Jacob C. Vandervis
The Guiding Hand of God
(Jacob Vandervis, now 75 and a native of Holland, was converted from the Mormon Church in 1942 as a result of hearing Otis Gatewood in a debate with a Mormon For thirty-one years he had been a Mormon and during a great portion of this time served as an "Elder" among the a Latter Day Saints. As a faithful Mormon he was "baptized for the dead" more than two hundred times. Herewith we submit the first of two installments of his autobiography written in his own peculiar style. We believe this record will be read with interest and appreciation. Later we expect to present his own story, "Why I Left the Mormon Church").
It was on the 18th of June, 1876, that I was born in a small town called Oudshoorn, in the province South Holland, in the Netherland. When I was six years old my father died and being the only living child, left of the five children which were born in this short time of married life, my mother and father were married only six years when he died. She did all she could to spoil me.
After my father's death in 1881, there was no regular income, so my mother started working for other people, mostly doing the heaviest and dirtiest work which can be found in homes where children are. I was sent to school where Bible teaching was the rule, and although I did go across the river in a small boat, with some other children who were brought by one of the grownup members of their family, I did go to school the rest of the way by myself. My mother always did give me my lunch so that I would not be a burden at noontime to anyone, and this arrangement made it easier for my mother to work all day, and make a living for the two of us.
Remembering those days, I still can see my mother coming home from work, bringing some bread with her, well done with butter, cheese, or meat, or whatever the occasion may have permitted, that was handy to serve, as something good for her boy. As a whole people liked my mother; she was a hard working lady, understanding very well the burden which was resting upon her shoulders. Many times she would call me to her side asking what I had been doing in school or elsewhere, and if I had been a good boy, and all such questions a good mother is interested in. Always the end of such a conversation was kneeling down together and thanking God that Ile spared us, and asking Him to protect us in the night add a special request for me that I might grow up a good boy. Bible reading was a rule in our home if possible two times a day, prayer before, and after meals, as the way Dutch Reformed Church members were doing.
I was always sent to school nice and clean, many times proud that I was dressed in something my mother had made of my father's clothing. I can remember one day, that having been to town and coming back, I had to ride on the spring of a carriage pulled by a horse, not noticing that there was a pin on that spring, to prevent just such an act I was doing, so when I left this place, I tore my clothing so much that there was no desire of going home right then. There has been another time when a little older and coming from school with the boys, and sometimes girls also, we tried to jump a little creek, and not jumping far enough I fell backwards in the water, and worse than that, in the mire with my nice, clean suit in which my mother had sent me to school that morning. But there was nothing else to do than to go home, and get a whipping which was well deserved, and on top of that no time off for about a week or ten days to go and play with the boys after schooltime.
Another time I did not behave myself well enough in school and the teacher told me to stay after school was over, and write a certain sentence, which we boys knew already by heart, either from someone else who did not behave or from past experience. When this did happen the sentence would probably be something like this: "Next &me I will try to be a good boy," this to be written 100 or even 500 times. In school-time the one who was guilty started to write on his slate the word "Next, and if there was more time left, the next word, and so on, and many a time half of the punishment was written out before school closed for that day. If the teacher thought the penalty a little heavy, he let the guilty one do this acting, as if the teacher did not know what was going on. But if there was the least doubt about the play, the teacher would let it go, and then when school was over, would write another sentence on the blackboard, and being sure that the same words of the other sentence would not be repeated in the new one, so the guilty boy or girl whatever the case was, had to start all over again.
In my school days if we did not at all what was required of us, we just got a whipping from the teacher, and no comeback from our parents except this, "If you did behave yourself you Would not have had the whipping," or. "What was the reason you got that whipping." And when not good enough in finding an excuse for that, you had a good chance to get a whipping at home to teach you to do better, because the teacher's word was true, and his actions were justified I got some whippings, and although trying to excuse myself, I had to acknowledge the punishment was right when it was given. I am thankful that I did live in a time when this kind of punishment was given when needed, either administered by the parents, teacher, or minister. When I was about ten years of age, 1886, my mother married again, and through this action of hers, I received the most wonderful stepfather anyone ever can hope for, if circumstances arise where there is need of one. Ile was only eleven years older than I was, and could still remember his own childhood very well, I have loved this man all my life, and still have a soft spot in my heart thinking or speaking of him, and I know when he did pass on I lost not only a stepfather but also a friend indeed. I have enjoyed his friendliness for many years; he died when 72 years of age.
