Tag Archives: W.H. Bredenhof

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

Wicher Hendrik Bredenhof (1922-2010)

Christians are word people — we’re such because God has given us a book of written revelation.  Christians ought to be those who see the power of the written word, both in terms of reading and writing.  On both fronts, consumption and production, I sometimes wonder whether we’re heading into a dark era.  Where are the readers?  Where are the writers?  There are some, to be sure, but I wonder:  why not more?

I love to read and write.  I especially want to reflect for a moment on the latter love — also in the interests of stirring up the same affection in others.  How did I come to love writing?

Curiously, it was the same way through which I came to love reading.  It wasn’t because of a teacher.  It wasn’t because of my parents.  It was my late grandfather, my Opa Bredenhof.  I was 7 years old.  We were living in the Canadian Arctic, but went down south for the summer to visit Opa and Oma and the rest of the Bredenhof clan.  While I was there, Opa took me to a sort of book store being run out of someone’s house.  I believe it was Mr. A.W. DeLeeuw.  From this store, Opa bought me several books, including this one:

It was Scout: The Secret of the Swamp by Piet Prins.  This pile of books got me into a lifetime of reading.

Opa loved to read and he wanted to pass that on to me.  Opa also loved to write.  Even though English wasn’t his first language, he tried valiantly.  As a member of the Mission Aid Committee, he wrote articles for the Mission News.  Later, he wrote not just one book, but two — including The Gospel Under the Southern Cross, the first book about mission in the Canadian Reformed Churches.  His writing needed the help of a native English editor, but that never stymied him from the effort.

And Opa loved to write letters.  I know because I received scads of them.

Sometimes I struggled to read them and I think you can see why!  Despite his penmanship, Opa was bound and determined to write to his far-off grandson and I almost always wrote him back.

Opa also encouraged me to see the power and value of writing.  One adage he’d often repeat:  “The pen is mightier than the sword.”  Imagine that being said in a heavy Dutch accent and you can hear how it still echoes in my ears.  Opa didn’t come up with it — it apparently originates with English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  But Opa repeated it often to his young grandson and it stuck.  I sometimes wonder if it resonated with Opa because of his work as a courier in the Dutch underground during the Nazi occupation.  That work sometimes involved circulating illegal newspapers.  The Nazis hated the written word because of its power to change minds.

When I was in high school, I had zero aspirations to be a pastor.  I had no intentions of making any career of working with words.  My only dream was to turn and burn in a CF-18.  I wanted to be a fighter pilot.  I still enjoyed reading — especially about aviation.  When I had to write for school, I enjoyed it and had some proficiency at it.  But my goal was to “slip the surly bonds of earth.”

God put that goal out of reach by giving me a near-sighted right eye.  That realization sent me into a period of spiritual and existential crisis.  It was just as well — I saw the Air Force as the ticket out of my churchly upbringing.  Instead, through a series of providential circumstances, God graciously brought me to a firm commitment to Christ and living for him.  I really became enthralled with the gospel and with Reformed theology.  How could I share my excitement with others?

Around that time, there was a Canadian Reformed magazine for young people called In Holy Array.

In the May 1991 issue, Rev. Eric Kampen issued a challenge for young people to get off their duff and start writing.  He was realistic about what it would involve:

How do you know if something is being read?  By readers’ response!  That might come orally, in the form of compliment.  That is always encouraging.  But, more often the way one finds out if what has been written is indeed read by someone else is in the form of reactions.  That is one of the “hazards” of writing: someone might disagree with you!  If you never say anything, then you never will get any reactions.  Sometimes people react and strongly disagree, and will let it be known personally, but do not dare to go public.  Others feel compelled to write a letter to the editor.  Others yet will take the time to write an article in response…

…You shouldn’t be afraid to express your sentiments.  It is often surprising how many thoughts and problems you have are shared by others, but no one ever puts them on paper.  We mentioned the “hazards” of writing.  You can’t get around that!  But perhaps, you might help someone else, or you might be helped yourself, in that you find answers to your questions, even if you have to be corrected in some parts of your thinking.  We should also be open to correction, from Scripture of course.

Those words hit the target with me.  Combined with my Opa’s adage, I was ready to start writing.

So I did.  My first article was published in the January 1992 issue of In Holy Array.  It was entitled, “Women in Office: Is It Possible?”  I wrote many more articles for In Holy Array, and then eventually branched out to other magazines such as Clarion and Reformed Perspective.  In the early 2000s, I became aware of this phenomenon known as a “blog” and by 2007 most of my writing was happening via this medium.

I’ve seen that Opa was right about writing:  it is a powerful tool.  It can be harnessed for good purposes, including both edification and entertainment.  Eric Kampen was right too:  sometimes writing can be “hazardous” — but that does keep it interesting!  At least you know people are reading and thinking about what you’ve said.

I want to encourage readers to become writers.  You start by starting.  You learn by doing.  You learn the craft of writing by doing, but also learn heaps more about your subject matter.  I often think of Augustine’s words, quoted by Calvin in his preface to the Institutes:  “I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.”  I look forward to reading what you’re writing and learning!


The Bredenhof Immigration Experience

In the same line as the last post, I’ve also uploaded a couple of chapters from my late grandfather’s book By Grace Alone.  Here he describes his experiences coming to Canada from the Netherlands.


