return to the Catholic Church,” whereupon he texted a few of the members of the LRF to inform them.

My young friend, whose name I will not mention (those of you who have visited in the last year will undoubtedly have met him), claims that since the “table of contents” of the Bible is a “manmade tradition” and since the Church of Rome (supposedly) determined which books belong in the Bible, that church, built upon Peter, must have the truth. He also claims that the early Church Fathers taught the “real presence” of Christ in the sacrament, which we Reformed supposedly reject. Of course, no one could possibly master the Church Fathers in a few weeks, so he has taken a few quotes out of context to justify his actions. For one thing, we Reformed do believe in the “real pres-ence,” but we reject a real, physical, material presence of Christ’s body and blood. The Belgic Confession even speaks of “the proper and natural body and the proper blood of Christ” (Art. 35). Unfortunately, due to illness, family problems, and other issues, my friend missed most of my sermons on the sacraments (LD 26-30).

Sadly, my attempts to reason with my friend from the Scriptures have fallen on deaf ears. On September 8, supposedly the birthday of the Virgin Mary, my friend posted a video on Facebook with the comment, “Beautiful Mass and homily today.” The video was two hours long, but he provided the timestamp for the “homily,” which I watched: it was 9 minutes long; it was in honour (supposedly) of the “Blessed Virgin”; and it contained the line that sufferings are sent “to permit us to make reparations for our past sins.” That someone can be present for approximately fifty Reformed sermons and then return to the emptiness and superstition of Rome is unfathomable to me! (Of course, it happened before: in 2013 a longstanding member who had listened to years of Reformed sermons returned to the Roman Church; this young man was a lot less educated in the Reformed faith, although he had been given plenty of material to read).

In response to this young man’s departure I have been preaching texts related to the authority of Scripture, tradition, and the church: II Thessalonians 2:15; Matthew 18:16; Luke 10:16; John 21:15-19; and I Timothy 3:15. I am also considering a speech on the Canon of Scripture to answer the Roman canard that she (the Roman Church) determined the Canon and, therefore, she has supreme authority over the meaning of Scripture.

Another disappointment concerned a family from Brazil. The wife of the family emailed me in February to inform me of their plans to move from Portugal to Ireland, where the husband had a job offer to work in Limerick. They were excited, they said, to find a Reformed church because they had belonged to a Presbyterian Church in Brazil and were dissatisfied with the Baptist Church that they attended in Portugal. (Europeans are often disappointed: good churches or fellowships are few and far between). The LRF were excited to welcome them, a married couple with a twelve year old son—think of the possibilities for a small group such as ours—but they only attended our services for two weeks. On their second Sunday, they began asking questions about the Lord’s Supper: when do we have it and could they partake? On discovering that we do not have the Lord’s Supper on the mission field and that we would, if we had it, practice close communion, they informed me—again by email—that they would be looking for another church. The last that I heard they were attending a Baptist Church in Limerick. This is a very unpresbyterian reaction: in Presbyterian/Reformed churches the preaching of the gospel—not the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper—is the chief means of grace. If one has the former, then one should patiently wait upon the Lord by supporting a Reformed Fellowship until God is pleased to grant the latter. Instead, such people abandon solid, biblical, Re-formed preaching for weaker evangelical preaching so that they can have the Supper in a church that usually practices open communion to the detriment of their spiritual life and that of their children.

Despite those two setbacks the core group remains unified and enthusiastic about the Reformed Faith. I recently finished a series of twenty-six sermons (December 9, 2018 through August 25, 2019) on John 14-16, which is a very profound and fascinating portion of God’s Word. I also began my sixth time through the Heidelberg Catechism on September 1. Our Bible study continued through the summer (and when I was at Synod in June, Rev. Smidstra kindly led it for me): we have been studying Peter’s two epistles, and are about halfway through II Peter 2. Catechism for the children also recommenced in September, which is always enjoyable. I teach Sebastian, Penelope, and Jason (New Testament History for Beginners) on Wednesdays; and my nieces, Anna, Lily, and Hope, via Google hangout (New Testament History for Beginners, New Testament History for Juniors, and Old Testament History for Seniors) on Thursdays. In addition, I teach an Essentials of Reformed Doctrine class on Saturdays, and we usually, weather permitting, spend a few hours at our “witness table” on Saturday afternoons, displaying tracts, engaging passers-by in conversation, and offering literature. We compete with other groups: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Climate Change Activists, buskers, and public reciters of the rosary!

