A passionate, challenging, and stimulating teacher, preacher, and reformational speaker, John Vander Stelt died Sept. 19, following several years of progressive dementia.
Born in Dussen, Netherlands, Vander Stelt grew up on a family farm where family, church, and Christian education were a tripod of life. The horrors of World War II left deep impressions on him, leading to an unrelenting pursuit for justice, peace, and compassion.
Vander Stelt immigrated to Canada with his family in 1951. He first studied at a mechanical trade school but later changed direction, graduating from Calvin College (now University). He then studied for two years at the Free University in Amsterdam, returned to Grand Rapids, Mich., to get married, then studied theology and philosophy in Amsterdam for four more years. After this he completed his M.Div. at Calvin Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1965. He pastored Bethel Community Christian Reformed Church in Newmarket, Ont., and worked for one year for Toronto’s Institute for Christian Studies before becoming professor of theology and philosophy at Dordt College (now University) in 1968. He received his Ph.D. from the Free University several years later.
Vander Stelt’s calling was to help others discern the meaning of a Kingdom-focused world-and-life view that proclaims the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every sphere of life. He developed and taught nearly 40 courses at Dordt and often preached on weekends. When not working, he loved spending time with his wife and children on their boat on Lake Okoboji, Iowa.
He retired in 1999. In 2006, the Vander Stelts moved to Kentwood, Mich., to be closer to their children and grandchildren. They later moved to Holland Homes in Grand Rapids.
Vander Stelt will be lovingly remembered by his wife, Sandy, their four children and spouses, and nine grandchildren.