After my mother married again, we moved from one place to another, Wherever it was possible to make the family budget more in harmony with the need of the family. When I was twelve years of age, there started for me also a job hunting, and in those days A was not hard to find a job, but it was well hard to find one which paid according to the work which was required of me. Many times did I have to change my place of work, mostly on account of trying to get more money than at the place I was working, although where I was they were better for me, being just a little boy, than at the new place, but the wages counted more. I never did work on Sunday, neither any of the family. Sunday was the Lord's day; all we did then was going to Church, two times on Sunday. There was also a Bible study class by the minister at home, and no matter where I did work there was always made arrangement so that I could go to those Bible studies, although to be honest about it I did not like this religious business always, but rule was rule, and what father or mother said was rule and not asking so many times why this or why that.
When I was sixteen my mother died, 1892, and keeping to that which I had told my mother once, that I would be old enough to take care of myself, I would say goodbye to my Bible, be. cause it seemed too much religion and I did just that. My mother was grieved about my statement, and kept praying for me, that the Lord would so lead me that I always would be able to reconcile myself as a child of Him.
I started to shift for myself, not willing to be a burden to my stepfather I told him that I would take care of myself, and that if he would take care of the three small children he was doing well. He married about a year later and got himself a good wife, but I never did live with them.
I have had a hard time trying to take care of myself, trying to live up to the big mouth a sixteen year old boy sometimes has. "Oh I can do this" or "I do know how to get along." Yes, I did get along, but many times made a mess of my life, forgetting God and His word, only living from day to day not asking what will the to-morrow bring me. I have known days of plenty, but more often days of hunger and despair, especially when there were times that it was hard for me to find a job, then I had a longing for Him or home life, but I was not humble enough yet; other things had to happen, and they did happen.
After about two years of struggle, and going from place to place trying to get work, and too independent to ask for help from family or friends, one day I left the city where I was living for many yearn because I heard someone say that in another city was work plenty, and I started off to walk. It was only twelve hours walking distance. I came there and found out it was a story that was not true, but I was encouraged to go to another city ten more hours of walking, with same result, so I turned my face again to the first city which I had left for seeking a job, and when I came there, I had walked 34 hours in those two and one-half days, and all I got for nourishment was water out of the river. I was so undernourished that I did not know what had happened to me. When I did open my eyes I was in a hospital, brought there by the police who had picked me up from the street after someone did call them, telling them that there lay a boy on the street. I was undernourished and they brought me back to life, with a little milk and other things which I needed.
After I had told my story to this police officer, he said, "Young man, let this never happen again, there is always plenty to eat in a police station, and they all will be glad to help others out who are down and out." Then he made the suggestion to me that I should go to the Salvation army, and try to work there for my food, and clothing, and a place to sleep at night, I followed his advice, and became connected with this organization in 1894. 1 became a member of this religious organization, and also started to work in it, so I found out that there were much more conditions in life worse than mine, and started to learn that being happy again, you must try to make others happy. Many have been the times that I felt this is what I need, a more life like that which I did have at home, and then there came something in my life that changed the whole program. My longing for home life got the best of me, I wanted a home of my own.
I left the Salvation army in 1903, thinking myself strong enough to take care of things in life, and of the life of someone else, and to do this all without God of His word, or almost without it. This we did, my wife and 1, until 1910, when the Latter-day Saints missionaries came to my home with, what we thought, was the truth, though it was not so. We who were hungry souls for truth accepted it as the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Not knowing enough about the Bible, and too anxious to hear about faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, we started studying in line of the doctrine of Mormonism.
