A real joy it was to us that we might have the opportunity to make a tour through our churches in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and California, and to speak for them in lectures and in the ministry of the Word. Almost all of our churches there are fields in which we used to labor for a shorter or longer period in the past, and are organized by us personally, so that the reader will readily understand that next to my own Fuller Ave. congregation I feel attached to them. And it was a very pleasurable experience to visit them and meet old friends. Besides, I had not visited the West for several years, and felt that I had so many things to say to them, that I looked forward to the opportunity to lecture and preach the Word to them.
The journey was a strenuous one.
In twenty six days we spoke twenty two times and travelled six thousand miles by auto, ourselves driving the car all the way. And when one travels from Grand Rapids over Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada to California, and back from California, through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, to Michigan, in April, he meets with all kinds of weather conditions, cold and heat, sunshine, rain and snow; and passes through rich farm country and bare deserts, makes his way over high mountains and through deep canyons, and travels along straight roads that are visible sometimes for twenty five miles ahead so that a speed of sixty five or seventy miles per hour may be considered quite safe, or slowly meanders around steep mountain sides, where it is advisable to restrain your ever-willing machine to a speed of twenty miles per hour. In south-eastern Iowa there were signs of spring and the weather was warm; in Sioux County it was rather gray and bleak and we had considerable rain and even snow; Nebraska was sunny and rather warm; in the mountains of Wyoming we passed through a little snow storm; as soon as we were on the other side of the Rockies the temperature was that of mid-summer; in the desert it was already rather hot; in California one could easily long for a swim in the Pacific, with temperatures around ninety five; on the sides of the road over the high mountains to West Yellowstone there were snow banks four or five feet high, though the road itself was plowed open and perfectly clean; through the very beautiful Galatin Canyon, through which we meandered for some eighty or ninety miles from West Yellowstone to Manhattan, we passed through a blizzard; in Montana, where the skies are supposed to be not cloudy all day, we had plenty of rain; through the mountains near Bozeman, Montana, we even had snow on the road, so that one had to drive with caution; in the Black Hills we passed through a rather thick mist, that made one hesitate to go ahead; all through South Dakota it poured; and as we passed through Iowa on our way back the skies gradually cleared off; and now, back in good old Michigan we had since our arrival a few days of blue skies and pleasant sunshine.
I know that my western brethren, who always boast of the clear skies and bright sunshine in the West, will laugh about this, but they are my witnesses that while I was with them I hardly saw the sun, and they may believe me when I solemnly testify that when I arrived in Michigan the sky was not cloudy all day!
This, of course, does not include sunny California, where, however, we had a thunderstorm!
On the first of April we departed from Grand Rapids for Oskaloosa, where we arrived shortly after three o’clock (Iowa time) in the afternoon. The distance from Grand Rapids to Oskaloosa and Pella is considerably shortened by straightening out of the, roads, and is now only four hundred and seventy miles by my speedometer. That same evening I spoke in Pella, in the afternoon of the following day I delivered a lecture in Oskaloosa, and in the evening I addressed a splendid gathering of young people of the two churches combined at a banquet. From there on the following day the way led to Sioux County and Edgerton, where we delivered several lectures and preached the Word three times on Sunday, April the seventh. On Monday morning, before sunrise, we quietly left the hospitable parsonage of Sioux Center in order to make the long journey to California. The added attraction of meeting our children in Bellflower made me step on the accelerator rather hard, and we covered the distance of eighteen hundred and thirty miles in three days, arriving at the home of our children in Bellflower Wednesday evening shortly after seven o’clock. With them we stayed a week. We lectured and preached in Redlands and Bellflower every day except Saturday; with the aid of the Rev. G. Vos we installed our son-in-law in the ministry of the Word in Bellflower, and we met old and new friends personally, so that for more than one reason to leave California was rather a strain on the heart-strings.
But I was scheduled to preach in Manhattan on Sunday, April the twenty first, and on Thursday, the eighteenth, we left for Montana. In Manhattan, where we arrived the following Saturday afternoon, we met a brand new Protestant Reformed Church, though many of its members were no strangers to us. A flourishing congregation is that of Manhattan, rather large in membership in comparison to the number of its families, the evil of birth-control evidently having made no inroads there. They built a very pretty church, a basement church, that in its steeple strives upward out of the ground, and in the beautiful auditorium of which you forget altogether that you are in a basement. We preached the Word there twice on Sunday, and on the following Monday and Tuesday evening we delivered two lectures. On Sunday morning the Rev. Kok announced that he had to decline the call extended to him by the church there, which was evidently to the great sorrow of the congregation, by whom our missionary is greatly beloved. However, we were thankful for his decision to continue his labors as missionary of our churches, and the Manhattan congregation realized that thus it was for the best. Let me say in passing, that whoever receives the next call from that church ought to consider it very seriously. Manhattan is in need of a good man, especially because it is a thousand males from the nearest Protestant Reformed Church; and one who accepts that call will not be disappointed.
On our way back from Manhattan we delivered one more lecture in Edgerton, and on Friday we made the last stretch of eight hundred miles in one day, arriving at home at eleven o’clock at night.
A strenuous trip it was, but a joyful one, and I believe that the Lord made it a blessing, a blessing for me, and a blessing for the churches.
On the whole our churches are flourishing, our ministers are faithful, and the blessing of the Lord is manifestly upon them and their flocks.
Very heartily we were received everywhere, by the brethren in the ministry and by all the people, for the which I hereby express my sincere gratitude.
The audiences were very good.
Some of our smallest churches are surprisingly active. Bellflower is thinking of building a parsonage, and if possible a church; and I would say to them: “‘go ahead, brethren!” and to our churches: “let us encourage and help them!” They are worthy of it, and they need it, for they already pay a heavy budget. Manhattan built a pretty church and paid for it in cash, without even asking for help. Edgerton, which is hardly to be classified anymore with the smallest churches (it counts twenty six families, I believe), built a most beautiful parsonage, is thinking of soon building a church, and would like to establish a Christian School of its own, something which is by far the most preferable wherever this is possible.
When you visit the Rev. Kok in his field of labor you are impressed with two facts. In the first place, I believe that the Lord gave us a man in him that is eminently fit for the work he is called to do. And in the second place it is quite evident that the work requires considerable self-denial and sacrifice on the part of both, our missionary and his wife, especially when they first enter upon a new field of labor. I think that our people may well remember this, and make mention of them in their prayers.
Finally: one who visits our churches and loves the truth they stand for, and beholds their activity and prosperity, the work of our ministers and officebearers, and remembers that it is only fifteen years ago that some of us were expelled from the fellowship of the Christian Reformed Churches, can only marvel and be filled with gratitude because of the truly great work the Lord has done for us!
His blessing be upon our churches!