Editor’s Notes—Since Grandpa did not write about the last ten years of his life, it was necessary that I write a final chapter to bring his memoirs to a fitting conclusion. I have relied heavily on my own memory and the memories of his three surviving children in assembling the material for this chapter. I have also interspersed these paragraphs with quotes from a letter that Cornelius Hanko’s son wrote to a friend in the United Kingdom who inquired about Rev. Hanko upon learning of his death. These quotes are clearly indicated by the different format. However, the reader can hear Rev. Hanko’s own voice one last time at the very end of the chapter.
Rev. Hanko wrote these memoirs after his retirement, adding to them every few years or so. But as far as we know, he added nothing after 1995. However, he continued to look for ways to be of use to the family and the churches.
He asked his son Herm what he thought of the idea of translating the Dutch manuscript, Van Zonde en Genade by Herman Hoeksema and Henry Danhof. Herm’s answer can be found in the editor’s introduction to the book Sin and Grace. “Because he [Rev. Hanko, kvb] was fluent in Dutch and because he needed work to keep him occupied, I readily agreed that the book should be translated. I was a bit skeptical whether he was able to do it, though. He was, after all, in his eighties, very nearly blind, and weary with the burdens of many years in the ministry. But if it could be done, it would be well worth it. I got out his copy of Van Dale’s Woordenboek, the authoritative dictionary of the Dutch language; set up a word processor; installed a program that would enlarge the text on the screen of his monitor; and encouraged him to do what he could.”1 The manuscript was published in 2003 by the Reformed Free Publishing Association in the book entitled, Sin and Grace.
Grandpa took every opportunity to tell others of the history of the churches which he had served. For example, Doug Dykstra’s young people’s class from Grandville PRC came to visit Rev. Hanko once a year for many years so that he could talk with them about 1924 and 1953.2
His last great effort on behalf of the churches was to speak to Prof. Hanko’s Monday night Bible class and other interested people, a group of about 150, on the Split of 1953. By that time, two years before his death, he could see and hear very little and was confined to a wheelchair. Yet his memory remained keen, as did his love for and interest in the PRC.
He and Allie moved to Walden Woods, an assisted living home in the spring of 2000. When he first toured the place with his children, he remarked in Dutch, “I am weary of life.” And yet the Lord spared him for another five years. While he lived there, his days were filled with the difficult work of growing old. Grandpa had to say with Paul, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.”
Almost to the very end of his life, he loved to go for long drives and out to eat with his children. His afflictions were many—congestive heart failure and increasing stomach problems. And yet, he continued to attend church in the evenings and listened by telephone hook-up to the morning service.
At one point, Grandpa contracted pneumonia and nearly died. He was disappointed and a bit resentful when he rallied. Grandpa said he felt as if he had been in the narthex of heaven and God had pushed him back out the wrong door. At times, he grew impatient that the Lord tarried so long, especially when the Lord took family members much younger than he was.
Those family members closest to him felt the brunt of this impatience at times, but most often, for most visitors he had a ready story, often one about the visitor himself or the visitor’s relatives. This story was always told with the same dry wit, Rev. Hanko’s own shoulders shaking with silent laughter. As his son fondly recalled,
He was ardently loved by his grandchildren who never failed to stop in to see him when they were in town. They loved his stories, stories taken from his life and the rich and varied experiences through which the Lord led him. These stories, while captivating and told with zest, were nevertheless all geared to instruct those who listened in the ways of faithfulness.
Rev. Hanko ceased going out to eat with his children, a weekly occurrence for many years, in early winter 2004, for he was very afraid of falling on the ice. He fell in his room in early January 2005, and on the 29th of the same month, was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia and congestive heart failure. Although he returned from the hospital and recovered from the pneumonia and the fall, his strength was sapped and he began the decline that led to his death.
Rev Hanko’s life spanned nearly a century. He had lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He had seen the rise and fall of communism, the advent of the space age, the rise of terrorism and lived during the terms of 18 US presidents, from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush.
It is just as well that God does not reveal to us the length or the sorrow of our days. A similar thought can be found in his son’s letter.
When Dad left Oak Lawn, Illinois in 1945 to take up his ministry in Manhattan, Montana, he preached his farewell on Paul’s stirring words in II Timothy 4, “I have fought a good fight…,” but little did he then know that he had 60 years of spiritual warfare ahead of him and that the worst battles were still to come.
In all his life, Rev. Hanko lived first for the church. And that had not always been easy. He pastored six PR churches from the Midwest to the far West. He lived through two heart-wrenching church splits and never wavered in his commitment to sovereign grace. His children can confirm this, especially when they think back on a Thanksgiving morning long ago.
The Split of 1953 nearly killed him. On a Thanksgiving morning when my mother was in the hospital for a heart attack, he called me into his bedroom early in the morning in a feeble voice. He was scheduled to preach, but his ulcer had begun to bleed…By the time I had called an ambulance and it had arrived, he was unconscious from loss of blood…He literally spent himself in the cause of the church.
Truly, he had kept the faith.
Grandpa had one last enemy to face and that was death. He was confined to bed for a number of days prior to his death. While he began to lose interest in life, he still received great comfort from singing and reading the old Dutch Psalms with his visitors.
He responded less and less to those around him as the days progressed. He slipped into a coma, from which he never awakened, during the second week of March. And on March 14, 2005, the Lord granted him victory over the last great enemy. He had finished the course. His son writes:
We did not really have the sorrow that is usual when a loved one is taken to glory, for we saw him in these last few years as a weary and worn-out warrior in the battles of faith, we witnessed his almost pathetic eagerness to be with the Lord, and we watched the slow decline of his eyesight, hearing, and physical well-being. He had been for many years a faithful, covenant father who encouraged us in the ways of the Lord, instructed us in what they were, and chided us when we did not show proper zeal.
Because he outlived by so many years, those of his own generation and even many of the succeeding generation, Rev. Hanko would from time to time express apprehension that there would be no one at his funeral. He need not have worried. His four children, most of his nineteen grandchildren, most of his seventy-one great grandchildren, as well as two great great grandchildren were in attendance. Many of his fellow saints and former parishioners also appeared to hear Rev. Gise Van Baren, a friend of the family, and Rev. Hanko’s long time pastor, speak on Revelation 3:11-12, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” The letter states:
And so, as we stood together at the side of his coffin, it seemed totally inappropriate to wring our hands and weep…it was a time for thanksgiving and rejoicing. And this we did with hundreds of God’s people who came to offer their condolences through visitation, their presence at the funeral service, and cards and letters…He has exchanged his spiritual sword for a palm branch, his helmet for a crown of life, and his armor for the white robes of the righteousness of Christ. He is a little ahead of us, for we too shall soon go to join the company of just men made perfect.
His lasting legacy was his total devotion to the church; that has made its indelible mark on us all. But people in the churches remember him chiefly for his quietness, his meekness, his humility, his unwillingness to be in the limelight, his understanding of people and sympathy for them. This latter was due to the fact that he knew himself to be a very great sinner, saved by grace. That enabled him to empathize with others in their struggles with temptations and their weary walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
All his life, but particularly toward the end, Allie’s care weighed heavily on Grandpa. He wondered how she would carry on when he died. He need not have worried. Some six months after the Lord took Grandpa, Allie contracted pneumonia and died. Their lives were closely intertwined and once Grandpa died, she felt she had little reason to live. They had cared for each other for many years, and because of her, Grandpa never needed to be confined to a rest home. She too had fought a good fight and has now obtained her crown.
Grandpa spent a great deal of time in his retirement writing these memoirs. Ninety-nine percent of these chapters were verbatim from his writings. And so, it is only fitting that I end these chapters with Grandpa’s own words.
Looking back, there were a number of firsts in my life. My family was the first in the neighborhood to have electricity and an automobile. I was among the first students in Christian High when they opened their doors for the first time. I experienced the opening of our seminary and was with the first class that graduated. Later, I was delegate to our first synod meeting. And in Oak Lawn, we held our first young people’s convention. Striking, isn’t it?
Mom was delivered from her suffering and taken to glory many years ago. She suffered much, most of her life, yet she never complained. Since that time, my sons, my daughters, my son-in-law and daughters-in-law, my grandchildren and great grandchildren mean more to me than ever. I can never be thankful enough for the family God gave us and for the blessing my children and grandchildren are to me.
As I look back upon the past I must say that I have had a rich and full life. Even in the years of my retirement I could keep active. I know that the real life is still to come and this life is but a preparation, but the Lord has been good. I can well say, as the patriarchs of old, that I am full of days, for I have seen all God’s promises realized in my children’s children to the second and third generation. Let me quote one of my favorite Psalter numbers. “When I in righteousness at last, thy glorious face shall see, when all the weary night is past, and I awake with thee, to view the glories that abide then, then I shall be satisfied.”3
I think also of the Dutch Psalm that was a tremendous support to me through the years, a versification of Psalm 27:13-14:
My heart had failed in fear in woe
Unless in God I had believed,
Assured that he would mercy show
And that my life his grace should know,
Nor was my hope deceived.
Fear not, though succor be delayed,
Still wait for God and he will hear;
Be strong nor be thy heart dismayed,
Wait, and the Lord shall bring thee aid,
Yea, trust and never fear.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
Editor’s Note—Chapter 33 brings Rev. Hanko’s memoirs to a conclusion. For those who are interested, his family is planning to publish the memoirs in book form. While we cannot give any particulars at this time, we will keep the Beacon Lights readers informed.
1 Henry Danhof and Herman Hoeksema, Sin and Grace, tr. by translated Cornelius Hanko, Grand Rapids, Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2003, p. vii.
2 Doug Dykstra attends Grandville PRC and teaches at Hope PRC School.
3 Psalter Number 32 was one of the numbers sung at Rev. Hanko’s funeral.
Editor’s Notes—The PRC first had contact with Rev. George Hutton and the Bible Presbyterian Church in Larne in 1983. This church rather suddenly broke off relations with the PRC in 1987, and joined the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Some of the members of Rev. Hutton’s group refused to join the Free Presbyterians, believing that those churches were not doctrinally pure. Our churches continued to work with this group, and sent Rev. Ron Hanko to be their missionary. It was during Rev. Ron Hanko’s tenure that Rev. C. Hanko went to visit Northern Ireland. These Northern Ireland saints suffered another setback when some dissatisfied members disbanded the church in 2002. Again, God preserved a remnant. Since then, the group has reorganized as the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland, and has established sister church relations with us. Rev. Angus Stewart currently serves as their pastor.
In March of 1993, Ron, Nancy and family moved to Ireland to take up mission work amongst the Covenant Reformed Fellowship there. On the 19th of May, Herm, Wilm, Allie and I left on a trip to visit Ron. We drove to Detroit airport where we left our car. British Airways took us by way of Montreal to London, where we changed planes. From London we went to Belfast, where Ron was waiting to meet us.
For the first time in our lives Allie and I were on the soil of Northern Ireland. The cities, the small towns, the houses, the verdant fields with their stone walls covered with vegetation and their flocks of sheep on the hillsides, all appealed to us.
Soon, we were at the gate that marks the entrance to the manse or parsonage. The manse was large with four bedrooms, a study, two bathrooms, a large kitchen and dining area, as well as a large living room. This house is set on a large lot bordered by beautiful rhododendrons, azaleas and other flowers, and surrounded by shrubbery and trees.
It was a pleasure to meet the family once again. When Ron was minister in Wyckoff, New Jersey, I had the privilege of visiting there from time to time, but after they moved to Houston I had not been to their home.
We made up quite a family with four extra guests. There were fourteen of us at meal times. It was a pleasant time as we were all gathered around the table. Jessica usually sat next to me. At the end of the meal we ended our devotions with singing from the Scottish Psalter they used in their worship services.
The day after our arrival we went for supper to the Reids.1 While we were there, Mrs. Reid, Nancy and Allie took a walk to a nearby church. Later we joined them taking a walk through the cemetery and along the stream and bridge on the side of the church.
On May 22 we took a ride to the Belfast Lough. Here we walked around the tower that was built as a memorial for the soldiers who died in the war for freedom from Catholic control. These men were led by William of Orange of the Netherlands. It was a raw, windy day, so we did not stay long.
At home we settled in the living room. It should be added that the three older girls took a great delight in teasing their grandpa and getting him to jostle with them. Without fail they got the worst of the deal, but always came back for more. In our more quiet sessions, the girls joined me in working crossword puzzles.
On Saturday, May 23, we rode along the Irish Sea. Particularly Allie and I had to get accustomed once more to riding on the left side of the road. We stopped at a rest area to allow the kids to expend some of their energy by climbing over huge boulders. At noon we went to a park near the beach just outside of a small town of Carnlough to have our lunch. A number of boats were docked in the harbor on the other side of the road.
On Sunday, we went to church in Ballymena. The meetings were held in a second floor hall. To get there we went through a gateway and an alley to a back door. We ascended a flight of narrow stairs and thus entered the hall. Nancy, Allie and I sat on chairs. The others sat on benches. Mr. Callendar was a very capable precentor or foresinger, who led us in singing from the Scottish Psalter.2 Herm preached both in the morning and in the evening.
On Monday, May 24, we went to Carrickfergus Castle by the sea. On the way we stopped at the home where Herm and Wilm stayed on their previous visit. Carrickfergus Castle is large, having numerous rooms and lined with fortifications. It was given to William of Orange as a gift for gaining the victory over the Catholics at the Battle of the Boyne. It has a large harbor open to the sea. While the rest of our party explored the castle, Wilm and I sat in the coffee shop and entertained ourselves there. The kids had a good time climbing around on the lookouts and viewing the many rooms.
The next day we went to Giant’s Causeway. As we traveled the countryside, we saw the fields of yellow flowers, more sheep and cattle, and everything that makes the countryside interesting. We did stop at a foot suspension bridge at Carrick-a-Rede and spent a little time there. The sway of such a bridge always gives a bit of a thrill to those who venture across. As you can imagine, I did not try it.
Arriving at the Causeway, a number of our party started down to the sea on foot. A few of us took the bus. The bus driver was extremely accommodating, putting my wheel chair in the back of the bus. As soon as we reached our destination, Neal was out on the rocks, climbing as high as he could. Soon the others followed, that is, as many as were interested in clambering over the rocks like mountain goats. Giant’s Causeway extends under the sea all the way to Scotland. The scenery is very interesting, so that we spent some time walking around there.
Since two of Ron’s children, Rose and Herman, had to go to school that day, they missed out on the ride, but we did pick them up on the way home. It was cute, seeing them in their neat uniforms, book pack in hand, coming out of the school and ready to go. Occasionally, Herm and I would ride along with Ron in the morning to bring them to school, or in the afternoon to fetch them home.
On May 27, we went to John and Marlene Clarke for supper. They have six children, two boys and four girls. Upon our return to the manse, we gathered in Ron’s dining room to celebrate Herm and Wilm’s 40th wedding anniversary with some delicious refreshments.
Taking full advantage of our short stay, on May 28 we went to the Antrim seacoast. On a rather long, winding narrow road we came to Murdock Cove, a most scenic spot and a nice place just to enjoy the broad expanse of the sea.
That evening we were invited by the Fellowship to come to the college in Ballymena, where the cafeteria was reserved by John Clarke for our use for the evening. The purpose of this get together was to celebrate Herm and Wilm’s 40th anniversary. Tables were set up for groups of four to eight. Everyone enjoyed the delicious food that was so lavishly spread out before us. Then came the cake cutting. Margaret McAuley had made the cake. Of particular interest was the fact that Neal had set himself right next to Herm, eyeing the cake with extreme interest. Suddenly his finger shot out to take a lick of the frosting, but as suddenly, Ron, who was on the watch said, “Neal.” As quickly as that, the finger drew back. Afterward, a beautiful vase with the inscription, “40th anniversary” was presented and Herm made a thank-you speech that was quite fitting for the occasion. When the celebration had come to an end, the women had the responsibility of cleaning up the place. Men helped move the tables about, but for some time the women were engaged in washing dishes in the kitchen.
We also spent a day in Belfast. Let it be known that, although Belfast has a reputation for riots, Chicago is said to be ten times more dangerous than Belfast. The women went shopping and Ron, Herm and I visited some bookstores. One dealer had his business in his home. In one room on the first floor he had some very valuable books. Other parts of the first floor were also used for books, but the main display was on the second floor. This man formerly had a warehouse, but it was burned by the IRA.3 Now he has his business in his home and seems to do very well.
