Our survey today takes us to Papua New Guinea and the work being done under the auspices of the Bethel Canadian Reformed Church in Toronto. For many years, the Bethel church was working on the other side of the island in what used to be called Irian Jaya (today commonly referred to as West Papua). Rev. Henry Versteeg and his wife Rita (and their children) were there for many years. Eventually, Rev. Versteeg repatriated and the work in Irian Jaya wound down. While Rev. Versteeg continued to visit the churches there on occasion, the focus of Bethel’s mission work shifted to Papua New Guinea (PNG). In 1997, Stephen t’Hart was called and ordained as Bethel’s new missionary. Along with his wife Dorinda, he spent over ten years doing evangelistic work, as well as church development and theological training. Rev. t’Hart recently repatriated to his home country of Australia where he was called to be a pastor of the Free Reformed congregation in Baldivis, WA.
Interestingly, Rev. t’Hart’s departure resulted in Rev. Versteeg being called again to be Toronto’s missionary. This time, however, he and his wife will be living and working in PNG, carrying on with the work that Rev. t’Hart had been doing. Wayne and Cheronne vanderHeide are also there as mission aid workers.
Overall, the work in PNG is a cooperative effort between Australia (FRCA), New Zealand (RCNZ) and Canada (CanRC). The Aussies have sent Rev. Ian Wildeboer (and his wife Nadia) and Andrew Vanderheide (and his wife Natalie). The Kiwis have sent the Hagoorts and the Doumas. Then of course, the Canucks have sent the Versteegs and the other vanderHeide family. Through God’s grace, we see the beginnings of a Reformed church federation emerging in PNG.