Rev. John De Pater, 89, a veteran of the Dutch armed forces in Indonesia, passed away after a brief illness in Winchester, Ontario. Kindly strong-minded, he passionately emphasized the need for divine grace.
De Pater was born in Scherpenzeel, the Netherlands. As a young boy, he moved around frequently as his father supported the growing family with farm-related work. At age 14 he started working on a farm some distance from the family home. While there, World War II broke out, and he soon found himself involved in the underground resistance army.
During these years he felt a growing call to the gospel ministry. After the war he joined the police force and then joined the army. He was sent to Indonesia, where he served from l945 to1948. Those were years of spiritual deepening; personal piety needed to make space for the reality of being born again. Following his return from Indonesia in l948, he married and made a living as a factory worker. The call to prepare for the ministry became stronger, and in l951 the family migrated to Canada, where the possibility of acquiring funds for study seemed more promising.
In Canada, De Pater held a variety of manual jobs while acquiring a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The family then moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., where he graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in l966. Later on during his ministry he received a Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies from the University of Ottawa.
De Pater served the following Christian Reformed congregations: Holland Marsh (Ontario) CRC, 1966; Williamsburg (Ontario) CRC, 1970; Escalon (Cal.) CRC, 1975; Duncan (British Columbia) CRC, 1978; and Maranatha CRC, York, Ontario, 1983. He retired in l988 but served several congregations across the continent as an interim pastor.
De Pater was a serious student of the Scriptures. He had a thorough knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages, and his sermons were exegetically well prepared. He was passionate about the salvation of people, consistently emphasizing the call to repentance and the need to be born again. The family did a lot of camping, and De Pater never wearied of pointing at God’s hand in the beauty of nature. For him all of life was a spiritual experience.
De Pater was predeceased by his wife, Alice, in 2012. He is survived by his children: Margo and Jack Van Gilst, Bea and Renny Van Gilst, Jan and Elizabeth De Pater, Alice and Dean Douma-Howland, James and Barb De Pater, Stephen De Pater (Sue Seguin), 24 grandchildren, and 25 great-grandchildren.