Gary Groot, age 91, looks back on a long and amazing life, but a life without commitment to God. That is, until now.
Groot made public profession of faith and was baptized at Crossroads Christian Reformed Church in San Marcos, Calif.
Gary Groot is baptized by Rev. Mark Vermaire.
He began looking for a church at the urging of his daughter after his wife’s death five years ago. “Then one day a lot of bees were building a hive in my back yard. Calling around to find somebody to remove them, I found Sheri Kok, who makes a living by removing landscape pests. Well, she was tall, and with a name like Kok, she had to be from Dutch descent. After taking care of the bees, we started talking about her church,” said Groot.
Through that connection, Groot found Crossroads and has quickly become a gift to the church. Mark Vermaire, pastor of Crossroads, said, “I knew Gary was a unique person the first time he met me at the church. He walked in with two small books, a Bible and a Prayer Book, both of them with Nazi stamps of approval in them—signs of his time in the prisoner of war camp.”
Groot grew up in the Netherlands with minimal church experience. During WW II, he served in the Dutch “special forces” and was captured by the Nazis. He managed to escape by climbing through the mountains over barely visible trails. After the war he was transported to Indonesia, at that time a Dutch colony, to fight insurgents. Eventually he immigrated to the United States, where he raised a family.
“Looking back, it is obvious that God has directed me where I was going. I made many decisions, good and bad, but God put me where he wanted me,” said Groot.
Vermaire said, “He is such a gentleman, and his grace and wisdom flow through him in very quiet yet clear ways. He has not only been welcomed and honored in the life of Crossroads, but he is a much-loved member of a wonderful small group during the week.”
Groot’s good humor comes through in his testimony. He said, “I am thankful for the opportunity to make my profession of faith in our Crossroads Church in front of you, my friends,” he said. “I am 91 years old. You can see I don’t make decisions hastily.”
Vermaire said, “We should never think that God gives up on people, no matter what they've been through, no matter how long they’ve lived.”