Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Farewell Pastor L.W. Bilkes

Written by Hank VanderWoerd
After many years of ministry in the congregation of Abbotsford we took leave of Pastor Lawrence Bilkes and his wife Jane during the week of August 8 through 15. Almost two years after having received and accepted a call from Grand Rapids, Michigan (October 2002) the necessary applications, paperwork and interviews were finally completed, allowing them to move to the United States.

It was sixteen-and-a-half years ago, Christmas Eve, 1987, that by telephone we received the glad news that the call extended to him by our congregation had been accepted. At the time they arrived, Pastor Bilkes indicated that he had not only accepted the call to the little flock of Abbotsford (then Aldergrove), but rather that he felt called to serve Òthe West.Ó Since then we received the benefit of his labours from the Lord.

In a desire to become a Òcommunity churchÓ he urged the congregation to relocate to Abbotsford, which led to the purchase of the property where we have worshipped the last ten years. From there, he encouraged the members of the eastern Fraser Valley to start services in Chilliwack, whence arose a sister church in Chilliwack. Further contacts and outreach during his ministry resulted in the Bethel Reformed Church of Monarch, Alberta joining the Free Reformed federation and from there the home mission stations of Lacombe (now instituted) and Calgary came into being. With the assistance of other churches, our congregation also took on the task of establishing the Cowichan Valley home mission station. Pastor Bilkes was involved in the community through the Abbotsford Ministerial Association, which enabled him to do outreach by publishing meditations in the local newspaper and participating in various events such as the inaugurations of a new city council and at a 9/11-memorial service at Fraser Valley College. We may truly say that the Lord has used him in proclaiming the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ not only to our own congregation, but throughout the west.

On Friday, August 13, the congregation met together to remember the blessings we have received from the LordÕs hand through the work of our pastor and his wife. Young and old received opportunity to speak and acknowledge the hand of the Lord through the ministry of the Bilkes. Our pastor responded with words of encouragement and love.

A farewell service was held in the afternoon on the LordÕs Day, August 15. Before the service, opportunity was given to some invited guests to speak a few words: pastors from the Canadian Reformed Churches, Free Reformed Church and the Alliance Church next door. On behalf of the consistory, elder Karl Noordam spoke of the many opportunities to further the Gospel of which we all had been part for so many years. He closed his remarks with Hebrews 6:10: ÒFor God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.Ó

The text of the farewell sermon, 2 Corinthians 13:14 (ÒThe grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. AmenÓ) was fitting to bring pastor BilkesÕ ministry among us to a close. He commended the congregation to the Lord who will sustain and preserve her.

It is our prayer that the Lord will continue to uphold Pastor Bilkes and his wife Jane as they take up their new task in Grand Rapids. As we took leave of them we were reminded of 2 Timothy 4:1, 2, 5: ÒI charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrineÉ But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.Ó

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