In answer to the question, why did I become a minister of the gospel, a threefold answer comes to mind.
First. God in His providence and goodness directed my life, so that the way was opened for me to study for the ministry.
Second, my God-fearing parents had a very strong influence upon me since my earliest childhood, encouraging me and making it possible for me to attain that goal.
Third, as long as I can remember, I had a growing desire to take up that calling as a life task. It never seemed to have been a question to me as to what I wanted to be when I grew up apart from the desire to be a minister of the gospel.
Let me tell you a bit more about this.
As the youngest child of the family, it was my privilege, and mine only, to study beyond the eighth grade. My father was a painter. With a family of eight to support, he had to regulate his finances rather carefully. What was also to my advantage was the fact that the Grand Rapids Christian High School opened its doors for the first time when I graduated from the eighth grade. The old, red brick building that had served for many years as the seminary of the Christian Reformed Church, located at the corner of Franklin and Madison, was our first high school building. In those days, young folks walked or rode bicycles from all parts of Grand Rapids to get there. A few took the street car. Automobiles were not seen until sometime later. In the winter, we often arrived at school with frozen ears and numbed fingers. But the Lord had made it possible for me to obtain a high school education, which was more than the older members of my family could enjoy.
It was shortly after the split of 1924, in the spring of 1925 that I approached Rev. Herman Hoeksema with the suggestion that I would like to attend our seminary, which was to open in June, as soon as the other schools closed for the season. His first remark was that there were others who had expressed the same desire, but that we should bear in mind that as yet there were no churches for us to serve. I informed him that I had always had a strong desire to become missionary rather than minister. You see, for years we had brought our nickels and dimes to Sunday School for the Rehoboth mission. A few times Rev. J. W. Brink had come to our Eastern Avenue congregation, the calling church, to tell us about his labors there. Besides, I had heard and read about mission work in the Sudan, in Newfoundland, and many other places, all of which intrigued me very much. So, as a matter of course, l informed Rev. Hoeksema of this desire, upon which he responded that our churches would need missionaries also. So again the Lord opened the way for me to prepare for the ministry. The next four years were difficult years. Of the twelve that began, only three finished the course. Often we had to take our lessons and prepare them in some home in Iowa, preaching on Sunday and studying during the week. There was such a shortage of supply, that during the years I was in the seminary, I never was able to take my final examinations with the other students; but, except for the classical exam, always took them by myself after returning from the churches. We received practical training as well as education from books. Today I am the only one of the students that graduated in 1929 still with our churches. I am thankful to my God that I may still be a member of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
I mentioned before that my parents had a strong influence on my life. Although my mother never told me in so many words, I still wonder whether she had not desired, maybe even before I was born, that I should devote my life to the work of the ministry. I am sure that she often prayed about it. She herself felt so inadequate, because she had never had the privilege to learn to read or to write. Yet her influence upon her children was great. Most clearly before my mind stand the noon meals that we ate together. I lived but a short block from the school, so I could readily come home for lunch. Many lessons were taught, much advice was given, many admonitions were poured out in Christion love. My father could have used me in his business, especially after my brother died, who was a partner in the business. Yet he was willing to struggle along alone and see his business gradually fall apart, rather than prevent me from obtaining the education I sought. Also his prayers, his concern, and his support linger in my memory. Little does one realize when he is young what a powerful influence God-fearing parents have upon their children. All our lives, we profit from their pious example, from the early forming and training we received at their hands.
Never will I forget the time when, having been made candidate for the ministry, I waited for my first call. Two ministers, including the late Rev. G. Vos, had been sent out to serve for a time in churches that had been established in northwest Iowa. These men were coming back to school, their places had to be filled. Also other churches had been organized in other areas, which had to have ministers. Never will I forget the night when the churches in Iowa were meeting to call their own pastor from the trios of candidates. The phone rang. Rev. Herman Hoeksema’s voice came over the line. He had had a long distance call from Iowa, and, with a break in his voice, he informed me that I had received the call from our Hull congregation. He seemed as happy and excited as I was. Now my desire was fulfilled, my call to the ministry was now an objective fact. Little did I feel qualified for the tremendous task that awaited me, yet, leaning on the Everlasting Arms, I looked forward to it with eagerness. Little did I realize what demands are often made upon the shepherd of the flock, impossible demands, that only his Chief Shepherd in heaven can fulfill. True, I never became a missionary. Yet the very fact that I could serve on the Mission Committee, repeatedly help to organize new churches, and, as a climax to all that could visit the churches in Australia with Prof. and Mrs. Homer Hoeksema, has greatly compensated for the life-long desire. I realize now that God had planned my way, quite different from anything that I could ever have imagined. And it was good. To Him be the glory.