Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Interview With Our Students

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We are blessed with five students for the ministry. Lawrence Bilkes (LB) and David Kranendonk (DK) hope to complete their studies May. Joel Overduin (JO) is in his second year and Marcus DeJong (MD) and Jason Keuning (JK) are in their first year. It is hoped that the following interview will help you gain a better understanding of who these men are and what the life of a student for the ministry is like. (NOTE: Some answers have been edited for space)

Q: How do all of you enjoy your studies at PRTS? Name some of your favourite courses and why you enjoyed them.

MD: My favourite course at the Seminary last fall was a Gospel Exegesis course. In this course, Dr. Bilkes taught us to carefully examine some important Gospel passages and then put their message into theme and points for a sermon. It sounds easier than it actually is.

LB: My studies at PRTS have been thoroughly enjoyable. It is a delight to be taught by the various instructors and to do the hard work in order to learn. Many courses have been superb. Some of my favourite courses include ÒSoteriology,Ó taught by Dr. Beeke and ÒThe Second ReformationÓ and ÒThe SecessionÓ by Rev. Pronk. These two courses renewed a love for our tradition and brought about admiration for those who treasured the biblically Reformed heritage and were willing to defend it.

JK: I enjoy my studies here tremendously. The interaction with students and professors from various backgrounds is very profitable. The level of education is very good. I really appreciate the strong emphasis on Biblical exegesis--total of 8 courses for the program. I really enjoyed Dr. BilkesÕ course on Hermeneutics (biblical Interpretation) because it cleared up a lot of my thinking about the purpose and unity of the Scriptures. The courses are thoroughly entrenched and rooted in the Scriptures, representing the harvest of Puritan and Reformed thinking. This is a rare thing in todayÕs seminaries. We are privileged to be able to study in a seminary comparable to the great institutions of the past such as Princeton.

DK: I have enjoyed the privilege of studying at PRTS. Taking several courses at Calvin Seminary this year has made me appreciate the more the value of having our seminary, which gives sound training aimed at the mind and heart. Some of my favourite courses have included: the exegetical courses, in which passages of Scripture were opened up; a course on soteriology, which dealt with how God works his salvation in His people; and a Secession theology course, which examines our own past in the 19th century.

JO: The studies at PRTS are going well. I have to say that all the courses I take at PRTS are interesting. Probably my favourite courses include the exegesis courses, taught by Dr. Bilkes, for they take you straight to the biblical text and force you to think deeply about the Word of God--what it means, what are its implications.

Q: Describe some of the challenges you face as a student for the ministry.

MD: One thing that I have realized more and more as I study at the seminary is the preciousness of the Word of God. There are so many problems in our world and in our churches and the Bible is the only book that can answer them all. This makes studying at the seminary both a great privilege and a heavy responsibility.

JK: There are several challenges. When your stack of textbooks and required reading is so high that it is hard to look over it while carrying it, getting all the reading finished is a demanding exercise. Another challenge is maintaining a balance between a spiritual and academic approach in my studies. Perhaps my most wonderful challenge is sermon making. It has been helpful to remember that our sufficiency is not of ourselves.

JO: One of the biggest challenges in relation to studying for the ministry is learning to prioritize. There are always books to read, sermons/papers to write, or assignments to complete. Thankfully, my wife helps me to keep perspective on when to work and when to take a break. There is a beautiful park near our home through which we often walk and talk. Another challenge is the cultivation of a close walk with the Lord. Even in preparation for the ministry of GodÕs Word, there is a temptation to become consumed with the busy-ness of work and study, and to forget the Lord. I often think about those words we sing in our PsalterÑÒIn sweet communion, Lord, with Thee I constantly abideÉÓ (#203:1). To have that frame of mind and hear how necessary it is to go to the Lord time and time again.

Q: David and Lawrence, both of you are nearing the completion of your studies. How does this make you feel?

LB: I feel a combination of thankfulness and apprehension. On the one hand I am thankful that the Lord has sustained me in the midst of the busy-ness of the semesters, enabling me to do the work. He has given strength and fresh courage to perform the tasks set before me. You know that there is a lot of work involved in each course, and it can be daunting realizing this at the beginning of each course, but you press on with one task after another with the help of the Lord. On the other hand I also feel some apprehension at the thought of completing my studies. How can I be done? I have just begun, and there is so much more to learn and grasp. But this feeling is simply a confirmation that while I may be finishing some formal course work, my studies are just beginning, and will continue, by the grace of God, throughout the course of my life.

DK: Beginning at PRTS seems like yesterday, meaning it doesn't seem real that I am almost finished here. I feel that I still have very much to learn. At the same time, I realize that seminary is only a preparation for the ministry in which one needs continual teaching.

Q: David, I understand there has been a significant development in your personal life. Would you mind sharing that with us?

DK: Of course I do not mind sharing that Elly Procee and I were united in marriage on August 23, 2002. Elly's father preached on Matthew 28:20. We now live in an apartment that is three minutes from the elementary school at which Elly teaches part-time and five minutes from the seminary. Marriage is certainly an undeserved gift of God. (Lawrence Bilkes was recently engaged to Ellen Laman from Pompton Plains, NJ; they hope to be married in June, D.V., Ed.)

Q: Are you looking forward to entering the ministry? What will be your biggest challenge(s)?

LB: The further I have progressed in my studies, the more I look forward to entering the ministry, remembering that it is Òif the Lord willsÓ (Jas.4: 15). Challenges? I probably donÕt know some of the challenges that I will encounter. I believe that the ministry is a calling that contains many challenges and will require much prayer and wisdom. Nevertheless, it will be a real challenge to prepare two sermons as well as the other tasks to be performed throughout the week. In my younger years, I did not think that sermon making required that much work, and was quite easy. But I have come to see that its preparation requires much sweating work, and probably more time than a minister has. Another challenge relates to ministering to the flock and their particular needs. A minister will need to learn the various needs, burdens, struggles, questions and doubts of the people of the congregation, and pastorally care for the flock. A minister may not simply stay in his study six days a week and come out on Sundays, for Catechism classes and consistory meetings. People face many challenges and difficulties in the home, at work and in general in the world, and a minister may not be oblivious to those realities. Rather, he must be aware of them, which means he has to know the difficulties, and, when appropriate, speak in the midst of these difficulties. May the Lord grant much wisdom, discretion and strength!

DK: At times I have dreams of a perfect congregation. At other times, fears well up due to my own sinful insufficiency coupled with the difficulties of the ministry. To faithfully proclaim God's Word, faithfully apply it in pastoral work, and faithfully live out of it are not simply challenges but impossibilities. Yet, with a God who is faithful all things are possible. Seeing who God is, I desire to begin this weighty and blessed task.

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