In 1973, Reformed believers in Korea and Pakistan recognized their need for training so that they could fulfill the mandate of Matthew 28 in their respective nations. A small, but visionary, group of elders saw the great potential of this unique opportunity: Instead of using conventional methods such as sending American missionaries to evangelize, plant churches, and disciple the nations, they would train indigenous Christians so that they could effectively obey their Lord in fulfilling the Great Commission in their homelands. To accomplish this work, Westminster Biblical Missions (WBM) was established.
The organization was so named because of its unwavering, unflinching, stare-in-your-eyes commitment to the Reformed faith à la the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. With this Rock-solid theological grounding, WBM strives to be Biblical in its approach to missions and the completing of the dominion mandate. Like their brother Paul, the men of WBM are committed to planting and multiplying Reformed churches in foreign fields by training nationals to stand in the Faith, defend the Faith, and spread the gospel.1 WBM offers practical “how to” training so that elders in foreign lands can establish self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating national churches. This approach keeps national churches from becoming dependent on foreign support that can cease if a country chooses to close its doors to foreign missionaries, or if American churches and denominations wane in interest. Furthermore, once the work is established, WBM is free (like the apostles) to offer help in new fields.
Key to establishing strong churches is a firm grounding the Faith. Thus, false gospels and ideologies must be exposed to the light of Scripture. This results in antithesis and draws the battle lines. Whereas other missionary agencies tremble at the thought of the dreaded “C-word,”2 the men of WBM frankly oppose false gospels wherever they are found. In many foreign fields, these false gospels are often the teachings the ecumenical apostasies of the pseudo-Protestants in the World Council of Churches. WBM’s General Secretary, Rev. Dennis Roe explains, “The ecumenical movement is everywhere today, and missionary agencies which do not confront its liberal social gospel on their fields are not faithful to Christ. It is a great delusion to think that mission work can advance without discipling or, if discipling be recognized, that it can be done without contending against the claims of false gospels and ideologies which, in the name of Christ, are seducing the hearts and minds of men.”
Meet the Gideonites
WBM has a board which oversees its constitutional, personal, and financial matters. Its staff is headed by Rev. Roe who serves as General Secretary. The fields are administered by field secretaries: Rev. Earl E. Pinckney oversees the Pakistan ministry; while Dr. Robert S. Rapp supervises the work in Korea and Hungary/Romania. They have been with WBM from its beginning and have given pivotal guidance to the mission during its history. Rev. Alexander David, a Pakistani national, oversees the Pakistan Village Ministry; he also translates Reformed writings into the Urdu language. Other gifted leaders working with the mission are Rev. Sardar Ahmed Din in Pakistan, Dr. David Kim in Korea, Rev. Imre Szoke in Hungary, Dr. Bill Higgins and Dr. Max Lathrop in Mexico.
The principals in this mighty band of warriors bring over 200 years of missionary expertise to WBM. Although the laborers are few, their efforts have been rewarded by a hundred-fold harvest wherever they have labored.
Dr. Maxwell Lathrop not only helped found Wycliffe Bible Translators; he was one of the first translators to serve the organization. Through Wycliffe, he labored for 45 years among the Tarascan Indians of central Mexico. Dr. Lathrop was in the third graduating class at Westminster Theological Seminary and had the privilege of studying under Machen and Van Til. He provided the Tarascan Indians with their first written alphabet and written language. This resulted in a translation of the New Testament in the Tarascan language. After leaving Wycliffe, Dr. Lathrop continued to work among the Tarascans by establishing the Tarasacan Missionary Society. He was approved as a WBM missionary in 1992.
While a child. Rev. Sadar Ahmed Din became a Christian through the testimony of American missionaries. After working for the American Embassy in Lahore and the Fullbright Foundation, he devoted himself to full-time Christian work. Din’s ministry involves helping local pastors and congregations. Because of the high illiteracy rate in Pakistan, Din developed a ministry that uses the Bible to help people learn to read. In addition, Din translates solid Reformed literature into the Urdu language. He has completed translating The Five Points of Calvinism by Edward Palmer, and The Attributes of God by Arthur Pink. He and his late wife, Nasim, established a Christian day school. He also teaches a Sunday morning Bible study which has had as many as 150 people attending. Din currently serves as the director of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of Pakistan. He has often risked his life to help the church in Pakistan.3
In the 1950s, Rev. Earl Pickney and his wife, Marion, were accepted by the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions to serve in Portugal with Francis Schaeffer. In God’s providence, they were refused visas and subsequently assigned to Brazil where they served for seven years. The Pickenys have served the church for decades in various capacities. Rev. Pickney founded a church in Pennsylvania and pastored others in Nebraska and Florida. He worked with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship while in Florida, and taught at Clearwater Christian College, and also at Graham Bible College in Bristol, Tennessee (where he also served as Academic Dean). Health conditions precluded him from serving long stints on the mission field. However, he served in Chile briefly and was one of the principals who established WBM in 1973, serving as its first general secretary for seventeen years. He became involved in the work in Pakistan and has made over thirty trips there during the years.
