Free Reformed Pioneers

Free Reformed Pioneers

by Gerrit Johannes Bosveld

When I see a picture of the ship on which way back in 1952 I bobbed on the oceans for four weeks coming to Australia….I go all sentimental. It’s an experience you never forget.

And there she is, the beautiful ship, (well, to me anyway) the Johan van Oldenbarneveldt, on the front of a book! A thick book too, with a hard cover, looking suitably old, as if it has been taken from grandma’s cupboard and carefully dusted…

Add to that a picture of the Wungong church where we were met back then in 1952 along with the Bosvelds, Slobbes, Bijls, Heeremas,  Berkelaars, van Leeuwens, Terpstras, van der Laans and others… with a cup of tea and sugary biscuits in which you could taste real butter… and where we sat on the steps of the pulpit on Sundays because we were running out of space.….talk about sweet memories!

The title of the book is even more enticing, if that were possible: “Free Reformed Pioneers”. Well, that wasn’t quite me and our family, because we came a whole two years later.  Even so, I’m going all sentimental…

Gerrit Johannes (Johan) Bosveld steered away from sentimental stuff (almost!) and wrote a most important book about those early pioneering days. A book that needed to be written if we are to keep on knowing about how the LORD established the church in the Armadale, Western Australia area. Digging deep into the past he recorded how near on sixty years ago his and other families migrated from the Netherlands to settle in a new land.

Bosveld didn’t just go on his own memories, because we all know how memories can play games. With amazing determination he researched and asked and asked and asked and checked and checked again all the facts and he then faithfully recorded them.

So, is this book about the people and how tough and good they were? No. Free Reformed Pioneers is about the work of God and how miraculously He brought His church to Armadale and beyond. It is about how He kept His church together despite the very many struggles and sins and shortcomings of His people. Reading this book you cannot fail to stand amazed at His power and grace, His love in Jesus Christ.

Did I tell you about the pictures? Hundreds of them, faithfully reproduced, and that from an era in which there were only Brownie box cameras and you didn’t just go click, click, click. Without the pictures, the book is a gem and worth a mint. With the pictures it is priceless at a small cost.

Some time ago now, most of the writing was proof-published in Una Sancta. But here we now have the real thing and even much more than was enjoyed from our magazine.

Pick it up, feel it, browse in it, read it, share it, buy it for your children and grandchildren. It won’t stay on the shelf too long before you’ll go back to it, time and again.

The book has an author, and that means that, despite all the research, it records history basically as seen by one man. That is unavoidable and can be noticed, but it adds rather than detracts from the book. You don’t need to agree with every viewpoint of how and why things were done that were done.

The book delves into experiences in family and church life, into deeds and motives of pioneer families, into joys and traumas, into hardships and sicknesses and deaths, into forward thinking and deep divisions, into how the various families from different backgrounds were moulded by the Lord to form the communion of saints.

The book is living history, and it is history that can still be checked and verified and possibly challenged by others who lived through that turbulent time of settlement in a new country, spirited people whose overriding aim in life was to serve God as they established church and school in a whole new country.

I’m sure this book will be read not only by people in the Perth metro area but also in the other congregations in Australia (yes, they get more than a mention!) and abroad.  This book helps us all in our understanding of our roots as Free Reformed community in Australia. Thank you, brother Gerrit Johan Bosveld.

Older members, reminisce with this book. You’ll read facts you’d forgotten and see pictures you never knew existed. Young people, understand your roots from this book. Young and old, enjoy this book, and without the slightest doubt you will all give praise to God for His mighty deeds. He used sinful men, women and children, to plant His church in this country.

Review by P. 't Hart