Interview with Nick Kleyn (1)

It is April 18, 2009, and I am at the residence of Nick and Ina Kleyn in Walker, Michigan

My interest in obtaining this interview is connected with the fact that they are formerly residents of Australia.  My purpose is to establish the connection between churches and saints in Australia and the Protestant Reformed Churches.  It’s possible that both Nick (NK) and Ina (IK) will contribute to this interview.  However, I will begin with Mr. Kleyn.


MHH:  Mr. Kleyn, can you tell me when and where you were born?

NK:  The Netherlands, Sledrect, that’s near Rotterdam in 1940, just as the war started.

MHH:  What are your memories of your early years in the Netherlands?  Can you tell me a little bit about that?

NK:  Well, instances in the war I still remember very clearly.  I might have been three years old.  But the Germans bombed houses across the road from us. We were standing at the window and the window just shattered. We all rushed into the kitchen, which was in the middle of the house—no windows. Probably the kitchen is only about ten foot by six foot. We hid there.  And I can remember very clearly also that the Germans came in the house, surrounded my mother and looking for my dad. My dad was in hiding. He had a special place of hiding in the house, underneath the wash basin.  He hid there, and sometimes he hid somewhere else. We went back to the Netherlands and that hiding place is still there (ten years ago).

MHH:  Really!

NK:  It’s amazing.

MHH:  You found the same house and the same hiding place!  Why was your father in hiding?  Was he in the resistance?

NK:  Well, also they would gather up the men and send them all to Germany to work in the factories, making ammunition and that.

MHH:  So they were interested in him for his labor potential.

NK:  That’s right.  And he would have been 30 years, a young man.

MHH:  What happened after the war was finished?

NK:  Well, my father had a milk route, which is delivering milk and cheese.  After the war there was no money in it anymore because he could not buy the milk from the farmers.  He had to go to the milk board,  and that cut all the profit out.  He lost a lot of money in the war because he had to go in hiding.  Somebody else had to run the business.  So in ‘47 he decided to go in the bakery with a partner he met in hiding during the war.

MHH:  So he went into the bakery business?

NK:  Yes, he did go in the bakery business.  But that didn’t work out either because the other owner’s wife apparently stuck the cash in her pocket, and it was never accounted for (laughter).

MHH:  So what did he do next?

NK:  Well, he tried to be a door-to-door salesman. Even I did, too, because a kid of 9-10 years old could go and try to sell hair-clips or things, little items door-to-door.  But that didn’t work.  He worked for a rubber factory for awhile.  That didn’t work.  So he said to Mom, “Let’s go to Australia.”  And Mom wouldn’t have it because, you know, she had the family there [in the Netherlands].  It was very hard for her to immigrate to Australia.  But, as things went on, they had nine children.  They just kept their head above water.  So they decided to migrate to Australia.  They migrated in 1952.

MHH:  So you would have been 12 years old…

NK:  Eleven, nearly twelve.

MHH:  And where in Australia did they go?

NK:  They went to Western Australia, called a place Armidel, where there were already quite a few migrants after the war.  One of the first ones was the Bosveld family, the Slobert family/Bosveld family.  By time we got there, I suppose there was about 12 families there.

IK:  Armidel is a suburb of Perth.  It was like eighteen miles out of Perth.  Perth is the capital.

MHH:  While we’re on the subject of past history and immigration, Ina, could you tell me a little bit about your history?  Where you were born and what your childhood was like?

IK:  OK.  I was born in the Netherlands in 1943.  I remember all the streets, the way we walked to church—everybody walked to church in those days.  The street we were on was called Church Street. We went back two years ago and everything was still exactly the same, except it was a one-way street.  It was cobbled road.  Our house was a lord’s house, like one of those big mansions, beause Mother had guests and that kind of helped pay for the expenses. My parents were migrating to Australia with fourteen children in 1950.

MHH:  With fourteen children!

IK:  Yah.

MHH:  Wow.  So you were actually in Australia two years before Nick was.

IK:  Yes.

MHH:  And you went to the same general area?

