Robert De Vries, 76, humbly intimate with his Lord, ever ready to share his Savior’s grace with the burdened, and restlessly seeking to tune his ministry to the gospel’s healing power, died on March 25, following a long struggle with colon cancer.
De Vries was born in Princeton, Minn., during the Depression years, on a small subsistence farm barely able to sustain a family of 10 children. What the children remember is the intense family loyalty, the godliness of the parents, and the ingenuity they applied to fix everything that was broken.
De Vries attended Princeton Elementary and High School, where he excelled in the exact sciences. He continued his studies in the Engineering Department of the University of Minnesota.
Academic life was cut short, however, when he was enrolled in the U.S. Armed Forces. During that time he felt the call to the gospel ministry.
De Vries entered Calvin Theological Seminary in 1968, and, during his years at Calvin, used his mechanical skills to keep the buses in good repair.
He entered the ministry in the Christian Reformed Church in 1972 as a missionary to the Philippines. He and his wife, Alice, joined a church planting team in the slums of Manila. Their love for the people and their practical know-how soon endeared them to the hearts of the people they served. Farm life in Minnesota proved to be good preparation for this daunting challenge.
In l979, the couple moved back to the U.S., where De Vries took up ministry at New Life CRC, Louisville, Kentucky. Two more congregations were to follow: Living Stones CRC, Sacramento, Calif., l983, and Cascades Fellowship CRC, Jackson, Mich., l992. De Vries retired in 2000.
His ministry was characterized more by honesty and transparency than by polish and sophistication. His heart beat warmly for those who were weak and those who suffered. There was something disarmingly urgent about De Vries’s ministry: people needed to accept Christ and to live Christ.
He and Alice adopted five children with special needs children.
During retirement years, the couple continued to reach out to families with special needs children. De Vries served as advocate for Christian Reformed World Missions and Christian Reformed World Relief Committee for Classis Lake Erie (a regional group of churches) and the denomination’s Disability Concerns ministry.
De Vries is survived by his wife, Alice, and their children: Dan and Dahiana De Vries, Paul and Diane De Vries, Tim and Natalia De Vries, Mary and Joel De Jager, Michelle and DuVaughn Lowden, Kristina, Julianne, Carolyn, Bobby, Sandi, and Brian De Vries, and 16 grandchildren.