Reformation Christian Ministries
History in Suriname
Reformation Christian Ministries (RCM) was started in
1979 with the establishment of a church and
Christian day school by its founder and director, Rev. Geoffrey Donnan
(with the able assistance of his wife, Nancy, and their two children
Kimarie and Jason). God must surely be praised for the tremendous outreach of
Christian Liberty Academy and the First Presbyterian Church associated with it.
A Brief History
The Beginning of the Church and School.
and Geoffrey Donnan & Jason
Donnan, with his wife
Nancy and two children (Kimarie and Jason) went to Suriname in April, 1978,
with the intention of spending one year of internship in the country, prior to
going to Trinidad. They were, at that time, working under the auspices of their
local church, but assigned to International Missions (an independent,
evangelical mission sending agency). The Lord, however, intended differently.
his acclimation period, Geoff Donnan was asked to take over for a Baptist
missionary (himself being Baptist at the time) who was going away for several
months. He and Nancy traveled by motorcycle to Marienburg (at the time, about
two hours away from the capitol city of Paramaribo) and conducted a Bible study
amongst the cane cutters working on the sugar plantation. Most of these
cane-cutters were English-speaking, though some were Creole speaking
Haitians. He became acquainted with a young Guyanese man who lived in the
capitol and after the return of the other missionary, the two of them began the
work of visiting and evangelizing Guyanese and other English-speaking people.
The result of this was the establishment of a Bible study group that shortly
became a church plant. They met in the second story of a Christian bookstore
(Het Goede Boek, on Heerenstraat). At the time, the church took the name Open
Door Bible Church, with the idea of attracting anyone interested in the Gospel
At the end of the first year, the
church was growing and the Donnans were forced to resign from International
Missions due to their doctrinal position becoming theologically reformed. Their
home church supported them in this decision after consulting with the mission
agency. So, the Donnans now began working directly under their sending
church which was the
Church of Christian
Liberty, located at that time in Prospect Heights, Illinois. They were the
church behind the establishment of the
Liberty Academy school system, in which the Donnans were participants.
By 1979, the church had moved to the fellowship hall of the historic
Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Waterkant and, with the aid of its
sending church, purchased a property from the Family Loor just past
Tweederijweg on Gemenelandsweg, in the area known as Uitvlugt. The
property had a house (pictured on the right) and enough land to build a
school building and was conveniently located on several bus lines making
access to and from Paramaribo reasonably convenient.
By October, 1979,
Christian Liberty Academy of Paramaribo (CLA) was established with
sixteen students in a hastily constructed building from donated lumber
from nearby lumber mills and volunteer labor from the church.
1979 CLA 2-room School building.
1980 school party, old school building.
Stichting: Caribbean Christian Ministries
By early 1980, the Stichting (the Dutch word for "foundation,"
equivalent to a North American non-profit corporation) and the church and school
officially operated under the Stichting: Caribbean Christian Ministries.
On February 25, 1980, Suriname experienced "revolution" as a
result of a military coup whereby the small, but well armed military ousted the
civil government supported by the police and established a military dictatorship
under Commander Desi Bouterse. In an unrelated event during that same year, the
Evangelical Lutheran Church fellowship building burned to the ground, so the
meeting of the church was moved to the small school facility in Uitvlugt. Thus
began the school and church use of the property that continues to this day and
has expanded to include several additional lots purchased across the adjacent
An extremely interesting article has been recently released
which explains the secret negotiations by the Reagan government during 1983
which kept the U.S.S.R. from establishing military bases in Suriname to
supplement their efforts at the time in Cuba. This is especially interesting,
because the Embassy of the U.S.S.R. had enrolled several children in Christian
Liberty Academy at the time (and has on occasions since). To read this article,
Secrets of Suriname: Another Reagan-Administration Cold War success story,
The Donnans Prepare to Leave.
the church and school grew, though the school grew considerably quicker. In
1986, the Donnans made a decision to return to the U.S. for the sake of the
on-going education of their children (their oldest daughter had just graduated
from CLA), but with the intention of returning frequently. An
administration had been set up that they believed would be able to carry on
without their immediate presence.
Furthermore, some arrangements had been made to invite the Orthodox Presbyterian
Church to come into Suriname and carry on the work of the church. As a
result, in the following years, its name was changed from Open Door Bible Church
to First Presbyterian Church.
Mitchell Persaud, a young trainee from Guyana, hired by Rev. Donnan some
years earlier, had been promoted through various teaching responsibilities to
the role of assistant to the Headmaster (Rev. Donnan) and Administrator. Rev.