We have also enjoyed visitors: Rev. and Pat Koole and Peter and Dorothy VanDerSchaaf (January 2019); Rev. and Kelly Smidstra (June 2019); a group of young people (Andrew and Briana Prins [Trinity PRC], Faith Bleyenberg and Kara Lubbers [Byron Center PRC], Taylor Doezema [Faith PRC], Sara Langerak [Hope PRC], and Melissa VanBaren [First PRC] in June 2019); Rev. and Nancy Key (July 2019); and Timothy Spence (CPRC in August 2019).

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not, but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God” (II Cor. 4:1-2).

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - March 2019

Limerick Reformed Fellowship

Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland
http://www.limerickreformed.com/
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Monday, March 4, 2019

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Last week, as we were finishing our Tuesday evening Bible study, I received a phone call. Jimmy Hogan, a regular at our Bible study and at our Sunday evening services since 2013, had just passed away. He was 66 years old and had suffered for many years with ill health. Although the Bible study group was initially stunned and saddened, it was fitting, I thought, that the news came when about 10 of us were gathered together at one of Jimmy’s favourite events, the Bible study. Jimmy loved the Bible study: he began attending in October 2013 when we started studying the book of Revelation (he had a keen interest in eschatology and especially the rapture, although eventually he was weaned off “rapture theology”). He was present during our studies of Revelation, Hebrews, Daniel, Romans, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and part of First Peter. By God’s grace he learned more in our Bible study than he had ever learned in the rest of his Christian life.

JHogan Lim
Jimmy Hogan

On the last day that I saw him, speaking through a mask, he “thanked the LRF from the bottom of [his] heart for everything that [we] had done for [him]” and he “thanked the Lord for opening [his] eyes to the truth.” When Jimmy first came to the LRF, he believed in “whosoever,” as he put it. For years he struggled to reconcile “whosoever” and “election” especially when he compared John 3:16 with Romans 9. In fact, on one of his first visits to the LRF in April 2013 he gave me an anti-Calvinist book (A Calvinist’s Honest Doubts Resolved) to read, to which I wrote a response at the time on the LRF blog: “Dave Hunt’s Dishonest Rant Against Calvinism.” When I visited him in hospital, he had his Bible and a copy of my book, Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt, by his bedside. Only a few weeks ago, as we were reading I Peter 2 in our Bible study, Jimmy’s eyes lit up and he exclaimed, “Peter was a Calvinist!” Moments like that give us fond memories of Jimmy.

Jimmy’s death was quite sudden in the end. On Sunday February 17 he suffered a fall in which he broke his collarbone. Larisa and I visited him in hospital twice that week, where we heard him asking his doctor whether he was a Sunni or a Shiite Muslim! (Jimmy could speak to anyone about anything, even potentially embarrassing subjects). On the following Friday he was transferred to ICU where he died the next Tuesday. Larisa and I were able to visit him on the Saturday before he died. Jimmy’s hospitalization was announced in the LRF bulletin, but we did not expect him to die so quickly. Nevertheless, it pleased the Lord to take him shortly thereafter.

Because Jimmy was never a member of the LRF, although he had been connected to us from 2013, I took no part in his funeral arrangements. His wife is a member of a different Christian fellowship in Limerick and their elders conducted the service. A good number from the LRF attended his funeral.

Jimmy’s death has left a void in the LRF: Jimmy was a character, and a humble, gentle soul, as anyone who has visited the LRF will be able to testify. We will certainly miss him.