Sunday, May 30, we went to church twice in Ballymena. I had the privilege of preaching for them in the morning on Isaiah 43:1-4, some of which reads, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when though walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Herm preached in the evening to a very attentive audience. Allie took some pictures of the various families present.
On May 31, we went to the sea, going through Belfast. At noon we stopped at a park to eat our lunch. It was very cold with a cold wind sweeping in from the sea. I wore two jackets. But we enjoyed the lunch and the kids enjoyed running around. Ryan caught a crab that he carried around to show us. Later we took a ferry at Portaferry and enjoyed the ride.
On the evening of June 1, we went for dinner to Brian and Edna Crossett.4 They have two children, David and Cherith. Brian played the flute for us. Edna had a brother there who spent a bit of time with us discussing various doctrinal problems that seemed to bother him. We had quite an interesting and friendly discussion.
On June 2, since it was our last day with Ron’s family, we stayed home and enjoyed the warm sunshine.
In the evening we went to the Bible class, as we had done the week before. Again we met and had fellowship with the group, but this was for the last time. After the meeting we all went to the Salvation Army Hall and looked around it, because the Fellowship was hoping to buy it. All too soon the time came that we must bid them good-bye. We had enjoyed being with them, but now we parted ways.
Back at Ron’s house, we sat together for awhile. There was an atmosphere of sadness in the room, for the time had come to bid each other farewell. We gathered in the dining room, had a lunch and sang from their book of Psalms.
In the morning of June 3, Ron took us to the Belfast airport, where we made our final farewell. We took the plane to London; there we transferred to another part of the airport and got the plane there that took us by way of Montreal back to Detroit. We arrived in Detroit about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and arrived home about 7:30 at night, thankful for a safe and pleasant trip.
In the fall of 1994 my eyes began to fail me. The right eye never was very good, but now fluid was collecting in the cornea of the left eye. It became increasingly difficult to read, since everything was blurred. I had a number of preaching appointments scheduled yet for the end of the year, but decided to cancel them. When the time came to renew the insurance on my car I decided also to give up driving, even though it was very handy for Allie and me to drive in the vicinity of our home.
In May of 1995 I had undergone surgery for cornea transplant. Three weeks later I still could see very little with that eye, since it was still officially blind. But my sight gradually improved. Reading ordinary print was still difficult, but for awhile, I had sufficient sight in that eye to be able to read the church papers and other writings with the aid of a magnifying glass.
In June of 1995, Allie and I accompanied Rich and Elaine to Loveland for grandson Bob’s wedding. We had opportunity to go out for a day with Gise and Clara Van Baren to Rocky Mountain National Park, where I spent a few enjoyable hours at Bear Lake while the others hiked.
It was a real pleasure to attend church in Loveland, to hear our former minister once again and to meet the many people we knew from earlier contacts. Way back in the 50s, Rev. Lubbers and I had paid a visit to Loveland to talk to folk who had heard about us and were unhappy with the situation in their church. At that time they belonged to the German Reformed Church, a small group that hired a Lutheran preacher. This minister preached for the Lutherans in the morning and for this German Reformed group in the afternoon. Occasionally he got his lines mixed and introduced the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation. Clara Sur complained of this to the consistory.5 This resulted in their seeking contact with us, since they had heard of us through Rev. Mensch.6
We were there with them for five days. In fact, I stayed over Sunday and preached for them. The result was that the group that requested us to come were banished from the church and requested the mission committee to have Rev. Lubbers labor there. Later a church was organized. Today, this is a healthy, growing congregation.
Later in July, Herm and Wilm took us to South Holland, Illinois to witness the marriage of granddaughter Karen to Philip Van Baren. At the reception I again met former friends from that congregation. Both trips were enjoyable, not only being present at the weddings, but also the trips themselves.
Even these trips were becoming overwhelming for me. And so our life became quite routine. Occasionally, I was still able to preach, though I had to do so from a stool, because my bad leg did not allow me to stand for long. I preached a bit for the group that is now Grace Church, but soon, due to failing eyesight, had to give that up.
And so, I am about to write finis. Years ago, the Dutch men’s society of First Church held an annual banquet. On that auspicious occasion there were three essays of great length read by members of the society. Coffee, lunch and cigars were served between the essays. When an essayist finished his lengthy discussion, he would sometimes remark, “ I could have said much more.” I could say the same of these memoirs.
I have always considered Rev. Hoeksema to be my spiritual father, since he taught me from the time that I was fourteen years of age. His favorite Psalm and mine was Psalm 89:17-18, “For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favor our horn shall be exalted. For the Lord is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king.”
Here I raise my EBENEZER with the inscription: “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”
1Ivan and Lily Reid have been with the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland since its earliest history. Ivan currently serves as deacon there.
2 Desmond and Mabel Callendar are charter members of CPRC in Northern Ireland.
3 The IRA refers to the Irish Republican Army, a paramilitary group, which sought to unite the Republic of Ireland in the south and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
4 Brian and Edna Crossett have been with CPRC through all of its history. Brian now serves as elder in CPRC.
5 Clara Sur was one of the members of Loveland PRC at its founding.
6 Rev. Mensch was minister for a while in the Reformed Church of the US. He later resigned from the ministry and joined Hope Church of Walker, MI.
Editor’s Notes: Rev. Hanko worked in Bradenton, Florida for over a decade. He always hoped to get a church established there and to that end, for a few years, did stay year round, rather than going for just the winter. Toward the end of his work there, the Domestic Mission Committee took over the work and the group moved its services to Venice. It was in the year 1992 that the DMC decided to close the field.
For a few years I enjoyed teaching Dutch in the seminary. Allie worked in Hudsonville Public Library and also for Vern Klamer on his celery farm.1 But there were also opportunities to do a bit of traveling and church visiting for the classis.
In 1980, Allie and I started going to Florida. I preached at services for PR snowbirds in Bradenton. At first we went there for a very short time, only a month or two, but this was gradually increased so that by 1989 we stayed the whole year, except for a visit to Michigan in the spring and in the fall.
For the first winters, we stayed in an apartment on 20th Street east of the city. We first held services in the hotel in downtown Bradenton. Later, we met in the Christian school on 16th Street.
During one year in Bradenton, we stayed with Pete and Fannie Lubbers in a cottage on the Anna Maria Island about eleven miles from the church.2 Because of the Sunday traffic, if often took us an hour to get home and another hour to get back to church. Since we had a 3 o’clock service in the afternoon, we had time only for a hasty lunch. It was nice to be within walking distance of the gulf, but the wind howling under the house at night made the floors very cold. Often we kept our socks on when we went to bed at night.
In later years, we stayed in a trailer in the K&K Trailer Court on 14th Street in Bradenton. We often traveled to and from Florida with Owen and Irene Peterson, Bertha Dusselje and Nell Reitsma.3
As time went on, we did not continue to have services in the Christian school, but moved to the Academy near Blake Hospital. At the Academy, children, whose parents evidently did not want to send them to the local public schools, were taught. This was a suitable meeting place for us. Our attendance was very good, even including couples from various parts of the US and Canada. If nothing else, we were a small voice in the Reformed church world presenting Reformed preaching.
After one winter in Bradenton, we returned to Michigan briefly and then shortly thereafter, Owen Petersen, Allie and I started out for Ripon, California to work there toward possible organization of a congregation. I had received a request to work there for four or five months. The trip through Wyoming was a bit strenuous because of the strong head wind. We held the accelerator down to the floor, yet could make only fifty miles an hour. The gas ran through the car like water. Toward sunset, we arrived in Salt Lake City. Since the wind had calmed down and the weather was good we decided to go on another hundred miles to California. The next morning there was a layer of snow on the ground, which made the mountain passes very slippery.
That night we stayed in Sacramento and informed Mr. Roorda of our coming. The next day, we drove to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Roorda in Ripon. We soon made their acquaintance. It became clear to us that one of the men of the group had in mind a church in which he could have complete control. Since this man was the one who sent the invitation to the mission committee, we had to work with him for awhile.
That night Owen and I slept in Roorda’s motor home, while Allie slept in the house. The next day we took Owen to the San Francisco airport, from which he left to return home.
A few hours later Rev. Houck came by plane. He worked with me for a short time. After a day or two, Mr. Roorda and I went to rent some furniture and Allie and I moved into a cottage in the rear of Meindert Roorda’s home. Meindert, a son of Mr. Roorda, was friendly, but his wife was the daughter of a CRC minister, and neither one was interested in leaving their church.
On Sunday I attended a Congregational church of which Rev. Miller was minister. Upon his request, I preached for him in the morning service of April 17. The same afternoon we started our own services in the Congregational church.
During our stay in Ripon, Allie and I made a trip to Redlands. We spent a week there, and I preached twice on Sunday. On our way back to Ripon, we visited Sequoia National Park. As we were coming out of the park, the right wheel of our car hit a large boulder that had fallen on the road. While I put on the spare tire, Allie signaled a warning to the traffic coming around the corner. The next morning our car was ready to go again, so we went to King’s Canyon, and then headed back to Ripon.
During the early years of my retirement, I was able to help out our congregation in Lynden a number of times. On one of our visits, we stayed for six weeks. We left early in the morning and arrived in Vancouver by way of Minneapolis, Portland and Seattle. Since Lynden was vacant, I took over all the work in the congregation, including catechisms, societies, consistory meetings, and daily visits either at the parsonage or among the members of the church.
While I was in Lynden, two young men of the congregation came to the consistory to make public confession of their faith. The consistory asked me to question them. I was a bit hesitant to do this, because I did not know the young men and they did not know me. But I was amazed at the wonderful account they gave of their knowledge of the truth and of their own conviction. The public confession took place a few weeks later. I was also able to marry a young couple while there.
During my stay in Lynden, I had an infection in my toe. This became so painful and swollen that I could not wear a shoe for a few days. Finally, after repeated soaking, the infection cleared up.
Also during our time there, I went to Calgary by plane to meet Rev. Tom Miersma, then minister in our Edmonton congregation. We spent two days visiting with a family who were connected with the churches that separated from the Gereformeerde Gemeenten (Reformed Congregations) in the Netherlands in 1953. This group left with Rev. Steenblok who had a view of God’s covenant similar to ours.4 We could agree on many things, but the strong mystical tendency in that family stood between us. We were well received, sat up late talking, and were treated like royalty. The threat of a blizzard cut our visit a bit short. Rev. Miersma brought me to the plane to return to Vancouver and Lynden. Shortly thereafter, Allie and I returned to our home in Hudsonville.
On another preaching trip to Lynden, I stayed for three months. Again, I had a bit of trouble with the cataracts developing on my eyes. This time I could not see very well. Our biggest problems were the narrow roads, the stop signs and stop lights. But Allie assisted me as co-pilot, just in case I should fail to see the signs. We once more enjoyed our stay there, especially because it was during the summer months and the long days of the year. Various members of the congregation took us out to see the places of interest in the area.
We took a boat trip among various islands with Henry and Cathy Vander Meulen, and Mrs. Ralph Vander Meulen.5 We were supposed to get off at one of the islands and wait for a boat to take us back, but Henry and I were so deeply wrapped in conversation that the boat was already pulling away from the port when we decided we had to get off. As a result we rode all the way to Vancouver Island, where we passed through customs and returned to the boat. The rest of the party had gotten off and wondered what happened to us. They took their boat back and waited for us on one of the islands where our boat would stop. So we all got together again, but we were a bit shaken up.
As soon as we were back in Michigan, Allie went to work at Klamers, but had to take a day off for a check up in Ann Arbor. Herm accompanied us on this trip, leaving about 4 o’clock in the morning. Around this time, I submitted to an operation for the removal of one of the cataracts.
I might remark in passing, that about this time, my sister, Corrie Vander Woude, felt that she could no longer be alone and decided to join her husband in the Christian Rest Home.
During the summer months of 1986, Southeast Church was vacant, so I taught a Bible class there for young adults. I had my second eye surgery late in the summer and the Bible Class sent me fruit at the time of my surgery.
I had another request to come to Modesto, California, because Rev. Houck, our missionary there, needed back surgery. I was met at the airport by Ted and Jean Westra. Ted and Jean were originally from Randolph, Wisconsin. I stayed with them for a week and then went to stay in the home of Bart Vander Wal. His wife was visiting the Netherlands, and he wanted a bit of company.
I was at the hospital at the time of Rev. Houck’s surgery. His wife was also there. During those few hours, I learned to know her and admire her spirituality. I also spent some time in the Houck home. They had a nice family and the children felt free to come and talk to me. But I was especially impressed by the training they received at the close of the meal, when the Bible passage that was read was also discussed.
Upon my return, Rev. Heys and I went on church visitation to Wyckoff, New Jersey. My grandson, Steve, picked us up at the airport and we stayed with him and his family.
Some time later, Allie and I left for Redlands. While Rev. Koole was at Synod we were invited to Redlands so that I could preach for them. Everett Van Voorthuysen picked us up at the international airport in Los Angeles.6 It took him four hours to get there, and it took us longer to get back.
It was a pleasant experience to preach in their new church. It was also interesting to see the demolishing of the old garage of Rev. Koole and the building of a new one. We visited many families of the congregation and made a few trips with Hal and Punky Sansom, also members of our church in Redlands. One unforgettable trip was along the coast of the Pacific. We also took a trip to Big Bear with Thys and Jeanette Feenstra and Everett and Audrey.
Allie wanted to leave early so that she could work in the celery, so Hal and Punky took us two hours along the speedway to the International Airport. I left for Modesto to accompany Rev. Houck for a few weeks.
For ten days, I stayed with the Vander Wals in Modesto. For the last few days, I went to stay with the Ted Westras. That day we unintentionally upset every one in the group. Bart Vander Wal took me for a ride over the mountains to Virginia City. We seemed to have plenty of time, until about three o’clock in the afternoon we realized that we were still far from home. At 7 PM we were still no where near our destination, so Bart tried to call, but somehow could not get through. We had supper and continued on our way, but did not arrive at the Westras until 11 o’clock. By that time the Westras pictured us lying dead along the brink of some forsaken canyon. You can imagine their joy at seeing us, and the hasty calling from the Westras that all was well. Bart’s wife said that she actually was planning his funeral.
After a few weeks, Mrs. Westra took me to Modesto to go by plane to San Francisco on my way home. This plane was so small and so heavily packed that Mrs. Westra was deeply concerned that it would never make San Francisco. But it did, and I arrived safely in Michigan once more. It is really quite amazing that with all the traveling that not only I, but all our ministers have done, there has been no fatality. The Lord has kept us in the palm of his hand, under his watchful eye.
Soon after, we were back in the trailer in Florida and we noticed an obnoxious odor of a dead animal. So I asked John Wigger and George Joostens to investigate.7 The odor was by this time so bad that when Marf came up the driveway she was inclined to turn back.8 With a bit of effort, John and George discovered a dead opossum next to the rear wheel, and gently hauled it away.
One Saturday morning, I was quite short of breath. At first I ascribed it to the heat, since the weather had turned quite warm. But it continued so that on Sunday I preached, but did cut the services a bit shorter. On Monday, Allie and I went to the trailer of George Yonker, where they had air conditioning, thinking that this might give relief. But after another miserable night, we went to a doctor. He said my pulse was not only fast, but that my heart was fibrillating, and sent me directly to the hospital. Allie called the Joostens, who were deeply concerned, and virtually hovered over us as long as I was in the hospital. In the meantime, Tom Heyboer supervised while Owen put an air conditioner in the trailer.9 Tuesday I went into the hospital and on Friday, I came home. Herm came to preach for me and to take us back to Michigan for a brief respite. Rich, Elaine and Bob later took us back to Florida.
We had been holding services in the home of Lester De Jonge for a number of months. This was very sociable, since we had lunch together after the Sunday evening services. But we soon found it necessary to hold services in a hall that we rented on Shamrock Drive in Venice. The men put forth a lot of effort to prepare this hall for our services. The platform and pulpit were brought in. The partition was moved, making space for a small kitchen. Part of the floor was carpeted. Some eighty chairs were purchased for the overflow crowd in the winter. All in all, we had a very suitable place for worship.
While in Florida, I got up each week day morning while it was still dark, in order to bike at the crack of dawn until sunrise. I went to the mall, where the whole parking area was open for biking.
