Convention in Retrospect

The twenty-fourth annual Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention is now history. Its history, however, will not be presented in the history books or historical works of this age; but will be confined to the hearts, minds and memories of the young people who attended this convention. This convention, as well as past conventions, lives in us, who heard the speeches; who were drawn closer to each other in the unity and fellowship of the truth of the Word of God.

This convention from all outward appearances was highly successful. Everyone had a very good time.

Early Saturday morning, August 22, the first conventioneers—the Loveland delegation arrived in Grand Rapids. Because of their early arrival, they fortunately were able to participate in the pre-convention singspiration held Sunday evening at Hope Church.

This singspiration was a fitting prelude to the convention and attracted a large enthusiastic audience. All those who attended were happily rewarded for their time and energy. It was rather too bad that all the conventioneers could not have attended it. After the last song and closing prayer, everyone, I am sure, went home spiritually strengthened in the bond of covenant fellowship.

Late Monday afternoon the Edgerton, Minn. delegation made their appearance in Grand Rapids. However, they did not come in together because they lost track of each other just outside of Edgerton. The front car somehow thought they were behind so they speeded up; while those in the rear thinking they were ahead stopped. Instead of drawing closer together, they drew further apart. A rather foolish way to begin a convention, I think. What is really remarkable is that some of them arrived at all.

Other conventioneers came late Monday evening and early Tuesday morning. These included the Hull delegation, the Doon delegation and the Randolph delegation. The Oak Lawn, South Holland and South Dakota conventioneers arrived Tuesday afternoon.

All the conventioneers were registered in front of Hope Church Tuesday afternoon, at which time they received their badges, booklets, tickets and maps. They were also subject at this time to a couple of amateur photographers. They all seemed to survive this ordeal with patience and perseverance; some even appearing to like it.

Tuesday evening everyone arrived early at the South Grandville Elementary gym to have their picture taken again—this time as a group. Apparently all conventioneers like to have their picture taken after all. This became even more apparent when all the young people pushed to the center when they realized that they might not all get on the picture. Some of those on the outer edges especially appeared to get quite frantic when they found that out. Their alarm, however, was unnecessary because the picture in the end did not even turn out. The photographer was unknowingly using defective equipment.

After the picture was supposedly taken, the young people along with many parents and friends settled down to listen to a speech by our Prof. H. C. Hoeksema on the topic “Be Ye Holy—Personally”. He reminded the young people that we must be holy in our personal walk because Christ, who is the head of the church and therefore our head, is holy. Our walk in life must be holy and in accord with the will of our Savior Jesus Christ. Since He is the head and is holy, so we also being members of that one body must be holy. This calling to be holy means further, that we must daily pray and search the Scriptures. Our minds must be concerned with things holy and spiritual and must not get involved in worldly matters.

Following this enlightening address, refreshments were served, the exhibits were viewed and the young people participated in a get acquainted game. The commotion caused by the game was—well, I don’t even want to talk about it, but I guess I’ll have to. There was so much noise and so many voices that it would have made a herd of trumpeting elephants look ridiculous in comparison. Now that, I tell you, is really bad.

In order to describe the game each person was given a card with a number at the top and a letter in the middle. All the persons holding a certain number had to group together and spell out with the letters one of the states of the union. The team that came in last was threatened with the penalty of picking up the mess afterward. After about five minutes one voice, that of Mike Engelsma, could be heard above all other voices. It’s true because I heard it myself. He was trying to let everyone know that his team had come in first. The reason this is mentioned is because he hasn’t let anyone forget it since. So we must, I guess, give credit where credit is due. Too bad we don’t have all the names of that spectacular group.

Out of about twenty groups, three failed to finish and they happily were relieved of the penalty because it was believed that some of their number, unfortunately , left before the game began.

Thus the first day of convention ended in the making of new acquaintances and friends.

The next day, Wednesday, dawned bright and late for some of the conventioneers who decided that the bed was more important than the business meeting held that morning at 9:00. May they have rested in peace.

At the business meeting the following points on the agenda were accepted: 1) the young people decided to continue the study of Genesis for the 1965-1966 society year, 2) the young people again set the assessments at $10.00 for the 1964-1965 society year, distributed in the same way as they were in previous years, 3) nominations were then received for the office of President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, assistant Treasurer, Librarian and Advisor, 4 and 5) the young people accepted the Southwest and Oak Lawn Young People’s Societies into the Federation.

Upon conclusion of the business meeting, the young people left for John Ball Park. Here they had the opportunity to view the animals, the fish, the reptiles and plants of the Grand Rapids Zoo. However, while most of the young people enjoyed this part of the zoo, Miss Jane Brummel from Hull on the right, Miss Margie Mantel from Doon in the center and one of their friends on the left decided the children’s zoo—for the kids—was the place for them. Here they were again at home with the kittens and puppies, the ducklings and chicks and the calves, lambs and kids of the western farmyard. Notice the wistful expressions on all of their faces.