The Gospel Under the Southern Cross (1)

Tomorrow a long time dream of mine begins to come true.  When I was a kid, one of the things I found really cool about my Opa Bredenhof was that he had written a book.  The little book was about his 1977 visit to Brazil.  This was in connection with his work as the secretary of Mission Aid Brazil.  In connection with that, Opa would also often send me stamps from Brazil (he knew that I was a stamp collector).  I remember receiving large yellow envelopes covered in stamps.  Inflation was crazy in Brazil back then and so mail from Brazil to Canada would require outrageous numbers of stamps.  Especially because of my grandfather and his great love for the Reformed mission work there, I’ve also been deeply interested in the progress of the gospel “under the Southern Cross.”

Tomorrow morning I’ll be setting off for two weeks in Brazil.  This is technically part of my summer vacation time.  I’ll be using it to visit the mission work in Brazil and do some teaching.  I’ll be teaching a couple of courses in apologetics at Instituto João Calvino and the Reformed Reading Room in Recife.  I also hope to have the opportunity to preach in some of the churches, including the church at São José which my grandfather visited long ago.  I’m really curious to see if any of the people he mentioned in his book are still there.

Anyway, I will be posting regularly here on my blog about my time there.  I won’t be writing a book, but hopefully this series of blog posts will help you get a sense of the great work still being done by our Saviour in north-eastern Brazil.

And, by the way, Opa’s book has a lot of pictures.  In one of them, you’ll find one of Maranatha’s current missionaries, Rev. Julius Van Spronsen.  He was already there back then — the son of the former missionary, Rev. C. Van Spronsen.  Lots of connections between the past and the present!


W. H. Bredenhof (1922-2010)

This past Wednesday my grandfather, Wicher (Bill) Hendrik Bredenhof, was promoted to glory by his Father in heaven.  A devout Christian all his life, our family is comforted with the gospel of free grace that he embraced.  He was 88 years old and dearly loved by family and friends.  The funeral will be held this coming Tuesday at 1:00 PM at the Langley Canadian Reformed Church.

Here and here you can find some of my Opa’s wartime stories, excerpted from his autobiography, By Grace Alone.

This is Opa with his second-oldest son, Jake.

Opa with our youngest daughter in August of 2009, shortly before we moved to Hamilton.  He dearly loved both his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  We were all his favourites.

Opa and my step-grandmother with our youngest.

My sister has also posted some beautiful pictures and tribute to Opa.  We’re all going to miss him so much.  We already do.  We were so richly blessed by God to have such a wonderful, godly grandfather.  Soli Deo Gloria.


Remembering

poppy

Today is the day we remember and give thanks for the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers in times past and present.  We should never forget the bravery of these countless men and women, nor should we take their efforts for granted.  Our freedom has come at a cost.

Last year (on the old Xanga Yinkahdinay), I shared some of my grandfather’s wartime experiences.  My Opa (W.H. Bredenhof) fought in the Dutch underground during the Second World War.  Today, I’d like to share some of what he wrote about the end of the war.  It’s rather anti-climactic compared to last year’s account, but it’s true to life.

**********************

In March of 1944 we slowly moved in to the front zone.  Day and night there were Allied planes in the sky; not by the hundreds but by the thousands.  We didn’t see German planes in the skies anymore.  They were finished.  Sometimes the German flak artillery was quite active.  More than once falling shrapnel fell only a few feet away from me.  Several people were killed by it walking in their own yard.

But now another problem started to bother me.  I had a serious infection in my right thumb.  Night after night I couldn’t sleep.  It was a special infection  where the bone grows out of the thumb.  The pain was unbearable for many weeks. Of all things!  We could now finally attack the enemy openly and in full force and I was stuck with a hand that was 3-4 times its normal size.  Finally, I went to the doctor in Genemuiden on April 14 and he sent me to the hospital in Zwolle for an operation.  In the first town there were still German soldiers, but when I came into Zwolle I saw the first Canadian scouts.  Under the knife I went.  Two hours later I was released and went from Zwolle back to Genemuiden to present myself for duty.  It would be the crucial day.  My officer thought that I wasn’t fit for duty.  Well, I thought that I could persuade him otherwise.  But before we got into action the pain came back worse than ever.  The doctor advised me to go back to the hospital in Zwolle.  On the road to Zwolle the Canadians and the Germans were fighting not that far away.  A few stray bullets hit ground not too far from me.

In the hospital I had another operation and the surgeon told me my thumb couldn’t be saved and he also feared for my hand.  I told him to do what he had to do.  The Canadians were there and I was still alive.  Thousands didn’t make it that far.  I didn’t get out of the hospital that day.  My ward had several wounded French Canadians as well.  It was much to my surprise that I could feel my hand later.  It was still a greater surprise when four days later I could feel my thumb.  Then they couldn’t hold me any longer and sent me back to my unit.  My trigger finger worked perfectly.

I took part in the mopping up operations.  Some of the Germans were fanatical.  Some were in hiding, but a light machine gun did wonders.  Many Nazis tried to get away in civilian clothes to Germany.  We caught many.

That is in a few words the experiences of the last few months of the war.  Of course, it isn’t all.  Would we put everything on paper, that alone would fill a book.