* Pastors Class in Southern Negros Occidental

You may recall that we mentioned, in a blog in October 2012, that Rev. Smit and Rev. Kleyn visited contacts in Southern Negros Occidental.  This is an island province in the central Philippines.  As a result of their visit with these contacts (whom we've known for many years now), they were asked to make more regular visits for the purpose of providing further instruction to a group of six pastors.  With the approval of Doon PRC and the Foreign Mission Committee, the missionaries have now begun doing so.  For now, they plan to make visits every 3rd Tuesday of every month, the Lord willing.

The visit begins with a flight from Manila to Bacolod
The rental vehicle for the trip from Bacolod to Sipalay in Southern Negros
The six pastors (and one elder) in class

To begin with, the missionaries are covering two subjects in these monthly classes: Reformed Dogmatics (beginning with "Introduction to Theology" taught by Rev. Smit), and Reformed Church Government (taught by Rev. Kleyn, and which includes a study of the Church Order of Dordt).

Rev. Smit teaching Reformed Doctrine
The other half of the class
Enjoying a noon meal together (from L to R):
Pastor E. Rosal, Rev. D. Kleyn, Pastor E. Donasco, Elder Joel Lontes,
Pastor M. Seneres, Pastor J. Baroca, Pastor R. De La Cruz, Pastor A. Labrador, Rev. R. Smit
We are thankful for this opportunity to teach others the Reformed truth and Reformed church order, and pray the Lord blesses this work too, as He has done our other work, for the furtherance of His gospel and kingdom here in the Philippines.

* New Year's Eve in Manila

For New Year's Eve the Smits and we went to the hill in our neighborhood ("Second Floor") overlooking Manila to watch the fireworks.  We got a great view from there of the noise and excitement throughout the city.

Waiting for it all to begin.  By the time it was over we couldn't see any more city lights because of the smoke from all the fireworks.

Setting up the cameras.

 Watching for the next big one.

A video right at midnight. 
(If you receive this in your email you might have to go to the blog to see it.) 
Makes American 4th of July fireworks seem a little tame, hey? :-)
The superstitious belief of many is that the more noise you make on New Year's Eve, the more prosperous the coming year will be.  The noise supposedly scares all the bad spirits away.  Another superstitious practice is to have/give round fruit.  Many believe that the round fruit will also ensure a prosperous year, since  both the fruit and money (coins) are round. 
We are thankful that as Christians we are delivered from these superstitious fears and beliefs and are confident that all our ways are in our heavenly Father's merciful hands.

* New Year Greetings

Thank you to all who remembered us with cards, pictures and letters this holiday season.  We enjoy hearing from you all.  Since our blogs have kept you posted about the happenings in our lives the past year, we'll just post a few pictures here without a letter.

In the Philippines 
By the shores of Lake Michigan
In Spokane, WA
Thanks for all your prayers and support for us and for the work here in the Philippines.  We pray for God's richest blessings on you, whether you are in North America, Ireland, Singapore, Australia, the Philippines, or wherever else God has called you to live and work in His service.
Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it." 
Psalm 90:17

* Meetings Toward Federation

As we've mentioned in a previous blog, one of the tasks that the missionaries are involved in is to work toward the establishment of a denomination of churches here.  At the moment, this work centers around assisting the consistories of the Berean Protestant Reformed Church and the First Reformed Church of Bulacan toward the formation of such a federation/denomination.  The Lord willing, other churches will also become a part of this denomination in the future.

Already many combined consistory meetings have been held (similar to the combined consistory meetings which were part of the early history of our Protestant Reformed Churches - in the 1920s).  The meetings are usually held at our home, and usually on public holidays so that all the members of both consistories are able to attend.  At the request of the two churches involved, Rev. Kleyn serves as chairman and Rev. Smit as clerk of the combined consistories.

The Combined Consistories Meeting Around Our Kitchen Table

A significant decision that the combined consistories recently made concerns Article 67 of the Church Order (regarding special worship services).  The following announcement, which was made in both churches on January 6, summarizes the decision.

In a combined meeting on Monday, 24 December 2012, the consistories of the Berean Protestant Reformed Church and the First Reformed Church of Bulacan adopted the following change to Article 67 of the Church Order in our congregations, and in our future federation, the Lord willing.
"Article 67. The churches shall observe Sunday alone, and shall observe the truth of Christ’s birth, His passion and death, His resurrection, His ascension to heaven, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, on the Sunday preceding the day, or on the Sundays, these events are commonly observed."
Believing that this change remains in harmony with the Scriptures, our Reformed Confessions, and our Church Order, the consistories adopted it because, first of all, it fits the particular needs of our congregations, and our future federation of churches, in our culture in the Philippines. For that reason, some of the days originally referred to in Article 67 of our Church Order have been removed, and the time of the remembrance of the events in Christ’s humiliation and exaltation have been moved from weekdays to the Lord’s Day.
Secondly, the consistories believe that this change to the regulation of Article 67 will serve the spiritual good of our churches. The revised regulation, which still requires that the pure Gospel be preached about these events in the life and work of Christ, is necessary to guard our churches against the heretical and erroneous views that often are taught and emphasized in the church world around us when these events are commonly observed.
In addition to that, the consistories believe that this regulation will continue to guide the churches in a life of antithetical godliness and thanksgiving over against the common and wicked celebrations of those around us in connection with most of these events in the life and work of Christ.
It is planned that a footnote, giving a reference to this decision, will be included with Article 67 in future printed editions of the Church Order of our new federation, after it is established, the Lord willing.
May this revision serve the advancement of the Gospel of Christ, the edification of our churches, and the glory of the King of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Having A Late Lunch Before Heading Home Again
Another matter that the combined consistories are discussing is whether or not to accept Roman Catholic baptisms.  We pray the Lord gives the men the necessary wisdom to come to a mutual decision on this matter.  It will be the subject of further discussion at the next meeting in February, the Lord willing.
May God bless this work and, according to His sovereign will, enable a federation of churches to be formed here in the near future.