In Commemoration of What God Wrought Through Rev. Herman Veldman

Rev. Hanko, the writer of this "In Memoriam," is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

Rev. Herman Veldman was a son of Jacob and Evelyn Veldman. The latter was a sister of the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema Herman was born to them on April 22, 1908 on Chicago's west side. He was next to the youngest in a family of seven children, having five sisters and one brother, the late Rev. Richard Veldman. His father was co-owner of a blacksmith shop located on the corner of 14th and Paulina. His parents were members of the First Christian Reformed Church, where he was baptized and was a member until a few years after the split of 1924, when they became charter members of the Oaklawn Protestant Reformed Church, which Herman attended until 1929 when he entered our seminary. For his elementary training, Herman attended the Ebenezer Christian School located on 15th Street, between Ashland and Paulina. The late Prof. Henry Stob recalls, in Summing up Remembrances (p. 21), that his family lived in the same Dutch community in which the Veldmans lived. He writes: "The worship services were held in the Dutch language. This is not remarkable, it is natural that the immigrants should want the gospel preached in their native tongue and to sing the songs they learned in the land of theirbirth. Many of the older worshipers on Ashland Street had been in America for decades and though they spoke intelligible, if somewhat accented, English on the job and in the streets, most of them were opposed to the use of that language in the church" (p. 29). As in other Dutch communities, the people feared that the introduction of the American language in the services could only lead to a departure from Calvinism and an introduction of modernism. It was only in the late 1940s and early 1950s that the transition was complete.The professor also mentions that the Veldman boys attended the same school as he did and adds that, "As we matured, we even debated common grace with the Veldman boys, who, being nephews of Herman Hoeksema, rejected the concept" (p. 38).

Herman had his high school training in Engelwood. In 1929, the year his brother Richard became candidate for the ministry in our churches, he entered our seminary and studied under Rev. Herman Hoeksema and Prof. George Ophoff for three years. 

Thereupon he received and accepted a call from Pella, Iowa. On September 22, 1932, he married Flora Ezinga, the daughter of Peter Ezinga, who served for years as elder in First Church. Immediately after the wedding they left for his ordination in Pella as minister in our churches. They have four children and a number of grandchildren. Rev. Veldman preached well-organized sermons with thorough doctrinal exposition. He was a staunch defender of the truth; especially making a strong defense of the truth; as maintained by our PR Churches. Already in Pella he did not hesitate to emphasize that truth in his sermons, sometimes even in rather strong language. This newly organized congregation had some members who opposed their minister because of some of the statements which he made from the pulpit that they considered far too strong. "For example, the Reverend had said in a sermon, "The Lord gives the ungodly man enough rope that he can hang himself." He was also charged with saying: "'No man can come to me, except the Father draw him.' The reason why everyone in this church does not come to Jesus is because God does not draw him. That is gospel preaching." In fact, these opponents sent eight of these statements to a Christian Reformed minister, who was criticizing Rev. Hoeksema's teachings in the CR paper called De Wachteu. This minister published these statements to support his contention that Rev. Hoeksema and his followers erred. To this Rev. Hoeksema responded in the Standard Bearer in a series of eight "sermons" under the title, "Zelfs in Dien Lompen Form" ("Even in That Inept Form), vol. XVI, pp. 171, 268, 292, 364, 390, 438; vol. XVII, pp. 31, 50, 78) by granting that the statements as such were a bit inept, but that in the proper context they nevertheless expressed the truth of the Scriptures. (It should be borne in mind that Rev. Veldman, as well as the rest of us younger men, was still struggling to learn the Dutch language.) 

After five years in Pella, Rev. Veldman accepted a call to our Creston Church in Grand Rapids, where he served for four years. Thereupon he received a call from the small, struggling church in Kalamazoo, where he labored for nine years, from 1941 to 1950. When he came to Kalamazoo the congregation consisted of but eight families and had no church building of their own. Under the blessing of God 35 families were added, so that by the time he left they not only had 43 families but had also built a new church. 

It was during these years that we were working among the immigrants from the Liberated churches who had settled in the Hamilton, Ontario area. They had been advised by Prof. Holwerda in the Netherlands to join with the Protestant Reformed Churches and exert their influence in them. As a result of the labors that the Protestant Reformed Churches were performing in that area, these new immigrants stated that they had erred in their covenant conception and that they were now convinced of the Reformed truth as taught in our churches. One of the immigrants who accompanied the undersigned when he visited newly arriving immigrants informed them that the earlier immigrants were shown that they had lost sight of the truth of God's predestination. They were no longer Liberated, but were now PR. Another immigr,ant informed me personally that if they were to return to the Netherlands they would be compelled to organize a PR church there as the true church. It was mainly on the basis of such testimony that a congregation was organized in Hamilton. (Later, when I was working among the immigrants in Chatham, I was told by one of them: "We do not intend to deceive you as they did in Hamilton.") 

After various calls had been extended by their consistory to our ministers, a duo was made consisting of Rev. John Heys and Rev. Herman Veldman. From the remarks that were made among the various members one could only have concluded that Rev. Heys would receive that call. Yet, almost as if God had interfered with their plans, when the votes were counted, the majority of the votes were for Rev. Veldman. 