Since Venice was now under the supervision of the mission committee, supply was sent on a regular basis. Usually a minister came for two Sundays, and I took the third Sunday. But special arrangements were made when I went to Michigan, as I did when we received word that my granddaughter, Ellen Dick, had died. At times like this, one wants nothing more than to be with family.
Some of the saints in Florida whom we grew to know and love suffered trials. Julia Korhorn fell and was taken to the hospital and from there to a nursing home. Her husband, Bert, was brought there also.10 He later was taken to the hospital for a heart attack, where he died. This was only the second death we had during the years we were in Bradenton. The first was Gary Korhorn’s wife.11
Sometimes, Rich and Elaine and some of their children would come to visit us over Christmas. During one of their visits, we went together to Epcot Center and enjoyed it, even though there were throngs of people everywhere. Our advantage was that we had a wheel chair to let us in ahead of the crowds.12 We also went to Myaka Park.
I always enjoyed our time in Bradenton, but my health was starting to deteriorate. On one visit to Michigan, I tripped and fell as I went out of church. I did not hurt myself, but from that time on, I felt safer on crutches. Soon, I was entirely dependent on them. It was also necessary that if I preached, I had to sit on a stool to do so. I could no longer stand for that length of time.
I did visit the doctor about my increasing difficulties with walking. He took a number of X-rays and spent about two hours with us. The conclusion of the matter was, that, if anything were to be done, both hip and knee and femur would need replacement. This is a big job and a dangerous one, especially with a view to bleeding. So we were advised to go on as long as possible with the crutches.
In July of 1992, I came down with a blood clot in my lung. George Yonker and Owen took me to Blake Hospital, where I spent a week.13 Allie also was experiencing various health problems at this time.
A short time later, I developed a pain in my chest, which proved to be bronchitis. I lost considerable weight during my illness, and tried to regain some of it. But with all our health problems it was decided that we should return to Michigan in the near future, and take all our belongings back with us. Owen and Menno Smits took care of selling the trailer.14
On March 15, 1993, Herm, Fred, Elaine and Rich came with the van. On Sunday, I preached my last sermon and bid the folk of Venice goodbye. They gave me a present of over a thousand dollars. Herm preached for me at night. And so, my work in Florida came to an end. I now considered myself officially retired and took up the work of writing this memoir.
1 Vern Klamer is a member of Hope PRC, Grand Rapids, and was a celery farmer in Byron Center. He kindly employed Allie on the farm for many years.
2 Pete and Fannie Lubbers were members of Hudsonville PRC. Pete was a brother to Rev. George Lubbers.
3 Bertha Dusselje was a member of Kalamazoo PRC who frequently traveled to and from Bradenton with Rev. Hanko and the Petersens. Owen Petersen was a long time friend of the family. His children include Rich, Jim and Andy Petersen, and Lois Richards.
4 Rev. Steenblok was also opposed to the well-meant offer of the gospel and it was over this issue that he left the Reformed Congregations.
5 Henry and Cathy VanderMeulen are still members of Lynden PRC. Mrs. Ralph Vander Meulen was Henry’s mother.
6 Everett is a long time member of Hope PRC in Redlands. Rev. Hanko knew him from the time he pastored Hope PRC.
7 John Wigger is the father of Ben Wigger of Hudsonville PRC. George Joostens was the father of Bill Joostens of Grandville PRC. His wife Epke attends Hudsonville PRC.
8 Marf refers to Martha De Zeuw, a sister-in-law of Rev. Hanko.
9 Tom Heyboer was married to a niece of Rev. Hanko, Ardyth Griffioen.
10 Bert and Julia were long time members of First PRC.
11 Gary Korhorn was a long time member of Hope PRC, Grand Rapids.
12 By this time in his life, due to his Paget’s disease, Rev. Hanko used a wheel chair when the circumstances required a great deal of walking.
13 George Yonker was a member of Hudsonville PRC, a friend of Rev. Hanko.
14 Menno and Sadie Smits were members of South Holland PRC.
Editor’s Notes—In this chapter, the author takes up the story of his European tour once again. He had first traveled the Netherlands with family, and then joined a tour group to visit various places of interest in other European countries.
We joined a tour group now, and headed into Germany. We first exchanged some of our money for German currency. Before long we were traveling along the autobahn, the freeway built by Hitler to speed up the transport of war supplies. We came to Cologne and had a coffee break. We passed through Bonn, the birthplace of Beethoven, and soon saw the Rhine River next to us. In the afternoon we took a cruise down the Rhine, seeing all the beautiful vineyards, castles, the Lorelei, and other points of interest. Soon we transferred to the bus again and by 8:15 we were ready for supper in a hotel in Manheim, where we spent the night.
There was no doubt that our driver, Alberito, was a capable, experienced driver who seriously minded his business. He brought us to Heidelberg where we took a tour of Heidelberg castle. Here we stood on a hill overlooking the city and the university. Here, the Heidelberg Catechism, which we still cherish today, was written by Caspar Olevianus and Zacharias Ursinus.
At noon we were in Ulm. This brought back memories to Rich, who stayed here for some time during World War II. The Catholic Church had the highest steeple of any in Europe (529 feet high).
At 3 o’clock in the afternoon we crossed the border of Austria and entered the Bavarian Alps. The pass was 3,350 feet high, which would have been enjoyed much more if it had not been raining, with the clouds covering the lofty peaks. Arriving at Innsbruck, we attended a Tyrol festival with all sorts of Bavarian music from various unique instruments, such as a ten foot long horn. This was an old building, the room was packed, a real firetrap. But all went well. We retired at 11:15.
In the morning, the sun was shining brightly, so we took the opportunity to see Innsbruck. Soon we reached the border of Italy, where our German money was exchanged for Italian lira. We got a whole fist full. One would think we could really go on a spree with all that money, but soon we discovered that a cup of coffee already took a good bit out of our fortune. We traveled through the Dolomites, the mountain range in Northern Italy. We stopped at Crystal Mt. and to our surprise we saw the landscape depicted on the mural we have in the dinette in our condo. We crossed the Bremer Pass and awhile later arrived at the Villa Fiorita, about 25 miles from Venice, where we intended to spend the night.
In the evening, we took a boat ride to Venice to see the city by night. We walked around St. Mark’s Square, were served champagne, and then got a ride back to our hotel. I think the ride would have been a bit more enjoyable if the “water bus” had not been so packed that you had someone breathing down your neck.
Thursday, August 20, we toured Venice. At 8:30 the water bus left to take us to the city. Here we saw water, water, every where. Even the main streets were canals. We passed a funeral procession in boats. We saw how high the water reached at times, seeping into the first floor of the buildings. We arrived at St. Mark’s Square and had a tour of the church. Then our group split up to wander around. Some took a gondola ride. Some shopped. In the afternoon the rest shopped while I rested by sitting in St. Mark’s Square, unable to avoid the droppings of the many doves that flew about. We took a ride up the Bell Tower to see the other islands, and also the island where President Reagan met with other foreign bigwigs. After dinner we were ready to call it a day.
The next day we set out for Rome. We passed fields of sunflowers with their brown faces to the sun, also sugar beets and peach groves. We passed over the Apennine Mountains. As I looked around me at the rest of our tour group, I saw an elderly couple toward the front. They both were married for the second time. He was German and she was Dutch. Since I also could speak Dutch, she liked to talk to me. They were from Australia and had with them a daughter Lorraine. Then there was Tina, who joined up with Lorraine. She had been doing mission work in Germany and was about to return to Ontario. And in front of me were Mr. and Mrs. Larson who came from Minnesota and were traveling with their daughters Suzie and Mary. On the other side was a lone traveler Lynn who kept herself quite aloof. She was from California and was a Communist.
This made up quite a motley group, but you have not met all of them yet. Behind me were two couples, still quite young, who had recently moved from Australia to New Zealand. Two fellows sat across the aisle, who bought T-shirts at every stop. Besides, on that side of the aisle were four Orientals, brothers and sisters, from an island off Africa. The girls were accompanying their brothers, who were on their way to school in France. Nor could I forget the two schoolteachers, ladies from India, who wore a different sarong every day. Poor Alberito, who had to carry out their baggage very day! But they did know how to push their way through a crowd. There were a few more, but they rode along almost unnoticed.
We stopped for lunch at Assisi. I did not accompany the group, since they had to climb a steep hill to visit the Basilica of Assisi. I do know that there were pay toilets there that were not very clean.
Arriving at Rome, we went to our hotel, cleaned up a bit, and then went on a tour to see Rome by night. This was quite an impressive sight! We had a special dinner with pop and wine. Each could have as much as desired.
Saturday morning. 8 o’clock the group started for St. Peter’s Square. As the others went on a tour, Rich, Elaine, Ed, Bob, Allie and I went on our own to the Sistine Chapel. We saw all the works of art of the Roman Catholic Church that are collected there. That church is inestimably rich with all its possessions. While the countries of the world go bankrupt, the RCC wallows in its riches. Besides a lot of the other artwork, we saw Michelangelo’s painting “The Final Judgment.” We spent some time admiring this great work.
The others walked, but Elaine, Allie and I took the bus to St. Peter’s Square. Even the Square with all its steps was very impressive, but the cathedral was even more so. Here was the center of Roman Catholic idolatry. We went in and admired the walls with their Latin inscriptions, the high ceiling, and all the decorations. We paused a moment at what is presumed to be Peter’s grave. Then we saw a mass being celebrated in the far end of the building. We watched for a little while, and then went our way.
At noon we met our tour group and took a tour with a special guide, who showed us the ruins of the old city and the entire city from another vantage point. We passed the Vatican with its huge walls. No wonder the Pope at one time called himself “the prisoner of the Vatican.” But he is not anymore.
Upon our return the group made a trip to the Fountains of Tivoli. For this they had to pay extra. Rich and Elaine decided that they could go on their own at a very small cost. So while I rested at the hotel, they went by bus to Tivoli.
Another day dawned and we rode along the beautiful countryside to Naples. There we took a boat to the famous island of Capri. We were given time to look around on our own, so our little group took a ride on the tram to the top of the hill to overlook the sea and the cliffs of Sorento. Later we went back to a boat to go to Sorento where we spent the night.
Sorento was not only a very hilly city, but the streets were very narrow. Here we could only admire the skill of Alberito as he steered his bus through what looked like impossible gaps. I tended to hold my breath and draw away from the window as he crept along these narrow streets. Then it was discovered that we had left two of our traveling companions behind. Back to the hotel. They had not been called, so they had a good excuse. Once more we wended our way carefully to the highway.
We rode along the pleasant countryside to the ruins of Pompeii. As I was reading all about the sudden eruption that poured burning lava over the people of Pompeii, the others were having a closer look at the ruins. Our guide Shabon thought it was better that, because of my bad leg, I did not attempt to stumble over these ruins. We were given opportunity to roam around on our own, and soon we found ourselves in the center of the town, where an excavation was being carried out since, in digging for a sewer, ruins of an earlier city were discovered. After more sightseeing, we returned to our bus.
Our next stop was Pisa with it leaning tower. Ed took a picture here that we have hanging in our breakfast nook as a reminder of our walking about and taking in all the sights of Pisa.
Now we started on a long trek, not over, but through the mountains. It is interesting to note that we passed through 168 tunnels before we reached the other side of the mountain. This brought us to the Italian Riviera.
We left Italy with all its attractions and arrived at Monaco, where we saw the palace of Prince Rainier, who was married to Grace Kelly. This is an attractive city, built on the hillside overlooking the sea. From here our churches sent a broadcast through Transworld Radio, which was focused on England, but spread to Germany, and was even heard on short wave in Tasmania. This broadcast brought us a splendid response, and it is through the station that we came into contact with the churches of Jamaica.
We rode along the French Riviera to the city of Nice. It was raining as we crossed the French Alps, so we failed to see the towering peaks. But the sun soon broke through, giving a beautiful double rainbow and a splendid view of the mountains and plains.
We stopped at Calvin’s city, Geneva, Switzerland. We paid a short visit to a garden of flowers there, but our chief interest was in the university. There we spent considerably more time viewing the wall with its carvings of the four Reformers, Farel, Calvin, Knox and Beza. We would have liked to see Calvin’s church also, but that was not included in this tour. What we did see brought back a strong appreciation for what God has wrought through these Reformers, having preserved the truth for us even to this day. The guide made the remark that the followers of Calvin are called “Calvinists,” who never have any fun. We disagreed.
We traveled through the Swiss Alps with their attractive chalets nestled on the hillsides. We admired the trim roofs and the numerous flower boxes at the windows. We made a stop at the city of Berne, where we saw the bears, after which this capital of the Swiss Confederation was named, and we also had time to walk about the town. We saw, among other attractions, the glockenspiel, from which appeared a crowing rooster and also men marching about blowing their horns as the clock struck the hour. There was also a huge chess game board painted on the sidewalk.
Our next stop was Paris. We were privileged to take a ride through Paris, in order to see the city in the lights at night. After we spent a night at our hotel, our group went to meet the rest of the party at a restaurant in downtown Paris. Rich and Elaine, Ed and Bob, Allie and I walked to the subway, the Metro, to take us downtown. There we met the rest of the party and visited the Champs Elysee, the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
The Eiffel Tower was extremely interesting not only for its structure, but much more for its visitors. Parisians seem to be entirely indifferent toward tourists. Here people do as they please without asking what others may think. One man was lying flat on his back, taking a picture straight up into the tower. Another young man was entertaining his fiancée with a long, drawn out speech, to which she attentively listened.
We stopped briefly at the Arch of Triumph. We had come to the parting of the ways. Some would leave us at this point, while we went on to London. We had a farewell party that night.
We left Paris with all its points of interest. So often we heard of these things and saw pictures of them, but it is far more interesting to see them as they are. The trip through Belgium was very scenic and pleasant. We rode through “Flanders Fields, where the poppies bloom”1 made famous in World War I. This does not look like a war torn battlefield any more, but then France and Germany do not either.
We took a boat across the North Sea. This could have been a pleasant trip, if it were not for the fact that the boat was packed. Most of the party was eager to get across. But we did see the White Cliffs of Dover. Upon landing, we had to go through customs.
The trip through the countryside in England is nothing less than spectacular. This was one of the most scenic routes of our entire trip. I could not keep my eyes from the passing scenery.
London! Yes, I was glad to see Rome and Paris, but I think I was more eager to see London.
Since it was late afternoon, we found ourselves now completely on our own. We decided to head for the hotel where we have our reservations. So the thing to do was to look for the subway. This was not too difficult to find. Only a slight delay and we were on our way at fast speed. But then the train came to a halt and we were told that this was as far as we could go for the present because there was an obstruction on the tracks ahead. We got out of the car, and soon there came another train, which took us a short distance further. Then we stopped again, since a suicide had been committed on the tracks ahead. We stepped out of the car to the platform to wait. After awhile, we were able to continue on our way.
It was late when we stepped off the train at our destination. In fact, it was close to midnight. Most of us were so tired that we went off to bed without supper.
The next morning we were ready to go sightseeing. Back we went by subway to the heart of London. At the subway we purchased tickets that could be used on the Underground and the buses in the city at least for the day. London has its own attractions. We stopped at the Tower of London and saw a Beefeater guarding the tower. We saw Big Ben and the Thames River. We also saw Clarence House, where the Queen mother lived.
We took a bus to Westminster Abbey where we saw a bobby on guard. From there we went to No. 10 Downing Street, where Margaret Thatcher, the then current Prime minister of England had her home. There we saw the changing of the guard. All the men and horses were neat and trim.
The next morning, we started out with pack and baggage. There was plenty of room in the train so we nicely stacked all our luggage at the entrance. As we traveled along the car filled up to a point where there was standing room only. At our station we had to get out, but we also needed our luggage. Rich was struggling between people’s legs trying to retrieve all our possessions. In the meantime I held the door. We did retrieve everything and headed for the airport.
Our trip home was without incident, except that we were informed that this plane must make a landing in Philadelphia because it was needed in New York. This meant a delay for us. We had to pass through customs and board an old decrepit plane that took us to Detroit. We arrived in the wee hours of the morning, tired but thankful that we made the trip under God’s watchful care.
1The author refers to a poem written by Major Mc Crae who fought in WWI. Flanders Fields refers generally to the site of many WWI battlefields.
Editor’s Notes: In 1987, Rev. Hanko and Allie traveled with Rich and Elaine Bos and their two sons, Ed and Bob to Europe. No doubt a highlight of the trip was the time spent in The Netherlands, the land of their fathers.
