Grandpa and grandma immigrating to Canada from Holland April 15, 1953.
Grandpa and Grandma in 2011
Grandpa always loved fishing. He loved to talk over a cup of coffee, but he had a unique introverted passion to fish.
This past week my grandpa passed away, and we are making plans to attend the funeral next Tuesday in Hamilton, Ontario. After preaching at First Reformed on Sunday, we will be making our way up north. It is all a bit surreal right now knowing that I will never see my grandpa alive again this side of my death or Christ’s return. He was a very funny, personable, fun-loving, man who loved to talk about the church. Every time we would sit down for coffee, we would talk about church. From the concept of salvation, to church government, to styles of worship, we loved, chatting and batting around different ideas. He would regularly say how blessed of a man he is, and how he doesn’t understand that the Lord would bless him with so much. He felt like he never deserved it. He was well in tune with his sin and his struggles. He never hid the fact that he struggled. He did not assume faith, but wrestling with faith deeply and daily. Still, he always came back to how big God is and how much of an impact grace had on his life.
He had a deep Dutch accent, and I will never ever forget the way in which he prayed the Lord’s Prayer before each dinner. Words in that prayer like ‘Father’ (Faa-der), ‘heaven’ (hay-van), ‘thy Kingdom Come’ (die KINGdom COME), ‘thy will be done’ (die will be DONE). His inflections in this daily prayer has always stuck with me, and I find I think about it most times I pray the Lord’s Prayer.
As a child, I remember my sister combing his hair. He loved having his hair combed! I remember pretending to drive his columbine visiting the old family farm in Blyth. I remember gathering eggs at the farm in Seaforth. I remember the annual Benjamins Camping. Growing up, I really can’t recall an event I looked forward to more than Benjamins Camping. Grandma and grandpa created quite the tribe! Campfires created a choir that would make the Lord smile! Other campers would rather we stop singing, and more than once a park ranger had to tell us to stop singing. More recently, I remember spending time just sipping on a cup of coffee in Hamilton. Even before we moved, grandpa was not his typical self. But we still had the great privilege of chatting about church and the latest happenings in Hamilton.
I remember spending an evening out with my family and grandpa and grandma back a couple of years ago. We stopped by Pier 4 in Hamilton for some ice-cream and he noticed some teens fishing. He looked beyond the black clothes, piercings, cold attitude and the heavy metal playing out of one of their smartphones. He walks up and asks them if they’ve caught anything. He just loved fishing. He just loved people.
Up to this point, this blog does not have anything to do with church planting. However, I want to conclude this one by including words from the very first blog I wrote. The following is an excerpt from that first blog. I include it because moving away from Hamilton was the end of a chapter. He was an important person throughout our chapter in Hamilton, and now grandpa’s earthly chapter is over, it feels fitting to include his words of wisdom:I broke down at dinner time with my grandparents on [February] 19th[, 2013]. We were planning on leaving earlier that day, but we ended up leaving at 7:00pm. At dinner time, I asked my grandparents if they had an advice for how to handle the hurt of leaving. My grandfather at first said, “Just know you go with our blessing.” But after thinking further, he said with a serious look in his eyes, “It’s hard now to leave, but my hope is that the next time you leave a community, it will be even harder.” After a moment to digest his words, his sentiment was deep. He’s challenging me to keep setting roots deep wherever we are- to keep loving and to keep receiving love.
When we walked out of my grandparents apartment, I thanked my grandmother for reading Psalm 121 as she closed dinner. She than told me that that was the psalm the pastor read to them the Sunday before they immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in the 1950s. They blessed us so much as we left Canada and shifted into gear towards the South to start a new community.
Throughout this process, we have prayed, and prayed, and prayed. We will continue to pray now that we’ve arrived, because in that prayer we sense the nearness and closeness of our Heavenly Father. That is one relationship that stays. There are no good-byes with Him as we now begin a journey of new hellos with others in the South.