IK:  Right.  We had a reformation in 1944. Some of the Christian Reformed Church became the Liberated Church, and Nick did, too. Nick lived on one side of the Arnon, and we lived on the other side.  And there were all these little branches, but no ministers.  So the same minister that served when Nick went to church was also the one that preached for us and had our catechism classes and that.  But we didn’t know about that until we came to Australia.

MHH:  So close, and yet so far. But you definitely had the minister in common in the Netherlands.

IK:  Yes.

MHH:  You mentioned a reformation of some sort in 1944?

IK:  Yes.  We became what you call the Schilder Group.

MHH:  You did?

IK:  Yes.  And Nick’s family did too.

MHH:  What was the reason for this?

IK:  Mainly the baptism the covenant, and Article 31 of the Confession.  We were called the Article 31 Church by the Christian Reformed people.

MHH:  Now, when you got to Australia, what was your church affiliation or church position?  What was going on in Australia?

IK:  OK.  There’s a book I’d like you to read that explains.  My brother wrote it.  A Mr. Slobert was there before us.  He tried all the kinds of denominations around and was very unhappy about that.  And my father was what you call a very strong-minded personality. He didn’t need other people, like some other people do. When we came to Australia, we straight-away had reading services from the Liberated Church sermons.

MHH:  So there were no Liberated Churches established when you came.

IK:  Nothing.

MHH:  You say you had reading services.  What happened next?

IK:  Then more migrants came. I remember one time after some migrants came during the week (we always had it [church] in our house) we had it outside in the back yard because there were too many people to fit in, squashed in the lounge even.  I remember it was a Sunday morning, and I can’t remember the sermon, but I reckon it was pretty dark sitting outside (laughter) having the service. Then we hired a little church hall after that.  And that was the beginning of what was called, in Australia the Free Reformed.  Here they call it the Liberated Church.  We were always referred to as Article 31.

MHH:  You were meeting, as a group.  You had reading sermons.  Were you able to obtain a minister?

IK:  We called a minister that wanted to come, but apparently he wasn’t a very substantial candidate. He wanted more money, so he didn’t come.  Also, we in Australia had contacted ministers in the Netherlands from the Free Reformed Church, and they would advise every time.  But it was only by air mail letters like snail mail, so it was kind of a long time before you got answers.  The Lord’s Supper wasn’t served because there was no official minister there.  And then they did appoint one of the elders that he could administer the Lord’s Supper and baptism. Then Rev. Pells came, and was our pastor for three or four years I loved him.  He was so good at catechism classes.  He made you smell the pottage that Jacob made for Esau (laughter).  All my catechism classes were so vivid.  And I tell you, I learned the covenant situation between God and Adam and Abraham. I learned it all by heart. We had to write it down in the textbook.  And then I showed your dad [Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema] when he was in Australia.  And he said, “Oh, he’s so Arminian!”  Then I started thinking about what Prof. Hoeksema said to me.  And it was Arminian.  But I never looked at it that way, even though all these years I thought it was very Reformed. It was always not a unilateral covenant, it was always Adam’s responsibility and Abraham’s.

MHH:  And that’s why he said it was from an Arminian perspective?

IK:  I know. But it took your dad’s words for me to think about that in the right perspective.

MHH:  But, on the other hand, how could you know, if you had never been taught correctly?

IK:  All right. But my dad would never allow the conditional covenant, so it wasn’t to me a condition. He was very strict about that.

MHH:  Nick, you were also living in the same area and also a member of the same congregation as Ina, correct?

NK:  That’s correct.  The church was constituted in 1950 by our dad and Mr. Slobert. It wasn’t official because it was only two families.  So they reconstituted it in 1951. Then in 1954 we got our first minister (Rev. Pells). There was still a lot of controversy while he was there.  There was a big division in the church. The church was 50–50, some for the minister and others against the minister.

MHH:  What was the issue?

