I was born in 1942 in Wyoming, Michigan. My parents are George Bekkering and Julia Woodruff. My parents are divorced and are both remarried. I lived in Byron Center, Michigan until I was eight years old at which time my family moved to Howard City, Michigan, where I lived for the next ten years. During the time we lived in Howard City we went to a Methodist Church, where the teaching and preaching were very weak and without the gospel in any clear or distinctive way. In God’s providence, the Christian Reformed Church in Grant, Michigan had a Sunday afternoon Mission Sunday School to which my parents sent me and my three brothers. God used that Sunday School to supplement our lack of solid Biblical instruction.
I started school at Byron Center Public and when my family moved to Howard City I went to Howard City Public for the next ten years. When I was a senior in high school my parents divorced and my mother moved back to Byron Center along with me and my three brothers. For my last semester of high school I attended Byron Center Public and graduated in 1961.
When I finished high school I did not intend to go to college. For the next three years I worked on a printing press in a factory. In that factory there was a black man who had attended Grand Rapids Junior College and he urged me to go there. God used that man’s urging to set me in a new direction. In 1964, I began to attend Grand Rapids Junior College, which is now called Grand Rapids Community College, and I completed two years of study there.
After I started college, I got a part time job in a grocery store. In that store worked two people who would in God’s providence have an important part in my future. The first was a man name Arie Griffioen, who has died in the past few years, but his widow is a member of our Southwest Protestant Reformed Church. I worked closely with Arie for about two years and he taught me the beginning principles of the Reformed faith, especially the sovereignty of God. He introduced me to the PRCs even though at that time he was a member of the CRC. A few years later we both became members of the PRC. God used Arie’s day by day informal instruction for my spiritual up-building and for an increased involvement in my church. During that time, I began to teach Sunday School at the Reformed Church in Byron Center.
One day, Arie spoke to me privately and asked me if I had ever considered the ministry of the gospel. My answer was that I never had considered it. He asked me to give it some thought, because he thought that he saw some gifts in me. From that day on I could not get rid of the idea of the ministry as God used that to plant in me the desire to begin pre-seminary study.
At that grocery store where I worked there was another person who would become very important to me. Her name was Phyllis Boer. After we had worked at the same store for about a year, I asked her for a date and she accepted. On our first date we talked about the PRCs. At that time, Phyllis was a member of the CRC, but she had a married sister (Myra Kamps) who was a member of the Hudsonville PRC. Phyllis had spent many hours talking with John and Myra about Bible doctrine and the differences between the CRC and the PRCs. In August of 1966 we were married in Beverly CRC.
God’s gift of my wife has been a great blessing to me along with God’s gift of nine children and ten grandchildren. In the thirty years of my ministry my wife has been a dependable source of help and encouragement for me even though she was often very busy caring for our children. Now as a missionary’s wife she has risen to the challenges set before her.
In September of 1966, I began my pre-seminary at Calvin College. For the next two years we were members of the CRC as I studied at Calvin. During that time, erroneous doctrine was taught concerning God’s wonderwork of Creation. As I struggled with that erroneous doctrine, I saw that the problem was deeper than just the doctrine of Creation. The root of that error stemmed from a faulty doctrine concerning the Holy Scripture. As I pursued the matter of the doctrine of the Scripture, I soon learned that that faulty doctrine was a direct result of the false doctrine of Common Grace adopted by the CRC in 1924. These studies led my wife and I to see that the CRC was going in a direction that we could not go, so in the spring of 1968 we left the CRC and joined the PRCs.
During my years in seminary there were many memorable events. I think of the first time that we had to give our “practice preaching” sermon before the professors, the other seminarians and a few ministers who visited. The sharp, although necessary, criticism was not soon forgotten. My first sermon in the churches was memorable. I first brought a word of edification in Southeast Church in November of 1970. The most memorable event for me was being examined publicly before the Synod of 1972 and our graduation ceremony in the old First Church in Grand Rapids.
Peer pressure is an ever-present problem especially for Christian Young People. There is good peer pressure and there is bad peer pressure. Good peer pressure can come from godly friends who strive to do what is right and pleasing to God. Bad peer pressure can come from friends who may be members of our churches but who want to be on the cutting edge of worldliness in dress, in music, in language and in movie attendance to name a few areas of peer pressure. As a young person, I was evilly influenced by my own sinful lust and by friends who were not much concerned about obeying God. The sins I committed were a source of much grief to me, and Satan tried to use my sins to shake my assurance of salvation. Resisting peer pressure is part of the good fight of faith to which God calls all of us from the early days of our childhood until our good fight of faith is finished by death.
One of the most rewarding things for me as a minister to witness in the life of our churches is to see our young people confess their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, marry in the Lord and bring forth and rear their covenant children in their homes, in our churches and in our own schools.