Rev. Edward A. Van BaakMay 25, 1926 – May 24, 2007
Rev. Edward A. Van Baak—missionary, missiologist, and linguist—passed away in his sleep May 24, the day before his 81st birthday.
Van Baak was born in Detroit, where he attended Christian grade school and high school. He graduated from Calvin College in 1945 and from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1948 (at age 22, the seminary’s youngest graduate). He married Frances Ribbens in 1947.
Soon after his graduation the young couple accepted the daunting challenge to join the Christian Reformed Church’s small missionary force in China. Political upheavals of the Mao-led revolution soon placed the Van Baaks amid the ensuing chaos. Frances Van Baak and her newborn baby traveled back to the United States, via Japan, while Ed continued ministry to the many refugees for another seven months. During that time the young couple had no contact with one another.
In 1950 Van Baak ministered to the congregation of Bauer CRC, Hudsonville, Mich. In 1951 the Van Baaks agreed to do mission work in Japan. For the next 18 years God richly blessed their ministry there. In 1969 the Van Baaks moved back to Grand Rapids, where Van Baak became the Asia Missions Director for the CRC Missions Board (now Christian Reformed World Missions). He served in that capacity until 1987, when Asia once more called. The Van Baaks moved to Hong King and ministered to Christian Reformed teachers in Chinese institutions of learning. They retired in 1991.
Van Baak was a highly gifted missionary. He had a great capacity for learning languages, intuitively understood cultures totally different from his own, and readily earned the trust of nationals with whom he worked. He displayed remarkable endurance in the face of the most demanding tasks and taxing schedules.
Van Baak was well read in the areas of theology, missiology, and cultural development. He was a thoughtful friend. He encouraged many young people to choose missions as their life’s calling. His missionary service for the CRC spanned 42 years, possibly a record.
Van Baak is survived by his wife, Frances; by their children Andy and Arlene Van Baak, Shirley and William Martinus, David and Nancy Van Baak, Tom and Lesley Van Baak, and Ruth and Keith Griffioen; and by 13 grandchildren.
Rev. Dante A. Venegas
October 5, 1933 – April 13, 2007
Rev. Dante A. Venegas, 73—whom people said was too large to be confined to one culture, one New York City borough, one church, one denomination, one job, or one profession—passed away April 13 in Grand Rapids, Mich., after a long battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Venegas was born in Spanish Harlem from Puerto Rican parents. His early years in the streets of New York were fraught with hardships. But in May 1964, while incarcerated for a crime he had not committed, the Lord saved him for a life of Christian service.
Venegas married Jacquelyn Mulder in 1970. In May 1978 he accepted a call to pastor Madison Square Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. In 1981 he was ordained to ministry in the CRC on the basis of exceptional gifts.
In 1996 Venegas became chaplain of Alternative Directions in Grand Rapids. And in 1999 he was appointed pastor of City Hope Ministries in Grand Rapids. Having graduated earlier from La Guardia Community College in New York, he took numerous courses at Calvin Theological Seminary during his ministry years.
Dante and Jacquelyn retired from the active ministry in 2002. Dante continued his services as a part-time chaplain for Health Intervention Services.
Rev. Venegas was a pastor of multidimensional ability and remarkable spiritual stature. He was an over-comer and a bridge-builder, traveling with the suffering, the lonely, the sorrowing, the addicted, and those rejected by society. His life was a testimony to the power of Jesus Christ to redeem human brokenness.
Venegas loved to read the classics and had a special gift with words and language. He remembered people’s names, believing that everyone is special in God’s eyes. He paved the way for pastors of color to enter CRC ministry. Though an able organizer, he was far more concerned with people than with programs and organizational intricacies. He will be remembered as a loving husband and father and a loyal friend.
Venegas is survived by his wife, Jacquelyn; by their children Andrea and Jason Venegas-Rook and J. Michele Venegas; and by five grandchildren.—Louis M. Tamminga