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Impromptu first sermon aboard warship start of mission work

Van Halsema succumbs at 83

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

KENTWOOD, Michigan - “Doctor Van” as he was later called, delivered his first sermon aboard a U.S. Navy ship, of the coast off New Guinea, before he and his fellow troops invaded the Japanese-controlled Dutch colony in 1944. Dick Van Halsema, then a 21-year old marine, had volunteered for the religious service when the commander put out a call for help.

Van Halsema who obtained a major in music at Calvin College before enlisting in the army, pursued theological training for a life of mission work and evangelism after his discharge from service. He was ordained in 1949. Recently, Van Halsema died at age 83.

A Christian Reformed minister, Van Halsema was president of the Reformed Bible College (originally the RBI) for 21 years, served as his denomination’s first minister of evangelism and trained missionaries in Mexico and the Middle East. He also founded I.D.E.A. Ministries, a non-denominational missionary outreach, edited Missionary Monthly magazine and long was an Army Reserve chaplain.

Van Halsema maintained a lifelong passion for music, playing the organ, composing and in 1997, he helped compile a song book of favourite Psalm tunes.

The Rev. Jacob Eppinga, who delivered the eulogy, called him the most ecumenical among Christian Reformed preachers and a natural leader.

During Van Halsema’s tenure, the RBC turned into a four-year educational institution.