In A Watered Garden, Gertrude Hoeksema refers to the 1970s as a time of outreach for the PRC. Some of our contacts included those from New Zealand and Australia who were unhappy with the pastors coming from the Reformed Theological College in Geelong, Australia. Other contacts included those of the Gospel Literature and Tract Society in Singapore. Those who desire to read more about this trip can consult the late 1975 and early 1976 issues of the Standard Bearer.
In 1975, I took a world tour with the Hoeksemas, and in the meantime did some work for the churches. We had a layover in Los Angeles. Homer and Trude Hoeksema left us temporarily on another flight to visit some islands in the southern Pacific. Beth Bos, my granddaughter, was paged to have some error in her tickets corrected. When that was taken care of, we left for Hawaii. We arrived in the hotel in Hawaii about six o’clock, which was midnight back home. After dinner all were ready for bed.
The next morning we took in some of the scenery, but in the early afternoon Beth and Verna Klamer (now Verna Terpstra), her traveling companion, had to take their plane to Hong Kong, and then to Singapore, where we would meet them in about four weeks.
At 1 a.m. I boarded the plane for New Zealand. This was a large plane, and I was amazed to see people streaming in with hats, overcoats, and all kinds of winter clothing. But on Wednesday at 8 a.m. I arrived in Aukland, and came to the full realization that this was the first day of winter there. It was actually a nice day, but one could wear more than the clothing we wore in Hawaii where it was 92 degrees.
Mr. Van Dalen and his son Rich, members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Churches in New Zealand, met me at the airport. I stayed with them over night, after they had taken me around to see the city. There I had my first experience with the cold of winter. This home, as the others, had no central heating. The only warm room in the house was the kitchen, where we sat until bedtime. As I prepared to retire, my feet became like blocks of ice. After a short time in bed, I decide to go to the bathroom, where I might be able to warm up. Instead I met the wind blowing in from the vents in the wall. But on the way back to bed, I discovered a sheep skin rug. This I wrapped around my feet, and soon went off to sleep. My first lesson Down Under: Don’t take your shoes off until you are sitting on the bed, ready to crawl in!
The next day I met Homer and Trude in Wellington, where we went to a restaurant with Mr. Van Rij, Mr. Van Herk, Mr. Kuppa, and Mr. Vooys and some ministers in the area. Homer and Trude went with Mr. Van Rij to Christchurch, while I stayed in Wellington to preach for ten people twice on Sunday. On Monday, I went to Christchurch. We spent the evening in discussion with a large number of people, and the next day went on to Dunedin. After a few days there we went north to the city of Nelson to meet with a mixed group of people. I stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Button, who were definitely English, even in their way of living. They had been Episcopalian, but had left their church, yet were far from being Reformed. At the cottage meeting that evening Mr. Button burst forth, “Do you mean that God creates people to burn them up? What a conceit to think you are elect, while others are damned.” After he quieted down, we referred him to Romans 9. Later, before we left, I had a calmer discussion with him. Thereupon we returned to Christchurch, had another meeting there, and then went off to Australia.
On Tuesday, at 9:30 a.m., we arrived in Melbourne, where we were met by Mr. Van Beelen, who was under censure, because he opposed Rev. Woudstra, professor in Geelong seminary, for his views on creation and predestination. In regard to the latter, Rev. Woudstra taught that God chose Abraham, later Israel, and now the church to win souls for Jesus.1
After a five hour wait, we took the plane to Tasmania, arriving in Wynyard, where we had a discussion on the covenant in the afternoon and a lecture at night. There we met the Kleyns and the Bosvelds.2 I stayed with and had a pleasant visit with the Bosvelds. From there we went to Launceston where we met a group of about thirty people, and where the subject of supra and infralapsarianism came up. This Sunday morning Prof. Hoeksema preached for Rev. Rodman in Launceston.3 I preached in St. Andrew’s cathedral, where Rev. Miller was minister. This was a wonderful experience, especially listening to the large pipe organ and preaching from a pulpit on the wall. After the service, we all had dinner with the Connors, after which Rev. Rodman took us to Winnaleah, where we met in the home of the Cairns.4
On Monday, we saw a farm of kangaroos, wallabees and foresters (a large, gray kangaroo), after which Rev. Rodman took us through the rain forest between Winnaleah and St. Helens, and then on to the peninsula and Port Arthur, where in previous years English prisoners were kept.
