I was born in the tiny city of IJlst (Ylst for Anglos and Drylst for Friesians) in the northern Netherlands in 1945. I owe my life to God’s amazing gift of creative and loving parenthood and to the surgery I had at less than two weeks old. I lived in the Netherlands until just a few weeks after starting school in 1951, when my family moved to Sydney where Dad was appointed as the Chaplain to Dutch migrants in New South Wales and Queensland – a huge parish. We lived in Sydney for 10 years, until the family moved to Tasmania late in 1961. It was in Hobart that I finished high school and went to university, where I completed an Arts degree, majoring in Ancient Civilizations and English.
At University I met Helen who was training in education and quickly became my soul buddy and 6 years later my wife. Helen was born a teacher and has proved an excellent partner; in my late teens she already stood out in my world.
During my honours year at University (which confirmed that I’m no academic) I shared my study with a middle aged Jewish man who helped me to understand scepticism. He also grew my grasp of Aussie politics at a time when all I had known was the simplistic anti-communism of many Australians and almost all Dutch Christian migrants, and Australia’s entrenched “Liberal” (right-wing, USA-compliant) government.
From quite an early age I became interested in following my father into church service and after University I had to choose between being conscripted to the war in Vietnam and entering Theological College. It was not hard to choose theology. My Church’s preferred training college was in Geelong, Victoria. Helen and I became engaged and moved to the mainland. Helen found a teaching job in Geelong while I continued my studies, now in theology and ministry. This meant another four year course, followed by some months of oral exams and a 9 month internship. We had married halfway through the seminary course. I served my internship under a gracious senior pastor in Melbourne, where our first child (a daughter) was born. In 1972 we moved to our first charge, a small migrant church in Central Gippsland; this was to be another formative time in my life. This church taught me many things, but most of all the privilege of pastoral service. Among our many memorable experiences was the tragic death of a nine year old boy, a lad who loved nature and who while on an adventure was bitten by a snake and died before he was found the next day. In Gippsland I enjoyed the first of many episodes of interchurch work, including the local Ministers’ Fraternal, Lifeline, Christian school and Christian radio.
From Gippsland my family and I moved to the Sutherland Shire in Sydney, close to where I had lived for 10 of my first 15 years. By this time we had two daughters, and while in Sydney we welcomed two sons. All our four children are now happily married, involved in the Christian work, and so far they have given us seven delightful grandchildren.
From Sydney our family moved to Wollongong, beautifully located 80 km south of Sydney. While here, I became very much involved in my denomination’s mission committee and involvement in Indonesia and Papua/New Guinea. I also represented my denomination in the World Council of Churches mission consultative committee which helped to broaden further my appreciation of the Christian Church at large. I also took some further pastoral courses during my 13 years in Wollongong, and was active in the formative years of a School run by Christian parents.
From Wollongong, we and our two sons moved in 1997 to Campbelltown, an Adelaide suburb in South Australia. Since then, the Christian Reformed church at Campbelltown has passed safely through enormous change, from being an ageing church to welcoming people of all ages from South Africa and doubling its numbers. A new openness and outlook has transformed this church.
Last September I retired from full-time paid Christian work. I am grateful to be able to look back over the years and see that some of the incidents of life that you just have to endure often have long-term benefits, something the Bible often shows and tells us. This has enabled me to be much more at peace with myself, with my God and with both the beautiful and the challenging people with whom I have worked.
I have also been able to reflect on what a wonderful companion Helen has been – as well as being a warm and wise mother and teacher. Sometimes Helen has been frustrated by not being able to do all she would have liked to have done – or might have done if she was not the pastor’s wife. Helen is passionate about several things, including the place of children in the church: she has been a strong advocate for them in the church and school contexts. She has also worked hard to make churches more “Child Safe” both in Adelaide, nationally and across Church boundaries.
Helen and I have now been married for 42 years. We both love music, walking and swimming, and our home and garden. I enjoy photography, the history and modelling of shipping, and am learning to blog to tell my stories and network on subjects of interest.
Since September 2010 I have been moving into “retired” living and exploring what that might mean for me. I am still helping out churches as needed and working (very much part-time) as a chaplain to seniors; I believe there is a great need to devote more time to this work. Helen and I have already enjoyed a new freedom to support our children and others, to exercise and travel together, and to work and relax together around the house.