Donnan made frequent trips to and from Suriname from their base in Pompano
The Church and School from 1986 to 1994.
On the church side of things, several missionaries came and went
from the Orthodox Presbyterian
Church to handle the church side of things. One such missionary family was
Rev. & Mrs. Ralph English (formerly a missionary to Korea for many years). His
wife, Joan, became quite involved in the school and assisted Mr. Persaud in the
administration. During this time, a young man (also from Guyana but living in
Suriname) Asgar Mohamed Hamid began attending the school as a student. He was
spotted by Mr. Persaud as a sharp young man who showed promise both as a teacher
and possible administrator. He also had interest in theological studies
and had served as a preaching assistant in the local Baptist church.
Asgar Mohamed Hamid
Another missionary family, Rev. & Mrs. Karl Hubenthal, came to
Suriname some time later to work mostly among the Dutch speakers and to take
over a church established by the
Gereformeerde Kerk (Vrijgemaakt) at the Esther Stichting (a home for cured,
but disabled lepers). Through the next few years, Mr. Hamid graduated from the
school and married one of the other students from the school (Nirmala Singh).
He also was being groomed as an assistant to Mr. Persaud and Mr. Donnan.
Eventually, Mr. Persaud was given an opportunity to study at
Greenville Theological Seminary,
Greenville, South Carolina in the U.S.
was at this time that Mr. Hamid was moved up to replace Mr. Persaud (who also
later married a student from the school, Shabeeda Hossein). Rev. Persaud now
resides in Toronto, Ontario and is a missionary to the Chinese immigrants to
that city with the United Reformed
Churches of North America. He also continues to work with Rev. Donnan on the Good News Bible
Rev. & Mrs. Rudy Poettcker
The Poettcker Family
In 1994, the services of
Rev. & Mrs. Rudy Poettcker were secured by RCM to work as an educator and
missionary at CLA. Some years after his arrival, Rev. & Mrs. English returned
to the United States leaving only the Hubenthal family. Mr. Asgar Hamid had now
become a member and later elder of First Presbyterian Church, also working at the school. Consequently, Rev.
Poettcker was asked to serve on the session of the church along with Rev.
Hubenthal and Mr. Hamid. Eventually, Rev. Hubenthal resigned as pastor to spend
full time on church-planting work amongst the Amerindians. Rev. Poettcker was
then called as pastor to the church and was succeeded in 2002 by Rev. Asgar
Hamid who had completed sufficient theological studies at
RCM's seminary for the task.
Because there was no longer any involvement of the Orthodox
Presbyterian Church in the First Presbyterian Church of Paramaribo and because
the denomination was not in a position to receive a church outside of North
America into their denomination, the First Presbyterian Church of Paramaribo
became a member of the Covenant
Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1998.
The March 2003 Fire
March of 2003, a terrible fire burned down the main building of the school and
church, and also the residence above them where the Poettckers and a local
teacher from the school lived. This was the same residence that the Donnan
family moved into and expanded considerably which had become the meeting place
of the church and the main office, later classrooms and chapel for the school.
The rebuilding effort is recounted in a lengthy picture report and was completed
The School and Church Successfully Continue After the
Poettcker's Move to the U.S.
Rev. Poettcker was promoted to Headmaster of CLA in 2004
succeeding the founder, Rev. Donnan. Rev. Hamid had already assumed the
responsibility of Administrator for the school. In 2006, the Poettckers moved
to the United States so that Rev. Poettcker could assume his responsibility as
Dean of Studies for the college and seminary programs of RCM. Rev. Poettcker
remains the headmaster of the school and the Suriname field director for RCM.
He commutes back and forth between Florida and Suriname on average four times a
years. He also administrates the Bachelor of Education degree program
with a number of Suriname-based students from
RCM's college program.
The Church and School Today
While there remains a very close link between RCM and the school
in Suriname, it seems now that aside from the regular need for qualified
teachers from outside of Suriname, both the church and school are able to
continue completely from their own financial resources and largely from their
First Presbyterian Church began in 1978 and continues to this day with a
local pastor and deacon. It's membership averages about 60 and its attendance
Christian Liberty Academy of Paramaribo began in 1979 and today is
the largest English-language school in Suriname.
Reformation International Theological Seminary and Reformation International
College are both operating in Suriname since 1996.
The Church and School
Today — 2009!
In March 2003, a fire broke out in Suriname that nearly killed
RCM's missionary family (the Poettckers) and destroyed the school office, church
building and school chapel. It took two years to rebuild. This is the
pictoral story of this momentous project that literally changed the face of the
school in Suriname.