I first saw the light of day on March 16, 1970 in the Pipestone County Hospital in rural Minnesota. I was the second child born to Allen and Sharon Brummel. I joined an older brother, Allen, who was a year and a half old. Later my parents were blessed with three daughters: Jodi, Shari, and Tiffany.
I look back with gratitude to God for the gift of my parents. What a blessing it was to have faithful parents, who were committed to the body of Christ. From my earliest years my mother taught me the great Bible stories. She taught me to memorize Psalter numbers and Bible passages. My father sacrificed until it hurt for my education. He was willing to be used in the church and the community on various boards and later as a volunteer for the Edgerton ambulance.
Some of my earliest memories involve visiting my Grandpa and Grandma Brummel’s farm, some seven miles away from my hometown of Edgerton. Later my Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary took over the farm and I have fond memories of visiting them. One time my brother and I stayed overnight at the farm. One of the cows had just had a calf. The old veterinarian from Edgerton, Dr. Kemp, came out to make sure all of the afterbirth was out of the cow. He soaped up his arm and it disappeared into the back of the cow. Since it was a hot day and flies were everywhere in the barn, and landing on his back, the vet commanded us boys to keep the flies off. We kept the flies off. We dried his sweaty back off with an old towel. After he was finished he handed us an aluminum bucket with the afterbirth and said: “Give this to your Aunt Mary and have her make you some hamburger.” To say the least, that didn’t look too appetizing.
I grew up in the little Dutch town of Edgerton, Minnesota. We lived across from our church and a block away from the Free Christian School, our grade school. Our school was a two-room schoolhouse. I had three teachers through ten grades. Carol Brands, then Miss De Jong, was my kindergarten teacher. Then for a few grades I was taught by Miss Hoekstra. Most memorable of all was her teaching of the Bible stories! Then from fourth grade to ninth grade I was taught by my “uncle” Peter Brummel. I am thankful for the sacrifices of those teachers.
When I was in grade school my father quit his job as assistant editor of the Edgerton Enterprise, the local newspaper, and bought out two shoe businesses in town and opened Brummel’s Sewing and Shoes. For a few years my parents had run a sewing machine business out of the house.
Growing up, our life centered around the church and school. When I was young the Slopsema family moved to Edgerton. Thereafter I had a very tall pastor and as the years passed my siblings and I spent many happy hours playing with the Slopsema girls.
Summers in Edgerton were carefree times, at least before I was 14 or 15 and started working for local farmers. Almost every day my friends, Steve and Tim, and I would ride our bikes to the public swimming pool. Afterwards we would stop by Brummel’s Bakery, owned by my Uncle Andy, and eat donuts and rolls and cookies. Yet I was skinny. My uncle would probably be able to retire now if we hadn’t eaten so many free donuts.
Some of the hobbies I enjoy now began when I was a boy. Since my father was the hunting and fishing editor for the newspaper, he had a good excuse for taking us fishing or hunting. He always outfished us boys. When I was 13 my parents finally gave me a dog after I had begged for one for years. Later he would hunt pheasants with me. I remember when a jackrabbit jumped up in front of me and I shot and missed. My dog, Duke, took off chasing the rabbit, and disappeared over a hill. When I came over the rise I found out that my dog had caught the jackrabbit. He must have figured that he had to take up the slack for me.
Once a year the Brummel relation would converge on a lake in Minnesota for camping. Today our family still likes to camp, although having a baby does pose special challenges for tenting.
Our home was a home of bookworms. If my dad wasn’t working or at a meeting, the odds were that you would find him with his nose in a book. In fact his interest in books earned him the unique honor of being the first male selected to serve on the Edgerton Runals Library Board. As a result of our parents not allowing us to watch much television (in fact for years there was not a TV in the house) and their example in reading, I learned to love books.
It was when I was in high school that I began to think about entering the ministry. I was embarrassed about it and kept quiet. After all, when my brother was a senior in high school he and my cousin Doug Kuiper both let it be known that they planned to go to seminary. I probably didn’t want others to think of me as a clone of my brother.
I began high school when I was in the 10th grade. I didn’t enjoy high school. I was much too shy. I found it hard to break into friendships that many of my classmates already had formed. They had grown up together in Christian Reformed churches and had started high school in the 9th grade.
When my high school years came to an end, I made a decision to study at Calvin College. Since a friend of mine also planned on going there, the decision was easier. It is amazing to me how easily I made such an important decision. I am rather amazed at how my parents freely allowed me to choose to go to college more than 700 miles from home. They just wanted me to go to a Christian college—with the options pretty much assumed to be Dordt or Calvin.
But God wanted me at Calvin. He was going to test me that first year. I went to Calvin College a bit naive. I thought that the main differences with which I would be confronted would be issues surrounding common grace. Instead I ran into higher criticism of the Bible. My first semester in Religion 103 shook my faith in the trustworthiness of Scripture. If my professor was correct, the Bible was filled with errors because it was only inspired and infallible with respect to some vague and nebulous “redemptive message”. I know of another student who after taking the class concluded that no ordinary person could ever get at the meaning of Scripture, and so what was the use of reading it?
