A fine morning it was, that of April 7, when we left Grand Rapids to begin our lecture tour through all our churches in the West, not only in Iowa and Minnesota, but also in Montana and California. The air was crisp and invigorating, the sky was clear and holding the promise of a beautiful day. And before we had been on the way long, the sun appeared above the horizon to flood the earth with its golden.glory.
Our hearts were filled with the joyous hope of a pleasant trip.
When I say “we” I am not using the more or less obsolete editorial plural, but referring to a party of three. As last year so also this time my wife made the trip with me, and, besides, the younger of my two sons also accompanied us to take turns at the wheel. To drive about seven thousand miles in a few weeks and speak almost every day, as was done last year, is rather strenuous; and so the last mentioned of our party did most of the driving this time.
Our first stop was Oskaloosa, Iowa, where I was engaged to speak that same evening. From Grand Rapids to Oskaloosa is not a very long trip and with a good car it can easily be made in one day. If one takes route ninety two from Mendota, IL and follows it all the way across the Mississippi to Oskaloosa, the distance is just about four hundred and seventy miles. We arrived in Oskaloosa in the late afternoon. The season there was not very much ahead of that in Michigan. While in Grand Rapids the trees showed as yet little signs of life when we left, in southeastern Iowa they were just beginning to sprout.
In that part of Iowa we stayed three days and spoke as many times, first in Oskaloosa, on Tuesday evening in Pella, and on Wednesday evening I spoke for the young people of both congregations, who had arranged a banquet which was followed by a fine Christian program in the church auditorium in Oskaloosa. Our young people there proved that it is very well possible to have a banquet and enjoy an evening of festivities without introducing all the silly nonsense that often characterizes such gatherings. In the meantime, during the day, we enjoyed the fellowship and friendship of the brethren Petter and Lubbers and their families, at whose homes we lodged alternately. Our conversation usually centered around our cause and related subjects. The two brethren are heart and soul in the work, a statement that is, in fact, applicable to all our ministers.
The audiences were very satisfactory. In Pella an old fashioned audience greeted us. The auditorium and annex were packed to the doors. This is encouraging, for to us it means that the Lord still prepares a field for us in which we may labor and testify of the truth.
On Thursday morning, April 10 we left for Sioux County. While we stayed in Oskaloosa and Pella the sky had gradually become overcast, and on the morning of our departure it was gray and misty and the day threatened to become a rather gloomy one as far as the weather was concerned, However, during the day it cleared up and we enjoyed some of Iowa’s sunshine. About five o-clock we arrived in Orange City at the home of brother J. Blankespoor, who ministers to the flock there. And that same evening we lectured in his church on the subject “Zelfonderzoek,” in the Holland language therefore. As, however, we were scheduled to preach in Edgerton the next evening (Good Friday) we left for that place immediately after the lecture in Orange City. The distance between the two places being about seventy five miles, and the last stretch of the road being somewhat muddy, particularly the very last few blocks in Edgerton, where they had been digging up the streets and enjoyed a good deal of rain, so that it seemed questionable whether or not we would be able to reach our destination by car or would have to walk the last part of it,—all these things being so, it was almost midnight when we arrived at the parsonage of the shepherd of Edgerton (that is of our church there), who was still awake and expecting us. We were welcomed by him, the Rev. Wm. Verhil, and his family, not only by a friendly handshake but also by a midnight lunch. Let me say right here, that one who makes his home with the Verhils in Edgerton for a few days, does not have to go hungry or thirsty. The good brethren of the church in Edgerton keep their pastor’s bread-basket and larder abundantly supplied.
But, besides caring well for their pastor, the Edgerton brethren are very active and progressive in the work of God’s kingdom. First they built a beautiful parsonage, now they are busy erecting a church edifice that certainly will not be a disgrace to Edgerton. And in the meantime we heard them talk about building a school of their own. Plenty of that virtue which the Dutch call “voortvarendheid”.
In Edgerton, then, we preached as was said, on Good Friday evening, and also on Sunday morning, before very good audiences that filled the hall where our church still holds her services. But after the Sunday morning service we had to take our departure, after having eaten dinner, rather hurriedly, for in the afternoon we had to preach in Sioux Center, sixty five miles away, and the services there started at 1:30. We left Edgerton under a threatening sky, and traveled through a downpour SO heavy that sometimes it was difficult to distinguish the road ahead of us. But we reached our destination plenty in time, and had time yet to meet brother Gritters and his family before going to church. The brother is enjoying his work and doing well. The congregation there is gradually introducing more English into their services. We preached in the Holland language that afternoon and enjoyed seeing many old faces. In the evening of the same Sunday we spoke in the church of Rock Valley, of which brother P. Vis is pastor. There was a more than capacity audience, which was very attentive as we delivered a resurrection message. It was Easter Sunday.
In Sioux County, besides speaking in Orange City and preaching in Sioux Center and Rock Valley, we lectured on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings in Hull, Rock Valley and Sioux Center respectively, every time before very good audiences. During our labors there we lodged one night at the home of brother J. Blankespoor, two nights with the Visses, and the last night with the Gritters; and we took tea and supper with the Cammengas and the Vander Breggens. We had the pleasure, therefore, to meet all the brethren, and a pleasure it was, indeed!
But on Thursday morning, April 17, the time had come to leave. We departed from the home of Rev. Gritters to make our way to Manhattan.
But here is a good place to break off my narrative for this time. About the trip to and work in Manhattan I will write a few things next time, the Lord willing.