NK:  I think it was a personal clash with the minister.  Unfortunately he had no sense of humor, so the kids made the worst of it—even picked up his car and put it between two trees so after catechism classes he couldn’t leave (laughter).  I suppose you could say they were nasty to him.  They were a childless couple, and they even accused things like my brother listening under the window of their bedroom while they were talking at night.  There was so much rumor.  It was so hard for him to stay.  And he got a call in the Netherlands, so he went back, but the church was still divided. Then in ’58 we had a minister-on-loan.  He came to try to fix it up.  He was only there for twelve months. He said off the pulpit, “Trouble with you people here is you don’t love each other.  You ought to love each other and, by the grace of God, things will come right.”  And it did come right, after he was there for twelve months.  Healed the differences and everything.

MHH:  But then he went back to Netherlands?

NK:  Yes, he went back.  He was only a loan for twelve months. Then through ’96 we got a full-time minister:  Rev. Bruining. He stayed there till he retired.  He was there for twenty-five years as a pastor.  He had family here.

MHH:  So, how long did you stay in the area in Western Australia, and how long were you in this congregation?

NK:  Well, the Bosveld family had a bit of an issue with the consistory, and so father Bosveld and his family decided to go to Tasmania, which was the other side of Australia, an island, in ’57. I was already interested in Ina, although she was only thirteen and I was sixteen.  But anyway, they migrated to Tasmania and I followed in ’62, and in ’63 we got married in the Free Reformed Churches in Tasmania.

MHH:  And, what are your recollections of this, Ina?

IK:  My father was put under discipline, and my mother was put under discipline because she agreed with my father.  And one of my brothers was put under discipline and his wife because she agreed with her husband. My father said the discipline wasn’t correct. Then after back and forth (they were getting advice from Netherlands), they lifted the discipline.  But my father said, “This is a public thing.  You have to publicly say you’re sorry.”  And they wouldn’t do that. My mother, my brother and his wife, they were lifted because they didn’t require that.  So my father was kept under discipline.  So we went to Tasmania while he was under discipline.  And then the minister in Launceston, he worked that right through and they lifted the discipline through the classis in a synodical way.

MHH:  So that’s how you ended up…

IK:  In Tasmania, yes.

MHH:  And Nick followed shortly after.

IK:  Yes.

MHH:  And then you were married. Tell me a little bit about your life together, as far as where you lived, what you did, what your church situation was.

IK:  My father was reading Rev. [Herman] Hoeksema’s and Prof. Hoeksema’s books, so he was sharp about the preaching.  And he kept saying, “The minister used to come to our place so much, and they always talked about the scriptures.”  And he said, “You’re not preaching Christ.” So, then they had a division between the minister and my dad. Then my father was put under discipline because he stayed home in the afternoon (he came to church in the morning), and he would look after my sister’s children.  He stayed home.  And he was always reading Prof. Hoeksema and Rev. Hoeksema’s books.  That how I see him—lying on the couch Sundays reading these books. So he was shopping in another direction.  Then he was put under discipline and

MHH:  For what reason or on what grounds?

IK:  On what grounds?  That he disagreed with the consistory, so that was the fifth commandment; and the fourth commandment because he didn’t go to church twice on Sunday. So then we started going to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which just started up earlier in 1962. My brother said, “Oh, you should go there; it’s a very conservative church.”  And that’s how we became Evangelical Presbyterians.  Nick had come in ’62, so he came right in the middle of it. That hurt his mother very much, because he got swayed our way, and he left the Free Reformed Church. If you’re not a Free Reformed Church member, you can’t be saved.  That’s how strong they were about that principle.

We married in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in early 1963. My father and he worked for the elders in the church. They had a business together building.  So he’d work for one and then the other one would offer for 50¢ an hour, and then the other one would offer him 75¢ an hour. He’d work there a few months, and then the first one would offer him a dollar an hour (laughter).  So he was doing that for a while.  But the Evangelical Presbyterian Church was made up of different people, like Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists—so very dispensational thinking.  They had no idea of the covenant.  They didn’t even know what the word covenant really meant.

MHH:  I’m having a difficult time understanding why your relatives would go there.

