On January 13, 1962, Andy and Gerda Vandenhaak got married. In Gerda’s words, “I agreed to marry him because he prayed with me. I knew we would be one for the other and together for Christ.” And they were.

Andy and Gerda’s life was busy. They worked, welcomed, and loved five children, and housed 28 young people who needed a place to stay at different times, some for a week and some for over a year. In short, they served where they saw a need and built memories on a “limited budget.” In their retirement years they wanted to keep serving and, in 1998, God showed them how. That year, they met an Indonesian man named Yonson , who was engaged to their niece, Mary-Lynn. Yonson was studying to become a pastor at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario, and he had a vision to provide Reformed education to children from poor, Christian families in Indonesia. Andy and Gerda listened to Yonson and Mary-Lynn talk about the work they hoped to do in Indonesia and Andy told them, "Call us if you ever need any help.”

A year later, in December 1999, they received an email that said, “Help.” In response, Andy and Gerda, “prayed, talked, wondered, and answered the email in the only way [they] could: ‘We will help you in whatever way you need us to help you. With God's hand, all things are possible.’” An organization had been established, Anak Anak Terang (Child Child Light), and 17 children had been selected to attend school. Andy and Gerda were tasked with finding them each a sponsor to make it possible.

That was the beginning of 15 years of service to Children of Light, which Andy and Gerda established as the North American arm of the project. Together they founded a board, bought a motorhome that was cheap on gas, and began traveling to promote the project among Reformed schools and churches. They recruited sponsors and eventually helped raise money to build school buildings in Indonesia. In time, they traveled to Indonesia too, to visit the project they had become dedicated to. There, they “stood in awe of our God and in awe of what the brothers and sisters [had] accomplished.”

Eventually, Andy and Gerda realized that Children of Light was growing too large to be managed strictly on a volunteer basis, and in God’s wonderful providence it became part of the Word & Deed family of projects in January 2014, the same month that Andy was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Andy passed away on May 18 at 79 years of age, after a lifetime of laboring for God and for God’s people. He was thankful for the privilege of being used by God, and he and Gerda both learned that “God does not need us, but he might use us.” For them, retirement is just another season of life, filled with opportunities to serve.

This article was written by Hanna Korvemaker and originally published in Word & Deed's Fall 2014 magazine.

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