A Miracle in Kalamazoo

To youth the future calls and the aged live in the past, for the first are hopefully sure of their ability to work out their own destiny, but the latter have learned that the future is rooted in the past.

It is good also for the church to stop and consider what God has done in the past and how and by what means He is developing His kingdom in our midst. Another fruitful question is, what is our origin and reason for existence, and under what conditions was our church formed? The answer to these questions will show us God’s loving hand in the past and give us confidence that in the future Christ, the King of His Church will lead and preserve His own.

Before January 24, 1925 we were known as the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo. That we became the Protestant Reformed Church is through the action of the Classis Grand Rapids West. This classis trying to enforce the well known three points of a hierarchical and unreformed way, deposed our consistory and pastor and the result of this action was, that we as congregation organized as the Protesting Christian Reformed Church.

On March 6, 1925 the combined consistories of those churches who were expelled for the same reason we were, united under an act of agreement. This form of denomination union was maintained till the combined meeting of November 1926, when at the request of Kalamazoo’s consistory the formal organization of the Protestant Reformed Church took place. The consistory of our congregation also took part in the deliberations to formalize our relations of unity and adopt the official name of our churches.

But it soon developed that there was a fly in the ointment, and a big fly. Rev. H. Danhof, our pastor, did not want to stay in the Prot. Ref. Churches. His heart still felt the old ties that bound him to the Christian Reformed Church. He was disappointed with the result of his former decisions to oppose the three points, the popular support and acclaim he had expected did not materialize, and seeing no personal gratification in a small church group, he by various dishonorable means began to loosen the bonds which made us one with the Protestant Reformed Church. The most grievous part was that, with a few exceptions his consistory and congregation were willing to follow him in the slow but sure return to the Christian Reformed Church. Was this to be the end of what Rev. H. Danhof called, “God’s cause in Kalamazoo”?

No, there was a small group who felt God’s cause was not a matter of personal advancement or honor, but a question of the purest revelation of the body of Christ in this world. This small group held various meetings at homes to discuss our position, while our protests resulted in our being put under censure. We also held a public meeting at which we stated our position in respect toward the Protesting Church. We held that we were members of the Protestant Reformed Churches and could and should not be separated from that church by the action of our pastor and consistory. But all we could do was ask for our papers and reorganize and continue as the Prot. Ref. Church. We organized on October 30, 1927 and although we were small and numbered only eleven families, we adopted the name of First Protestant Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, for we were members of that denomination which was driven from the fellowship of the Christian Reformed Church and Rev. H. Danhof tried to separate us again by establishing an independent Church.

And now, you will think, a prosperous and peaceful era began for our church. Alas, if we had hoped for a calm and quiet church life we were disappointed for we were assailed from without and from within. Not only were we hated by the outside but faithlessness within threatened our existence again and again. What was the cause of this? Lack of capable leaders? No, there were many capable men experienced in church maters in our small group. But we wanted to build on our leaders. I believe that was the root of our trouble. The Lord had prepared another way for us. He could not use those leaders, “The oaks of righteousness” in Kalamazoo, but would perform His work through the “scrubs” to the glory of His Name. Our leaders on whom we had leaded as on a reed, the Lord took away one by one as if to show us they were but broken reeds. And thus we continued the weary struggle year in and year out.

You will say, what a doleful past Kalamazoo has had! Oh, no, blessed and glorious. If you look at man’s efforts, yes, they were humbled and seemingly we were brought to nought, but this is the body of Christ and will not the Head protest and care for His own body?! His manifold blessings He poured out on us. We were but a handful, still every Sabbath day he lead us in the green pastures of His Word, and strengthened us by His sacraments. We were what some blind, misguided souls called a “rommeltje” but every Lord’s Day His servants called us “Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ”.

I dare say God performed miracles here in Kalamazoo in the past. Many a Doctor of Church Knowledge prophesied our disbandment and declared it impossible for us to live any longer, and humanly speaking they were right. They even pronounced it dead and the mourners were ready to lead us back to “Mother’s house” while they sympathetically assured us that we surely had done all we could. But the funeral was indefinitely postponed and what is more, we are very much alive!

Although small we have a healthy growth even in numbers, and we have nothing to boast of in ourselves. Surely human efforts had proven to be vain, but the King of the Church kept us, His purpose to fulfill so that this despised remnant might become a refuge to those who, though they have wandered far off, still loved the Reformed Truth.

Isn’t this a miracle?