He was my father. Most everybody called him ¡°Nelson¡± or ¡°Mr Bin¡±, but he was my Daddy and that¡¯s what I called him. My earliest memories of him were times when I climbed into his lap snuggling against his chest so that both he and I could see the stick figures he drew as bible stories unfolded in the telling -- Joseph and his eleven brothers (each lined up across the page), the man in bed with his wife and all his children, when a neighbor pounds on his door in the middle of the night wanting food, and many many others.
Still later, when l could really hang on while riding in back on his bike, he took me along while he ran errands or visited Chinese colleagues and friends down town on the main streets of Changchow, As an ordained missionary of the Reformed Church, he used this city as the base for his ministry among the up-country churches So, when he was home between trips, I spent many hours with him. Later, after I graduated from a tricycle to a bike and he taught me how to ride it, we rode along together as he went about his business in town.
My dad was born in(or near) Boyden, Souix County, Iowa and was named Henry after his recently deceased father¡ª as was the custom in those days, and even though there was already a Henry among his brothers. Thus he was the youngest of five bothers and two sisters. Effie, the oldest, was ready to be married by the time he was born. His father was a farmer and son of immigrants from the district of Veenschoten in the Netherlands. His mother, too, was the daughter of parents who had also migrated from the Netherlands because of religious persecution. These immigrant families crossed their new homeland by prairie schooner to settle in Souix County, Iowa.
Raised in a home by mother of strong Reformed /¡®Calvinist faith, Nelson loved books, and learning. He graduated from the Academy (Reformed Church) in Orange City, Iowa going on to Hope College and Western Seminary, both Reformed Church institutions. Along the way he learned to read music and plav the piano (it is said that his grandfather built an organ). Known for his brisk sense of humor and punning wit Nelson edited the Humor Column of the Hope College Student Anchor. He was fond of telling how, when others asked him how he came by all his fresh new jokes, he went back to the very oldest copies and resurrected many of those jokes! To the end of his life he enjoyed telling jokes and cracking puns, looking slyly around to see if anybody had caught it, and grinning hugely when we all groaned appreciatively. In our family he was the epitome of the ¡®reaction solicitor¡± and by the time we came along had perfected it well! He enjoyed life and was always ready to laugh in enjoyment with others, but never at their expense.
His was a joyous faith in a loving Father-God and how he loved to sing it out. Actually he had a good baritone voice but in Chinese church services he usually sang the melody to help lead the singing. That high voice tended to be a bit pinched, but one chinese said when asking him to sing a so1o: ¡°You have such a good voice, you sing so loud !¡±
Actually my father was a deep theological thinker, always reading to enlarge his understanding and insights into the mind of God. Eager to share his faith but always at a level compatible with his listener¡ªa great gift ! Perhaps when I as an adult, had an opportunity to talk with him he had already become very skilled. Nevertheless I appreciated that he never talked down to me, though he was very precise in his vocabulary which was extensive. Another one of his loves ¡ª words and their derivations and meanings.
My father never stopped studying even after he had passed his Amoy language examinations. I can remember the language teachers who sat together with him as he pursued a more comprehensive understanding of the Amoy dialect and more lately, of Mandarin, the national dialect of China and quite different from the local Amoy. I can remember marveling at his mastery of the Amoy dialect when I heard him pray publicly during a Sunday service. I, who tended to be quite critical of intonation and flow, could not tell that it was not a chinese national at prayer (except that I knew the timbre of his voice). He worked for years, after he retired, on a new more comprehensive Romanized Amoy Chinese - English Dictionary As I recall, when be died be had gotten through the first three or four letters of the alphabet. It is too bad he did not finish it because It would be of real help to the children of Overseas Chinese Christians who cling to their mother tongue for expressing their faith - but their children don¡¯t know enough Chinese character and have to read hymns and scripture in the Romanized versions.
My father loved my mother in many ways: with warn affection, gentle and affirming, and with great respect for her mind and musical gifts. They met while my mother, Stella Girard was the lead soprano in the Methodist Church choir during the time he served as janitor at the church. They were married May 31st, 1917. That summer they visited many churches before leavng for South China as career missionaries under the Board of Foreign Missions of the Reformed Church in America.
operated as a team in a companionate marriage long before that concept
became popular. Recognizing the exceptional musical gifts my mother brought
to her missionary ministry in music, early on in his missionary career
he insisted that the family had to be based Iin a city or town where she
would have scope and outlet for her craft. As a result, for years he spent
many more weeks out in the maintains walking from church to church than
he did in ChangChow - often four weeks
out of five. Initially he had been assigned to a very small up-country
station where he would be much closer to his work as moderator of a group
of rural churches. I remember one instance when he came home with an infected
heel from wearing the woven grass sandals he used on the mud trails between
villages. It had to be lanced by a local doctor friend and Dad was laid
up for a while recuperating. One of the few instances that I can remember
his being laid up, except for bouts of malaria now and then. It gave my
mother a chance to practice her not inconsiderable medical/nursing skills.
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