HAARLEM, Netherlands (BNc) – Missionaries to Holland, Jim and Ruth Krumrei, have lived in a modest house on a canal in Haarlem since 1969.
Their next-door neighbor, Theo Van De Gevel, defined himself as an atheist for most of his life. But when he passed away at the age of 79, he had been a dedicated and active Christian for eleven years.
Jim describes their relationship and recounts how Theo became a Christian.
“Theo and his extended family were our next-door neighbors, and great ones too, for 42 years. Theo was shy and reserved, but industrious, kind and understanding. We always got along well.
“But for 30 years no conversations about God and faith were allowed. His in-laws had a Roman Catholic background, but faith was not a subject to be talked about.
“Their household consisted of Theo, his wife Coby, their two sons, Coby’s mother and a sister. They exemplified a genuine caring way of living and sharing.
“Theo, like me, was fond of gardening. He was a vegetarian and truly enjoyed his home-grown vegetables and fruits.
“Theo grew up not knowing God except – as he later came to regret – for the occasional abuse of the word. Not that I ever heard him swear or saw him lose his temper, but he didn’t know God.
“His wife, Coby, had a bad accident on her bicycle in the ’90s. She was run over by a large truck, which crushed one of her legs above the knee. Although she survived, she was left with a disability. Several years later she had to be hospitalized due to an unusual ailment from which she died in May of 1999. Unfortunately she never became open to God’s word.
“She was, however, exceptionally hospitable and respectful. Whenever Ruth was away for an extended time, I was always welcome at their dinner table, but I had to be there at 5 p.m. sharp. No one ever prayed out loud, but all were asked to be quiet in respect for anyone who wanted to silently express their thanks.
“Theo’s sons left home, and his in-laws who had shared life in the home, also passed away.
“Then one day in 2001 – when I was in my front yard and he in his – Theo overcame his timidity and approached me with a request: “Jim, will you teach me about God?”
“This was the first and only time in my 64 years as an evangelist that anyone asked this of me. What a question from this humble searcher! What an honor and privilege after all those years of hoping and praying for an opening to reach him.
“We began studying the Bible together and he also enrolled in a Bible course that I assisted him with. After a while he told me, ‘Jim, now I can study the Bible on my own to learn about God!’
“Then one day he announced that he wanted to be baptized, but he set a date rather far in the future. I advised him that if he understood that baptism is for the forgiveness of his sins, he should not postpone this important step of faith unnecessarily. He then chose to obey as soon as possible and was baptized into Christ on August 4, 2002.
“For the rest of his life, Theo was a great student of the Bible and an active member of the Lord’s church. Praise God for Theo! He was a humble and faithful servant of God.
“He prayed that his sons, Ed and Marcel, might come to believe in God. He bore the burden of not having taught them about God when they were young, but back then he regrettably didn’t know God himself.”
After suffering a stroke on May 14, Theo went to be with the Lord he loved on May 23, 2013.
Jim commented, “The house next door seems so empty and still now. But we look foreward to meeting him again in heaven.”