Dr. Robert S. Rapp began his missionary service in 1961 in Brazil. In 1967 he became involved in South Korea. The South Korean Christians quickly recognized his commitment to the Faith as well as other skills. They asked him to establish a seminary. This seminary, which began with 12 students, now numbers over 650. Rapp has written numerous articles and booklets over the years promoting missions and exposing the World Council of Churches. His two-volume textbook, Biblical Theology, is used throughout Korea as a standard reference work. His writings have been used by Presbyterians and 25 other Korean denominations. While in Korea, Rapp published a booklet which exposed the Marxist influence of the World Council of Churches. He has helped WBM establish the theological program used in Pakistan. He is currently using his gifts and abilities to establish a center for Reformed theological education in Central and Eastern Europe. Currently, this school in Miskolc, Hungary (the school is named for Karolyi Caspar—a 16th century reformer, Bible translator and educator whose life and work led to the formation of the Hungarian Reformed Church) is making an impact in Northeastern Hungary.
Dennis Roe, a minister in the Reformed Churches in the U.S., has served as General Secretary of WBM for almost 10 years—this in addition to pastoring in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, and currently in Grass Valley, California. A veteran of the Vietnam War, he serves as chaplain for the 25th Infantry Association. He is also chaplain for the Third Squadron, Fourth Calvary Association. As General Secretary for WBM, he oversees all of WBM’s mission fields and missionaries. This past year he traveled to Pakistan to speak and lecture at WBM’s Presbyterian Theological Seminary of Pakistan and to the Karolyi Caspar Institute of Theology and Missions in Hungary where he took part in licensure and ordaination examinations.
The Fields of Harvest The Tarascan Indian Ministry
The Tarascan people live in a 700-square mile region about halfway between Mexico City and Guadalajara. One of the more prominent features of the Tarascan landscape is Lake Patzcuaro, where natives still earn a living fishing with their world-famous “butterfly-nets.” In 1935, the Tarascans saw an American paddling around that lake in a dug-out canoe, learning their language by talking with the people he met there. In five years. Dr. Max Lathrop finished the first translation of the Gospel of John. In following years he completed the whole New Testament and parts of the Old Testament. During that time many Tarascans came to faith in Christ. Using his unique resourcefulness. Dr. Lathrop introduced the Tarascans to new-crop hybrids with the help of universities in the States. He made looms so they could weave their beautiful fabrics, and had a hand in the development of several industries. He spearheaded a massive literacy campaign that earned him the recognition of the Mexican government, and had a hand in founding numerous schools in Tarascan. A t the height of the work, there were 40 “Christian centers” spread abroad through the territory.
Due to Dr. Lathrop’s age and health, he has not been able to minister on site to the Tarscans in five years. As a consequence, there has been some deterioration in the work. There are only 2 groups that have not dwindled in size or been assumed by Pentecostal groups. There is a real need to strengthen the works that remain, and God has graciously raised up a man to do that—Dr. Bill Higgins of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. Bill will actively generate support for this work, and travel to the field as time and resources permit.
On a recent visit to Mexico, Bill and Dr. Lathrop discovered a Tarascan leader teaching in a seminary in Mexico City. They hope to employ him to set up an extension of the seminary in Tarascan for training church leaders. This seems to be match made in heaven the man already knows the language and culture, as well as being Reformed in his theology. Bill helps to raise funds for a scholarship for a Tarascan pastor to study at the seminary in Mexico City. He also helps reprint Tarascan literature—hymnals, tracts, primers, and dictionaries. He hopes to raise a one-time gift of $800.00 to set up a simple store which will provide a Tarascan pastor with a means of support and enough free time to minister effectively in his congregation. The remaining projects can be funded for approximately $450.00 a month for a period of only three years. It is another loaves-and-fishes scenario for those willing to part with a little of their income.
From WBM’s early involvement in Pakistan, they learned of one Pakistani Christian who consistently took a strong stand defending the Faith—Sardar Ahmed Din, an elder in the Lahore Church Councils. He spent many evenings preaching in the slums of Lahore and took strong stands against any who denied the infallibility of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, and other fundamental doctrines of Christianity. Din, also took a strong stand as the World Council of Churches sought to bring its liberal influence into Pakistan. His desire to defend historic Christianity eventually became known to WBM, who began to work with Din and two Presbyterian groups that had separated from their parent churches because of those churches’ involvement with the WCC and other liberal, ecumenical groups.
