Some folk may think that God calling for someone to serve as a pastor is a mystical and mysterious thing. The Lord certainly doesn’t send you an email saying, “I want you to become a pastor.” In some ways it is a mystical and mysterious thing. In other ways it is very ordinary as the Lord uses other people to guide us and steer us in that direction. There were two men in particular who helped steer me in that direction. Both of them died last week. And – if I understand correctly – they died on the same day.
When I first thought about going to study at the Reformed Theological College Ali and I made a visit to the college to talk to some of the students there. One of the men I talked to was then in his final year at the RTC. He was a great encouragement to us and put my mind at ease about some questions I had at that time. I had never met this man before. His name was Martin Geluk. Years later, after he had married his wife Corry, he became the pastor of my home church and I got to know him well – also of course at Synods and Ministers’ Conferences.
I always appreciated Martin for his gentle and gracious ways and his good sense of humour but above all for his devotion to his God and Saviour and his commitment to the Reformed faith.
Martin and Corry retired in 2006 after serving our churches for forty years. But soon afterwards Martin was diagnosed with motor neuron disease. When I was in Christchurch in 2009 Martin and Corry had just spent some months in South Island’s city of Dunedin, filling in for a church without a pastor. On their way back to Melbourne they called in and joined me for lunch. When I shook hands with Martin I noticed immediately how the disease was already taking its toll. Martin’s usual firm handshake was no longer there. He told me that he was no longer able to handle the suitcases and that Corry had to do that. With a twinkle in his eyes he commented on the strange looks he got at airports as people watched Corry lugging suitcases while he stood by.
Locally here in Toowoomba we have been blessed too by Martin’s ministry – even though we may not be aware of it. In 2008 elder Eddy led some worship services in which he used a series of sermons from Martin. Today there are still more than 30 of Martin’s sermons that you can read on the CRCA website.
Another man who played a big part in my decision to become a pastor was a man who was our denomination’s youth leader in the 1960s. In the early years of our churches when we were desperately short of pastors he had been sent over by the Christian Reformed Churches of North America to help us out. George Van Groningen became the pastor of the Geelong Reformed Church and later the lecturer in Old Testament at the RTC.
But it was in youth-work that I first had anything to do with this man. He was one of those larger-than-life characters whom it is hard to forget. At that stage I was thinking in terms of doing a two-year Bible College course. He talked me out of it suggesting that I would find it frustrating and that I really should do the full four-year BD course at the RTC. He modelled for me Godly leadership and faithful preaching and teaching.
In 1970 George and his wife Harriet and their children returned to the USA. I still benefited from a year of his lectures at the college. He left behind one daughter who is now my sister-in-law. George died at the ripe old age of 93. One of his legacies in the CRCA is that he and Harriet introduced our churches to Cadets and GEMS.
I find it interesting that both these two men died around the same time. I recall that Martin had a high regard for his Old Testament lecturer George Van Groningen but also that on one occasion George commented on Martin Geluk being one of his best students. I’m indebted to both these men – but so are our churches. For these two faithful gospel-focused pastors and preachers faith has turned to sight. We commend Harriet and Corry and their children to the Lord’s gracious care.