Rev. Veldman, who would never shy away from a challenge, weighed this call very seriously. He even told the congregation at Hamilton that if he were to accept the call he would most emphatically condemn the Liberated view of the covenant and of infant baptism and would strongly defend the doctrine of the PR Churches. They had the opportunity to advise him to decline the call, but they consented to his coming even after this warning. 

During his stay Mrs. Veldman brought all the immigrants who had no means of transportation to the church worship services. Their children attended the public school. 

There was a group of 12 to 15 young people who were instructed by Rev. Veldman and came to the consistory to make public confession of their faith. When, Rev. Veldman pointed out to them that they would be confessing loyalty to the truth as confessed by the Protestant Reformed Churches the consistory refused to accept their confession. 

A year later it was very evident that things were not going well in Hamilton. The church visitors were informed of this. They wondered what they would find upon visiting this congregation. At the meeting with the church visitors Rev. Veldman asked the visitors to take over the entire meeting, while he withdrew to the background. Soon one of the elders requested permission to read a paper in which he expressed his convictions concerning God's covenant and infant baptism. He made a strong defense of the teachings of the Liberated churches. When he had finished, the chairman asked him: "But did you not once say, in my presence, that as members o f the Liberated Churches you had lost sight of the truth of predestination, and that, now that you were enlightened, you agreed with the PRC?" The elder immediately agreed. The next question: "When were you lying, then or now?" To which he responded: "Then, of course."

After that another elder asked permission to present his views on the subject. He also read a long document in defense of the Liberated views. When he finished, the chairman asked him: "But did you not say, at one time, that if you were to return to the Netherlands you would be compelled to organize a PRC there, because we have the truth? Were you lying when you said that? The response was: "Yes." 

One more question was asked of the elders: "In how far is Rev. Veldman responsible for the trouble in this congregation?" The answer was that he was not responsible in any way. He had indeed given them "double barrel" in his preaching, but he had assured them in advance that he would do this. They had accepted him in spite of that. 

Soon after that the consistory met privately without the minister and decided, totally disregarding the rules of the Church Order, to depose him. When elder Sam Reitsma objected to this, he also was illegally deposed from office; For a short time the Veldman family and the Sam Reitsma family held services in the living room of Rev. Veldman's residence. 

Hamilton disbanded for two reasons. They were not at all in agreement with the Declaration of Principles and would have left us sooner or later regardless of who had labored there. Moreover, they now felt strong enough, numerically and financially, to organize their own Liberated church. 

Rev. Veldman returned to Michigan. He taught Bible in Adams Street School for a time, but his heart was still in the ministry. That was his calling and that was what he desired. Two years after returning to Grand Rapids he received and accepted a call to Edgerton, Minnesota. 

He came to his new charge shortly after the congregation had gone through the split of 1953. Tensions were strong, especially because of the bitterness of those who left us. One day when Rev. Veldman was walking in the small town of Edgerton, one of the opposition loudly shouted: "You thief!" He could only wonder why he should be publicly accused of sinning against the eighth commandment, until he discovered that those who opposed us felt that the courts should not have given the church property to First Church. Yet Rev. Veldman had nothing to do with what happened in First Church. 

As long as he was there, he never had the use of the church building or parsonage, since it was only later that, through an agreement, the property was retrieved by our congregation. Yet, in spite of all that, he enjoyed his labors there and was greatly appreciated. The school in Edgerton also experienced the results of the split and found itself without a teacher for the upper grades. So Mrs. Veldman, who had formerly taught, took upon herself to teach, as well as to serve as administrator. This deprived her of much of her time with the family, yet she willingly gave herself for the sake of the school. 

Redlands had been vacant for some time. When the call from this congregation was extended to Rev. Veldman, he felt obligated to take it. For four years he served there and was instrumental toward the strengthening of the congregation. 

After being away from Michigan for ten years he received and accepted a call to our Hope church in Walker. He preached, taught, and did the pastoral work there for three years and then accepted a call to our Hudsonville congregation, where he labored from 1966 to 1971. One little incident showed Rev. Veldman's unique makeup. He had a sense of humor all his own. 

One Sunday while he was preaching, a little girl was being taken out of church loudly crying: "I'll be good, I'll be good." The reverend paused a moment to remark, "It's too late now," and then continued with his sermon. 

His last charge was in our Southwest congregation, where he served for seven years. During his ministry here the congregation grew spiritually and numerically. They also built a new church on Ivanrest. 

Those of us who knew him will remember him, not only for his forceful, expository sermons, but also for his warm greetings. He met an acquaintance with a firm handshake and a broad, pleasant smile. He enjoyed the fellowship of others, especially of those who were of a like mind.

In 1978 he retired from the active ministry. This did not mean that he retired from all his labors. For many years he enjoyed good health and continued to preach and to teach catechism in the various churches. He also served for some time in Hull during their vacancy and in Lynden while they were without a pastor. 

At his funeral service, led by Rev. Cammenga, it was very fittingly stated that Rev. Veldman could say with the apostle Paul, "I have kept the faith." In doing so he had "fought the good fight" and he had "finished his course." He now rejoices with the saints in heaven, where Christ awaited him to give him the crown of righteousness already prepared for him. 

We give most hearty thanks to our covenant God for the gifts entrusted to that faithful servant, for his many years of zealous, diligent labor, and for all that the Lord accomplished through him in our churches. May He continue to bless his widow, who was a great support to Rev. Veldman, and their family in the years to come. 

Rev. Cornelius Hanko