Rev. Repko Popma, at the time the oldest Christian Reformed minister at age 98, and the longest-serving (71 years), passed away July 17 as the result of a fall. He was a devout and dedicated pastor to his parishioners, with whom he ministered on three continents.
Popma was born in the Frisian village of Tzum, where his father was pastor of the Gereformeerde Kerk, and where young Repko began his schooling. He attended schools in Voorthuizen, Oudega, and Rotterdam, all places his father ministered.
In 1932 he enrolled at the Free University of Amsterdam to prepare for the gospel ministry.
These were years of a deepening economic crisis and the threat of war. Calls for candidates for the ministry were scarce during the Depression, but in 1940 Popma received a call from the churches of Vreeland and Nichtevecht. He and his wife, Geziena (“Ini”), began their long career of ministry, a team effort to the end.
Within months of the Popmas’ wedding day, Nazi Germany invaded Holland. The difficult war years presented a challenge to the young couple. As the occupation wore on, Popma became involved with the underground partisan movement in radio work and had to go into hiding, preaching under an assumed name.
But those were also years of spiritual deepening and of a growing longing to do evangelism or mission ministry.
Soon after the war’s end, the Popmas accepted a call to Indonesia to pastor the Reformed Church of Surabaya. The family remembers fondly 10 years of peaceful, productive ministry there. When political developments in Indonesia made further ministry problematic, the Popmas repatriated to Holland in 1956.
Their longing to do cutting-edge ministry made them receptive to inquiries from Canada to serve the burgeoning immigrant communities there. In 1957 the Popmas moved to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to serve the Christian Reformed Church of Victoria.
Seven years of fruitful pastoring followed. But the challenge was at times overwhelming. The members were all recent arrivals, hailing from disparate parts of Holland, and defensive of their peculiar convictions. But Repko and Ini prevailed, drawing strength from their deep faith and trust in their Sender.
A more peaceful span of ministry was afforded the Popmas by Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church of Trenton, Ontario, which they served from 1964 to 1978, the year of their retirement.
During most of those years Popma also served as the regional pastor under the Pastor-Church Relations ministry, giving much encouragement and comfort to colleagues.
Popma was a sympathetic listener, a diligent pastor, and a faithful preacher of the Word. He reflected the humility of his Savior. Until well into their 90s, he and Ini visited the lonely and the needy and volunteered in the communities in which they lived.
And together they planted wonderful gardens of flowers. Their family was a community of love.
Popma is survived by his wife, Ini, and their children, Alice and Gary Brand, Margriet and John Nieboer, Harold Popma and Kathy Bunker, Jackie and Peter Van Huizen, Violet Popma, Carolyn and Cam Murch, and by 11 grandchildren.
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