On August 12, 1987 we packed the Olds at Rich and Elaine’s house. We parked the car at the Detroit airport, carried in our luggage, were checked in, and then discovered that we would have a four-hour wait. Our plane had to come from Chicago. We were given a meal ticket so we went to a restaurant and idled away some time there. When we finally got under way we found that the plane was making a stop in Minneapolis. At sunset we arrived there; we were not allowed to leave the plane, and after a short wait, we were under way to The Netherlands. This delay meant that we lost a half-day in Netherlands. Instead of arriving at 7 o’clock in the morning, we arrive at 1 PM. But we made the most of it, rented a car and started out of Schipol airport north to Zaandam, where we visited Czar Peter’s house. This was by no means a mansion, but rather a very small house of but a few small rooms, with the bed built into the wall. Czar Peter of Russia stayed there, while his ship was being built by the expert ship builders of the Netherlands.
From there we continued on to the Afsluit Dijk, the well known masterpiece of engineering that shuts out the ocean and serves to drain the Zuider Zee and make it a fresh water lake, called the Ijsel Meer. This was a rather rainy day, but we did get a few pictures.
We arrived in Harlingen, where we looked for a bed and breakfast for the night. It so happened that the fishermen’s ships lay in harbor and all the bed and breakfasts were taken. We ended up in a hotel. We had supper in a small coffee shop. A cup of coffee cost us a florin and 75 cents. The hotel was an old building with a spiral staircase leading to the second floor. We stayed on the third floor, where Ed and Bob dozed off to sleep to the rhythm of Rich’s and my snoring.
On Friday morning we went to Franeker, where we saw a planetarium built in a home. In the attic this man had all kinds of gears which controlled the models of various heavenly bodies displayed down below. It was amazing how he could build such a display. There was also a miniature planetarium in the museum. He told us that there is a similar miniature planetarium made by a Bos somewhere in Michigan.
A Reformed University was established in Franeker soon after the Reformation in the Netherlands. It had some outstanding professors, one of whom, Cocceius, still has his name engraved above the entrance. It is now an old people’s home. A nearby café was once the meeting place for students and it is said to be the oldest café in the whole of Europe. A row of houses in front of the old university was once “professor row,” for all the professors lived in them.
We then went on to Dokkum, where we saw a hand-operated draw bridge and a number of windmills. There we had lunch.
In the afternoon we went to Ulrum where Don Rietema was raised. But our interest was especially focused on the Reformed Church where Rev. De Cock was minister and where the Secession of 1834 originated. This church is now a Protestant Church in Netherlands, the name of a new denomination recently formed by a merger of the old State Church, the Reformed Church and a Lutheran denomination. It is totally apostate. This church had a pulpit built up on the wall over against a section enclosed for the consistory. It had hard wooden seats, and a small opening in the wall where it is thought the lepers could come and listen to the sermon. We took in the town and went to ‘t Sandt where my father was born and raised. We saw the Hervormde Kerk which he likely attended.
Then we went on to Spijk. Elaine had spent some time there in her visit to the Netherlands 33 years before. We had hoped to see the Ronddorp, where Elaine stayed with the Pastoors but this had burned down. We did see the large Hervormde Kerk surrounded by a moat and also the windmill where Rich’s dad was born in Woldendorp, which was our next stop. We saw a truck there that had the name Bos on its side. Rich asked the driver whether he knew any of his dad’s relation, but that man seemed to know nothing about them.
So we went on to the capital of Groningen, Stad Groningen. This is a rather large and old city. Here is where Rev. Herman Hoeksema spent his early days. Here we saw the famous Martinitoren and also the large Catholic Church.1 We had supper there, but no one enjoyed the hamburger they fed us.
It was getting late, so we passed Ouddyk, where acquaintances lived whom I met in Lynden, and then on to Leeuwarden, where we spent the night at a rather old, but pleasant hotel, called De Paauw.
We drove back to Ouddijk to spend a few minutes with the former acquaintance and to drop off some literature. We did not find them home, so we hastened on our way, for we had a full schedule for the day. We did see cows out in the front yards of this town, but maybe that was not so strange.
Urk. This is the town on the Ijzel Meer in which the people still dress in clothing of the Middle Ages. What also makes the town interesting is that all the land in this area has been taken from what was formerly the sea. Besides, ships had their harbor here, so that on the shore of the lake there is a memorial bearing plaques with names of those of this area who suffered shipwreck in times past. Ed, Bob and Allie took a number of pictures and then we went on to Kampen. This city was on our itinerary because here is where the Schilder Theological School is located. It took us awhile to find it because of poor directions. In fact, we rode past it once without seeing it. But we finally found it, a red brick building set between others of similar design. But the name was clearly written above the doorway.
Now we went to Arnhem, well known from World War II and from the excellent book by Cornelius Ryan entitled, A Bridge Too Far. Here is where the Allies were driven back by the Germans as they fought to regain Holland for the Dutch. The American soldiers are still appreciated for their part in the battle.2
By afternoon we were in Utrecht, the former home of Pa and Ma Griffioen. With great effort we managed to see the famous dome of the Catholic Church. But it was with great effort because wherever we went the road was blocked by a parade that was being held in that city that day.
Now we made our way to Amsterdam, the well-known Kalver Straat, the royal palace, the square where the dope addicts hang out day and night. We ate supper that night on the second floor of the McDonald’s on Kalver Straat. Then we took a ride on the canal to see the city from that vantage point. Ed took some pictures of the canal at night, and then we hastened to go to Leidensdorp where we had reservations at the Ibis Hotel, and where we would meet the rest of our party.
On Sunday morning we went out to look for a church. We found a church that had just finished its first service. As the people were coming out, I asked one woman whether there was a second service. She assured me that there was and said that we should hurry to participate. This church was a Hervormde-Gereformeerde Kerk (a combination of the State Church and the Reformed Church). It was called “De Schepping Kerk” (the Creation Church) and had a large mural on the front wall of the auditorium representing the “Big Bang.” Obviously this was a very modern church. There were women in the consistory, and after the sermon a communion service was held, in which children as well as adults went forward to receive the elements. At that stage we walked out.
We next headed to Sassenheim. Anyone who has not heard of Sassenheim has not known Rev. Gerrit Vos. That was his birthplace and he loved it. He was certain that of all of the Netherlands only in that area was the pure Dutch spoken. It is a neat little town. Elaine looked all around the two churches in the town, but could not find a name on either one, so we do not know which one Rev. Vos attended.
We went back to the Ibis Hotel to meet the rest of our tour group. We met them and had a short meeting with them and the guide Shabon. Until the tour group arrived we were treated like guests. When they arrived we became a part of the tour group. Immediately the meals and service were not as good.
Now we were about to leave the Netherlands, a country that had a strong appeal especially because it was for years the seat of Calvinism. Here the great Synod of Dordt was held. Here was the history of reformation in the 19th century that still affects our lives today. Besides all that, here we had our roots, since our forefathers came from this little country.
1 The Martinitoren is the highest church tower in the city of Groningen.
2 The Allies wanted to bring an early end to the war against Germany in September of 1944. Rather than advancing along the entire European front, which would take much longer and cause many more casualties, they planned to make a quick dash across German-occupied Netherlands, across the Rhine River, and into Germany itself. The plan, called Operation Market-Garden, made use of airborne forces and armored units in securing a series of bridges, the last of which was in Arnhem, across the main rivers of Holland. The plan was a colossal failure for the Allies, who suffered almost 18,000 casualties. Arnhem was not liberated until April of the following year, and by that time, many of the Dutch had suffered through the “hunger winter” in which thousands starved.
Editor’s Notes—Rev. Hanko was apprehensive that he would not stay busy enough in his retirement years. He soon found out that this was no cause for worry. He taught Dutch in the seminary for a number of years, he was church visitor for Classis from 1979-1989, he traveled extensively on behalf of the churches, and he traveled to Bradenton, Florida to preach there for parts of every year from 1980-1992. In this chapter, he relates the story of his trip to the Holy Land. While not taken on behalf of the churches, the trip was instructive and edifying for both him and his companions.
In 1977, when I was 70 years old, I retired. This was not an easy decision to make. I had lived an active life, and did not fancy the idea of sitting home and twiddling my thumbs. If retirement meant doing nothing, I would put that off as long as possible. But the opportunity was offered to me to teach Dutch to the students in the seminary. That would give me something to do. So with that in mind, I informed Hudsonville’s consistory, which reluctantly agreed to approve my action.
We had just moved into the new church on Beech Tree. The consistory also offered to me that we could move into the new parsonage, but since I had in mind to retire, we did not do that. It was a good thing also, for my last duty as minister of Hudsonville was to install Rev. Van Baren as minister there.
In the summer of 1978, I had hip surgery. Dr. Avery had consulted a bone doctor about my Paget’s disease, which had been developing ever since 1956. The doctors in Beaver Clinic in Redlands mentioned to me that I had this ailment, but said that likely it would never bother.1 On the world tour of 1975 I had begun to limp a bit, not so noticeably, but I stumbled readily. Later, I fell without realizing what caused it. I began taking shots for this, but Dr. Avery wondered whether more could be done to prevent it from developing further. One doctor whom he consulted said that I should have hip surgery, replacement of the ball and socket. Another doctor advised strongly against it. After some time the doctor who advised the hip surgery won out.
For a few days I was in a private room at Blodgett Hospital, after which I went through a period of therapy, telling that left leg to move. Only by concentrating on it would the leg finally move. While the surgery did help for a time, that leg was now shorter than my other one.
All the while I had not even given thought to where I would live after I retired. Somehow that problem never came up. It was Gordon Van Overloop who came over and asked me what I had in mind.2 He suggested the possibility of going to Sunset Manor, a retirement home, or buying an old house somewhere. He also mentioned that he had ordered a new condominium among the Beechnut apartments on 32nd Ave., which he would turn over to me if I so desired. We went to where some condos had already been built, looked over the lot where he had intended to buy, discussed the price, and decided that this would be the best thing to do. So Gord made all the arrangements with the owners, managed to get a cut in the price for us, and gave us the privilege of deciding how we wanted the various rooms arranged, particularly allowing room for my library.
At the beginning of 1979 we moved with the assistance of some of the family and many members of the congregation. It was a rather stormy day, with snow flying, but we managed to get all the furniture across without any damage. So Allie and I were settled in a condo, in contrast to the eight-room house on School Street. It felt like we were living in cramped quarters, like a motel. But we soon became accustomed to it, and were glad that the place was no larger.
In 1980, I had an opportunity to take a trip to the Holy Land for a mere $300. This sounded good to me, so I sent a down payment. Later I was glad that this fell through, because, upon further investigation, I found out that it was a tour of charismatics, who would spend prayer time in Jerusalem and on the Sea of Galilee. The reason it fell through was that Allie developed cancer in the thyroid gland. For this, she had surgery that same summer. The surgery was done in Zeeland hospital, but she had to go to Ann Arbor for treatments of radioactive iodine. She was in isolation for four or five days. We could come as far as the door to see her. After she returned home, she had to go to the University of Michigan every year for a check up.
On July 8, 1984, we left for an unforgettable trip to Palestine. It all happened because Elaine had a brainstorm, thinking that if she could get a group of our own people together, this would make a nice trip. This is what made the trip especially enjoyable; that all but three of the twenty were our own people, and a number of them schoolteachers. There were twelve of us who left a week earlier to go to Egypt. A limousine took us to Detroit, Michigan, and from there we went to Brussels, Belgium. Later in the day we were served a meal and obtained a plane that took us to Paris, France. After a bit of delay in Paris we went on to Cairo, Egypt where we arrived at three AM on Tuesday. A guide was there to meet us and direct us to a bus. It took some time to get out of the airport, which was under heavy security, but soon we were bumping and racing along with a driver who knew three English words, “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” One extra large bump caused Gen Lubbers’ suitcase to fall and coast behind us. But this was soon retrieved and when we arrived at the Hilton on the Nile, we tried to get a few hours sleep.
The first two days we spent in the large, disorderly city of Cairo. We had nice weather, hot but clear. Traffic in Cairo was mad confusion. There were six lanes of traffic, all going in the same direction, consisting of people walking, horse drawn carts maneuvering their way and cars and busses blowing their horns and trying to make time. One night at 11:30, we were still in a traffic jam. But we enjoyed seeing the pyramids, riding on camels and especially the night tour to the sphinx and pyramids under lights.
We went to Memphis, the ancient capital of the Egyptian kingdoms, where we saw a colossal image of Ramses II.
The land of Goshen is no longer the fertile country of onions, garlic and leeks, known to Israel. Since the Aswan Dam was built on the Nile, the river no longer overflows and the irrigation ditches are but stagnant pools of filthy water with a few miserable huts alongside.
We went by plane to Luxor and went by bus to Karnak. Then by boat we went across the Nile to the Valley of the Kings. We visited the tomb of King Tut and also went all the way down in the tomb of Ramses VI. What especially impressed us was how far the culture had already advanced in those days when the tombs were built. The passage in the tomb was a gradual slope. All along the perfectly aligned walls and ceiling were designs of all sorts, not rudely scratched into the wall, but carefully engraved by experts. There were alcoves along the way, also bearing all sorts of designs.
Near the tombs of the kings were caves used as dwellings. The government had made houses for the people to live in, but they preferred to stay in the caves. We visited an alabaster factory, where laborers made and painted vases and other objects from a mineral, harder than clay, yet not as hard as stone.
We then went to the Valley of the Queens where we saw the ruins of the most elaborate temple of all. It was the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, who is thought to have been the adoptive mother of Moses. She never appeared in public without a long beard to give an impression of authority.
We went back to Karnak across the Nile. We had lunch in a restaurant that was not exactly clean, especially because there was a cat running around between our legs and all over the place. There we had a salad of greens that we enjoyed at the time, but we did not realize that the water in which the greens were washed might have serious effects on us. After resting a while, because of the heat of the day, we went to the various ruins of temples of the kings. One king had built a temple to his honor, and the next king broke part of it down to build his temple. Amazing what a number of temples were lying there in ruin! There were obelisks of one solid piece, fully designed and standing 90 feet high. How in the world did these Egyptians ever raise something as tall as that?
We took the plane back to Cairo and stayed in the same hotel in Cairo. Some of our party began to feel nauseous. In the afternoon we took the plane to Athens, Greece where we were to meet the rest of the party on Sunday evening. That trip from Cairo to Athens was a horrible experience because Allie and I were very sick. The trip was a nightmare. Twice the stewardess offered me food, which was the last thing I needed. But as we approached Athens, I began to sip 7-Up, so that by the time we landed, I was able at least to stand on my feet.
On Sunday morning, some of our group went to find a church. The rest of us had a short service in the hotel. In the afternoon we took a walk in the park and saw the changing of the guard. Allie and Kathy Bouwkamp remained nauseous most of the week, but the rest of us were pretty well over our sickness.3
That evening, the other eight, who were making this trip with us, including Rich and Elaine Bos, arrived at the hotel in Athens. They had already heard in Grand Rapids about our bout with nausea. It was a pleasure to have the group complete. We had a meeting with the guide that night to make plans for the week, but most of us were eager to get some rest. John Kalsbeek Sr. was my roommate for the rest of the trip.4
On Monday morning our guide arrived and was ready to show us Athens. We spent some time at the Parthenon. On Monday afternoon the party went by bus to Corinth. We rode part of the time along the sound and we saw the pass, the cut through the rock that is used by ships to avoid the long trip around the point of the peninsula. Our guide took us to Mars Hill where Paul preached.
Tuesday morning, our guide came and we started out bright and early to go north through Greece to Thessalonica. We rode past Mount Olympus and stopped at a monastery at Meteora, perched high on a solitary cliff. There were 240 steps leading up to this lone spot. When we were almost there all the girls who failed to wear skirts or had sleeveless blouses on were forbidden to continue on their way or see the monastery. Allie and Kathy had purchased cheap skirts for such an occasion, but forgot them. All these girls gained was exercise.
We stayed along the way overnight and arrived in Thessalonica on the morning of Wednesday. We walked about on the seashore and saw many ships lying at anchor in the harbor. We also saw the ruins of the old entrance gate and visited the crypt of St. Demetrius in the basement underneath the church. Later we walked up the hill to see the ruins of the old wall and a castle situated there. Thoughts ran through our minds of what Scripture told us about this city in the days of the apostle Paul.