In the evening we met the Terry Kingston family. I enjoyed my stay at the Kingstons very much. The next morning the people showed us their little church in the woods, which meant so much to them. Rev. Rodman took us to the plane that brought us back to the mainland. There we spent the day in the hotel, since all three had the diarrhea, resulting from the water we drank on the island of Tasmania.
The next day Mr. Van Beelen met us and took us to a motel in Geelong.
We found the seminary in Geelong to be nothing more than an old pickle factory, remodeled to suit the needs of the school. The rooms were large, cold and bare with a few chairs and a small heater located somewhere in the room. There was a dungeon below where classes were held. The school had only three professors and twelve students. We invited the professors to come to the motel for a dinner, at Mr. Van Beelen’s expense, but they refused. One student, a Mr. De Graauw, arranged to have the students meet with us at the Commodore Motel, where we were staying. As a result twelve students came, three professors to keep an eye on the affair and two ministers. We spent an interesting afternoon with them, since they pressed us with many questions about common grace and the free offer, most of which we had heard often in the past. One professor remarked that it was like Paul and Silas sitting there answering questions. Only one student, Mr. De Graauw, lingered afterward to show some real interest.
At 5:30 p.m. we took the train to Melbourne, where we met Mr. Morgan, whose son David had come along with us from Geelong. We talked long into the night, since Mr. Morgan was a theologian, with many books lining his living room and dining room walls. The next evening, a good-sized group came together to discuss a variety of subjects, such as, common grace, Christian education and the Association for the Advancement of Christian Studies.5 Once more it was late before we retired.
On Saturday morning we were on our way by air to Sydney where Rev. Stafford met us.6 Mrs. Stafford was a concert pianist, who taught teachers how to teach music. They had three children, Naomi, Markus and Matthew. Here the Hoeksemas stayed with Miss Martin, while I stayed with the Staffords. On Sunday afternoon I preached to about thirty people in Stafford’s congregation. In the evening Prof. Hoeksema preached in a Baptist Church, where a Rev. Kastelign of the Free Reformed Church was present to spy on our activities.
On Monday, Miss Martin took us to the botanical gardens, which were of special interest to her, since she was a botany teacher in the high school. On Tuesday, John Steele and Miss Martin took us downtown, where we saw the famous Sydney opera house. The largest auditorium was five stories high, the upper floors reached by elevator, yet the acoustics were perfect, even up there. We also took a sight seeing tour through the channels. The congregation there donated $500 toward our traveling expenses.
On Wednesday morning, at 8:19, we boarded the train with John Steele, Rev. Stafford and two other persons to travel north to Wauchope. There we met Rev. and Mrs. Tripovitch of the Free Presbyterian Church. These people did not understand the covenant. Mrs. Tripovitch was looking for a conscious or dramatic conversion in her son, and was concerned, because, although his walk was proper, he had not shown signs of conversion. While she was making supper on a cook stove, heated with wood, I explained to her our view of the covenant. She became extremely interested. In fact, while Prof. Hoeksema spoke at night on John 3:16, she could hardly contain herself, moving restlessly on her chair. I wondered whether she strongly disagreed, until she whispered to me, “I can hardly resist crying out Hallelujah!” After the lecture she said to her husband, tapping him on the chest, “I want you to keep a copy of that lecture, learn it, and preach like that.” I doubt whether he ever did.
The next morning we went by a small two motor plane to Lismore. The pilot was very willing to describe the scenery as we flew over banana plantations, over the ocean and tropical areas. At Lismore, we met Chris Coleborn, who took me to the home of Peter Torlach.7 After I disposed of my luggage, we took a ride through the country, engaging in a serious discussion on God’s covenant. That evening, Prof. Hoeksema lectured, followed by a long and interesting discussion.
The next morning I had devotions with the Torlach family in the living room, after which Chris took me to the plane. We were so involved in a discussion on the covenant even as we sat at the airport, that had not the pilot come to call me, I would have been left behind.
We returned to Sydney, where a package was made up of winter clothing and various souvenirs that were sent to our home in Michigan.
