Monday Ministerial Musings
By Rev. Mark William Ennis
Blog Number 38
November 9, 2020
Another Covid-19 Lose
During the early Corona Virus surge I learned of two Reformed Church mentors who died of Corona. This week I learned of another Reformed Church Christian gentleman who died of this virus. He was Dr. Gordon Van Wylen who was the president of Hope College during my years there. His death was not really a shock to anyone, he was 100 years old. Yet hearing of his death stirred up many wonderful memories of him.
I was quite a troubled person when I began Hope. I was still finding my identity and hadn’t quite surrendered my life to Jesus. When I met president Van Wylen I saw a role model for what I, and all of us students could strive to imitate. He had the ability to be dignified and profession, and yet humble and engaging with students.
I recall my first winter during my freshman year of Hope College walking through the center of campus. We called it the “Pine Grove.” A group of students were having a snowball fight which was not unusual in western Michigan. Dr. Van Wylen was leaving the administration building to cross the Pine Grove to his campus home. Rather than be put off by the snowball fight, he joined in. I was impressed with his throwing accuracy! As students we loved how he related to us.
It was a yearly custom at Hope to hold “mid-night breakfasts” during finals weeks. The faculty and administration served them at mid-night each evening during the week to accommodate late night studiers. During my first experience with this I was served hash browns by Dr. Van Wylen. I thanked him and he looked me straight in the eye before telling me, “the only thanks I want is for you to do well on your exams.” I really felt that he cared for me personally.
In later years I worked banquets for our campus food service. For this job I was the organizer and waiter for a number of coffee hours, lunches and dinners at his grand home. At the end of each event when I was cleaning up and preparing to take dirty dishes to the cafeteria for washing he never failed to come in the kitchen and thank me for my work. One time, when I was apologetic for upsetting a goblet of water, he looked at me and told me, “don’t think about it. There are many more important things than a spilled beverage.”
He was a wonderful role model. I wish that I had grown to be the man that he was. Perhaps I can come closer in the decades to come. God blessed the world with the life of Dr. Van Wylen. The world is a little bit less without him. Thousands of us are better people from knowing him and now that he is gone I thank God that he was part of my life if only for four years.
To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/