Rev. Arie den Hartog (2)

During the last of the final year of our ministry in Covenant, in the providence of God, we came into contact with several young people from Singapore. We made the decision to sponsor one of these young people as a foreign exchange student. Johnson See stayed in our home for three months, and we learned more about the young people in Singapore who were at the time a bible study group of new Christians, zealous for the new found reformed faith. All of this led us to accept the call to become a missionary to Singapore in 1979. It was a pretty major decision for us. By now the Lord had blessed our marriage with four children. Moving not only to another place, but to another country on the other side of the world, an Eastern country with a culture very different than the one that we had lived in all our lives, was almost a frightening prospect. But we were strongly convinced of the will of the Lord and prayed that He would be with us.

We have vivid remembrance of our first arriving in Singapore and being greeted at the airport by a group of Chinese young people. We were overwhelmed with how different everything was in Singapore than it was in America. So began our seven years of ministry in Singapore. The Lord exceedingly blessed us during the seven years of our labors. We experienced things there that were pretty much unimaginable in America, wonderful conversions of young people who were born and raised in pagan homes, groups of adult young people as large as 20 at once who were baptized, the organization and institution of the church among the saints of Singapore, and so many other wonderful things which I could not begin to tell of. During our stay in Singapore, the Evangelical Reformed Church grew in knowledge of the truth and in numbers in wonderful ways. We had the privilege of baptizing many converts, of conducting about 40 marriages among the saints of ERCS and to give counsel and advice to new and growing Christians in the many and varied experiences and stages of their life. There were sorrows and struggles as well as joys, but the Lord was with us through them all. We had the privilege of ordaining the first pastor of ERCS, Pastor Lau Chin Kwee.

During our last year in Singapore, we participated in the work of establishing a second congregation among the saints in ERCS. We also ordained the man who would become their first pastor, Pastor Jai Mahtani. The experience of leaving Singapore was certainly bittersweet. When we left, we never imagined that we would return some day.

After seven years, the time came when we had to leave Singapore. The churches there were at a stage where we believed they could be on their own. Our family circumstances were such that going back to America seemed wisest. Our churches decided that we should come back. We can remember also the great joy of receiving the call to become pastor of the church in Randolph, Wisconsin. Our years at Randolph gave us new appreciation for the strength and stability of our Protestant Reformed Churches. It was again a real change to live in America and experience snow and cold weather. Once again, the Lord blessed us in our ministry in a PRC congregation. But just before three years of our stay in Randolph, we received a call to become pastor of the congregation in Redlands, California. It is not always possible to put in words the mysterious ways the Lord moves us to become convinced of a call to a new church. We left behind a church with which we had a close bond, and breaking the pastoral ties was again very difficult.

This led to the 12 years of our ministry in the church in Redlands, California. Also, these years were wonderful years. For the first time, our children could attend a Protestant Reformed Christian School. The Redlands Church was a strong and stable congregation, mature and united in the love of the Protestant Reformed faith and practice. During the twelve years of our labor in Redlands, strong bonds of Christian love were developed between us and the members of the congregation. Our children grew up during the years of our labors in Redlands. We experienced the joy of new people coming into the congregation and also the sorrow of some of these leaving again. There were weddings, births of children, baptisms, confessions of faith of young people and a number of deaths of elderly saints as well as the tragic death of the father of one of the young families in the congregation, all of which made its own profound impact our lives. Once again as we look back, we can say that the Lord greatly blessed us during our years in the congregation of Redlands. It seemed as though we would never be able to leave this congregation because of the strong bonds that had been created over the years.

But the Lord strongly called us to return to Singapore to again serve the churches here. There were sorrows of having to leave the church of Redlands and now having to leave most of our children behind in the USA, to once again move to the other side of the world. But the Lord has already given us great joy and excitement in our labors in the churches of ERCS as well as becoming involved in various mission endeavors in other countries such as Myanmar and India. We are thankful for all that the Lord has done in our lives so that we are again settled and established in the work of the Lord’s Church here and living among the saints of God, who are widely different in cultural background, but truly one in the faith that is in Jesus Christ.

Over the years of our ministry, we have had very little time to be engaged in pastimes, sports, etc. I did enjoy doing some gardening in all three of the states we lived in during our ministry in the PRCA. Because of my experience of growing up on a farm in my youth, I learned to be able to fix cars a bit and how to do odd jobs around the house. This has served as a source of relaxation and diversion which is sometimes necessary to relieve a minister of the anxieties and cares and pressures of day to day life. Though the ministry keeps one very busy, we have always enjoyed our work in every congregation that we served by the grace of God, and we are thankful for His abundant blessing.

Probably everyone knows about our family. The Lord gave us seven children. Having a large family is not very popular in our day and we experienced interesting reactions to this over the years. The Lord abundantly blessed us in our family life. Never did we lack anything important as far as material things. Though we had less than many others, we also had more than many others. Our children learned a lot from growing up together, I believe. They were required to pitch in at home and learned valuable lessons for their future life by doing this. We are very thankful to God that now five of our children are already married, all of them to godly partners who are members of our PR churches. Only our two youngest are single yet. We had a happy home life and were very sad to see our children move out in order to establish their own marriages and families, but we are also thankful for this. The older we get as parents, the greater source of joy and reason for thanksgiving to God our children are.

I guess the greatest joy in teaching catechism came to us after we had served in Singapore. During the years of our being in Singapore, there were still no children old enough to be in catechism class. All our catechism classes there were of new converts preparing for baptism and confession of faith. When we came back to the USA, I was so impressed, even overwhelmed with how much our children, who have been raised for years in covenant homes, know about the truth of the Word of God. What an amazing blessing of grace that our children from childhood on already can be so thoroughly instructed in the truths of God’s Word. What an accumulation of knowledge of the truth we receive year after year when we are instructed in our homes and catechism. May the Lord give us grace to appreciate this and also to love the truth we have learned, and live our lives by it.

One of the greatest joys of our ministry, without a doubt, was seeing our own covenant young people coming to make confession of faith. Another great joy for us was when the Lord added to the congregation we served from outside and brought new people into the congregation through the work of evangelism. In connection with the latter, we found great joy in seeing adults and young people bringing others to church with them, and encouraging newcomers in such a way that they would feel welcome in the fellowship of the church and grow to become a real part of the communion and life of the congregations. We believe this is a very important calling of the members of the church.

Some of the deepest sorrows and things that also made an impact on my own ministry in different ways than the joys and blessings of the life of the church were the troubles we were part of that took place in several of our congregations over the years of our ministry. Having been a church visitor on a number of occasions, we felt the pain and anguish of situations in some of our congregations perhaps more deeply even than other ministers. Even through these struggles, the Lord shows us the depths of His grace and mercy and unfailing faithfulness to His people. Standing for the truth in hard times is sometimes very difficult. It can involve great costs in terms of losing friends and dividing families. Only when we look back, can we confess that the Lord, through our many weaknesses and short comings and often in spite of sin and controversy, preserves His true church among His people. What a blessing this is!