- 09 Feb 2023
BREAKING NEWS: Reformed Fellowship is partnering with MINTS to place The Outlook with 300 prison inmates. Read Rev. Neal Hegeman's monthly update here to learn more about the MINTS ministry.
HEGEMAN UPDATE. JANUARY 2023
The mission work with the Hispanics as well as USA prison inmates through MINTS International Seminary gets off to a good start in 2023. My responsibility as a missionary is to theologically equip church members and leaders to extend the gospel among those under-reached. This involves preaching, teaching, training leaders, oversee the writing of teaching materials, facilitating Christian work teams, and encouraging others in the extension work of the kingdom of God. What is the tell-tale sign that we are involved with the kingdom of God rather than the kingdoms of men? The answer is the proclamation and practice of the biblical gospel of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration by faith in Jesus Christ, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and to the glory of God the Father. The singular and unique kingdom of God permeates through all other kingdoms. “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold – the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure” (Daniel 2: 44- 45). Jesus is the King of kings, the LORD of Lords, His kingdom shall reign forever and ever. When Jesus comes again or when He takes us to Himself, may He find us busy building, rather than seeking to break down, the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God breaks down the kingdoms of men. Only that which is done for Christ and in Christ will last.
January 1 -7. A week of preparations. It was wonderful to open the new year with neighbors in our home and telephone calls with the immediate family. I am still working on reviewing courses written by inmate doctoral students. The year 2022 was a good year for our doctoral student’s course writers in Latin America as well as the USA prisons.
In the MINTS doctoral program courses were written by Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) students and approved by two MINTS readers with superior degrees. The courses are on mintsespanol.com/cursos. During 2022, Brazilian pastor Jose Aristides and the Mexican Felipe Garcia graduated with the D.Min. degrees. Chaplain Charles Dause will finish his fifth and final course in early 2023. Marvin Argumendo, a pastor from El Salvador has presented excellent courses. Inmates Ronald Edmunson, James Brown, Darrin Moore, and Eric Tardy continue to write and teach in their prisons. The Cuban Yaniel Zaldivar is also well on the way toward a D.Min. degree. Several students continue to work at the Ph.D in Theological Studies level, where they need to present 50,000 pages of bibliographical information in the area of their specialty, write another thesis, and present a new theological distance education project. It is interesting to note that 4 of the 9 doctoral students are prison chaplains or inmates.
On January 5, the MINTS Seminary in Prison staff have a zoom meeting, preparing to report on the progress made during 2022 in 18 prisons, 17 which are in Florida.
On Saturday, January 7, after watching ten-year-old Ella Kate play basketball at Faith Christian School, I scoot down to Cape Coral, Florida to preach the second service at Trinity Reformed on Sunday and meet with the consistory to give my year-end report.
January 8. Cape Coral. Pastor Stephen Wetmore preaches an edifying sermon on the Song of Mary. I preach the second service on “God is always right” based on Romans 3 and the first four articles of the first Head of the Canons of Dordt. It was good to meet the church members and the Reformed Mission Service (RMS) volunteers who are helping people affected by hurricane Ian.
January 9 - 17. Santo Domingo. I took a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Santo Domingo to meet up with RMS volunteers from Bethany URC and Pantego URC. They are being led by Rob Brinks. Pastor Pierre picks us up and we take the busy toll road to Sabana Grande de Boya. During the past year RMS has helped upgrade the bunk beds and doors of the ministry center. The dormitories and kitchen were freshly painted. What was also noteworthy is that Pastor Pierre has started to work in neighboring prisons, bringing food as well as worship services. There are also many Haitian immigrants in prison as the Dominican government is rounding up Haitians. The USA is not the only country to have an open border challenge. Pierre noted that when church members and even leaders are imprisoned, someone must find them and help them be released. “Don’t just call a lawyer or a para-legal, but ask for your pastor to release you” I reminded them.
The Juan Calvino Christian School campus, home to over 300 students, and one of the two Christian schools in town, has seen some upgrades. I conversed with chaplain Luis Perez, a young Pentecostal Pastor, a graduate of the school, who appreciated the biblical teaching he received, especially from teacher William Medrano, when he was a student. The teachers also participate in continuing education seminars offered by COCREF, a Reformed Christian School organization. This school, as well as ten others associated with COCREF, are funded by the Dominican government and are public schools now, with COCREF trained teachers. The Bible is taught unashamedly here, and you hear the students sing Christian songs. Impressive indeed.
The RMS work crew (Rob Brinks, Zach Klomparens, Jeff Kortman, Troy Slager and Ted Van Essendelft) are taken by Pierre to Santo Rosa, where they are helping Pierre to expand his home church building. I observed that Pierre had helped many of the neighboring churches build, repair, or expand, and left his own church for last.
One way the kingdom of God is built: one shovel, one church, and one worship service at a time
When I go to the capital, Santo Domingo, I stay at the ministry center. On Wednesday a group led by Bill Huisman, arrives. They will help build a Christian school. I spent the day writing reports about the MINTS program. The reports will be presented at the International Deans meeting next week.
