While there were several members of the great cloud of witnesses who shepherded me into the worldview and polity of the Christian Reformed Church, one of the more memorable is my friend Pastor Ken Vander Wall.
Rev. Ken Vander Wall is an ordained minister of the Christian Reformed Church who serves as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Campus Minister at William Paterson and Farleigh Dickerson universities. He is also always on call for members of Madison Avenue CRC in Paterson, New Jersey (NJ) who desire his counsel or help.
I believe that Ken has been dipping into this renewing wellspring of life for his entire ministry career.
Ken has a deep love for Christ and a passion for the whole Gospel of Christ. It was Ken who introduced me to the book, The Hole in the Gospel by Richard Stearns, referencing the fact that care for others is often a neglected part of our Christian walk. It was Ken who continually reminded us about the conditions in Darfur, when he led the Shoes for Darfur campaign in northern NJ. He talked about the scourge of human trafficking and participated in the campaign against trafficking during the Super Bowl XLVIII in 2013 held in NJ. It was Ken who pointed me to articles in Sojourners magazine, and to the writings of its president Jim Wallis.
Ken has served as a Campus Pastor on campuses in northern New Jersey for over 45 years, and is only now considering retirement. Ken’s caring, youthful spirit endears him to multiple generations of young people on the campuses on which he served. I often wondered if Ken’s commitment to the whole Gospel of Christ might hold some clues to his longevity. There is ample anecdotal evidence of the relative attractiveness of the complete gospel, including the mercy and justice imperatives suggested for Christ’s call to love our neighbor among the younger generation. This complete love is energizing and renewing. I believe that Ken has been dipping into this renewing wellspring of life for his entire ministry career.
Ken has been a mentor to me from near and afar.
Ken has been a mentor to me from near and afar: he prompted me to attend a Promise Keepers rally, where I met men who would later become part of a men’s bible study and ministry for over 20 years. His encouragement towards a global perspective also led to my increased engagement with Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM), to name just a couple examples…
As Ken approaches retirement, I trust that he and Carolyn will find the time and space to enjoy their family and especially grandchildren, but I also pray that Ken will continue to find ways to continue to engage, and demonstrate the full, complete, and action-oriented love that Christ lavishes on us all.
Who is in your cloud of witnesses? Who inspires you to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us”? Like the writer of Hebrews, let’s remember our cloud of witnesses and be encouraged for the race ahead of us. Follow along with the series by signing up here. Is there anyone you'd like to highlight? Contact us at email@example.com.
[Image: Margaret Griffioen-Drenth]