The next day, Rev. Stafford, John Steele and Miss Martin met us at the airport where we had coffee together before boarding the plane at 10:10 a.m. This plane took us to Djakarta, Indonesia.
We had enjoyed our stay in Australia and especially appreciated their wonderful hospitality. But the time had come to move on. It was a long, wearisome trip of nine hours across the alkali flats of inner Australia to the famous resort Bali, and then on to Djakarta. The hostess in the plane asked, “Why don’t you stay at Bali? That is a much nicer place.” But our schedule directed us to Djakarta.
As we returned to the plane at Bali, I remarked to the stewardess that she looked rather distraught. She answered, “You would too, if you had been searching under the seats for a small alligator that had escaped out of a box carried in by a small boy.” I could hardly disagree with that.
Arriving in Djakarta we were met in a crowded airport by Kornelis Kooswanto and Paulina Wangedorm who ushered us through the teeming crowds of sweating humanity to an auto nearby. On the way I was warned not to lay my arm by the window, lest someone take the wristwatch at any amount of damage to the hand or arm.
Kornelis brought us to the Boroburur Hotel, a beautiful building only a year old, overlooking a filthy city.
The next morning at 6:30, Kornelis and Paulina were at the hotel to pick us up for the early service at 7 o’clock. At the church we were given tea and cakes before the service. The service was conducted by Kornelis in the Indonesian language. The sermon on John 14:6 was delivered by Prof. Hoeksema to an audience of about 150 people in English and translated as he went along.
After the service, we had sandwiches and tea, and then went to the home of Paulina. Mrs. Surengo was also there. Thereupon she took us to see her home and her apothecary. Mr. Surengo was away to Europe to attend the A.A.C.S. meetings.
At 10 a.m. we had another service. This time I preached on Psalm 91:1, 2 in the Dutch language, which again was translated into the Indonesian.8
This, by the way, was the first time we experienced women elders, one of whom led in prayer before the service.
After the service we had an elaborate meal at the church, consisting of rice, barbecued chicken, chop suey and numerous side dishes. Prof. Hoeksema and I were each presented with a batik shirt, while Trude was given a table set of real batik.
In the evening we met and had a discussion with the young people of the congregation.
The next morning, Cornelius Marinus, who worked for Mr. Van Rij, took us to the bookstore that had been receiving some of our literature. He also took us outside of the city, which had about seven million inhabitants, to show us the canal, that once was kept clean by the tide from the sea. Now the tide no longer swept into the canal. But about a million people were living along its shores in cardboard huts. Occasionally some were driven away by the police, but they soon returned, because of the work nearby in the banana plantation, the rice paddies and the tea fields. Pickers were picking the small, tender leaves from the plants. We also saw the huge estate where the governor lives. This must cover about a section of land, fenced in, containing streams, deer, and other animals, all in their natural setting.
We had a real Indonesian lunch at Pumpuk, and then had to return to the airport to catch our plane.
What struck us about Djakarta were the remnants of the Dutch influence, since the East Indies had been under the Netherlands before World War II. There were Dutch names on the streets, the offices (i.e., kantoor), the garages that advertised remmen for brakes, aku for generator, etc.
We were also deeply impressed by the total confusion in the traffic. Everyone drove like a maniac, cars missed each other by fractions of an inch, while everyone fought to be first. We would not have been able to drive there. It was bad enough to ride through the pandemonium with someone else driving.
When we arrived at the airport, we met Cornelis, Paulina and Mrs. Surgaro and her daughter, who had come to see us off. Since the plane was delayed 45 minutes in leaving, we had a little while to visit together.
At 8:40 p.m., we arrived in Singapore, where Beth Bos and Verna Klamer had waited since 7:00 that morning. They were glad to see us, and we were glad to see them. Ong, whose girl friend we had met in Christchurch, took the Hoeksemas, while Peter, who had harbored the girls, took me to Mrs. Paauwe, the place where we would lodge.
Mrs. Paauwe was the wife of a minister, who was away to attend the A.A.C.S. This mother of a four year old would leave home at six in the morning to care for children in the nursery, who had been taken from pagan homes, to give them a Christian training. Intermittently, she would come home to supervise the Chinese woman who took care of her child. At 11:00 p.m., her day was complete. She did arrange to come home at 10:00 p.m. the last evening we were there to visit with us.