The work on the mission field continues. The young man I mentioned in the last newsletter is now a regular attendee at our worship services and Bible studies and is growing in the knowledge of the truth. His great desire and prayer to God is to see his family come to saving faith. On December 9 I began a series on “Jesus’ Farewell to His Disciples in the Upper Room” on John 14-16, the “Upper Room Discourse” of Jesus, which is a very profound and beautiful section of God’s Word. After nine sermons in John 14 we began chapter 15 yesterday with “The True Vine and Its Branches” (John 15:1-3). In Heidelberg Catechism preaching we have reached the section on the Ten Commandments. Yesterday I preached on the Third Commandment (LD 36).

Some months ago Larisa and I encountered a curious procession in Limerick city centre: a parade commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (626-680 AD), who was the grandson of Mohammed. A company of Muslims with a police escort travelled along one of Limerick’s main thoroughfares while a man, presumably an Islamic cleric, intoned through a microphone that “Imam Husayn is the continuation of Moses, the prophets, and Jesus: if you follow Jesus you should follow Imam Husayn.” This happened on the busiest day of the week, Saturday afternoon, when the city is usually abuzz with shoppers. It made me wonder where Ireland is heading when Muslims can freely organize a public procession of this nature. I heard several people around me muttering under their breath: “It feels as if I have just walked into the Middle East!”

The Limerick Reformed Fellowship also has a city centre presence, albeit not with a police escort or loudspeakers. Instead, we have purchased a table, a couple of chairs, a sign, and some pamphlet racks. Several of us stand at the table in order to advertise our presence: we do not preach or make any noise. We arrange literature on our table, mostly tracts that I have written, such as “In Debt to God,” “What About Mary?” “Islam and Christianity,” “What About My Good Works?” “I Am A Good Person!” “Justification by Faith Alone,” and “Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Name of God,” and offer it to passers-by or seek to speak to people about Christianity. Because the weather has been very poor, we have only managed to do this a few times (December 31; January 5; and February 23),
but we see it as a good way to make our presence better known (free advertising, if you will), and we have had a few interesting chats with people. “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (I Cor. 3:7).

Lim city center table 2019

City-center table

We thank you for your prayers, kind wishes, cards, emails, and other messages, especially over the Christmas season. Larisa especially enjoyed the Christmas cards and pictures: it is humbling and encouraging that many saints think of us and pray for us. Some people experienced problems with our address because of an error in the recent PRC directory. Please update your address books with 38 Abbey Vale, Corbally, Co. Limerick, Ireland, V94 K7ER.

Pray for us, as we do for you,
In Christian love,
Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - November 2018

Limerick Reformed Fellowship

Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland
http://www.limerickreformed.com/
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Monday, November 19, 2018

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Undoubtedly the highlight in recent months was the baptism of Chester and Dale Mansona, two brothers who with their parents have been attending the LRF since April 2011. It has been my privilege to catechise them in Bible History, Heidelberg Catechism, Essentials, and a pre-confession class covering the Belgic Confession, the Canons, and some of our distinctive doctri-nal positions, such as common grace, the unconditional covenant, the Bible on divorce and remarriage, worship, the calling of church membership, etc. At the end of the summer, the CPRC Council interviewed Chester and Dale and approved their request for baptism. The happy occasion took place on September 2 and I preached on Colossians 3:1-4, “Seeking the Things Which Are Above.”

baptism 2018 1baptism 2018 2

Baptisms: Chester and Dale

Our official activities also began again after the summer break in the week commencing September 2. I have four catechism classes: two on Mondays with my three nieces, Anna, Lily, and Hope, via video link (Old Testament History for Beginners, Book 2; and New Testament History for Juniors); one on Wednesdays (Old Testa-ment History for Beginners, Book 2, with Sebastian, Jason, and—for the first time—Penelope; and one on Saturday mornings (Essentials of Reformed Doctrine) with Colm and Irini. The children are on Lesson 11, while the Essentials class, an adult class, is on Lesson 12 (the Mediator and his names).