After a little over a year from the first time we came in contact with those missionaries of the L. D. S. Church, were baptized and became members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints or the so-called Mormon Church. I have been active in this Church, and have lived tip to their doctrine as best I knew how, became a leader in this Church in my old country, and in 1921, immigrated to the United States of America, believing I could serve God better here than in Netherland, which is not true, but a mistaken idea of mine and thousands of others who came here from the European countries. Being here I continued to live according to the teachings I believed was the will of God, and advanced here also in my religious callings and standing in this L. D. S. Church.
Finally in 1939 I started to doubt the truth of Mormonism, and asking myself, Is all this true? I did not start to do those questions until someone made a remark that it is not just what we hear, because what we read in those old books of the Church, there is a difference in the doctrine and teachings of Joseph Smith and the teachings, and preachings of today about Mormonism. Not being satisfied with what I received in my religious meetings, I went home earlier that I used to do, and showing more and more that I was not that what I used to be, or what I should be as a teacher of others. I got so disgusted, I asked to be relieved of nay responsibility in the L. D. S. Church, which was done after a while, but later given back to me, because there was no one else fitted for that position at that time. I could not go on in this way, teaching others what I did not believe myself anymore, and that was necessary to live up to those doctrines.
On August 18th 1942, I came for the first time in contact with members of the Church of Christ, by attending a debate between Mr. Otis Gatewood of the Church of Christ, and a Mr. Kenneth T. Farnsworth of the Latter-day Saints Church, and listened to the doctrine of both churches, as was told us who listened by both the representatives of those churches. I started from the first meeting to agree with the preacher of the Church of Christ, because his statements were as the Bible teach it. Never before did I hear of the Church of Christ, although Brother Gatewood spoke for about three years over Radio Station KSL having what they called a Bible quiz, and the place of worship is only nine blocks from where I lived, there were thousands of handbills given out, but I did not receive one until I came to the debate. I found that this was what I had been looking for, and after much discussions about Mormonism, and the teaching of the Bible, I decided that the Word of God is more than the story of man.
After following the way the Bible teaches we should do to become a Christian, we were baptized, my wife and I, on September 13th 1942, and became members of the Church of Christ, after 31 years living in error. I was happy again from then on having a desire to tell others of my happiness and encouraging that they should follow the same road to happiness, and life eternal when willing to live the gospel as asked by Jesus Christ and as told in his holy word. The gospel is a staff to lean on, it makes you happy; it is teaching those who will, to lean upon the Lord. Living the gospel is a protection against the evil one, and a help in times of sorrow when no one else can help.
I have learned this many times in my life, but no harder lesson in this have I received than when I was preaching the Word of God last July and my wife passed on without having an opportunity to say to one another a last farewell. This unuttered farewell is the reason I came to A. C. C. to study the gospel, so I might prepare myself more fully to preach and teach the gospel of salvation to those of my own, who are living in the Netherlands.
By Jacob Vandervis.
(NOTE: The foregoing was written in 1944 while Bro. Vandervis was a student in Abilene Christian College.)
-As published in The Preceptor, Vol. 1 No. 1, November 1951, pages 40-44.
The Guiding Hand of God
While attending the different classes in Abilene Christian College, mostly Bible study, I went to congregations not far from Abilene, Texas, to tell the story "Why I Left the Mormon Church" and at the same time try to get support for going on the mission to the Netherlands. I also invited the people to collect some food and clothing which could be sent over there. This could be a help to come closer to the people after arriving there for preaching the gospel of Christ to them. Many congregations responded, with money and with other useful things, to help in this new mission field. Then in 1944-45 I went to George Pepperdine College in Los Angeles, California, and while there I also contacted many congregations who were willing to help in this great undertaking. In 1945 I returned to Abilene Christian College and was connected with that college until the time of departure in July 1946.