The next day we traveled to Delphi, where we spent the night. It was a long climb to Delphi. Imagine Paul on foot walking this rugged terrain day after day. The city itself was very hilly. We saw a number of statues with their heads broken off. The guide informed us that the Crusaders had damaged these statues in their holy wars.
The next day, July 20, we went to a port at Athens to take the ship Oceanos to visit various islands. This was indeed a highlight of the entire trip. The ship was very attractive, the scenery was beautiful, and the meals of the very best. During the day we visited various islands and at night we did most of our traveling. Our first stop was the island of Mykonos, outstanding for all of its white buildings. The most difficult part of these stops was that we had to descend a ladder to climb into a launch that took us to the island. This was not so bad when the sea was calm, but when the ship rocked we had to tread lightly. We spent some time in Mykonos and then were told to return to our boat.
The next day we stopped at Rhodes with its famous entrance to the harbor. We were reminded that Paul stopped here on his way to Jerusalem. There were many attractions for sightseers on this island, such as an acropolis and a palace. Rich, Elaine and others took an extra tour to Lindos, on the other side of the island.
As we returned from Rhodes, a generator gave out in the ship, so that there were no lights in the gangways leading to our berths. We sat out on deck for many hours, being entertained in various ways. The snack bar was also opened, so that we could enjoy whatever snacks we wanted.
On Sunday morning, July 22, we arrived at the port near Ephesus. This was another outstanding experience on our trip. A bus took us to the ruins of the former city, about the best-preserved ruins of any of the old cities. Here we could see ruins of the former Roman temple, library and the amphitheater. The guide told us to imagine about a thousand people gathered here, as he gave a big shout which resounded against the hill. We could well imagine what a riot that was when the mob turned against Paul, shouting, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.”
From Ephesus we took ship to the Island of Patmos. This was an especially interesting part of the tour. There is only one very small city on the island, and only one likely place where there is a cave and where the apostle John must have lived. From this spot one can look over the broad expanse of the sea, and it takes but little imagination to see what John saw and describes in the Book of Revelation. We did not stay very long in the cave, because there was a baptism ceremony going on there, and they did not appreciate interference.
That evening we had a short service on the ship. A few of the women who worked on the ship attended our service and stayed until about 11 o’clock talking to Don and Judi Doezema.5
On our return trip to the port of Athens the sea was quite stormy, so that some of us were either close to being or were seasick. This was our last night on the ship, so we had a farewell dinner about six o’clock in the evening.
We had already been gone two weeks. But so much had happened that it seemed much longer. On Monday we returned to the port at Athens and were ready to go on the next phase of our trip to Palestine.
At Tel Aviv we met our guide Joseph, who would be with us throughout this tour. We went by bus to Jerusalem. Before we arrived there, we were shown a large miniature of the old city as it was in the days of Jesus. We could walk around this display, and were shown the temple, the palace of Annas and the palace of Caiphas. We had a mental picture of what Jerusalem must have looked like in Jesus’ time.
From there we were taken to the foot of the Mount of Olives from which vantage point we could see, overlooking the Kidron valley, the entire city of Jerusalem. Our attention was called to the Dome of the Rock, the place where the temple had stood in Jesus’ day. We also went to the top of the mountain where Jesus ascended to heaven. From there we went to our hotel to get settled there.
Tuesday dawned and we were ready to see the Old City, called “The City of David.” We visited a mosque which could hold five thousand worshipers. Then we went to the site where the Palace of Caiaphas is thought to have stood. This was near the Kidron Valley. We also visited the place that is considered to be near the site of the upper room where the Last Supper was held. Next we were brought down into a sort of dungeon where criminals, but also the disciples, were said to have been beaten.
In the afternoon we went to Bethlehem and saw the cave where Jesus is supposed to have been born. Then we passed the field of Boaz where Ruth had gathered grain, and also passed the field that is thought to have been the place where the shepherds sat when they heard the announcement of Jesus’ birth.
Going back to our hotel, we were given the liberty to explore the shopping places and other sights near our hotel. Rich and Elaine and I went to the Damascus Gate to sit and watch all the strange creatures, including a donkey, coming out of this gate and climbing the steps out of this part of the city. On the sidewalk women sat peddling their wares. I might mention here that a tunnel showed that the old Damascus gate was 39 feet below the present gate.
On Wednesday we did not return to the old city, because a small riot was disturbing the place and the gates were closed. Nor could we go to Hebron because of unrest there. So on a hot Wednesday morning we went to Masada. Here, high up on an almost inaccessible cliff, is where Herod the Great built his palace with rooms for some of his wives and large bins for food storage. We rode up there by tram. At the time of the siege of Jerusalem, when the Romans invaded Palestine, a thousand Jews hid themselves on this cliff. When the Roman army, encamped down below, tried to ascend this mountain they were doused with hot water or boiling oil. They did succeed in building a ramp, but by the time they reached the top the Jews were all dead.6
From there we went to the Dead Sea, where some of the group went into the water. This water is so heavy with minerals that one’s rear keeps going down and one’s legs up. Swimming is impossible. We never saw such desolation as in that entire area around the sea. Even a weed or a sprout of grass cannot survive there. The area still speaks of the curse that God laid upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
Our next stop was Qumran where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. A large hexagon building now holds a number of the scrolls. We also saw there the ruins of what may have been a monastery for the Essenes, who made copies of the Old Testament scriptures.
That noon we had lunch at the restaurant of our guide Joseph’s brother in Jericho, known as “the City of the Palms.” As we rode along our guide jokingly pointed to a sycamore tree where Zacchaeus sat. We saw King Hisham’s palace and the “spring of Elisha.” On the Jericho road going back to Jerusalem we saw how forsaken this road can be, an ideal spot for robbers to beat up a man, as we read in the parable of “The Good Samaritan.”
Thursday, July 26, was an interesting day spent in the old city. There was no evidence whatever of the riot of the previous day. Joseph brought us to the Wailing Wall, but, being an Arab, wanted no part of it. This wall is thought to be the last remnant of the ruins of Herod’s temple. The women were on one side, the men on the other. Each of us men was given a small cap to wear on his head. There were a number of people standing or sitting at the wall, engaged in prayer. There was a confirmation ceremony being carried on there for a young boy. As we left we saw a group of orthodox Jews, dressed in black with the curls on the sides of their heads, their patriarch in their midst.
Next we went to the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim temple, on Mount Moriah. We had to take off our shoes to enter. This is one place that certainly looks authentic. The Rock is considered to be the place where the altar of burnt offering stood. It is part of the hill and has a large hole in the center, which empties into a large pit, recently dug out. This pit empties in the Valley of Hinnom.
From there we went to the Pool of Bethesda, which also lies in ruins. This pool is much deeper than I ever imagined it. It is said to have been 200 feet wide, 350 feet long and 25 feet deep. There is not much left of the porches around it.
Passing the Golden Gate, we went to Hezekiah’s tunnel. Some of our party went through on bare feet. The tunnel is s-shaped and is 600 yards long, leading from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam. It is said that the workmen started from each end and met in the center almost in line.
We were shown the Pavement where Jesus is supposed to have been tried and condemned. With all alacrity (our guide did not enjoy being in this area), we hastened along the Via Dolorosa and to the Damascus Gate.7 At the Damascus Gate, I felt a small hand slide into my side pocket, where I had my billfold. But I grasped my billfold in time, and, still amazed at the audacity of the boy thief, gave him a whack with my cane.
Not far from the gate was the site that might have been Golgotha. It is a large rock formation with holes that resemble eyes and a mouth. If this is the place where Jesus was crucified, the crucifixion took place on a hill near the road that comes from Jericho on which the passers-by may have seen the crucifixion on their way to celebrate the Passover in the city.
Just beyond this is a garden that is called the Garden Tomb. There are olive trees there that are thought to be hundreds of years old. On one end is a cave cut into the hill, if not THE tomb, then similar to the one where Jesus lay and arose. The guide said, “If you stand here, that is, by the rock that was supposed to have been rolled away, you can see the place of the grave clothes, even as John must have seen them.”
Friday dawned and we started out for Galilee. We passed the Valley of the Dance where, in the time of the judges, the few remaining Benjamites could fetch themselves a wife. We stopped at Jacob’s well, a very deep well. This well is 7 ½ feet in diameter and 90 feet deep. Once more one wonders how it was possible in those days to dig a well that deep. Here is where Jesus may have met the Samaritan woman.
We rode between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The former is covered with green foliage, but the latter is bare. Quite fitting for the blessing and the cursing that took place there.
Our next stop was Megiddo on the southern edge of the plain of Jezreel. This is well known in Bible prophecy. Here is Ahab’s water system or tunnel, which is regarded as a remarkable feat of engineering. It has 183 steps leading down to it. Its purpose was to supply the city with water.
We went on to Nazareth. It was a long difficult climb for the bus to work its way to the city, which is built on a cliff about 300 feet high. It was from this cliff that the people of Nazareth intended to cast down Jesus to get rid of him.
After having lunch in Nazareth, we went to the Sea of Tiberius and took a boat ride to see the ruins of Capernaum. The sea is 13 miles long, 7.5 miles wide and 130 to 157 feet deep. This sea could become very tempestuous, as we saw one afternoon while in Tiberius. In Capernaum we saw what was thought to be the home of Peter. We visited the synagogue, but as for the rest, the city gives every evidence of the curse Jesus pronounced upon it.
We headed back to Tiberius, past a cove similar to the place in which Jesus spoke while sitting in a boat. Passing Magdala, we came to Tiberius, another hilly city, where we stayed in a hotel.
On Saturday morning we went to the Mount of the Beatitudes and to the Golan Heights and the Syrian border. The young guard at the border seemed glad to have a bit of company, but we could not understand each other. From there we went to the source of the Jordan River, climbed over the rocks and paused a moment by a pool where people were swimming. The Jordan has its source in the snowy peaks of Mt. Hermon and flows to the Sea of Galilee and then on to the Dead Sea. It twists and turns over an area of 159 miles while the actual distance from its source to the Dead Sea is 65 miles.
On Sunday we went to the city of Haifa, on the slope of Mt. Carmel, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. We went to a diamond factory and saw the operations. At Mt. Carmel we were shown the cave where some think Elijah hid from Jezebel before he fled to the wilderness south of Judah. At Caesarea we saw the aqueduct of Herod the Great, built to bring water into the valley.
We had come to the end of our tour, so, arriving at Tel Aviv, we took the plane to Brussels, where, about midnight, we saw part of the town. The next morning we bid farewell to those of our party, Corny and Fran Doezema, their daughter Dorothy and also Don and Judi Doezema, who were going on to the Netherlands, while we started for Detroit.8 A limousine and a van took us home to Grand Rapids. I think it would be well for every minister and every schoolteacher to take a trip to that area to get a mental picture of Egypt, of Palestine and the many places referred to in Scripture.
1 Paget’s disease is a chronic bone disorder that results in enlarged or deformed bones in the spine, skull, pelvis, thighs, or lower legs.
2 Gord Van Overloop is the father of Rev. Van Overloop, Jim, Tom, Greg, Randy and David.
3 Kathy Bouwkamp is now Kathy Schut and is a member in Hudsonville PRC.
4 John Kalsbeek Sr. is the father of John, Charles, and Calvin Kalsbeek, and Karla Kamps.
5 Don and Judi Doezema are members of Southwest PRC.
6 When the Jews realized that their situation was hopeless, the heads of the clans agreed to kill those belonging to their clan. When this was finished, ten heads of clans remained. These ten cast lots to determine which of the ten would kill the other nine and then commit suicide. The grisly work was soon done.
7 “The Via Dolorosa” can be translated as “The Way of Sorrows.” This refers to the path that Jesus supposedly walked to Golgotha.
8 Cornie and Fran Doezema are members of Holland Church. They have children in several of our churches. Dorothy is married to Henry De Jong. They are members in Holland Church.
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.
Editor’s Notes: These seven years saw Rev. Hanko do a great deal of traveling on behalf of the churches. The denomination also celebrated its fiftieth anniversary during these years. While Rev. Hanko does not mention the occasion in his memoirs, it must have been a joyful one for him. But his joy was surely tempered by the grief of losing his dear wife, whose death is recounted in this chapter.
Thys and Jeanette Feenstra rode with us from Redlands to Hudsonville, giving us the advantage of not having to travel alone, and giving them the opportunity to visit their family in Michigan.
Not long after we came, our furniture also arrived. So it was a matter of unpacking and getting settled. Once more the whole family was together in the Grand Rapids area, including Herm and Fred and their families.
It was especially nice for Mother to be near the grandchildren and to see them again. She knew that she would not have many years with us any more and was glad to have this short time. No noise was too great for her, as long as the grandchildren were having a good time.
Shortly after coming to Hudsonville, two young men of the congregation were killed in separate accidents. I took both funerals.
I also was called back to Redlands for two funerals there. I had very few funerals during my stay in Redlands, but Mrs. Ade Van Meeteren, mother of Chuck Van Meeteren and grandmother of Mrs. Don De Vries, died and I went to take her funeral. It was interesting to stay in the home of the deceased and see how the most intimate acquaintances came to the home to meet the family. It seems to me that this is so much nicer than going through the difficult period of endless visitors at the funeral home, often those who are virtual strangers to the family. What also appealed to me was the fact that the whole congregation, including the men, came out for the funeral service, which was at 11 o’clock in the morning. Afterward, lunch was served at the home of the deceased, and everyone was expected to be there.
A lot of our people were moving into the Hudsonville and Jenison area so the congregation grew steadily. The work was enjoyable here and the consistory most cooperative. One could never escape the fact that Rev. Vos had spent some years in this congregation and had definitely put a lasting stamp upon it. Throughout the years, even to this day, the older people liked to speak of something that Rev. Vos said or did.
In 1972 I was given permission to go to Jamaica to encourage and help Rev. Lubbers in his labors there. On my way out there, I intended to take the Jamaica plane from Chicago to Montego Bay. In fact, the plane did start out about 10 AM, but we were hardly airborne before an engine gave out. The pilot re-landed rather abruptly. The man sitting next to me said, “They almost killed us.” I answered, “It wasn’t that bad.” In the terminal this man stayed close to me, possibly thinking that, “in unity there is strength.” When I went for lunch he went along. At about two o’clock a call came over the intercom that the Jamaica passengers should go to the Delta desk. Soon after we arrived there, we were informed that there would be no room for us on that flight. The man responded, “That’s twice.”
Between three and four o’clock we boarded a flight to Jamaica. But we were no more than airborne and the announcement came over the intercom, “This plane will not stop in Atlanta, as intended, but at Jacksonville.” My new friend responded, “That’s three times. I’m going back to Chicago.” I asked him whether he did not have a God in whom he put his trust. I told him that if God wanted me to go to Jamaica, I would get there, no matter what. He said, “Never mind. Don’t start that kind of talk.” From that time on he was silent, but at Jacksonville he disappeared, and I continued on my way without him.
Rev. Lubbers was looking forward to my coming and was sadly disappointed when I did not arrive as scheduled, without an explanation of my delay. In fact, I had requested that he be paged at the airport, but he never heard it. Since I did not know my exact destination I was not allowed to leave the airport. But I called a taxi driver who agreed that he would take me to a hotel in the city. The next morning, I visited the post office to get the Lubbers’ address. They only knew the general direction. We headed that way and, when we got close, we stopped at a store. I walked in and called, “Does anybody here know Rev. Lubbers?” A lady in the store, who was also a neighbor of the Lubbers, told the taxi driver how to find their residence. How surprised they were to see me! If I had suddenly dropped out of the sky, they could not have been more elated. Rena was raking the lawn, and she dropped the rake, did not even greet me, but ran into the house crying, “George, George, Case is here!” Soon we were busy visiting the various churches, as well as teaching his students.
One Sunday evening we were coming home from a church service when the engine of our car began sputtering. Every time we climbed a hill the sputtering increased. Down hill we had no trouble. This part of the island was not very safe, especially not for white folk who might have money on them. So we sputtered along, breathing a prayer that we might make the next grade. We were thankful when we arrived home again.
I should tell about an interesting experience in one of Rev. Eliot’s churches.1 This church was on the eastern section of the island. To get there we had to get off the main road and ride five miles along an almost impassable road, full of deep ruts. Every time we dropped into a rut we wondered whether we would pull out. After that there was a forty-five minute climb to the church. A young woman, eight months pregnant, a Miss Hill, took it upon herself to lead us to our destination. She climbed easily along those rocks. When we arrived, the church mother set out two chairs for us, and told the women to keep away from us. When all was arranged in the tabernacle, the mother came out and said to the women, “Cume, Cume.” So the women went in. It was evident that this mother was going to be sure that she had charge of the situation. So I told Rev. Lubbers to go to the pulpit at once and conduct this as a formal service.