In our Tuesday evening Bible study we re-cently finished the post-exilic historical books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther; and we have begun I Peter. Recent sermon series included Psalm 103 (eight sermons) from July 29 to September 16 and a series (ongoing) on the Miracles of Jesus. I preached on many of the healing miracles between June and December 2016, but now I am concentrating mainly on the other (non-healing) miracles of our Saviour: turning water into wine, multiplying bread, walking on water, cursing the fruitless fig tree, etc. In addition, we have just started the sacraments section of the Heidelberg Catechism again.

At the beginning of November, Chester and Dale Mansona, Larisa and I attended an “Answers in Genesis Conference” in Athlone, about one and a half hours northwest from Limerick. Not only were the speeches good, but we also met Janet Napier from the CPRCNI and two of her children, as well as James Steele, a friend of the CPRC from Londonderry, at the conference. We also met a lady from Limerick who has since started coming to our Bible studies—she is a neighbour of Noel Kelly, who also attends the Fellowship. She has agreed to bring Noel to the Bible study every week, and she has also expressed interest in coming to our services, but so far she has not come. Pat, another somewhat regular attendee, expressed interest in having his daughter visit our Bible study. He says that she needs good teaching, so we shall see if she begins to attend our studies on I Peter.

friends 2018 1

Friends at AIG Conference

Another very exciting recent development was an email I received on August 17 from a young man in his early twenties. His email was entitled, “Catholic Seeking Alternative,” in which he expressed his disgust at the recent scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. I met with him on his lunch break the next day and discovered that he had been reading the Bible and Reformed websites and had come across the LRF website. He has been attending the LRF ever since—many of the services and most of the Bible studies. There are hindrances to his coming, however. His mother suffers from a very serious illness, for which she recently had surgery, so that he has had to look after her and even bring her to the hospital on certain Sundays, a work of mercy. He is also only one of two qualified drivers in his household, which means that his family either need the car on Sundays or want him to drive them to various places. When he cannot get to the services, he listens to the sermons online. He also has friends whom he wants to invite to the LRF, but they are quite hostile to Protestantism. Until recently, he and his friends attended Mass regularly, which is quite rare among the youth. Some of his friends even tried to persuade him to attend the papal mass held by pope Francis in Dublin on August 26, but he declined to go. We continue to pray for him, his mother, brothers, and friends.

Colm Ring managed to persuade a goodly number of people to come to one of our worship services recently. He encountered a number of young men from the “Church of God” in Dublin singing hymns in Limerick city centre. He took the contact details of one of them and invited him to the LRF. The he called us to see if we would host them for Sunday lunch (Colm and Irini usually have Sunday lunch with us). We agreed, expecting three to five people. However, on Sunday morning, the day after the Creation Conference, a larger group arrived, 12 adults and 3 children! That same weekend, Sam Watterson and Manuel Kuhs were in Northern Ireland and we had also invited Emily-Kate and Felicity Kuhs to join us for lunch. With Colm, Irini, Emily-Kate, Felicity, the Church of God people, Larisa and me, we had 21 people crammed into our house, and we did have adequate food (stir fry) to feed them all, although we had only 11 chairs. I preached on LD 23 (“Righteous Before God”) and we had a discussion about regeneration with a couple of the men—the “Church of God” is an Arminian “Holiness” group. After lunch, three of the young men sang Amazing Grace for us and then they all headed up to Dublin. I am still in contact with the group and hope to arrange another meeting with them.

 cog members 2018

Church of God visitors

We have also had other visitors in the past few months: Brian and Holly Fournier and their four daughters, a Reformed Baptist family from Massachusetts (September 2); my parents (September 9); Todd and Julie Wagenmaker, parents of Bethany who attended the LRF in 2014 while on a study abroad program (October 7), and Rev. Ken Koole (October 17). Next weekend, we plan to have Julian and Marie Kennedy from the CPRCNI; and the following weekend, we look forward to welcoming Larisa’s mother, Cindi, and Larisa’s aunt, Lori, to the Emerald Isle.

koole limrf 2018

Rev. Koole and Bill

As you have probably seen, the RFPA has published two books that I have written: Grace and Assurance: the Message of the Canons of Dordt and Micah: Proclaiming the Incomparable God. Feedback has been encouraging.

Pray for us, as we do for you,

In Christian love,
Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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