On the 13th, I go with Brigido Cabrera to Santiago. Our first visit is with leaders of the Seminario Teológico de Santiago. Last year seven master students finished writing their Bible book commentaries. There are 10 more who are finishing this year. The second visit was with the Fuente de Salvation group. They also have students finishing their master’s thesis, as well as 24 bachelor students. I give a lecture on the introduction to the book of Acts.
On the 14th in the morning, we meet with Pastor Juan Fernando Perez, who gives us an update on his 21 days of prayer and evangelism program, which closes with a mass meeting in the Santiago baseball stadium. Upon arriving in Sabana Grande de Boya, the work crew is finishing up at Santa Rosa. They have had a great week of work.
Sunday is always special in my visits to the Dominican Republic as I visit with the work group one of the 17 churches in the zone. We go to Batey Nuevo, the building which was built in 1987. The church music is loud and a bit uncomfortable for my taste, but when the youth choir sang, we were all blessed. I preached on The Holy Spirit’s Preparatory work in the life of Simeon (Luke 2: 25 – 35). In the evening, I was scheduled to preach at the Juan Calvino Iglesia about the Coming of the Holy Spirit in Fullness (Acts 1: 1 – 11). Before the sermon started, we had a disturbance with one of the visiting ladies who while singing, had worked herself up into a trance and spun out of control. She began tearing her blouse off and the ladies of the church quickly covered her with their coats. Demons? How do you know if they are demons? After she gets out of the trance, she does not recall what she did, and also, sin, evil, possessions, or Satanic influence is indecent and out of order. That is the opposite of I Cor. 14:40. I led our group of construction workers out of the church until matters were put in order. When we returned the church was singing quietly and order had returned and I preached my sermon about the work of the Holy Spirit, pointing out that we serve a God with decency and order, something that sinners, demons, and Satan do not do. The lack of order in the churches where I served for 12 years keeps me coming back to speak with and train the local leaders. The local pastor expressed his shame about what happened. I encouraged him to be wiser in choosing who leads worship singing.
On Monday, before Pierre brought the work crew to the airport, we went up north to see how the construction of the church in Nagua was going. RMS had supplied funds for the church members to put in the foundation. The pastor, Enoc, was the foreman! He had lots of local help, and we look forward to the first story of the building to be completed. The first story will be used for the church and the second story for an elementary school for Haitian immigrant children who are not allowed to go to regular schools because their parents do not have documents. The church and missionaries have worked hard to have church members and leaders secure proper papers, but the government keeps changing the rules, increase the cost of legal documents and frustrate immigration. Injustices, social agitation, and political irresponsibility are tools of the Evil One and create chaos at home and abroad.
On Monday, we dropped off the work crew at the airport and I stayed for another day. Brigido Cabrera picked me up and eventually took me to stay over at Andres and Lorrena Serano’s place. The Serrano’s have radio stations and programs in the DR and the USA. They are very active in church planting. A good number of their leaders study with MINTS. We have known each other since Andres and Lorrena were bachelor level students in Toronto, going all the way back to 1995. We also have a meeting with Mota King, from Servicio Social de Iglesias. We talk about what is needed for Haiti to return to normal. Most free societies require a revolution or war to establish a society to control the criminals and support normal institutions. As missionaries, we always promote the development of the church and Christian community, and we believe in the separation of the church and state. But we also know that God will use the governments to establish law and order, supported using “arms” to protect the innocent and punish the guilty.
January 18-22. Our 22nd Annual international meeting of regional and national coordinators in Miami went well. The dominant theme was discipleship courses. Eleazar Bermudez, from Venezuela, was able to attend and reported that he was training 1,250 students. Esau Reyes reports that there are more than 3,000 students studying in the Spanish speaking centers. There are about 2,500 more in other parts of the world. In the USA we have 267 students studying in 18 prisons. Eric Pennings announces there were 425 graduates in 2022. We met with the MINTS board and celebrated in a special ceremony the installation of the MINTS new president, Dr. Julian Zugg.
January 23 – 31. It was good to drive home from Miami. Sunday was a joyful day, as visitors are coming to Faith Presbyterian church, and as I met with the new MINTS class at the Spanish Berean Church. Our class on hermeneutics has two new students and returns ten others.
On Monday I visited Walker Prison. The seven Hispanic students are finishing up the course on missionary biographies. I have a handful of books about Mexican missionaries and pastors. They enjoyed reading the books and giving their presentations in class.
The month is finished as it started, reading courses written by doctoral students. We also made an agreement with Reformed Fellowship to place the magazine, The Outlook, in prison for 300 inmates. If you would like to contribute, please send your tax-exempt donation to:
10857 W Parmalee Rd.
Middleville, MI., 49333
Designate it for “Prison Ministry.”
Our goal is to raise $8,000 for 300 subscriptions for the six issues per year.
- Thanksgiving for a fruitful recovery year, 2022.
- Pray that governments will take a responsible attitude and action as to immigration.
- Pray for the teaching trip of Mexican pastors Esau Reyes and Ernesto Ucan to the National Presbyterian Church in Chile.
- Pray for the February 6 visit to Walker State Prison to start the course on hermeneutica.
- Pray for trip to visit Spanish speaking student in three prisons in northern Florida, Feb. 7 -10.
- Pray for the fund-raising efforts to place The Outlook with 300 inmates.
Yours in His service,