Before the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave His church the charge to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20).
From the early years of our establishment in North America (1950), the Canadian Reformed Churches have made efforts to obey this commandment. The Dutch immigrants to Canada naturally took their starting point for foreign mission where their forefathers had begun long before – Brazil and Indonesia. Mission work is understood to be the responsibility of the local church which neighbouring sister churches then support. By God's grace and abundant blessing, over the half-century of our existence in Canada and the US, several foreign mission posts have been established on two continents and numerous churches have been planted.
The current mission posts are as follows:
Brazilian Mission - From Surrey, BC
Maranatha Canadian Reformed Church (Surrey) has sent several missionaries over the years to the mission field in Brazil. This work is supported by most of the churches in Regional Synod West of the Canadian Reformed Churches. Specifically, the field is in the North-East of Brazil, centred around the states of Alagoas and Pernambuco. It was started in 1972 in the village of São José da Coroa Grande. The first missionary was Rev. C. VanSpronsen. After he repatriated in 1978, the work was carried on by Revs. R.F. Boersema and P.K. Meijer. At that time, the work was expanded to the village of Maragogi (1980) and Barra Grande (1983).
In 1988, Rev. Boersema began to work some distance away in a suburb of Recife named Camaragibe. In 1994, Rev. E. Venema arrived on the mission field to replace Rev. Meijer. In 1995, a Church (Igreja Reformada do Brasil) was instituted in São José/Maragogi and the Meijer family moved back to the Netherlands. In July 1997, Rev. Boersema was forced to retire due to his deteriorating eyesight. At the end of 1997, Rev. Venema began work in the nearby village of Japaratinga. In 2000, he planted a church in the neighbouring hamlet called Barreiras. In the same year, Rev. K. Wieske arrived to replace Rev. Boersema. Despite Rev. Boersema's failing eyesight and official retirement, he still managed to plant a second congregation in the Recife suburb called Ibura before his repatriation in the year 2000. In 2001, Rev. Wieske planted a new congregation in the suburb called Totó. In 2003, the Recife church planted a fourth congregation in the suburb of Dois Unidos. Besides the work of preaching, Rev. Wieske is also involved in training Brazilian seminary students.
The LORD has certainly blessed the work. There are roughly 100 communicant and 100 non-communicant members in the above-mentioned locations. There are 2 instituted churches, and two young Brazilians have recently completed enough study to enter the ministry. As well, Mission Aid activities run by Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church, have improved the social conditions in the area of São José / Maragogi / Barra Grande.
For further information see Maranatha Mission
Brazilian Mission - From Hamilton, ON
The Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church (Hamilton), aided by her neighbouring sister churches, presently has one missionary working in Maceió, Brazil (the North-Eastern part). Rev. Abram de Graaf, supported by his wife Celia and one child, took over the work of Rev. John Kroeze who was repatriated to Australia in 1999 after some twelve years of service. Rev. Kroeze now serves the Free Reformed Church of Legana, Australia as minister of the Word.
With much thanks to God, Rev. de Graaf could take over from a very fruitful ministry. The Lord so blessed the work of Rev. Kroeze that before he left the mission field, five Brazilian Reformed Churches were instituted and could unite together in their own federation. In the meantime, two other mission churches are actively seeking to become full members of this federation. Rev. de Graaf carries on the work of spreading the gospel in the village of Maceio, where there is an active congregation. He also teaches native Brazilian seminary students in preparation for their work in the churches. This latter work is done in partnership with the missionaries from the church at Surrey, who also work in North-Eastern Brazil.
For further information see Igreja Reformada do Brasil
Papua New Guinea - From Toronto, ON
Bethel Canadian Reformed Church (Toronto), also supported by neighbouring sister churches, has sent one missionary to work in a small village in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Rev. Stephen 't Hart, supported by his wife Dorinda and their children, presently preaches and teaches the gospel in the house congregation of Ekoro, some 60 km distance from the (so far) only Reformed Church of PNG, Port Moresby. The Lord has richly blessed this work since it began in 1998 and Rev. ‘t Hart also now preaches and teaches in outreach posts in Beregoro and Mekeo as well as in Vanagi and Boroko, two suburbs of Port Moresby. In order to service these preaching points better, Rev. ‘t Hart plans to move quite soon to a place called 14 Mile, a more central location. In addition, the Mission Board has undertaken a plan to establish a Reformed Leadership Training Centre in 14 Mile. By God’s grace, exciting things are happening!
Although Rev. 't Hart is working there under the auspices of the Toronto Mission, he is also working in partnership with the church of Port Moresby. He thus fills a dual role, serving both as the counselor for all spiritual matters pertaining to the church of Port Moresby, and as the missionary/church-planter in the Ekoro region. The church of Port Moresby was instituted in the early 90's as a result of the work of mission undertaken by the Free Reformed Churches of Australia. When they abandoned the work in 1995, the church of Port Moresby made an appeal to the church of Toronto to continue the work in PNG.
At that time the Toronto Mission had come to the end of its work in neighbouring Irian Jaya. For twenty years, Rev. H. Versteeg had laboured in Irian Jaya, and under the blessing of the Lord a number of local churches could be established. However, the Indonesian government, by way of increased visa restrictions, made it increasingly different for Rev. Versteeg to remain in the country. This led to his repatriation to Canada in 1995, where he now serves as minister of the Word in the Canadian Reformed Church at Chatham, ON. At present, through the sponsorship of Toronto Mission Board, he continues to maintain contact with the churches in Irian, visiting them bi-annually, and advises them in various matters as needed.
With Rev. Versteeg's repatriation, the door was open for Toronto to give aid to the Australian churches. Since the work in PNG was very much in line with the many years of mission work in Irian Jaya, where it was also conducted among mostly Papuas, Bethel Church heeded the appeal and called the Rev. 't Hart for this mission. In August 1997 he accepted the call, and in May 1998 he left for the mission field in PNG.
As far as cooperation with other organizations is concerned, the Board of Foreign Mission of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand has agreed to a partnership in the same area of Port Moresby. They are looking into ways and means available to them to enter the field and implement such partnership in a practical way. The Free Reformed Church of Australia at Armadale, together with its supporting churches, also has a presence in PNG, namely in the city of Lae. Here they have a mission worker in active service, br. Justin Bolhuis together with his wife Karen. Quite recently the church at Armadale also called Rev. Ian Wildeboer to serve as missionary in the area near Lae. Presently he is undergoing further training for this task and plans to begin the work in the field later in 2005 or early 2006, the Lord Willing.