IK:  My father was put out of the church, but he still always went to church. When he was excommunicated, he went to church.  And the minister said from the pulpit, “I would like the gentlemen to remove Mr. Bosveld from the congregation,” before we would read the excommunication form.  And he didn’t get up.  So then he asked the elders.  And the elders didn’t get up.  So Dad stayed there.  Can you see how strong-minded that guy was, my dad?  He wasn’t going to be pushed out.  In a court of law you can sit when the judgment is read out, why not in church?  So then the minister had to read it out with Dad being there.

MHH:  I guess where I’m trying to go with this line of questioning is, if there was no covenant concept in the EPC, and it was made up of members from diverse backgrounds…

IK:  All right.  But He was preaching about the souvereiniteit (sovereignty) of the kingdoms around Israel.  And that’s what he’d base God’s covenant on, like as if God has to get a picture from what was happening.  So the whole concept of his preaching was not covenantal at all. My brother Albert took notes, and I said to Albert one day later, “What did you think about that sermon?”  He said, “I’ve still got the notes, Ina.”  And he showed me the notes. What I remember as a fifteen or sixteen-year-old was never what I hear today in the preaching.  Nothing like it. Pastor Rodman was scriptural, but it was more like a Sunday School message rather than the depths of doctrinal things.

MHH:  You’re talking about Rodman who was pastor in the EPC?

IK:  Yes.  And then we had some contact with the Protestant Reformed—years later—and they gave us the Standard Bearer.  They sent a bundle up, which was to be distributed amongst the people, and they did distribute them.  But they had a thing in there about the covenant, which our people didn’t agree with.  So we never ever got it again.

MHH:  So now you’re in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  Pastor Rodman is the minister.  Where, when, and how did you come into contact with the Protestant Reformed Churches and specifically the Standard Bearer?

IK:  We moved away from Launceston (quite a few families did), to northwest coast, just past Burnie, which is about two hours’ drive west from Launceston. We had a farm there. We went for awhile to this church that has separated from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, through Pastor Turno.  What was that all about?  That was all about money—not properly sustaining the ministers when they didn’t agree with them. You have to remember, these were just all new people, and as soon as something didn’t work out for them, they just up and out. We could never understand it.  They even at one time said to us, “Well, why didn’t you just get out?”  But now, looking back, that is very typical of new converts.  They have no accountability like you have here in this little church.

Then we called Pastor Fisk, through help from the Protestant Reformed.  And then there was a Miss Martin. She lived in Launceston. She went there for the church.  She was disillusioned about it all, because it didn’t go well there for a long time. She came and visited us on the farm, and she said to me, “Do you get the Standard Bearer?”  I said, “Well, we used to, but we don’t know how to get that.” She said, “Oh, I’ll get it for you.”  So she got us back on the Standard Bearer and Beacon Lights. On the back of the Standard Bearer there was a whole series of Gideon sermons by Prof. Engelsma, Rev. Engelsma at that time.  So we ordered [the tapes].  What I liked about it, there was no singing or anything on it, and they were an hour long.  We were only used to thirty minutes or twenty-five minutes. Our elders did a lot We had Rev. Fisk there for four years, and then he left. We had elders come to the pulpit from Launceston because we didn’t have a consistory ourselves.  We had John Driscoll and then another elder from Launceston that made up the consistory.  Then John Driscoll was put down from office through apostasy.  So that was another break-down.  We got back on the Standard Bearer, and the next one I ordered was the whole series on the Lord’s Prayer, by Rev. David Engelsma.  And then Saturday night we had a phone call from Launceston, from the elder, who said, “I can’t make it tomorrow, can you do something else.” I answered the phone, and Nick was out on the farm. I said, “Well, I just got these sermons this week from Rev. Engelsma.  Can we use one of them?”  And he said, “Yes, go right ahead.”  So we sat in church and listened to “Our Father which art in heaven,” the first one on the Lord’s Prayer.  And you could drop a pin.  Everybody listened the whole hour. That was a long time for people that are only used to half-hour.  And they said, “We want more of this.”  So that’s how we started to play the Protestant Reformed [tapes].

To be continued…