Oh, yes, by the way, Mr. Duane Gunnink from Edgerton, another farmer, was also found in the children’s zoo. He was engineering the stationary train engine on an imaginary journey. That’s him in the sunglasses.

Not all the young people found the animals interesting. Here we see two lads playing with their gas filled balloons. The one bending over is Cal Kalsbeek, while the other is the afore-mentioned, Mike Engelsma.

These are only a few of the many incidents which occurred here and which shall often re-occur in the memories of the conventioneers. Before I ramble on I should mention that about this time Bob Velthouse ripped his trousers and had to be taken home to get a replacement. It ripped in a very bad place. Too bad no picture was taken of this incident.

Wednesday noon lunch was served in a beautiful pavilion overlooking the greater part of Grand Rapids. At this time potato salad and ham on buns were devoured with relish and many healthy eaters made their unheralded appearance.

After eating, the conventioneers were transported to Bostwick Lake where many of them took the opportunity to go swimming. Those that forgot their bathing suits sat out on the beach in their regular clothes while others found time to relax in the beach chairs. Still others toured the lake by means of a special boat for this purpose.

Although the water was a little cool and the wind a bit chilly, all had a good time at Bostwick Lake.

From here we went to Townsend Park. It was here that the east took a seven to five decision from the west in the annual East-West softball game. The winning pitcher was Dale Kuiper while Rev. David Engelsma took the loss. Here one of the players from the west futilely attempts to hit the ball and goes down swinging. We wish him better success next year. All in all the west was a pretty good loser.

The next important event of the convention centered around the tug-of-wars. One group of conventioneers was placed on one side of a creek that runs through the park; and the other group was stationed on the other side. The object of the tug-of-war was to pull the other group into the creek. However, before this could be achieved the rope happened to break and conventioneers were sprawled all over on both sides of the creek. At this time, Rev. Hanko got the bright idea to tie the ends together in a square knot. The result was that the knot slipped and again conventioneers were flat on their backs. After a few more attempts, the knot held and the tug-of-war commenced; quite a few had the misfortune of getting wet. After the guys tired out, the girls decided to give it a try and many of them also happened to get wet.

While these events were taking place others were enjoying themselves in such activities as volleyball, football and collecting autographs.

Following these rather strenuous exercises the hungry conventioneers were given their supper. Again most of them ate well. Hot dogs roasted over a small fire and potato chips—they forgot the chip dip—made up the menu.

That evening the young people heard Rev. H. Hanko from Doon as he spoke on the topic “Be Ye Holy—With Friends.” I think all the young people were again personally affected by the pointed, pertinent remarks that were made concerning our behavior with each other, with those of other denominations and with the opposite sex. If all were not affected, it surely was not the speaker’s fault because his statements were clear, concise, logical and easy to understand. In dealing with this topic, Rev. Hanko pointed out that we as young people should make friends with those in our own churches, that we should date those from our own churches; and if it is necessary, proceed with caution when we date and make friends with those outside our churches. These are but a few of the many ideas that he covered in his speech. Would that all our young people could have heard it.

The second day of convention ended appropriately when the young people joined their voices, hearts and minds as Rev. Lubbers led them in the singing of the songs of Zion.

The next important activity of the convention was the pancake breakfast early Thursday morning. After replacing a few blown fuses and a couple of other odds and ends the ladies from Hope Church and Gib Schimmel (wearing the hat), also from Hope, were able to serve pancakes, sausage and coffee to all who desired something to eat.

Having been fully satisfied, the young people returned to Hope Church where they finished the unfinished business of the day before, elected officers and listened to a debate on the topic, “Resolve: that Christian young people may read secular literature that describe scenes of wickedness.”

The unfinished business took very little time, but this was offset by the time spent for election of officers. In the end, Ed Langerak was elected President of the Federation Board for a two year term, John Kalsbeek was elected Vice President for a one year term, Lois Schipper was elected secretary for two years, Jim Huizinga from Hope Treasure for one year, Clarence Kuiper Assistant Treasure for two years, Ruth Kuiper Librarian for two years and Student Robert Decker advisor for two years. Everyone sighed a sigh of relief when this part of the business was over.

Immediately following the business meeting the debate was held on the aforementioned topic. Jim Huizenga from Randolph and Ed Langerak were the affirmative team; while Lyn Tryon, the winner of the contest, and John Kalsbeek were the negative team.

The affirmative argued that we as young people may read this literature because 1) it portrays reality, 2) the talent and genius of the world must be utilized by the Christian and 3) by grace we as Christians can read this literature wisely.

