The beginning of our congregation was unique in many ways. This is the way it started: several people from Lansing, Illinois, not satisfied with the Common Grace position of the Christian Reformed Churches, decided that they wanted to hear the “other side”. So they wrote Rev. H. Hoeksema whether he would come and how much it would cost. Rev. Hoeksema wrote it would cost nothing, and plans were made to have him come. But what happened after that reminds us of Sanballat and Tobias in Nehemiah 4. We had posters printed and rented a hall, but the so-called brethren of the other side, had already started to break down the wall, even before we started to build. We were notified that we could not have the rented Munster Hall for our purpose of hearing Rev. H. Hoeksema. So to Lansing we went, but again Sanballat and Tobias had been there also and so we had the same disappointment with the Lansing Public School which we tried to get.
So, what next?! O, yes, Bock’s Hall, we thought. After all the Ku Klux Klan used to meet there, so we thought we could try also. And sure enough, they let us have that hall. Fortunately for us, however, their word was good, for 5 minutes later, the above named “brethren” were there to warn them not to let us use the hall for “that trouble maker”. But these “brethren” did not realize that they were helping the good cause along. Through all their efforts people got to be inquisitive and the result was that we could not handle the crowds at first. Yes, those were wonderful times, we thought. But the Lord had other plans for us, which if we had known them beforehand, I doubt whether any of us would have had the courage to go on. For gradually the meetings became smaller in attendance and when finally we organized on August 24, 1926, there were but 7 families that proved willing to stick it out.
The Lord’s plans are wise nevertheless. Soon several families from South Holland began gathering with us. We were encouraged and began realizing that God’s blessing is upon His people regardless what happens. Some of the people who we thought were indispensable soon left us, and others whom we expected to join us stayed away entirely. Those were some of the 200 percenters that Rev. Hoeksema wrote about at one time. But several of the South Holland families joined our congregation. And whereas it was so dark for a while that we only had one elder and one deacon serving in the consistory, yet God brightened our horizon in the direction of South Holland. It was then decided to also build our own church and it was decided to build in South Holland. This caused great rejoicing for Bock’s Hall was not the ideal place to meet in. While there we were often told to shorten our holiday services in order that a scheduled dance could take place there, besides there were several families living in the same building causing at times disturbances to our meetings.
Our first students served us nearly every Sunday. And they gave of their time and efforts more than we expected. They were sincere and loyal, even though at times comical in their expressions. Our first student thought he had made such a botch of it, as he called it, that he declared we did not have to pay him for the trip. But he did fine and now he is one of our leading ministers. Some of the students were not so good in the Dutch either, and others not so good in the English. One of them spoke of “Voorspoed and achterspoed”. Another talked of “barbieren” (barbers) instead of Barbaren (Barbarians). However, they were much appreciated, and the congregation was served by these first students for about 7 years. A long time to be without a minister, yet God blessed us.
In 1932, Candidate P. De Boer came over to help us and he labored about six years in our midst, being richly blessed throughout his ministry among us. Then on September 28, 1938, Rev. L. Vermeer came to us and has been laboring in our midst ever since. He is very faithful in preaching to us from week to week and instructing our children, in the good old Reformed Truth. He has remained faithful even in the midst of hardships, for we must not forget that the church on earth is the Militant Church and cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without much tribulation. This too has been our experience. But we can speak of God’s blessing on us and through the ministry of Rev. Vermeer, with the ever faithful help of Mrs. Vermeer, who also is always ready to take her part in congregational activities; our congregation is being richly blessed by our covenant God. We now have our own church building and parsonage, which will be debt free before the end of the year. We have a flourishing Ladies Aid and Young People’s Society as well as Men’s Society. Thus we believe God will continue to bless in the future and our hope is in Him alone.
NOTE:–This article was sent in by Mr. Terpstra before Rev. Vermeer received and accepted a call to Pella, Iowa. The S. H. congregation feels that Rev. Vermeer has occupied a large place in its history and growth.