Tag Archives: H.P. Scholte

Change, Action, and Reaction

The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
Acts 11:1-3 (NIV)

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of presenting Letters from Pella, a one-act play I wrote some years ago to an academic conference. The academic conference celebrated the 150th anniversary of the birth of H.P. Scholte, the founder of our town. Scholte, a secessionist pastor in the Netherlands, led hundreds of Dutch immigrants to carve out a new home on the Iowa prairie in 1847. Historians from both the Netherlands and the U.S. participated in the conference.

At the Scholte Conference with Dutch historians Leon van den Broeke, Ron van Houwelingen, Michiel van Diggelen, and George Harinck

Each year in our town’s annual Tulip Time festival we celebrate a polished narrative about our founders, but as I researched the actual events that transpired in those first years I found a very different story. Letters between the first immigrants and their families back in the Netherlands gave evidence of anger, conflict, discord, and disagreement. I sought to give voice to that story in my play.

Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an opposite reaction. Along my life journey I’ve observed that there are, at times, parallels between physical and human interactions. As both leader and participant in many human organizations I’ve observed that any action or initiative that introduces change to a human system will create a reaction from that system.

In today’s chapter, Peter returns to Jerusalem from his experience of being called by God to the home of a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. Cornelius and his entire household became believers. They had been filled with Holy Spirit and Peter realized that God was doing something “new” in this rapidly growing Jesus movement. The movement was expanding beyond the Jewish tribe to include non-Jewish “Gentiles” whom Jews found religiously unclean. There was a general attitude among the Jewish people of that day despising and looking down on anyone who wasn’t born Jewish.

In going to the home of a Roman Centurion and befriending Cornelius and his household, Peter had crossed a whole host of religious, social, and political lines that his tribe religiously held with systemic rigor.  Now he returns to Jerusalem and the Jewish believers hear what happened, they criticize Peter for what he’s done. Peter’s action has created a powerful reaction.

Peter provides his defense, explaining his vision, God’s call for him to go with the three visitors, and his experience in Cornelius’ household. According to Luke’s description, the believers in Jerusalem “had no further objections.” The Greek word translated “no further objections” is esuchasan which is defined as “quieting down,” “rest,” and “becoming silent.” In other words, no one pushed the issue with Peter, but my experience as a leader tells me there were those who kept their mouths shut publicly and began to whisper their questions and criticism of Peter behind his back. Radical change to deeply rooted human system doesn’t quickly result in “no further objections.” This Jew-Gentile conflict is not going to go away.

This morning I’ve been thinking about some of the “reactions” to systemic change that I’ve observed and experienced over the years. Some of them are instructive. Some of them are tragic. Some of them are downright comical. Yet this spiritual journey had taught me that spiritual growth always necessitates change. God is always calling me and challenging me to love more expansively, forgive more deeply, and to be more sacrificially generous. Those things don’t happen unless there is a willingness within my spirit to things changing, sometimes in uncomfortable ways.

H.P. Scholte certainly experienced his share of “reactions.” Twice the pastor was thrown out of the pulpit by his own congregation when they didn’t like the changes he had introduced into their social and religious system. They called him a scoundrel. Those are the things our town politely forgets to talk about. Yet, all of those radical, uncomfortable changes brought about a really bright future for our town.

Growth happens through change and struggle, while human systems tend to cling to a comfortable status quo. I see this paradigm wherever God is working in the Great Story. If I want to grow, I have to  prepare myself for the reactions I know will be coming my way.

Tulip Time 2018

This year’s annual Tulip Time festival was perhaps the nicest I can remember. The tulips were more gorgeous than any year I recall with almost all of the tulip beds peaking at just the right time and a few that were still starting to bloom. They were absolutely gorgeous!

 

For the fourth straight year Wendy and I got in costume to portray our little town’s founding couple, Dominie (that’s Dutch for “Pastor”) H.P. and Mareah Scholte. We spent each morning standing in front of the Scholte House museum welcoming visitors and then strolled the streets having our picture taken by countless visitors. We rode in the parades each afternoon. An intense Iowa thunderstorm, complete with Tornado warning, washed out the Thursday evening parade and festivities. Otherwise, the weather for the weekend was perfect.

We typically got out of costume once the afternoon parade was over. It was our chance to enjoy some grub from our favorite food stands, have a pint at the pub, and visit with friends.

Along with Tulip Time activities, we also hosted a bunch of family who came to town. Wendy’s mom and Aunt Linda stayed with us Thursday night. Uncle Brad and Aunt Barb stayed with us Friday and Saturday nights. Suzanna also came down Saturday and ended ups spending the night. My parents and sister Jody came down for the fun on Saturday and then returned home (with an armful of goodies from the Jaarsma bakery). By late Saturday afternoon Wendy I were pretty worn out. We bowed out of the final parade on Saturday night. Our friends Kevin and Linda, along with Suzanna, joined us on the patio to celebrate another wonderful Tulip Time.

City of Refuge

“Say to the Israelites, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses….'”
Joshua 20:2 (NRSV)

“City of refuge” was an ancient legal concept in which those accused of manslaughter could flee and find refuge from the family of the deceased who might seek revenge for the death. The “city of refuge” had a legal obligation to hear out the person fleeing and, if they decided that the person’s story was honest and worthy, to protect that person until an official hearing could be established.

