Pastor marks 56 years at 75-year-old church

EMPTY NEST- BY CURT SWARM

It’s not unusual for a church to have a 75th Anniversary, but for the pastor to have been there over 50 years (56 years to be precise), now that’s unusual.  (In fact, I’ve never heard of it.)  Many denominations move their pastors from church to church on a regular basis.  Not the Good News Chapel of Oskaloosa.  A Christian Reformed Church, when they have a good pastor, they hang on to him or her

            The Good News Chapel at 603 South H Street in Oskaloosa will be celebrating its 75th Anniversary on Saturday, August 28th and Sunday the 29th.  It starts on Saturday with a picnic on the church lawn at 5:00 pm, followed by a concert at 7:00.  There will be a special worship service at 9:00 am on Sunday, August 29th.  Come one, come all and help celebrate 75 years of service to God, the community and the world.

            Pastor Alvern Boetsma (Bootsma), at 78, almost 79, is a lean figure.  He is also known as Vern, Boets, Preach and Preachy.  He walks five miles a day (“These boots are made for walking”) and he’s never known a stranger.  If you meet him on the sidewalk, in a coffee shop, or at the mall, wherever, he’ll probably stick out his hand and say, “I’m Pastor Alvern Boetsma, and you are?”

            He learned this from Reverend Max Johnson of the Assembly of God Church when Vern and his wife Jane, or Janie, first moved to Osky over 50 years ago.  Vern was visiting a sick parishioner in the hospital and walked into a wrong room where Reverend Johnson was with one of his parishioners.  Reverend Johnson stuck out his hand and said, “I’m Reverend Max Johnson, and you are?”  Vern stated his name and title.  Reverend Johnson said, “Young man, as long as any of my members are in this hospital, you can visit them whenever you want, because when yours are here, I’m going to be visiting them.” 

            Pastor Boetsma never forgot this.  It told him there were no territories.  Baptists could mingle with Methodists, Catholics with Presbyterians, and so on.  Vern feels God was preparing Reverend Johnson to prepare Pastor Boetsma. 

            Pastor Boetsma and Reverend Johnson became fast friends.  Over the years they conducted many services together, especially funerals.  Pastor Boetsma sees himself as a community pastor, carrying the message to all in need, to all who will listen, even to those who won’t listen.  You never know when what you say, or how you conduct yourself, will be remembered and make an impression, even years later.

            Vern and his wife Jane are a team, with Jane teaching Sunday School and Bible School.  They met in high school in Zeeland, Michigan.  Before they were engaged it was understood that she would go with him wherever the Lord led.

            Vern is most proud of the church’s youth group and Bible School.  In the past, before COVID, there have been as many as 200 kids in Bible School.  Every two years, the youth group raises money through soup suppers and takes a trip to World’s of Fun in Kansas City.  Vern joins in and rides the zip line with the kids.  Not Janie.  One year, they took a swivel bus to Kansas City.  (A swivel bus is two buses joined together by a swivel.)  The kids loved it.  They could move from one section of the bus to the other, like moving from one stage of life to the next, but here they could return.

            In earlier years, a lot of Vern’s ministry took place in the coffee shops of Oskaloosa.  He would go for coffee three times a day—morning, afternoon and late at night.  He and a friend would talk to people leaving the taverns, giving them a ride home and making sure they were safe.  Vern and Jane have two girls.  The girls still remember going to coffee with Dad, where they drank strawberry pop.

            Vern will be 80 in a little over a year and plans to retire, staying in their home in Oskaloosa.  If you meet him on the sidewalk walking, he’s liable to stick out his hand and say, “I’m Pastor Boets, retired, and you are?” 

Have a good story?  Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, find him on Facebook, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com, or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com. 

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