John DeHaan, former executive director of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (now known as World Renew), died May 7. He served that agency from 1978 until 1998. Andrew Ryskamp, who retired from World Renew in 2015, followed him as director for CRWRC-USA.
DeHaan led the organization for 20 years, just before the transition into geographically based organizational teams. Current World Renew co-director (U.S.) Carol Bremer-Bennet said, “John was a much-loved leader and change agent at World Renew, and it is because of him we are making and measuring such a huge impact in the world today.”
Lou Haveman, who with his wife, Jan, was the first international employee of CRWRC, is writing a manuscript about the organization’s first 60 years. His friend, and DeHaan’s nephew, David Kool, asked him to collect some reflections from former staff.
“Since we are not having a memorial service, he wanted to do this for the family,” Haveman said. (Funeral services and other public gatherings are curtailed this spring, following public health recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19, an infectious respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus.)
Ryskamp, who worked under DeHaan’s leadership as director of diaconal ministry for 13 years, said, “John was first of all a mentor to me. He challenged me intellectually in areas such as organizational theory and always modeled Christ-centered servant leadership. He reminded us always to keep learning, growing, and (to) innovate into the ever-changing context of our church and world.”
Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo, co-director (Canada) of World Renew, shared a reflection with The Banner, which she said she also shared with DeHaan’s family. “John was deeply loved and appreciated, he was a faithful and very active follower of Christ. His legacy in World Renew continues to live on with the many values he cultivated in our culture and hearts.”