Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Outreach To Migrant Workers: Fields White With Harvest

Written by Michael Zwiep
In John 4:35 Christ issued a command to His disciples that they should open their eyes and look upon the fields that are white with harvest. It is a call that compels the church in every age to rise from its rest and attend the fields. The analogy of the harvest is of particular significance to the Vineland Free Reformed congregation as the glad tidings of the Gospel were proclaimed last summer to Mexican migrant workers who labour in the local orchards and vineyards of the Niagara fruit-belt.
Joint Ministry
The ministry was a joint outreach of the Vineland congregation as well as the Jordan Heritage Reformed Congregation and Immanuel Orthodox Reformed Church. Under the oversight of the consistories of these three neighbouring churches, the ministry was blessed with many answers to prayer during last summerÕs growing season, proving fields, white with harvest, are only a doorstep away.

One such answer to prayer was the arrival of Rev. Harry Bout and his wife Joanne, who along with a son and daughter-in-law, Richard and Angela Bout, serve as missionaries in Tepic, Mexico. Affiliated with Eternal Life Mission, a joint undertaking of MessiahÕs Independent Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan and the Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Toronto, the BoutÕs were granted permission to leave Tepic and minister to the local Mexican migrant workers during the months of May, June and September 2004. Another son and daughter-in-law, Wilfred and Sharon Bout, members of the Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Toronto, were able to help minister to the workers during the months of July and August.

The BoutÕs arrived in Jordan on May 4, returning to the lush orchards Rev. Bout had worked in as a boy, completing a full circle of ministry that began with the missionaryÕs ordination in 1972. Through the LordÕs providential hand, a mobile home, surrounded by orchards and located in the heart of the ministry area, became available only two weeks before the BoutÕs arrival.

They Came!
After visiting a number of local farms to hand out invitations, the BoutÕs and members of the three congregations prepared for the seasonÕs first major migrant worker outreach, a soccer game and barbecue hosted at the Jordan Heritage Reformed Congregation. Over one hundred workers were present at the outreach, held Saturday, May 8. Mixed with the sharp smell of sweat and hot spices was the sweet savour of the Word, preached in Spanish and English. Members of the three congregations were greatly encouraged to hear many labourers, filled with physical food, express a lingering appetite for spiritual food, highlighting the lament of Matthew 9:37 and Luke 10:2: ÒThe harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few.Ó

The Mexican workers were invited to a Spanish worship service at the Immanuel Orthodox Reformed Church the following Sunday and to a Bible study and English class at the Jordan Heritage Reformed Congregation the following Wednesday. With anxious hearts, members of the three congregations waited as the doors were opened for the first worship service. Nine Mexican workers attended the service and seven workers attended the first Bible study and English class.

By GodÕs grace, the number of workers attending the monthly outreaches, weekly Sunday worship services, Bible studies and English classes grew as the growing season progressed, peaking at around forty workers for the worship services and thirty workers for the Bible study and English classes.

The LordÕs faithfulness was evident in every aspect of the ministry. A number of workers attended the Sunday worship services and Bible studies on a regular basis and many more expressed a desire to study the Word and fellowship with the local church community. One hundred and sixty workers attended the last monthly soccer outreach in September.

Looking Back and Forward
Looking back on last summerÕs ministry, the three churches can only thank the Lord for His enduring faithfulness. Rev. Bout was able to proclaim the Gospel every Sunday during the months of May, June and September and his son Wilf was able to do the same for the months of July and August. In the LordÕs providence, every worker who desired to attend a worship service, a Bible study or soccer outreach was provided with the opportunity to do so. Also worthy of note was the spirit of cooperation and brotherly love that existed between all three churches, as members of each congregation took turns hosting the Sunday worship services, Bible studies and recreation outreaches. The three local congregations are looking forward to a new season of ministry in 2005. With the LordÕs strength, Rev. Bout and his son Wilf and their wives are hoping to minister to the Mexican workers again, building on last yearÕs efforts and experiences.

In his commentary on John 4, Matthew Henry writes, ÒChristÕs heart was as much upon the fruits of His Gospel as the hearts of men were upon the fruits of the earth.Ó May ChristÕs command in John 4:35 and the promise of Gospel fruit motivate believers in every corner of the earth to venture into the fields, white with harvest.

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