The next day, Ong and Peter, along with Beth and Verna took us sight-seeing. First we went to Peter’s father’s shop, then to the observation tower of the hotel, where we had a nice view of the entire city of 200,000 inhabitants. We had lunch in a Chinese restaurant and then took a sky ride to Sentosa Island, where we spent part of the afternoon. After we had supper in a restaurant, Prof. Hoeksema spoke to a rather large audience of young people between the ages of 18 and 28, who had been converted from heathendom to Fundamentalism. The Prof. spoke on the marks of the true church. Afterward they asked, “Do we have those marks?” And when they were told to decide for themselves, some answered, “We fear that we don’t.” There was a couple present with the garb from India, who showed great interest. When I bid them goodbye they assured me that they would be back the next night.
On Wednesday it was raining, but at 9:30 Peter picked us up to take us to the Botanical Gardens and the campus of the American University, which covers many acres of land. After that we went to the Calvary Baptist Presbysterian Church, where Peter was full time evangelist. We had lunch there, and then went up one of the high rises to get an idea of how the people lived in those crowded areas.
At 5:00, Ong picked us up to take us for supper to the Salad Bowl, where we had eaten the evening before. Early that morning, someone had asked me to speak on assurance of faith. He said, “That is what we lack.” So in the evening I took the viewpoint of Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism and spoke on “Our Only Comfort.” It is quite obvious that the Arminian has no real assurance or comfort, since his salvation depends, at least in part, on himself. In the question hour, one of the most important questions was “How do we attain that comfort?”
At 5:30 the next morning, Ong was at the door to take us to the airport. Soon after, Peter brought the girls over, whereupon we headed for the airport. The plane left at 7:30 so we had time for a cup of coffee with Ong. He presented each of us with a beautiful tablecloth as a remembrance. And so we were again on our way, the girls with us.
When we left Singapore, we felt that we had enjoyed the visit very much, more than our stay at Djakarta. But we had been so strongly impressed by their Arminian tendencies, that we never expected to hear from them again. Yet shortly after we came home, a letter arrived from Chin Kwee, seeking more permanent contact.9
It was a three hour trip to Bangkok, Thailand, our next stop, where we would spend a couple of days. A bus took us to Narcis Hotel, where we had lunch in a Bavarian restaurant. In the afternoon we took a tour through some of the elaborate temples.
On Friday Trude stayed in her room, and Homer stayed with her. Verna also preferred to rest. So Beth and I went out to see the town. Later in the day Trude went with the girls, and I went with Homer to buy a few souvenirs.
At 7:30 p.m. we were brought to the airport, where we had to wait until 10:30 p.m. for our flight. We had a DC-8, a long narrow plane, that took us, with only one stop over, on a 14 hour flight to Switzerland.
The stop over was in Iran, where we were forbidden to take cameras or any other luggage from the plane. We were herded like a flock of sheep into the airport, with guards in white robes and turbans all around staring at us. All in all, it made us feel very uncomfortable, creating an idea that we would never care to come back to Iran.
The next morning, we flew over the Alps. This was noon according to our time, but still six o’clock in the morning there. It was an unforgettable sight, the massive snow covered peaks in the dazzling brightness of the morning sun, with small towns and lakes stowed away in the valleys below.
Upon our arrival at the airport, we soon discovered that there was no guide to direct us. We planned to go to the mountains, where we would spend the Sunday in a missionary retreat. But we had no idea how to get there. Nor was there anyone who could give us direction in our language. As we stood with all our luggage in the center of the terminal, a guide did come, but we could not get through to her what we wanted, neither in English, nor in Dutch, nor in German. In disgust we turned to the ticket office for the Netherlands, intending to buy tickets to go directly to the Netherlands.
This woman could speak both Dutch and English, and could inform us how to get to the railroad station, where we would board a train that would take us into the mountains. When the train reached its destination in the mountains, we were directed into the depot, where we could obtain our noonday meal. This was served to us in pans that were kept warm on a small heater.
Thereupon we took a bus which took us to our destination. There was a hotel with small cottages. We were assigned rooms in the cottages, and also assigned a seat at the table in the main building, where we would eat our meals.
