April 22, 1874
Geert Nanenga who died on Sunday morning, the 5th of April, 1874, was one of the most God-loving people I have ever known. It is not strange that the death of such a person, especially one of the most important members of our church, has made a deep impression on our hearts. At the funeral ceremony last Tuesday you could feel the effect his life and death had made on us. The whole church was behind the corpse coach. They walked in mourning behind the elders. It was a heavy mourning and if someone asks why the mourning is so great, while we believe our loving brother is living forever, the answer is in three points.
First, our loss. He was a man with a special influence in the church and was well respected. He had special qualities in speaking with those who were not converted and they respected him. He was quiet and polite as he spoke with them.
His pleasant fondness for God’s house was obvious. He was hesitant to boast of his devotion, but preferred as I said in his funeral oration, “He was quiet in his devotion to the church, but the walls of the church spoke his message.” As such people die, it is heavy on our hearts, the same as when Dorcas died. When she died, the clothes she made for poor people were displayed.
His walk through life had a positive tone with both God and the people. He was such a good example for us. We can see clearly that when we look at a new naked human being, he was complete. Jesus has the fame, but in Brother Nannenga you could view his soul-saving and it was special.
Secondly, his death is so difficult because for all people on earth who must travel to eternity and have not prepared, Mr. Nannenga has led the way. He was ready for it just as corn in the field should no longer be in the field when the grain is ready to be harvested. His last disease prepared him for eternity. At first his disease affected him seriously (bile fever and then liver disease). He was so sick, he wished for death. The world no longer had charm for him. The last words he spoke to a friend were, “I battled the war of life.” It took about 3 hours for his death. After speaking these words, he lapsed into a coma. They thought the end had come and he must have thought it, too, because he said good-bye to the people around him, but he revived because his soul remained in his body. For him came a last temptation because he said, “I fear I have cheated death.” After a few minutes they asked him if he was afraid to die and he said, “I desire it.” With calmness, he drank from a bottle which he held himself.
Now he drinks forever from the river of life out of the throne of God in the new Jerusalem. Now the battle is over and the faces of all who knew him looked sad when they said, “Geert Nannenga is dead.” The world is poorer for it. What a difference it makes who it is that dies. Some people are calm about death and no tears will be shed, but how this reaches people’s hearts and especially the God-loving, so they cry, “How great it is in the eyes of the Lord the death of his brother.”
John Van der Meulen
Fulton, Ill., 16 April, 1874
DE HOPE, April 22, 1874