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.

The Beginning of the Church and School.

Kimarie, Nancy and Geoffrey Donnan & Jason
Geoffrey 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.
During 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 and Christianity.
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 theChurch of Christian Liberty, located at that time in Prospect Heights, Illinois.  They were the church behind the establishment of the Christian Liberty Academy school system, in which the Donnans were participants. Suriname3--Bible-Studyw.jpg
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 sidestreet, Loorweg.

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, entitled Secrets of Suriname:  Another Reagan-Administration Cold War success story, click here.

The Donnans Prepare to Leave.

Both 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.

Mr. Mitchell Persaud

Mr. 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 Beach, Florida.

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 began attending the school as a student.
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.

It 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 Study program.

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

In 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 in 2005.

Christian Liberty Academy after the fire.
2003 Fire

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 fromRCM’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 own personnel.

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 slightly more.

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.

Christian Liberty Academy of Paramaribo, Suriname
The Church and School Today

Suriname Fire and Rebuilding Report

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.