The negative felt that the thought of sin was equal to the sin itself, therefore, by reading things that cause us to think sin, we in actuality do sin. In the second place, the negative believed that in reading this material we become agents of the devil because we allow ourselves to be tempted. And finally, the negative strongly emphasized the need of holiness in regard to the type of literature we may read. They believed that when we read, the first goal must be a spiritual goal. This means that the intellectual must always be subject to the spiritual.

The young people took a lively interest in the debate which they revealed in their attentiveness. In the end they decided that the affirmative had better arguments and that they won the debate.

After dinner a new experiment was tried and found wanting. The reason for the failure was not that the experiment was out of order, but because the young people had no interest. This new experiment was the introduction of discussion groups. Of the more than one hundred and fifty conventioneers only thirty-six felt the need to discuss matters pertaining to the kingdom of God. This was a sad incident in an otherwise successful convention.

For myself, I feel that the goal of this convention was sadly missed. When such a few were willing to give only thirty to forty-five minutes of their time for something spiritual, it is a sure indication that something is lacking in our young people. It was a sad thing when ten to twelve cars boldly left the church yard fully loaded after their occupants had been requested to remain to enjoy some spiritual fellowship.

One begins to question the right of the Federation to spend over fifteen hundred dollars just in order to entertain our young people. Oh—this entertainment has a place all right, but when it becomes an obsession then one begins seriously to wonder if perhaps our conventioneers are losing sight of the goals. It no longer is worth the money spent. There are too many other causes in our churches that could use this money to advantage, for instance: our school, our seminary, our high school, our Beacon Lights, our Standard Bearer and so many other worthy causes.

In questioning those who attended the discussion groups, it was found that lively discussions took place in all cases. Those who attended were from all appearances happy that they could participate in this kind of activity. We wish more of the young people would have reconsidered and joined in the discussion.

Questions begin to be formulated as to why there was this unfortunate display of disinterest among the young people concerning such discussions. Why has this happened?

Three answers come to mind. The first is found in the home itself. Here one does not find lively discussion, at the supper table or at other times, on practical matters concerning the Christians walk in the world and in the Scriptures; but rather an unintelligent mumble and jumble of foolishness and nonsense. Parents and young people fail to realize the value of good conversation and as a result, when convention time arrives, no one is prepared to discuss worthwhile ideas and thoughts. Also, they are afraid to express an opinion. A second answer lies in our societies. Here also discussions are apathetic and lackadaisical. The young people do not participate in discussion, but rather all too frequently attempt to promote unrest and disturbance by means of unnecessary and out of order remarks and whisperings. Further, they fail to prepare at home for the Bible lessons. Finally, a third answer lies in the federation of societies as a whole. It has failed to define the correct goal for conventions. The host society, often left to its own resources and without backing from the federation, fears to advance in the direction that it often feels it should go. Instead it proceeds to work on its convention with the false assumption that a good convention depends on how much fun the conventioneers have. This happens all too frequently and has become a sad commentary on our conventions.

The young people should realize that it is time for a change. A change from all outward appearance, from materialism to spiritualism. May these changes be accomplished before it is too late to make these changes.

That evening at Unity Christian High the convention picture was again taken and the convention banquet was held. Its theme was “Nederlands” and this was carried out by means of tulips for nut cups, a windmill design on the booklet, Dutch costumes for the servers and menu written in Dutch.

Following the banquet, the young people heard the third and final convention speech, “Be Ye Holy in the World.” Rev. David Engelsma from our Loveland, Colorado congregation began his speech by using two extreme illustrations as to the churches reaction to the world. The first illustration was of Simon the hermit who sat on top of a pole in order to separate himself from the world. The second illustration centered around Lot, the nephew of Abraham, who went to live in the middle of the wicked city of Sodom. Neither was the correct way to be Holy in the World. The hermit forgot that he was also worldly, while Lot forgot that he was the church. Rev. Engelsma then went on to attack the subject of materialism among Protestant Reformed youth. His was a very timely address.

After this speech by Rev. Engelsma, the long anticipated movie “This is Your Beacon Lights” was shown to the young people. It was well received by them and we hope that they may develop a greater appreciation for their Beacon Lights. The Federation Board and Beacon Lights Staff hopes the young people will be stimulated to read it and take a more active interest in their magazine by promoting it through the means of getting subscriptions whenever possible. This movie, by the way, is scheduled to go to Doon, Iowa, in the near future. We hope all those in the vicinity take this opportunity to view it.

Upon conclusion of the film, Ed Langerak, our new board president presented David VandenBerg with a spotlessly clean, bright, new convention booklet for collecting the most autographs, announced that the twenty-fifth annual convention would be held in South Holland, Illinois where it all began some twenty-four conventions ago and then closed the convention with prayer.

With the song God Be With You Till We Meet Again in our hearts, the 1964 convention became history. Thanks be to God who made it possible.