The reason we had come was that Rev. Eliot had complained that this group did not want him to preach for them any more. So we were here to investigate what the problem really was. A thunderstorm came up out of the sea. Immediately the mother ordered me away from the open window and moved my briefcase closer in as well. She wanted to remain in authority in her church. She also requested that we ordain two men, who in her estimation had come to “the state of grace.” This we refused to do.
It took a lot of questioning. We even called aside Rev. Eliot with some of the men of the group. Finally the information seeped out that Rev. Eliot was chasing away the young people of the church. It took a bit for Rev. Eliot to admit why this charge was brought against him. But finally it came out that this group would have their love feasts at which curried chicken was enjoyed and everyone joined in a lot of singing. Emotions rose as the tempo increased, until two of the opposite sex would wander off to the tabernacle, or to the manse, or to the woods, to engage in sexual improprieties.
This we strongly condemned, agreeing with Rev. Eliot that these things ought not be. We insisted that either they would be willing to have Rev. Lubbers come there at regular intervals, or we would shake their dust from our feet. After a few days we were informed that they preferred the latter. No more was heard from them.
On the last Sunday I was there, we both preached in the Waterworks congregation, Rev. Lubbers in the morning and I in the afternoon. There was a couple with three children who had walked three miles to church in the morning and three miles back home. We told them that we would pick them up for the afternoon service, but by the time we arrived at their home they had long ago left for church.
During the service we had a severe electrical storm, so that I had to quit preaching for awhile. We all huddled in the center of the building and sang Psalter numbers. When the storm was over, the elder reminded the congregation of what I had already said, repeating it almost verbatim, and even adding parts of Rev. Lubbers’ sermon of the morning. After the service we offered to take this family home, but we had water in our gas tank, so they were forced to walk home again.
Some of the older folk in Jamaica were taught the five points of Calvinism. When one woman was asked what Calvinism meant to her, she was able to respond, though she had little or no formal education, “I am nothing but a poor, lost sinner. God always loved me as one of his sheep. Christ died for his sheep, so also for me. He gave me faith, so that now I believe in Him. He will always care for me, protect and watch over me as one of his sheep.” In her own way she did include all five points. Not a bad way to know Calvinism.
Two and a half years Mom enjoyed her new surroundings in Hudsonville, but gradually the full reality dawned on her, that no amount of exercise could change her condition. More and more she became discouraged with the effort, but we felt that as long as she was trying she would not give up completely.
Going to church was difficult for her, especially because the crowds bothered her, and she could not communicate. She did attend the Adult Bible Class even until the very last. On the last evening that she attended she suggested that we sing Psalter number 17.
One of the last two Sundays that she attended church, coming in by the back way with the least steps, she complained, “I can hardly do it anymore.” We also realized that it was getting very hard for her, but did not want to discourage her from going.
On Thursday evening, March 6, 1973, she complained that she was sick, terribly sick. I tried to get a local doctor, but none was available. It became evident that she might soon lose consciousness, so we called the ambulance, which took her to Blodgett Hospital. Dr. Avery was there, waiting for her. He gave a complete report of her case history to the resident doctor without any notes before him. I was amazed how detailed he reported on all that had happened since he first saw her in 1948. Afterward he said to me, “I made one mistake. I said that you had gone to Wisconsin. I meant California.”
On Friday evening he told me that Mom’s heart was so severely damaged that she could not possibly recover. A year before that, he had called me into his office to show me x-rays of her heart. At that time he said, “Have you ever seen a heart as large as that? That is going to give us trouble.”
I urged Dr. Avery, if there was no possibility of recovery, to make the end as easy for her as possible. I did not want him to hook her up with all kinds of artificial means of survival, if it was hopeless anyway. During the night from Friday to Saturday the nurses did start her heart again. Again I urged the doctor not to add any unnecessary suffering. He gave the order to the nurses to let her rest as quietly as possible. That same evening she left us to enter her heavenly home. The next few days were almost like a nightmare. It is nice that people come and express their condolences, but this was so wearisome that I gave a sigh of relief when it was all over. What I did appreciate was that the night Mom died, the family went to Fred and Ruth’s house where we sang Psalter numbers. I also appreciated the fact that on Sunday morning Prof. Hoeksema preached on Hebrews 4:15-16, which was very comforting. I also was glad that after the funeral we could be together as a family in the basement of Hudsonville church, where the ladies served us supper.
Mom was sixty years old when she died. She had a hard life behind her. Since she was twelve years old, she had had a weak heart, but she was still required to do much of the work in caring for a family of thirteen. Married life was not always easy either. There was not only our growing family, but also the near poverty conditions in the early years of our marriage. Besides, a certain extra responsibility rests on the shoulders of a “Juffrouw,” or minister’s wife.
So Allie and I were left with just the two of us. But the Lord has always provided, even in an amazing way.
For a few years, Ann Griffioen came in one day a week to clean the house.2 Allie had a job of babysitting in a home where the mother had died and left the husband with three children. Later she worked a year and a half in the kitchen of Brookcrest Nursing Home washing dishes. And after that she had another job of babysitting for a lady who worked and needed someone to watch the little ones.
In the summer of 1974, I was asked to make another trip to Jamaica, this time with Rev. John Heys. Because this was so soon after Mother’s death, Allie accompanied me.
When we left, I picked up my tickets, assuming that Allie’s was included with mine. When we arrived at Kent County Airport, I had no tickets for Allie. They would furnish me with tickets to Chicago, but not beyond. When we took our seats in the plane, a man came to sit across from us, who said that he overheard us at the airport. He wanted to pay for her ticket to Jamaica. I told him that this would not be necessary, since I was meeting Rev. and Mrs. Heys in Chicago, who would help me pay for the ticket, if I lacked the money. Upon arrival in Chicago, the man accompanied us out of the plane and down the concourse insisting that he was going to buy a ticket for Allie. Since I did not know what he was up to, nor why he would be willing to do this, I insisted that this was not necessary. But he kept coming along. Finally I stopped and told him that we were not going on until he left us. Rev. Heys helped us buy a ticket for the rest of the trip.
We met Rev. and Mrs. Heys in Chicago, since they had gone earlier to Chicago to see her mother. Rev. Heys requested and received from the airlines a pass to sit in the cockpit of the plane on the trip to the island. So he sat in the cockpit from Chicago to the Bahamas, and I sat in the cockpit from the Bahamas to Jamaica. The captain kindly explained the various instruments to me while in flight, and told me to watch when we were making our descent.
We rented a motel room at Montego Bay and rented a car. We were supplied with two maids who made the meals and cleaned the rooms. Soon we were under way visiting the churches.
One task that was entrusted to us was the ordination of Kenneth Brown and Leonard Williams as ministers in the Jamaican churches. Rev. Heys made a trip to Shewsberry to pick up five women, relatives of Brown, who was to be ordained in Fort Williams. Rev. Frame read the Form for Ordination. At the close of the service, various people stepped forward to make a speech of congratulations. Especially the women from Shewsberry became very emotional and began singing and swaying. In fact, they almost pushed Mrs. Heys and Allie out of the tabernacle, so that Allie grabbed hold of Mrs. Heys. We decided that this was enough, so we told Rev. Frame to end with the benediction. He called them to order, pronounced the benediction, and then Rev. Heys and I left. How long the ceremony lasted in the tabernacle, we will never know.
One Sunday, Rev. Heys and I decided to join a service that was being conducted by Alvin Beckford. We quietly took our places in the back seat. He was preaching on the same text that I had used for the installation of Rev. Brown. We both were amazed how well he had remembered my sermon, and did not mind at all that he was repeating it. It just shows that the Jamaicans for the most part could not read well, but that they have learned to listen and retain what they hear.
Rev. Heys and I also supervised the ordination of Leonard Williams in Belmont by the sea. This congregation had a very poor tabernacle consisting of nothing more than a few posts with palm branches for covering. Since it was raining, the water was dripping down our backs. I suggested to an elder that we have another meeting place, so he offered his home. As we walked to his home, we walked through the weeds getting our suits wet and muddy. There the living room was set up for the service. Rev. Eliot requested that Leonard get down on his knees next to the table. Throughout the reading of the Form, Leonard was there behind the table. When Rev. Eliot came to the point of asking the questions he leaned over to Leonard, who lifted his head to answer. This went on with all the questions. Finally, he was allowed to get up and sit on a chair.
Later, Alvin Beckford was ordained in Cave Mountain, and Trevor Nish in Lacovia. But we did not participate in those ordinations.
During our stay on the island we had two funerals. One day we were informed that the sister of Kenneth Brown, who lived in the States, had been beheaded, and that her body was being shipped to her mother’s home. The funeral was planned for a Sunday, so Rev. Heys and I agreed to take the service if they could have it at 7 o’clock in the morning. They agreed to this. After the service, the casket was placed on a pickup truck and taken somewhere to the hills where it was buried.
One Sunday morning while Rev. Heys was preaching in Waterworks, a man was called out. He came back, took his seat, and sat through the service. After the service, he asked if Rev. Heys would take the funeral for his seven-year-old boy. Rev. Heys looked at him in amazement. “Yes,” he said, “I was informed during the service that my boy, who was in the hospital, had died.” The next day Rev. Heys and I went to conduct the funeral. We found that the casket was not yet ready. The ladies in the church had washed the body, and others were making the casket. About 3 o’clock in the afternoon they were ready for the service. We went up an incline, set the casket on a chair and the father stood by the casket. Rev. Heys preached the funeral sermon. This man’s wife was with the women who stood to the side, availing themselves of every opportunity to sing. Then we went to the top of the hill where a grave had been dug. I conducted the committal service. The father wanted to say a few words, but the neighbors thought it was growing late and started shoveling in the dirt. I took the man by the arm and walked down the hill with him. I said to him, “You have not cried since your boy died, have you?” He shook his head. I asked him, “Why didn’t your wife stand by the casket with you?” He answered “It’s not her boy.” Then I suggested to him that he go off somewhere by himself and have a good cry. “And,” I added, “tell God how you feel. He will understand.” A few days later he came to me and whispered that he had cried. Strange! These people were often so emotional, and yet at funerals they seemed to hide their feelings.
The time had come to return home. The air was very turbulent on the way home, so that we had quite a bumpy ride. Most of the way it was like riding on a rough road.
This same year I went to Lynden to spend a few weeks there. Since I was alone in Lynden’s parsonage, the daughters of Ralph and Etta Vander Meulen called every day to inquire about my welfare. Many of congregation either brought in food or invited me over, so that my main meals were usually supplied.
Hudsonville PRC continued to grow. Every week it became increasingly difficult to find seats in the auditorium. We were soon compelled to place some of the people in the basement. Later, we installed a closed circuit TV for those who sat downstairs. But this could be only a temporary measure. Almost everybody talked about building a new church.
We looked for a piece of land at our present site off 32nd Street, but the farmer who owned that entire section and raised corn on it demanded an exorbitant price. So we bought land by the water tower on 36th Street. No one was happy with that, especially because New Holland did not yet run through and the people coming from the south had to go way around to get there. Then someone bought the entire cornfield off 32nd Street for condos. He was interested in having people move into these condos, so he offered us the top of the hill, exactly the piece of land we had been wanting to buy.
A ground breaking ceremony was held and the work begun. We had opportunity to sell our old building, so we rented the public high school auditorium and met there until the church was ready. On Thanksgiving Day of 1977 the cornerstone was laid with a short ceremony.
At first there was some objection to building a new church. Some of the older members were attached to the church edifice where they had worshipped for so many years. The architect suggested that we acquire as much help from the members of the congregation as possible. This had a very favorable result, for even those who had been opposed felt that this new building belonged to them, because they had done some of the work on it.
In every congregation, there are quiet unassuming members of the church, who are virtually unnoticed among us, yet are a real blessing to others. These are often wives who are submissive to their husbands, yet in a kindly way do guide their mates with spiritual wisdom. As mothers in the home they teach both by word and example. They often have a word for the weary, encouragement for the distressed, a pot of soup or some baked goods for the sick and aged.
One of these saints had seen her children grow up and leave the shelter of the home. She had experienced the loss of her husband and was now in a home for the aged.
One morning I found her poring over her Psalter. To my inquiry, she answered that she was reading the Lord’s Day on which the minister was to preach the following Sunday. She said that her memory was so bad that if she did not read the Lord’s Day every day she would not be prepared to listen properly on Sunday.
I often saw her in the audience, listening so intently that, unawares to herself, she was sitting on the very edge of her seat. That alone is an inspiration for any minister. Besides, what an untold blessing these women are for their children and grandchildren as well as for others. These saints may far exceed us in glory.
1 Rev. Eliot was a minister in the Jamaican churches.
2 Ann is the wife of Arie Griffioen, a nephew of Rev. and Mrs. Hanko.
Editor’s notes: Hope PRC of Redlands, California welcomed the Hankos warmly in 1964. Their care of the Hankos became even more evident when Mrs. Hanko suffered a debilitating stroke a few months after their arrival. The congregation’s fellowship and love sustained the Hankos during this trying time.
In 1964, at the age of 57, I felt that the time had come to make a change. I had received a call from our church in Redlands, California for the second time since I had been in First Church. A smaller congregation would be less work and less tension, also for Mom. We thought we might be able to do a bit more traveling and thus have more contact with the other churches.
It seemed after our trip to Jamaica that it was comparatively easy to break with First Church, where we had spent sixteen years, and go to Redlands.
Since we had a large house on Bates Street, and were informed that the house in Redlands was small, we had to dispose of everything that we could not use there.
It was in June that Mom, Allie and I pulled out, leaving Fred and Ruth’s family and Rich and Elaine’s family behind. We stopped in Doon, where Herm was minister, and spent a little time with his family, and then on to California.
Already when we were coming down the Cajon Pass we saw and smelled the filthy, yellow smog that hung over the valley. How different this was from the 50s when looking down on Redlands from the hills, the whole area with all its color and flowers looked almost like the Garden of Eden; and now—smog.
We received a hearty welcome, but for the first six weeks I wondered whether I could take the change in climate. Every morning I woke up with a headache. When we made a trip to the mountains to escape the smog, the situation upon our return was even worse. But we did adjust, and we learned to live with it. The warmth and friendliness of the members of the congregation made up for any breathing problem that we might have had.
Sunday mornings after the service we were invited with the whole Feenstra family to the home of Thys and Jeanette. Sunday evenings we were invited to the Gritters, the Gaastras, the Van Uffelens, the Van Voorthuysens, or the Van Meeterens.1 Mom was urged to become a Sunday School teacher, which she also enjoyed.
But the strain of the past years had taken its toll. Mom had been repeatedly in Blodgett Hospital during our stay in Michigan. She had her varicose veins removed, she had occasional kidney infections, and from time to time her heart would make breathing difficult. She also had occasional seizures, for which she took Dilantin. Very often she complained of tiredness, yet she forced herself to carry on.
Looking back, one wonders how much of a strain the 1953 controversy was on her. Always in the past, as well as during this difficult time, she had shown her confidence in me and my decisions. I recall riding along a slippery road in Godfrey Canyon in Montana one night. Suddenly we met a sharp turn over the railroad tracks. Because it came so unexpectedly, and because it was so slippery, I said, “I can’t make it.” She responded, “O, yes, you can.” And we did. This confidence meant a great deal to me in our life together.
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened in the days before 1953 if she and the family had not stood so firmly with me. I would never have joined the opposition, but the burden would have seemed unbearable. Throughout the controversy we had peace and harmony at home.
When we left Grand Rapids, Dr. Avery said that he would not allow us to choose a doctor in Redlands, but that he would have one ready to take care of us. He chose Dr. Fallows, who was very proud of the fact that THE Dr. Avery, chairman of the American Medical Association, would choose him. Therefore, he was very ready to come over any time we needed him.
About six months after we came to Redlands, one would say just enough time for the congregation to get to know her, Mom had a stroke. How suddenly, even in a split second, all our hopes and plans were shattered. It was on Tuesday morning, the first week of the new year. We had finished breakfast and I had suggested that we do a bit of shopping for the consistory visit scheduled for that evening.
