Tribute: Hans Bouwman (1)

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Hans Bouwman (1928-2006)

A Strong Stand, Yet a Gracious Servant

The words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:18, “I speak with languages more than ye all,” are most appropriate when thinking of the long life of loving service our brother Hans Bouwman rendered to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Being capable of ministering the Word of God to both saint and sinner in five different languages, our brother was privileged, as few of the Lord’s servants are, to travel widely fulfilling his God-given ministry.

Assembly activity in Holland, the land of Hans’ birth, goes back to the earlier part of the twentieth century and, while the assemblies have never been numerous nor the number of believers great, yet in those early days our brother’s parents were both saved, baptized, and added to one such gathering. The natural result was that Hans was born and raised in an assembly atmosphere. During the years of World War II, the Bouwman family, together with the whole Dutch nation, underwent the rigors of Nazi occupation. A full description of those years and how Hans was led to the Lord in his teens is in his book “Abundant Grace,” so the details need not be repeated in this tribute.

Opportunities to sit under a teaching ministry in Holland were, naturally, few. When Hans’ exercise for the work of God was deepening, the well-known German brother, Mr. Erich Sauer, began conducting intense Bible studies for young brethren at the Wiedenest Bible Haus in Germany. To these studies our brother applied himself as the best means for preparation for future days of service.

In 1955, Hans arrived in Japan together with three young German brethren to commence studies in the Japanese language. They spent two years in a mountain resort where a very good language school served the needs of missionaries. During this time, Hans’ wife-to-be, Gerda, also arrived in Japan and, after an appropriate time, they were joined in marriage. Consequently, they gave almost 50 years of happily married life to serving the Lord in Japan, Holland, Belgium, and Canada, with visits to other lands as well.

After language studies, the Bouwmans settled in the city of Utusnomiya, nearly two hours north of Tokyo, where years of labor saw a small assembly started. It was not the easiest place to serve the Lord and for a time Hans also carried on a small Book Store to help augment the work. Circumstances arose with regard to the German brethren, causing Hans to rethink his connections with these groups of believers. There was, on their part, a strong desire to regiment and direct the young servants of the Lord in their movements. Hans had come to see that this was not in accord with Scriptural teaching and took a strong stand against it. In due course, Hans and Gerda were introduced to assemblies in North America. After a period of time, assemblies in the Vancouver area commended them anew. This enabled them to serve the Lord in Japan for a further period of time. But the weakness of the work in Holland and its needs beckoned. Believing that God was leading in that direction, they returned to Holland with a determination to strengthen the things that remained there by preaching and publishing literature. In more recent times, the Bouwmans had to move back to Canada, mainly for health reasons. Even recently, despite bodily weakness, Hans did not neglect former spheres of labor, but he made short visits to each of the countries where he had labored for the Lord.

Hans will be missed and brought often to mind by the many assemblies where he frequently ministered. His dear wife, Gerda, is often in pain and has difficulties moving around as the result of recent surgeries. She needs and will appreciate the strengthening prayers of all the Lord’s people.