Just Dad: Stories of Herman Hoeksema, by Lois Kregel. Jenison, Michigan: RFPA, 2014. Paper, 144 pages, $9.95. [Reviewed by Monica Koole]
Is this not true of most children? No matter what occupation their father holds, they see him as Just Dad. I love this chosen book title for it is exactly what Mrs. Kregel goes on to share with us. God used Rev. Herman Hoeksema in many ways in the church of Jesus Christ, but one that is often overlooked is how God used him as a covenantal father. Rev. Hoeksema’s youngest child, Lois, shares with us much of the same pastoral history of her father that you can find in Therefore Have I Spoken, but in this newest book of the Reformed Free Publishing Association she also shares with us a deeper and more personal glimpse into Rev. Hoeksema’s life as a father.
Mrs. Kregel fills us in on the business of her father’s life, at the same time making sure to emphasize that he was a family man. She makes mention more than once of how much Rev. Hoeksema loved and cared for his wife, working to make her life easier, even urging her to get a full-time helper as she weakened in health. Mrs. Kregel also speaks in many places of her father spending time with the children in fellowship after meals, regaling them with stories of his childhood. More than once she also remarks about how he set aside Saturdays as a family day. Even during some of his busiest years in the ministry, she says he still had time for family, playing jacks with them on the landing to their upstairs, or taking the girls on walks downtown, stopping for ice cream. In my opinion, the most vivid display of Rev. Hoeksema’s love for his children is found in the personal letters he wrote to them during his trip to Europe. These are shared in the back of the book, giving a real glimpse of Rev. Hoeksema’s deep love for each that God blessed him and his wife with.
Mrs. Kregel knew her father well, citing his strengths and weaknesses, and is not afraid to show that like every one of us, Rev. Hoeksema too was merely a sinner saved by grace. She fill us in on many of his hobbies, which included his love of taking long walks, swimming, painting, blacksmithing, and gardening. She shares his love of preaching, calling it the joy of his life, sharing how as a pastor, he fought the battles in the church head on. He did not hold back, but rather made his preaching stronger, understanding how God used the keys of the kingdom to strengthen his people and how God used them also in the case of the ungodly, so that Rev. Hoeksema would “preach them out of the church” (42). Mrs. Kregel also points out, however, that he had his faults. She writes in detail of his stroke and how he was impatient and complained bitterly during his slow recovery, how he refused to use a cane and was embarrassed by the limp he had after his stroke. She writes of how he mentioned more than once from the pulpit that he was a cripple, until Mrs. Kregel pointed out to him her friend who had had polio and could walk only with crutches, and even then with great difficulty, and asked him how she must feel when he said that from the pulpit.
This book is an interesting and insightful combination of Rev. Hoeksema’s life as a pastor and father, sharing intimate details of his life that you will not find in any other book. It is an easy read and is filled with many family photos and vivid memories. I would advise each one of you to read it for yourself, to learn more about the personal life of Rev. Hoeksema and his love for God’s church, and also for the family God gave him. And if you want to learn even more after reading Just Dad, do a little digging and search out the older book, Therefore Have I Spoken. These two books in my opinion go hand in hand, revealing to us a dear covenantal father whom God was pleased to use for the benefit of his church, to preserve her and to cause her to remain steadfast in the truth. I urge you to set aside some time to sit down and learn more about the personal life of Rev. Hoeksema as his daughter has revealed it in the newest RFPA book, Just Dad.