The RCUS Foreign Missions Program
As one of the smaller conservative Reformed denominations in the Western world, the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) conducts a unique Foreign Missions program. This unique program allows the RCUS to be fully involved in Foreign Missions without the expense of a large administrative office and staff. The Synod of the RCUS has established a “Permanent Foreign Ministries Committee” made up of ministers and elders of the Church. This Committee (the FMC) is responsible to provide reports and recommendations to each annual Synod, and then to carry out the program and budget approved by Synod. The members of the FMC do the work on a voluntary basis with no salaries involved (which is also true of a number of other “permanent” committees that serve a number of purposes from education to publishing in the RCUS). During the meetings of Synod the work and reports of the FMC are considered by a separate Missions Committee which filters the FMC’s recommendations and presents them to Synod either modified or in their original form. Synod action then establishes the program and budget for the next year. Membership on the FMC is for three-year terms that are staggered so that two men are normal replaced each year, thus keeping a fairly stable membership on the Committee.
The RCUS presently conducts foreign mission work in three areas of the world, some of them overlapping. These mission works are somewhat non- traditional in that the RCUS has no permanent missionaries on the field; rather, it uses native leaders to found and build new churches, and relies of radio and periodic visits to the fields for contact with and instruction of the native leaders. The RCUS overlaps its two main mission fields in Africa with support for radio broadcasts that cover a large portion of the population of Africa. We have also brought native leaders to the United States to observe our Synod and to make direct contact with our local congregations.
In 1984 the RCUS pioneered in the founding of the Reformed Confessing Church of the Congo, a Church that grew out of response to the French language broadcasts of Perspectives Reformees, a ministry of the Back-to-God Hour of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). Members of the FMC of the RCUS traveled to the Congo to train and ordain the first elders and the first minister of the ERCC. The ERCC has grown to include more than 25,000 communicant members in many congregations that are well-organized into four major area bodies and a national church synod. In 1986 the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) (the GKN) joined with the RCUS in this work. At first ministers were trained in France but the GKN has established a theological college in Lubumbashi, the major city in the South of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a number of ministers for the ERCC have been trained there in recent years. Other ERCC ministers have been trained in South Africa. The RCUS has continued to make periodic visits to the Congo to help train local leaders and to aid in a number of important projects, including obtaining recognition from the national government for the ERCC. We also continue to provide financial support for a number of ministers and leading elders in local congregations to help forward the work of the churches. We have joined with the GKN in erecting buildings for the ERCC and have helped support students at the theological college in Lubumbashi. Literature is also supplied for ERCC churches, including translations of the Heidelberg Catechism into local languages.
In 1998 the RCUS again pioneered the founding of another African denomination, this time the Free Reformed Church of Kenya (FRCK). This small denomination is the result of interest by local religious leaders in having a truly Reformed Church for their people. Contact was made with these folks for the RCUS by an aircraft mechanic working in Nairobi, Kenya, at the time, Mr. Kurt Schimke. Ministerial members of the RCUS FMC then traveled to Kenya to again help train and ordain elders and deacons, and to found the new Church. The FRCK was begun and continues to function among the Kisii people in the vicinity of Lake Victoria in the Northwest of Kenya. RCUS ministers have visited periodically and a great deal of literature and financial help has been given to the FRCK. The RCUS has also provided the Heidelberg Catechism in the Kisii language, a cooperative effort that required a translation in Africa being sent to the U.S. for typing into a computer, and then editing in Africa and final production back in the U.S. One of the founding leaders of the FRCK attended the 2001 Synod of the RCUS and traveled among our churches. The RCUS is seeking ways to train fully qualified ministers for this new denomination.
Overlapping the foreign missions work the RCUS is doing in the Congo, is the continuing radio work it supports for French-speaking Africa. The RCUS and its FMC were instrumental in establishing a new international Reformed radio ministry in French, in 1999. This work is under the oversight of the Reformed Radio Administration Committee and is fully supported by the RCUS and local churches from several other Reformed and Presbyterian denominations in the United States. This radio work has employed the Rev. Eric Kayayan, a son of the Rev. Aaron Kayayan, as its radio preacher and administrative leader. Living and working in South Africa, Rev. Kayayan has proven to be an effective preacher now able to reach about seventeen million of the sixty-two million French-speaking Africans. These broadcasts are also now being aired by several stations in France. Because of the wide reach of radio, groups of Reformed Christians are also springing up in African countries other than the Congo. The work of Rev. Kayayan also includes providing follow-up literature and contact letters to listeners who contact the program.
The RCUS owes a great deal of its present ability to carry on an effective Foreign Missions program to a sister denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). OPC foreign missions leaders invited the RCUS to participate in its foreign missions program shortly after World War 2, and from 1960 to 1986 the RCUS supported missionaries in Korea and China whose work was administered by the OPC Foreign Missions Committee. This provided impetus for the RCUS to become involved in foreign missions after the hiatus in this work produced by the division of 1934 (see RCUS history elsewhere on this website). It also provided training for RCUS missions leaders in Reformed missiology and practical field operations.
Foreign Missions has been a tremendous blessing to the Reformed Church in the U.S. Foreign missions has enabled a small denomination to look and work far afield from its own local concerns and to understand in a very practical way the great commission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without a foreign mission program the RCUS would undoubtedly be quite a bit less of a church than it is today.