The first thing WBM sought to do in Pakistan was establish a seminary to train pastors. In 1988, WBM was able to purchase two acres of land on the outskirts of Lahore in an area where there are several Christian communities. By 1989 a building was constructed and dedicated for the Lord’s work with the seminary as the main activity. WBM promised to sponsor the seminary and provide all financial resources. Dr. Rapp, who was experienced in seminary work, set up the curriculum. The first class began April 25, 1994; there were 25 students. This number has fluctuated through the years, and currently, an average of 10 students attend. The seminary accepts a student only upon the recommendation of his pastor. He is then examined to discern if he has a call to the ministry and meets the entrance requirements. A student must have completed the equivalent of high school education by American standards. Students choose areas of service or are assigned one for their weekend ministries. Graduates have gone into various groups with a good number remaining with the Lahore Council of Churches. The indigenous Lahore Church Council (LCC) now has thirty pastors, almost all of whom are graduates from this seminary.
WBM encourages the pastors by giving each monetary gifts at Christmas and a new bicycle every five years. Bicycles are a pastor’s primary mode of transportation to visit his congregations. Often a pastor will have five or six villages for which he is responsible. The seminary provides a center where pastors gather each month for fellowship and additional training. One student received special training in the organization of Sunday Schools. Since his graduation in 1995, he has worked among the churches to help them establish educational programs.
Because the literacy rate in Pakistan was so low among Christians, WBM also agreed to sponsor literacy centers developed by Din. Originally, 25 centers were begun. Currently, WBM is seeking funds to train teachers to head additional centers. This project would require only $25.00 per month for each new literacy center.
The Pakistani work is growing — not only in number of pastors and churches, but also in its financial commitment to winning Pakistan for Christ. For example, each year a five-day convention is held at the seminary. The number attending has grown from 600 adults in 1992 to 2500 in 1998. Children’s meetings are held in conjunction with this convention. An average of 450 children attend each evening. This is an ambitious and costly event for the Pakistanis because those who travel to the convention stay at the seminary and are fed by the hosting group. In addition, the Pakistanis have to pay for rental of tents and chairs. In 1998, the total cost for the Pakistanis was over $3,000.00. WBM offers its help for this large event by providing speakers for the convention at no cost. In addition to providing instruction, the conventions provide a bridge of fellowship to Christians who often live in isolation from each other. In Pakistan, Christians suffer persecution and are routinely discriminated against in school, work, and society.
The children of Lashore face many dangers. Many, as young as 3, are left alone all day while their parents and siblings work. The streets in the village lack sanitation, with open sewers all over. There is also danger from deep holes in the streets. Often, the smaller children are physically abused by older ones. Most of the Christian children in the area would never have an opportunity to attend school, and those who do are discriminated against and refused permission to use fountains and bathroom facilities used by the Muslims; they are also often subjected to pressure to convert to Islam.
To provide protection as well as a Christian education, Din and his late wife, Nasim, started a school in the seminary facilities. The school began in 1992 with only seven students. As of October 1998, the school had grown to over 1100 students, ranging from nursery school to ninth grade. There is a long waiting list for admission. A dedicated Christian faculty and staff provide excellent training for these children. Three other schools, with a total of over 300 students, have also been established.
Because of the poverty of the parents, a minimum charge of about eighty cents a month is required for each student, with discounts when there are more than one in a family. Among the provisions made in the school is a snack including such things as milk, toast, and at times an omelet. Many of the children come to school without any food because their family has none or because the parents and older children leave for work as early as 5:00 a.m. The school’s ministry to these children has resulted in their families (many who are Roman Catholic) being open to evangelization.
Karolyi Caspar Institute of Theology and Missions
The sudden collapse of the godless communist government of the Soviet Union in 1989 created a wonderful opportunity for mission work. At this time, the Lord led Robert Rapp to Hungary. The goal was to establish a school for training nationals in theology and missions. Of all the countries in the former Soviet Empire, Hungary is the only one with a strong historic connection to the 16th century Reformation. The connection still exists in the form of the Hungarian Reformed Church which has largely abandoned this great heritage and become a member of the World Council of Churches. Nevertheless, there are bands of believers looking and praying for a revival of the Reformed Faith in their midst. In addition, there are large numbers of Hungarian people living in the surrounding countries of Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia and Croatia. Thus Hungary is the key to missionary work in the rest of Central/Eastern Europe.
With this vision, Rapp traveled to Hungary in 1990. Two years later the Karolyi Caspar Institute of Theology and Missions was formed in Budapest. In 1994, the school relocated to Miskolc, Hungary. Students at Karolyi Caspar receive a Levite Diploma after two years of satisfactory work. After four years, they may receive a Diploma which qualifies them to be a missionary pastors or teachers. To date, 13 students have completed the program, nine of whom are working as full-time evangelists and church planters. As a result, new churches are being started in Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and Serbia. Seven are already formed; another five will likely be started in the next few months.