Mother went to the bedroom to get ready to go. I sat in the breakfast nook waiting for her to return. It was only after she seemed to stay away a long time that I got up to see what was delaying her. She lay unconscious on the floor by the bedroom window. I thought it was a heart attack and called the doctor to inform him. He came immediately. He took one look and informed me that it was a stroke. Already then, her left arm was limp. We laid her on the bed and waited for the ambulance. I followed with my car as they took her to the San Bernandino Catholic Hospital.
It is difficult to describe the next four weeks. Mother returned to consciousness, but could not talk. We tried to have her write, but that also was impossible. From day to day we saw no change. The hospital gave us no information. To all appearances, she either would not live long or would remain a total invalid. It was only after the twenty-third day that she seemed to rally and show improvement.
Herm and Wilm came out at once. Wilm took over in the home and Herm preached for me. Charlie and Sena Van Dyken, my sister and her husband, also came for a short visit.
After Herm and Wilm, Ruth came with two of her children, Carrie and Freddie, to spend some time with us. And after she left, Elaine came with her two youngest. After a few weeks, Rich came with the two older kids. At a time like that one realizes in a very special way how wonderful it is to have children who are willing to step in and help in time of need. The very fact that they were there made the load so much easier to bear. That meant so much to Mother and me, and also to Allie.
After 28 days, Mother was ready to come home. One can imagine what an adjustment that took for her, who had always been so very active. That was a severe trial for her during the entire nine years that she was still with us. Yet she rarely complained. Now she had to sit and watch, content with nothing more than her daily exercises. For some time we went to therapy, which did give her so much improvement that she could walk with a cane.
The congregation was very understanding and helpful. More than one expressed their appreciation for the fact that they had learned to know her as she was before the stroke. Many offered their services. Thys and Jeanette brought over a wheel chair. Don Feenstra, son of Thys and Jeanette, would stop in on his way from work, sit down in a chair right by the door, chat a little while and then go on. Sometimes he would call that he had corn or some other vegetable fresh from the garden.
Mom was taking physical therapy from a woman who was a Seventh Day Adventist. She also took speech therapy at the University. Little Barb Van Voorthuysen, daughter of Everett and Audrey, would sit by her and try to help her. She would say, “Say Barbie.” And Mom would try to say it. At first Mom could say nothing but “pretty” whenever she tried to talk. Later she was able to use a few words, but actually her ability to speak or write never came back. She had a keen memory, knew exactly what was going on, but could not express herself.2 The fact that she was impaired on her left side was a trial, but it was far worse that she could not communicate.
We communicated with her by signs and by trying to figure out what she meant. That was difficult, because sometimes it would be so simple and so obvious. We would be sweating and struggling and trying to guess, but we were nowhere near figuring out what she was trying to say. Sometimes she got the impression we did not want to understand. And I could see that too, because it was so obvious when it finally did come out what she meant.3
After we were in Redlands a few years I had surgery for a hernia and prostate problems. Once again Herm and Wilm willingly came out to be with us and to fill the pulpit in my absence. In the meantime, in 1965, Herm had accepted the call to the seminary and had moved to the old First church parsonage on Bates Street, where the family lived until their house was built near Hope Church.
When we were packing books in Michigan to send them by mail to Redlands, we placed all the books in the same size boxes. Each box weighed about 70 pounds. While I was carrying a box to a truck, I felt the hernia break through. As time went on it became increasingly worse, especially while I stood to preach. So the time had come to do something about it. The doctor was sure that this was also the right time to take care of the prostate, although I had sensed no problem there. Some years later, while in Bradenton, Florida, I was advised to have this checked; I was told the doctor in Redlands had done a good job.
I was in a semi-private room in the hospital in Redlands. Next to me was a man with a very bad heart, but he refused to remain in bed. He was always roaming about the room, even at night, cautiously looking for the nurse to be sure to be back in bed when she came into the room. One day he went out on the porch. There he had a heart attack, and was bellowing like a bull. The nurses got him back in his bed, but no one was eager to give him mouth to mouth. He did come to after a bit. The head nurse said to him, “Heaven doesn’t want you, Hell isn’t ready for you, and we have to put up with you.” A few days later he was sent home.
A skeptic arrived, but refused to be in the same room with a minister. The head nurse told him that they had no private room available for him, that he should wait, and in the meantime be content where he was. Reluctantly he consented, but never said much. He did have to listen to those who came to read to me from the Bible or from some religious literature. One day after someone left, he remarked, “Dry as dirt, but keep it up.” After a few days a private room was available but when they told him he could move he said, “Don’t take me away from my buddy. I want to stay here.” He was moved to a private room, but later sent me a subscription to a San Bernardino daily. What could have gone on in that mind?
I made my regular visits to classis west and to the annual meeting of synod. The only synod meeting I missed was in 1965, the year Mother had her stroke.
In the years of 1967 to 1969 I stayed with Fred and Ruth whenever classis met in the Midwest. They had moved from Michigan to Doon where Fred taught. They later returned to Michigan where Fred taught in Hope School.
I recall particularly one winter in Doon when the snow was piled fifteen to eighteen feet high along the roads. When the wind blew, the roads were closed by drifts. That usually happened on Thursday, causing school to close for the rest of the week.
I also recall one winter when I stayed with Rev. Jason Kortering in Hull, Iowa. On a Sunday afternoon an elder came into the consistory room and said, “We are due for a heavy snow storm. The geese came to my farm, ate their fill, and headed south.” That evening we called the airport and were told that all planes were on schedule. The next morning, Rev. Kortering started out with me to Sioux Falls, South Dakota while the snow was steadily falling. At Rock Rapids, we called the airport again and were informed, “All planes are on schedule.” When we came to Sioux Falls it was snowing so hard and the snow was so deep that we could not even reach the terminal. I stayed over in Sioux Falls, while it took Rev. Kortering three hours to get home again.
Then there was the time that I never made it to Iowa. When I arrived in Denver for a layover, I was informed that Sioux Falls airport was fogged in. I called Bill Griess from our Loveland church, took him and his wife out for dinner and stayed there for the night. The next day the airport was still fogged in, so I returned to Redlands. Mission not accomplished.
On another occasion, classis was in South Holland, Illinois. Thys Feenstra and I arrived by plane over Chicago, but could not land because of a tornado sweeping through the south side. Our plane went to Kansas City, where we had supper. At four in the morning we arrived in Chicago, where members of South Holland were patiently waiting. After an hour or two of sleep we went to classis. That evening we finished at about ten o’clock. We had to help the two delegates from Lynden meet up with their wives, who had gone to Grand Rapids. So Thys and I drove the men to Grand Rapids, arriving there about five o’clock in the morning. I slept a few hours, but got up in time to see the grandkids off to school. That afternoon we managed to get a plane to Denver. But in Denver we had to wait until midnight before we could get a plane to San Bernardino. Another night without sleep. Mother had stayed by Mrs. John Van Uffelen while I was gone, so I picked her up and then went to bed. Thys discovered that Jeanette had gone to Oceanside in southern California. He drove out there, but when he arrived he was so tired that he fell asleep in his chair with a cup of coffee in his hand.
When we went to synod by car we usually went with the three of us, Mother, Allie and I. When we went by plane, Mother and I would go. The wheelchair went with us. We usually stayed by Rich and Elaine as long as the synod met. It could be quite warm in Michigan at synod time, but we always enjoyed the visit.
Every year we made a trip to Lynden, Washington, either for church visitation, or for pulpit exchange, or both. On those trips we got to see much of the northern California coast, the Oregon coast, Crater Lake and parts of Washington. Mother enjoyed traveling, especially with the Feenstras. Jeanette understood her fully. They would sit in the back seat, point to some landmark, or just smile knowingly at one another.
I always enjoyed going to Lynden. Although I never was minister there, that congregation was always close to my heart. We saw them when they were but a small struggling group, without a minister and hardly able to survive. Every time they received a decline to a call their hopes would once more be shattered. On one occasion of our visit they were about to give up. When I read another decline, they were so disappointed that they sat and wept. They were not able to sing throughout the service. Afterward one said, “We worked so hard to keep our children in the church, and now no minister wants to come here.” Eventually, Rev. Bernard Woudenberg did take the call and did a lot to build up that congregation. Today they have their own church edifice and are well-established.
While I was in Redlands, I had an occasional classical appointment in one of the churches of classis west. While I was away, Mother would stay at the Feenstras or at George and Epka Joostens.4 The Joostens were very good to her, treating her with utmost care and concern. I recall one appointment in particular which was in Aberdeen, South Dakota. I was so weary at that time that I had written Rich and Elaine that I was coming to their house a week before I filled the appointment. I wanted no one to know that I was there, because I wanted to rest. As soon as the plane was airborne, I fell asleep and did not wake up until we arrived in Chicago. That week of rest did me a lot of good. After my stay with Rich and Elaine, I stayed two weeks with Mr. Hauck in Aberdeen.5
When I came to Redlands, there were not many young people. But there was a younger generation gradually growing up. As soon as it was feasible, I took seven young people by Greyhound to the young people’s convention in Grand Rapids. This was a healthy experience for them, for they realized that there were many more young people in other churches who were PR. Some of these girls have made their permanent home in Grand Rapids.
I enjoyed my ministry there, and for the most part it was also well received. Not too long after I left, a school was started and is still doing well today.
After seven years, the time had come to make a change. We went to Redlands in June of 1964 and left there in October of 1971. I had received a call from Southwest the year before. I had had the letter of acceptance in my pocket, but circumstances made me decide to tear up the letter and write a decline. A year later, I felt free to go, this time to Hudsonville.
Throughout the years, some of the old pillars of the Redlands Church have entered into the Rest. I am thinking of the Gaastras, the senior Van Voorthuysens, the Van Meeterens, the Vander Veens, and the Van Uffelens. One generation comes and another goes. And God’s covenant continues from age to age the same.
1 Many descendants of these early members of Redlands are found throughout our churches.
2 This inability to communicate is called aphasia.
3 A letter Rev. Hanko wrote to his son in September of 1963 reads as follows, “Mom is very discouraged. Often she cries, often she expresses her eagerness to die, often she feels that she is nothing but a burden to all of us. At times she is cheerful, at times she puts forth a new valiant effort, but she would like very much to withdraw herself from company—because as she says, she can’t talk anyway. It certainly takes a lot of grace to bear such a cross. Gradually she feels that she will never talk again, never use her hand again, never be of any good to any of us. And that makes it so very hard. But she does know, and I’m sure she rests in the fact that God’s way is always good.”
4 The Joostens were the parents of Bill Joostens of Grandville PRC.
5 This Mr. Hauck was the father of Don Hauck, Sr. of Southeast PRC.
Editor’s Notes—As the story continues in this chapter, the reader will get a sense that as the pastor’s family had come to maturity, so had the churches. The churches started their first foreign mission field on the island of Jamaica. And while the churches mourned the deaths of their two leaders, Rev. Hoeksema and Rev. Ophoff, as related in this chapter, they were able to continue their work of being salt and light.
Throughout the entire conflict of the last few years our family stood firm and united as one man. For that I could be very thankful. The struggle was very painful, since my closest friends had now turned against us. Thus it was comforting and encouraging that at home we had peace and harmony. In the Adams School Mothers’ Club, Mother left the meeting when the opposition tried to take over, followed by a number of women who immediately reorganized as the true continuation of the Mothers’ Club. Later, the opposition pulled out of the school as one man, hoping thereby to make it impossible for the school to continue. But in spite of them the work carried on. There were fewer students but better harmony.
Now the question came up concerning the Beacon Lights, which had not been published since the Split. Two committee members came to me and asked my opinion about starting Beacon Lights again. I asked them “Do you have any money?” They admitted they had none. But they were determined to go out and seek donations. So, as soon as there was enough money for publishing an issue, they went to print. Soon Beacon Lights was coming to our homes right on schedule.
In May of 1953, Herm married Wilma Knoper. Theirs was the last wedding ceremony in First Church before we temporarily lost the property.
In August of 1953, we held the young people’s convention in First Church. On Tuesday afternoon, Elaine and Jean Faber sat all afternoon on the church lawn, waiting for delegates to register. No one came. It appeared as if there would be no convention. Yet the evening meeting was well attended. The delegates had waited until the evening to find out about their lodging. All went well until the banquet night. The committee figured the meal for the delegates and a few others. But many of the De Wolf group stormed in and acted as if they belonged there. The committee went out scouting for food, and all ended quite well.
Herm entered the seminary in the fall of 1953 under Revs. Herman Hoeksema and George Ophoff. Little did he realize that, because of the shortage of ministers after 1953, he would soon be out in the churches. The next year he was sent to Edgerton, Minnesota to work there. Herm and Wilma were blessed with their first child, Ronald Herman, on August 30, 1954.
Fred had been going to Calvin College for the past three years, but was weary of their erroneous teachings. In the fall of 1953, he had an opportunity to start teaching in a Christian School in Kalamazoo. This kept him occupied for the next two years.
In May of 1955, Elaine went with the Pastoors to Europe for six weeks. They took an ocean liner across the Atlantic. She and Thelma Pastoor enjoyed the leisurely trip both ways. They spent about three weeks in the Netherlands and then traveled south into France, Switzerland and Germany.
On August 11, 1955 Fred and Ruth Miersma were joined in the bond of holy matrimony and took up residence in an upstairs apartment on Franklin Street. Fred took up teaching in Adams School. A few years later, in 1957, Fred and Ruth purchased a house on Adams Street, not far from the school.
At the June Synod 1955, Herm was made candidate for the ministry. I remember the occasion very vividly, because I was so deeply impressed, even a bit shaken, by the fact that he also would spend his life in the ministry in our churches. I felt somewhat as David did when he heard that Solomon would succeed him on the throne; he said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that Thou hast brought me hitherto?”
Herm received and accepted a call to our Hope Church in Walker, Michigan, and soon he and his family were settled there.
Nineteen fifty-six was the year of the tornado that swept through Hudsonville and Standale. Herm and Wilma came to our house on Bates Street. I was in the church. Although I knew that a storm had passed through between 7 and 8 o’clock, I was not aware of the severity of the storm, nor of the damage that it had done, until I came home at 10 o’clock. Herm and Wilma had tried to get back to their home, but were barred by the National Guard. Especially in Hudsonville and in Standale, there was considerable damage and there were also a number of deaths. The day after the tornado, April 4, 1956, Wilma gave birth to her second son, Cornelius.
In August Mother, Allie and I accompanied Herm, Wilma and Ron to the Upper Peninsula. Since Neal was a small baby, he was left behind with relatives. Herm preached in Grand Haven on Sunday. On Monday we started out with a rented trailer to Northern Michigan. It was a relaxing, pleasant week of sight seeing, but there was one big drawback—it rained every day that we were up there. This was not so bad for us, but it was far worse for families in tents with little kids. Can you imagine keeping kids in a small tent rainy day after rainy day? The novelty of such an experience soon wears thin. Little Ron kept us entertained on that trip. At Tahquamenon Falls his little feet moved in the direction of every puddle of water along the way.
In August of 1957, we went with the Pastoors to a couple of secluded cabins on Traverse Bay. This was an ideal place to relax. Actually we were not far from the main road, but a very narrow, winding trail through a dense woods led down to the cabins at the water’s edge.
We continued to go up there for a few years. Most of the time, Don and Jess Rietema also accompanied the Pastoors and stayed with them in their cabin. We had some very pleasant times together there. The first week the men would do a lot of fishing, as if our life depended on it. The next week I began to relax. Getting up in the morning, we would have breakfast and I would sit down to read. Soon I was sleeping. At noon we had lunch and again I took a long nap. In the late afternoon and evening we visited, but we went early to bed.
One year Herm and Wilma, Fred and Ruth, and their kids stayed in tents near Lake Michigan. But this was a rainy week, so they packed up their wet belongings and came to our cabin. The Pastoors were going home on Saturday, so we rented their cabin for a week, and all of us stayed there. As I recall, it was a chilly week. It was cold on the lake fishing, and fishing was not too good. We felt comfortable near the heater.
One year while we were at the cabin, Mother had a problem with her heart. She was filling with fluid and was very uncomfortable. On Thursday we decided to go home. I called Dr. Avery, our doctor, and he came at once. On Friday he came again. I asked him whether I should get help in the house for the meals. He answered, “Today we do nothing. Tomorrow we will see again.” He had tried to relieve her of the fluid, but had failed. On Saturday he came back and was much relieved. She had gotten rid of a lot of fluid and felt much more comfortable.