We spent a very enjoyable Sunday in this retreat, even though we soon discovered that the Roman Catholic Church was the only church in the area. We had our worship services at the bank of the river, with Prof. Hoeksema speaking on a passage from Isaiah. As we sang, people would walk past slowly to listen to us.
In the afternoon we saw men harvesting grain with scythes and carrying bundles on their shoulders, so that all that we could see was two legs and a bundle of grain moving toward and disappearing into the barn. We also took a walk to enjoy the scenery.
On Monday morning the bus was at the hotel very early to pick us up and to bring us back to Zurich, where we took the train through Germany past Cologne, to Amsterdam, arriving at the depot about 10:00.
The girls and I thought we had reservations at a certain hotel, but there was some misunderstanding, because they were not expecting us. Yet they did have lodging for us. So the next day Homer and Trude went to Stad Groningen, while we took the train to Alkmar, where we met a bus that took us over the Afsluit Dijk to Harlingen. There we tried to call a certain Mr. Dykstra in Zeksberen, but reached the wrong Dykstra. So we sat in the restaurant, discussing how best to spend our time by going into Groningen. While we were eating our lunch, the Dykstra who we wanted to contact, came to the door and asked, “Are there Americans here?” He had been informed by the other Dykstra of our call, so decided he might find us in the restaurant. The two girls went to his daughter, who was supposed to be able to speak English, while I went to the home of this Dykstra (a relative of the Miedemas in Hudsonville PRC) who took me sightseeing, ending up on the dike as the sun was setting.
This Dykstra had arranged that I should preach in their church, an old cathedral, the next Sunday. But this did not fit in with our plans. He complained of the modernism in his church, and was eager to talk about the Reformed faith. The next day the girls went with me to Harlingen, where we did a bit of shopping.
Early the next morning, Dykstra took us to the train in Harlingen, which would take us by way of Leeuwaarden back to Amsterdam. When the train pulled out, Dykstra went by car and met us in Leeuwaarden, where we still had a cup of coffee together. He urged me to try to come again in the near future, slipping into my hand a twenty dollar bill.
All day Beth, Verna and I traveled by train, the same train Homer and Trude were on, except that we did not see each other until we reached our destination in Luxembourg. There we were once more confronted with the problem that we had no interpreter. But we finally found out that our hotel was outside of the city, and what bus we had to take to get there. The bus driver set us, with all our luggage, out on the road about a half mile from the hotel. Our next problem was how we could get to the hotel with all our luggage, far more than we could carry with the four of us. So the girls went to the hotel to inform them of our arrival, and they sent a bus to pick us up and bring us to the lobby.
There we obtained rooms for the night, and the next morning we went back to the city to board the plane that would take us by way of Newfoundland to Grand Rapids.
Luxembourg has the old walled city within the new city. We would have liked to see the old city, but the difficulty with the language prevented us from doing any more than was absolutely necessary.
The next day a bus took us to the airport, where we boarded a plane for our last flight to the U.S. This plane was packed with people, and the girls and I had seats so close to the back that we could not put the back down to take a bit of rest. All day we sat upright in our seats, hardly enjoying more than seeing the ice flows in the water below.
A large crowd had come to welcome us as we arrived in Kent County Airport, but we were so tired that we could hardly appreciate that. We had one desire, and that was to go home and get some rest.
1 Rev. Woudstra was a CRC minister on loan to the Reformed Church of Australia.
2 Nick and Ina Kleyn have since immigrated to the U.S. with all but one of their children. They and their children are members of various PR churches. The Bosvelds mentioned here are the parents of Michael Bosveld of Hope PRC.
3 Rev. Rodman was a leader and a minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Churches of Australia.
4 The Connors are the parents of Pastor Chris Connors of the EPC.
5 This later became the Institute for Christian Studies still located in Toronto and dedicated to Neo-Kuyperianism and the philosophy of Dooyweerd and Vollenhoven.
6 Rev. Stafford was minster in an independent church. Miss Martin and John Steele were members of his church.
7 Chris Coleborn is currently pastor in the EPC. Peter Torlach is the father of David Torlach, currently studying in our seminary.
8 Some of the people could understand Dutch because Indonesia was part of the Dutch East Indies.
9 Chin Kwee is Pastor Lau of Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church. At this time he was a leader of the Gospel Literature and Tract Society.