Our thanks to Rev. Langerak for writing this memorial. The editors apologize for it coming a year late.
Late Sunday evening, September 21, 2014, the Lord took Rev. Dale Kuiper to live with Him in Paradise. That he lives where there is no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain was comforting for family and friends, especially because for several years prior, Rev. Kuiper suffered the debilitating effects of a stroke. It was difficult to see this man who enjoyed being outdoors, confined to a wheelchair; one who loved visiting others, needing company himself; and one whose work depended upon a ready mind and speech, struggling to converse. But this also demonstrated the truth he preached: All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass; the grass withers; the flower fades away; But the Word of the Lord endures for ever ().
Sunday was a fitting day for Rev. Kuiper to go home. For over half of his life, he prepared each week for Sunday, a day he worked while others rested, and worked to help his flock begin in this life the eternal Sabbath (Heidelberg Catechism, L.D. 38). Fitting that on a Sunday he could fully enter into that rest himself. That it was in September was also special, for that was the month he was ordained into the ministry of the Word and Sacraments in the PRCA, and began preaching that enduring gospel of eternal life by the grace of God.
Rev. Kuiper was ordained in 1967. Over the next 36 years he served as pastor of six different congregations. The first five were in Classis West: Randolph, WI (1967-1970); Pella, IA (1970-1974); Lynden, WA (1976-1985); Hope-Isabel, SD (1985-1987); Immanuel- Lacombe, AB (1987-1992). His sixth, last, and longest pastorate was at Southeast-Grand Rapids, MI where he labored 11 years until retirement in 2003.
Besides his many congregational duties, Rev. Kuiper also served in many denominational capacities. From 1974-1976 he was Home Missionary laboring mainly in Skowhegan, ME. He also wrote frequently for the Standard Bearer, especially in later years for the rubric, “A Word Fitly Spoken.” He was often a Delegate ad Examina in both Classis East and West, church visitor, member of Synod, Domestic Mission Committee, Board of Trustees, and Theological School Committee, where he served frequently as President. In conducting interviews with prospective seminarians, you could plan on him asking, “What is the most important qualification of a minister?” Expected answer: “Humility” ().
Although Rev. Kuiper was a stickler for decorum, he would not take issue with my calling him Dale here. First, because it is a reminder that he has laid down the mantle of his office—he rests also now from his ministerial labors (). Secondly, it is a reminder that no man is his office—every believer, including ministers, is a child of God, living a life of a prophet, priest, and king before God, regardless of any special office. Although most knew him mainly as pastor, Rev. Kuiper loved Jesus long before he held that office, and served his Lord not simply as a pastor, but also as a husband, father, and individual member of the church.
Born in Orange City, IA on November 22, 1935, Dale Harmon Kuiper was the third child of Rev. Henry H. and Winnie Kuiper, joining siblings Hulda and Henry. Celia, Ruth, and Harlow would follow. Dale’s father had been ordained into the PRCA pastorate the year before, and would serve in Orange City, IA; Randolph, WI; Hope- Redlands, CA; and Loveland, CO. While his father was in Randolph, teen-aged Dale moved to Michigan and attended Grand Rapids Christian High, graduating the year of the schism, 1953. Afterwards, he attended the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, and then worked for the California Highway Department on engineering projects that often required working weeks out in the desert. While his father was in Loveland, Dale attended Colorado State University, and graduated in 1962 with a degree in chemistry. Prior to entering the seminary, he was a teacher at Free Christian School in Edgerton, MN, and Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI. He would return to Edgerton to date one of his former students, Velerie Kay Miersma. They were married August 20, 1965 with newly appointed seminary professor, Rev. H. Hanko officiating. During 49 years together, Rev. Kuiper and Vel were blessed with six sons, three daughters, and 29 grandchildren. After Rev. Kuiper’s retirement they especially appreciated the time it afforded to visit the family, especially those living far from home.
Although an avid reader and studious pastor, Rev. Kuiper preferred spending his free time outdoors getting exercise and scratching his rather intense competitive itch. I noticed this the first time we met. Walking into his office filled with the usual books and paraphernalia of a pastor, I also had to navigate shot-puts, bench press, and barbells to sit down. Turned out he was training for the Senior Olympics. For many years, Rev. Kuiper pitched at a high level in fast-pitch softball leagues. When he gave that up for the ministry, he took up tennis, and no matter where his pastorate was, always managed to find someone to help keep his game sharp. Being stationed often near beautiful natural surroundings, he took up rock collecting, hiking, and hunting, especially deer, antelope, and bear, either with firearm or bow.
Rev. Kuiper is remembered by most, however, for his pastoral labors, which was the most visible aspect of his sanctified life, and occupied the majority of his time and energy in the church by the grace of God. At Southeast, Rev. Kuiper was especially known and beloved for a serious dedication to the pastorate, coupled with a somewhat deadpan and dry sense of humor. There are many stories to illustrate, but the most apt is probably when, just before his retirement, we hung a portrait of Rev. Kuiper on the consistory wall to join those of other former pastors. Pointing at his photo an elder said, “Nice picture, Reverend, but why didn’t you smile?” His response: “I am smiling.” And no one doubted that this was true.
Although conducting business with a sense of humor, Rev. Kuiper was a dedicated minister who clearly felt the responsibility of his office before God. This showed in his attention to detail in carrying out his work—the carefulness with which he wrote out sermons and delivered them, his insistence on good behavior and recitation in catechism, and his efficient and wise leading of consistory and council meetings. Rev. Kuiper clearly loved the flock of God entrusted to his care. He enjoyed giving pastoral counsel, bringing the Word, and visiting, whether sick, shut-ins, widows, children, or families. Many remember the conviction with which he preached, his passion and spiritual application, especially when preaching the Psalms. While interning under Rev. Kuiper, I saw how hard he still worked making new sermons and polishing homiletics, even with retirement only months away. And even after retirement, he continued preaching and teaching catechism as long as he was able. He was a faithful pastor.
We must give thanks to God. We remember the Rev. Dale Harmon Kuiper not for his sake, any natural abilities, or as a sinless man. He was not perfect—not as a person, husband, father, church member, or as a pastor. And whatever he did faithfully, he did by the grace of God. Therefore, our remembrance is that of thanksgiving. We ought to give thanks for such fruits of the Spirit, for the truth that God is pleased to save sinners, and that He is able to use sinners to feed His flock. Thanks, Lord Jesus, for faithful pastors. And as sheep in continual need, continue to provide us faithful pastors.