I thought it would be fun to get to know Pastor John a little better, so I decided to email a bunch of questions that would help us get to know him. Pastor John was gracious enough to answer my questions and share. So here are the questions, in no particular order. Enjoy.
Why is your front license plate from Texas?
My family lived in Texas while I was in High School. When my parents moved up to Michigan, we wanted to have some sort of souvenir of Texas, and since Michigan only required license plates on the back bumper, we asked the Secretary of State office if we could keep our Texas plate on the front. They said that was okay, but I do get asked about it every time I cross the border!
What is your favourite chocolate bar?
I don't normally eat chocolate bars, since I'm allergic to peanuts, but my favorite would have to be Three Musketeers. Every once in awhile, I get a ridiculous craving for a Milky Way.
One Coffee Break morning I heard you speaking Spanish with one of the women who attends Coffee Break. How many languages can you speak?
Sadly, just two: English and Spanish. My family moved to the Dominican Republic when I was three years old and we lived there for ten years. I pretend to speak French, but really only know a few phrases, and I know a few Dutch words, but my speaking fluency is limited to English and Spanish. I can read Biblical Hebrew and Ancient Greek well, and Classical Aramaic and Latin less well.
What is your favourite scripture passage?
I've always loved I John 4:12 "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." I think this verse gets right to the heart of our situation as Christians today. We all have a deep longing to see God, and one day we will and that's totally awesome, but right now, in this life, God lives in us and transforms our lives through his love and invites us to participate in the work of his love. That is awesome.
You mentioned on the pulpit that your parents were missionaries and you've lived in different countries. How many different countries have you lived in? Which was your favourite and why?
Yes! My parents were missionaries in the Dominican Republic for 10 years when I was a kid. I have lived in the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, the United States, and Canada. I'm a fifth generation American and an American citizen, but I was actually born in the Netherlands because my dad was studying for a PhD at the Vrije University in Amsterdam. We left just before I turned three years old, and lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a couple of months. In 1991 our family moved to the Dominican Republic, we lived in the Capital, Santo Domingo, for three years, and then moved up to Santiago de los Caballeros, where my dad worked with the National Evangelical University there, and my mom worked with Santiago Christian School. In 2001 we moved to Houston, Texas (which is sort of like its own country), and in 2006 I moved up to Grand Rapids to attend Calvin College and then Calvin Theological Seminary. I was in Canada last summer doing an internship at Bethel CRC in Listowel, Ontario, and then moved back up here in June to start working at Community CRC.
I'm not sure I'd be able to choose a favourite, but let me tell you some of my favourite things about each:
The Netherlands: Snert (pea soup), the Canons of Dort, the Dutch Resistance in WWII, and Driekoningendag (the Dutch name for Epiphany, that is, January 6)
The Dominican Republic: the beach, La Bandera Nacional (a Dominican dish of rice, beans, and chicken--I ate this for dinner almost every day for ten years, and I still love it!), the mountains, greeting one another with a holy kiss in church
Texas: "y'all" ("you guys"), "fixin'" ("getting ready"), ma and pa barbeque (not barbecue!) joints, brisket, jalapeño peppers, hot sauce,"swaggerin'" or "swaggin'" ("walking slowly because it's very, very hot outside"), the highway system
Grand Rapids: the Hekman Library, local breweries, the Grand River, Artprize, Eastown, all the CRCs!
Southern Ontario: No billboards!, lower speed limits, Canadian CRCs, Canadian Pentecostalism, Abraham Erb, and Fall Retreat
I'm not sure if you realize this, but you wear a lot of bow ties. But the odd time you've worn a traditional tie, and I've noticed that when you wear a tie that sermon tends to get us right in the feels, right where it hurts and makes us think. Is this intentional?? Don't worry, if it's not intentional, you've gotten me in the feels still while wearing a bow tie. Threw me off a little as I wasn't prepared. :)
Wow! I've never noticed that! No, definitely not intentional. Maybe I'll have to pay more attention to that from now on. There might be some subconscious stuff going on there that I should be paying attention to :)
What is one book that you think all Christians should read, besides the Bible?
Well, the Bible is definitely the most important book for Christians to read. I think it's important for people to take time to read Scripture every day of their lives, even if it's just for a few minutes before they go to bed or after they eat a meal. We have been blessed to have God's Word in our own language! And I love to see people taking advantage of that.
As far as other books go, that's tough, because there are a lot of books that have impacted me personally, but that I don't know whether others would benefit from. Like Calvin's Institutes, for example, or Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest, or Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright, or The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, or The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, or Gilead or Home by Marilynne Robinson, or Leaving Ruin by Jeff Barryman. Those are all books that I love, and that impacted me greatly, but I don't know if every Christian must read them.
Nevertheless, I do think that every person on earth would benefit from reading Augustine's Confessions at least once in their lives. I read Augustine's Confessions for the first time when I was in Grade 11 for class. The second time I read Augustine's Confessions was a week later, still in Grade 11, but I just had to read it again. The third time I read Augustine's Confessions was a month later, still in Grade 11. I've probably read Augustine's Confessions nine or ten times, maybe even more. I don't even keep track anymore. I just get a hankering to read it every once in awhile, and take a weekend and don't do anything else. It's a wonderful testimony of conversion to God, how God uses broken people to accomplish great things, and how God completely transforms people through his Holy Spirit. It's awesome.
Do you have siblings?
Yes! I have three sisters and a brother. My older two sisters were both adopted while we lived in the Dominican Republic, so when I was seven years old I went from being the oldest child to being the middle child. My brother was also born in the Netherlands. My younger sister was born in Grand Rapids. All are married or engaged, except me, so as I went through college I was blessed with two more brothers and a sister. I also have three nephews, who are hilarious and awesome. They live down south, but we get to talk over Skype.
How did you know you wanted to get into ministry?
It was a very long, and slow process. I come from a long line of ministers. My dad is a pastor in the CRC, my grandpa was a pastor in the CRC, and my great grandpa was a pastor in the CRC. I also have two uncles and four cousins who are pastors. I was the fourth John Medendorp to graduate from Calvin Seminary with an M.Div. My mom and dad met at Calvin Seminary! Because of my family heritage, my parents were very careful not to pressure me to go into ministry. When I started at Calvin College, I was a biology major and wanted to be a doctor. When I started at Calvin Seminary, I was planning on going on for a Ph.D. right away after I finished my Master's degree, and becoming a professor of medieval theology or early church history. Through my time at Calvin Seminary, with guidance from my pastors, professors, and the wonderful support and encouragement of congregations that sat through my first sermons, it became clear that God had gifted me with the right skills for ministry, and that the church could use someone like me as a pastor better than as a professor. I never had a "moment of clarity" or heard God's voice or anything like that, just slowly over time the Holy Spirit led me to where I am now.
Is there anything we can do to make your stay with us better?
I love visiting people in their homes and taking the time to get to know them over a meal or a cup of coffee, but it can be pretty intimidating to call somebody up out of the blue and invite yourself over to their house, especially if you don't know them very well. I would love to be invited over more :)
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