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(Veteran of World War II, Ordained Pastor, Army Reserve Chaplain, composer and publisher,  editor of the Missionary Monthly, president of Reformed Bible College, developer of Summer Training Session (STS) in Mexico, and soon after, Middle East Training Session in Egypt and later in Turkey;  leader of Christian Witness Tours around the world,, founder of IDEA Ministries, and much much more.)

When Dick Van Halsema, a pastor’s son, graduated from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan he thought he had a career of music ahead of him.  It was 1943.  That career had to be postponed when he found himself drafted into the army and destined to spend the next three years in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. At a weekday chapel service before shipping out Dick heard a chaplain invite the men to become pastors or missionaries if they returned safely. He suggested they sign the Bible lying in his office to indicate their commitment.  The closing hymn at that chapel time was “Have Thine Own Way Lord.”

“Dick wrote fifty years later, ‘Chaplain Mason started the first stanza and walked out to conduct a service in another chapel.  I never saw him again.  But all at once I knew that God was calling me to the Gospel ministry.  I waited until everyone had gone and, with only God as my witness, I signed my name in the chaplain’s Bible….Three months later my light weapons platoon was on a troop ship with a thousand men on the Sunday before the Hollandia D-Day of April 22, 1944, and God gave me my first preaching assignment.  I heard a public address announcement asking for someone to lead a worship service on Sunday morning.  I volunteered and preached on the armor of God in Ephesians 6.’ Dick considered that was the beginning of his long ministry in the mission of Christ’s Church”.

“When the war ended, Dick was assigned to some months in Kyoto, Japan.  There, on the first Christmas after the atom bombs fell, he led his army choir and a Japanese church choir together in singing Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.”  When he returned from the war, he entered Calvin Seminary in the fall of 1946, after studying Greek at Princeton.  “He served as first organist of the new Calvin Christian Reformed Church and directed the Calvin Seminary choir and led choir tours to the east and west coasts.  He courted and married Thea Bouma with whom he had begun correspondence as a soldier writing under a palm tree in the Pacific.”

Their life journey took them to Monsey, New York and Miami, Florida and then to seven years of service as Home Missionary at Large for the Christian Reformed Church.  Dick’s musical talents were always being put to good use.  In the new Centennial Psalter Hymnal of 1957, five of his psalm tunes were published.  One deserves special mention.  The tune for Psalm 121 was named Luzon because Dr. Henry Zylstra wrote the words, and Dick the music, in tribute to their military time together in the Philippines.

Dick’s fervor for the Lord kept him continually active and at the forefront of missions..  There were no boundaries for the mission interests of Dick and Thea Van Halsema.   He started the Summer Worship in Missions (SWIM) program for young people.  And while Dick was pastor of Central Avenue Church in Holland, Michigan he “accepted the editorship of the Missionary Monthly magazine (1964) and was its main writer, photographer and manager for 36 years.” 

It is at this point that our Arabic Broadcast ministry gets woven into the fabric of the tapestry, and our friendship with Dick and Thea begins and grows. As editor of the Missionary Monthly, Dick extended an open-ended invitation to us to contribute an article per issue as long as we wanted to pick up the challenge.  What a blessing that was for us—to have a place where we could describe the growth and response to our labors for the Lord.  While Bassam was totally occupied with preparing Bible Studies and Sermon programs for the Arabic Broadcast, and  reading all the mail,  his wife Shirley was ready and eager to make sure that there was always an article ready for the next issue of the Missionary Monthly.   We continued sending our articles until the Missionary Monthly came to its end in 2000.  This was such a rare opportunity to be writing for a readership which was genuinely interested in missions.

Along with that invitation came fellowship and warm encouragement from Dick and Thea in a very personal way.  We needed that.  Together they have lived a life of encouraging and enabling many, besides ourselves, to forge ahead with God’s work.  In 1966, when Dick became the president of the Reformed Bible Institute, he opened up another facet of our life.  He began to have annual Missionary Conferences on the subject of missions to Muslims.  The Van Halsemas had a special interest in the land of Turkey, having made a remarkable trip to the Middle East with their five children, driving from Amsterdam to Jerusalem and back.

Bassam would prepare lectures and go up to Grand Rapids for a week each spring.  Eventually, after recording those lectures that material was typed up and became the book which has never ceased to be published and used by countless people going into Missions to Muslims.  The book is “The Bible and Islam” and it can be read or downloaded at our web site at any time.  We still get requests for quantities of the book itself, for church study groups. Only recently a church in Pennsylvania ordered more than 100 copies. And some years ago a group decided that it was material they wanted to share with their Russian field.  They got permission, gave us the manuscript and a Russian version was printed in Moscow.

Not satisfied to just retire, our friend Dr. Dick Van Halsema set us an example which we have followed.  At retirement he created another ministry which is being faithfully carried on by his son Clark.  It is called  I.D.E.A. Ministries (International Discipleship and Evangelization Associates).

When we retired in 1994 we started Middle East Resources.

Through our web site we see the Lord allowing us to mentor Christians about the challenge of Islam.

The resources built up from our radio work are likewise being used.

In this Tapestry section of our web site we hope to pay honor to the various Christians who have played an integral part in our life story.  This brief sketch cannot do justice in words, to the countless ways in which Dick and Thea, with their passion for missions,  have furthered the grand work of the Lord.

(Statistical information and some quotes have been taken from the beautiful biographical sketch distributed at the time of Dr. Dick Van Halsema’s Memorial Service, November 5, 2005)