Before His ascension into heaven, our Lord Jesus Christ gave His Church the following command: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all the 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 28:18-20). From this and many other parts of Scripture we understand that God calls us to mission work, with the central objective being that we call all men to repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church is mandated to respond appropriately to the Great Commission by sending out, overseeing and supporting missionary workers.
Currently we support the work in Lae, Papua New Guinea.
Lae, the capital of Morobe Province, is the second-largest city in Papua New Guinea. It is located at the start of the Highlands Highway, which is the main land transport corridor from the Highlands region to the coast.
The Free Reformed Churches of Australia have always acknowledged the divine command to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a first priority task of the church. They have endeavoured to fulfil that task by supporting the Mission work of their sister churches abroad, but also themselves taking up the actual organisation of the work in areas to which they were led by the wisdom of the LORD.
In the 1960’s to 1980’s the churches were able to proclaim the Word of God to some of the Aboriginal people of Western Australia, firstly in the Roebourne area and later for some fifteen years in the South West of the State, particularly in Pinjarra. This work was carried out by a group of volunteer brothers and sisters, while for a period of ten Years br Peter `t Hart was the full time Mission Worker. Several people were brought to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, ironically including two white men. When that work was concluded the LORD showed that the churches should concentrate their Mission effort on Papua New Guinea. The Minister of the Word of the Free Reformed Church of Armadale, the late Rev K Bruning visited a group of West Papuan refugees in Port Moresby. Some of these refugees had been members of reformed churches in West Papua (then called Irian Jaya) and they requested the help of the Australian churches to establish and expand the Church of the Lord in PNG.
This was the start of approximately fifteen years of intensive Mission work in the city of Port Moresby and surrounding areas. The Free Reformed Church of Albany was appointed Sending Church.
In the early years, Mr and Mrs Bruning, but also Mr and Mrs W Buist were extensively involved as workers in the field. God blessed the work and in 1993 the Reformed Church of Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby) was instituted. To assist the newly instituted church in its organisation and expansion Mr Wessel Fokkema, former Principal of the John Calvin School in Albany, together with his wife Tinie, worked with them as Mission worker from 1992 till 1998. In 1997 it was decided to terminate the work in Port Moresby.
During the period of the involvement of the Fokkemas the work developed and new groups were started in Ekoro, close to Port Moresby, and also in Lae, on the east coast of Papua New Guinea (see Lae). To assist the Ekoro and Lae brothers and sisters in the growth of their faith and in church life Br Fokkema visited them regularly, even though Lae could be reached only by air.
When the work in Port Moresby was concluded in 1998 the Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto took it upon itself to continue the church establishment work in Ekoro. They sent out Rev S `t Hart as Missionary. Rev `t Hart today still lives and fruitfully works in Ekoro and also further assists the church of Port Moresby. The possibilities for expansion into other areas of Port Moresby were seen and Mr and Mrs Wayne and Cheronne VanderHeide were sent out by Toronto to assist thechurch of Port Moresby in that task. Recently Mr and Mrs Haggoort, members of one of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand joined the efforts in Port Moresby and surrounding areas.
The Australian churches recognised that they had a continuing task in Lae. In 1995 already the brotherhood in Lae had been declared a home congregation under the care of the Free Reformed Church of Albany. Mr and Mr A Slobe of Armadale had worked for a six month period in Lae and were very positive in their recommendations to continue the work there. They were forced to forego further personal involvement in Lae due to illness of Sr Slobe.
At a meeting of Cooperating churches in 2000 the Free Reformed Church of Armadale was requested to act as the sending church for the Mission work in Lae and surrounding districts. After an initial period of further investigation it was decided that the LORD had clearly shown that the gospel work should continue in Lae. A Mission Board consisting of members of all Cooperating churches was formed to assist the Consistory of Armadale (see Mission Board).
The core group of believers in Lae consisted of six families, although of most of these only the men were members of the home congregation. One of the members was Mr Bob Bouway, a trained church worker previously employed in the work in Port Moresby. Brother Bouway was appointed Evangelist to lead the home congregation in Lae. His work has been richly blessed and he still acts in that capacity today (see personnel).
It was soon recognised that the Australian churches needed to call a minister/missionary for the work in Lae.
Several calls were extended but it became evident that because of the shortage of ministers a different solution had to be found. The churches decided to ask for applications so that they could send a brother to the Theological College in Hamilton, Canada, to undergo a two year training for the task of Mission Worker. Upon successful completion of his studies this brother would be ordained as Missionary who is qualified to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments, but only on the particular Mission field to which he is appointed. This arrangement needed and gained the approval of Synod. Subsequently Br Andrew VanderHeide was appointed. He and his wife Natalie and their children moved to Hamilton, Canada, where he has now successfully completed his two year course. He was examined by Classis and was ordained as Missionary on Sunday 10 September 2006. Rev VanderHeide and his family have now departed for PNG (see personnel).
Unexpectedly, the LORD opened the way for a call for a Missionary to Candidate Ian Wildeboer, who had by then completed his studies for the ministry at Hamilton. He accepted the call and was ordained as Missionary in Armadale in 2004. The financial burden this would cause for the first three years was alleviated by generous pledges of individual church members. After a further year of study in Missiology and the subsequent ecclesiastical examinations and ordination, Rev Wildeboer, together with his wife Nadia and their young son Jonathan moved to Madang, PNG. There he and his family received three months of very practical cross cultural training before taking up his task as Missionary in Lae (see personnel).
To assist the home congregation in Lae they were not only regularly visited by ministers from Australia, but support was also extended by Mr Justin Bolhuis who was appointed Mission Worker in 2002 Together with his wife Karen they have worked fruitfully with the growing congregation in Lae. In 2004 they agreed to extend their contract to the end of 2007, affording time for them be of assistance firstly to the Wildeboer and in the year after also to the VanderHeide family (see personnel). Br Bolhuis
It is clear that the LORD has richly blessed this work in His Kingdom. He has opened the way for the gospel work in Lae to commence and prosper. We have been blessed with the dedicated service of Mr Bouway and Mr Bolhuis and we may look forward to having a full complement of Mission personnel in the field by the end of 2006.
That the work has been blessed can be seen in the spiritual and numerical growth of the Lae home congregation. Regular church services and Bible study meetings and Catechism classes are held. In the process toward church institution an indigenous committee (Lae Church Committee) takes care of the day to day affairs of the home congregation. With the help of Mr Bolhuis a house was built by them for the Bouway family and a new church building is under construction.
There has also been progress in expansion. A group of believers under the leadership of Mr Raymond Henason in what is called Tent City became captivated by the Reformed doctrine. Mr Henason is receiving extensive training and the group is now moving towards institution and an alliance with the Lae home congregation.