Sometime in 1945 the Northside Church of Christ in Abilene made known their willingness to sponsor and support me as a missionary, and also have the oversight of the work in the Netherlands. This being settled, there was still another question. Who would be willing to go with me? Not knowing the people well enough in general, and having received some letters showing some willingness by the writers to go, I put it before the Lord, telling Him my troubles. Realizing that it was his work, I asked Him to take care of it in a way so that only the one He thought would be a great help to me in the work would show a real willingness to go, whatever the cost might be.
In the latter part of 1945, brother B. L. Phillips, who was also at Abilene Christian College told me one evening, "Brother Van, I want to go with you on the mission and I mean it" I was so happy and astonished at the same time that we did not talk more about it that evening, but from that time on we have been very close together, trying to learn to understand one another (he being at that time 34 years of age and I 69 years—so very much difference in age) and also discussing the future plans of work.
The first thing was to find a congregation willing to support him while he was on the mission. This responsibility was taken up by a Corsicana congregation, other congregations helping in this work. While all this was going on I sent some clothing to a family in Amsterdam, friends of mine, and as a result I received a letter in July 1946 from another family in Amsterdam, thanking me for the clothing, and with the request that if I ever should come to Amsterdam to come to his home and visit them. This man also sent a picture of his little boy, dressed up in American clothing. This was the first real contact with the work in the Netherlands.
August 2, 1946, I left New Orleans, Louisiana, with Brother B. L. Phillips as my companion for the Netherlands, arriving in Harlem on Saturday, August 24 at 11 p.m. at the home of some friends of mine. No one was at home, so after the neighbors had told me where I could find them, I left brother Phillips with about 17 boxes and suit cases we had brought there with a truck, while I got the family from their party. They were having it with a brother of the man in whose home we were going to stay for a few weeks, which turned out to be eleven weeks. After we had carried most of this freight two stairways up, it was after one a.m. before we could start to have our first night's rest in the Netherlands. Did we need it!
After having been to the city hall, and the police station, and to the distribution office for our tickets entitling us to our part of food and clothing, when the time for it was due, we also went to the American consulate in Amsterdam so that his office would know who we were. Next we started house hunting, and trying to translate a few tracts from the English into the Dutch language. This also was some job since brother Phillips did not know the language and I had forgotten much of it in the 25 years I stayed in America. It was very difficult to find a place to live, and with the packages of food and clothing coming from America, we needed a place so we could handle the things sent to us. Finally we found a place and were load that we had more room. Although living with another family was not ideal, it was better than where we. had been for the work we had to do.
The winter of 1946-47 was severe, with almost no fuel; much snow, ice, and continual freezing weather so that rivers and canals were closed with ice. Although we had money enough to buy fuel it just was not there and we were no better off than the native people except for the warm clothing we had and food sent to us from America with which we could help others with whom we came in contact. We had been in Amsterdam to contact that family who had written me a letter of thanks but the man was in a hospital in another city, and his family was with him. After some weeks we tried again, and found the lady home. She was happy that we had come and after awhile her husband came home from work. There was so much to talk about, and not just about material things for they wanted to know what religion it was that did so much good to people they had never seen before. We found an open door for the gospel. so much so, that on August 1, 1947, husband and wife were baptized and became the first members of the Church of Christ in the Netherlands.
Among the many letters I received from America, there was one asking if I was willing to go to Belgium. While thinking about the Macedonian call for Paul, and talking and praying about it, I got a letter from a lady in Pepinster, Belgium, asking me to come because she wanted to know more about the gospel of Christ. She had been informed from America that I was in Harlem, Netherlands. After much 'writing, we decided (Brother Phillips and I) to go to Pepinster, Belgium and meet this lady. Brethren Gatewood and Palmer also planned to come from Germany and meet us at the same place. We had a meeting with this lady, and were assured that she knew enough about the gospel, after some more explanation, to be baptized. So on the 8th of August 1947 upon her request I had the privilege of baptizing the first member of the Church of Christ in Belgium. By this act and within one year after we had arrived in the Netherlands, the gospel was established in two countries, Netherlands and Belgium. Surely God was good to us I He had answered our prayers which we had sent up to Him before we left America, asking Him that if the time should come for us to return home, the gospel might have been established. Now within one year the door had opened in two countries.
