Rev. Harold De Groot, 84, a seasoned missionary, an accomplished linguist, and a congenial people-person, passed away on March 2 as a result of heart failure.
De Groot was the sixth of nine children born to an Orange City (Iowa) farm family. He attended Christian grade school and high school in Northwest Iowa, studied for one year at Northwestern Christian College in Orange City, and then transferred to Calvin College, from which he graduated in l949. He enrolled at Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in l952.
He entered ministry in the Christian Reformed Church in Hull (N.D.) CRC. A few years later, his ministry took him to Nigeria as a missionary.
For 15 years De Groot planted churches in Nigeria’s bush land, training leaders and sharing the gospel with the Tiv people. Within a year, he attained fluency in the Tiv language in both preaching and teaching. A deep relationship of trust grew between the De Groot family and the Tiv people. Harold became a cherished guest in the homes of the Tiv people far out in the hinterland bush areas.
In 1970, the De Groots returned to the U.S. to meet the educational needs of their five children. They accepted a call from Ocheydan (Iowa) CRC. Four more charges followed: First CRC, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Sunnyside (Wash.) CRC; and Bethel CRC, De Motte, Ind. De Groot retired in l992.
De Groot’s literary and linguistic gifts enabled him to be involved in supervising and spreading Christian literature in the Tiv language, ultimately presenting and distributing the first Tiv Bibles, Tiv hymn books, and gospel literature. Literacy among Tiv people grew quickly in the l960s, thanks to religious instruction supervised first by missionaries and then taught by nationals. Gradually public schools also added to the spread of Bible knowledge. Graduates of those schools were able to go on to a teachers’ college taught by other missionaries in Mkar.
De Groot was a joyful, winsome man of great integrity. His keen, retentive mind enabled him to have a firm grip of scriptural and theological truth and to share it effectively in preaching, teaching, and mentoring.
De Groot is survived by his wife, Marjean, and their children Marjolyn and Otto Rouw, Marilee and Loren Vander Wal, Robert and Marlene De Groot, Tim and Julie De Groot, and Todd and Tiffany De Groot, and by 21 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.