Distinguished Alumni: Arie G. Van Eek
Published by Calvin Seminary
Born the oldest of seven children, baptized by pastor and teacher Dr. S.U. Zuidema, raised in rural poverty under Nazi oppression in the Netherlands, I was a fly on the wall in weekly family discussions of Reformed sermons carrying double Bible-based meanings of faith community and discrete political resistance. Early high school tutoring in my uncle’s tri-stall garage whetted my appetite for learning, for languages, and for civic pride.
All of this was interrupted by emigration to Canada. But my parents were very gracious in allowing two years of high school. My pastor, home missionary Adam Persenaire, opened in me a suppressed desire for college studies and preparation for bilingual pastoral leadership among post-war immigrant congregations. To seven years at Calvin College and Seminary, I added a year at Westminster – to further study Hebrew, Greek, and biblical theology.
After my ordination in 1958, my faithful and supportive wife Ellen (Ploegstra) and I, along with our two children, moved to Exeter, Ontario. Among many new Canadian congregations, we were moved to strengthen the growing congregations of Fort William (now Thunder Bay), First Calgary, and Kildonan Winnipeg, adding three more children along the way.
Following twenty years in local pastorate and outreach, I successfully applied to the Council of Christian Reformed Churches in Canada (CCRCC) to become the first executive secretary to develop this national body of Canada’s eleven classis in biennial assembly (each sending one elder, deacon, and pastor).
- The Interchurch Relations Committee met twice a year with representatives from Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Reformed, and Mennonite denominations to help other Canadian denominations know our creedal base and witness.
- The Committee for Contact with the government sought to develop biblical witness to current public issues.
- The Refugee Committee answered our government’s invitation to sign
up for a national “private” refugee sponsorship program. 40 years since inception, CRC congregations have settled some 7,000 new Canadians with benefits for all involved.
- The First Nations Ministries Committee reached out to Canada’s First Nations people trying to live in our cities. Urban spiritual programs have continued under maturing native leadership in Winnipeg, Regina, and Edmonton.
- Vision Television: When Canadian broadcast services had refused the last Christian broadcast program, the CCRCC joined major denominations in securing a broadcast license for the faith-based network, “Vision.”
- Worldwide Christian Schools: Following through on mission tours to several Central American countries, I joined “Edu-Deo (formerly, Worldwide Christian Schools) in teaching and promoting Christian Education in Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and several African countries.
- With no protection in law for the unborn, Beginnings Family Services was started to fill a vital need. Beginnings just marked 30 years of ministry of counseling with prospective and adoptive parents of the unborn. Last year alone, this ministry placed 17 newborns in new families across Canada, and supported countless others who chose to raise their child. Since retiring, I support this ministry as I am able and have also continued to assist Crossroads Bible Studies among prisoners.
Outstanding in my memories, my annual report to Synod was “not debatable” – hence this stymied any engagement on initiatives reported.
To Calvin Seminary’s aspiring pastors, I ask: Are you called to carry forward God’s Word? Don’t stand in its way. Convey that you care – as one humble recipient among them. Have you been awed and exhorted by the possibilities the first hearers embraced? Exegete! Insist on a Christo-centric pulpit. Believe in the work of the Holy Spirit – in and through you. Let your pastoral visits inform your pulpit message. Out of the seminary classroom, apply what you shared while in it. And in everything you do, every breath you draw, Soli Deo Gloria!
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