Gradually the work grew. We received another worker in August 1947 when Brother William Richardson entered the field. He was a great help in the work, well loved by the people. Unfortunately he had to return home on account of ill health in 1950. In the later part of 1948 it was decided by the brethren in Abilene and in the Netherlands that I should go to the States for a while. So in January 1949 I left the Netherlands to return home so I might be able to present the work personally before the different congregations, and tell them of our need in the mission field. I emphasized the three following points: First, $50,000 was needed for buying property in Amsterdam and Harlem for meeting places for the churches. Second, we desired to find a congregation willing to support a native man as a missionary in the work. The third point was to find some members or member of the Church of Christ willing to come over and help us with the work in the Netherlands.
The Lord did bless me exceedingly for there was more than enough money to buy a place in Amsterdam. Also, the church in Temple, Texas was willing to support our native brother, H. Bakvis. This is the one who was the first baptized in August 1947. Point three was answered through the coming of brother Harry Payne and family in 1949, October 24 to the Netherlands. While I was in the States in 1949, I married again on July 12th in Atlanta, Georgia and took my wife with me to the Netherlands. She also had to return home on account of sickness on May 19, 1950. She was much loved by the members of the church. On September 27, 1950 I left for America, arriving in Abilene, Texas, October 24, 1950, and in St. Petersburg on October 28, 1950.
I am working now in the Ninth Avenue Church of Christ, St. Petersburg, Florida helping out by visiting members and others from time to time and when opportunity comes, I preach. I believe I truly can say that the Lord has had a guiding hand all through my life. Now I have a desire to give the rest of my life in the cause of truth and righteousness and to help others find the way to the cross, which also may lead them to heaven by being obedient to the end.
-by Jacob Vandervis
As Published in The Preceptor, Vol. 1 #2, December, 1951, pages 25-27
The Corsicana, (Texas) Daily Sun
Saturday, May 28, 1949, page 2
The Pomona Progress Bulletin, Pomona, California
Monday, November 6, 1944, page 6
Jacob Vandervis is dead. He passed quietly in his sleep at St. Petersburg, Florida, Thursday morning, January 31. Funeral services were conducted by Bill J. Humble and Bill Richardson two days later and the mortal remains interred at St. Petersburg.
Brother "Van," as he was affectionately called by all who knew him, was in his seventy-sixth year. Several weeks prior to his passing he was injured by an automobile while walking across a street in St. Petersburg. A limb was broken and though he had recovered sufficiently to walk with the aid of crutches it is believed his death was caused by the after-effects of the accident. On Sunday and Wednesday nights before his passing he had attended church services in Tampa and at Ninth Avenue in St. Petersburg. For fifteen days in January he attended every service of a meeting conducted at the Ninth Avenue building, leading the prayers in many of them, encouraging the weak, and bringing his joyous smile and cheerful greeting to saint and sinner alike.
For more than a year Brother Vandervis had worked with the Ninth Avenue Church devoting most of his time to visiting among the sick and teaching unbelievers the way of the Lord. Prior to his coming to St, Petersburg he had served as an evangelist in Holland and was successful in establishing the Cause of Christ in that, his native country. He also baptized the first convert in Belgium, Failing health necessitated his return to America a few years ago but not until his most cherished dream had come true -- the New Testament church in his native land.
More than thirty years Brother Van spent in the Mormon Church and advanced to the position of "Elder" among those people. In 1942 he heard Otis Gatewood in a debate with one of the leading Mormons in Utah and was soon baptized into Christ. Of this experience he said, "I decided that the Word of God is more than the story of man."
This world is better because Jacob Vandervis lived in it and the lives of thousands of God's people are richer because of his life and teaching. He loved the Lord. He loved the brethren. He loved the souls of lost men. He gave his life in unselfish service. God bless his memory!
—James R. Cope, The Preceptor, Vol. 1 #5, March 1952, page 63.
-- OBITUARY --
"BROTHER VAN" PASSES
On August 24, 1946, a congenial little Dutchman and an American companion entered the Netherlands, intent upon carrying the gospel of Christ to the people of that nation. The chain of seemingly insignificant events which had led these two gospel preachers to Holland had begun many years earlier with the birth of Jacob Vandervis in southern Holland, June 18, 1876. After attaining manhood brother Van, as he was affectionately called by his many friends, married, living in Holland with his wife until 1921 when they came to the United States.
The motive which prompted brother Van's emigration to the United States was Mormonism; for in 1910 missionaries of the Mormon Church had contacted brother Van and had converted him to their faith. Becoming a leader among the Mormons in Holland, brother Van thought greater opportunities for service awaited him in America and made the long trek to the Mormon mecca of Salt Lake City, Utah. Here he was joined by his wife, was ordained into the priesthood of the Mormon Church, was baptized for the dead hundreds of times in the great Mormon temple, and participated in many of the secret temple ceremonies.
In 1942 brother Van attended the Gatewood-Farnsworth debate on Mormonism, was convinced that he was in error, and was baptized into Christ. After the death of his wife brother Van determined to spend the remainder of his life serving the Lord and entered Abilene Christian College, preparatory to returning to Holland with the gospel story. Thus in 1946 two lonely Americans, brother Van and B. L. Phillips, entered Holland and planted the church of Christ there. Receiving a Macedonian call from Belgium, they visited that country and planted the cause there also. In each country it was brother Van who baptized the first precious souls into Christ.
In 1949 brother Van returned to the states, remarried, and returned to Holland with his wife; but by September, 1950, both of them were back in the United States. For the past year brother Van has been working with the Ninth Avenue church, St. Petersburg, Florida, devoting his full time to personal work. Several weeks ago he was struck by a car, but he appeared to be well on the road to complete recovery. On Tuesday, January 2,9, he attended a gospel meeting in Tampa to hear Foy E. Wallace; the following evening he attended prayer meeting as usual. Following the service, he retired and died as he slept, apparently without waking.
Funeral services were conducted February 2 by Bill Richardson who worked with brother Van in Holland and by this writer. Burial was in Memorial Park, St. Petersburg. A few months before his death brother Van prepared a brief autobiography which was published in The Preceptor. In concluding his life's story brother Van wrote, "I believe I truly can say that the Lord has had a guiding hand all through my life. Now I have a desire to give the rest of my life in the cause of truth and righteousness and to help others find the way to the cross, which also may lead them to heaven by being obedient to the end." His desire was fully realized!
— Bill J. Humble, The Gospel Guardian, Vol. 3 #40, February 14, 1952, page 16.
Tampa Bay Times, Florida, Friday, February 1, 1952, page 14
Directions To Grave
Jacob and his second wife Ethel are buried in the beautiful Memorial Park Cemetery in St. Petersburg, Florida. The best way to find the cemetery is by way of the GPS location below. It is the actual grave location. However, if you don't have that available to you. Take I-275 in St. Petersburg to Exit 28, Gandy Blvd./Hwy. 694. and head southwest. Cross Hwy. 19. Go to 49th St. N and turn left. Pass Northside Hospital and the cemetery will be on your right. Head to the very south most entrance into the cemetery and turn in on your right. The section to your left will be Division I. Just as you approach the second turnoff to the right stop the car and head in toward the back fence of the cemetery. When I was there in 2017 I was able to line up the end of a white picket fence row with the line of graves the Vandervis plot layed in. You may not have that convenience if it is no longer there. Note: Initially, I had great difficulty finding the graves, as grass had grown over the markers over time. I had to get cemetery personnel to come and uncover the round vase-shaped memorials. This may be a problem that is repeated. Hopefully not!
or D.d. 27.817617, -82.701958
Photos Taken 12.29.2016
Webpage produced 01.29.2021
Courtesy Of Scott Harp