Over the centuries, the term “city of refuge” expanded in meaning. Many who fled persecution of various kinds would call their new home a “city of refuge.”

Wendy and I live in a small Iowa town that was settled by a few hundred Dutch immigrants in 1847. They were led by their pastor, H.P. Scholte, who was an amazing mix of theologian, businessman, lawyer, artist, and visionary. He and his followers fled Holland because the state church of the Netherlands had imprisoned Scholte for not towing their doctrinal line. Scholte and a group of his faithful followers pooled their resources, purchased land from the United States in the new state of Iowa, and created a town from Scholte’s vision. He had the town completely mapped out and zoned before the group even arrived. Scholte gave his new town the name Pella, after a “city of refuge” in the country of Jordan where early followers of Jesus fled Jewish and Roman persecution. Pella, Scholte said, would be a “city of refuge” for the fleeing Hollanders.

To this day, our little town of Pella continues to hang on to the “city of refuge” moniker that was given to us by our town’s founder. Long ago the residents of Pella forgave native Holland for its persecution.  We now embrace our Dutch heritage to a fault. Scholte’s resentment towards the Netherlands also tempered later in life. He even sought to return to his native land as an ambassador of the U.S. (it never came to be). Still, residents of Pella find refuge of a sort in our little town. It is common for children raised in Pella to return and raise their families here. Life in Pella is relatively quiet. The pace is slow compared to most places, and the residents still cling to values that other places seem to have abandoned. And, we have great food and a Tulip Time Festival every May (Join us May 5-7!).

Today I’m thinking about the concept of refuge. Today’s chapter speaks of refuge from revenge in ancient legal terms. Still, the broader concept has equal merit. We all need a place, or places, where we can find refuge. We all need shelter from life’s storms.

Tulip Time Photos (& More!)

Wendy and I are enjoying a much needed rest after three very full days of Pella Tulip Time. We have played Pella, Iowa’s founders in three different stage productions and were asked by the Pella Historical Society to get in costume and portray the couple for the annual festival. We rode in a carriage in each of the six parades, had our picture taken countless times and made appearances at the Pella Historical Village and Scholte House Museum.

It was fun to talk to people about the Scholtes and the history of Pella, and to answer many questions about Pella and our costumes. Women, in particular, were enthralled with Wendy’s period costume and little girls made Wendy feel like  Disney princess. During one of the parades a little girl pointed at Wendy and shouted, “LOOK! It’s the PRETTY LADY!” Wendy even had a young man of about five blow her a kiss.

The heavy dress with all the layers of period underthings did make for a lot of heat for Wendy. Fortunately, the days were very temperate with highs in the 70s. The worst part was her tall lace boots which made her feet very uncomfortable throughout the day despite all of her attempts to cushion the consequences.

My folks came on Thursday and brought Madison who had flown into Des Moines the day before. We had fun meeting friends in between parades at the Pella Opera House where we enjoyed the air conditioning, the padded seats, and the refreshments. Madison stayed with us Thursday night and then headed back to Colorado on Friday night as she was on call over the weekend.

Our friend, Megan Atkins, was on the Tulip Court this year. Megan’s dad passed away back in 2010 and Megan has honored me over the years by asking me to be honorary dad when school or other events called for father/daughter activities. I was so happy to get to escort her on Friday and again on Saturday with her mom, Cyndi, at the official coronation ceremony on the square.

We are already thinking about next year, though we are thankful that we have another 362 days to rest up!

Inheritance

Wendy and me in front of a portrait of H.P. Scholte.
Wendy and me in front of a portrait of H.P. Scholte.

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: If the prince makes a gift from his inheritance to one of his sons, it will also belong to his descendants; it is to be their property by inheritance. If, however, he makes a gift from his inheritance to one of his servants, the servant may keep it until the year of freedom; then it will revert to the prince. His inheritance belongs to his sons only; it is theirs.'”
Ezekiel 46:16-17 (NIV)

This weekend is our town’s annual Tulip Time festival in which we celebrate those brave Dutch immigrants who braved unspeakable hardship to carve out a life for themselves on the Iowa prairie back in 1847. Tens of thousands of visitors will descend on Pella over the weekend to see the tulips, to see locals dressed in Dutch costumes complete with wooden shoes, to watch the parades, and to enjoy Dutch treats from a plethora of vendors. It’s quite an event. If you’ve never been, then you need to put it on your bucket list.

As part of the festival this year, Wendy and I have been asked to don period costumes and portray our town’s founder, Dominie (Dutch for “Reverend”) H.P. Scholte and his wife Maria. We will hang out in the Scholte House museum and historical village to greet guests and will ride in horse drawn wagon in all the parades.

Being a history buff and having played “the Dominie” in a handful of stage productions, I continue to do quite a bit of research about Scholte and his wife. They were amazing people, and our little town’s on-going success has their fingerprints all over it. The Dominie was also a stubborn Dutchman, a fierce individualist, and a lightning rod who stirred controversy throughout his life. He was wealthy, and when he came to the U.S. his wealth converted from Dutch guilders to Iowa acres. Even in death, his inheritance and the distribution of land was the source of controversy and conflict.