The 1995-1996 Student Yearbook recounts some of the services provided by the students as they train at the Seminary: “[W]e started work in the Mezoseg area of Transylvania. It was an unforgettable experience—to invite people to come to church, to preach the Gospel and to teach the Bible. . . . We have had experience serving in many congregations in Miskolc and neighboring villages, teaching in high schools, preaching at the Old People’s Home, working with orphans, conducting youth Bible studies, and working among alcoholics and homeless people.”
In addition to the class work and mission work, the students have also learned from the persecution they have received at the hands of the Hungarian Reformed Church and some of its American pseudo-Reformed allies. Nevertheless, having prevailed from trial to trial and from fire to fire, the first seven graduates of Karoli Caspar go forth to their callings. Szoke Imre will begin his fifth year of studies and be trained for administrative duties. Curcubet Gabor will preach to the Romanians in Moldova. Gereb Geza will work in Cluj-Kolozsvar with a Reformed mission group who ministers to alcoholics. Kovas Kalman and Laszlo Lehel will plant churches among Hungarians and Gypsies. Kovacs Ferenc and Jozsa Istvan will oversee all student ministries in Transylvania and other parts of Romania. They will make contact with Reformed churches, recruit students, provide and distribute gospel literature, organize evangelistic meetings, and maintain regular communication between the students and WBM. These first graduates are the vanguard of Reformation in Central/Eastern Europe.
WBM’s mission strategy in Korea has paid off in numerous ways. Currently WBM’s works there are completely self-supporting and WBM’s relationship is as a consultant. In fact, this work has matured to the point that the Koreans are helping WBM in other fields of labor! For example, they recently gave $10,000 for the work of WBM in Hungary. Also, there are a number of graduates of Westminster School of Theology (founded by WBM) serving on mission fields around the world.
Westminster School of Theology began in 1967, with only 7 students. Now, over 650 are enrolled. Of the 1,315 graduates in the four-year Basic Pastor’s Course, over 850 are currently serving in full-time ministry (most as pastors). Graduates have pioneered over 600 churches in South Korea and are presently working as missionaries in 19 other countries. Most of the churches pioneered by students of WST belong to the Chang Shin Korea Presbyterian Church which has 43,000 communicant (adult) members and 19,000 children.
Throughout its 30 years of service in South Korea, WTS has often been threatened with closure because it did not have an educational license granted by the Ministry of Education. Each time the threats were made, God graciously provided special licenses which were briefly recognized by the government. At each revocation of these special licenses, the school’s future would hang in a perilous balance. In November, 1997, WTS was awarded a provisional license by the Ministry of Education and in September 1998, WTS received a permanent license from the Ministry of Education insuring that the school can continue to equip the saints for years to come.
This might}’ work of God in South Korea continues under the bloody shadow of North Korea—a godless communist country that remains committed to the doctrines of hell in spite of the evidences of communism’s worldwide failures, and in spite of the growing evidences of God’s judgment against the government of North Korea. The U.S. State Department has expressed concern that North Korea is developing nuclear weapons. In the meantime, there is widespread famine in North Korea—the result of massive flooding in some areas and drought in others.
A Message from Dennis Roe
Westminster Biblical Missions needs your help in carrying out its part in Christ’s Great Commission. We seek men and women of God who share our vision to glorify God through the discipling of the nations to Christ. We want you and your church to understand our work. We are in a spiritual battle. Therefore, we urge you to pray for us that we may remain faithful in our calling, courageous in proclaiming the whole counsel of God, and ready to enter new doors the Lord may be opening for us. We also ask you to give sacrificially to support our fields and the work of our staff at home. You will never find a better place to invest your missionary dollars. WBM will see to it that your gifts go in their entirety to the fields and projects you designate. We need dedicated churches which will stand behind us. Christ has ordained his church at home to build his church abroad.
- For more on this approach to missions, see John L . Neivus’ book Planting and Development of Missionary Churches (1885). Rev. Nevius (1829-1893) was a Presbyterian missionary to China.
- Din’s son, John, had completed three and a half years of college in Pakistan when fifteen Muslim students brutally beat him for over an hour. After his recovery, when he sought to return to college, these students threatened to kill him. Unable to complete his education in Pakistan, he came to America and graduated from California State in 1991.
- Susan Burns
Susan is the managing editor of the the Faith for All of Life magazine and the Chalcedon Report (bi-monthly newsletter). Susan has worked for Chalcedon since 1997. She lives in Virginia and is rather fond of animals, especially her many cats.