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Clarence Van Essen’s love for the Lord, his desire to be God’s servant, and his love for Christ’s church, was obvious to all who met him. Van Essen, 94, died Feb. 4.

Van Essen grew up on a farm in Edgerton, Minn. In 1946 he was drafted into the U.S. Army and, after basic training, spent 9 months in Japan where he witnessed the devastation caused by the war. After discharge, while he was on bedrest for many months as the result of pleurisy, he heard God’s call to ministry. Although he had completed just two years of high school, Van Essen passed a college entrance exam and, with the help of Veterans Affairs, which paid for five years of his studies, went on to graduate from Calvin College (now University) and Seminary. 

After ordination in 1956, he pastored the Christian Reformed Church of Cedar (Iowa); McBain (Mich.) CRC; Platte (S.D.) CRC; First CRC in Fulton, Ill.; Maple Heights CRC in Cleveland, Ohio; and Harrison (S.D,) Community Church. For about a year and a half after he retired from full-time ministry in 1992, the Van Essens traveled 470 miles (750 km) each week to lead services in a church ministering to Laotian immigrants in Mountain Lake, Minn. He continued to preach after that, with engagements most Sundays until the age of 80.

His humble, soft-spoken wisdom was often called on by various classes when there were issues between congregations and pastors. He loved working with youth and served on many denominational boards and various ministry organizations. He and his wife led Bible studies and were pastoral leaders for Marriage Encounter for many years. Van Essen truly loved his family and spending time with them. He enjoyed playing the card game “Rook” and sharing a bowl of popcorn.

He is survived by Henrietta, his wife of 70 years, five children and spouses, 19 grandchildren, and 52 great-grandchildren.

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