June 8, 1924-May 5, 2010
Rev. Maas Vander Bilt, a kind and caring missionary, ready personal witness of his Savior, esteemed missionary colleague, and World War II veteran, passed away following a bout with cancer. He was buried with military honors at the V.A. National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona.
Vander Bilt was born in Garden Grove, Calif., the eighth of ten children of John and Jannetje Vander Bilt. The family moved frequently, so he grew up in California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. He graduated from New Haven High School, in Plymouth, Ohio.
The Second World War profoundly impacted Vander Bilt. He served in the U.S. forces in the Pacific theater, and saw action especially in the Philippines. His love of the Philippines influenced his decision to return one day to bring not a gun but the gospel of peace.
Back in the United States, Vander Bilt attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., graduating in l951. He met Eloise Kuipers at a mission meeting, and they realized that they both wanted to serve the Lord overseas. They were married in l950. Vander Bilt graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in l954.
Never in doubt about their life’s calling, the Vander Bilts made themselves available for mission work, hopefully in the Philippines. Christian Reformed World Missions gladly accepted them for service in Asia, but urged them to spend a year at Hartford Seminary, Kennedy School of Missions, for linguistic and cultural studies, and to consider going to Japan. And so in l955 the young couple, with three little children, left for Japan.
Their work in Japan was singularly blessed. Following language study they began work in Chichibu, Saitama prefecture; a few years later a church was established there with a Japanese evangelist.
They continued work in the Tokyo and Yokohama areas for the next twenty years as they felt the Lord’s guidance.
In the meantime the CRC continued exploring possibilities in the Philippines and in l979 it invited the Vander Bilts to consider Manila as their next field; they accepted joyfully. After their first year of language study, a small group of Christians in a Manila suburb who called themselves “The Every Day Christians” asked Vander Bilt to be their pastor.
The work was blessed. When the Vander Bilts retired from missionary service in l989, the congregation had grown to 300 members.
Vander Bilt had a wonderfully winsome way with people. That, combined with his deep faith in Christ, made him a very effective missionary. In retirement he served congregations in Flagstaff and Sun City, Arizona. Vander Bilt also served his new colleagues as regional pastor.
He always kept some time for his favored sport of golf, in which he excelled—proven by the fact that he had 21 holes-in-one over the space of 20 years. But witnessing about God’s wonderful love was his greatest satisfaction.
Vander Bilt is survived by his wife, Eloise, and their children Loretta Vander Bilt, Cori and Tim Fordice, Monty and Lori Vander Bilt, Lois Vander Bilt, Deborah and Bill Soleim, and Joni Vander Bilt; 14 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.