My father’s life story (3)

Dad grew up in the heart of Amsterdam and shared his love of that fabled city and cities in general with his family throughout his life.  An unfulfilled item on his “bucket list” was to see Prague, a city famed for its beauty.

Dad with his family settling in southern Tasmania – 1962

So when Dad decided before God that it was time for him to leave Sydney (probably his second love among cities) after 10 years of hard work, it was a major change to move to a church and community in a rural setting 10 miles (or 16 km) outside Hobart, Australia’s smallest state capital.  In 1961 Hobart had only just over 100,000 inhabitants and Kingston with its neighbouring suburbs less than 10,000.

Dad and Mum decided it was time to slow down a bit and Mum with her small town background relished the prospect of returning to a rural community with its shorter distances and closer relationships.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Dad’s 10 years establishing Christian Reformed churches around Sydney and supporting Dutch migrants there and all over New South Wales had been as stressful as fulfilling.  I’m writing this from Sydney and once again have met many (now) “old timers” here who continue to honour my father for what he did or meant for them.

However, Dad’s last 17 years of church work (1961-78) in southern Tasmania were also fulfilling and remain productive – although in ways different from his Sydney work.

The Kingston church was established by many of arguably the most gifted and committed Christian people I have known.  The church went from 360 to 525 members during these years, mostly as families were established and grew.  This growth, together with the people’s vision and energy and the membership’s geographical compactness prompted the opening of Australia’s first Christian-parent run school in 1962.  Dad and mum worked hard to consolidate the church in many ways, primarily internally but also by establishing strong links with the local community and clergy, as well as supporting the Christian presence in the state of Tasmania.

The Dutch Government had acknowledged Dad’s work among their migrants during his Sydney years, and in June 1982 the Tasmanian authorities made Dad a member of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his church and civic work.

During most of the rest of his life, Dad continued to write for almost every issue of his church denomination’s monthly magazine, Trowel & Sword, which he has co-founded in 1952.  As part of his Tasmanian work, he edited and wrote much of the magazine’s Dutch language insert (De Kleine Krant, the small paper) for the migrant generation of the Christian Reformed Churches.  His chatty, wide-ranging, and well-informed writing style made the insert a favourite for many years.

My father retired at age 65 in 1978, and for some years he was able to continue many of his associations and commitments, as well as travelling to the “home country” and his far-flung family in Australasia (Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland).  As Mum became increasingly affected by Alzheimer’s disease during the 1980s, his lifestyle had to change, and no doubt the decision to commit Mum to residential care was one of the hardest things he ever had to do.

But before Mum actually died, Dad was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND or ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, depending on where you live).  Supported by his competent youngest daughter (the only one of his five children still in Tassie), Dad managed some more interstate travel including a final farewell to some of his most cherished spots in Sydney and entered residential care before ending the earthly part of his journey with quiet dignity in 1992.

There’s a Proverb in the Bible that sums up what I feel about my father: Humility and the fear of the LORD bring honour, wealth, and life (Proverbs 22:4).

Dad was unassuming and deeply respectful of and loyal to God as we know God through Jesus Christ.  Nobody who knew Dad would disagree that “humility and the fear of the Lord” characterised him.  He was passionate and articulate about the Christian Reformed way of understanding the Bible and the Christian task.

The 78+ years he received were full of life of a rich and meaningful kind.  The wealth God gave him was the kind of quality wealth that money cannot buy: he lived life to the full and as a true child of the King of all kings.  Dad certainly received honour in many different ways, but he never sought or expected it.  He often talked about “gratitude” as his prime feeling towards God as he knew and loved God.

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