My stomach ulcer was still plaguing me, so my doctor planned stomach surgery for the summer of 1958. Dr. Carpenter was recommended, and he took away about seventy percent of my stomach. Before the surgery he reminded me that we were in the hands of the Almighty, and afterward, when I wanted to thank him, he said, “Don’t thank me, thank our God.” He was a Lutheran, but seemed to be very sincere about his religion.
I had expected that after the surgery, from which it took about six weeks to recover, I would henceforth be a semi-invalid. The opposite was true. I never felt better. Now I could eat food that I could not touch before.
On January 10, 1959, Elaine married Richard Bos. Fred and Ruth had moved to Adams Street, so Rich and Elaine moved into their house on Franklin. Elaine had a small home wedding, including only the family and a few of our closest friends. She did not want an ostentatious display in public. We were confronted with the problem of where we should draw the line if we began inviting the congregation. To this day I am still sorry that she did not have a bigger wedding. She is our only daughter who married, and we should have given her a better send off. But it was a nice wedding. Ed Kooienga had arranged to furnish the music. They came down the stairs and spoke their vows in front of the fireplace in the living room. Grandpa Griffioen wore a tie that had been in style many years ago.
Our summer vacations shifted from Grand Traverse Bay to Clyde and Reka in Wisconsin. Reka always welcomed our coming, and Clyde was a pleasant fishing companion. Although we explored other fishing lakes, we were always directed back to that little lake where Clyde had his cottage. It was for us an annual event to float down one of the rivers in the area. About 7 o’clock in the morning the women would take us to a place where we launched the boat. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon they picked us up some miles down the river. We did very little fishing, but we had a good time just drifting along as the river twisted and turned through fields and hills.
We also stayed at Fox Lake, near Randolph. There we were entertained at night by the crickets.
In the summer of 1962, we went to Loveland for a few weeks. Don and Jess Rietema went along. They had hardly ever, if ever, been out of Michigan. Therefore they enjoyed seeing the open prairie and the herds of cattle.
On the way home we returned by way of the Black Hills. Both Don and Jess enjoyed the high rocky cliffs, the faces of Mt. Rushmore, and the scenery in general. We sat by the lake to eat our lunch. The time had come for us to set the car in the direction of Michigan.
In 1963 Herm accepted a call to Doon, Iowa. Here is where Herm and Wilma’s boys had a good taste of farm life in the Midwest. They enjoyed the open country and the trips to the Rock River. Whatever else they experienced, they will not forget the years spent in the little town of Doon. Two years later, in 1965, Herm accepted the call to the seminary and took up residence first in our old house on Bates Street, and later in Walker, Michigan.
In 1963, Mom and I went to Jamaica. The previous year, Mr. Harry Zwak and Mr. Henry Meulenberg, both of whom still have descendants in the churches, had gone and had come back with a favorable report. Now the Meulenbergs and we were sent to investigate the field.
This work in Jamaica had a rather interesting beginning. In the late 50s and early 60s, our churches had a broadcast to England over Transworld Radio from Monaco. This program came on at 10:30 on a Sunday morning, following the Billy Graham program. It was directed toward England, but could be picked up in Germany, and even beyond, to Curocao and Tasmania down under. This broadcast brought a response of about 75 pieces of mail per year.
Among these letters was one from a Jamaican, who for some reason was in England, and had picked up our message. He wanted to know more about our Confessions, so I sent him a Psalter. He responded that he wanted me to come to England. Since this was impossible, the mission committee offered to him that we would pay his trip to Michigan when he made a return to Jamaica. As a result of this contact, we received a list of the membership of twenty-one congregations in Jamaica, with the request that we assume responsibility for them.
We wrote Rev. Frame, who was mentioned as minister of First Hill Church. He responded that if we believed in holiness we should come. If not, we could forget it. Little did we realize that by holiness he meant Pentacostalism.
It was a rare experience for us to visit this island. I had felt for some time that our churches should reach out in a mission project, yet little did I think that a door would be opened for us in such a strange way in Jamaica. A small house had been rented for us in the town of Luca. Mrs. Frame and another woman were our cooks and housekeepers. They arrived at 5 o’clock in the morning and often stayed until 11 o’clock at night. We practically pushed them to their homes, because we wanted a few moments alone to discuss the experiences of the day. Our beds were old and narrow, but serviceable. The bugs came through the open windows, the watchdog barked most of the night, a donkey brayed just outside our room, and a rooster crowed at dawn. Our meals were skimpy, but they did serve their purpose.
The Sunday services lasted a long time. With Rev. Frame taking the lead and Mrs. Frame in charge of the singing, we could have gone on indefinitely. The enthusiasm was most encouraging.
Although we made the town of Luca our headquarters, we rented a car and tried, as much as possible, to visit the 21 “churches” that had so unceremoniously been made our responsibility. Our first visit was to “Rev.” Thompson, who was also at the airport to meet us. We soon discovered that he had a small group of women in his “church,” that practiced voodoo. But what turned us off completely was his suggestion that, if we would give him $25,000, he would bring us most of the people in town. I told him he was too mercenary for us to deal with him. The sad part was that he also had rented an apartment for us, and we had to tell the landlady that he had not been authorized to do that.
We thought we could make a schedule and by strictly following that we could visit four or five churches in one day. So our first appointment was with a Rev. Davis at 9 o’clock in the morning. We arrived a bit early, but he already had his congregation assembled and the children enthusiastically singing. Their shoes were nicely lined up under their chairs. This singing went on and on. Finally, about 10 o’clock, he reached into his briefcase, pulled out an alarm clock, and studying it carefully decided that it was 9 o’clock. Then, evidently to show his great talent, he stood ranting and raving for awhile. After that, I spoke, explaining to them the purpose of our mission. Since our schedule was ruined already, we allowed two young men to give us a duet on their instruments. This I recorded, and to their utter amazement, if not fear, I played it back for them. From that time on I had repeated requests for that box that spoke.
We decided that the best way to work was to plan nothing but Sunday services. We would arrive at a certain church and give some of the women and children instructions to beat their drums. That was the signal to come to the tabernacle. In about an hour the other women had put on white dresses, the men had cleaned up a bit, and, giving the drummers time to change their clothes, we soon had a service started. Our speeches and sermons were greeted with “Amens” and “Hallelujahs,” but at least that showed they were listening.
We were back in Luca. One morning Mrs. Meulenberg got up and noticed red spots on her arms and legs. She had noticed a few before, but never that bad. She asked Mrs. Frame what she thought about them, and received the simple answer, “Bedbugs.” For a little while we had a revolution going. All three of my companions were ready to pack and go to a motel. When I saw how serious they were, I issued an ultimatum. “You can all go, but I have work to do here. I want to know these people, and to know them, I have to live with them.” That was that. We all stayed.
One Thursday we decided to go to Kingston. We wanted to see whether we could obtain a certificate for Rev. Frame, giving him the right to perform weddings. This he greatly desired, and we thought we would do him that favor. We stayed in what might be called a Bed and Breakfast, two upstairs rooms with a “bath,” that is, a spray over a tub. When we decided to retire the landlady said, “I have two dogs and two night boys, but lock your doors and windows.” We had planned to return to Luca on Friday, but were held up by all kinds of technicalities. We were sent to one place, where the doorkeeper wanted to know our business. Politely we were referred to “second floor, third door.” There we once more explained our business. The man listened attentively and decided that we were in the wrong place. We should go so many blocks west, and so many blocks south, and there they could help us. This went on and on, while we perspired along the way. Finally we met a woman of Spanish background. She listened to our tale of woe and told us to give her an hour to work on our problems. When we returned she had everything worked out for us.
But in the meantime the people in Luca thought we had fallen among the thieves and robbers and would never return. Needless to say, they were glad to see us back.
One Sunday night Rev. Frame had planned a service on the soccer grounds in the town. The “Bishop” would speak. We had quite a crowd. But the interesting part was that I had often wondered if something like that would be possible. Now I was confronted with it. I spoke on Matthew 11:28, explaining to them that a white man is just as black inside as anyone of the colored race. There seemed to have been quite a reaction in the town. But we met none of them in the Sunday services.
All too soon our time was up. The morning of our departure dawned. We had failed to report to the airport to check our tickets for our return, so our seats were canceled. But there was a British plane leaving in an hour. We dashed off to the motel, packed our baggage by throwing everything in willy-nilly. Then we had to get rid of our car and report at the plane. They were waiting for us, so we hastily stepped aboard and soon were going almost straight up into the sky. At customs, I warned the inspector that our luggage was a mess. But he opened my suitcase, picked up socks and underwear that had tumbled out, hastily slammed it shut, and refused to open the rest.
A new field had opened. Because showing the pictures of Jamaica attracted interest in Grand Rapids, the Meulenbergs, Mother and I decided to make a trip through the churches by train. We stopped in Doon and saw Herm’s family; then on to Loveland, Redlands and Lynden. On the way to Lynden, Mother developed a cyst in her large bowel. She suffered great agony in San Francisco and in Lynden. We went to a doctor in Sumas, who advised us to return home as soon as possible. We arrived home late on a Thursday evening. The next morning I called the Ferguson hospital. By 2 o’clock in the afternoon, Mother was in surgery.
In 1964, after spending sixteen years in First, we moved to Redlands, California.
* * * * *
The years of hard work, long hours and bitter struggle had taken their toll on Rev. Hoeksema. Especially the latest strife within the church had been extremely painful and difficult. He remarked at one time that ’53 was in some ways worse than ’24, because this conflict was brought about by men whom he had trained, whom he had trusted, and who now turned against him and were out to destroy the church.
He no longer walked with a cane, but his one leg did not come along readily. His arm and hand were impaired so that Homer had to help him in typing his articles for the Standard Bearer. His voice had lost some of its resonance, but was still strong. His cheerfulness that brought a pleasant smile to his face had faded and his former hearty laughter was no longer heard. It was evident to all of us that our pastor was aging. This was especially true when he first came to the pulpit on Sunday morning. Yet as he carried on in the service he seemed to gain energy and when he was preaching he seemed younger, once more filled with enthusiasm and the zeal for the Word. He always enjoyed preaching, possibly more than anything else.
His mind was still clear. There were those in the audience who feared that he might not be able to carry on through the entire service, or that he might become confused. Yet that never happened. In one instance he stated that he wanted to point out six facts. Some among us wondered, will he be able to remember them, will he keep them in logical order? Yet step by step he continued through the six points without hesitation.
He continued to write in the Standard Bearer and also continued to teach in the seminary. Sometimes he had but one student, but he diligently taught and enjoyed the work.
He and I continued to enjoy a good working relationship. On Thursday, I’d call him up for the sermon information for the bulletin and he’d say, “Well you know what I’m going to preach on. Just make a theme and division.” So I would, and he’d usually use that too. Except once he got on the pulpit and said, “Now the bulletin has this theme. But I changed that.” Knowing he was preaching on the catechism and knowing his make up, I could formulate his theme and points. I knew too what line we were on, whether he was emphasizing the covenant, or justification, and I drew up the theme and divisions accordingly. It usually went well.
Some of the older ministers would offer their sermon outlines to the younger ministers, especially for busy times. Rev. Hoeksema did the same for me, but I refused. I knew from the start that would never work. I had to preach my own sermons my own way.
The opposition in the CRC had not lessened. We had occasion to meet with four of the professors of Calvin Seminary to discuss a small matter. On the way to the meeting Rev. Hoeksema remarked that he dreaded meeting these men. The business was transacted in short order and we were ready to leave when one of the men invited us to have coffee with them. Rev. Hoeksema declined, but I suggested that we stay. We no more than sat down and all four of them accused him of teaching a parallel predestination, that is, that even as God chooses his elect purely by grace and in no way because of their works, so God also reprobates the wicked sovereignly, regardless of their evil deeds.
We asked them to prove that he taught this. With an almost sarcastic smile one of them remarked that it was virtually self-evident. We insisted that they prove that this was his teaching, but they brushed all further discussion on the subject aside. We left there more than a bit unhappy.
A quotation from his Reformed Dogmatics will show that a parallel predestination was by no means the conviction and teaching of our pastor. On page 161 we read, “Reprobation is the eternal and sovereign decree of God to determine some men to be vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction in the way of sin, as manifestation of His justice, and to serve the realization of His elect church.”
In the summer of 1958, Rev. Ophoff, the trusty colleague of Rev. Hoeksema, who had resolutely supported him through all the struggles, suffered a stroke while on his way home from a trip to Canada. He and his wife stayed at a hospital in Toledo, Ohio until he was able to make the trip home. Since Rev. Hoeksema desired to see him as soon as possible, we visited him in the hospital in Toledo, where we had opportunity to talk with him, encourage him and pray with him.
Mrs. Ophoff was a remarkable woman, a faithful wife and a kind, understanding mother. When they returned home, she took excellent care of her husband, even to the extent that she virtually collapsed under the burden. Rev. Ophoff never fully recovered. At times he felt a sense of guilt, wondering whether he had done the right thing by staying up those long nights to prepare articles for the Standard Bearer or lessons for the seminary. Yet at that time he had no choice, the work awaited him.
He was gradually failing, but never faltered in his assurance of God’s promises that cannot fail. He remained a staunch defender of the truth he loved as long as he lived. He was taken home on June 12, 1962 at the age of 71 years, there to hear it said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joys of thy Lord.” When he departed, Mrs. Ophoff was in a rest home and hardly realized what had happened. Yet when she saw him in the funeral parlor a single tear fell upon her cheek. Our pastor preached the funeral sermon on Psalm 73:24: “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” We all missed him.
In the early 1960s, Mrs. Hoeksema’s health began to fail. She had been a loyal help to her husband throughout all the years of their marital union. She also knew how to rear and guide her family, especially in times of storm and stress. Her husband depended upon her sound judgment of people’s characters more than most people realized. He did not appreciate simpering people or sugar-mouthed individuals, but he did readily accept and trust a person at face value. He could not imagine that any one would be dishonest or deceitful, since he himself was straight-forward and said exactly what he thought, even at times quite bluntly.
It was a pleasure to visit Mrs. Hoeksema during the time of her failing strength. I was always greatly impressed by her deep spirituality and confident hope. On September 23, 1963 the Lord reached out to take her into the rest that remains for the people of God. Our pastor sorely missed her. An important part of his life was taken from him, leaving a great void that could not be filled.
Gradually he was forced to give up his preaching, instructing in the seminary and contributing to the Standard Bearer. He had always hoped to die in the harness, that is, to be taken away in the midst of his labors, but the Lord had something better in store for him. He had time for quiet reflection and fellowship with his Lord. He experienced possibly more than ever that through prayer and meditation God shares His own communal life with His saints in intimate covenant fellowship. He could say with the sweet singer of old:
Yea, the secret of Jehovah is with those who fear His Name;
With His friends in tender mercy He His covenant will maintain.
With a confidence complete, toward Jehovah my eyes are turning;
From the net He’ll pluck my feet; he will not despise my yearning.
(Ps. No. 415, verse 7)
He had seen the churches recovering from the shock of 1953 and in his own family experienced God’s promise realized, “I will be thy God and the God of thy seed forever.” He was full of days, and was ready to enter into the rest. His departure was on September 2, 1965. He could say with the apostle Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me in that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Tim. 4:7, 8).
His son, Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema, who succeeded him as editor of the Standard Bearer, wrote:
My copy for this issue was not ready yet when the tidings came early this morning, September 2, that the Lord had granted my beloved father the desire of his heart that he would be delivered from this life, which is nothing but a continual death, into the glory of the inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.
His departure, though painful for and mourned by his dear ones and by all of us who came to know him as pastor, teacher and friend, was not unexpected. For several months already the Lord had removed him from his active labors in our churches, and particularly in his beloved First Church. Besides, he himself had expressed the wish, when he was losing his ability to communicate a couple of months ago, that, “I hope it won’t be long.” And now the Lord has delivered him. Last Sunday we at First Church prayed that when we could no longer reach him, the Lord might reach him with His Spirit and grace to comfort him. Well, the Lord certainly answered that prayer. He reached him and called him home.
With the passing of these two giant defenders of the truth, another era of our history had come to a close. They have passed on the Sword of the Spirit to the next generations. Also to them comes the Word of the Lord: “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might!” (Eph. 6:10). “Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).
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