Inheritance is a tricky business fraught with the potential for all sorts of miscommunication and emotional entanglements that result in hurt feelings and family squabbles. I would dare say that there is not a culture in this world that does not experience the pain of conflict over inheritance. This morning I was reminded of the Dominie as I read the rules given through Ezekiel regarding inheritance of land in Israel. The Israeli royal could only give land to children. If it was given to a servant, then on a prescribed year the land reverted to the family.

That reminded me of this from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Today, I am thankful for the many ways we receive inheritance. I’m thankful for forebears who founded an amazing community that thrives 168 years later. I’m thankful for ancestors who carved a path and provided for my success and abundant life in a plethora of ways. I’m thankful for Jesus, who made provision for me (and any who would choose to receive it) to be adopted in God’s family as a co-heir to enjoy the full rights, privilege, blessing and inheritance thereof.

A Valentine’s Blast in the Past

Wendy and I have played Dominie (Dutch for “Pastor”) H.P. Scholte and his wife Maria* on stage on several occasions. This year, the Pella Historical Society has asked us to reprise the roles for Pella’s Tulip Time festivities and this past Thursday we had a coming out of sorts as we donned the costumes and played host to almost 40 people at the Historical Society’s 1st annual Valentine’s Dinner. The dinner was held in the Scholte House, the Dominie and Maria’s home which was the first house built in Pella and is now a museum on the north side of Pella’s town square.

Before the dinner, Wendy and I stopped by the museum to take a look around and chat with the staff who were busy preparing for the dinner. “The Dominie” (as Scholte is referred to in these parts) was an abolitionist, a supporter/friend of Abraham Lincoln, and attended Lincoln’s inauguration. I got to see and hold the cane which Lincoln gave Scholte as a gift. Very cool.

Wendy and stood in the foyer and greeted all of the guests to our home as they arrived, and chatted with the guests over pre-dinner cocktails. I got to welcome everyone and say grace before we dined. We enjoyed an amazing multi-course meal catered by Central College. The table conversation was wonderful and it was almost 10:30 p.m. before we got home that night.

Many thanks to Kathy Miller and the crew at Pella Historical Society for letting Wendy and I “play” and participate in such a wonderful evening! Look for the Dominie and Maria at Tulip Time!

*Some Pella natives with an eye for detail may notice and question the spelling of “Maria” which has traditionally been spelled “Mareah.” The Historical Society has recently found evidence that Mrs. Scholte did originally spell her name “Maria.” Local historians now believe that a change in the spelling of her name coincided with the change in her life after the death of the Dominie when she married (a much younger) Robert Beard, perhaps at the suggestion of her children.

Time Reveals Truth

Wendy and me in front of a portrait of H.P. Scholte.
Wendy and me in front of a portrait of H.P. Scholte.

Smooth words may hide a wicked heart,
just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot
.
Proverbs 26:23 (NLT)

This past week I portrayed one of our town’s founders, H.P. Scholte, in a one act play at our local Opera House. In preparation for portraying the man (whom I’ve now played in three separate productions) I’ve done plenty of research into his past and his story. Scholte was a fascinating man. The son of a wealthy industrialist in Holland, he began as an art student but soon gave up his paintbrush for the pulpit. He was a brilliant scholar, a gifted preacher, and a charismatic leader. Having run afoul of the state church of the Netherlands (for which he was imprisoned multiple times), Scholte convinced nearly 800 of his followers to invest their life savings with him, accompany him on a perilous journey to the American frontier and build an entire town where there was nothing but prairie grass.

As I read accounts and letters of his followers to the new world, two very different pictures emerge. Many saw Scholte as a charlatan and scam-artist. They were convinced that he took advantage of his followers, used their money for his personal gain and lied to them about the prosperity of American before leading them to hell on earth. Others never wavered in their trust of Scholte and his vision. They followed him faithfully. I have always been amazed at the two very different men described by Scholte’s followers. It begs the question: Was he a vessel of God, or was he a glazed pot described in the proverb above? I have been so captivated by the matter that I even wrote my own one act play that exploring the question.

Fast forward 160 years. Our community gathers each year to celebrate its heritage and tens of thousands of people gather from around the world to experience it. Look around and you will find a prosperous small town with a thriving economy, a quality educational system and a deep appreciation for the values of family and faith. Scholte’s vision and commitment have been realized. He proved to be a useful vessel who accomplished much for which countless residents owe their thanks through many generations. Scholte wasn’t perfect, to be sure, but time and reality have proven that he wasn’t and empty, glazed crack-pot.

I look back over the years and think of the occasional times that I have been accused of things. Anyone in any position of leadership will experience this. Many have looked at me and accused me of being a glazed pot. It’s never fun when your motives and character are questioned and maligned. In these times I think about people like Scholte. I can’t control what others think and say. I can’t change the perception of others. I can only continue to follow the path and do my best each day to live out the course God has laid for me.

Time reveals truth.

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