I have been asked to write a short article for “Beacon Lights” in connection with the 50th anniversary of our Protestant Reformed denomination. The period of time that I’ve been requested to write about is the year 1953. Keeping in mind the theme of our Church’s anniversary. “God’s Covenant Faithfulness”, I will try to put down on paper my own experiences of that year.
January, 1953, found me 1300 miles from home in the uniform of the United States Marine Corps. My bride of six months, and I were living in a small apartment near Camp Le Jeune, North Carolina. This was the time of the so called “Korean Conflict” and most of the young men my age from our congregation in Pella had answered the draft call.
This was the first time in our lives that we were away from our Pella Church. We found a lot of truth in the saying “you never appreciate what you have until you have to do without it.” How we longed for the Sundays we had know, friends and family gathered together to hear God’s Word preached and to sing together God’s praises. But God was faithful, we found churches to attend and we made friends with other Christian young people. Now we fully appreciated the years spent under the preaching, and in catechism, and Young People’s Society in our Pella Church.
Spring came. My wife went back to Iowa and I was off to Puerto Rico for training in amphibious warfare. The months under the hot sun of the island were tiresome and lonely. But always there was mail-call! Letters from family, members of the congregation in Pella and our minister brought home and church life a little closer. Rev. Gritters started a “round robin” letter among the seven young men of our congregation who were in various branches of service. So, across the miles from Puerto Rico to Korea we shared our experiences and knew also God’s faithfulness in these times.
July, 1953, was am important month. I became a father. I was back in North Carolina at the time and heard the good news on the phone from my wife. Six weeks later I was home on leave and saw our new son. What a joy – what a responsibility. As I presented my son for baptism I thought of God’s Covenant Faithfulness – 3 generations, of our family, were now sitting in the pew of the Pella Protestant Reformed Church. It brought to mind the lessons I had learned in catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism in question and answer 74 mentions three grounds for infant baptism.
- Children are included in the covenant and church of God.
- The promise of the covenant (that is – the promise of redemption and of the Holy Ghost) is for them as well as for the adult.
- Baptism, as a sign of the covenant, must be applied to infants as well as adults.
“For as they (our children) are without their knowledge partakers of the condemnation in Adam so they are again received unto grace in Christ.”- Form for administration of Baptism.
Genesis 17:7 states: “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”
Acts 2:39 says: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Why are children included in the covenant? Because God establishes His covenant in the line of continued generations.
The questions and answers that I had memorized, sometimes reluctantly, rather than with an eagerness to learn, now took on a new and beautiful meaning.
Life in the congregation, as I remember it, was one of love and unity. The Pella congregation numbered about 35 families at this time. Our minister and consistory and fellow members were faithful in writing letters to us servicemen. Each Sunday we were remembered in the congregational prayers. We felt a very real bond of fellowship with the people of the church.
In later years, the year 1953 has come to mean a year of trouble and strife in our denomination. But 1953, in the Pella congregation was not so. We heard, of course, of trouble in the “East” but at that time we were united in life and doctrine in Pella.
I had almost a year of active duty ahead of me yet. This meant separation from family and church but always the knowledge that God was with me and all things works together for good to them that love God. And in His providence, all the servicemen from the Pella congregation returned in due time to take up life in their families and church again.
The life of a serviceman away from home is not one I would choose for myself or my sons. But looking back, I can see how God uses all such experiences to show His children that He is a faithful God.
It is always interesting and profitable to reminisce on bygone days, but more important we must live in the present and look to the future. May God give us grace to pray, “Oh God, cut us not off in our generations, but continue thy covenant with us, and with our seed after us, even until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen”