updated with transcription
21 October 1946
27 February 2023
Karel van Heerden
Funeral service on Saturday 4th March 2023 Dieren, The Netherlands
Funeral service of Karel van Heerden on Saturday, 4th March 2023 Dieren, The Netherlands.
Hymn 303 “Thou my everlasting portion, more than friend or life to me” was being played while the pallbearers brought the coffin in.
Pall bearers in the church: Mark Miltenburg, Philip van ‘t Veer, Richard van Dijken, Hielke Mollema, Edwin de Jonge en Klaas van ‘t Veer.
The flowers were carried by Esmee and Brent Stevens.
I would like to welcome everybody at this funeral service. It is exceptional that so much effort has been made to be here, and it is much appreciated. Also from abroad. A warm welcome to all.
We will start this service with hymn number 237 “O God I thank thee for the way that’s opened up to me.” All the hymns were chosen by Uncle Karel.
I would like to read two verses.
The first one is in Matthew 13: verse 33. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. ”
And also a verse in 1 Corinthians 12:13: “. . . and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
In the Dutch bible it speaks about being saturated by one Spirit.
This spoke to me during the week, and I thought that is a subject for Sunday, but I believe that it is for today.
To be completely leavened as it were and saturated.
This was a comfort and encouragement for me.
We have gathered here today to pay our last respects to Karel and to lead him to his grave.
I was called by the nursing staff of the care home where Karel was last Sunday evening.
They said Karel wanted to say farewell.
He wanted to sleep.
They had offered him sedatives before this, but he had refused until then.
He wanted to stay conscious as long as possible.
Bart Hartemink (one of the other Dutch workers) was on his way and at half past ten in the evening we arrived at the care home.
Edwin & Krijntje (a couple of the friends in whose home he had been staying until he had been taken into the nursing home) were there also.
His voice was nearly gone, he could only whisper.
He said: I can’t go on.
I said Karel, you should go to sleep.
Yes, he said It is enough.
He said Thank you for everything, and I said Thank you for everything …..
I said we know what we plan to do with your body, and God knows what he plans to do with your soul.
O, that is a nice thought, he said.
He fell asleep, and shortly after that he passed away.
I was his companion during the last 18 months, so we have gone through this whole process together – the process of becoming ill and slowly deteriorating.
I have watched him and seen how he bore this and I was very impressed.
I came to the conclusion that he was completely leavened. Completely saturated with the Spirit of the Lord.
That was a process.
It says in that verse “… till the whole was leavened.”
It starts with a small bit of leaven.
The Lord puts His Spirit in man, and then the Spirit has to work.
The Spirit works with warmth. And the warmth is the fellowship that we have with God and with each other.
Once there was a load of frozen dough on its way in a big lorry, (containing a freezing element) from Romania to France.
The dough was made in Romania, and prepared so that it would be ready to be baked in France.
It was in the middle of the summer.
En route the driver didn’t notice that the freezing system had broken down, and there was warmth.
The dough thawed and started to rise – it was so strong that the sea container burst open.
God’s Spirit is like that.
It is so strong when it is allowed to work in our lives.
But it needs warmth – and we can only get that warmth from the Lord, in His fellowship, in His word, in prayer and in the fellowship with each other. That is what brings the warmth.
If the Lord has put that leaven in your heart, but you do not seek fellowship, you do not seek the warmth, then it will not have any effect, it will not be wholly leavened.
And it is God’s purpose that we will be completely leavened, completely saturated.
I thought about the three parts – the woman put it in three parts.
Jesus said you must love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength.
The bible speaks about ‘hidden corners of our hearts’.
God’s Spirit needs to get into those corners, they have to be leavened too.
The first time that Karel and I were together, was in the year when he turned 50.
The last time was during these past 18 months, and during that time I had my 50th birthday.
The first time was when we were in the north of the Netherlands – I was 25 and he was 50. And now, 25 years on, we were together again.
I can only say that the process continued in all those years, also in the years when we were not together.
I would like to give a small example.
Karel was very much ‘on time’, it was very important for him.
In January of this year he said to me, nearly crying, I have a weakness, and that is everything has to be on time.
Twenty five years ago it was something that was very important for him, but now he could say it is a weakness.
He was in a condition that he had no control over.
He had to wait.
Everything that Karel had to go through in the last 6 months was completely against human nature.
But because he was wholly leavened and saturated (every corner) he was able to bear it in a wonderful way.
And he was thankful.
He said, for example, I have had many privileges in my life, I have been to many conventions, and he was moved because he was so thankful for all the privileges, and conventions.
He said it was a pity that I was so young, because I would have liked to have shared what I know now, and what I feel now.
Because the process had continued, he was completely leavened.
He would have liked to share that backpack, if I may say it like that, of riches with others.
But he couldn’t because he was not bodily able.
This is a comfort to me when I think about Karel.
When I compare my first year with him and the last 18 months I had with him, I see that the process had continued because Karel continued to seek the warmth of God’s presence, and to be in God’s fellowship in every possible way.
It was because of the warmth that he could be wholly leavened and saturated.
I thought about Samson, and I said this to Karel too. He killed more when he died than he had killed in his life.
Perhaps this was because Samson was wholly leavened, saturated.
He did a wonderful thing on his last day.
That is how I feel about Karel, the manner in which he suffered and how he entered into eternity, I feel he killed more Philistines in his death than in his life (not disqualifying his life at all).
Jesus said to Peter: “When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” This is literally what happened to Karel.
And then it says “signifying by what death he should glorify God.”
And then it says so nicely “And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.”
I feel inspired because the Lord has put some of His leaven in my heart, enough to be in the work.
But I realise that there are still hidden corners in my heart that still need to be leavened.
These hidden corners are also in my thoughts/mind, that is perhaps partly in darkness.
I would like this process to continue so that I will be completely saturated.
That there is nothing more, like John said “He must increase, but I must decrease”.
That is the encouragement the Lord wants to give us today: seek the warmth of God’s fellowship, seek the warmth of the fellowship with each other, seek prayer, then it will be possible for the Spirit to reach all the corners, even the hidden corners of our heart.
To give light in our minds, even where it is partly darkness.
And when it is completely saturated, and wholly leavened, and the day will come for us all that we exchange our temporal life for eternal, then there is hope.
We can bury Karel today with hope in the power of the resurrection, the hope of the resurrection.
These thoughts are a great comfort to me.
And I am thankful for my time with Karel and also for the experiences during this time, because I believe I shall benefit from them for a long time.
The next hymn is 258: Lord within my heart doth dwell a sweet thought that nought can quell. This too was chosen by Karel. Heleen will speak to us when we have sung this hymn
When we received the message that Uncle Karel had died I had a feeling within me of intense gratitude, but also I felt so sad, because we will miss him. I thought: we really can’t do without him at all. But when I opened my bible I received a message of comfort from God. In Luke 20.36 it says “. . . being the children of the resurrection.”
This was a very special thought for me. I thought yes, Uncle Karel is a child of God, and he is a child of the resurrection. That makes everything so different. What a comfort: a child of God is a child of the resurrection.
What wealth, what fullness of comfort. And then we read on in verse 37 that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And I thought He is also the God of Uncle Karel. And then it says “For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him”. They live unto Him . . . For us, Uncle Karel is dead, but for God he is alive. He lives on with God. Eline and I had the privilege of being with Uncle Karel last Sunday afternoon. He was tired. But he gathered all his strength together to talk to us. He was not able to talk normally, he could only whisper. I can only describe it like this: his shepherd’s heart was completely open. He asked about our workers who are abroad, and he said: what do you hear from them? And he asked about the friends, our older friends, he asked about the young people and about the children, how is that person, and how is that person getting on. Then he would close his eyes for a little while, and then he would ask again: and how is that person getting on. There was such a close bond. We felt Uncle Karel’s shepherd’s heart. He kept that up until the last moments of his life. He said: Yes, I am lying here but in the meanwhile I am drawing from the well, my hidden source with God. And we were able to taste that water too, because he shared that water, the living water, that God had given to him his whole life; we were able to enjoy it until the end.
He showed us his arm and said it is so strange. He felt he was so thin. We said to him yes, it is your earthly tent (2 Corinthians 5.1). He said we read of three tabernacles in the bible. The tabernacle of the children of Israel was for the salvation of a nation. The second tabernacle was the little ark made of bulrushes where Moses was laid. That was for the salvation of one person, it was personal. And the third tabernacle . . . he couldn’t think for a minute, but after a while he remembered: that was Noah’s ark, that was for the salvation of a family. And he said Noah was faithful and that had an influence on others. Our faithfulness is important for others. Responsibility. Then he told us something else. He said the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle – there were three things in it. And he said those three things are the only things that remain in the heart of man when everything else is gone. Those were the two tables of stone, they speak of the word of God, what God has put into our hearts. This will remain.
The second thing was the golden pot containing the manna. And he said that is the bread from heaven which we have received from God. And the third thing was Aaron’s rod that budded. He said those buds mean new life, eternal life. He was so full of these thoughts, full of these godly thoughts. We were able to see these three things.
We could enjoy them too; these were precious moments. And yes, I thought, our older workers have upheld the standard of Christ in and through their lives, among us and among God’s people. And now it is our turn. May the Lord help us to uphold the standard of Christ in our life, so that it will be a blessing and lead to salvation and unity.
Karel’s two brothers, Martin and Wessel, are with us in their thoughts today. And they have written a tribute to Karel, and have asked me to read it. Wim has translated it from Afrikaans to Dutch. This is what they wrote:
‘It is a great privilege and an honour for me and my brother Wessel to pay a tribute to our brother, Karel, who has passed away. Karel and I worked together after we finished secondary school in the 1960s for the South African airline. Karel and I were only 15 months apart in age and we went to school together and we were close with each other and shared joy and sorrow. We laughed together, and cried together and we saw, also together, how our mother and some of her sisters served the Lord. Wessel is a few years younger than we are, and Karel developed a special feeling of care and protection for him, being a real elder brother for him. Psalm 133.1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” During that time that we were working for the airline, Karel attended gospel meetings in Krugersdorp and in 1967 he made his choice to serve the Lord. This decision changed his life. Our colleagues at work were amazed because Karel had changed so much, and he didn’t take part any more in silly talk and frivolity. Karel had God’s spirit in him and he stood up for the truth in spite of mock and ridicule. The most important things got priority in Karel’s life. First things first. Even our father, who was at that time not in favour of the way and truth could see the change in Karel’s life. Our mother, Eda, was joyful about his choice and the love between her and Karel became stronger. When our father died of a heart attack in 1986, Karel developed a special feeling of protection and love for her. They were in contact with each other nearly every week. And when he was on his home visits to South Africa he often took her with him to visit friends and workers. Karel always spoke in his testimony about her sincere efforts during the time when she was the only one serving the Lord in our family. And he sincerely valued her prayers for her three sons. He often wrote to us about how thankful he was for so many mothers in The Netherlands, whom he had come to love. Karel has been a great inspiration and example for Wessel and for myself. He always encouraged us to stay close to the Lord. And to respect all our friends and workers. We believe that his testimony echoed in many parts of the world where he had the privilege of attending conventions. His sincere love for his heavenly Father, for workers, for all the friends and even for seeking souls will always be remembered. He soon became a real Dutchman. And everybody in that beautiful country was dear to his heart. Karel was an example for Wessel and Gerda, and also for Marietje and myself. Something that every brother can be proud of and thankful for. We will miss him terribly. But we can resign ourselves in thankfulness to God’s will. Thankful for all the years that he has prayed for us and for our children.
Psalm 17.5 Karel could say like King David “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not” (in Dutch it says “I held my goings in thy paths . . .”)
Special thanks and acknowledgement to the following people: Hendrik and all the workers in The Netherlands.
Special thanks to Wim, Karel’s last companion. For his caring heart, and everything he has done to help. In his latest report Karel spoke of thankfulness for everybody: all the friends and workers who visited him so faithfully in the nursing home. All the medical staff that was so caring and helpful. And also for all the open homes and hearts of all the friends in The Netherlands through the years. Karel appreciated you so much and we will never forget this.’
Last evening I received a message from Martin and he asked me to mention this too ‘ We would especially like to thank Edwin and Krijntje, they sent a message every day to tell us about Karel’s condition’.
I went to visit Karel a week ago yesterday. I was already on the way when Wim called me to tell me that the care home had told him that Karel did not want any visitors that day. I said: yes, but I am going anyway. And Wim said I am coming too. When I came to the care home, the nurse said that Mr. van Heerden didn’t want any visitors. I just asked if she would ask if he would see me. She went and asked and then she said it’s okay but please wait a moment because we are helping him. Then I went into his room, and while I was there the doctor came and he told Karel about his condition – that there was nothing more they could do to help him, his intestines were completely blocked. Wim came while I was there. Karel was very clear in his mind at that moment. When the doctor left he said Hendrik start writing: my funeral. He had figured it all out and he discussed this with us, from the start to the end. The hymns that were to be played when the coffin was brought in, and when the coffin was taken out. The bearers, who should be a bearer in the church and who should be a bearer at the graveside. The hymns, the speakers. He told us exactly what he wanted without looking at a piece of paper. I believe that Karel had thought everything over while he was lying there and couldn’t do anything, he couldn’t walk any more. I can remember he sent me a photo in November and he said, Hendrik I am walking with a stick now. And I thought yes, you are getting old. In December, I went to be with him to help him and when I arrived, Wim had just returned from hospital with Karel. He couldn’t walk at all then – we had to help him in a wheelchair. He had deteriorated so rapidly. While we were there together we spoke about many things. He spoke about his beginning. He said it is three years ago that I became sick. Three years ago. And I know now that the end of my life is not far away. A psalm came into my thoughts, a psalm of Asaph, and I read it to Karel. Psalm 82:6,7 “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” This was so clear to me, God doesn’t make exceptions, we are all human beings. But we are thankful that some people, like Karel himself, have heard the gospel and because of that a work had begun in his life. Hope came into his life. I also read some verses in the eighth chapter of Romans. These verses are so applicable to Karel.
Romans 8:18,19 “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” Karel was like that.
He was bodily not able any more, he was so weak. And then we read about hope in verses 24 & 25 “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” I heard a nice description of hope. Hope is an inner longing with the expectation of receiving something. And Karel was like that, he had that hope in his heart. Firstly that he would get better. He started with chemotherapy in the hope that he would get better. I saw him in the beginning: oh, he was so sick. And he spoke about the white week, the grey week, the black week. And he looked forward to the grey week that he would feel a bit better, and then he looked forward to the white week. And then it would all start again with the black week. But he always had this hope that it would get better. At a certain moment the chemotherapy didn’t help any more. And the oncologist wondered if it was wise to treat Karel any more. But there was hope in his heart. Maybe he thought: I am not so old. He had this hope that he would get better and wanted to finish the treatment. But gradually Karel became less and less able. And finally he decided to go into a care home. The first home he went to was also a rehabilitation centre. And that gave him hope again – I am going there to rehabilitate. I am going there to learn how to walk again, because he could not walk at all.
But gradually he deteriorated even more. He didn’t feel like eating. But he kept that hope. That inner desire to get better. But his hope was also a hope for eternity, like we read here. But if we hope for what we do not see, then we wait for it with patience. Verse 26 “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” That was Karel’s prayer. I often saw him on his knees. I couldn’t hear what he prayed, but he was there in his room on his knees. But I know he fought a battle within himself to be able to persevere and be obedient to God. I am thankful that we can speak about this hope that we have today. When I think about Paul and what we can read about in Acts 23 when he was imprisoned and he had to appear before the council and he had to give his testimony there. There were so many people against him, and so many people didn’t understand him. He says there in Acts 23.6: “. . . Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.” Those words brought division. Karel so often mentioned his father. He was so disappointed that Karel served the Lord. But later on, his father started to serve the Lord too. And I believe that this was also because of Karel’s prayers, that fruit was brought forth. That was his hope: that his father would join us. And this is the reason why Karel gave his life for others. To give them the same hope. To give them a hope for a resurrection. The grave is not the end. Karel has reached his end here on the earth. He has reached the end of his life with a hope in his heart. The hope of the resurrection. And Paul could be a witness of this also: I am being tried today. But I stand for the hope, nothing else. The hope of the resurrection. And then there was division. Some said: this man is not guilty.
I like to think of Hebrews 6.17 “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus . . .” These words that we read in Hebrews are such comforting words. That was the hope. When I think of Paul, when he was shipwrecked. He was on the way to Jerusalem. Paul had warned them: we shouldn’t sail away. It is too dangerous. But they listened to the man at the helm and the owner; their words were trusted. And then the wind came and they thought they could act according to their own plan. We all have our own plans. We all hope to reach the destination. Hope to reach the harbour where it is safe.
But it didn’t last long. Everything went well for a little while and then the storm came. It was so bad, we can read there, that they had lost all hope of being saved. That is an awful thing. When people come into a situation that they lose all hope. But when I think of Karel – he hoped until the end. He never spoke about his death, not to me anyway, until a week ago yesterday. And then he had everything in order. All the arrangements that we have made here are according to what Karel told us.
Sometimes I think about Karel’s humour. There are so many people here, and it makes me think of convention in Putten when the dining tent was full of people he would say: it looks like the whole country is here! Karel was like that. He had difficult times, but he also had good times. These are memories that will remain with us. I thought about what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. He spoke about life, he spoke about faith, he spoke about hope. He spoke about faith: “. . . and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains and have not charity, I am nothing.” Hope is also mentioned here “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” And that is the hope. To start with we don’t understand some things. It is not clear. And that is also something that Karel spoke about, he said sometimes I just don’t understand. But in spite of that the hope in his heart helped him to hold fast. And he has reached the goal here on the earth. He has finished his course. And we remain with pleasant memories. We will carry his body to the grave, but we are thankful that we can think about the resurrection. And that we can think about Christ. He has gone before and entered in, and is at the right hand of God where He is pleading for us because He sympathises with us. When we think of His agony and how much He has suffered – it was all for us, it is my desire that the Lord will comfort us and also help us to hold fast and to continue to fight the good fight. Even when our bodily strength gets less, and this will happen. But we know that God has promised and He has confirmed it with an oath. An oath is binding. God has given his son for us and He is pleading for us. May this be a comfort to us.
Hymn 23. “In tenderness He sought me, so weary, sick with sin”. Karel chose the first and third verse.
Hymn 245 “Sing to me the songs of Sion, sweetest songs of all on earth” was played while the bearers bore the coffin out of the church.
The bearers at the graveside were: Mark Miltenburg, Philip van ‘t Veer, Richard van Dijken, Hans van Dongen, Matthijs Vegt and Johannes Stevens.
Bart Hartemink prayed at the graveside.