I found relief that year when I was sitting in my dorm room reading Homer Hoeksema’s little book “In the beginning…. His discussion of inerrancy and the Scriptural reasons for it opened my eyes to the fact that I could trust the Bible because Scripture itself claimed to be God-breathed and not the result of any private interpretation.
In response to this and other attacks on the Reformed faith, the Lord gave me the desire to defend the truths of Scripture. Feeling the Lord Jesus calling me to the ministry I signed up for Greek classes my sophomore year.
I had two excellent philosophy professors who helped me realize that I could be a thinking Christian. One was Bill Dennyson, now a professor at Covenant College, whom we called “The Inerrant One” simply because he believed in inerrancy, unlike most of the faculty. I took the most classes with Mark Talbot, now a professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College. We called him “The Philosopher” because we were impressed by his careful logic. Talbot steered me in the direction of Jonathan Edwards, teaching an interim class on The Religious Affections. I discovered that there was no conflict between being a Christian and studying philosophical issues. At Calvin College I discovered the insights of Abraham Kuyper and what they meant for the Christian scholar.
After college, I did not feel ready for seminary. I wanted to have time to read more widely, so I enrolled in graduate school to study philosophy. I wrote a thesis defending an argument by Jonathan Edwards against Arminianism, i.e. the idea that God possessing infinite perfect foreknowledge of all future acts is inconsistent with libertarian free will.
After graduate school I moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Grandville, Michigan, where I lived in the apartments across from the seminary. One thing I learned in seminary is that for a young man to make it through seminary he must have a strong sense of his calling. In graduate school I grew in my prayer life and intimacy with God. In seminary I learned to rely upon God for the grace to study and practice preach. One nice thing about seminary was the opportunity to learn from the thinking and life of a variety of godly and gifted men. It was a bit stressful for me to be the only student in most of my classes in seminary.
I appreciated Dogmatics classes with Prof. Engelsma who in so many ways expanded my theological horizons. As I examine my theological world-view I see that I am in many ways a disciple of Engelsma. I enjoyed listening to Prof. Hanko’s engaging lectures on church history. I have fond memories of practical theology classes with Prof. Decker where I learned about missions and how to be a pastor.
During seminary I fell in love with a young lady who had been an acquaintance for a few years. I was married to Paula Faber a few weeks before I began my internship in Redlands, California. We have many fond memories of Redlands with its beautiful orange groves, forest fires, and Joshua trees.
Two years ago the Lord blessed Paula and me with two adoptive children from Ukraine, Melitta and Augustine. In December the Lord blessed us with our first biological child, who we named Peter. It is a great blessing to see covenant children growing in their knowledge of Scripture and their love for God.
After seminary I was called to a new daughter church of South Holland Protestant Reformed Church. At the first meeting of the daughter church it was named Cornerstone Protestant Reformed Church and I was called to be her first pastor.
It was exciting to be part of a new congregation. For a few years we met at various locations, until our building project was completed in 2003. We have enjoyed our new building for about a year. It is nice to have a more public and visible presence in the community.
One of the delights of being a pastor is being able to observe how the Lord uses the gifts of His people for the good of others. It is gratifying to see God at work in people’s lives, giving them the willingness to deny themselves for others. I have enjoyed seeing the saints be witnesses about their Savior by their words and deeds. It is a great blessing to be able to spend much of the week studying and meditating on Scripture in preparation for preaching. I delight in preaching the great themes of Scripture: God’s sovereignty, the mission of God, the covenant, and the call to discipleship.
I love teaching catechism to the children of different ages. It is fun to watch the littlest children listen to Bible stories with wide eyes. I remember telling the story about the two women who disputed before Solomon over whose baby the living baby was. As the story reached its climax I began to see tears forming in the eyes of the littlest children. It is so fun to teach little children because they don’t always know which way the story will go. I also appreciate the spiritual and intellectual gifts that God gives to our young people so that they can interpret Scripture and think through theological issues.
Out of my own experience I would offer some advice to young people. Growing up, my own life was out of balance. I knew a lot of doctrine, but when it came to living the Christian life in a mature way, I was out of balance. For example, during my college years I was not a good witness about my Savior. I understood the doctrines of Calvinism, but I did not act like I should have as a Calvinist. Our Christian life needs to balance the importance of knowing the teachings of Scripture and living out the Christian life. We need to be not only hearers, but doers of the word.
A second comment I have is about how young people should view their studies. Education is a big part of your life. Do not view your studies as unfortunate work that you need to do to try to get a good enough grade to satisfy your parents. Don’t study to prove your intelligence or try to get accepted at a good college. Instead love God with your mind as you study. View your studies as service of God. Develop your gifts and mind for the glory of God. View your studies as preparation for service to God and other people.
Finally, don’t get caught up with the latest coolest thing or fad—whether it is dress or music or whatever. Take a broader, more comprehensive view of life. Be faithful to the eternal Christ who is unchanging, the same yesterday, today, and forever.